March 15, 2012

Pakistan did the unexpected. Despite having to chase a total — which many have come to believe is a sure sign of loss — Pakistan managed to reach it comfortably, only for the loss of four wickets, that too with their fourth wicket falling just a few runs short of a victory.

Nasir Jamshed showed potential as a dependable partner for Mohammed Hafeez to open the innings with, despite an early dismissal in today’s game against Sri Lanka. Captain Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal found their form and brought stability to the Pakistan innings. This is exactly what fans had been waiting for: for Pakistan’s top order batsman to deliver — and it happened today.

The bowlers performed remarkably too. While during the England series it was the spin department that was expected to clinch the deal — and that is how Pakistan advanced initially into the Asia Cup as well — the pacers made a comeback today. Aizaz Cheema who, though got off to an expensive start, went on to pick up four crucial wickets. The inclusion of Hammad Azam allowed Misbah  to choose from among six bowlers to complete the overs. And with a collective bowling attack — Ajmal picking up three wickets, Gul two and Azam one — Pakistan limited Sri Lanka to a total of 188 where at one stage it seemed they were well on their way to setting a target of 250+. There was attacking bowling, good stroke play and, not to forget, a good display of fielding too.

After India and Sri Lanka’s match on March 13, a high scoring game in which India set Sri Lanka a target of 305 and Sri Lanka lost by 50 runs, one only wondered how Pakistan would fare, given that their batting up until today’s game, had simply crumbled. How did Pakistan possibly expect to stand a chance against India and their ability for run-scoring? But Misbah’s gallant 72 not out and Umar Akmal’s 77-run knock are a good sign as Pakistan gears up to face India on March 18. Whether the batsmen have found their form and can be expected to perform as well if not better in the upcoming game, one does not know, but today’s performance has definitely provided fans with the flicker of hope that it can be done.

Though Pakistan has in all probability qualified for the finals, there is still a big game to be played before the finale — India vs Pakistan on March 18. What should the Pakistan line-up be against India? Post a comment and tell us what your preferred playing XI would be and why.

Join Newsline and Teabreak for Session 4 of The Chat Room, Let’s Talk Cricket, on Saturday (March 17) at 7pm for a discussion on the upcoming India-Pakistan match. More details will be made available soon.

Farieha Aziz is a Karachi-based journalist and teacher. She joined Newsline in 2007, rising to assistant editor. Farieha was awarded the APNS award for Best Investigative Report (Business/Economic) for the year 2007-2008. She is a co-founder and Director at Bolo Bhi, an advocacy forum of Digital Rights.