Beaten again

December 27, 2020

Pakistan batsmen flounder once again in New Zealand

As expected, New Zealand won the Twenty20 series against Pakistan quite convincingly — by a margin of 2-1. The home side won the first two matches by five and nine wickets, while the Green-shirts saved face by winning the last game by four wickets.

Pakistan lost both matches when batting first but surprisingly won the game while chasing which has been their weak area. The target that Pakistan reached was their fourth-highest chase in the shortest format.

Not so long ago, Pakistan were the number one in the T20 format, but now they are fourth, behind England, Australia and India.

In Babar Azam's absence, Muhammad Rizwan opened the batting in the series, scored 17 in Auckland and 22 in Hamilton before achieving his career-best 89 from 59 balls, including 10 fours and three sixes, in the third match. This was his maiden half-century.

Mohammad Hafeez’s 99 not out in the second match and quick 41 off 29 deliveries in the last game proved that he is still one of the best players for Pakistan in the shortest format.

Hafeez has been the most successful batsman in T20 Internationals this year. He scored 415 runs with four fifties. He surpassed India’s K Rahul score of 404 runs.

After 2013, he is the first Pakistani batsman to score most runs in the calendar year. In 2013, opener Ahmed Shehzad was the most successful batsman with 347 runs.

Skipper Babar’s absence badly hurt Pakistan, not only in the batting department but it also demoralised the team as a whole. Babar had fractured his right thumb while training in Queenstown ahead of the series.

Babar's absence exposed many weaknesses of Pakistan. With his ability to take singles, the scoreboard is always ticking. Hopefully when he comes back, things will return to normal because he is the glue that holds the batting together.

Young opener Haider Ali and Khushdil Shah both failed to grab the opportunity in the Kiwis land. Haider scored only 22 in three matches with a high score of 11. He hit only one six and one four in the series.

Left-handed Khushdil scored only 43 runs with five fours in the series. His high score was 16 and he played 50 deliveries for his 43 runs.

Right-handed top order young batsman Abdullah Shafique failed miserably in his first two matches. In both matches he was out without opening his account.

Abdullah is a talented player who scored 399 runs in 13 T20 matches with a good strike rate of over 130 in domestic cricket. He also scored one hundred and two fifties. In his only first-class match for Central Punjab he scored 133 runs against Southern Punjab.

It was unjust on the part of the selectors to make newcomers play in conditions where even experienced players are not comfortable.

Playing dot balls has remained a problem of Pakistani batsmen for a long time. The openers failed to take the advantage of power play. The management tried many combinations for the opening slots but no player except Babar cemented his place in the shortest format.

In the recently concluded T20 series, the Green-shirts played 147 dot balls (24.5 overs). Every dot ball creates pressure on the batsman and increases the required run rate.

The young batsmen lack experience and are facing difficulty in playing on fast and bouncy pitches.

Stand-in skipper Shadab Khan also accepted that most of his players were unfamiliar with New Zealand conditions. “Hopefully they'll learn from that and do better next time,” he said.

After every defeat, the captain promises that his team will overcome the mistakes that they done. But there is no improvement in the players' batting style. Pakistani players should not blame conditions for the loss in New Zealand. The pitches did not behave unexpectedly. Professional cricketers should be ready to face every challenge.

Winning and losing is part of the game, but the way Pakistani batsmen threw their wickets was disappointing. They lost their wickets one after another playing away from the body and on short balls.

New Zealand’s wicket-keeper batsman Tim Louis Seifert remained the most successful batsman of the T20 series with 176 runs, including two fifties, at an average of 88.

For Pakistan, Hafeez and Rizwan scored 140 and 128 runs, respectively, with one fifty each. Hafeez’s 160.91 strike rate was the highest from both sides.

Tim Southee took six wickets in the series with an incredible average of 7.66 and economy rate of just 5.75. Scott Kuggeleijn and Haris Rauf took five wickets each at averages of 20 and 22.40, respectively.

Shadab, Imad Wasim and Wahab Riaz remained wicket-less. All-rounder Faheem Ashraf bowled well, with a low economy rate of 5.51, taking four wickets at an average of 14.25.

Beaten again