Pakistan are still in the World Cup. Thanks to consecutive wins over South Africa and New Zealand as well as England’s inability to bat on difficult pitches and under pressure against Sri Lanka and Australia.
Whether Pakistan have gained momentum at just the right time or whether it’s all too little too late will only be determined by what happens in the next 10 days.
It took Pakistan six games to figure out their best eleven but uncertainty still surrounds the batting line-up.
Babar was at his usual best against New Zealand but HarisSohail has been just as impressive in the past couple of games after replacing the woefully out-of-form Shoaib Malik and there may be a case for Haris to replace Mohammad Hafeez in the batting order at number four as well.
Hafeez and Malik are in the squad mainly because of the experience they bring but neither have made much use of all the wisdom and knowledge that comes with it. Hafeez, nicknamed the professor, has been dismissed by part-time bowlers in three innings now. Aaron Finch, Aiden Markram and then Kane Williamson were all gifted Hafeez’s wicket as the veteran threw away his wicket against the part-timers.
Hafeez batted at number six in the first game against the West Indies but several changes were made to the side due to the drastic nature of that defeat.
The right-hander impressed at the position against England but only after being given an unlikely reprieve by Jason Roy—usually one of England’s finest fielders.
Since then, he has shown he cannot be relied upon to go the distance and finish the game off after getting himself in. For someone with that much experience, that’s a cardinal sin.
The Professor—one of Pakistan’s finest fielders and a handy off-spin bowler to boot—still has a lot to offer the side but playing him at number four may be doing more harm than good since it pushes the likes of Haris and skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed further down the order.
By the time Sarfaraz comes out to bat, the game requires a big-hitter and Sarfaraz is certainly not one since he is much more adept at rotating the strike. The skipper coming in at number six means he is being so underutilized as a batsman that Pakistan are playing him mainly for his keeping and captaincy.
In an ideal world, Asif Ali would be coming in at number six as a finisher but the Islamabad United hitter looks short of both form and confidence. In Asif’s absence, Hafeez is the batsman most suited to be playing in the number six spot.