Four wins to finish the tournament and still, Pakistan failed to land a place in the semi-finals. It was a strange campaign for Sarfaraz Ahmed’s side as they finished level on points with New Zealand but succumbed to a fifth-place finish due to net run rate. Despite impressive wins over the Black Caps and England – both of whom finished in the top four – the 1992 winners will rue the manner in which they fell apart to West Indies in their opening match, a crushing seven-wicket defeat striking a blow to their NRR. While their run of results peculiarly followed a pattern of their victorious ’92 campaign, a group-stage exit was the conclusion of Pakistan’s 2019 effort.
Positives to take home
It may well be that the seeds of success in 2023 have been sown with this campaign as Pakistan’s youngsters showed their immense talent. 24-year-old Babar Azam finished with 474 runs, the most runs a Pakistan batsman has scored in one World Cup; The leg-spin of 20-year-old Shadab Khan remained potent in a pace-dominated affair; and 19-year-old Shaheen Afridi finished the campaign in sensational style with a six-wicket haul against Bangladesh, the finest return by a Pakistan bowler at a World Cup. Imam-ul-Haq didn’t enjoy spectacular success, but a century at Lord’s against Bangladesh reminded everyone of the 23-year-old’s nerve at the top of the order.
A special mention must also go to Mohammad Amir. The left-armer wasn’t included in Pakistan’s preliminary squad but returned to lead the bowling attack quite brilliantly and finish with 17 wickets.
Also notable was Pakistan's team spirit. After a poor start to the tournament, and under fire from certain sections of the written media and their fervent support, they regrouped, rallied, and put together a run to be proud of. Maybe the Spirit of '92 wasn't for nothing after all.
Areas to improve
Too often Pakistan’s bowlers were let down by dropped chances in the field, particularly against Australia when three chances to remove the Aussie openers went begging. Strangely enough, in their clinical win over South Africa, the Pakistani fielders dropped five chances to halt the march to an even more resounding victory. The chance to run out Rohit Sharma in the India match was another key blunder, a chance spurred that allowed the prolific Rohit to wrack up a match-winning century.
Tall, fast and smart: Shaheen Afridi’s stock continues to rise. After a disappointing bilateral series against England leading into the tournament, he saw himself out of Pakistan’s line-up until the Australia match, where he proved to be expensive. Nonetheless, thrilling spells against New Zealand, Afghanistan and Bangladesh saw him display his immense talent, helping him finish the tournament with 16 wickets at an average of 14.62.
31 May: v West Indies, Trent Bridge, Nottingham – West Indies won by seven wickets
3 June: v England, Trent Bridge, Nottingham – Pakistan won by 14 runs
7 June: v Sri Lanka, Bristol County Ground – Match abandoned without a ball being bowled
12 June: v Australia, County Ground Taunton – Australia won by 41 runs
16 June: v India, Old Trafford, Manchester – India won by 89 runs (DLS method)
23 June: v South Africa, Lord's, London – Pakistan won by 49 runs
26 June: v New Zealand, Edgbaston, Birmingham – Pakistan won by six wickets
29 June: v Afghanistan, Headingley, Leeds – Pakistan won by three wickets
5 July: v Bangladesh, Lord's, London – Pakistan won by 94 runs