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ICC World Cup 2023: Pakistan living on hope!

Updated on: 11 November,2023 07:25 AM IST  |  Kolkata
Arup Chatterjee |

Skipper Babar Azam not giving up on semi-final dream despite his team needing improbable win over defending champions England

ICC World Cup 2023: Pakistan living on hope!

Pakistan players just before their practice session at Eden Gardens, Kolkata, yesterday. Pic/PTI

With Sri Lanka not obliging with an upset of New Zealand on Thursday, and Kane Williamson & Co romping to a big victory, Pakistan have been left with Mission Impossible. The showdown with England at the Eden Gardens on Saturday appears every bit their last hurrah.

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Paying for past sins

A win will have Pakistan draw level on points with the Kiwis, who occupy the crucial fourth rung of the league ladder, but despite that will most certainly have Babar Azam & Co falling short. In a laborious league like the 10-team round-robin of this World Cup, net run-rate was always going to rear its head towards the end to deny a team or two. Just when Pakistan were finally hitting their straps, and addressing the NRR issue in the process, they will have to pay for past sins.

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Ironically, it was an emphatic victory over New Zealand that had Pakistan dreaming again of a semi-final berth. The Kiwis have responded by crushing those hopes and all but sealing their place in the final four with a massive victory over Sri Lanka on Friday. It almost doubled their NRR, and means that Pakistan now stare at such ridiculous targets as dismissing England for 100 and then chasing it down in three overs.

England eye Champions Trophy

It’s not good news too that Jos Buttler & Co have just ended a five-match losing streak in some style. Out of contention, the defending champions will be keen to win and confirm a berth in the 2025 Champions Trophy. Babar Azam is not willing to throw in the towel. “You never know; it’s cricket,” the Pakistan skipper said on the eve of the match. “We’ll try to finish on a good note and then see. There should be hope at all times.”

The resurgence of both teams have come on the wings of awe-inspiring hitting by two southpaws. Ben Stokes is finally looming as the threat he is by smashing a 84-ball 108 against the Dutch, while Fakhar Zaman has played two magnificent innings after his comeback to the playing XI. While Dawid Malan has been their most consistent contributor, England will be hoping skipper Buttler and Joe Root finally find form. For Pakistan, Babar and Mohd Rizwan need to come to the party one more time. Both teams flaunt fiery fast bowlers, but it may again be about the spinners on a slow turner here today.

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