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Beaten and battered Pakistan aim to regroup
COLOMBO - Five overs of mayhem have shown up a host of problems that Pakistan will need to fix in a hurry at the World Cup. New Zealand piled on an extraordinary 100 runs in their final five overs to set up a target of 302-7 which proved way beyond the pre-match Group A leaders in Kandy on Tuesday. Ross Taylor, who led the assault on the Pakistan bowlers on his 27th birthday, took most of the plaudits but in the cold light of Wednesday, the weaknesses of Shahid Afridi's team were there for all to see after three straight wins before this.
In a nutshell, Pakistan looked to have shortcomings in every area of the game -- bowling, fielding and then batting. First and foremost among coach Waqar Younis's concerns will be behind the stumps where Kamran Akmal had a nightmare. Taylor would not have gone on to wreak such havoc had the hapless wicketkeeper not missed two early snicks from him when he was on zero and eight. One fan on Twitter questioned whether, in his case, wicket-keeper meant allowing opposing batsmen to keep their wickets.
"That was a huge turning point, given the way Ross Taylor played. That cost us the match," Waqar said before ruling out any suggestion that his keeper could be replaced. "We can't just do that. We have to talk to him about how to improve. After the World Cup we will see what we can do," he added. CONSIDERABLE CONCERN: Pakistan's bowling too will give Waqar and Afridi considerable concern. They were simply blown away by the New Zealanders' middle and latter order who, while obviously possessing considerable capacity to swing a bat, would hardly be regarded as the tournament's most dangerous batsmen.
Indeed in the seven-wicket defeat by Australia, the same order more or less were skittled for 206. Asked whether Pakistan would want to consider introducing another bowler into the side to strengthen the attack, Younis replied simply: "We can't afford another. "Most of the teams play with four bowlers but we play with six including Mohammad Hafeez and Abdul Razzaq." Waqar emphasised that panicking was not the way forward. "We have a quite a few problems," he admitted. "But we are going to sit and talk in the next five days before the next match. "We are not going to panic here.
If we panic, we are really going to struggle. We should stop here and look forward to the tough game against Australia (on March 19 in Colombo). "Still, the tournament is open. We have won three matches and we don't have to be worried." Pakistan will next face Zimbabwe on Monday at the same ground in Kandy. With Group B leaders India looking set fair to top that section, Pakistan will want to finish first or second in Group A to avoid the well supported co-hosts in the quarter-finals.
To do that, however, they will probably have to beat four-time winners and holders Australia and that, on the evidence of Tuesday, looks a tall order for Waqar's men.