Shaheen shines again as Pakistan leave laughing
Sport is competitive; it has winners, it has losers and no, it is not always fair. When the competition has already played out, but the show must go on, there are other reasons to participate, and to watch.
Personal milestones are one; if the six-for, the five-for, the century and the record-equalling runs streak do not do it for you, it begs the question, what will? Pakistan, requiring a near impossible 300plus win margin to qualify for the semi-finals, got nearer than most thought possible on entering this World Cup. The most romantic tales of bravery, however, end in defeat. And as Shaheen Afridi, born in this century, picked up the best ever figures for a Pakistan bowler at a World Cup (six for 35), and the best of any bowler at this one, in the 94-run win over Bangladesh, it was almost an injustice that Pakistan’s journey must stop here.
With nothing to lose and nothing to win, Lord’s had the freedom to play host to an unalloyed celebration. So the laughter prevailed instead. And as Fakhar Zaman, he of Champions Trophy fame, thrashed about outside off stump before holing out to point for 13, instead of condemnation, round applause ensued. It was a day which allowed for moments of levity, too. Like when Mohammad Hafeez let the ball slip from his grip in comical fashion, offering Tamim Iqbal a lolloping full toss with which to do as he pleased. An ungainly mow to cow corner followed, before more laughter. Pakistan, so desperate to succeed, to prove others wrong, got extremely close. Had New Zealand not been rained off against India, who knows. As it is we must no doubt say a fond farewell to some ever-present performers.
Bangladesh’s captain Mashrafe Mortaza is surely one. And Shakib Al Hasan, in his fourth World Cup, will never experience a tournament like it again. With 64 against Pakistan he became this edition’s leading run-scorer; only Sachin Tendulkar can match his seven half-centuries in one World Cup. New talent has also been unearthed. Shaheen aside, 23-year-old Mustafizur Rahman, aka “Fizz”, poached a scintillating return catch and then next ball saw his name also etched onto the Lord’s one-day honours board with a second consecutive five-for. In Imam ul-haq (100 off 100) and Babar Azam (96 off 98) Pakistan have unearthed a middle order which could be something special. The future is bright: bright green.