Sarfraz
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The vibrant Pakistani crowd at the Sophia Gardens got full value for money as Pakistan edged out Sri Lanka and qualified for the Semifinals of the ongoing Champions Trophy. In a typical and cavalier style, Pakistan capitulated while chasing a paltry total of 237. They were on the cusp of ouster but grit, defiance, and plenitude of luck ensured Pakistan’s Semi Final berth for the 4th time since the inception of the event way back in 1998.

A good toss to win?

A meager total in this day and age was set but with Pakistan being jittery chasers, one could expect some excitement.

Pakistani skipper Sarfraz Ahmed elected to bowl first ostensibly to take advantage of the overcast conditions. Given Pakistan’s history of being poor chasers, this decision may have had few backers. The Lankan Lions were cruising with 82-1 in the 15th over when they lost two important wickets, Mendis and Chandimal, in back to back overs.

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However, the threat of the energetic Hasan Ali was obviated by a very decent partnership between Angelo Mathews and Niroshan Dickwella. They put on 78 runs for the 4th wicket and it was looking ominous for Pakistan. However, a brilliant bowling partnership between Muhammad Amir and Junaid Khan ripped the heart out of the Sri Lankan batting as they lost 4 wickets for 6 runs. But the tail held ground and the Lions managed to reach 236. Junaid Khan and Hasan Ali took 3 apiece while Amir and the debutant Fahim Ashraf took 2 each.

A meager total in this day and age was set but with Pakistan being jittery chasers, one could expect some excitement.

Brisk start followed by an inevitable collapse

Needing 75 to win, only Sarfraz Ahmed had to rough it out with the tail. He was joined by Muhammad Amir when Pakistan required 75 runs to win.

The sedate Azhar Ali was allowed to settle in by his swashbuckling partner in Fakhar Zaman who whacked a 35-ball 50 to give Pakistan a very brisk start. When he departed, Pakistan were 74 in 11 overs; the target looked like a cakewalk. But then we saw Pakistan display its usual nervousness in chasing targets. Pakistan lost the plot and were reeling at 162 for 7. This was a familiar sight and situation for Pakistani fans across the globe, something which is impeding Pakistan’s placement as a top notch team.

Sarfraz and Amir to the rescue

Needing 75 to win, only Sarfraz Ahmed had to rough it out with the tail. He was joined by Muhammad Amir when Pakistan required 75 runs to win. The task was daunting in the sense that Sarfraz was the only recognized batsman. Both went about it in a very calm way, knocking the balls for singles and doubles.

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Expecting bowlers to skittle them out for a low total may not be reasonable; the batsmen have to rise to the occasion if Pakistan wishes to secure its first berth in the Final.

Lady luck dealt a severe blow to Sri Lanka’s chances as Sarfraz Ahmed was dropped twice off the bowling of Lasith Malinga. Thereafter the runs ticked by with ease as both Amir and Sarfraz chipped away. A dab to the third man in the 45th over gave Pakistan an emphatic victory much to the delight of fans in the Sophia Gardens and all over the world. Sarfraz and Amir helped achieve the improbable. But all this raised serious question marks on the brittle batting line up and its inability to withstand the threats posed by better bowling attacks.

Pakistan will face England tomorrow in the 1st semifinal. Pakistan will be the underdogs since England is a very strong side. With a very formidable and aggressive batting line up infested with a positive mindset, England will be a tough side to beat. Pakistan would have to play out of their skins to produce what will be an upset. Expecting bowlers to skittle them out for a low total may not be reasonable; the batsmen have to rise to the occasion if Pakistan wishes to secure its first berth in the Final.

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