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Pakistan register much needed win

Jamal Ahmad

Pak v UAE

March 4th 2015

 

Pakistan’s batting lineup finally got going in a match they had to win and win big. Misbah lost the toss yet again. He must’ve been excited on hearing his opposite number Tauqir opting to field first. Toss seems to be a problem with Pakistan and lady luck seems to desert them more often than not. Being the ridiculous chasers that our team is, it is essential to put up a total on the board and try to use our strength to defend it. Bowling has been Pakistan’s strength for decades to the extent that some really talented fast men have had to sit out due to the competition. However, Pakistan’s current bowling resources have been depleted due to various factors.

Nasir Jamshed’s lack of application and consistent failures has infuriated millions of Pakistani fans all over the world. With scores of 0, 1 and 4, his place is the side is extremely questionable and if Pakistan hopes to go beyond the group stage, then a solid platform is imperative at the start. For that, both openers need to put in some hard work and give the innings much needed momentum. Nasir was against dismissed in a manner that has become his trademark. Bowlers have found him out and are aware he would attempt to pull a slightly short of a length ball. Again, he repeated the same error and gave his wicket away. For someone struggling for runs, a good outing against an associate team is the best chance to get back in the groove. However, Nasir did not take the opportunity and surely needs to be rested for the remainder of the tournament. Sarfraz has been tried as an opener in the past and should be brought in against the mighty Proteas to partner Ahmad Shahzad. Although bringing him in directly in a match against the South Africans might not be fair to him but Pakistan’s options are limited.

On the other hand, Ahmad Shahzad made the most of this opportunity, though he was the recipient of multiple reprieves by the UAE fielders. He started slowly but his innings gathered momentum as he found some of his rhythm and played a few exquisite strokes all around the wicket. He was unlucky to be dismissed runout in the 90s when his bat was in the air. ICC needs to look at two rules which really don’t make a lot of sense.

  1. Run out with the bat in the air while it is well inside the crease
  2. Giving a boundary when the fielder touches the rope while the ball is well within the field of play

Some people may argue that in the first case, the same rule applies when the batsmen is stumped with his foot in the air. A counter argument is that a spinner is allowed to keep his back foot in the air as long as its shadow falls within the crease.

Haris Sohail continues to impress and may well be given the no. 3 spot permanently after the world cup. With Misbah retiring and Younas Khan despairingly out of form, Sohail provides the most suitable option. He is a busy cricketer and does not seem to get bogged down, keeps the score ticking along and has a habit of finding gaps in the field and running singles.

Misbah is a warrior and his true worth will only be felt once he is no longer part of the ODI squad. Given a solid platform he played an aggressive knock and scored at better than a run a ball. He is certainly capable of cashing in once he gets settled, but it’s his misfortune that he is required to rebuild the innings when the openers have been dismissed cheaply more often that he would like to do so. His quick knock provided the impetus that propelled the innings forward.

Umar Akmal is a talented batsman with a shadow of a doubt. But his dual role is bringing him down. His role  in the squad needs to be clearly defined. Is he a wicketkeeper batsman or just a makeshift glovesman? If he is to be given this dual role on a permanent basis, then he needs to work really hard on his keeping skills. Limited ability might be acceptable at the T20 level, but in the longer version he will be repeatedly found out. With Sarfraz sitting on the bench and with a healthy batting record in recent times, it is beyond comprehension why the team management is not willing to gamble with him for a match or two.

Sohaib Maqsood has got the skills and temperament to be a permanent fixture in the middle order and he should be given a long run. He has the power and timing to play the big shots and take the attach to the opposition when required.

Afridi finally got the two runs which took him past 8,000 ODI runs and provided some customary fireworks in the final over. At a strike rate of 116.7 he is by far the fastest to get there in terms of balls faced, however he has taken the most number of matches. One just wonders if he had taken his batting more seriously and been slightly more selective in his shots, what he could have achieved.

Pakistan managed to get the required acceleration at the death and hammered over 120 runs in the final ten overs. They did benefit from multiple chances in the field and some toothless bowling and need to start changing gears a bit earlier in the innings to be able to reach scores like 400 and beyond.

The men from the emirates would not have fancied their chances much when chasing 340. After the early blows,their batting crumbled under the weight of the target. Irfan again bowled with accuracy and control. After only three overs he went off the field. One just hopes there is nothing serious and he can recover in time to take on the Proteas. Pakistan’s schedule is tricky with a nine day gap between their 2nd and 3rd game and then three games within a period of seven days. Whoever came up with such an unbalanced timetable deserves a medal.

Rahat Ali has been pretty consistent with his line and length and has been getting regular movement in the air and off the pitch. His economy rate is well within control as well and has a happy nag of taking wickets. He should be persisted with for the rest of the tournament. Sohail Khan is the quicker of the two and got the initial breakthroughs. Though he seems to experiment too much, especially towards the end of the innings. If a fast bowler is getting smashed for over 20 runs by lower order batsmen twice in the space of three matches, then something is definitely not right.

Afridi finally got among the wickets with a brace and took his tally to 395. He is five short of becoming the only cricketer to have scored over 8000 runs and taken 400 wickets. A truly remarkable all round achievement that would be.

Pakistan had the opposition on the backfoot at 25 for 3 but let the foot off the gas and allowed the batsmen to build a partnership and settle down. A slip and close catchers could’ve build some more pressure. Easy singles were given in abundance. A more aggressive approach would’ve helped in increasing the eventual victory margin, especially in a group where the final spots for the elimination rounds may yet be determined by the net run rate.

Spin remains a problem. Haris Shoail and Maqsood can only be considered part timers at best. At the end of the day, it was a much needed win, which puts us back in contention for the qualification spots. South Africa however, is going to be a totally different prospect, but if Pakistan is to progress further, they need to beat top teams. A good fight and a close contest is what one hopes to see over the weekend.

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