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After the misery of the Caribbean, India and Pakistan will be relieved to be reacquainted with success in a world tournament. A final meeting would be the most resounding comeback but both teams face difficult semi-final contests. Pakistan, of course, will be delighted to face New Zealand, the least threatening of the semi-finalists.
Semi-finals between New Zealand and Pakistan have become a modern feature, and up to now Pakistan have had the upper hand. In 1992 at Auckland, New Zealand looked unbeatable until Inzamam-ul Haq played a thrilling carefree innings to stun a passionate home crowd and millions worldwide.
Seven years later, New Zealand and Pakistan met in Manchester on a similarly gloomy day but with a vast majority of Pakistan fans. First Shoaib Akhtar produced a devastating spell to restrict New Zealand and then Saeed Anwar stroked a convincing march to victory as horns blared and firecrackers exploded.
A New Zealand semi-final is a good omen for Pakistan but they cannot afford to be complacent. Daniel Vettori's team has big hitters and wise heads in its batting and decent variety in its bowling thanks to Vettori's spin and Shane Bond's speed. New Zealand's fielding will also be exceptional.
For a Pakistan team whose own varied bowling attack has excelled in this tournament, New Zealand are not to be feared. Indeed, unusually for recent times, Pakistan have settled on a bowling formula that is proving successful. A threatening burst from Asif and Tanvir, followed by the intelligent spin of Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez, with Umar Gul's yorker attack to kill off the end of the innings.
Under pressure, of course, any formula can unravel but it is reassuring to have a clear plan, which is something Geoff Lawson must be applauded for.
Pakistan's batting remains a point of concern, although with Afridi back at the top of the order there is more sense to it--if you can ever say that about Afridi. The misfit among Pakistan's batsmen is Salman Butt whose long game has struggled to adapt to this short version. The only place you can bat Butt is at the top of the order where his cover drives might beat the fielding restrictions. Lower down he isn't sufficiently flexible to be useful. Lawson rightly values consistency of selection but if there is one change it should be the introduction of Fawad Alam or Yasir Arafat in place of Pakistan's vice-captain.
While Pakistan will be relieved to reach a semi-final and confident of repeating their success over New Zealand, the shortest version of cricket is the most unpredictable. Ironically, it is the most unpredictable team of all that seems to have benefited most from this format. You should never expect absolute consistency from Pakistan, which is why it is good that they have got a below-par performance out of the way against Bangladesh.
Unusually, this has been a happy African adventure for Pakistan and perhaps the most encouraging signs have been the team spirit, intensity, aggression, and passion that have returned to Pakistan's cricket. It goes to prove that in life, just as in Quentin Tarantino movies, attitude goes a long way.
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets hereFeeds: Kamran Abbasi
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. @KamranAbbasi