By Niall Anderson in Manchester
They promised an aggressive approach before the match, but Pakistan's aspirations of producing a Cricket World Cup miracle at Lord's lasted as long as the shine on the new ball.
Needing a record-breaking victory over Bangladesh to knock the Black Caps out in the race for the fourth and final semifinal spot, Pakistan won the toss and batted first, knowing that they needed a mammoth total to have any chance of progressing via net run rate.
Score 350, and Pakistan would have had to win by 312 runs to make the semifinals. 400 would have required a victory of 316 runs, bowling Bangladesh out for 84 or fewer, while reaching 450 would have needed them to bowl Bangladesh out for 129 or fewer – and win by 321 runs. Score less than 308, and they would be eliminated before Bangladesh even took to the crease.
With that equation in mind, fireworks were expected when the usually-aggressive duo Imam ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman strolled out to the crease, but instead Pakistan produced a bizarrely passive start. After seven overs, Pakistan were coasting along at 23-0, and it took them 22 overs to even reach 100.
It led to some confusion amongst fans as to their intentions, and Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur revealed after the match that while they had intended to go for broke, they realised early on that there was no chance of making history on a tricky Lord's wicket, and opted to simply aim for a morale-boosting victory.
"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a discussion. But I think that was something that we could only assess once we did something right. We won the toss, which was a good start. That kept us alive. And then the first 10 overs were going to be quite crucial. You can't just walk in there and go, I think we're going to get 400. Getting 400 is a platform. You need to get a good base, and you need to move," said Arthur.
"The message we got from Fakhar when he came back in the change room was it was slow. Balls going into the wicket were quite tough. The average score, I think, is 270 over the tournament. I mean, getting 400 was a bit of a pipe dream. And then we realised we just wanted to win and we wanted to win well."
That they managed, with Imam-ul-Haq (100 from 100 balls) and Babar Azam (96 from 98 balls) leading Pakistan to 315-9. Bangladesh only needed eight runs to knock Pakistan out of semifinal contention, which they promptly accomplished in nine balls, but they didn't come close to claiming victory, falling 94 runs short as Pakistan ended up tied on points with the Black Caps, but well behind on the net run rate tiebreaker.
Arthur said it was a disappointing ending to the tournament, but believed his side could go out proud of their efforts.
"The dressing room at the moment is a very, very disappointed dressing room. There's not high fives, and there's no congratulations going on because we haven't qualified. But the guys can leave this tournament with their heads held very, very high. They've worked unbelievably hard, and they've played some very, very fine cricket. You watch a highlight package of the World Cup, there's going to be a lot of Pakistani players on it."
The Alternative Commentary Collective are podcasting their way through the World Cup. Known for their unconventional sports analysis and off-kilter banter, the ACC have come to ask the tough questions. Here's the latest episode of 'The Agenda':
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT