ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

Australia v Pakistan, Group A, World Cup 2011, Colombo

A game to savour and forget

All Pakistan's bowlers played their role, the fielding was as good as it has been in a long time, and two young batsmen played maturely; yet by the next game, their win against Australia could mean nothing

Osman Samiuddin at the R Premadasa Stadium

March 19, 2011

Comments: 69 | Text size: A | A

Asad Shafiq anchored Pakistan's run-chase, Australia v Pakistan, Group A, World Cup 2011, Colombo, March 19, 2011
Asad Shafiq has shown in two games in a row that he can play responsibly at No. 3 © Getty Images
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What a strange kind of win this is for Pakistan. It is an impressive one; there should be no mistaking that. The first team to beat Australia in a World Cup in 35 games and 12 years was always going to have to play a big game to do it. To top the group, with just one loss, is something very few would have predicted before the tournament began.

And to draw, potentially, the weakest of the qualifiers from Group B - that is just a numerical reality in this most-open tournament, not a comment on whichever side it eventually is - means Pakistan could have asked for nothing more. Yet, as much as the win should mean, it might mean nothing at all by the next game. It is that kind of an in between triumph.

From the evidence of six games, from the evidence of this win, there is enough to suggest that Shahid Afridi's pre-tournament target of a semi-final spot is eminently achievable. It was before the tournament began as well, but deeds are achieved on the field, not on paper.

Pakistan's bowling won them this game. It is what always wins them games and what always makes them a contender. It is why they don't go the way of West Indies or New Zealand, because they always have an attack that can do a job; bowl sides out in Tests, defend targets in ODIs.

Umar Gul again led the way and he is increasingly becoming a pivotal figure in the campaign. Waqar Younis' presence as coach is no coincidence, as it wasn't when Gul went through an earlier phase of success in 2006, with Waqar as bowling coach at the time. "He's improving day by day," Waqar said, with a hint of pride. "He's found his right length and he's not only bowling straight but with some pace. He's attacking areas where it's hard to hit, so he's getting better and better, which is great for the team."

There was no let-up behind him. Abdur Rehman used defence smartly as attack; Wahab Riaz recovered after an iffy start and even Abdul Razzaq clocked in. Mohammad Hafeez's batting has hit a dip again, but his bowling has assumed greater importance and his spell at the Premadasa was the one that really took the life out of Australia's innings.

It would have been nothing without a fielding display about as sharp as any Pakistan has put together under Afridi and Waqar. Hafeez was operating a kind of Sri Lanka-like choke, darting them in but turning them also, forcing batsmen to play to short midwicket - a crucial position in any strangle - who would swoop in, stop the single and throw back to Hafeez for it to be repeated all over again, on loop.

Runs and boundaries were given up only grudgingly. There were direct hits, a run-out and generally the impression that stealing singles within the circle or doubles out to big boundaries was a risk. "It's going to get better," Waqar said. "It makes a difference when you are playing against a bigger team and we still need to improve. But definitely today was a much better performance. We took our catches and we stopped boundaries. We did our job so we must give credit to the fielding."

The batting has more promise than before, though it remains prone to jitters. The surface wasn't the easiest and Australia's quicks will test most sides, but Pakistan will take particular delight in their two youngest batsmen taking them home. It is the blend in their batting through the middle that is their strength. There is experience in Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq and freshness in Asad Shafiq and Umar Akmal. Younis and Misbah set up the Sri Lanka win, Shafiq and Umar this one.

Umar's hand was worthy of the Man-of-the-Match award, for he counterpunched just when Pakistan could have been knocked out, and he finished the game. But Shafiq's 46, like the unbeaten 78 against Zimbabwe last week, caught the eye for its quiet sense and method, always full of intent but not averse to caution.

Waqar didn't hold back in his praise. "He's becoming more and more mature every day, not only this series but even if you go back to the New Zealand series where he played some really good knocks. He's very steady, not a big hitter, he manoeuvres the ball here and there, picks up the odd boundary. At No. 3, he's done a superb job in the last match [against Zimbabwe] and he's done a job today [Saturday] as well."

