(Reuters) - Pakistan lived up to their billing as international cricket’s most unpredictable side during their World Cup campaign, narrowly missing out on a semi-final spot and leaving coach Mickey Arthur to ponder what might have been.
The 1992 champions went into their World Cup opener against West Indies on the back of 10 straight losses and were bundled out for 105 inside 22 overs en route to a humiliating seven-wicket drubbing.
The Jekyll and Hyde specialists backed that up in typical style in their second match, though, by spectacularly turning the table on hosts and pre-tournament favourites England with a 14-run victory.
Four more wins followed but the magnitude of that opening loss ultimately proved their undoing when the final calculations were made.
Sarfaraz Ahmed’s men were tied with New Zealand on 11 points from nine matches but their inferior net run rate meant the Black Caps went through and Pakistan headed home.
“It’s been a World Cup of ifs and buts, a tournament of two halves and that’s disappointing,” Arthur told reporters.
“We’ve ended very strongly and it’s nice to know we’ve beaten two of those semi-finalists, which shows we are not a mile off in terms of ourselves as a cricket team.
“When you lose the first game the way we did against the West Indies, it’s really hard to get your net run rate back and that has ultimately cost us,” added the South African.
“I think the nerves got the better of us that day, something that won’t happen again in four years with this team. We froze but I was so proud of how we bounced back and how much we’ve learned.”
Pakistan also went down tamely to arch-rivals India in Manchester and lost a match against Sri Lanka to the rain but finished the tournament on a high with wins over South Africa, New Zealand, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Even if it was a familiar tale for Pakistan, Arthur was looking at the positives and said he was convinced the team were on an upward trajectory.
“The average age of our side is just 24, that’s something to be really proud about and it bodes well for the future of Pakistan cricket,” said Arthur, who has also coached his native South Africa and Australia.
“Their work ethic, grit and passion has been a credit them. You don’t see what goes on in this dressing room, I can see their desire and their determination to improve and that means our cricket is in safe hands.
“Watch the highlights package of this World Cup and they’ll be a lot of Pakistan players on it. The guys can leave with their heads held very high.
“I’m just very passionate about this team, I want to see Pakistan get back to where they need to be.”
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Nick Mulvenney