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Sparkling Afridi can't hide Pakistan defects

Last updated on: March 4, 2011 11:21 IST

Afridi bears burden of Pakistan's aspirations

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Pakistan's World Cup aspirations lie firmly on the shoulders of skipper Shahid Afridi and once again he came to the rescue as an unthinkable defeat to Canada on Thursday was averted in an eventual 46-run win.

Of all teams, Pakistan should know not to take the unfancied teams in this tournament lightly and Wednesday's shock defeat of England by Ireland -- the team who knocked Pakistan out four years ago -- should surely have served as a timely reminder.

- Scorecard

-Images: Pak survive Canada scare

Nevertheless, even the most patriotic of Canadians would concede that their men here generally offer little more than light practice for almost all of their rivals.


Image: Shahid Afridi
Photographs: Getty Images
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Canadians were in a position of beating the tournament favourites

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One respected newspaper in Colombo was not particularly overdoing it beforehand by describing the Group A clash as "the mother of all mis-matches".

By the interval it looked like a mis-match all right but not the way the paper had envisaged as Pakistan collapsed to 184 all out, which by the standards of scoring at this World Cup represents a 30-over rather than 50-over total for the bigger hitting teams.

Canada were good value for it too, bowling a tight line from the off with right-arm medium pacer Harvir Baidwan the pick of their attack, deservedly returning figures of 3-35.

The North Americans were, for them, in the rather novel position of being potential match-winners against a so-called World Cup favourite. Canada's last victory in this competition came eight years ago when they beat Bangladesh.


Image: Canada's Harvir Baidwan (right) celebrates with teammate Jimmy Hansra after dismissing Younis Khan
Photographs: Reuters
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Canada's strategy during run-chase was faulty

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Pakistan, whatever their players including Afridi and coach Waqar Younis said later, must have been properly worried as they sipped their interval drinks and for a while the mother of all upsets could have been on the cards.

Canada had clearly decided on taking the opposite approach to the carefree slogging Ireland had employed against England the day before and adopted a strictly safety first approach to passing their modest target.

It proved just as wrong a strategy as Kevin O'Brien's slugfest the night before against England in Bangalore had been the right approach.


Image: Pakistan's Abdul Razzaq celebrates after clean bowling Canada's Nitish Kumar (left)
Photographs: Getty Images
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Afridi's deadly spell broke Canada's backbone and spirit

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Despite losing early wickets, however, Canada were at one stage handily placed at 104-3 with Jimmy Hansra (43 from 75 balls) looking particularly comfortable.

- World Cup coverage

But the loss of Zubin Surkari (27) put the brakes on and a devastating spell from Afridi in which he dismissed Rizwan Cheema (4), Hansra, Baidwan (0) and Tyson Gordon (9) and broke the backbone of the Canadian innings and with it their spirit.

Henry Osinde (0) was last to go, his stumps shattered by Wahab Riaz with the score at 138 after 42.5 overs.

Afridi collected man-of-the-match winning figures of 5-23, he also took the early wicket of captain Ashish Bagai (16), to take his tournament haul to 14 following Pakistan's earlier victories over Kenya and Sri Lanka.


Image: Shahid Afridi (right) of Pakistan appeals successfully for wicket of Ashish Bagai
Photographs: Getty Images
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'Getting it over the finish line is taking it to another level'

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He is the first man at a World Cup to collect at least four wickets in three successive matches.

Afterwards, Bagai offered the best summing-up by conceding in as many words that his team had effectively blown it with their batting which had veered between the over-conservative and inept.

"Very, very disappointing loss for us," Bagai said.

"Fighting is one thing but getting it over that line is obviously taking it to another level."

Afridi praised his bowlers, who were without the resting Shoaib Akhtar, but admitted that the batsmen had let the team down by repeatedly making the wrong shot selection.


Image: Ashish Bagai
Photographs: Getty Images
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Pakistan need to pull up their socks

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After the euphoria of beating Sri Lanka handily on Saturday, this result will temper the growing opinion here that Pakistan, despite all the pre-tournament problems of corruption scandals and violence at home, could repeat their 1992 World Cup win.

If they bat this badly again against their next opponents, New Zealand, in five days they may well find they are not so readily let off the hook. Australia, also lying in wait in the same group, would certainly have been ruthless with them.


Image: The Pakistan team
Photographs: Getty Images
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