Cricket: Pakistan rising

November 8, 2015

A lot of credit must go to Misbah on what may be his last Test unless he agrees to extend his stay by a year as PCB officials are asking him to do. But if he doesn’t and the Indian series doesn’t take place and he calls it a day at least he would have finished on a winning note

Cricket: Pakistan rising

Pakistan deserve all the credit they get for winning the Test series against England. Barring that aberration on the last day of the first Test where they were saved by bad light, they have dominated more than they have been dominated.

To be fair to England, it must be stated that they suffered greatly from Ben Stokes’ injury on the very first day. That set them back with a third seamer who had taken four wickets in Pakistan’s first innings of the opening Test and had batted well in at least one innings out of four.

He would have definitely helped England get a bigger lead than they did on the third day.

But all said and done most expectations from the Pakistani players came to fruition. In fact, Shoaib Malik threw a surprise by his double century comeback to Test cricket.

Though his subsequent outings were hugely discounted that led him to perhaps realize that the five-day game in which the main bowlers keep coming at you relentlessly with slips and short-leg in place was not for him his contribution with the ball was a revelation.

He had had a poor record with bowling in Test cricket but this time he took wickets of important batsmen at vital stages. His four wickets in England’s first innings led to the lead being shortened. That he took seven wickets in what was his last Test is something of a record in Test cricket; overall 11 wickets at just over 20 and topping the bowling averages was a great and ironical ending considering his past record as a Test bowler.

It was a complete spin trio as Pakistan used to have before Hafeez was banned from bowling. Yasir Shah of course continues to blossom and the ball with which he clean bowled Samit Patel recalled memories of Shane Warne bowling Andrew Strauss in the 2005 Ashes. Except I think this was even more artful as he made Patel play a defensive shot to the ball pitching outside leg that eventually took his off stump.

Perhaps he had learned this length and grip from Shane Warne in the much publicized pre match session the two had. It is clear that Yasir Shah has truly arrived as a leg spinner to mark himself in the same class as the best before him.

I was also pleased to see how Zulfiqar Babar made a comeback after a poor first Test. It would have broken many a spinner to go almost barren in that game. But as the saying goes bowlers hunt in pairs and the return of Yasir perhaps provided him with the abstract support needed at the other end. Good for him as there was talk already of bringing back Abdur Rehman.

I hope Rehman is given another Test at least to get his 100th Test wicket; retiring with 99 wickets can be a lifetime pain. However, it appears remote, considering Babar is back in top form.

A lot of credit must go to Misbah on what may be his last Test unless he agrees to extend his stay by a year as PCB officials are asking him to do. But if he doesn’t and the Indian series doesn’t take place and he calls it a day at least he would have finished on a winning note and a total of 109 runs in his last game.

It’s been a great series for Asad Shafiq as well. The diminutive man has shown tremendous guts and resilience throughout the series, thrice passing fifty and in one of those instances crossing hundred and an overall tally of 326 runs at an average of 54.

The way Hafeez has stormed back in this series has been outstanding. He almost ended the series with two dismissals in the 90s but thankfully a failed stumping in this Test allowed him to get a big hundred. He has perhaps realized that with Shan Masood scoring he has to now show his value, especially because he has lost the advantage of being seen as an all-rounder.

With Malik having come and gone, he has the option of moving down to No 3 post Misbah should Pakistan want to play Shahzad and Shan as openers and either Azhar or Younus move down to No 5.

Pakistan’s pace attack remains unstable. Broad and Anderson showed up the Pakistani fast men though Wahab excelled in that one spell in the second Test and Imran Khan was penetrative consistently. But both of them as well as Rahat were outshone by Anderson in all Tests and Broad in the third.

Pakistan have to work hard in this department in the five-day game. Bowlers are breaking down and I don’t see anyone other than Wahab coming up to bowl at over 150 km/hr.

It remains to be seen how much speed Junaid can generate after his injury. I would have played him in this Test just to gauge that considering he couldn’t have bowled poorer than Rahat.

A word for Sarfraz Ahmed. Yes, his batting was fantastic from the time he launched into the Australian bowling attack last year. I have been for the past four years his greatest supporter; he has vastly improved in keeping skills also now that he has the mental peace of being assured a place.

But he must now curb his style of batting to show more responsibility and play to the demands of the moment. His impetuousness in the first innings where he continued attacking led to a late order collapse. Had he stayed longer, Pakistan would have crossed 300.

Nevertheless all that must be spoken to him by the coaches. For the moment let us rejoice in what has been a great series.

Cricket: Pakistan rising