Rivals find 'closeness' with defeat
PERENNIAL rivals Pakistan and India found in defeat something they would never have experienced in victory on the balcony of the Kowloon Cricket Club yesterday - an opportunity to rub shoulders with one another.
At the break, the finalists in the Cup competition last year were resigned to the fact that they would spend the afternoon as spectators, having been humbled by the game's glorious uncertainties.
Defending the inaugural title they won last year, Pakistan were unable to reach the same heights as they failed in their fight to reach the semi-finals.
Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan all had a chance to earn a place alongside the other semi-finalists, England, Sri Lanka and South Africa, who had qualified on the first day.
With Mark Waugh batting superbly to register unbeaten knocks of 36 twice, Australia sped to victories over New Zealand, by four wickets, and Pakistan, by 14 runs.
This gave Australia the sought-after berth, putting Wasim Akram's Pakistan out of contention, out of the limelight, and out of favour with a large group of their supporters on one side of the ground.
The partisan Pakistanis had company. Their Indian brethren were also an unhappy lot, having seen their team make only a brief presence in the second match of the day, when they defeated Hong Kong by four wickets to win the Plate trophy.
Being brothers on the sub-continent it was perhaps natural that both Pakistan and India would put their early exits down to the same reasons.
''It was disappointing that we clicked a little late,'' said Pakistan skipper Wasim.
It was a view shared by his Indian counterpart, Mohammed Azharuddin.
''We did not bat and bowl well on the first day. By the time we realised this, it was all over,'' said Azharuddin. ''But something is better than nothing, and we are happy to have won the Plate.'' Having defeated West Indies in the final match on Friday, India quickly disposed of Hong Kong in the other pool game yesterday. Batting first, the home team could only muster 44 runs with most of the contribution coming from Stewart Brew, who had a fine knock of 24.
It was not a total to dismay the Indians, as Manoj Prabhakar (25) and Azharuddin (20 not out) proved by speeding to a four-wicket victory.
At least Azharuddin could look forward to receiving a trophy at the end of the day. There was no such luck for Wasim who, in-between signing autographs, must have spent the day wondering what a difference a year can make in cricket.
Wasim put down the debacle to the absence of a fifth bowler in the team. ''We missed Salim Malik badly as a batter and more as a bowler. He showed last year what a difference he can make to the team.'' Last year, Malik joined his teammates only on the second day to lift Pakistan from a first-day defeat at the hands of Hong Kong to win the Cup.
''It was a bit too much for Waqar [Younis] and I to contain the batting, especially as the others were not bowling all that well,'' Wasim added.
Wasim's explanation, however, may not be enough to placate his legions of disappointed fans.