Over the last three decades, Pakistan cricket has been through some thrilling highs and crushing lows. The form book goes out of the window when the side enters a big tournament. As always, there is no saying which version of Pakistan turns up. They could go on a losing spree, even get humbled by sides ranked lower than them or upset all odds.

Captain Sarfaraz Ahmed will take heart from the fact that his side have a history of doing well in England. In recent years, they earned two drawn Test series and stunned India in the final two years ago to clinch the ICC Champions Trophy. A decade ago, Pakistan also sealed their first World T20 title in the country. The last time England hosted a World Cup, they reached the finals. A good show here won’t be something that you would bet against.

They have a top order who have been among the runs recently. While their bowling lineup has gone through some serious shake-up, they can hurt sides as a unit. It remains to be seen if Wahab Riaz, who made a late comeback in the squad, can regain his form from four years ago. After all, he bowled one of the greatest spells in World Cup history, but has been out of international action for a while now.

History at the World Cup

Pakistan came into their own at the mega event in 1987, where they were beaten semi-finalists. They had reached the the semis four years earlier as well but failed to make an impression. However, the nation scaled to the summit of world cricket as Imran Khan’s team went on a blazing run in 1992. After being knocked out by India in a high-voltage quarter-final in 1996, Wasim Akram’s men – who were undoubtedly one of the best in the world at the time – reached the summit event before going down tamely to Australia.

The 2007 edition remains their worst-ever performance and just like their neighbours, remarkably, failed to reach the Super Sixes.

In the 21st century, though, Pakistan have been underwhelming barring the 2011 edition in the subcontinent. During that tournament, they halted Australia’s 34-match unbeaten run in World Cups that stretched to three World Cups. In 2015, Wahab Riaz and Pakistan had Australia on the ropes in Adelaide. However, the eventual champions managed to get out of jail.

One theme has been constant though: Pakistan still don’t have a win over arch-rivals India in cricket’s biggest stage and on June 16, they play each other for the seventh time in the competition.

Pakistan's history at the World Cup

Edition Played-Won-Lost-No Result Summary
1975 P:3, W:1, L:2 Pakistan finished third in a group comprising of finallists Australia and West Indies and crashed out.
1979 P: 4, W:2, L:2 This time, Pakistan edged out Australia to reach the semis, where they were knocked out by West Indies.
1983 P:7, W:4, L:3 Pakistan were knocked out by West Indies yet again in the semi-finals.
1987 P:7, W:5, L:2 Despite having a good World Cup, their semi-final jinx continues. This time, they were defeated by Australia.
1992 P:10, W:6, L:3, NR:1 CHAMPIONS for the first time under Imran Khan's inspirational leadership.
1996 P:6, W:4, L:2,  Pakistan lost to India at Bangalore in the quarter-finals.
1999 P:10, W:6, L:4 Runners-up. Comfortably finished second best to Australia in the final.
2003 P: 6, W:2, L:3, NR:1
Didn't go past the group stages.
2007 P:3:, W:2, L:1 Another group Stage exit after an embarrassing loss to newcomers Ireland. 
2011 P:8, W:6, L:2 India were once again a thorn in their flesh, knocking them out in the semis.
2015 P: 7, W:4, L:3 Australia beat them in the quarter-finals

Since World Cup 2015

Pakistan haven’t been getting a lot of wins under their belt. Bangladesh and Afghanistan have almost as many wins as them playing fewer matches in the last four years. Their highest point was winning the Champions Trophy. Barring that, Sarfaraz’s side have lost heavily to England twice, were crushed by Bangladesh in 2015. South Africa were barely tested earlier this year at home.

Playing in Australia continued to be a nightmare, quite ironically, since they have won a World Cup there. Their journey to New Zealand was also forgettable. Having lost to Bangladesh and Ireland before they became Test nations, Pakistan cannot afford any upset losses in the tournament, especially with a lot riding on each game. Afghanistan got the better of them during a warm-up match at the time of writing.

