PAKISTAN’S unreadiness for the challenge is a missed opportunity since this is one of the most open World Cups in history. England are deserved favourites based on form and home advantage. India, with Virat Kohli, look a force to be reckoned with. Beyond that it is anybody’s World Cup.
In recent years, Trent Bridge has produced some of the highest scores in one-day cricket, but Pakistan failed to post a total worthy of an international team. Despite overcast conditions, Pakistan were not outdone by swing or seam. They fell to poor shot selection and shot execution, especially when West Indies decided to test them with short pitched pace bowling .
The West Indies fast bowlers were good but did not require anything sensational to persuade Pakistan’s batsmen to play rash strokes. Some dismissals were unfortunate. Imam-ul Haq and Sarfraz Ahmed both nicked leg side deliveries, and Fakhar Zaman played on to his stumps via an unlucky bounce of his helmet. The rest were in too much of a rush when the situation required some circumspection.
Pakistan, backed by wonderful support from British Pakistanis, collapsed from 35 for 1 to 105 all out in a performance short of application and skill. The bowlers were then unable to exert any pressure on the West Indies as they quickly achieved their target with the help of a stand-and deliver fifty from Chris Gayle.
The one bright note for Pakistan was an impressive spell of three wickets by Mohammad Amir. That would usually bode well for Pakistan except his fellow pacemen were unable to follow his lead. Wahab Riaz was his usual mixture of good and bad. Hassan Ali continues his struggle to be as effective as he was when he first joined the international team.
Most worryingly, Sarfraz Ahmed is a captain unable to galvanise his men. If captains are unable to inspire their team by their oratory or tactics, they must do it by the strength of their performances. Sarfraz is filling a top order batting slot, and when the going gets tough he needs to get going.
Pakistan last played a 50-over World Cup match in England in 1999. Wasim Akram’s team was probably the finest one-day team that Pakistan has ever produced. They shone in the tournament but collapsed horribly in the final. When we left Lord’s in 1999, we could not have imagined that Pakistan would fail to mount another serious challenge for the World Cup.
You sense that there is something in this Pakistan bowling attack to encourage hope but scores of under 250 are no longer defendable in one-day cricket – and Pakistan were some way off that at Trent Bridge. There is time enough for Pakistan to transform their fortunes but Sarfraz Ahmed’s team doesn’t seem ready for success in this year’s World Cup.
The early stages of an international tournament are deceptive but there was a ring of truth about Pakistan’s collapse to West Indies at Trent Bridge. There is potential for the future in this team, but the World Cup is now. Pakistan are packed with inexperience and short of confidence, which is a worrying combination for the world’s premier international 50-over tournament.