ICL: Indian Cricket League

A tour on which Pakistan came out second best


As Pakistan returned home on Tuesday morning from their tour of England, even the most avid Pakistani supporter would have to grant that controversies apart, purely from a cricketing point of view, this tour had been some way short of being Pakistan’s finest hour and that the tourists had come out second best in both the Test and ODI series.

It may be argued that if rain had not intervened in the first ODI at Cardiff, Pakistan may well have won the ODI series before the teams got to Trent Bridge, but the fact is that the manner of their defeat at Trent Bridge and Edgbaston erased any feeling of unquestioned superiority over England in the limited overs form of the game.

Perhaps again, the toss was a decisive factor at Edgbaston, but even with the wicket seaming around, it was not a wicket on which a good batting side could not have got more than 154.

All the old problems reared their ugly heads throughout this England tour. The opening batting problem remains as unsolved as it has been ever since Saeed Anwar left the scene and in spite of the fact that any number of combinations have been tried, there has only been limited success. In the entire tour, the openers only made one meaningful contribution at The Oval Test, and somewhat surprisingly, immediately after that, that one partnership that had performed was broken up.

Shoaib Malik, who has never looked technically equipped to be an opener, was brought into the side and failed repeatedly till he was sent in in the middle order at Trent Bridge where he also failed. He may have more success on subcontinental wickets but it may be advisable to look for an opener with a more compact technique so that he may be entrusted with the task even when the pitch is not straightforward.

Far too much of the batting relied on Yousuf, Younis and Inzamam. All teams have a few players who are a level above the others but this was a question of these three plus 75 runs for the team tally. That is not fair on Yousuf, Younis and Inzamam for they cannot be relied to score without fail. Even in Southampton in the third one dayer, when chasing a target of 272 Younis and Yousuf had scored 101 and 60 respectively, Pakistan still needed a contribution from Inzamam without which the match could well have been lost.

Apart from one performance from Razzaq at Trent Bridge, which struck one as being a once-in-a-lifetime effort, the lower middle order packed with three allrounders, failed to deliver repeatedly. One of them, Shahid Afridi, was used as a yo-yo in the batting order, moving up and down with alarming suddenness.

The move to send him at number three at Edgbaston was thoughtless, for with an established number three in Younis Khan, there is little need to experiment with that position. Also, with the ball jagging about, somebody with Afridi’s technique did not really stand much of a chance.

The bowling performed well on the whole, with the return of Shoaib Akhar and Mohammad Asif making a huge difference to the attack. Rana Naved was unfortunately off colour for the ODI series and perhaps needed more time to get back into the rhythm of things. Given the very commendable performance of Rao Iftikhar Anjum at Edgbaston, it would perhaps have been worthwhile to have given him a chance earlier in preference to the clearly out of form Naved.

The fielding was Pakistan’s weak link in both the Test and ODI series with wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal being the most disappointing. Ten months ago, when England were in Pakistan, he did not put a foot wrong; here, he didn’t seem able to put a foot right. This may have been due to an injury sustained by him early in the tour but whatever the reason, the wicket-keeping position which he appeared to have sealed during the winter, now looks unsealed and his selection for the World Cup can no longer be deemed automatic.

Yet, this was a young side with many touring England for the first time. The moving ball does present dilemmas which only exposure can cure and to that extent, this must have been a useful learning curve. On different subcontinental wickets, such as those on which the ICC Champions Trophy will be played, the results of the England tour may not count for all that much.

Source:The News

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This entry was posted on Thursday, September 14th, 2006 and is filed under General.

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