Since the 2015 World Cup, Pakistan have won 35 and lost 42 in the 80 matches they have played. Among the teams at the World Cup, only Sri Lanka and West Indies have worse W/L ratio. Pakistan are also on a 10-match losing streak in ODIs heading into the World Cup.

Top five batsmen since the 2015 World Cup

Player Matches [Innings] Runs [50s/100s] Average/Strike Rate
Babar Azam 64[62] 2739 [12/9] 51.67/85.96
Shoaib Malik 68[62] 2036 [13/2] 43.31/93.60
Mohammad Hafeez 55[53] 1819 [14/2] 38.70/84.36
Fakhar Zaman 36[36] 1642 [10/4] 51.31/98.14
Sarfaraz Ahmed  67[52] 1495 [9/1] 38.33/89.73

Top five bowlers since the 2015 World Cup

Player Matches [Innings] Wickets [5-fors/4-fors] Average / Strike Rate
Hasan Ali 49[47] 80 [3/1] 26.56/29.3
Shadab Khan  34[33] 47 [0/3] 27.74/34.6
Imad Wasim  46[45] 39 [1/0] 42.02/52.2
Junaid Khan* 28[28] 35 [0/1] 36.37/38.1
Mohammad Amir 36[35] 35 [0/0] 39.17/48.1
*Junaid Khan is not a part of the World Cup squad

Keys to qualifying for the semi-finals

Run-scoring was a problem at the start of the year but Imam-ul-Haq has solved that problem at the top of the order. The classy southpaw has been in terrific form recently. Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam are key figures in the top-order.

As far as batting is concerned, Pakistan have got into the groove. Despite coming second best to England in the bilateral series, they would have been encouraged by their batsmen consistently getting to the 350-run mark. The inclusion of Riaz and Mohammad Amir has added spice to the bowling lineup, even if they are not in the best form. However, it remains to be seen if both left-armers would feature in the playing XI. The Pakistanis also have young sensation Shaheen Afridi in their ranks. On paper atleast, Sarfaraz has a vast variety of quicks to choose from.

But the one glaring area of concern for Pakistan is the lower middle-order and success there could be decisive in qualifying for the semi-finals. Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik have bags of experience. Their contribution is crucial and need to support the top-order.

Most teams have a big-hitter in the ranks: Jos Buttler for England, India’s Hardik Pandya, Australia’s Marcus Stoinis, West Indies’ Andre Russell and South Africa’s David Miller to name a few. Pakistan, miss someone of that ilk and this is where Shoaib Malik plays a key role. So the onus is on the the top-four to score heavily.

X-Factor at CWC 2019

Imam Ul Haq/AFP
Imam Ul Haq/AFP

Imam-ul-Haq is the man in form and there is little doubt that he will be among the runs again. The opener has turned out to be one of Pakistan’s best finds in recent times.

He recently scored his highest ODI score and amassed 234 runs in four matches against England. While Imam builds big scores at a steady pace, his batting partner Fakhar Zaman looks to step on the accelerator from the get-go, and is a perfect foil. Pakistan play two matches at Trent Bridge and one each at Taunton and Bristol, all of which are surfaces favourable for batsmen. Imam should be licking his lips at this prospect. After all, none of his teammates have scored as many as him in the recent past and the 23-year-old is one of the more bankable players in the squad.

Squad

Sarfaraz Ahmed (c), Asif Ali, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnanin, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Wahab Riaz

Fixtures

Opponents Venue Date Time [IST]
West Indies  Trent Bridge, Nottingham  Friday, May 31 3:00 pm
England  Trent Bridge, Nottingham  Monday, June 3 3:00 pm
Sri Lanka  Bristol County Ground, Bristol Friday, June 7 3:00 pm
Pakistan  County Ground, Taunton  Wednesday, June 12 3:00 pm
India  Old Trafford, Manchester Sunday, June 16 3:00 pm
South Africa Lord's, London
Sunday, June 23 3:00 pm
New Zealand Edgbaston, Birmingham Wednesday, June 26 3:00 pm
Afghanistan  Headingley, Leeds Saturday, June 29 3:00 pm
Bangladesh Lord's, London Friday, July 5 3:00 pm