Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur’s press conference after their opener against India in the ICC Champions Trophy was the best indication one could get of the preparation, or lack of it, the team has had before travelling to England. Arthur had a common answer to a few of the questions being asked – “I don’t know.”
The questions in particular related to why Mohammad Hafeez did not bowl despite being fit and how Mohammad Amir came down with cramps despite it being a rainy day in Birmingham. These were crucial questions that affected the team’s performance and an ashen faced Arthur only had to convey that he didn’t know the answer to any of them.
Pakistan would be hoping to come up with better answers on the field at least when they take on the mighty South Africa on Tuesday. The two sides had nearly contradictory outings in their tournament openers. Where South Africa were on Sri Lanka’s throats from the first ball that they bowled while defending their total, Pakistan let India settle in and did not take a single wicket in the first few overs. Where South Africa, led by the monk-like calm of Hashim Amla, put up a measured performance with the bat, Pakistan sacrificed safety and calm in the first half of their innings in trying to go for the spectacular. The two sides hence had contradictory results too. South Africa beat Sri Lanka by 96 runs, while Pakistan lost to India by 124 runs (D/L method)
As far as South Africa are concerned, a win here would all but confirm their qualification for the knockouts. They trail India in the group standings only on the basis of net run-rate. On the other hand, Pakistan would need at least a point from this match to remain in contention for the knock-out stages of the tournament. In Group A, Bangladesh were given a lease by the rains on Monday. It seems Sarfraz Ahmed may be giving a hopeful look to the sky while walking out for the toss alongside AB De Villiers.