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  1. #1
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    Pakistanís Manchester Meltdown ultimately cost them their unbeaten Test decade against England

    Many thanks to @Markhor for this incisive and hard-hitting piece which examines what went wrong with Pakistan's planning and execution of those plans on the recently concluded Test series against England.




    England were 117-5. Ollie Pope helplessly edged a ball rearing up from a length to gully. Jos Buttler, whoís never looked at ease in Test cricket, and Chris Woakes, only reaching double figures twice in his previous ten innings, were the last recognised pair before the tail. This was Pakistanís moment having bossed the first two and a half days, and despite a collapse on the third afternoon, looked certain to beat England who produced an error strewn performance thus far. Somehow, Pakistan construed to let the game slip through their fingers allowing England to pull off their second highest chase in Manchester. With rain denying any hope of a result in the remaining Tests in Southampton Ė Manchester was where the series was won and lost.

    The captain in cricket, unlike most other sports where the role is little more than a figurehead, is the ultimate decision maker on the field. Former England skipper Nasser Hussain described a ďgut feelĒ for the game being essential for the role. Yet Azhar Aliís previous stint as ODI captain demonstrated few signs of it when his team descended to 9th in the rankings. Nevertheless, the PCB appointed him as Test captain last October. His tenure began with a disastrous whitewash in Australia. Home wins against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh bought temporary relief, but criticism has come thundering after Manchesterís meltdown.

    Fans were left scratching their head as to why Chris Woakes, repeatedly dismissed by short balls last year in the Caribbean and during the Ashes, was not targeted with the same ploy. Naseem Shah, the quickest of Pakistanís pace trio, was not utilised around the wicket with a short leg and a leg slip or gully. Instead Pakistan continued feeding Woakesís strength delivering length balls outside off. Buttlerís counterattack meanwhile meant Azhar quickly retreated onto the defensive. The winning runs came with a thick outside edge past the vacant third slip Ė indicative of Azharís captaincy. Why not deploy a third slip when your side desperately needs wickets? What was the use of conserving runs by that stage? Furthermore, despite much talk of Shadab Khan providing a fifth bowling option Ė he bowled a grand total of 11.3 overs in the Test.

    Some argue Pakistan lost that Test in their 2nd innings. 107 ahead, Pakistan needed to bat sensibly on a wearing, up and down pitch yet inexcusably collapsed for 169 - the biggest culprits being their senior batsmen. Azhar Ali had averaged 12 outside Asia in the previous three years leading into the tour. His technical weakness of playing around his front pad with his head falling over to the offside meant a susceptibility to LBW. Azhar was dismissed twice this way in Manchester. Meanwhile Shafiq, having played more consecutive Tests than the likes of Viv Richards, Brian Lara and Javed Miandad, went missing under pressure yet again. In the 1st innings, he tamely edged to slip defending with an angled bat. In the 2nd innings, he was run out just when his partnership with Mohammad Rizwan was threatening to take the game away from England.

    There is no explanation why Asad Shafiq, despite averaging 27 outside Asia since the retirement of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan with not a single hundred, remains un-droppable. Itís impossible to imagine any of the top ranked sides tolerating such mediocrity, such lack of responsibility from a senior player, for so long especially when there have been other middle-order batsmen racking up the runs in domestic cricket. One wonders how selection decisions are made in Pakistan, and whether performance even factors into the criteria, or whether the buzzword of ďexperienceĒ forgives any amount of underperformance.

    Azhar in all fairness produced a gem of an innings in Southampton. Having conceded 583, all eyes were on the skipper. On a flat deck where young Zak Crawley produced a staggering 267, there could be no excuses. Azhar looked far more balanced at the crease and produced glowing praise from the great Brian Lara. However, by then it was too late for Pakistan. With no hope of enough time in the game for a result due to torrential rain, it was a hundred delivered under no pressure, and a knock Pakistan needed three weeks earlier. Despite Babar Azamís stellar run of form in international cricket, he too had an underwhelming series. Babar batted gloriously to reach 69 in the 1st innings in Manchester, but gave his wicket away driving outside offstump in the very first over of the second day. Pakistan couldíve scored a total well in excess of 329 had Babar kept his concentration, especially with Shan Masood batting superbly at the other end. Babar never reached the heights of that first knock in the remainder of the series, albeit in difficult conditions with rain continually disrupting proceedings.

