With England’s two best hopes of Ashes success all but certain absentees, further withdrawals could turn a highly-anticipated summer into a non-competitive farce.
In Pakistan cricket’s history, an annihilation holds special significance. When kept down, the team stays down. But when sunk to a bottomless pit, their upsurge gets triggered.
It is what Pakistan has us accustomed to since their victory in the 1992 World Cup.
The present team’s winless encounters prior to this World Cup were growing increasingly alarming.
Their skipper was active but far less inspirational, their much-talked-about bowling lacked sting, the batsmen were failing to find the right tempo to succeed in ODI cricket.
But still entered the tournament with the ‘unpredictables’ tag.
Perhaps Pakistan beating England is anything but an upset. It was stunning yet intelligible enough for a side whose customary measure of fix is always to defy the odds.
Although the game against the Windies was a sure-short casualty, they were a far better side than their disastrous display last week.
Not that the victory was perfect. The tourists clung on to a triumph in what was a fundamental step to gaining a lifeline. And that triumph came in with luck on their side for the first time since they landed on English shores.
But the heart of the matter was that Pakistan found their feet, around some relatively unlikely heroes.
By bringing in Asif Ali and Shoaib Malik, they had made their intentions crystal clear. They were up against a well-oiled machine, equipped to gun down any total – even over 350. They were defending nearly a total of 350 against a side that faced their last defeat at home while chasing back in the year 2015 and who they couldn’t stop scoring 340 and 358 a few weeks ago.
There also were safeguarding the score on a deck that has been spiteful to the bowlers.
But Pakistan stalled the English juggernaut by inviting a fresh set of concerns. When the outcry was for Asif Ali to come to the crease, Sarfaraz Ahmed surfaced. The skipper made a confidence-boosting fifty but could have cost the team the final flourish had it not been for Hasan Ali and Shadab Khan.
They dropped Joe Root just when they could’ve tightened the screws and later Chris Woakes when he was taking the game deep. But they also held on to timely catches that saw them arrest the losing streak.
They took a step and steps as the match progressed.
What’s next? Pakistan have found the way out of extreme depths to outclass the very best. When playing as they played on Monday, is there anything to do but be in awe by how they rule the stadium?