Pakistan lost to Australia by 41 runs on Wednesday in the 17th match of the 2019 World Cup. Let us take a deep dive and analyse what went wrong, and surprisingly, what went right during the clash.
Mohammad Amir silences critics
It’s quite well known that Mohammad Amir’s selection was questioned and criticised taking into account his performance after the 2017 Champions Trophy final. Many believed that he had lost his swing and wicket taking ability. He has more or less silenced those critics by bowling phenomenally against Australia. His figures of 5-30 suggest he was bowling on a completely different pitch compared to the other Pakistani bowlers.
Wahab Riaz turbocharged
I myself criticised the out of nowhere selection of Wahab Riaz considering his dismal performance in the 2017 Champions Trophy which was also held in England and Wales. That being said, no one can question Wahab’s effort throughout this World Cup. If all the other players are giving their 100%, then Wahab is giving his 150% with both bat and ball. He was unlucky while bowling due to a drop catch but bowled with good pace and aggression. He also battled brilliantly scoring 45 and putting on 64 with Sarfaraz. It took an exceptional delivery from Starc and the faintest of edges of end Wahab’s heroics. Had he stayed at the crease for another 3-4 overs, Pakistan would have been favourites.
Babar and Hafeez in good form
Both Babar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez have looked in excellent form throughout the World Cup. Babar’s stroke play is a pleasure to watch and Hafeez’s ability to score at or above a run a ball relieves pressure in the middle overs. With that being said both players got out softly at a critical stage in the match. If Babar wants to guide Pakistan deep into the match then he has to improve his survivability by not playing risky shots. And Hafeez needs to choose shots more wisely taking into account fielding positions.
No one seems to exactly know why Shadab Khan was excluded from the match against Australia. Shadab is an attacking leg spinner who has a terrific record of picking up critical wickets in the middle overs, so his omission was highly criticised by fans and past players. Instead, Pakistan went with four seamers; Amir, Wahab, Shaheen and Hasan.
Shaheen and Hasan were expensive
Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali were both expensive during their spells. Shaheen Afridi picked up the critical wickets of Glenn Maxwell and David Warner, two of Australia’s big hitters. Hasan on the other hand picked the wicket of Pat Cummins. The way Amir bowled compared to Shaheen and Hasan made it look like they were bowling on different pitches. In reality, however, it had to do with the length of where they were bowling. Amir bowled fuller, allowing the ball to seam and making the batsmen push at good line and length. Hasan and Shaheen were too short or wide which resulted in them being punished by the Australians. Both need to improve where they pitch the ball and ideally they should be guided by both Wahab and Amir as per match conditions.
Malik and Asif need to prove their worth
Shoaib Malik’s role in the team can best be described as a middle order batsmen meant to finish games with the help of big hitters like Asif Ali. Both Malik and Asif, however, are struggling to fulfil their roles or make runs. Perhaps Malik’s position in the batting line up is a factor in his form since he is used to coming in at 4 or 5 but in the last two matches has batted at 7 and 6. His movement up the order will be difficult since Babar permanently occupies the third position and Hafeez and Sarfaraz are playing well at 4 and 5. Asif’s fielding is also not helping his cause since he dropped two critical catches against Australia. Asif must find form quickly with the bat or the voices of critics will get louder.
Pakistan’s next match on Sunday (today) will see them play against India, a top side with a balanced batting and bowling line up. Pakistan’s batsmen and bowlers will need to perform exceptionally well to ensure a victory. Let us hope the team clicks.