Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq has backed his team to upset home favorites Australia in the quarterfinals of the 2015 Cricket World Cup. Australia will have the advantage of a passionate local support at the Adelaide Oval and came into the tournament as the top-ranked side in the world in One-Day Internationals. While they lost narrowly to fellow co-hosts New Zealand in the group phase, they progressed serenely through to the last eight after finishing second in Pool B. Their opponents, meanwhile, have only furthered their reputation for unpredictability, after losing their opening two matches but bouncing back to win their last four and squeeze through into the quarterfinals. Yet Misbah is confident of his side’s chances to shock the tournament favorites.
"They are favorites but there is no hard-and-fast rule that favorites are always going to win the game,” he said at his press conference on Thursday. “It's on the day the team performs better, the team that has better chances, better luck, can really defeat any team. We are hopeful and we are very positive and I think we’ve got a bowling lineup that can really go through any team and a few batters getting back into form.”
The teams have actually shared their eight World Cup meetings so far, but the most famous went the way of Australia in the 1999 final. That victory was the first of three successive World Cup triumphs for Australia, and after a quarterfinal exit four years ago in India, they are looking to win the competition on home soil for the first time. The only previous time that the event was held on Australia shores, in 1992, Pakistan triumphed for the only time in their history.
It is Australia that have looked the more stable side so far, however. While losing a thriller against New Zealand in Auckland and having their match with Bangladesh washed out, Australia have coped seamlessly with that was anticipated to be a tricky reintroduction to the side of captain Michael Clarke and won emphatically against England, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Scotland. Against Afghanistan, Australia racked up the highest total in World Cup history with 417. Opener David Warner led the way in that win with 178, and has top-scored for a loaded Australia batting lineup in this World Cup. With the ball, Mitchell Starc was the highest wicket-taker in the tournament’s group stage, taking 16 dismissals.
Australia’s consistency is contrasted by Pakistan’s reputation for blowing hot and cold. The negative side of that was in evidence when losing against India and the West Indies to begin the tournament. But they have since found form and their four-straight wins since included an impressive victory over one of the tournament favorites, South Africa.
“Four wins on the row gives you a lot of confidence as a team, as a playing unit,” Misbah, who is set to retire from ODIs after the World Cup, said. “I think or mindset is good at the moment, momentum is really good. So this is the best time to play against such a good team.”
Pakistan will, though, be missing fast-bowler Mohammad Irfan, who has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament with injury. That could be a particular blow on a wicket at the Adelaide Oval that is expected to be conducive to quick bowling. Still Clarke believes Pakistan will pose a major threat in a match for which he is adamant the favorites tag counts for nothing
“I think Pakistan have been underrated for a long time, especially in the shorter form of the game,” the Australia skipper said. “I think they’ve got a lot of talent. I think their attack is very good, they’ve got a good mix of youth and experience with their batting, and they’re led very well by Misbah. I think tomorrow is going to be a very tough challenge for us and we’re going to have to be at our best to beat them.
“It’s irrelevant who’s favorite now, you have to play your best cricket. We’re really focused on this game, we’re treating this like a World Cup final. It s a crucial game, if you lose you’re sitting and watching the rest of the tournament, so were focused on just making sure we can have success.”
Match time: Friday, 2 p.m. local time. Thursday, 11:30 p.m. EDT.
TV channel: DISH Network, Mediacom and Time Warner Cable subscribers can watch all matches via pay per view. More info here.
Live streaming info: Pakistan vs. Australia, as well as all quarterfinals, semifinals and final will be available via ESPN's digital subscription service, costing $39.99.