Co-hosts Australia have progressed through the 2015 Cricket World Cup with little drama thus far, but will have to negotiate against an in-form Pakistan side in Friday’s quarterfinal at the Adelaide Oval. Australia suffered one defeat in the group stage, to fellow co-hosts New Zealand, but did little to alter their tag as favorites to lift the trophy for the fifth time. But there is now no second chances as the competition enters the knockout phase, and a rematch of the 1999 final, won by Australia, presents a tougher proposition than it would have a couple of weeks ago.
Pakistan’s World Cup got off to a hugely disappointing start, with heavy defeats to rivals India and then the West Indies that left their hopes of simply making the last eight already in doubt. But they have since hit form to win four straight matches, including against a favored South Africa side, to squeeze into the quarterfinals. Their fate came down to a do-or-die match with Ireland at the weekend, which Pakistan came through with flying colors in a seven-wicket win. It has been a World Cup that has only furthered the image of Pakistan as a highly talented team that can blow hot or cold. And it is that unpredictability which Australia all-rounder Shane Watson believes makes them such a threat.
“They can play some incredible cricket, as they have in times I've played against them, but they also can self-destruct quite quickly as well,” he said, reports ABC Australia. “That's the reason why Pakistan are so dangerous especially in a knock-out game like this quarter-final.
“We know this is a danger game for us because they can come on and just turn it on like they have throughout the times I've played them in the past. We know we have to be at our absolute best and not give them a chance to be able to get that momentum. We know if they're able to get that they can run away with it very quickly.”
Pakistan’s preparations for the match have been dealt a blow, with fast-bowler Mohammad Irfan being ruled out for the rest of the World Cup after suffering a stress fracture in the pelvis. Irfan had taken eight wickets in five matches in the group phase, and could now be replaced by spinner Yasir Shah.
“It's unfortunate that we lost Irfan just at the wrong time,” coach Waqar Younis said, according to Reuters. “It's a huge loss. He was an X factor for us but we have got to live with it. We have discussed Shah but we will look at the pitch and if it's conducive then we will see how it goes.
“It's a big game, a quarterfinal of the World Cup and we all are very pleased to be here. We know Australia play very aggressive cricket and we have to match that. We can beat Australia but for that we have to be very positive.”
Prediction: You write Pakistan off at your peril, and they are certainly capable of pulling off a shock. But Australia just look too strong, both in ability and mentality, and should secure their place in the last four.