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Making dead rubbers count


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pakistan south africa 3rd test, pakistan south africa centurion
Dale Steyn celebrates the wicket of Mohammad Hafeez. -Photo by AFP

In the lead up to the third Test, Misbah-ul Haq talked repeatedly about the team’s wish to take one match at a time, and how much they wanted to salvage some pride from a lost series. That, as the play on the first two days has shown, was easier said than done.

This was an unfamiliar feeling for this team. Pakistan has not had a dead rubber Test match since the infamous tour to Australia in 2009/10 when a heartbreaking 2nd Test loss, in a match that Pakistan had dominated for more days than not, was followed by an insipid 3rd Test where Pakistan lost by more than 200 runs, and failed to bowl Australia out in both the innings. And for most of the time at SuperSport Park thus far, the match has seemed to be a sequel to Hobart, even down to Pakistan failing to reach the follow-on requirement. But for the efforts of two youngsters Pakistan would have been in an even worse predicament than they are despite their lackluster efforts in the field.

Pakistan’s record in dead rubbers is indicative of the sort of team they have been. They have played seven dead rubbers (having lost the series already) in the last 15 years, losing five of them. While these matches have often been against teams better than them – hence the fact that they are playing dead rubbers – Pakistan’s nature also makes such matches a problem for them. They’ve generally been a team that has relied on momentum and mood swings for their successes. In dead rubbers, where the momentum is already against them, and they’re, obviously, not in the most spritely of moods, they’ve let the game get away from them. In four of those five losses they’ve allowed the opposition to score 440+ in their first innings of the Test match – the exception being Oval 2006.

Pakistan’s modus operandi as Team Misbah has been to be choke-artists of the highest order. Between Misbah taking over and the start of this series they were the only international side with an economy rate under 3 in this time period. Even as they’ve lost this series, they’ve often controlled South Africa’s batting – in both the first innings the economy rate was less than 3.2; only when their batting had already failed them did the bowlers allow South Africa to run away with the match in their second innings of the two Tests.

In the Centurion Test, the run rate never got below 3.8 after the new ball overs. Of course, there are those who argue that Pakistan itself needs to be more attacking when batting, but as the display on the 2nd day showed this group of individuals are at their best when they try to remain within the limitation due to their talent and flaws. In many ways, Pakistan’s first innings at SuperSport Park has been an even worse showing than the first innings at Wanderers: the pitch had far fewer demons in it, two of the four seamers they faced were backups, they no longer have the excuse of being unfamiliar with the country, the recently flown in opener Imran Farhat looked comfortable, there was little in the weather that could aid swing bowling. Fast-forward and the unknown Kyle Abbott is already a household name in South Africa.

The most conspicuous evidence of Pakistan’s mood on the first day could be seen from the over rate, and their play after the loss of wickets. Alviro Petersen’s wicket led to 24 runs in the next five overs, allowing Hashim Amla to get in. Then Ehsan Adil got rid of Graeme Smith, but yet again Pakistan’s bowlers failed to apply further pressure; the next six overs went for 27. When Ehsan got rid of Francois du Plessis immediately after lunch Pakistan had the opportunity to apply the choke-hold, an opportunity they failed to grasp, conceding 24 in the following 5 overs. And the entirety of the partnerships for the 6th and 7th wickets was representative of a team not playing at full tilt.

Yet Pakistan ended the South African innings at a score that the team wasn’t wholly dissatisfied with. The reasons for that – and the most obvious positives from the first innings play – were the bowling of the Rahat Ali and Ehsan Adil. Pakistan went in with a hugely inexperienced attack (a combined total of two Test appearances, and less than 100 First Class matches) and even on a greenish pitch Pakistan would not have relied on that duo to be making the breakthroughs. Both of them were somewhat erratic, but both can be pleased with their auditions. It was not a surprise that the two Pakistani bowlers with the most at stake in this match were the ones who struck. With most of Pakistan’s cricket over the next three years being in Asia – and with Junaid, Umar Gul and Irfan the obvious candidates to fight for the two pacer spots in the XI – the duo needed a good showing to not fall by the wayside like many before them (Mohammad Khalil, Abdur Rauf and Fazl-e-Akbar immediately spring to mind).

But of course, the bowling effort was left looking far worse than it actually was, thanks to the fielding of the Pakistan side and the batsman’s failure. On perhaps the easiest conditions they’ve had to bat on through this whole series, Pakistan were able to take the shine off the new ball, before succumbing to an all too familiar collapse. It may be distressing, but it is nothing new.

