Sha­heen shines again as Pak­istan leave laugh­ing

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport Tour De France -

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.

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