PAKISTAN’S remarkable run of success in international cricket this year has been heart-warming for fans and have made them front-runners for the 2019 Cricket World Cup to be played in England.
And though they were compelled to share the honours with New Zealand in the three-match ODI series on Sunday, after rain washed out the second half of the final game in Dubai, Pakistan clearly held sway over their rivals while making an impressive comeback in the series after losing the opening tie.
Riding the crest of a wave since their victory over Test debutants Ireland in Dublin back in May, the Pakistanis have drawn a fiercely competitive Test series against England, won the tri-series in Zimbabwe which also involved Australia, outplayed the latter both in the T20s and Test series in the UAE last month, and humbled a full-strength New Zealand side 3-0 in the T20 series preceding the ODI contest.
It must be mentioned that the cricketers have barely had breathing space between the series, being constantly on the road during a gruelling season.
The hardship factor merits special mention; Pakistan is the only one among the leading Test-playing nations to have been forced to play all the international matches away from a friendly home environment ever since the 2009 terrorist attack against Sri Lanka in Lahore stopped all visits by foreign teams.
The run of success seems to have spurred the Pakistan side on to bigger things.
With match-winning bowlers like Mohammad Abbas and newest sensation Shaheen Shah Afridi — who bagged Man of the Series against New Zealand — in their ranks, backed up by a prolific top order comprising Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Haris Sohail and Mohammad Hafeez, it is little surprise that Sarfraz Ahmed and his team are now setting their sights on their first-ever series win against South Africa in South Africa starting next month.
And, the next frontier is, of course, the World Cup.
Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2018