Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What Drama!

I have fallen in love with that phrase here in Manchester.

And Drama was exactly what this Champions Trophy has been.

Moreso today than on any other day.

Before Pakistan took the field against Australia this morning, a number of things would have been going through their mind.

Do we want to play New Zealand, our favorite bunnies, in the semi finals?

Do we want to play our semi final against England at Centurion to give our batsmen a better chance?

Do we want India to qualify to the semi finals?

Do we want to make sure Australia is out of the Champions Trophy?

There were plenty of options for the Pakistanis to explore.

But all was dependent on which Pakistan turned out today.

I'm still not sure which one did.

They started their innings very well with a decent opening stand; even after Afridi's departure Akmal kept going.

Once he left though the innings kind of fell apart; they never lost wickets, the batsmen were out there in the middle but batting was quite tough.

Or did Pakistan make it tough for themselves wanting to play New Zealand and ensuring India's exit?

The playing it safe, not going for aerial shots, keeping the scoring rate low, all looked a bit intentional, didn't it?

Pakistan set the Aussies a modest total and Australia's start seemed like the match would be over at the half way mark.

Mohammad Asif, returning to the international fold after over a year and a half was made to look like a medium pacer by Watson and Paine.

Australia seemed to be cruising home and into the semi finals, and Pakistan did not seem to mind it.

But then came the twist.

Mohammad Asif showed why Pakistan and the world had missed him.

Saeed Ajmal showed why he's the best off spinner around today.

Rana Naveed showed why he was drafted back as soon as he cancelled his ICL contract.

The Pakistanis were suddenly all over the Australians.

And the Aussies had no idea what hit them.

What was happening now? Did Pakistan suddenly realise that they would rather play a semi final at Centurion? Did the BCCI wire some funds to CA? Did Pakistan want to do India a favor?

Wickets fell, Pakistan started to look sharp, Australia started to fall apart, and the gap between runs required and balls left started to decrease.

The Indians' hearts would have been thumping hard while all this was going down.

It was one of those rare days when a billion Indians were hoping and praying for Pakistan to win; particularly after what their team had done to the West Indies.

Pakistan had all of a sudden raised the hope of all those Indians.

But at the end it was just false hope; Brett Lee and Hauritz remained calm and scraped home off the final delivery of the match.

That sealed Australia's path to the semi finals and India's exit from the Champions Trophy.

What a match it was though!

Full of excitement, nervousness, entertainment, and Drama!

It was an awesome fightback from Pakistan; quite a reminder of what Pakistan was like in the 1990s when they used to make comebacks from all sorts of situations to win games.

It was a close win for Australia but Pakistan will not mind it.

Instead they will take a hell of a lot of confidence into the semi finals, where they face their favorite semi final bunny - New Zealand!

Think 1992, think 1999, think 2007.

3 out of the 4 times that Pakistan has reached the final of a major ICC event, they have done so by beating New Zealand in the semi final.

So they would definitely be fancying their chances.

Pakistan looks well settled, the batting is coming together, the bowling has been awesome throughout the Champions Trophy, and the team has a good problem of figuring out their final XI with a number of players in form and vying for the same spot.

Always a healthy problem to have.

As I said before, the Champions Trophy has been great advertisement for ODI cricket, and I feel the business end of the competition will be even better!

Make your pitch on this post...

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8 Pitched:

  1. Anonymous said...

    muhahahahahah... :D

  2. achettup said...

    That was riveting cricket, and definitely showed us why the world needs a strong Pakistani team that plays often. Brilliant, brilliant bowling, maidens at the end of an innings, two in a row... unbelievable. And very well captured too Q.

    No doubt about who I'll be supporting to win the cup from here... and no, India didn't deserve a semifinal berth, not at the cost of Australia (I can't believe I'm saying that).

  3. Unknown said...

    Uff! Sounds amazing! Why oh why did I miss this one, of all matches?? Must must see if it's on Youtube

  4. Rayden said...

    Couldnt see the match but what I hear the end was really tense. Well for me its Pak all the way now to the Champions Trophy final and the eventual winners!

  5. Khurram said...

    I am concerned about the impending rain forecast on Saturday. If the match is rained off then NZ will go through as they topped group B.

  6. Fayez said...

    Good point, Khurram - I had not realized that yet. We didn't show the sort of desperation (except for the last 20 overs or so) that I was hoping we would. Winning in our group was important for more reasons than one.

    Let us hope we can get the 20 overs necessary to complete a game. With rain in mind we'll have to be flexible in our game plan.

    We could end up playing our semi-final against NZ and final against England.

  7. SledgeHammer said...

    @Q: What I found most interesting was that Australia had qualified off the second-last ball by tying the game. If the match remained tied, it would have been Pak-Eng, Aus-NZ in the SFs.

    But the single off the last ball changed the SF matchups around. I don't think Australia were completely aware of the situation. If I were them and knew the exact situation, I would have defended or left the last ball to play NZ instead of England. But Australia, justifiably, wanted to win the match.

    On another note that Fayez brought up, Australia now have an advantage if the match is tied or washed out because they topped the group. So that one run could be crucial.

    A funny sport this is!

  8. Bottha Kan said...

    I just heard the Steve Harmison left out of the English squad. It looks like that the England team responsables have made the decision of Harmison’s retirement from International cricket for him buy omitting him from the team chosen to tour South Africa.

    With Plunkett, Harmison’s team mate at County Cricket level with Durham now included in the group with S Davies, A Rashid, and L Wright. On the other hand there seems to be no place for either R Bopara, who has been in low form for England (at least according to all throughout the Ashes and ODIs, or Owais Shah which surprises me a bit.

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