World Cup 2011 March 10, 2011

A cringe at the death

Pakistan's serene progress to the World Cup quarter finals suddenly became a shambles in the final ten overs of the New Zealand innings

Pakistan's serene progress to the World Cup quarter finals suddenly became a shambles in the final ten overs of the New Zealand innings. The Kiwi batsmen were powerful and clinical but Pakistan's death bowling was dreadful, probably the worst I've ever seen from an attack renowned for excelling in this period of an innings. Waqar Younis, who was a master at the death, must have been cringing.

Despite Pakistan's control for the first 40 overs, there were signs of trouble. The fielding was sloppier than it has been in this tournament, and Kamran Akmal set the tone with a resounding return to dreadful form. By missing at least three chances, two of them sitters, he presented Ross Taylor with welcome birthday gifts and Pakistan fans with an unwelcome reminder of the bad old days.

Paradoxically, Taylor may have helped Pakistan by exposing the current weaknesses in their strategy, which have been happily glossed over by three early victories. Apart from focusing attention on Kamran Akmal's wicket keeping, Taylor strengthened arguments that Pakistan are a bowler light in their selection, and this is where the loss of Mohammad Aamer is being felt.

The next game against Zimbabwe is an ideal opportunity to try a new combination. Bringing in Wahab Riaz to replace one of the top three batsmen would give Afridi more options in the death overs and a better opening partner for Shoaib Akhtar. Saeed Ajmal is a wicket taker and a skilled operator in the final overs, a better option for me than Abdul Rehman.

Much of Pakistan's selection appears to be based on bolstering the batting but eight batsmen have rarely been able to achieve what seven batsmen couldn't. Pakistan must rely on their players to take responsibility. Gul is a more than capable number eight and Wahab a useful clubber at nine. Razzaq must be itching for a return to the top end of the batting order on these benign tracks.

Pakistan have the ingredients to mount a challenge for the trophy but they need to be positive in selection as well as in performance. Whoever Pakistan select, as long as they bowl as they did in the final ten overs of the New Zealand innings and Kamran Akmal continues his woeful form, they will venture no further than the quarter finals of this increasingly open tournament.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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