After the uncertainty surrounding their participation in the tournament and the venue of their matches, Pakistan began their Women's World Cup campaign promisingly, but it did not last. They restricted Australia to 175 at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack, but their batsmen did not make it even halfway to the target.
Despite the World Cup being held in India, the favourites to win are defending champions England, New Zealand and Australia. While India have the underdog billing, Sri Lanka and Pakistan are rank outsiders. While Sri Lanka upset England to state they are not here to make up the numbers, Pakistan started positively but their challenge fizzled out against Australia's experience and tactics.
Neither captain expected a high-scoring affair on a low and slow wicket, and when Pakistan had reduced Australia to 99 for 6 in the 29th over, they would have been hoping for a win against the odds. The tail, however, came to Australia's rescue, as it does consistently. Sarah Coyte's unbeaten 35 at No. 9 ensured Australia made it past 170.
"Our team bats from 1 to 11. We are quite confident about that," Jodie Fields, Australia's captain, said. "As Sarah came out and had a partnership lower down the order, just proves that our batting depth is great. I knew that if we got closer to 175, we could bowl to it."
Once they got to the desired total, Australia's all-round bowling performance helped them win without much difficulty. While the Australian bowlers stuck to their plan of "bowling straight", Pakistan's batters played too many rash strokes.
"It was a case of poor shot selection from our batters," the Pakistan captain Sana Mir said. "After we lost early wickets, I would say when I got out, I think that was the turning point. We have to be more disciplined, we have to be responsible, because we couldn't capitalise on all the hard work done by the bowlers.
"The pitch was keeping low, no doubt about that. But there is no excuse for this kind of performance [with the bat]. I hold myself responsible."
Mir, however, took positives from her team's bowling and fielding effort, which produced in four run-outs. "I think this has been our best bowling performance till date against a top opponent like Australia," she said. "The performance we produced with the ball and in the field is really encouraging. If we can restrict Australia, we can restrict any team ... be it New Zealand or any other."
While Australia will need to improve their batting against South Africa at the DRIEMS Ground on Sunday, Pakistan will hope to challenge New Zealand at the Barabati. And it being a Sunday, the Odisha Cricket Association will hope the security personnel don't outnumber the spectators in the stands, like they did today.