Can Australia, England or India lift the Cup?

It is worth a thought. But can Australia, England, India or South Africa succeed in lifting the cup? Based on the cricket played in the past one year it is clear that these teams are well placed above the rest to lift the coveted cup. Australia, having soundly beaten England in a recent one day series, while India and South Africa have triumphed over opponents have made their case for lifting the trophy very strong.

Pakistan has not shined in a worldcup since their final appearance in 1999. In fact, since that time, they have had spectacular exists in 2003 and 2007 worldcups. Making the worldcup campaign moot. This time round, they are without the services of some of their best fast bowlers (Asif and Aamir) who are sadly banned for at least two worldcups (including this one) and therefore, are limping into the tournament with not a strong bowling attack. Their openers are beginning to score runs, which is rare, but can they last the form in the tournament only time will tell. Without the top order firing, Pakistan will have a hard time even winning the quarter final.

New Zealand have had a torrid time in the recent past and therefore their chances of even making to quarterfinals are remote. While Bangladesh cannot get their act together for more than a game to even scare any of their opponents. They might win an odd game here and there but that’s where their World Cup campaign will wither away.

West Indies have not really fired since the 1983 World Cup Tournament in England. Heck, they have not made even the semi finals since that time. And that is almost 30 years. Their chances of winning quarterfinals are very remote considering that they have hardly won any matches in recent past.

Sri Lanka, is probably the only team capable of breaking into the semi final lineup by causing an upset between our favourite four (India, Australia, England and South Africa). However, it is only an outside chance. They are the finalists of the 2007 worldcup so they do have some match winners among them, but time will tell if their campaign will go beyond Quarter finals.

The teams that make it to the semi-final are going to be India, Australia, South Africa and England. All these teams have tasted victory at all levels of the game and know what it takes to win. They will be pushing each opponent to their limit and will make it harder for the rest to win this tournament. If I had a choice of a winner among them, I choose a final between England and South Africa with South Africa finally lifting the Worldcup.

But in cricket, one never knows what is going to happen till it happens. So we shall have to wait, watch and see who finally lifts the coveted trophy.

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Amazing Last over by Pakistan Against Australia

Cricket is truly unpredictable. And with Pakistan playing, even the unpredictability matrix goes out of whack. The final over of T20 match against Australia, Pakistan did just that. Mohammad Amir, an 18 year old lad from Pakistan, bowled a magical over where Australia saw 5 of its wickets fall in just one over. This is probably the most bizarre world record in all forms of cricket.
Mohammad Amir had Brad Haddin caught by Mohammad Sami at gully. The next ball Mitchel Johnson was cleaned bowled by a beautiful Pakistani tradmark yorkers  The next two deliveries saw batsmen run suicidal singles and lose their wickets by accurate throws from the wicketkeeper, Kamran Akmal. And the last two balls, S. Tait tried to score some runs only to see his wicket rattled by Aamir’s last bowl. So in a space of 6 deliveries, Mohammad Aamir bowled three victims and two were run outs. The over was a maiden and Australia were bundled out for 191. Just an over earlier, Australia, were cruising at 181/4 and all set to cross 200 and give Pakistan an imposing total to chase. However and quite astonishingly, were all bundled out in a space of 11 balls with only 10 runs added during the same span of time.

This was in quite a contrast to the earlier part of the innings when Australia hammered Pakistani bowlers all over the park. Mohammad Sami and Mohammad Hafeez were especially targetted by Australian batsmen and in 8 overs together they gave away 101 runs. Thats a whopping 12.5 runs an over. Shahid Afridi had the services of Abdul Razzaq and Fawad Alam as other bowlers in the team (just in case if his main bowlers were hit out) but he persisted with Sami and Hafeez which turned into a costly gamble.

Pakistani batsmen will now be tested against the quality Australian bowling. And if Pakistan wants to get anywhere in this match, they will need to hang onto their wickets and bat sensibly. They should not try to play lose shots till the 12th over. Uptil then, bat with responsibilty. This is also a match where players like Abdul Razzaq and Misbah ul Haq, their most quality batsmen, should be promoted up the order and allowed to bat themselves in. Once they are in, they can easily hit big shots later in the innings.

Shahid Afridi should keep himself in the dugout till the last 5 overs. As that is when he should come out and play his natural game.

Win us the T20 World Cup Cricket

Go Pakistan Go and win the World T20 Cup

Go Pakistan Go and win the World T20 Cup

Watching Pakistan beat South Africa in the semifinal of the World Cricket T20 Championship last night was like watching a soaring eagle make a swift swoop from its perch to capture an unsuspecting prey with its claws. Throughout the match, South Africa struggled to loosen the stranglehold which Pakistan had placed around their neck, but in vain. In the end, they were agony filled short by seven runs from the penultimate target of 150 which many pundits had predicted would be easy pickings for South Africa. While the streets of Karachi and Lahore erupted with euphoria over reaching another World Cup final by the Pakistan team, Johannesburg and Capetown had deserted and dejected fans pouring out of pubs  as their team once again failed to reach the final of a major cricket tournament.

This time round, it was not the weak or choking South Africa, rather an extremely determined and strong Pakistan side that made the difference. True, Pakistan started this tournament as one of the also rans and no one predicted they would go beyond the Super 8s let alone reach the final. Of course, on the way, they had lost to Sri Lanka and England making them as one of the weaker sides to compete. But Pakistan, as we all have learn to love and predict, is well, quite unpredictable. It has the talent to bounce back from any situation and the team has a never die attitude which makes the games extra special.

The transformation of Pakistan began somewhere in the middle of the the game against Sri Lanka. The initial 10 overs that they bowled to Sri Lanka were well, something nothing to be written about. Starting with conceding 18 runs in the first over, the combination of extras, rudementary fielding and half vollies let Sri Lanka race to over 80 runs within the first 8 overs.  But as soon as the spinners were brought in to bowl,  the match turned as Sri Lankan batsmen failed to cope with the spin and the run rate slowed down to a halt.  Pakistan did eventually lose the game by 19 runs  but the game could have easily swung in their favor had they controlled their line and length in the initial overs.

From then on, they did not let any team take any advantage of them, beating New Zealand, Ireland and now South Africa in quick succession and each time more convincingly than before. Their bowling, fielding and even batting began to click. Players like Afridi, Yunus, Kamran Akmal began to contribute with the bat while Ajmal, Afridi and Gul continued to mesmerize the batsmen with their bowling.

It is ironic that the best and most talked about teams have not made it the final. Heck, Australia was knocked out in the preliminary stages and well India, the tournament favorites, never seemed like winning a game in the Super 8s.

This year, BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) prevented Pakistani cricketers from playing in the IPL (Indian Premier League) hoping to score a few political points against their arch rival neighbor. Hence, Pakistani cricketers were the only ones not to feature this May in the IPL, while the best of the world competed out and honed their skills for the upcoming T20 World Cup in June. The world expected Pakistani players will be too rusty and too out of shape to even make any impact during the world cup.

Rather the opposite happened. The very lack of competitive cricket has made Pakistani team even more hungry for victory. While Dhoni and his men seemed lethargic and tired,  Pakistani cricketers seem to have a new spring in their feet and a vigor to win from any situation. South Africa and New Zealand have found that out the hard way. True they were rusty in the beginning but once the shine returned, all that is glittering is gold. Pure gold.

Go Pakistan Go! Win us this World Cup. This nation deserves a few tears of joy as it has shed plenty of them for sorrow that has besieged it these past many years. We are praying for you.