Like England, Pakistan were under extreme pressure going into their league match against Zimbabwe. They had gone down to India for the sixth time in six occasions in the World Cup, to kick off their tournament on an inauspicious note. To add to it, they even went down to the struggling West Indies to give further fodder for critics to hit out at them. In such a scenario, the Zimbabwe game at Brisbane was a must win clash for them. They did taste victory in the end, but it was far from the kind of performance that would inspire any kind of confidence among their fans.
If at all Pakistan managed to win the game, it was thanks in main to their two fast bowlers who stood up, and defended what was clearly a below par total. Mohammad Irfan and Wahaz Riaz bowled out of their skins to ensure that their team did not have to face another embarrassment. At various points during the chase, it seemed liked Zimbabwe were heading towards victory, but every time either Riaz or Irfan were successful in getting a breakthrough, and in the end, their combined effort was the defining factor of the match. Rahat Ali also chipped in well with a defiant spell, and ensured that there was no respite for the Zimbabweans from the other end.
In spite of the win, it is critical that Pakistan have a serious look at their batting. In all the three games so far, their effort with the bat has been atrocious to say the least. On Sunday as well, the openers Nasir Jamshed and Ahmed Shehzad disappointed. Further, not for the first time, Haris Sohail and Umar Akmal got starts and then gave it away. As for Shahid Afridi, the less said the better. He made a duck on his birthday. It was only due to another captain’s knock from Misbah-Ul-Haq and a splendid half-century from Riaz that they managed to put up a competitive score on the board.
Zimbabwe bowled well, with Tendai Chatara and Sean Williams impressing in particular. But, they should not have allowed Pakistan to reach 235 after having them at 155 for 6. The additional runs that they gave away towards the end of the innings came back to haunt them. The injury to skipper Elton Chigumbura also proved to be a massive blow for the side. Although he batted with gusto coming in late in the innings, the delay in his arrival clearly hurt the team’s fortunes. By the time he came into bat, Zimbabwe were in real strife, and could not recover.
Zimbabwe should be disappointed for having given away a great opportunity to win the match. After a poor start, they recovered well courtesy Hamilton Masakadza, Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams. All of them got starts and looked good. But, only Taylor could reach a half-century, and even he was dismissed after reaching the landmark. Once Pakistan got rid of the trio, it was all easy for them, leaving Zimbabwe rueful.
--By A Cricket Analyst