Forgettable starts

April 2, 2023

Except Ihsanullah, the rookies given chances in the absence of seniors against Afghanistan failed to make a promising start to their international careers

Forgettable starts

Pakistan lost their first ever T20I series against Afghanistan 2-1 in Sharjah last week. This was Afghanistan’s first bilateral T20I series win against any of the top six teams — India, England, Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

Afghanistan had previously won a T20I series each against the West Indies and Bangladesh and five in five against Zimbabwe. Pakistan made the series defeat a little respectable by winning the third T20I by 66 runs.

Having lost the first two matches by six and seven wickets, respectively, Pakistan posted a strong 182-7 in 20 overs before restricting Afghanistan to 116 in 18.4 overs.

In the absence of five rested front-line players, including Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan and Shaheen Afridi, Pakistan struggled against the pace and spin of Afghanistan on Sharjah’s slow wickets.

In the first two matches, Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat first but on both occasions, the top order failed to deliver. It shows that without Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, the Green-shirts don’t have their backup.

After winning the series against Pakistan, Afghanistan captain Rashid Khan said, “It’s a special occasion to be part of this team. We won the series, but we have some areas to improve on. We responded well under pressure. We have struggled under pressure in the past but I’m happy that we chased in a couple of games.”

After the series defeat, Pakistan skipper Shadab Khan said, “Conditions were totally different in Sharjah,” adding, “Any team facing Afghanistan in these conditions would have met the same fate. The motive behind sending the young team for the assignment was to prepare the bench strength.

“The series was for our youngsters. We tried to give them confidence. Sometimes, this can happen due to the nerves of international cricket but we have to back them because they have the talent.”

Shadab requested the people of the country to support the youngsters.

Pakistan’s wicket-keeper batsman, Mohammad Rizwan also backed the young squad. “I strongly believe in these young superstars of Pakistan cricket. Stay strong. Let these losses fuel your inner fire. Keep working hard. Keep believing. You are champions. You will come back with a bang,” Rizwan wrote on his Twitter account.

Many players who were the stars in Pakistan Super League (PSL) failed to take the pressure of international matches.

Abdullah Shafique made a comeback into the T20I side through his performances in the PSL season eight. But it was a horrible comeback as he became the first batsman in T20Is to score four ducks in a row.

The right-hander scored two consecutive ducks against New Zealand in Auckland and Hamilton back in 2020 before scoring two more against Afghanistan in this series.

Representing Lahore Qalandars, the Sialkot-born cricketer had scored 268 runs in 10 innings at an average of 26.80, including two half-centuries, helping his side to defend the title.

Middle order batsman Azam Khan, who got fame in the PSL-8 for his towering sixes, has also failed miserably in international matches as he scored only one run in two innings.

Saim Ayub and Mohammad Haris also failed to repeat their PSL performances and managed only 66 and 22 runs, respectively, in the series.

During the series, Shadab became the first Pakistani and seventh bowler overall to complete 100 T20I wickets. He did it in his 87th match.

Shadab’s achievement places him in an exclusive club of only seven bowlers who have taken 100 T20I wickets. The others are Tim Southee, Shakib Al Hasan, Rashid Khan, Ish Sodhi, Lasith Malinga, and Mustafizur Rehman.

No batsman from either side scored a 100 runs in the series. Pakistani all-rounder Imad Wasim was the highest run-getter of the series with 95 runs in three T20I at an average of 47.50. He also scored the only fifty in the series. Rahmanullah Gurbaz was the top scorer from Afghanistan with 78 runs, averaging 26.0.

Pakistan fast bowler Ihsanullah remained the most successful bowler of the series with six wickets in three matches, averaging 11.50 with a good economy rate of 6.35. Afghanistan’s Fazalhaq Farooqi was behind him with five wickets at an average of 11.40 and an economy rate of 4.75.

Both skippers Shadab Khan and Rashid Khan got three wickets each, averaging 17.33 and 20.66, respectively. Shadab’s economy rate (4.72) was better than Rashid’s (5.16).

The T20I series against New Zealand is starting from April 14. Despite the failure in the series against Afghanistan, only a few changes are expected for the T20I matches against New Zealand. Usama Mir, Haseebullah, and Abrar Ahmed are also in contention for the series.

Keeping the preparations for the 2023 World Cup in mind, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) management has decided to avoid experiments for the ODI matches.

Forgettable starts