Pakistan face must-win situation against upbeat Irish

Saturday, March 17, 2007

KINGSTON, Jamaica: In normal circumstances, a match against a team like Ireland would have been like a walk in the park for Pakistan.But these are not normal times for Inzamam-ul-Haq’s men who are facing a must-win situation against the unpredictable Irish in a World Cup Group D match here at the Sabina Park today.After crashing to a 54-run defeat against the West Indies on Tuesday, the pressure is on Pakistan as they cannot afford to falter against the Irish who sent a warning to other Group D teams with a sensational tie against Zimbabwe on Thursday.The way the World Cup debutants announced their arrival on the big stage has left Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer scrambling for fallback plans in case there are any surprises in today’s crucial match.In normal circumstances, Woolmer might have been thinking about going for a big, morale-boosting win against the lowly-ranked Ireland but ask the Englishman about it and he will tell you even a close win in the match would do just fine.“Any kind of win would do,” says Woolmer who is wary of the Irish potential to create upsets and believes they are the most well-equipped and disciplined of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Associate members featuring in the 16-nation World Cup.Pakistan have to beat both Ireland and Zimbabwe to assure their progress to the Super Eight stage and while Woolmer is confident his team can achieve the task at hand, he is not taking anything for granted. “We will have to work hard for it,” he said. Skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq agrees with his coach and is urging his players to lift their game in the coming games.Pakistan exposed a few cracks in their armour in the loss against the West Indies and are now looking to fill them with solid outings from their players against Ireland.“You can never take any team lightly in a World Cup game and more so if you are desperate for a win,” said Inzamam.Inzamam is not unhappy with the way his team crumbled under pressure against the hosts but is still not willing to make many changes to the line-up for the game against Ireland.Fast bowler Mohammad Sami is expected to be the only replacement, coming in for medium pacer Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, who is yet to find the sort of form that once made him the most important bowler in Pakistan’s one-day squad.Opener Imran Nazir’s inability to curb his casual approach has irked the captain and team management but it seems that they are willing to give him another chance.Imran, preferred over the more reliable Yasir Hameed, has been unable to justify his selection and literally threw away his wicket in the first over against the West Indies.But with not a single reserve batsman in the team and all-rounder Shahid Afridi unavailable for one more match because of an ICC ban, Imran is set to open again.The management, however, is considering reshuffling the batting order.Pakistan’s top three batsmen could contribute just 26 runs in the opening game and indications are that wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal might open the innings with regular opener Mohammad Hafeez going down the order.There is also the option to send in Mohammad Yousuf at number three, Inzamam at four and Younis Khan coming at five.For the Pakistanis the key in the game against Ireland would be the batting. Ireland’s strong point is their bowling with experienced seam and swing bowlers like Dave Langford-Smith and captain Trent Johnston capable of troubling Pakistani batsmen.Pakistan carried out extensive nets sessions at the Kensington Oval ground on Friday morning, allowing their batsmen to spend ample time against pacers ahead of the game against Ireland.Pakistan team (likely): Inzamam-ul-Haq (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Nazir, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Sami, Umar Gul, Rao Iftikhar Anjum, Danish Kaneria.

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Will Pakistan Premier League gain success just like Indian Premier League ?