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Editorial

October 13, 2017

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Tough test

Tough test

Just over a year ago Pakistan rose to number one position in World Test rankings on the back of a spectacular run under the captaincy of Misbah-ul-Haq. This week, the team fell to number seven in the Test list following a stunning 2-0 series defeat against Sri Lanka, a team that came to the UAE after being thrashed 3-0 at home by India. It’s a dramatic fall for Pakistan in the five-day format but it’s not entirely unexpected. They have stumbled in their very first outing following the twin retirement of their batting stars – Misbah and Younis Khan – against a lower-rated team in their UAE fortress. This should be a big cause for concern for the men at the helm of Pakistan cricket. The series against Sri Lanka was supposed to be an easy assignment for new captain Sarfraz Ahmed and his relatively young team. Perhaps, Pakistan took things for granted. They didn’t prepare well for the two-Test series and then made selection blunders which resulted in back-to-back losses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It’s the first time that Pakistan have lost a series in the UAE since they made it their home post 2009. But the way things are going it might not be the last.

Just a few months ago, Pakistan showed the sort of commitment and hunger that turns a team into a winning unit when they triumphed in the ICC Champions Trophy in England against all odds. That hunger and commitment was clearly missing in the UAE. Pakistan’s batsmen lacked purpose while their half-fit fast bowlers were below-par. Pakistan erred by not playing a second specialist spinner in Abu Dhabi and then repeated the same mistake in Dubai. It’s quite a mystery because they have almost always won in the UAE through two specialist spinners. And in the stifling October heat, pacers do not have much hope of winning Tests on batting-friendly wickets in the UAE. But all those mistakes do not absolve the team’s shaky batting line-up. Pakistan have to solve their opening problem and should rethink Babar Azam’s place in the Test line-up. They will have to learn to live without Misbah and Younis. Batters like Asad Shafiq, Pakistan’s only centurion in the series, and debutante Haris Sohail did show some fight but what Pakistan need is more consistency from them and other batsmen. If the batting cannot cross the 300-run mark in the UAE then one can imagine what its fate would be like in places like Australia, England or South Africa. The defeat against Sri Lanka comes as a rude wake-up call for Pakistan, who are guilty of an extended period of celebration following the Champions Trophy. The honeymoon for Sarfraz and Co is over. When it comes to Test cricket, they have a mountain to climb. Are they up to the big task? Only time will tell.

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