Pakistan flattened New Zealand by an innings and 16 runs in the second Test in Dubai. Here are our five takeaways from that match.
In team sports, especially one like cricket, it's extremely difficult for a single player to win the whole game all by himself. And to do that in a single session of a five-day match, is almost unheard of. This is what Yasir Shah did on November 26, 2018.
New Zealand were 50-0 in the 22nd over and 90 all-out roughly 14 overs later — seven of which were bowled by Shah. In those 42-something deliveries he dismissed eight Kiwi batsmen. For comparison, Haris Sohail alone had survived 421 balls in Pakistan's only innings, but eight New Zealand batters couldn't work their way past just 69 deliveries of Shah.
The visitors never recovered from that spell by the other visiting team's ace leggie. The match as a contest was over right there and then, and it was all due to one single man who for once did not just look like Lionel Messi, he also bamboozled his opponents like the Argentine.
As for his match figures of 184-14, numerically speaking Shah's figures may be slightly inferior to the great Imran Khan's (116-14), but one should bear in mind that the PM's big feat came against Sri Lanka of 1982. Taking nothing away from him but that Sri Lanka was still very early in its evolutionary stage and a far cry from what the islanders eventually became.
The New Zealand that Shah torched is one of the heavyweights with a victory already in the series. With that in mind, Shah's 14-for was superior to Khan's and arguably the greatest performance by a Pakistani bowler in Tests.
Shah followed up his first innings salvo with another six-for in the final innings, taking his career five-wicket hauls to 16 in just 32 Tests. His average of a five-for every other Test is only marginally inferior to that of the great Muttiah Muralitharan's (67 in 133 Tests).
It's a pity that Shah is 32 and likely has four to five years of international cricket left in him — that too if he avoids any major injuries, which become likely as players approach Father Time.
Had he been broken into the Test scene a bit earlier, Shah, with the way he racks up his wickets, could have had a genuine chance to amass a massive career haul.
While Shah stole all the headlines, and deservedly so, the contribution of Hasan Ali can also not be overlooked. The pacer, after a breakout year in 2017, had been largely lethargic in this calendar year. The tour of New Zealand at the turn of the year, the summer visit to England and then the Asia Cup — Hasan had been underwhelming everywhere.
In the ongoing series, the kid dynamite has recaptured some of his missing spark. Seven wickets in the first Test, another four here, but that doesn't even tell the whole story. Hasan, after some time, is hitting the right spots and getting the ball to reverse — a good omen for Pakistan.
Mohammad Abbas went wicketless in the match. In the first Test too, he had also picked up just two wickets. But there is no reason at all to read too much into this.
The Black Caps are hell-bent on not taking chances against him, which reflects in his supremely low economy rates in both the games. To simply block and pacify an ace seamer is a fair strategy on the visitors' part, and Sarfraz Ahmed and Mickey Arthur need not to be bothered by it.
Having covered all the good, it's time for the bad and the ugly. In other words, let's discuss Mohammad Hafeez. On October 7, Hafeez, at the ripe age of 38, was named in Pakistan's Test eleven after two years. He instantly repaid the selectors' rather unusual faith with a 126-run knock against the Aussies.
That was all fine and dandy, and made for great he's-still-got-it match reports. It's just that the Professor's highest score across six innings since has been a paltry 20. In the Dubai Test too, he scored just nine of Pakistan's 418 runs.
Half a dozen consecutive failures coming from a 38-year-old on UAE wickets show that that 100 against Australia was in truth an Indian summer.
Next up is the tour of South Africa. It's the same South Africa where pitches are fast and bouncy, and where Dale Steyn lives. No one needs to be reminded of the connection Hafeez has with Steyn who, the rumour has it, is the fittest he's been in years.
Does the Professor want to relive that daylight nightmare again? It's best that either he hangs up his gloves or the selectors save him from the agony.
The writer is a cricket aficionado based in Karachi.