    There were positives in Pakistanís batting however. Mohammad Rizwan produced a pair of gutsy and pugnacious fifties in the Southampton Tests. Rizwan was exceptional with the gloves in a country where keeping is never easy with the movement of the Dukes ball that can wobble even after passing the batsmen which infamously tormented Kamran Akmal in 2006. Shan Masood never replicated his heroics in the 1st innings in Manchester where he produced the highest knock by a Pakistani Test opener in England since Saeed Anwar in 1996. His nemesis, James Anderson, troubled him once again. However, Shanís record in tough away trips since his recall in 2018, averaging 37 from tours of South Africa, Australia and England, has merited a further run at the top of the order. Abid Ali was one of the guilty men in Pakistanís 2nd innings collapse, top-edging a slop sweep to the man in the deep positioned for the shot, but didnít disgrace himself with a fortuitous fifty in the 2nd Test followed by a gritty 42 from 162 balls when Pakistan were following on in the 3rd Test.

    Only in Pakistan could there be calls for a Test opener who averages 57 be axed after a few failures in their first away tour. Itís even more baffling given the alternatives Ė Imam-ul-Haq averages 25 even including four Tests in the UAE, and Sami Aslam averaged 23 in his last series in the UAE. The Shan-Abid combination should continue for now.

    The bowling underwhelmed despite the pre-series hype. Mohammad Abbas was his usual metronomic self, bowling the ball of the summer to Ben Stokes as England slid in Manchester in their 1st innings, but didnít have the pace to trouble batsmen when conditions eased. Yasir Shah looked far more assured with mentor Mushtaq Ahmed returning to backroom duties, and bowled his heart out in Manchester, but retains the tendency to concede a bad ball per over particularly at the start of a spell. The biggest disappointments were the two youngsters Shaheen Afridi and Naseem Shah who averaged 51 and 69 with the ball respectively.

    Let this criticism be prefaced by saying both have potential to become outstanding fast bowlers. However, Pakistanís camp allowed expectations to soar to totally unreasonable heights before the series. Coach Misbah-ul-Haq spoke in a press conference of how Naseem could ďwin a match single-handedlyĒ Ė Naseem only made his First-class debut two years ago while Shaheen debuted in First-class cricket three years ago. Both are works in progress yet Pakistan depended on the duo to win an away series in England on their first attempt. Shaheen lately has developed an inswinger to right-handed batsmen, essential for any left-arm seamer. However, itís not uncommon for youngsters learning new skills to ďloseĒ another Ė in this case being Shaheenís outswinger which was deployed to good effect at the 2019 World Cup. Nor was his inswinger accurate enough, often straying down legside. Shaheen also was down in pace Ė it can take time for a pacer of Shaheenís height to get their knees pumping again after a long layoff. Naseem meanwhile bowled the occasional magic delivery but lacked control. His outswinger was generally easy for batsmen to leave. Again Azharís captaincy was lacking Ė too often being distant when the youngsters needed guidance. Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis had the luxury of having Imran Khan standing at mid-off or mid-on when they were young - Shaheen and Naseem did not have that option.

    Playing two seamers aged 20 and below is rare in Test cricket for a reason as such cricketers are still a work in progress at that age. Pakistan must stop these fantastical notions of teenagers with little First-Class exposure taking the world by storm. Not everyone is a Wasim Akram. Pakistan needed another more seasoned pacer to shoulder some of the burden placed on Shaheen and Naseem. Yet Misbahís alternatives were 36 year old Sohail Khan, not fit enough to play in a four man attack, and 33 year old Imran Khan, who never looked threatening in Australia, while Usman Khan Shinwari was unimpressive in the practice matches.

    Misbah-ul-Haq is approaching the completion of a year into the job, but will find patience wearing thin if he fails to take tough decisions regarding senior batsmen after yet another overseas series loss. Azhar Ali is not a natural captain, and fresh blood at #3 and #5 positions must be identified. The question of a four vs five man attack also dogged yet another tour. Unlike previous coaches, Misbah has selection authority to answer these questions before another overseas Test defeat Ė he must use it wisely.


    For the latest updates on Cricket, follow @PakPassion on Twitter

  2. #2
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    Just adding onto my point about a four vs five man attack: This has been a topic of discussion ever since our overseas tours in 2016, and we still haven't resolved it four years later !

    We haven't had a fifth bowler since Mohammad Hafeez starting having issues with his action. Haris Sohail could bowl some useful overs but his batting form nosedived.

    We have allrounders who can help avoid the two teenage pacers becoming overbowled, but they come with baggage too. Faheem Ashraf cannot bat any higher than 9. Shadab Khan could bat as high as 6 but his bowling will not give you enough control.