Comments (24) Closed

ahmed2030 Feb 24, 2013 12:05pm
Pakistan lacks talent. As simple as that. If we had talent, there would have been no place for Umar Gul (in tests), Kamran Akmal (in tests and ODI's), Tanvir Ahmed, Mohammad Hafiz (in his opening slot, okay he can be an allrounder, coming in to bat at number 7).
aman Feb 25, 2013 11:48am
where is afridi, he can bowl better that many others if not bat.
haris Feb 25, 2013 03:15pm
" come they pick Sarfaraz for such a tough tour." So you mean they should keep Akmal bro to keep the wickets? Is that were you trying to say?
Yousuf Feb 24, 2013 04:20pm
Excellent article and it rightly points out the psyche of Pakistan's players. Earlier generations of Pakistani batsmen honed their techniques playing in England. The current set achieve their success, if any, based on sheer guts and like the author mentioned, momentum plays a huge part on their success and if the momentum is not with them, the demoralized batting collapses like a pack of cards. Yes, early generation of Pakistani batsmen failed at times, but if you look at the number of times that Pakistan has been dismissed for less than 100 recently, its a disturbing sign of lack of technique and temprament
shabih Feb 24, 2013 05:02pm
I dont think pakistan played really bad comparing to Newzeland recent tour of S.Africa.Pakistan tried few new faces in there backyard that was gud but i would say there was problem with the think tank.In the first test Md Irfan should have palyed and in the second test Rehman should have played.Selectors how come they pick Sarfaraz for such a tough tour.Actually Pakistan was not able to perform as a unit on both front batting and bowling.Injury also played a part.There should be specialist openers in the test and Hafeez is not that,If a team gets gud start then they can built.I am pretty sure they will really bounce back in the t-20 and onedayers.
haris Feb 25, 2013 03:10pm
I hate Akmal Bros as much as you but I want to know what is to do with them in this Test series?
Abdul Malik Feb 24, 2013 04:32pm
It's high time Misbah calls it a day and go home. Our problem is that we hardly go home with grace. We had enough of him.
SJ Feb 25, 2013 08:31am
... and one can't do anything about this: I mean SIFARISH. This has become our national character to ignore talent and induct Sifarashees to satisfy OWN SELFISH MOTIVES for SELF gains. Who cares about the NATIONAL INTEREST. It is relegated to the bottom of the list or should I say that it is thrown OUT of the list! The hapless state of all affairs including cricket is clearly evident.
Javid Shirazi Feb 25, 2013 07:43am
Meek surrender. Frustrating to see no fightback by the players. Long term preparations must commence now by selecting talented youngsters. Non-performers need to be shown the door.
Criclover Feb 25, 2013 07:34am
Take my words .. until and unless Pakistan management does not get rid of Akmal Brothers the demise of cricket will continue .. Akmal Bros are parchi mafia, greedy and selfish loosers .. And above all Misbah for heavens sake remove him. He is extremely unpopular, non-aggressive and un-inspirational cricketer. We would have lost the matches anyhow because SA was a better team but not with such disgrace if Misbah would have been a whisker aggressive.
Muhammad Rehan Ghazi Feb 25, 2013 07:07am
@Ahmed2030 Either you don't know much about Cricket or you don't know much about Pakistan cricket. There is no lack of talent in Pakistan cricket, its only that selectors persist with players who have got leverage or influence. Kamran Akmal is the most pathetic wicket keeper in the whole world. My true opinion about him can never be published here but at the least, I would say that with his performance he cannot get place in the playing XI of either Zimbabwe or Afghanistan. Even Sarfraz Ahmed is much better than Kamran Akmal, atleast he doesn't drop catches and miss stumpings. If he doesn't score that is not a big issue as we need a safe wicketkeeper who doesn;t have butter fingers.
Afif Naeem Feb 25, 2013 03:37am
Pakistan beat India in their home ground, in front of their fans. That was the big deal about that, son!
Khan Feb 25, 2013 04:27am
It's the provincial ethnic mindset of PCB not merit hence the downfall PCB only thinks of takht Lahore not the whole Pakistan , same is the fate of hockey
rohan Feb 24, 2013 03:53pm
Problem is that the they won 2-1 in one day and draw 1-1 in t20 against India and felt as if they won every thing............ truth is the had only 1 odi advantage,
Excuse Feb 24, 2013 04:12pm
You are saying that Pakistan luckily won those matches! Pakistan should have won the lost 2 matches. Pak team almost chased down the 2nd T20 total and the last odi was a disaster. No need to show any lame causes.
KHAN Feb 25, 2013 02:42am
Abdullah Hussain Feb 24, 2013 04:42pm
Team Pakistan looked minnows in front of SA team, they were no match to SA.
imran Feb 25, 2013 01:31am
Sad state, All the old trouble makers are back, the Akmals,, Afridis and the Malik's. All of them are useless players, I guess we should stop watching cricket now.
Rasal Feb 24, 2013 10:44pm
Sour grapes buddy. Forget that series and move on...
Himanshu Pandey Feb 24, 2013 07:14pm
How in world pakistan lacks talent??Cmon dude! such maverick players your nation has produced...they succeed despite all the odds.Only thing you guys lack is good administration and proper counselling of your young players.Despite of lack of facilities and good pay,they perform and excel at highest level.Ignore me if you care,just my thoughts. --- Stranger across the border.
anony Feb 24, 2013 07:05pm
The defeat against Pakistan still hurts, doesn't it?
Ali Feb 24, 2013 05:19pm
Talent is ignored as Mr. Safarash at work. Under Miandad the team was winning but was replaced why?
WeCare Feb 24, 2013 03:06pm
It is not lack of talent. It is the SIFARSHI culture of PCB that gives opportunity to weak players.
Asif Kahsmiri Feb 25, 2013 04:13pm