WC2019

A win for Pakistan pushes South Africa out of the semi final contention.

Haris Sohail Shines in batting

It’s the Pakistan way; get battered in one game and then show up and dominate the opposition in the next. After suffering a demoralizing defeat against India, Pakistan came back strongly against South Africa and completed a convincing 49-run win.

The architect of the victory was a player who was kept hidden after Pakistan’s opening game of the World Cup against the West Indies – none other than Haris Sohail.

Pakistan were in a good position in the first innings with starts from the top three batsmen, but as we witnessed in earlier matches, none of those players could convert their start into a big score. That is when Haris Sohail came in, and he played a wonderful knock.

Sohail was positive from the outset and played his shots according to the quality of the bowling. The most impressive aspect of his innings was the way he was picking the deliveries bowled at him; whether it was short, full or a slower ball, he anticipated it and deposited the ball to the boundary.

Sohail’s 59-ball 89 included three sixes and nine fours, and it was this contribution that allowed Pakistan to cross the 300-mark, a match-winning total on this pitch. Imran Tahir was the standout bowler for South Africa but apart from him, no one else could challenge the Pakistani batsmen consistently.

In the second innings, South Africa relied on Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock who put together a solid partnership. But once they were both dismissed, the team’s World Cup exit was written on the wall.

Mohammad Amir bowled brilliantly for Pakistan and was well supported by Shadab Khan, who made sure he got wickets in the middle overs which put the brakes on the South Africans. Wahab Riaz started to reverse the ball in the death overs and in the end, it was a comfortable win for Pakistan.

South African are now officially out of the tournament, while Pakistan live to fight another day. The Proteas might not have had the strongest team and were troubled by injuries, but their performances have been extremely disappointing and well below expectations. Pakistan on their part now face three straight crucial matches with every game a must-win. If they can beat New Zealand, then their tough mission will be truly on.

And finally, another word on Sohail. He was criticized heavily for his strike rate and stamina, but his performance today showed that he has the talent and mindset to play at this level and that he might just be the X-factor Pakistan needed in the batting order.

Since his return from injury in January 2018, Sohail has scored 643 runs in 14 innings at an average of 53.58 which includes two hundreds and four fifties. If this is not consistent, then what is? He needs to be given a decent run in the team and along the way if he can improve his fitness, it will do wonders for him and the entire team.

Fielding is still an issue for Pakistan; they dropped several catches once again. If it was another team they might have punished Pakistan for their mistakes. South Africa couldn’t take advantage of the missed opportunities but going into the business end of the tournament, fielding will be extremely important – and Pakistan will need to work hard on that aspect.

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