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The ‘what ifs’ of Pakistan’s World Cup

Pakistan missed the race to the semi-final by a mere foot

PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan put up a great fight in the 2019 International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup. Their abrupt rise led to a thrilling semi-final race.

There are many who argue that Pakistan did not deserve a semi-final spot. On the contrary, the Men in Green were on the cusp of finishing in the top four but missed out by the smallest of margins.

Don’t let the final net run-rate fool you. Pakistan’s semi-final qualification could have been a reality if one of the many results had gone their way. These small margins will leave you perplexed at the Men in Green’s shoddy luck in this World Cup.

These are the ‘what ifs’ that could have led to Pakistan’s qualification for the semi-final:

Pakistan vs West Indies

Pakistan’s first World Cup encounter against West Indies proved to be fatal for the Men in Green’s World Cup campaign.

West Indies demolished Pakistan’s batting order which could only muster 105 runs. The Caribbean side than chased down the target in 13.4 overs. Pakistan’s net run-rate could never recover from the West Indies onslaught in their first game.

All Pakistan needed was someone to take them to a respectable total which could have resulted in an honourable loss.

New Zealand therefore owes its semi-final spot to a West Indies side that could win only one more game in the entire tournament against Afghanistan.

Sri Lanka Washout

Sri Lanka have been one of the easier fixtures in this World Cup. It was therefore crucial that Pakistan face them after getting a hard-fought victory against favourites England to continue their momentum and enhance their rankings in the points table.

The wash-out not only restricted Pakistan from an easy fixture when they were gaining momentum but also resulted in a loss of point which could have taken Pakistan to the semi-final.

Pakistan vs Australia

Pakistan came close to chasing down the target of 307 set by Australia on many occasions. But just as a partnership threatened to take the game away, Pakistan lost wickets in clusters.

Batsmen Babar Azam and Imamul Haq looked set to provide a solid foundation for the team but departed together to halt Pakistan’s advance.

Middle-order batsmen Mohammad Hafeez and Sarfaraz Ahmed looked set to take Pakistan to a strong position but a brain fade from Hafeez where he threw away his wicket to a full-toss from part-timer Aaron Finch proved disastrous for the team and resulted in a flurry of wickets.

When all seemed lost, pacers Hasan Ali and Wahab Riaz stitched together a partnership that could have won Pakistan the match. Their late order heroics however proved insufficient to take Pakistan over the line.

If one of these partnerships could have gone on, Pakistan would be in the semi-final.

New Zealand’s washout against India

New Zealand have failed to win against any of the top six teams in the World Cup barring a depleted South Africa. They lost against Australia, England and Pakistan.

The match against India therefore was crucial for Pakistan’s chances. A washout ensured one point each and gave New Zealand the point needed to go on to the semi-final.

If the game against India had not been washed out, the semi-finalists could have looked drastically different.

West Indies vs New Zealand

The encounter between New Zealand and West Indies was one of the more thrilling encounters of this edition of the World Cup.

Carlos Brathwaite lit up the stadium with his brilliant come-from-behind century which almost took West Indies over the line.

The last hit, when West Indies required just six runs, found the fielder just a foot inside the boundary line. What seemed heart-breaking for the West Indies at the time turned into a nightmare for Pakistan as they missed the race to the semi-final by a mere foot.

New Zealand vs England

England’s dominant display against the Kiwi’s all but ended Pakistan’s World Cup journey. If the Kiwis could have won the match Pakistan would have gone through in place of England.

Pakistan vs Afghanistan

Even after everything had gone against them, Pakistan’s fixture against an Afghanistan side that ended winless, gave them the opportunity to right the wrongs of the early stages of the tournament.

A big margin of victory could have paved the way for a top four finish. This wasn’t to be however as Pakistan made a mess of the chase and could only get through the line because of the late order heroics of all-rounder Imad Wasim.

A victory by a big margin could have resulted in a semi-final spot for Pakistan.