Moment of joy after torrid two years
Pakistan produced a clinical performance to qualify for a second consecutive World Twenty20 semi-final. Tougher challenges lie ahead but Younis Khan will be pleased to have avoided a potential banana skin.
As with other minnows who do not play regular international cricket, Ireland’s bowlers posed more of a challenge than their batsmen. Boyd Rankin, in particular, troubled Pakistan with his pace and bounce.
Nonetheless, a solid if unspectacular performance ensured that Pakistan posted a total that was way beyond Ireland. Kamran Akmal was the backbone of the effort, with Shahzaib Hasan, Shahid Afridi, and Abdul Razzaq playing handy cameos.
Still, there should be some disappointment that Pakistan failed to post a bigger total. The current batting approach is short of ingenuity and invention, which is something of a surprise from a Pakistani team.
Misbah-ul Haq, usually the prime architect of unusual strokeplay, has yet to discover his touch. His teammates will be hoping that he is saving his best inventions for the big games ahead.
Once more, Pakistan’s bowling proved formidable. And it was a day for unsung heroes to come to the fore. Saeed Ajmal continued his excellence in this tournament. His four wickets effectively snuffed out any challenge from Ireland. Ajmal’s combination with Afridi is proving critical for Pakistan in the middle overs.
Mohammed Aamer again wowed the crowd. His second over marked by fast bowling of the highest international standard. Aamer is improving with every outing and could become a truly special bowler for Pakistan.
As ever, Umar Gul finished off the Ireland innings with venom, the highlight being two consecutive yorkers that uprooted the stumps. Unfortunately, the first was off a free-hit delivery and did not count as a wicket.
It has been a tough 24 hours for Gul, whose world record-breaking spell against New Zealand has been tarnished by thinly veiled accusations of ball-tampering. It is an accusation that the New Zealand camp should hide their heads in shame over.
Pakistan have now banished some of the demons of their last defeat against Ireland. Several banners in the crowd urged Pakistan to win it for Woolmer. They did just that, and for themselves and their country.
Pakistan may have had one of the easier routes to the semi-finals but they had the worst 24 months of any team. It is a moment of joy and pride that they have gathered themselves to reach the final stages of a major international tournament.
The hard work begins now.
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here