KOLKATA: Can Pakistan pull a rabbit out of the hat? Given the size of the rabbit required, it seems all but impossible.
As they go into their last league match of the ongoing World Cup at the Eden Gardens here against Englandon Saturday with extremely slim semifinal hopes still alive, Pakistan are quite aware of the enormity of their task.Theoretically, they can still make the last-four stage. Practically, it would be unreasonable to expect them to do that.
Skipper Babar Azam did strike an optimistic note on Friday. “You never know, this is cricket,” he said with a small shrug. “Of course, the run rate will be in the back of our mind. We have made our plans, but we will need to execute them.”
To begin with, they have to win the toss, bat first, score at least 400 on a slow Eden pitch and then bowl England out for something like 112. Now, Pakistan have been doing the Houdini act (or the PC Sorcar act, given that their turnaround started here) in recent times, but this might sound too fanciful to be realistic. But then, even fate has conspired to put Pakistan in a position where they still have a shot at destiny. Had rain not intervened, it is difficult to visualize them chasing down New Zealand’s 401.
New Zealand will surely be watching this match with great interest, perhaps with a smirk on their faces. Even if skipper Kane Williamson continues to be cautious, insisting things are not in their control, they might have raised the bar beyond Pakistan’s reach.
The wicket at the Eden is not easy to bat on. Even Virat Kohli needed time to settle down before scoring his 49th ODI century in the last game played here. Amassing over 400 would be a Herculean task that Hercules himself would find difficult to achieve. Agreed, Fakhar Zaman has been on a rampage of late, yet it would be a little far-fetched to expect him to carry Pakistan past the finish line on his shoulders. “If Fakhar bats for 20-30 over, maybe we can…” Babar’s voice trailed off.
Of course, not to forget, England may have been very disappointing during the tournament, but, given the talent at their disposal, they are as good as any other team. They might just choose Saturday to unleash their power. Wounded lions can be very dangerous and England would be hurting all over after their dismal show. The win over the Netherlands would not really count as salvation. Even a victory against Pakistan would not serve that purpose, but at least they can exit with a little bit of pride still intact.
England batter Dawid Malan used a lot of negative terms to describe their emotions. “Not good enough, disappointment, regret,” said Malan. He was representing the dressing room’s drooping shoulders. Towards the latter part of the league, direct entry for the 2025 Champions Trophy has been the talking point for the teams in the lower half of the points table and England would definitely look to avoid the embarrassment of having to go through the qualification process. They are currently at the seventh spot, the last slot for direct entry.
And if Pakistan do manage to script a miracle, cricket will see a new dawn.