Left with an almost impossible task following New Zealand’s thumping win over Sri Lanka on Thursday, Pakistan will look back with regret at opportunities missed to reach the semi-final.
True, they were a trifle unlucky against South Africa, but their other three defeats came in matches where they squandered strong positions.
The key match against India, where they collapsed from 152 for 2 to 190 all out is a case in point about how the team has underperformed because of a pusillanimous approach, combined with poor execution of skills and bland leadership
Leading light Babar Azam clicked only intermittently, and never in a commanding fashion. Haris Rauf and Shadab Khan touted as strong match winners, did not live up to their reputations. Muhamad Rizwan was the sturdiest and most resourceful batsman but faded away in the last few games while Shahin Shah Afridi started getting wickets in his first spell only towards the latter half of the tournament.
Cock-eyed selection, which kept dashing Fakhar Zaman out of the playing XI for long, contributed further to Pakistan’s woes.
If anything, England have had a worse tournament. In their last game, they appeared to have rediscovered their mojo, but this came too late for redemption. The cause had been lost much earlier. England are now left to battle for direct qualification into the Champions Trophy by finishing in the top eight, while Pakistan, barring a miracle, will be looking to salvage their reputation
Shahin Shah Afridi is as skilful a pace bowler as you will find, struck form belatedly but showcased why he is so highly regarded on the international circuit. Unfortunately for Pakistan, Afridi fell desperately short of support from other bowlers.
Added to this, Fakhar Zaman, their X-Factor player, was regrettably consigned to the bench for most of the World Cup. A smashing century in the previous match against New Zealand showed why Pakistan had blundered in keeping him out of the playing XI for so long. England has to worry about the fury of the left-handed opener’s bat.
However, Ben Stokes’ strokeful century in the previous game highlighted his extraordinary ability, something his team missed from his bat for most of the tournament.
With a place in the 2024 Champions Trophy on the line, England will be looking for another match-winning performance from him.
The Australia – Bangladesh game is a no-brainer.
Australia have already qualified for the semi-finals while Bangladesh have no chance whatsoever to do so. A win could ensure they don’t finish in the bottom two on points, as they bid to qualify for the Champions Trophy.
For Australia, after the stirring win over Afghanistan, this match offers an opportunity to fine-tune for the all-important semi-final against South Africa
Glenn Maxwell took them to a remarkable win from a hopeless situation against Afghanistan and all eyes will be on him to see what he does next.
Bangladesh skipper Shakib Al Hasan has had a rotten tournament as an all-rounder and got embroiled in a controversy over the Angelo Mathews ‘timed out’ dismissal, which landed him in infamy.
He will look to leave the tournament on a positive note.
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