Afridi puts a swift end to the mismatch

Stephen Brenkley@stephenbrenkley
Saturday 28 December 2013 03:21
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As Jacob-Jan Esmeijer, Adeel Raja and their pals were catapulted into orbit yesterday it was possible to think of a few questions. Such as why is the ICC Champions' Trophy so named, and what are Holland doing in it? The expansion of the tournament to 12 teams, mainly to provide more matches, was always certain to provide mismatches and meaningless matches. The non-contest at the Sinhalese Sports Club was the zenith of that. Or maybe the nadir.

It was always a certainty that it would be a mismatch because Holland are no more than well-intentioned players of good club standard. It became meaningless in the context both of the tournament as well as international cricket generally as soon as Pakistan were beaten by Sri Lanka in the pool's opening tie. Whoever won that match was through to the semi-finals.

Having said all of which, Pakistan were probably grateful for a win, any win, considering their desolate form recently. They sacked their coach, Mudassar Nazar, last week, several senior players – Yousuf Youhana, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Wasim Akram and Saeed Anwar – have withdrawn from the forthcoming Test series against the Australians and the captain, Waqar Younis, might have lost his grip on the team. The Board have reappointed as coach the Englishman Richard Pybus, who has already held the post twice, and named a 16-strong squad of young players for the daunting task against Australia.

Holland batted first yesterday, and after falling to 23 for 4 recovered to 136 all out with a fifth-wicket partnership of 55. Pakistan needed only 16.2 overs to win. Imran Nazir took 44 balls to make 59, which was pedestrian compared to Shahid Afridi, who scored 55 from 18. He took one ball more than Sanath Jayasuriya needed to make the fastest one-day fifty.

If the ICC and the Federation of International Cricket Associations ever decide to talk to each other, one of the points of serious discussion might be the place of countries like Holland and the need to nurture them more quickly.

Fica have been rabble-rousing again in the past few days. They now claim to represent all 10 major countries and want recognition by the ICC. World Cup boycotts are being threatened – but will not take place because there is too much at stake on all sides. The ICC may as well recognise Fica. The course of this competition and yesterday's match has shown they need help.

Pakistan squad: Waqar Younis (captain), Younis Khan, Shoaib Akhtar, Imran Farhat, Misbah-ul-Haq, Faisal Iqbal, Danish Kaneria, Rashid Latif, Saqlain Mushtaq, Rana Naved-ul-Hassan, Imran Nazir, Hasan Raza, Abdul Razzaq, Mohammed Sami, Taufiq Umar, Mohammed Zahid.

1st Test: 3-7 Oct (Colombo). 2nd and 3rd Tests: Between 11-23 Oct in Sharjah.

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