Pakistan kept themselves in the running for a World Cup 2019 semi-finals berth with a six-wicket win over New Zealand on Wednesday.
Here are the five key takeaways from the game:
1) Good toss to lose
After the debacle against India, Sarfaraz Ahmed could never have chosen to field first — not so soon and not in a must-win game at least.
Kane Williamson did Pakistan a favour by making the choice, which in hindsight proved to be the right one for the Men in Green.
Pakistan are notoriously poor chasers but when targets are modest, they have a shot. And at Edgbaston, the target was kept modest, thanks to the conditions which the Pakistan pacers exploited masterfully by having a go with the ball before the Black Caps.
Thank you, Kane Williamson.
2) Afridi, the real difference maker
Ten overs, three maidens, 20 runs conceded and three frontline batsmen dismissed.
It wasn’t a fiver for Shaheen Afridi but let us not forget that it was the groundwork he laid on which Babar Azam capitalised in the second half of the innings.
Statistics and numbers mean that you cannot deny a century-maker the Man of the Match award but without Afridi’s calculated devastation, there may not have been a century to talk about as the target may not have been in the reachable 230s zone. The boy missed out on the gong but he, too, deserved something to remember this game by.
3) Azam gets no love
The moment calls for an over-the-top write-up on Azam. You score an unbeaten ton in a near must-win game, you deserve to be waxed lyrical about. But such are the high standards we hold Azam to, such is his promise, that it actually makes sense to not heap praise on him at all.
This is what we expect him to deliver. This 24-year-old is envisioned to one day be known as the best batsman Pakistan has ever produced. When that is the potential career trajectory, you cannot go gaga over one World Cup 100 against an unbeaten side in a game your team could not have afforded to lose.
That we do not praise him for this knock is, in a way, his praise. For everyone else, the standards are same, for Azam they’re different — higher different. He’ll earn our praise when he does something Supermanly. For mere-mortals feats, he gets nada.
4) Sarfaraz needs to be talked about
There is a third person who needs to be discussed and probably be apologised to but he would fly under the radar, even though he is the captain himself. For a side that has 15-plus dropped catches in the tournament so far, Sarfaraz had no business taking THAT catch.
Diving full length with one arm so stretched that he was in the slip cordon, Sarfaraz, or any other keeper could have been forgiven for spilling it. Only Sarfaraz hung on, and sent the dangerous Ross Taylor packing and inspired memes of the good kind.
In all, the skipper took three catches, was involved in a run-out and generally marshaled his troops well. When on a bad day his neck is on the line, then on a good one he should hold his head high.
5) Hard work is done
With that win, most of the hard work is done. Bangladesh are no slouches but they can be beaten. And Afghanistan, well they are Afghanistan.
After all the funny and not-so-funny business, the team is back on track. Follow the plan, keep your heads and there is a good chance that the team makes the semis. From there on, whatever happens, happens. Even if a 1992 repeat doesn't happen, the team and its fans would have gotten their money's worth.
The writer is a lifelong cricket fan who lives for the Pakistan cricket team and PSL but is also a realist and has no problems calling spade a spade.