Mystery pitch awaits crestfallen Pakistan in Twenty20 World Cup cricket match against India

WESTBURY, New York (AP) — A crestfallen Pakistan goes into its grudge game against archrival India at cricket’s Twenty20 World Cup on Sunday with still-painful memories of its huge upset defeat by the United States.

The U.S. beat Pakistan in Group A game with a historic win in the Super Over at Dallas on Thursday to register its second successive victory in its debut World Cup.

Pakistan captain Babar Azam cannot afford another loss that might put his team’s progress to the Super 8 playoff stage in serious danger.

Nothing seems to have gone right for Pakistan since the Babar-led team lost the T20 World Cup final against England in 2022. Pakistan lost T20 internationals against Afghanistan, understrength New Zealand, Ireland and England before losing to the U.S in the shock upset on Thursday.

The reaction back home in Pakistan was predictable.

“USA grounded Pakistan in their opening game,” wrote former Pakistan fast bowler Waqar Younis on the social media site X. “History’s been registered. Pakistan looked exhausted and helpless in the field. Congrats USA for a thumping victory.”

Fellow former Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar added: “Unfortunately Pakistan never deserved to win.”

And the struggles for Pakistan might continue.

A set of mystery drop-in pitches that has a variable bounce at the purpose-built 34,000-capacity stadium on Long Island in Westbury, New York awaits Babar’s struggling batters against the likes of Indian fast bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Muhammed Siraj.

Former Zimbabwe captain Andy Flower criticized the pitches in New York, saying they were bordering on dangerous.

“I’ve got to say that is not a good surface to play an international match on,” Flower said, “It’s bordering on dangerous. You saw the ball bouncing from a length both ways, skidding low occasionally … and striking people on the thumb, on the gloves, on the helmet and making life very very difficult for any batsman.”

Former Indian cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar said there’s something not quite right with the preparation of the pitches.

“Either the pitch has been under-prepared or something that is beyond their control,” he said. “I’m sure it’s not a lack of effort. At the most what they can do is keep rolling that drop-in pitch. But they have a problem on their hands. Inherently there’s something wrong with the pace of the surface.”

Sri Lanka was bowled out for 77 by South Africa and India dismissed Ireland for 96 in its opening group game.

Babar has reunited with his tried and tested opening partner Mohammad Rizwan but it’s the middle-order that has not given any sort of momentum for Pakistan, except for Fakhar Zaman.

The pace quartet is off-color too and failed to provide early breakthroughs. And Haris Rauf conceded 15 off the last over against U.S. during the regulation game and Mohammad Amir, who ended his retirement to play in the World Cup, bowled a costly 18-run Super Over against the U.S.

India looks like a more settled side with the experience of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli up front and have an added advantage of experiencing the conditions in New York. They played a warm-up game against Bangladesh and then thumped Ireland by seven wickets.

The variable bounce might once against encourage Sharma to go with four fast bowlers against Pakistan, just like he did against Ireland, and also managed to squeeze in two spin all-rounders — Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja.

“Looking at the pitch and conditions, we are open to make changes and do what is required at that point,” Sharma said after beating Ireland. “When we picked the team, we wanted to have that balance. If conditions are there for the seamers, we wanted to have that.”


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