With West Indies having beaten UAE, as expected in the first game of the day at Napier, the target for Pakistan and Ireland was pretty simple as they met in the last group clash of Pool B at Adelaide – win and progress or lose and go back home. Pakistan had been beaten by Ireland back in 2007, and the same would have been at the back of the minds of both teams as they took the field at Adelaide. The scenario was a lot different this time though. Ireland were a lot more experienced, and Pakistan were much better prepared. In the end, the stronger side won.
Bowling has been Ireland’s biggest worry in this World Cup, and it is their batsmen who have been responsible for all their three wins in the tournament. The script had to be similar at Adelaide if Ireland wanted to progress into the next stage of the event. But, while William Porterfield, their skipper, took up the challenge on the big day, the rest could not come up with the goods. Porterfield was excellent during his stay at the crease, mixing caution and aggression brilliantly. As long as he was at the crease, Ireland harboured hopes of a competitive total. But, as soon as he was dismissed, the innings fell apart.
Lack of runs clearly was the main reason behind Ireland’s exit from the event. It was the day they needed the likes of Ed Joyce, Niall O’Brien, Andrew Balbirnie, Paul Stirling and Gary Wilson to fire. Each of them had made significant contributions during the course of yet another impressive World Cup campaign. If at least a couple of them had put their hands up, and provided support to Porterfield, Ireland could have fought harder. But, it wasn’t to be the case, and they thus had to satisfied finishing fifth in the group, as their bowling was found out yet again.
For Pakistan, the victory brought relief as well as joy. Batting has been a major concern for them throughout this World Cup, the opening slot in particular. Against Ireland, they got their act together. Sarfraz Ahmed, who had made an impressive 49 against South Africa, was the standout performer yet again. His century ensured they were no hiccups for Pakistan. Ahmed’s second man of the match award also reiterated what Pakistan had been missing at the top of the order. Ahmed Shehzad provided him good support with a fluent half-century, but he yet again did not carry on.
Bowling, without doubt, has been Pakistan’s strongest suit in the last few games, and the fast bowlers made a significant impact yet again even though they were missing the services of the tall Mohammad Irfan. His replacement Ehsan Adil did a decent job. But, it was again the trio of Wahab Riaz, Sohail Khan and Rahat Ali that stood out. Each of them ensured that Ireland never got away, picking up wickets at regular intervals. And, once they dismissed Ireland for under 250, the game was theirs for the taking.
--By A Cricket Analyst