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25 March 201507:08

Pakistan CWC15 wrap

The pacy bowling scripted a change in fortunes, but there would be no repeat of 1992 for Misbah’s side

Pakistan CWC15 wrap - Cricket News

Pakistan bowled South Africa for 202.

Pakistan lived up to its billing with a topsy-turvy ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 campaign.

After a poor start, Pakistan raised hopes of a 1992-like turnaround. But, the team was let down by its batting and fielding, to be knocked out by Australia in the quarterfinal.

Yet, throughout the tournament, it proved itself to have one of the best bowling units. And this despite losing out on the services of Saeed Ajmal, while Umar Gul, Junaid Khan and Mohammad Hafeez missed out owing to injury.

Pakistan began its tournament on an inauspicious note, going down to India for the sixth time in World Cup history. A 150-run loss to an equally unpredictable West Indies side, which had earlier been defeated by Ireland, compounded Pakistan’s woes. The loss set Misbah-ul-Haq’s men back in a big way, and the team was deflated.

“We just lost in all three departments. Couldn't bowl well, a lot of dropped catches, and batting, totally flopped,” said Misbah after the loss to the West Indies.

“I think the only way is just to forget this, learn from this, just to improve your performances. That's how up to just come up. If you just got trapped in the previous two games, then you can't perform. Every game is a new game, and now we have to leave it behind and positively prepare for the next ones and try to win all other games.”

And so it did. The side managed to just stay afloat with a 20-run victory over Zimbabwe. Then a massive 129-run victory over United Arab Emirates gave it some sense of confidence, but it was the brilliant come-from-behind win against South Africa that resurrected Pakistan’s World Cup campaign.

The Pakistan team management had tried a few different combinations at the top of the order, but nothing seemed to work. It finally hit upon a functioning opening pair of Ahmed Shehzad and Sarfraz Ahmed, who got his chance when the out-of-form Nasir Jamshed’s luck ran out.

“We started playing good cricket, some aggressive cricket, which I think Pakistan cricket is known for in the past,” said Waqar Younis, the coach, after the 29-run win against South Africa. “[We] started finding the right combination, people have started believing in themselves, players have started trusting their abilities. I think this was a key. I'm very thrilled.”

Pakistan’s four-match winning streak was completed when it beat Ireland in a must-win last league match. Pakistan had done well to rouse itself from a state of stupor, with elimination staring it in the face.

Going into the quarter-final against Australia, Pakistan had a tough task. Mohammad Irfan’s absence due to injury further dented its chances.

Although its bowling had been aggressive and relentless, pacy and probing, batting was Pakistan's Achilles heel. Shehzad, Haris Sohail, Umar Akmal and Sohaib Maqsood failed to convert their starts into big scores, and this proved to be a problem in the quarter-final too, when Pakistan was kept to just 213 on the friendliest batting wicket in Australia.

“It was painful to watch the irresponsible attitude of the Pakistan batsmen, and Australia accepted all ten catches that came their way,” wrote Inzamam-ul-Haq, the former Pakistan captain, in his column for the ICC.

“After playing so many years of international cricket, Pakistan’s batsmen still don’t understand the meaning of ‘rotating the strike’. To be honest, it simply hurts a lot. Our batsmen play so many dot balls that in sheer frustration they go for airy, fairy shots, and good fielding units like Australia don’t miss out on these catching chances.”

This was to be the last ODI tournament for Shahid Afridi as well as Misbah. Afridi will be disappointed that he failed to fire, getting to just 116 runs and two wickets from seven matches. Misbah, on the other hand, led from the front, steadying the innings when Pakistan most needed it, to become its leading run-getter with 350 runs at an average of 50.

Compared to him, Akmal got only 164 runs in seven outings, Shehzad managed 222 and Maqsood scored 124 in five matches.

"It's necessary that the younger batsmen take responsibility," reckoned Misbah after the quarter-final defeat. “They are talented players, but maybe they were not made responsible enough to help the team.

"If our cricket is to match international standards, then our youngsters have to work hard. They are the best performers in domestic cricket so they have to take the mantle from us. Besides batting, fitness and fielding are two key areas where our players have to work very hard because they are not up to international standards.”

One memorable aspect of the quarter-final loss for Pakistan would be the hostile bowling of Wahab Riaz. Riaz, Pakistan’s leading wicket-taker with 16 scalps, had led the attack in the absence of the bowling stalwarts. In the quarter-final, he did it again, producing a menacing and memorable six-over spell of fast bowling during which he got David Warner and Michael Clarke, while troubling Shane Watson no end.

Rahat Ali, with seven wickets from five games, and Sohail Khan, the only specialist right-arm paceman in a sea of left-armers, who took 12 wickets from seven matches, were both impressive.

But it's the batting that needs attention, and Misbah hoped the concerns would be addressed soon.

“Maybe the lack of international exposure was hurting the batsmen so I have suggested to the Pakistan Cricket Board that they arrange more and more cricket for these youngsters because batsmen can only get better with exposure,” said Misbah.

“I think Pakistan should start building a team for the next World Cup now.”