Can Pakistan Tame Australia?

By Will Davies for The Wall Street Journal

Saturday’s Group A match between Pakistan and Australia is a tough one to predict, as is generally the case when Pakistan plays. One team – Australia – epitomizes consistency and solidity, while the other – Pakistan – is about as well-adjusted and reliable as a moody teenager.

On its day, Pakistan is one of the best sides at this World Cup, but on other occasions the team looks disorganized and uninterested. That’s one of the reasons why Pakistan is such a fascinating team to watch – you never quite know what you’re going to get.

This unpredictability can work in its favor as opponents struggle to form and stick to a game plan. Of all the sides at the World Cup, Australia is the most capable of dealing with Pakistan’s maverick approach, but it will have to tread carefully and blow off the rust that has tinged its performances thus far.

If the likes of Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Akhtar – two players who are such fun to watch – perform well, then Pakistan is in with a chance of upsetting Australia in Colombo and ending its incredible 34-match unbeaten run in World Cup cricket.

Australia has been prowling quietly but menacingly on the verges of this tournament, snapping up victims, while other teams – particularly in Group B – struggle to gain momentum and avoid upsets. But the Australians aren’t the threat they once were, and their World Cup record looks more vulnerable than in previous tournaments when the team boasted superstars like the Waugh brothers, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist.

Australia’s captain Ricky Ponting is out of sorts with the bat and angry in the field. It looked like he was ready to thump Steven Smith when his teammate bumped into him as he took a catch in Wednesday’s match against Canada.

Smith is looking increasingly at ease in the Australian squad, but he’d do well to tread a little carefully, particularly when near Ponting’s toes. The Sydney-born youngster is a player of great promise and is now a regular in the Australian team, but he is yet to really shine. He needs a big performance, otherwise he risks slipping into nearly-man territory.

Pakistan has had its ups and downs this World Cup, from the heights of beating Sri Lanka to the lows of collapsing against New Zealand and a Ross Taylor batting onslaught. Australia beat New Zealand convincingly, while the match against Sri Lanka was cut short by a huge thunderstorm, an unfortunate outcome as the game was shaping up nicely and Australia, for once, looked like it had a tough opponent to deal with.

The weather forecast for tomorrow isn’t promising, but hopefully the rain will stay away from Colombo as matches between teams like Australia and Pakistan are the big occasions that make the World Cup so special.

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  1. March 18th, 2011

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