Pakistan have enjoyed multiple spells as the world's No.1 ODI team in recent times, though Babar Azam's men are desperate to find a rhythm to mount a serious Cricket World Cup challenge.
Squad: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Mohammad Rizwan, Saud Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Salman Ali Agha, Mohammad Nawaz, Usama Mir, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Wasim.
Best finish at the tournament
Pakistan made a slow start at the 1992 tournament in Australia and New Zealand, picking up just three points (one win, one no-result) across their first five matches.
Their comeback to squeeze into the four is made more remarkable considering the opposition in the back half. The side beat Australia in Perth by 48 runs, won in the last over chasing Sri Lanka’s 212, before overcoming New Zealand in Christchurch who were unbeaten when the teams met.
Four wins and a washout were enough for the men in green to squeeze into the fourth spot for the semi-finals, though it meant a re-match with New Zealand who finished top of the round-robin stage at Eden Park in Auckland.
Set a tough 263 for victory, Pakistan paced their chase with starts from Ramiz Raja and captain Imran Khan (both 44) setting the platform. Javed Miandad (57*) carried through the middle and latter stages, while Inzamam-ul-Haq (60 off 37 balls) and Moin Khan (20* from 11 balls) flurries ensured a successful chase.
In the final, Pakistan wrangled the English just when it looked like they were running away with victory in front of 87,000 people. Imran Khan (72) and Javed Miandad (58) pieced together a 139-run partnership after falling in a hole at 24/2, eventually posting 249/6 after a late flurry from Wasim Akram (33 from 18 balls).
England had the makings of mounting a final-winning chase at 141/4, only for the great Wasim to etch his name in Cricket World Cup folklore. Around the wicket, Wasim beat the imperious Allan Lamb to make a mess of the Englishman’s stumps, before swinging the next delivery the other way to claim Chris Lewis first ball. The left-armer finished with 3/49 to finish Player of the Final as his country lifted the trophy.
Results in the last 10 ODI games
(Most recent first): L L W N/R W W W W L W
vs Netherlands (6 October), Hyderabad
vs Sri Lanka (10 October), Hyderabad
vs India (14 October), Ahmedabad
vs Australia (20 October), Bengaluru
vs Afghanistan (23 October), Chennai
vs South Africa (27 October), Chennai
vs Bangladesh (31 October), Kolkata
vs New Zealand (04 November), Bengaluru
vs England (11 November), Kolkata
vs India (14 October), Ahmedabad
Players from both sides will throw everything at every match in India, but it’d be remiss not to acknowledge the stakes and significance of the 14 October fixture in Ahmedabad in front of almost 130,000 people.
The teams have inflicted a defeat on each other in the two T20 World Cup meetings across 2021 and 2022, though it is India that have the edge in recent times in the 50-over game, both through this year’s Asia Cup and a resounding win at the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
Looking to the Ahmedabad fixture, new ball inroads through Shaheen Shah Afridi against Rohit Sharma and the India top order will be vital, and the Powerplay on the batting side could be just as vital.
The last time the teams met in Cricket World Cup action in India was during the 2011 semi-final, where Pakistan fell short by 29 runs in Mohali.
With a stranglehold on the No.1 ODI Batting Ranking since mid-July 2021, no one can argue Babar Azam’s quality for Pakistan. Not only for his reliability as a run-scorer but also his durability, as he has played every ODI for their team since the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
Averaging close to 60 in the format at a strike rate of almost 90, Babar would be a key player for any side at the tournament. There’s no secret Pakistan’s campaign hinges on their captain’s output, but his role as a field general and his changes with the ball will also prove vital.
The 28-year-old has also expressed his excitement about playing in a full Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad come 14 October, and won't shy away from the challenge of taking his men to India.
In a similar fashion to four years ago, the outlook of Pakistan’s campaign is far from crystal clear. For marked periods the No.1 ODI team since missing out on a semi-final spot in 2019, the side come into the tournament a little flat, after Asia Cup defeats to India and Sri Lanka, and multiple defeats to New Zealand on home soil throughout the year.
In spite of keeping a set group of players, the team have struggled to find the ideal line-up. Tinkering with the batting order with players sliding up and down, there's no certainty as to how the team will line up on 6 October. Pakistan may have pushed a little too hard in the build-up as well, given the injury to Naseem Shah. The side welcomes 2019 squad member Hasan Ali as a replacement, though it’s been over a year since he featured in ODI cricket.
The team is not short of match-winners, like the aforementioned Babar and the almost unrivalled new-ball quality of Shaheen Shah Afridi, but the questions of the middle order and the lack of blue-chip, world-class spinner leave the team short of being in the same conversation as the hot favourites.
To compensate for this, their main spinning options, Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz, bring a level of quality with the bat. The side have left out Faheem Ashraf under the assumption that wickets will spin wherever they go, and they have Usama Mir in their ranks if they want to double down with slow bowling.
On the batting side, Mohammad Rizwan, Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq provide an element of safety, with Fakhar Zaman boasting more power and bravado, even if it is at the expense of the perceived reliability.
The team in green have the potential to lift the trophy on 19 November, though the hype from the optimistic fans and the cynicism of the naysayers cancel out, to give the impression Pakistan are a side similar to four years ago – certainly in the mix for a semi-final spot and looking to press on, but having to fight a number of rivals for the privilege.
There is sure to be a level of pressure in return to India after a seven-year absence, but the team has never been one to read the script, and could surprise all comers in their World Cup press.