“What is puzzling and really strange is that Haris Sohail has been carrying the drinks and towels since Pakistan's opening match of the World Cup against West Indies,” tweeted Saj Sadiq of PakPassion as Sohail lit up the Home of Cricket with a stylish 89 off just 59 deliveries. His absence is puzzling, yes, but not surprising if you know how profligacy has been encroaching Pakistan cricket for some time.
It is no wonder that Sohail’s magnificent knock evoked more anguish than amusement, seeing as it might have come too late to make any difference. Pakistan still have a chance to qualify for the semi-finals but the fact is, if picking the right players had been a habit rather than a reaction, then Sarfaraz Ahmed and company could have been sitting pretty and not needing a favour from the fortunes.
This is not to say that Sohail alone would have helped Pakistan beat India and Australia, but to simply point out that you do not drop a player who now has 732 runs in his last 15 innings at an average of 56.30. That includes two hundreds against the Aussies, mind.
When each and every player failed in the opening game against the West Indies, Mohammad Amir was busy doing what he does best: delivering the goods. Others have blown hot and cold since, but he has mostly been hot and now sits at the top as the tournament’s joint-highest wicket-taker alongside Mitchell Starc and Jofra Archer with 15 scalps at 12.20.
He may not have taken his wickets in the same way as Starc and Archer, which is to say that his wickets haven’t exactly come in a manner that Amir would have dreamed of, but his lines and lengths have been immaculate. He has adapted to every surface better than any of his teammate, and his scalps are a reward for that.
Amir himself, however, would argue that a bigger reward than those scalps is a Lahore-like Lord’s crowd chanting his name as he ran in the other day. The very place where his dreams died a dreadful death – or so we thought.
We expect a lot of things from South Africa. Winning a single game in six attempts at a World Cup isn’t one of them. They had been quietly dubbed as one of the contenders for the trophy and rightly so. You cannot say they don’t have a decent enough batting line-up, and you definitely cannot say that they lack in the bowling department. It is just that there’s nothing that has gone right for them in England.
That Quinton De Kock’s 68 is the best that any South African batsman has been able to do this World Cup sums up their egregious campaign best. To put that into perspective, nine times has an England batsman done better than that. It is a shame. It really is. The Proteas’ failings are not healthy for this cricketing spectacle because they, in so many ways over the years, have always made it more compelling, more interesting and more competitive.
Had they been any good this summer, we’d be looking at a totally different table and a totally different race for the top four. Of course, that goes for Pakistan, too.