Pakistan v Australia, Friday, 1.30pm (UAE time)
Pakistan are a side imploding in slow motion.
Sometimes that is not a bad thing, but on days such as these, the toxicity fairly spills out from every pore.
After the defeat to New Zealand, a loss that did not put them out of the tournament, the coach Waqar Younis admitted publicly that hope of progression was all but lost.
That was a reflection of the mood inside the team more than a clear-headed assessment of the points table. Pakistan can still go through, should they beat Australia and Australia then beat India on Sunday.
In the two days since that loss and in preparation for the Australia game, they have been preparing with the intensity often seen ahead of dead rubber games. They have gone to nets disinterested and poorly focused.
On Thursday, Shoaib Malik – Shahid Afridi’s absences from these interactions is telling too – had to begin by answering questions about dissent within the squad.
He played those down, instead arguing that the kind of media speculation swirling around the side had affected their game.
He also brushed away any impressions that Pakistan may not be focused enough on Friday.
“When you lose, you are disappointed,” he said. “In the heat of the moment, even wise people can say or do unwise things. I am sure Waqar didn’t mean to say we have no chance of beating Australia.
“We are professionals; even if we go to the semi-final or not, our job is to give 100 per cent. This is our opportunity. This is a big event, yes, but you learn that tomorrow is a new day. There is a day after that. There is a new tournament after that. Our first goal is to win tomorrow.”
To entertain thoughts of doing so they will have to ponder over a couple of selectorial decisions. Given that Australia would prefer less to face more overs of spin, the option of utilising Mohammed Nawaz’s left-arm spin is an attractive one.
Mohammed Irfan, who has had an unimpressive tournament, would be the likeliest to miss out. Wahab Riaz is fit enough again after missing the last match but is unlikely to return to the XI.
“We are not as bad as we are being portrayed,” Malik said. “We have lost close matches. Earlier if a team scored 180 against us, it used to be game over. Here we were almost threatening a one-sided chase after six overs. We have shown glimpses, but consistency is one thing that we are lacking. We will have to work on that.”
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