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It would be fair to say that Pakistan’s passage into the semis of the ICC Champions Trophy has not been easy and it is down to luck at times that they have made the knockout stages. Cricket author and writer Peter Miller tweeted, “Pakistan have defeated rain, South Africa, Sri Lanka and themselves to make the Champions Trophy semi-final” in his usual witty way and he couldn’t be further from the truth. At the same time, one can’t take away the fact that Pakistan have endured and come out with two wins and, at the end of the day, that’s what matters.
Pakistan started the Champions Trophy in a demoralising show that was plagued with dismal batting, bowling and fielding. The three-time Champions Trophy semifinalists were berated by former players for losing tamely to India. The coach Mickey Arthur acknowledged there were basic mistakes all around. “We do the simple things wrong. We drop simple catches. We don’t run well enough between wickets. We don’t hit the keeper with our throws and we don’t understand when to bowl our variations. We bowled a really good over and then we bowled a variation with our sixth ball and that’s the ball that ended up going for a boundary. So it’s the simplicity of those things that are worrying me at the moment,” he said in the post-match press conference.
In the second game, Pakistan improved slightly against South Africa. They were better with the ball and in the field and captain Sarfraz Ahmed admitted the same in the post-match press conference. But at the same time, they needed luck from the weather gods to beat the World No 1 Proteas. South Africa scored 219 runs in the 50 runs and in their chase, Pakistan were 119/3 after 19 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis method which put them ahead of the par score.
The final game, against Sri Lanka, was already set for the dramatics with a win taking either of the two sides through to the semi-finals. Sri Lanka scored 236 all out batting first – higher than what should have been allowed considering the way Pakistan bowling had the Lanks in trouble. In reply, Pakistan suffered a middle-order collapse and were on the verge of bowing out in embarrassing fashion despite a good start. Yet Sarfraz kept them alive and going. He and the rest of the team rode on some shambolic fielding from Angelo Mathews-led Sri Lanka. In the end, Pakistan won by 3 wickets.
In the semi-final, Pakistan take on England. They faced off last year in Tests and ODI series with the home side winning the limited-over series 3-1. Playing at the Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, Pakistan had emerged victorious last year and could create some sort of surprise this time too.