By Amlan Chakraborty
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Predicting the results of the famously fickle Pakistan is always a tricky task but fans have been struck by an eerie similarity at this World Cup to their triumphant 1992 campaign and hope it continues all the way to the final.
Pakistan’s loss-win-washout-loss-loss-win sequence in their first six matches in England mirrored their stop-start run 27 years ago in Australia.
Just like in 1992, they also ran into a New Zealand side hitherto unbeaten in the tournament and, uncannily enough, pulled off a victory on Wednesday to fuel hopes of a late run into the semi-finals.
Babar Azam smashed an unbeaten century and Haris Sohail provided the middle-order steel with his second successive fifty after fast bowler Shaheen Afridi had wrecked the Kiwi batting order.
Leading the tributes to their stunning turnaround was Imran Khan, the captain of the victorious 1992 team and now their Prime Minister.
“Congratulations to our cricket team for a great comeback. Congratulations especially go to Babar, Haris and Shaheen for their brilliant performances,” Khan tweeted.
Pakistan, currently sixth in the points table with matches against Bangladesh and Afghanistan to play, still have an uphill struggle to make the last four.
The spooky parallels have already spawned numerous memes on social media, with some of their long-suffering fans beginning to believe the stuttering run might culminate with them winning their second World Cup title next month.
Some have even gone further and predicted that if that happens, captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, following in Khan’s footsteps, would go on to become the country’s prime minister in 2045.
Leading a side still unsure of a place in the semi-finals, Sarfaraz is naturally not getting too ahead of himself.
“We are not thinking about 1992, we are going match by match,” the wicketkeeper-batsman said after the six-wicket victory over New Zealand.
The jubilation among fans is in contrast to their mood after they lost to arch-rivals India in the June 16 contest in Manchester.
Irate fans questioned the players’ professionalism and even mocked Sarfaraz in London.
Back-to-back victories since then have lifted the gloom and several former players took to Twitter to congratulate the team.
“Never corner Pakistan. We become tigers when you do that. Congratulations & well done boys,” former fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar wrote.
“Pakistan keep the dream alive,” tweeted former captain Wasim Akram.
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in Manchester; editing by Toby Davis)