If there is a team in world cricket which is mercurial to say the least, then it has to be Pakistan for sure. On October 27, as Zimbabwe beat Babar Azam and his men, one thing became clear that Men in Green are heading for a first-round exit. Former cricketers wasted no time slamming their very own! Shoaib Akhtar, former cricketer, took joy in proving to his fans that he can be a great fortune teller. Meanwhile, Pakistan dressing room reacted to the whole furor in such a way that Akhtar had to eat his own words. And why wouldn’t they—in-fact, Pakistan’s ex-factor is to thrive when pushed to a corner. Remember Imran Khan’s ‘cornered tiger’ speech?
Now, coming back to the tournament, Pakistan’s actual campaign began a day after. From October 28 onwards they changed their strategy, taking each game at a time. By the time they came to Adelaide on November 6, their campaign hinged on Netherlands vs South Africa. We all know what happened there, don’t we?
vs India – Lost by four wickets
Although, they did take on their arch rivals two times in the lead up to this match, it didn’t take any pressure off Babar’s men. Whenever India take on Pakistan, there is always something to prove. In-fact, they took the attack to the opposition after being reduced to 15/2 at the MCG. Shan Masood (52 off 42) and Iftikhar Ahmed (51 off 34) combined well to steer them to safety. Even when India were chasing 160, they had hit back sending both the openers back to the hut. It was only when Virat Kohli found that sixer off Haris Rauf in the penultimate over that Pakistan started to lose their nerve. Eventually, the last over to Mohammad Nawaz was where the game was lost.
vs Zimbabwe – Lost by one run
Four days later when Pakistan took on Zimbabwe and stopped them at a score of 130 at the new Optus Stadium in Perth, none of the punters would have bet on a Zimbabwe victory. Chasing this modest score, they lost their top three quickly (Babar, Mohammed Rizwan and Iftikhar Ahmed), leaving them precariously placed at 41/3. But from here on Shan Masood (44 off 38) tried to resist. Later Mohammad Nawaz slammed 22 off 18 to bring them within a reaching distance. But he couldn’t stay on which meant it fell on the likes of Shaheen Shah Afridi-a tailender, to see his team home. Zimbabwe kept their calm and snatched the game by just a run.
vs South Africa – Won by 33 runs (DLS Method)
The actual turnaround began right here and Pakistan showed what they can do if they are pushed to a corner. In SCG, they played out of their skins to stay in contention. They made a quick change at three with Mohammad Harris. Nevertheless, openers’ poor form continued and they were soon reduced to 43/4. But Pakistan fought back with Shadab Khan (52 off 22) and Iftikhar Ahmed (51 off 35) as they posted a stiff target of 186. In reply, the Proteas were rocked by Shaheen Afridi’s 3/14 early on. Meanwhile an all-round Shahdab also accounted for two by the time rain arrived. Eventually, the DLS method came into play with Pakistan emerging as winners by 33 runs.
vs Bangladesh – Won by five wickets
Hours after figuring out that they are very much in semi-final race, Pakistan didn’t need a second invitation to shut the door on Bangladesh at Adelaide Oval. Strike bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi picked up four wickets as Bangladesh were restricted to a meager 127/8. In reply, Pakistan showed no hurry as they knocked off the winning runs with almost two overs to spare. Ticket to semi-final was reserved with so much ease-unimaginable just a week ago!
vs New Zealand- Won by seven wickets (Semi-Final)
No motivation was needed for Babar’s team from here on. Shaheen Shah Afridi gave a trailer of what was to come in the next few hours as he removed Finn Allen with a beauty. Only Darryl Mitchell (53 off 35) and Kane Williamson (46 off 42) tried to resist but they never had the opportunity to open up their shoulders. As a result, Pakistan chased an average target of 153 and overpowered that riding on fifties from Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam, storming into the final in style.