We’ve been quietly supporting Sri Lanka all along – as we often do in these tournaments. They always looked a decent bet with their oddball bowling attack and they’re pretty likeable sorts as well. But then Pakistan turned up.
When they’ve actually been allowed to play over the last couple of years, Pakistan have been dull. We’d lost faith in them to be honest. Watching Pakistan in years gone by has been to watch a team that operated on a different plane. Sure, it was a plane where they mostly fell out with each other and lost quite often, but it was also one where a player would occasionally think to themselves: ‘I think I’m going to take eight wickets for three runs today’.
Dull, contemporary Pakistan seemed to have none of that in them. They also seemed to be a side with only the one batsman – Younus Khan. This does not add up to a great side, so we ignored them.
NEVER ignore Pakistan. Pakistan have won us over for three reasons.
- Mohammad Aamer – South Africa have got a brilliant 19-year-old left-arm fast bowler, but Pakistan give us a 17-year-old one – and he actually might be 17 as well, looking at him. He can top 90mph already, which is hugely, hugely frightening. A classic Pakstani find.
- Umar Gul – One bowler has swung the ball in this tournament and he took 5-6 against New Zealand. Swing the ball in any form of the game and it doesn’t matter how huge and powerful the bats are.
- Shahid Afridi – The obvious and eternal reason to follow Pakistan. His bowling’s bang on, but it’s his batting that matters. He will almost certainly fail with the bat. That is probably more than half the point.