COLOMBO // Police raided two Colombo markets yesterday and seized over a thousand items of counterfeit World Cup merchandise. They might as well have confiscated this Pakistan team while they were at it, as they must have been impostors, too.
The real thing had breezed through their opening two matches in this competition, thrashing Kenya then brushing aside Sri Lanka, one of the favourites, with relative ease.
Yet this one was nearly humbled by a Canada team made up of students, investment bankers and taxi drivers.
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The fact they finally managed to dodge a bullet was due exclusively to Shahid Afridi, their captain, who refused to let his enigmatic teammates undermine his World Cup bid.
“The Ireland game [which led to Pakistan being knocked out of the World Cup in 2007] was definitely going through my mind after that batting display,” Afridi, who has taken 14 wickets in three matches so far, said. “We need to play better cricket if we are going to beat good teams. This was a good wake-up call for us.”
For much of the game it seemed as though the World Cup had been sure to get its second major upset in two days.
But while Ireland’s win over England 24 hours earlier had felt like a celebration, this had a sinister undertone running through it.
If anyone suffered a more wretched day than the batsmen of the two sides, it was Daryl Harper.
The Australian umpire has suffered a crisis of confidence since the introduction of the decision review system.
Only the most stony-hearted could not have felt his humiliation yesterday as he had four erroneous decisions overturned on appeal.
By the time the fourth happened, he was already looking at Afridi expecting him to ask for a second opinion.
The manner in which the second was reviewed irked Afridi, and prompted the first in a succession of unseemly confrontations. Ashish Bagai, the Canada captain, appeared to look to the dressing room for confirmation of his own initial suspicion that the ball was going over the stumps.
On referral, he was proved correct, but Afridi, his opposite number, was livid that he was allowed to confer. “Some go your way, some don’t,” Bagai, who was visibly distraught at seeing his side miss such a good chance to cause a stir at the World Cup, said of the referral system.
“We got a couple [of reviewed decisions] we were bothered by, but we can’t do anything about that. It wasn’t the reason we lost the game.”
Canada’s side comprises a number of Pakistan, Indian and Sri Lankan players, and there was little love lost between the two teams.
At one point, Harvir Baidwan, running for Khurram Chohan, nearly came to blows with Ahmed Shahzad, Pakistan’s young opening batsman.
Shahzad had observed the Colombo highway code, cutting across Baidwan like an earnest tuk-tuk driver, as the Canadian runner was taking the racing line while attempting a single at midwicket.
Shahzad was just simmering at this point, and soon after earned himself a stern, finger-wagging rebuke from Harper for verbally abusing Balaji Rao, the talkative former India Under 19 player. Harper ordered Afridi to calm his players, on account of there being “too much chatter”.
It did not stop Umar Gul aiming an accurate bouncer at Rao the very next ball.
Rao probably once harboured an aspiration of playing a World Cup match against Pakistan wearing the blue of India, rather than the red of his adopted nation.
He enjoyed his time in the limelight. No matter who was the aggressor in the sledging he was involved in, he was the finisher.
He also proved verbal dexterity was not the lone string on his bow, in taking two wickets with clever leg spin.
He then won the Dwayne Leverock Award for Comical Fielding by a Weighty Part-timer when he held a catch off Wahab Riaz between his knees while tumbling to the floor at slip, giving his teammates a scare.
Mohammad Hafeez lbw b Osinde 11
Ahmed Shahzad c Gordon b Baidwan 12
Kamran Akmal c Kumar b Cheema 16
Younis Khan lbw b Baidwan 6
Misbah-ul-Haq c Bagai b Rao 37
Umar Akmal lbw b Rao 48
Shahid Afridi c Kumar b Cheema 20
Abdul Razzaq lbw b Hansra 8
Umar Gul not out 2
Wahab Riaz c Rao b Hansra 0
Saeed Ajmal b Baidwan 0
Extras: (b4, lb3, nb1, w16) 24
Total: (all out; 43 overs) 184
Fall of wickets: 1-16 (Hafeez), 2-42 (Shahzad), 3-55 (Younis), 4-67 (Kamran), 5-140 (Umar), 6-165 (Misbah), 7-181 (Afridi), 8-181 (Razzaq), 9-181 (Riaz), 10-184 (Ajmal)
Bowling: Chohan 3.3-0-10-0 (nb1), Osinde 7-1-25-1 (w5), Gordon 0.3-0-1-0 (w1), Baidwan 8-1-35-3 (w6), Cheema 8-0-33-2 (w3), Rao 10-0-50-2 (w1), Hansra 6-1-23-2
R Gunasekera lbw b Gul 8
N Kumar b Razzaq 2
Z Surkari lbw b Ajmal 27
A Bagai lbw b Afridi 16
J Hansra b Afridi 43
Rizwan Cheema b Afridi 4
T Gordon c Riaz b Afridi 9
J Baidwan b Afridi 0
Khurram Chohan not out 5
B Rao run out 1
H Osinde b Riaz 0
Extras: (lb4, w19) 23
Total: (all out; 42.5 overs) 138
Fall of wickets: 1-16 (Gunasekera), 2-16 (Kumar), 3-44 (Bagai), 4-104 (Surkari), 5-111 (Cheema), 6-114 (Hansra), 7-114 (Baidwan), 8-130 (Gordon), 9-134 (Rao), 10-138 (Osinde)
Bowling: Razzaq 7-2-16-1 (w1), Gul 7-1-20-1 (w6), Afridi 10-0-23-5 (w3), Riaz 5.5-0-23-1 (w2), Ajmal 8-0-31-1 (w7), Hafeez 5-0-21-0
Result: Pakisan won by 46 runs