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The Electronic Telegraph 7th Super Six Match: Pakistan v Zimbabwe
Michael Henderson - 11 June 1999

Pakistan hit the heights with Saqlain encore

Pakistan (271-9) bt Zimbabwe (123) by 148 runs

There is no middle way with Pakistan. They play their cricket in a state of constant excitement, leavened by moments of sheer banality. If you set their matches to music, which might be a very good way of enjoying them, the only possible choice of composer would be Richard Strauss.

They opted to be good yesterday, and at times, when Saeed Anwar was batting, when Shoaib Akhtar was roaring in with the new ball and when Saqlain Mushtaq was ending the match with a hat-trick, they were very good. At other times, when their innings was disintegrating after Saeed had completed his hundred, they looked shambolic. There is no way of changing them. It would be like asking the Thames to stop at Marlow.

After the misery of three successive defeats, which put their participation in this tournament in some doubt, they halted the nonsense with a signature flourish. They now proceed to the semi-finals and their delight will be compounded by the fact that India, who beat them at Old Trafford on Tuesday, will not be joining them.

Pakistan are level with South Africa on six points, ahead of Zimbabwe, who still have five. If Australia beat the South Africans at Headingley tomorrow - a big if - they will also have six points. Unless New Zealand get the better of India today it remains possible for Australia to go through either as the leaders of the Super Six table, on net run rate, or as the fourth-placed team.

It is also possible that they will not go through at all. A New Zealand victory would yield five points, one more than Australia can manage, and Zimbabwe retain a chance of going through, despite this defeat. Should they do so, they will be rewarded for winning three matches out of eight, which, in a competition designed to find the best one-day team in the world, is surely one too few.

They were bamboozled yesterday. The team who beat South Africa in the first round, and made a decent fist of things against Australia earlier in the week, were introduced to a wider world, and hopelessly exposed. Pakistan were simply too strong, and there is no disgrace in owning up to that.

The day was chiefly memorable for the three balls that brought it to a premature close. Saqlain, who, as a Surrey man was playing on his 'home' ground, baffled Henry Olonga and Adam Huckle, who were stumped on the charge. Then, after Wasim crowded Pommie Mbangwa with close fielders, Saqlain completed his second one-day hat-trick against Zimbabwe by winning an lbw decision.

Only one bowler had previously taken a hat-trick in the World Cup. Chetan Sharma, of India, performed the feat against New Zealand at Nagpur in the 1987 competition, so the score now reads: India 1, Pakistan 1. With his ability to turn the ball both ways, and his bewitching flight, Saqlain will baffle a few more tail-enders before.

The other feature of the day was an engaging century by Saeed, who would stroll into the World Charmers XI, whoever was selecting it. He would open the innings with Mark Waugh, who made a hundred against Zimbabwe at Lord's. However galling these defeats have been, the losers can at least say they were punished by two of the three most graceful batsmen in the world.

It was not Saeed's finest innings. There were many strokes he would not have got away with on another day, and he was badly missed on 20, when Alistair Campbell committed the kind of howler at slip that disturbs fielders in their dreams. Mbangwa, the unfortunate bowler, might also have seen the ball spill from his captain's hands when he went to sleep last night. He ended the innings wicketless, and was the Aunt Sally in the hat-trick. What a belting game he had.

Wasim, who promoted himself to bat on the fall of the third wicket in the 36th over, also had a thin game from a personal point of view. He made a duck and failed to take a wicket, though he did hold a catch at mid-on. But, as captain, he still contributed a lot to the team's performance, as he must if these gifted, exasperating players are to fulfil all that is within them.

Until yesterday, Saeed's best score in this competition was 36, a poor return for so handsome a batsman. Nor had Shahid Afridi done much. Restored to the side, he made 37 from 29 balls, and held two catches. The best catch was pulled down casually right-handed by Azhar Mahmood at slip when Paul Strang flailed at Shoaib.

Azhar and Abdur Razzaq, the young bowlers who fill in 20 overs between them, continue to serve their captain well, even if Azhar was a bit lucky to get Neil Johnson lbw from round the wicket. Johnson, who did not bowl during the Pakistan innings, choosing to rest his weary bones instead, watched helplessly from the other end as five men preceded his departure, for a battling half century, and the remaining four went quietly.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at et@telegraph.co.uk