As has been the case throughout the World Cup, this piece is being written in the middle of a match that was just as important for Pakistan as any of their own matches. With New Zealand struggling at 145/6 in 33.5 overs, chasing 306, it’s safe to assume that England are going to win the match and join Australia and India in the semifinals.
New Zealand would be almost through as well based on their Net Run Rate, which Pakistan can only overcome through a freak 400-run victory or by chasing down the total in six or seven overs. Again, it’s safe to assume that it will not transpire, leaving today’s match against Bangladesh as Pakistan’s opportunity to prove that they were the best of the rest in the World Cup and finish fifth – joint on points with fourth-placed New Zealand.
Based on Pakistan’s performances a fifth-place finish is more or less what the side deserved. The format of this World Cup, with every team playing one another, means that the league standings would be an accurate reflection of how each team fared in the tournament.
Wins against England and New Zealand were highs for Pakistan, but defeats against Australia and India were prominent lows. Even so, it was the lopsided defeat against the West Indies in the side’s opening contest that has actually turned out to be the reason why Pakistan won’t be in the final four. For, not only did Pakistan become the sole side to lose to the West Indies, they did so in a heavy defeat, which eventually made it impossible for the side to beat mathematics at the tail-end of the tournament.
Unfortunately, Pakistan were left relying on other sides to do them favours, having lost control over their own fate after the demoralizing defeat against India at Old Trafford.
Pakistan need to beat Bangladesh, even if the match has little mathematical bearing on the World Cup
A detailed dissection of Pakistan’s performance would follow at the end of the World Cup, but when you’re taking on permutations to progress in the tournament, you’ve already lost the battle. However, through wins against New Zealand, South Africa and Afghanistan, a few Pakistani cricketers have salvaged some of their reputations, as the national team starts planning for the future – with and without some of the 15 that took part in the World Cup.
Again, we will look into all that in the coming weeks. Today is all about the match against Bangladesh, which Pakistan need to win, despite it having little mathematical bearing on the side’s chances of making it to the semifinals.
The team that wins the match will finish fifth on the table, while the losing side would be sixth – or seventh eventually if Sri Lanka beat India. While fifth is not what Pakistan would’ve targeted heading into the tournament, and definitely won’t be enough for the decision-makers, it would still be better than a disastrous finish near the foot of the table.
The match is also an opportunity for members of the squad to stake a claim towards being a part of the near and/or long term future of Pakistan cricket, which is an opening that the likes of Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Imad Wasim, Wahab Riaz, Shaheen Afridi and Mohammed Amir have taken in recent matches. It is for their own futures that the players need to play for, even if there’s no future for Pakistan in the World Cup.
Despite the sorry end, and indeed the monstrous beginning, Pakistan’s World Cup has featured a few highlights. It is those highs that the side need to take back with them, as they begin the cleansing process for the future.