Pakistan have had a number of strong middle-order batsmen in their Test cricket history, but the last six years have been exceptional in this respect
Pakistan have had a number of strong middle-order batsmen in their Test cricket history, but the last six years have been exceptional in this respect. There has been no period like this before. There has hardly been any change in the middle-order since 2010 – a rarity in Pakistan cricket.
Openers have come and gone in the same period. The selectors have tried many but none managed to become a reliable partner of Mohammad Hafeez, who has been rather consistent. While Taufiq Umer and Imran Farhat got out because of fitness issues, Ahmed Shehzad owing to disciplinary matters, Shan Masood, Nasir Jamshed and Khurram Manzoor came in and went out for failing to maintain their form. Shan made his debut in October 2013 but has so far played only seven Tests. Nasir got only two Tests because in four innings he made only 51 runs. Khurram has been good only occasionally.
But the middle-order rarely changed in the same period. So consistent have our middle-order batsmen been that Faisal Iqbal got into the squad many times on the basis of his strong domestic performances in these years but could not get into the playing XI.
Similar has been the case of Fawad Alam, who has been scoring heavily and consistently in domestic cricket over the years but hasn’t got a fourth Test to play.
Umar Akmal played his last Test in September 2011 because after that Asad Shafiq did not let any player to replace him.
The baby-faced Asad, who made his debut in Misbah’s second Test as captain, has failed to prove his mettle in limited overs cricket but has been very successful when wearing the white kit. His average of over 43 is pretty impressive for a batsman who comes in to bat at number six and has to bat with the tail on many occasions.
Younis Khan’s batting capabilities were never in doubt but he has become one of the greats in the last six years. He is now way ahead of Javed Miandad, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf in terms of runs, centuries and average. He can certainly be counted among the world’s greatest. Since November 2010, Younis has scored 14 centuries, including three double hundreds.
Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq has scored seven hundreds and as many as 28 half centuries. This late bloomer has surpassed such fine batsmen as Zaheer Abbas, Saleem Malik, Saeed Anwar, and even Hanif Mohammad as far as Test batting average is concerned.
Azhar Ali, who began his career very impressively in England six years ago and is the only surviving batsman from that tour, has never looked back. He has been very firm in the one-down position, much better than Ijaz Ahmed who occupied the position for much of the 1990s.
If these four perform in England the way they have done in last six years, there can be no reason why Pakistan should not win matches.