Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - End of World Cup, start of new road for Pakistan. Pakistan reached the semis without dropping a game.
Pakistan reached the semis without dropping a game.
In the end, it was anticlimactic.
Shaheen Afridi, the bowler who had started Pakistan's dominance in the World Cup, was taken apart for 22 runs in the penultimate over of the semifinal, which eventually ended the team's dreamy campaign.
All along, it seemed that everything was falling in place for Babar Azam's team, who were positively shedding some of their old habits.
Mohammad Rizwan, who had spent the last two nights in the ICU of a hospital battling a chest infection, underwent a quick recovery and agreed to play the semifinal. He looked a bit scratchy for most parts of his innings, but as always had a spring in his step, ready to attempt the extra run when none existed. He copped a blow of his head too, and instead of being shaken, took his helmet off and smiled, like he always does. But most importantly, he played a crucial hand with another half-century.
Even Fakhar Zaman, the only player in the XI to hit form. The southpaw who couldn't middle the ball for almost the entire tournament, brought down the umpire as well Mitchell Starc's signature yorkers in the death overs. He was being troubled by the hard lengths and deliveries angling away, but to his luck, Starc preferred to remain conventional and played into his hands, allowing Pakistan to zoom to 176 – a slightly above-par score that wouldn't have been had the left-arm pacer preferred to play on the batsman's weaknesses.
Pakistan were fortunate. Much like they were while bowling, when David Warner, whose counter-attack had put Australia ahead in the chase, decided to walk back without edging the ball.
At so many times, the game seemed in Pakistan's control, including the first over when Shaheen had left Mitchell Marsh bamboozled and Aaron Finch dismissed. By the 13th over, despite Warner's innings, it seemed that Shadab Khan, with his four wickets, had sucked the life out of their chase.
Australia found themselves in nearly a similar position that New Zealand were in with five overs left – 62 runs needed with five wickets in hand. And much like their Oceana neighbours, chased it down with an over to spare. Arguably the most clinical bowling attack was brought down way too quickly.
Fortunes changed hands. Three runs outs were missed and Hasan Ali overran while attempting a fairly easy catch to give Wade a reprieve, who then clobbered Shaheen for three sixes in the 19th over.
The defeat brought an end to a 16-match winning streak for Pakistan in UAE and also handed Babar Azam his first loss in T20Is in the country. For a team that collectively tends to believe in the Que Sera Sera theory, the result was a disappointment, but the captain can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“It was a disappointing day,” Babar said after the semifinal loss. “The way we started, we managed to put on a good total. Unfortunately, we weren't able to finish well. However, the way we played the tournament, the way the boys fought, I believe we'll be able to continue this. On the day, a few catches were dropped. Had we taken the catch, maybe the scenario would have been slightly different but that's a part of the game. The more we learn from our mistakes, the better it will be. It's important we learn and try to improve.”
It was a team that came together at a time when they became the bearers of uplifting their fans. It was an emotional burden that they carried, and the manner in which they played their cricket, maybe even brought a lot of joy. For no other team reached the knockouts as early as they did. No other team at any point found themselves in a situation where they could on purpose stretch their challenges. Pakistan did, two matches before the semifinals. Such was their dominance.
In a team where everything seemed to be working seamlessly, Hasan Ali's form wasn't one of those. Babar also came to the rescue of his fast bowler, who he had backed all along the tournament despite not being at his best. Hasan drew further flak for having an off-day with the ball against Australia, where he conceded 44 runs from his four-over spell, apart from dropping the catch of Wade.
“He is my main bowler and he has won Pakistan many matches,” Babar reminded. “Only a player will drop a catch. The way he's fighting, I'll always back him. Every person can't perform every day. It is important for those who are having a good day to perform well and win the game for the team. Of course, he is slightly down. It is important that we give him confidence and help him rise up again. People like to talk whatever they wish to, our job is to help (our teammates) rise higher.”
Babar was also effusive in praise for his wicketkeeper and said, “He is a team man. The way he showed today, and even played an outstanding innings… Looking at his condition, I had absolutely no hope. He seemed to be down. But he showed that he will play no matter what his condition is. That is what you want as a captain. A player with such hunger. He played for the team. The way he played today made me very happy.”
It was a campaign of hope for Pakistan, of fighting together in times of crisis, and of breathing freshness with their brand of cricket. Even though it didn't end with a trophy in hand, they left with a promise of an exciting future.