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    Defeat may have hurt pride but nothing else

    Defeat may have bruised pride but not
    more
    Mark Baldwin - 2 June 1999

    LONDON, June 1: Bangladesh were being quoted at 33-1 in some quarters
    to beat Pakistan at Northampton, so there may well be many people today,both in Asia and England, still celebrating their decision to back the underdogs.

    Cynics, of course, will start their whisperings again about match-fixing but
    Wasim Akram's side had nothing to play for in the match - and any sportsman finds it difficult to raise himself for such an event when he knows that far sterner tests lie in wait ahead.

    The 62-run defeat took some of the gloss off Pakistan's previously imperious
    progress through this World Cup. But, still, they go through to the Super Six
    stage with a maximum four points carried forward - and, realistically, needing
    just one more victory to ensure participation in the semi-finals. Things, though, will be hotting up from now on in. Pakistan face a clash of the titans, with South Africa, on Saturday - and then a potentially explosive encounter with India next Tuesday.

    As a sort of back stop, however, they have the comfort of knowing that the
    game against Zimbabwe on June 11 will be on a good pitch at The Oval.
    Should Pakistan still need two points for semi-final qualification at that stage
    then I shouldn't think the bookmakers need fear a further upset.

    Wasim was more than a little shame-faced as he watched the Bangladeshis
    jumping for joy at their historic victory -
    It was interesting to see both Pakistan and South Africa - the World Cup's
    two outstanding teams to date - faltering in their final group matches. Both
    clearly eased off mentally, with qualification for the Super Six assured, and in South Africa's case it cost them two extremely important points.

    The underrated Zimbabweans not only go through with the maximum four
    points, like Pakistan, but also eliminated England! The shock waves of
    England's failure are still buffeting the country here.

    The brutal truth for English cricket fans, though, is that - apart from Darren
    Gough - there were no cricketers in the squad with enough charisma and
    talent to be ranked as world class.

    Graeme Hick and Graham Thorpe still fall short of that assessment, while
    Mark Ramprakash - England's best technically-equipped batsman was not
    even picked! The rest of the world should shed no tears for the host country's
    sad exit. England didn't deserve anything.

    Zimbabwe have been fortunate, but they have also worked hard and never
    given up. And what has been overlooked here is that they were beaten by
    England at Trent Bridge only after losing a crucial toss and being forced to bat
    first in conditions which initially favoured the seam bowlers.
    If Alastair Campbell had won the toss that day then it could have been
    England struggling for runs. Under pressure against South Africa and India,
    England's batsmen were truly exposed.

    India and Australia are now the chief threats to Pakistan and South Africa -
    but, due to a mistake in tournament planning, one of them is due to have their
    ambitions thwarted before the Super Six stage is barely up and running.

    The very first Super Six match brings together India and Australia, and as
    both begin the stage with no points carried forward it is, in effect, an
    eliminator.

    A team will have to be very fortunate indeed to scrape into fourth place in the
    final Super Six table with just four points (ie two wins from five matches).

    I think that the winner of the India v Australia game will go on to qualify for the semi-finals, leaving either Zimbabwe or New Zealand to fight it out for the other place in the last four alongside Pakistan and South Africa.
    cheme of things.

    Pakistan must now regain the concentration and focus which was such a mark
    of their first four World Cup matches - and I believe they will. The
    Bangladesh defeat will have bruised pride, but soon it will be forgotten.

    Abdur Razzaq and Yousuf Youhana will both be fully fit for Saturday's match
    against South Africa, following leg muscle strains, and both have important
    roles to play.

    I was surprised Wajahatullah Wasti was not given a game against Bangladesh
    - because I feel he might be a better bet than Shahid Afridi at the top of the
    order.

    Saeed Anwar missed a golden opportunity to spend some time at the crease
    at Northampton (courtest Inzamam ul Haq)- but perhaps a change in his fortunes is just around the corner. Saeed is surely too good a player not to leave his imprint on this
    tournament. He will come good-

    The key, as ever, to Pakistan's chances is the ability of their bowlers to
    dismiss or restrict the opposition. And, apart from Azhar Mahmood, who still
    seems not to have settled, the bowling attack is in prime form. It's going to be
    exciting!

    ------------------
    ___________________
    Believe In Angels.
    ___________________

    Laterz,
    ManiaX.

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