Pakistan played a poor hand and got burnt. It was a stark contrast to their earlier performances in which they showed grit and energy. After building up high hopes, they fell short of the mark and in Shakespearean terms, it was a tragedy of high intentions!
The effort was as insipid as a flat Ginger ale. Shoaib started on a wrong foot by bowling couple of no balls that set the tone for a disastrous day. Any remaining chance of a recovery or elbowing out NZ was lost to unpardonable keeping errors.
Kamran Akmal got to wear Pakistan gloves again strangely on the strength of his batting than his keeping. His case was made on a weak reasoning that a miss behind the stumps would not make a losing difference to the cause since batsmen are constantly shaping up to attack in the ODIs which force them to make frequent errors.
Thankfully, that myth and Kamran’s case were both put to rest by Ross Taylor who, after being gifted a birthday present by the keeper in the shape of a drop, made Pakistan pay and won the game by stroking a memorable hundred that batsmen dream of.
It was once in a lifetime knock punctuated with most incredible improvisation. At the start he was not smooth but he was prepared to tough it out and, as they say that perseverance commands success, turned an ordinary start into a dream run.
In fact, his initial approach mirrored Misbah and Younis’s tactics against Sri Lanka, punching and needling Pakistan without flattening them.
It was only after the 40th over that he changed gears and wore his Superman cape, pillaging the flat Pakistan bowling.
This mauling left such a big scar on the minds of the Pakistani team that they couldn’t lift themselves out of depths of depression. Sadly, it was all over for them at the innings break!
Pakistan have some questions to answer. How long can they continue with a keeper that has lost confidence and is proving detrimental to their campaign? Who is going to bell Shoaib Akhtar and make him match-fit? If he had been in good physical condition and battle hardened, all
those full tosses which were deposited over mid-wicket and square-leg range would have been yorkers, a length that he was trying to attempt.
Is it not time for Saeed Ajmal to be part of the eleven? Had he been voted in, his bowling could have saved Pakistan from Taylor’s typhoon whose favorite and most effective sweep shot could have found a top edge off his Doosra.
Keeping Ajmal out was an error in selection that cost Pakistan dearly. In the ODIs, he is a wicket-taking option and has the experience and better temperament over Rehaman to bowl in tight situations.
What about Razzaq? He is yet to get a script from his team think-tank and, oddly enough, has not even defined one for himself. His position is in jeopardy and that can make him not only nervous but a touch self obsessed which can hurt the team.
All he has to do is to look to find a way to survive as a bowler only for five overs as he is on over-sharing basis with Hafeez and dominate with the bat. His aggression can make opposition wince, but at the crease he has been like a prisoner fettered to the wall.
All things said and done, Pakistan need to get this game out of their mind and try to get it spotlessly right against Zimbabwe. If you start to dissect such a performance, chances are that you will end up quarreling amongst yourself and breaking the peace of the place. It’s not worth it.
Also it is highly unlikely that we will ever see such world class hitting from another batsman in this World Cup. It was a one off incident and should be forgotten like a bad dream.
A good enthusiastic team talk is the finest balm for the pangs of disappointment. Time now for Afridi to show his wizardry as a leader in the dressing room. As they say, bigger the set back, bigger the comeback. So come on Pakistan.