The Pakistani team of a few years back would have succumbed to the high pressure. Playing one of the favourites to take the cup this time, on their home ground, was always going to be a crunch encounter. As far as the points table was concerned, it wouldn’t make much difference. As the format is pretty favourable to the top eight teams in the world, so barring any big upsets, all would be playing the quarter-finals. What was at stake today was mere pride, and taking confidence into the rest of the matches. For Pakistan, they are still termed outsiders with little chance of winning the cup. For Sri Lanka, the least they could have hoped to do was erase their dismal record against Pakistan in World Cups. They have won none of the teams’ six encounters!
The game is done and over with. The dust has settled on the Premadasa pitch. The Sri Lankan bands have been silenced in the crowds. And Pakistan has sent out a message to the rest of their rivals- in the captain’s own words, “…we will play harder with each game”. The steely determination of the Afridi-led clan was evident today. The batting was rock solid, with the experienced Younis and Misbah making all their talent and experience count. The “Rawalpindi Express” finally bowled with the fire today that will prove a killer to any big batsman of any team. Anyone who has any doubts should just ask Jayawardene. The look of disbelief as he actually turned around to look at his middle-stump dismantled. Yet the bowling hero, for the second consecutive match, is Shahid Afridi. Forget Ajmal and Rehman, the captain is claiming the top spinner’s slot. He most definitely is leading from the front.
When a little of the joy has subsided, some matters need to be taken into consideration. We need to make better use of the batting powerplay. Against Kenya we were fabulous. Yet against the Sri Lankan attack, only thirty-six runs were scored with the loss of one wicket. It should have been taken with the set batsmen on the crease, i.e. Younis and Misbah. Secondly, the Razzaq factor is still puzzling. If he is not going to be playing any active part in the side, then why not leave him out. He comes in to bat at number eight, when mostly there is no time for any constructive innings. And his bowling is dismal on the Asian tracks. Now either he should be promoted up the batting order. And if that cannot happen, then he should be replaced with Wahab Riaz, who will definitely bowl a much better ten-over spell. And he can also bat pretty well at that number eight position. The last weakness, as is always the case with our team, our fielding needs more commitment.
This win will boost the team’s morale. The confidence taken from it will prove a big factor in the rest of the games. Here’s hoping that amidst the celebrations, the team management will formulate plans to eliminate the weaknesses. For the fans, it is time to savour a sweet, sweet victory!