    Think we missed a trick ignoring Aamer Yamin. While he is military medium at 75mph, he's twice the batsman Faheem is and unlike Shadab - he provides a fourth seamer option. He'll struggle in Australia but for tours of England, New Zealand and South Africa he should be in the conversation.

  3. #3
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    Excellent analysis @Markhor. Enjoyed the read.

  4. #4
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    Great article!

    Pakistan should've won the series 1-0. They dominated most of the sessions during first Test.



  5. #5
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    Thanks a lot Shaheen and Naseem for costing that game!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Markhor View Post
    Just adding onto my point about a four vs five man attack: This has been a topic of discussion ever since our overseas tours in 2016, and we still haven't resolved it four years later !

    We haven't had a fifth bowler since Mohammad Hafeez starting having issues with his action. Haris Sohail could bowl some useful overs but his batting form nosedived.

    We have allrounders who can help avoid the two teenage pacers becoming overbowled, but they come with baggage too. Faheem Ashraf cannot bat any higher than 9. Shadab Khan could bat as high as 6 but his bowling will not give you enough control.

    Think we missed a trick ignoring Aamer Yamin. While he is military medium at 75mph, he's twice the batsman Faheem is and unlike Shadab - he provides a fourth seamer option. He'll struggle in Australia but for tours of England, New Zealand and South Africa he should be in the conversation.
    There is a perception that Faheem Ashraf cannot bat, he played a vital role with both ball and bat in 2018 when we beat Ireland and England. Both Faheem and Aamir Yamin should have been considered for this England tour for the test matches.

  7. #7
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    Good analysis nothing to disagree.

  8. #8
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    Very nice read— thanks for taking the time to write this.
    Pretty much spot on

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by HappyWarsFan View Post
    Thanks a lot Shaheen and Naseem for costing that game!
    Blame a teenager and someone just in their early twenties. Classy

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by HappyWarsFan View Post
    Thanks a lot Shaheen and Naseem for costing that game!
    what do they have got to do with costing us the game. we couldnt get a break through and they were lucky when they attacked. As i said it was the batting in the second innigs which cost us the match..

    Match was over on the 4th day with more than a days play and this is all after we had a lead of more than 100 plus in first innings.

  11. #11
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    I think the series proved that the longer you batted on the pitch the harder it was to get set batsmen out
    England found the same thing against West indies and its probably why England walked off the pitch while babar azam was batting even after asad had got out


    "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles"

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by HappyWarsFan View Post
    Thanks a lot Shaheen and Naseem for costing that game!
    Is that your sum total analysis of the article here?


    For the latest updates on Cricket, follow @PakPassion on Twitter

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    Excellent Article.

    Problem is the young bowlers will likely get the blame from the selectors and get dropped.

    Tried and tested senior batmen keep failing but arent persisted with.

    Pakistans middle order batting needs an overhaul, These seniors arent going to win us games. Its time to blood new players and think longterm rather then think in short term we are going to be a top test side which we are not.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by HappyWarsFan View Post
    Thanks a lot Shaheen and Naseem for costing that game!
    What about the second inning batting meltdown from the experience core, what about Abbas the experienced leader of the attack who should have taken responsibility when England were 117-5

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Manunited18 View Post
    What about the second inning batting meltdown from the experience core, what about Abbas the experienced leader of the attack who should have taken responsibility when England were 117-5
    Agree. Abbas was too much of self praise during this series and didn't back it up with his performances. His time was to win us the game at 117-5 as the experienced bowler in English conditions and he didn't.

  16. #16
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    A mediocre team, overhyped by Pakistani social media, showed its true colours in the end.

  17. #17
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    1-0 loss is actually a very good result for this mediocre team. We would have lost the third test for sure if it wasn't for rain and might have struggled in the second test too, given how easy conditions were when play resumed on the fifth day.

    We need to accept we have a very long way to go before developing into a quality test team. We have been in real decline since 2006 tour to England. We are a bottom of the pile team and need understand fully the structural and cultural flaws that are preventing us from developing cricketers with mental toughness. We should have never lost that first test - but we have not learnt. It was like watching Mohammed Yousuf's captaincy in the Sydney Test of 2009/10.

  18. #18
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    Pakistan was clearly an inferior team away from home at England. We saw that in 2 out of 3 tests. So the result is fair.

    Having said that, sometimes life throws you lemons. Luck trumps skill in sport all the time - like a bad formula 1 car winning a race because rain took out all the top one's.

    This was a chance of a lifetime gone.


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