Oh, this tournament. England, most people’s favorites, lost today to Pakistan in Cardiff. Pakistan, the team that in their first match looked like they would rather be anywhere else. England, who did everything right in the group stage: beating Bangladesh, beating the World Cup runners up, New Zealand, and beating the World Cup winners, Australia. Six points out of six. Like it was scripted. But you can’t script sport, and you certainly can’t script Pakistan. What a bizarre, frustrating, talented, brilliant and awe inspiring group of players. It’s hard to think of another side—in any sport—that can compare. So talented, so frustrating, so entertaining. And they are in the finals, a spot which they richly deserve.
It’s too bad for England, of course, as before the tournament started, most pundits (not me, not that I am a pundit) thought that they would finally, after 42 years of trying, win a 50 over international tournament. They have been runners up five different times in two different tournaments, and semi-finalists a further three times. But today was just not their day. As the Pakistani attack overwhelmed their batsmen and didn’t allow even a single foothold in the Cardiff clay. We all knew their total was never going to be enough, despite Pakistan struggling to chase down 236 against Sri Lanka a few days prior. I feel for the England players in the same way I felt for the French players in last year’s Euro Cup final, but this is a young squad and they’ll be back. The 2019 World Cup is just two short years away, and it’s also on English soil.
Meanwhile the win sets up a potential India-Pakistan final. The match-up isn’t really what it used to be in geo-political terms, but between the lines it should be a great game of cricket. Pakistan’s unpredictable swashbucklers against India’s efficient machinery—which is ripe for metaphor if you go looking, but I’ll skip it for tonight.
But considering the curveballs this tournament has thrown up (South Africa and Australia going home early, Bangladesh beating New Zealand, Pakistan beating England … and on and on) you can’t bank on that final pairing quite yet. The game tomorrow still has to give us a winner. Two weeks ago I would have said India moving on is a no brainer and bet the house on it. But not anymore. I’ve learned my lesson. I have always said that cricket’s predictability is part of its charm, but this tournament has been anything but predictable–and I’m not just talking about the weather–and it’s nice to see that this funny old game still has some tricks up its sleeve.
Two matches left in the tournament and I have yet to watch a single over get bowled—except for the highlights on the ICC’s site. And that’s fine. Work has been busy and the weather has been nice on the weekends—so I probably wouldn’t have watched much anyway. But still, it would have been nice. For the final I might try and find a stream but we’ll see. I am also hoping that one of the local British pubs might throw it on—Minneapolis has a large Indian and Pakistani community, so they would print money if they did—but I am not seeing any updates about it. Oh well.
Until tomorrow then.