SYDNEY: Pakistan are barely clinging on to their hopes of reaching the semi-finals at the Twenty20 World Cup and even victory against South Africa on Thursday will not put Babar Azam’s men in control of their own destiny.

A victory for fifth-placed Pakistan against second-placed South Africa will have major implications in Group 2 and will keep the semi-final race alive till the last round of matches where they play Bangladesh while the Proteas clash with the Netherlands.

Read: Brickbats for struggling Babar as Pakistan's World Cup exit looms

But Pakistan, who need to win both the games and also need other results going in their favour, have been hit by the loss of hard-hitting batter Fakhar Zaman, who aggravated a knee injury that initially ruled him out of the squad.

“Unfortunately he had a bit of a twist in the last game [against the Netherlands] which aggravated his injury,” Pakistan’s team doctor Najeeb Soomro told reporters, “We have had scans on him which have shown no new injury. However, he doesn’t feel 100 per cent.”

Fakhar Zaman ruled out after aggravating knee injury

Fakhar scored 20 runs against the Dutch in the game that saw Pakistan register a long-awaited first victory at the tournament, having opened with last-ball losses against arch-rivals India and Zimbabwe.

Pakistan bowler Naseem Shah denied on Wednesday that his side are still dwelling on their agonising opening defeat to India.

Put to him by reporters that Pakistan have failed to recover mentally from the India defeat, fast bowler Naseem replied: “No, I don’t think so because everyone is professional and everyone knows about oneself.

“I suppose we are finding lots of ways to win,” he said. “We lost against India, but I don’t think anyone is thinking about the India game because as a professional you can’t think about the past when you lose, then especially, you can’t be thinking that.”

Naseem said that Pakistan’s pace attack had to be firing on all cylinders against South Africa.

“We’re all fast bowlers just trying to bowl our best because when you bowl bad anywhere, when you bowl a bad ball, then you are in a struggle,” Shah said.

The Proteas were touted as dark horses in the lead-up to the showpiece in Australia and have showed why with a fearsome pace attack and batsmen in form.

A victory on Thursday will take them and India into the semi-finals from the group and South African batter David Miller said his side will look to “exploit” Pakistan’s fragile confidence.

Pakistan’s much-vaunted opening pair of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan have failed to fire in three matches at the World Cup and are under pressure to find form, and fast.

“I think it is an area to exploit,” middle-order batsman Miller told reporters on Wednesday. “This game is all about confidence and they haven’t probably performed the way they’ve wanted to.

“But they’re world-class players and we’re expecting them to come out and bring their A-game and be up for the challenge.

“We all know every game in the World Cup is an important game, and against Pakistan you’ve got to make sure that you’re on your A-game as an opponent.

”... I suppose Pakistan — it’s a must-win game for them, so they’re going to be coming and charging, and we’re definitely prepared for it.”

Miller, 33, scored a fifty as he helped South Africa recover from a poor start against India and seal a five-wicket win on Sunday.

“Experience is a really valuable thing, and for example, in the previous game, we were in a little bit of trouble,” he said, adding that in the past they may have “got a little hasty”.

“We’ve done it over a period of time now. I’d say probably the last year, we’ve found ourselves in tricky situations and managed to get over the line.

“I think the continuity of the squad over time, guys have managed to sort of find their roles and if one guy isn’t doing well, another guy picks up the slack.”

Published in Dawn, November 3rd, 2022

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