It is a big win, "a real achievement," concluded Waqar. But every win from now will, unavoidably, be bigger. They will enjoy it now, Waqar said, before waiting on the permutations of who they play. They will also have to "forget it." It's not often Pakistan have been able to say that of a win against Australia recently, which tells, if you think about it, its own story of what this team has done and could yet do.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 69 
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Posted by a on (March 22, 2011, 1:18 GMT)

To me still we need more consistency & responsibility from Younis and Misbah. Also bias Afridi need to send Razzaq ahead of him.

Now it India's turn to screw Aussie.

I reckon all game now will be dam absorbing.

Posted by ABDUL on (March 22, 2011, 0:29 GMT)

Well writtem Osman it was a suberb victory which will mean the Aussies will now dump India out of the world cup with the harder track in Ahmedabad the Aussie batsman will feel at home.On a slower pitch in sri-lanka the Aussie batsman could not cope with the pakistani attack there was very little easy runs on hand.I am also glad there was no mention of Afridi whose batting along with Hafeez is a concern more so Hafeez because his is the front line batsman.Younis is a better player of fast bowling.They sould swop places with the theory that the ball being a few overs older when Hafeez comes into bat. I just hope Waqar has given the West Indian batsman just as much attention as he did with Australian batsman because there are a few more left handed batsman in the west indies team and that will reqiure a different line of attack perhaps play Saeed ajmal shoild play. Good luck Pakistan the only game you will play in India will be the final in Mumbai!

Posted by Ryo on (March 21, 2011, 12:52 GMT)

@cric_fanatics: 4 of the last 5 games played between Aus and Pak have been won by Pakistan now. The 'Aussie monkey' (or rather Koala Bear) is well and truly off Pakistan's back. And that too with one of the youngest and inexperienced teams Pakistan has ever put out.

Posted by Syed on (March 21, 2011, 12:15 GMT)

This game clearly demonstrated how important fielding is. If bowlers are supported by fielding like they were on saturday than most of the time they will choke opposing team for below par scores. Important thing is that there was no out of this world briliance just simple and efficient execution. Imagine a dropped chance or missed runout of Craig White and the score could easily be in 250 +

For QF Pakistan should opt for three specialist spinners + Hafeez (drop Wahab for Saeed Ajmal). Afridi and Ajmal are both big wicket takers and along with Gul , Abdul Rehman, Hafeez and Razzaq they can make life miserable for WI batsmen. They should also use this time to prep (practice and therapy) Shoaib for SF at Mohali which might favors the fast bowler.

Posted by Muhammad Kazim on (March 21, 2011, 12:08 GMT)

Well, it was a totally bowling win matches for Pakistan. It's not that convincing win that can certain a position in last four and so on. We have to make runs to fight, if our bowling have a bad day then? Looking at the score apart from Kenya match, its not convincing at all VS Srilanka 277/7, VS Canada 184 (43 ov), VS New Zealand 184 (43 ov), VS Zimbabwe 164/3 (34.1/38 ov), VS Aussie 178/6 (41 ov). That's not good enough to cheer up!!!!! GOD BLESSES PAKISTAN TEAM.

Posted by avinash on (March 21, 2011, 8:58 GMT)

must be a nice feeling after being thrashed 10-0 down under............

Posted by Umar on (March 21, 2011, 7:27 GMT)

Get out of the way ! Here comes Pakistan !

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 21, 2011, 4:11 GMT)

Pakistan's bowling is probably one of the most varied ones, Australia on the other hand was seen relying on pace (not that they have many spin options). It was great to see Umar Gul in prime form, though Umar has the knack of slipping away when he's being hit around the fence. I think Waqar needs to work more on Wahab Riaz, if given clear direction and grooming, he can become a potent force. The Windies might fall for Pakistan's spin attack, only chanderpaul and Sarawan can handle spin...but then again, theres always the Chris Gayle.. ;)

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 20, 2011, 23:10 GMT)

It does feel great to win but it's important to forget it now n think abt the nxt thing.rightly said waqar.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 20, 2011, 23:09 GMT)


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Osman SamiuddinClose
Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.

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