BY losing the first Test against England at Old Trafford, a match they had in the bag for the most part of four days, Pakistan has lost an advantage in the three-match series. With a number of new players — whom England had no prior exposure to — in the line-up, including the fast bowling duo of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah, besides opener Abid Ali and wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan, Pakistan had been hoping to take the hosts by surprise. They were buoyed, too, by Babar Azam’s stellar presence since he is a much more accomplished player now compared to 2018 when his series in England was cut short by a nasty arm injury. And last but not the least, the welcome return to form of Yasir Shah came as a huge boost to Pakistan’s bowling as the leggie lapped up eight wickets in the match. But none of these factors, including a healthy first innings lead of 107, could see Azhar Ali’s men cross the winning line. They have no one but themselves to blame for psychologically not measuring up to the moment of truth.
For a team that arrived in England well over a month ago and had ample time to acclimatise, Pakistan had no excuse for its defeat at Old Trafford and showed they are still vulnerable to pressure despite having abundantly talented players in their ranks. In the final analysis, the abject batting collapse in the second innings coupled with Azhar’s prosaic captaincy on the fourth day rankle. It is always an uphill task for a visiting team to bounce back after defeat in the opening match, and players must ask themselves why they lost. With stalwarts such as Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan, Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed in the coaching staff, surely the players have no dearth of good advice available to them. They now have to go in with a resolve to win and play aggressive cricket from the outset to emerge victorious and cheer up their dismayed fans.
Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2020