There were so many similarities to 1992 it wasn’t funny, yet still Pakistan have failed to make the semi-finals, let alone win the World Cup. If only Pakistan had done an MS Dhoni in their first-up loss to West Indies, they might have had the net run rate required to overtake New Zealand and take their place in the semi-finals.
Nonetheless, they were pretty close and victories over two of the four teams to make the semi-finals, in New Zealand and England, highlights just how close they got. A solitary loss to West Indies was enough to ruin their hopes, though, and, sadly for neutrals, let alone Pakistanis, in spite of this big a run-on, they still failed to get there.
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The team getting this close is a huge positive, as they were only the seventh favourites to win the trophy. While they were given a chance (unlike the bottom three teams of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan), it wasn’t a big chance, and they well and truly outdid themselves.
The form of Mohammad Amir, who was originally left out of the squad due to lack of form, has been incredible, especially early on. For a while he looked like he might be the player of the tournament but he fell away towards the end.
There were moments for some of the batsmen as well, such as Mohammad Hafeez’s performance in their victory over England, and Babar Azam’s century in their victory over New Zealand, though they weren’t consistent enough.
They had a run-on so impressive that, had they made the semi-finals, they might have gone all the way, but, through no fault of their own, for this tournament the ICC made the first criteria net run rate instead of who beat who, as they had in other World Cups. If only the ICC had that system in this World Cup, they wouldn’t have to win by an absurd 311 runs (or more) in their final match, and could just win.
The first-up loss over West Indies wasn’t just bad – the margin of defeat has ended up costing them the match. They also lost, yet again, to India, and also to Australia to start 1-3-1 after their first five games. While they then won their next four games, it wasn’t enough because of that poor start.
Their near loss to Afghanistan was also pretty terrible, though thankfully Afghanistan’s captain Gulbadin Naib decided to bowl himself when it wasn’t needed to hand Pakistan the game, or else it could have been a real disaster. Even in their big run of good form they nearly lost to a team ranked far below them.
The decision to leave out Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz from the original squad was controversial, made worse when they were brought straight back in after public pressure, and it just highlighted how all over the place the side was. That they came back this strongly is great, but that they started this badly was all their own fault. They had a warm-up loss to Afghanistan too, which was pretty bad.
Similarly to Bangladesh, they have exceeded all expectations, yet still failed to make the semi-finals. While Pakistan look like finishing that little bit higher than Bangladesh and had a better tournament than their subcontinental rivals, they were also ranked higher and had more expectations placed upon them. This was certainly a positive tournament for them.