Big Picture Last-ball defeats in consecutive matches. Points column empty. Top two batters quiet. Players fail to control their nerves during make-or-break moments. Pakistan has ticked all those boxes and as a result is in a precarious position where their fate in this World Cup is no longer entirely in their hands.
However, what they have in their hands is winning their remaining three matches to keep their hopes of the semi-final alive. To do that, Pakistan needs an injection of intention in their percussion, especially in their power play. Against India, which was at bat, Pakistan was 32 for 2 after six overs. Chasing a small target against Zimbabwe made Pakistan 28 for 2 in that phase. Those starts have also had a knock-on effect on the mid-overs, where Pakistan has not been able to go as fast as they would have otherwise.
Since the end of the 2021 T20 World Cup, Pakistan’s run rate in power play (6.88) is the second lowest among all Full Member teams. By comparison, India scored 8.44 in the first six overs, while Ireland (8.09), Australia (8.08), New Zealand (8.04) and South Africa (8.02) also scored with more than eight overs. During the same period, Pakistani batters have reached a limit in power play every 6.8 balls, which is the third lowest frequency of the Full Member teams. India is again at the top of the pile, hitting a boundary every 4.9 balls.
During this World Cup, early wickets contributed to Pakistan’s powerplay battle in both games, but they have remained calm at this stage, even when their highest ranking has scored points – in the period since the end of the 2021 World Cup, Pakistan has actually third best average in the power play behind India and New Zealand, confirming the idea that they may have to break up their opening pair Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan. It has been a long-running debate, but Pakistan has remained steadfast in their strategy, and their think tank may be averse to changing it at this stage; if they stick to the same combination, it’s up to Babar and Rizwan, the captain and vice-captain, to play smart cricket to try and keep their team afloat. In such a state of mind, Pakistan could be vulnerable on Sunday against the Netherlands, whose players are hungry to cause an attack against a top team. The Dutch have recent experience of playing Pakistan and doing well in an ODI series in which they failed to take advantage of winning positions in three games on two occasions. At this World Cup they almost passed Bangladesh, but earlier this week they could not quite match the power of India. In Pakistan, the Netherlands has an adversary with a touch of vulnerability about them, and they could sense an opportunity that they could seize well if they go out and play with freedom.
Form GuidePakistan LLWWL (last five completed T20Is, most recent first)Netherlands LLLWW
Paul van Meekeren was frugal in the power play at this World Cup, conceding only 30 runs in 42 balls in that phase•Getty Images
In the spotlightSince the end of the 2021 T20 World Cup, Babar has a strike rate of 126.60 in 27 innings. In the same period, Rizwan’s strike rate is 125.22 in 26 innings. However, they both contributed to big wins during this period, so Pakistan has kept faith in their partnership. They both failed twice in this World Cup, and neither made it out of the power play against India or Zimbabwe. Can they find a way out of their misery?
However, both Pakistani openers will have to beware of Paul van Meekeren. The Dutch fast man speaks his mind, and he is quick and can lock in their fold with pace and movement, and is one of the most impressive power play operators in this tournament, with just 30 runs in his 42 balls at that stage.
Team News Pakistan may think it’s time to trade one Ali for another and bring Asif back for Haider.
Pakistan (probably): 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 3 Shan Masood, 4 Iftikhar Ahmed, 5 Haider Ali/Asif Ali, 6 Shadab Khan, 7 Mohammad Nawaz, 8 Mohammad Wasim Jr, 9 Haris Rauf , 10 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 11 Naseem Shah.
The Dutch could keep the same XI that played against India.
Netherlands (probable): 1 Max O’Dowd, 2 Vikramjit Singh. 3 Bas de Leede, 4 Colin Ackermann, 5 Tom Cooper, 6 Scott Edwards (capt & wk), 7 Tim Pringle, 8 Logan van Beek, 9 Shariz Ahmad, 10 Fred Klaassen, 11 Paul van Meekeren.
Field and conditions In Perth, some rain may fall early in the morning on Sunday, although the weather is likely to be clear in the afternoon when the game is played. The pitch at Optus Stadium has provided plenty of speed and resilience for the fast players, and Pakistan’s fast bowlers can enjoy themselves, provided they don’t repeat the over-bowling mistake they made against Zimbabwe.
Statistics and trivia When was the last time Pakistan won a T20I in Australia? Never. Six T20Is in this country have brought Pakistan five defeats and one unsuccessfully. Shaheen Shah Afridi needs three wickets to become the 11th Pakistani bowler with 50 strikes in T20Is. The Netherlands’ only T20I encounter with Pakistan took place at the 2009 T20 World Cup, at Lord’s, where Kamran Akmal did four stumpings in an 82-run Pakistan victory.
Quotes”Yes, we have clearly seen that the Pakistani team can be beaten, so that is good to know. It is clear that playing them in the World Super League not long ago in the Netherlands has given us a lot of confidence because we came very close in those games. Hoping to cross the line this time. It would be great.” Dutch coach Ryan Cook
“We didn’t start well, but the morale of the team is high. We all saw that we played well against India. We couldn’t quite finish it. Same with the second match. This is cricket. There are always ups and downs “But everyone knows the team effort. We have faith in each other. We get hurt just as much as the fans. We stayed together, there is still time in this tournament, we will try to make good cricket for the fans.” Pakistani fast man Haris Rauf
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo