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Match Analysis

Welcome win but mind the cracks

On Saturday Pakistan face South Africa in Auckland knowing that they have solved none of their long-standing issues - particularly a fragility within their top order - and that they will benefit from none of the good fortune they received here

Just as a hungry man is unlikely to decline a cold samosa, no Pakistan win can be taken for granted these days. So Pakistan should welcome this victory. They should welcome that they are lifted back into the top four in the Group B table. They should welcome the runs scored by Ahmed Shehzad, the continued potency of their bowling attack and the fact that they passed 300 for only the second time in 18 ODIs.
But, with respect to UAE, this match was like preparing to wrestle a lion by petting a mouse. On Saturday Pakistan face South Africa in Auckland knowing that they have solved none of their long-standing issues - particularly a fragility within their top order - and that they will benefit from none of the good fortune they received here.
It is, for example, unthinkable that Shehzad will be dropped twice by South Africa before he reaches 12. It is unthinkable that South Africa will allow the Pakistan middle order to settle in against gentle bowling and it is unthinkable that the Pakistan fielding -they are, by some distance, the worst fielding unit among the Full Member nations - will not be run ragged by a South Africa line-up that has scored 400 in the last two ODIs.
Certainly nobody should be sucked into thinking that this result might spark a great revival. Even coach Waqar Younis admitted afterwards that Pakistan "still need a win against a bigger opponent" to gain confidence.
"The South Africa game is crucial," he said. "Not so much for qualifying, but also for a morale booster. We need to beat a top team to get our confidence back.
"We are definitely capable. It is not so long since we beat South Africa in South Africa and we have beaten Australia, too. You might not see it at the moment, but we are capable.
"Other teams have picked up. You can see India picking up and South Africa lost badly and then picked up. So that's what we're hoping. We're hoping the boys that got runs today will carry on.
"I still feel Pakistan need an extra batsman in the line-up," Waqar admitted. "But our batsmen are out of form. But we still need seven batsmen."
The most pressing form issue concerns Nasir Jamshed. The Pakistan opener has now scored five runs in his last four ODI innings and might well be the worst fielder in the entire tournament. He makes Inzamam-ul-Haq appear like a leopard. The decision to persevere with Jamshed here had some logic. By giving him this opportunity to bat against a relatively weak bowling attack on a good batting surface, Pakistan were providing him with every opportunity to rediscover his form.
But it was logic that only worked if he took the opportunity. By the same logic, Pakistan could have recalled Sarfraz Ahmed - which would also have improved the wicketkeeping, Umar Akmal keeps like a man who is allergic to cricket balls - and given him an opportunity to find form against a relatively weak attack. It is asking a great deal of him to come into the side - particularly as an opener - and find form against South Africa. All of which could lead to a conclusion that they are better to stick with Jamshed for the next game.
There is disagreement here, too, between the selectors. While Moin Khan said before the tournament that Sarfraz could be utilised as an opening batsman - he performed the role admirably against Australia in October, averaging 43.66 in three ODIs - Waqar suggested after the win against UAE that "Sarfraz's career would be at risk if he opens."
If there is one thing that can possibly be agreed upon in Pakistan cricket, it is that nobody agrees with anyone. And some would disagree with that.
Pakistan also ended the match with a concern over the fitness of Mohammad Irfan. While Waqar said the fitness of his tall fast bowler - one of the most frugal seamers in the tournament - was "not a major concern," Irfan spent much of this match icing his sore buttocks. Three matches in seven days in different cities is not easy for a man not built to fit on to planes or in hotel beds.
While Irfan is the one man who might compete with Jamshed for the title of "worst fielder in the World Cup" - he looks like Jaws from the Bond film when he bowls and Jaws from the fish films when he fields - his loss would be significant. The sight of Sohail Khan, the other opening bowler, being thrashed for 20 in five deliveries by a baggage handler who bats at No. 8 for an Associate side - fine talent though Amjad Javed clearly is - underlined Irfan's worth.
Comparisons between this Pakistan side and the team of 1992 - prompted by two wins on the trot - are, at best wishful thinking and at worst simply delusional. While the team of '92 contained at least five players who might reasonably be described as "great" - and six more who were very good - the team of '15 contains perhaps two players who may be remembered as "great," several others who are good and a couple that Pakistan supporters will be trying to forget for years.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo