Bristol, May 25 (IANS) When Afghanistan got past Pakistan by three wickets on Friday, it looked like an upset. But come the World Cup, this could be the norm when the ever diminishing fine line between minnows and heavyweights could further whittle down.
Yet, just like every dark cloud has a silver lining, Pakistan too can take solace from the loss. In 1992, the Imran Khan-led team lost to then pushovers Sri Lanka in a World Cup warm-up game and the rest as they say is history. Whether history repeats itself is still to be seen, but from the initial tryst, it looks highly unlikely that this team which lacks balance is going to go the distance.
After the 4-0 drubbing at the hands of hot favourites England, Pakistan were desperate to get their house in order. A fast improving Afghanistan team was never going to be easy, but when Sarfaraz Ahmed called right and decided to bat first, not many would have thought that their opponents would have a stroll in the park by the end of the match.
The highly rated Babar Azam was the only shining light for Pakistan as he notched up his third hundred of the month, a 108-ball 112 laced with 10 fours.
Afghanistan were poor in the field, but Pakistan batsmen still failed to make the most of it as the likes of Imam-Ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman and skipper Sarfraz gave a poor account of themselves. With the ball, the usual suspects in Rashid Khan (2/27 in 9 overs) and Mohammad Nabi (3/46 in 10 overs) did the damage.
Pakistan then came up against Hazratullah Zazai, who struck a 28-ball 49 in the first Powerplay. From then on, the required run rate was always in control, and in Hashmatullah Shahidi, Afghanistan had a batsman with the temperament to see his side through, finishing unbeaten on 74.
Afghanistan’s maturity could ring warning bells for other sides too in a World Cup format where every team plays the other.
India coach Ravi Shastri and skipper Virat Kohli had said before leaving for the UK that they are a far better side than what they were four years back, and now every team will know they cannot let their guard drop even for once against the Afghans.
As far as Pakistan is concerned, Wahab Riaz (3/46) was good with the ball, but overall the entire unit looked wayward as they did against England.
This may not be an official ODI, but in many ways this rankled more for Pakistan than the 10 they’ve lost on the trot.
Pakistan will have a lot of questions to answer playing their full side yet losing in this fashion, while Afghanistan, playing with gay abundance and having nothing to lose, will gather lot of steam from this commanding display. Time to fasten the seat belts.