Rana and Rehman make the difference
Whenever Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif do return to international cricket, Pakistan might have a pleasant problem on their hands. In their absence, Umar Gul has grown his hair, upped his speed, and seized the opportunity to become the team's spearhead. But the most encouraging news of the series thus far is that two bowlers whose positions might have been questioned have given Pakistan the edge.
Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, a man who once rose to the occasion like Gul, has recovered his fire. In England and India, Rana had looked anything but the clever strike bowler that he is. Since his omission from the Test series he has worked hard on his fitness and on his technique--he says with Waqar Younis--to recapture the form that had made him an essential selection.
The second revelation has been Abdur Rehman, a man who has been hanging around the Pakistan squad like an uninvited guest. He may not be the "youngster" that Inzamam described him as, prompting a fit of laughter from Ramiz Raja, but perhaps that's a good thing. On the evidence of these first two matches, Rehman is a highly skilled left-arm spinner. His action is a touch unusual with his head almost turned away from the batsman as he delivers but he has hit a near perfect line in this series. His general energy and tidiness in the field suggest that Danish Kaneria might never make it into Pakistan's World Cup squad.
Pakistan's traditional strength has been its bowling. In a World Cup year, the return of Rana and the revelation of Rehman are important landmarks. With bench strength comprising Shahid Nazir, Mohammad Sami, Shabbir Ahmed, Yasir Arafat, Danish Kaneria, and Shahid Afridi--that's before we dare to discuss the comeback of Pakistan's most notorious bowlers --Inzamam's team is shaping up nicely in an important area. Australia might be in for a contest after all.
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here