By A Special Correspondent in London
Pakistan’s captain Sarfraz Ahmed could never have imagined that one televised yawn during the Cricket World Cup game against India would become such a big issue back home. With memes trending on Twitter, he became the subject of banter and ridicule in equal measure. The Pakistan captain had to endure the agony, even wondering if he had committed sin and if his entire international cricket career would be judged on basis on that split second image beamed during the live telecast of the crux sub-continental contest.
Come the next outing against South Africa and Pakistan’s victory has not just changed the mood of the team’s cricket fans. Sarfraz hopes it also takes the spotlight away from him.
A promising victory over fancied hosts England notwithstanding, Pakistan were staring at elimination from the semi-final race after losses against twice champions West Indies and India, but it was the huge loss to sub-continental rivals India that had elicited terse comments from the Pakistani fans.
Pakistan seemed down and on way to elimination from semi-final contention before a 49-run victory over South Africa – riding on Haris Sohail’s blazing knock of 89 from 69 deliveries – turned the tide.
Pakistan is now sensing a chance of making the semi-finals if they win all their remaining three matches – against New Zealand, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh.
India continues to be among the three top contenders, a semi-final window for three other Asian teams was opened by Sri Lanka’s shock win over England. Hosts England was among the pre-tournament favorites, but now need to raise their game a great deal to stay in contention. England will have to raise their game a notch or two against five-time champions Australia and twice winners India in their upcoming outings.
Besides Pakistan, other Asian teams Sri Lanka and Bangladesh too are sensing a chance of making it to the semi-finals – which underscores the sub-continent’s status in international cricket.
Sri Lanka has forthcoming outings against South Africa, the West Indies, and India. After the victory over Bangladesh on Monday, Bangladesh needs to produce outstanding performances against India and Pakistan to aspire for their first World Cup semi-final appearance.
Undefeated India cannot afford to be complacent as they will come up against the West Indies – who have sparkled to disappoint in some of their key outings – followed by the encounter against England. India’s last two outings are scheduled against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, but Virat Kohli’s team is expected to seal their semi-final slot before these fixtures come up.
Hopefully, they would benefit from the wake-up call that India got in the close win over bottom-placed Afghanistan.
With Afghanistan having pushed India close in their contest at Southampton on Saturday, all Asian teams have had their moments to cherish.
Photos courtesy: @iamVKohli