KARACHI: Former Pakistan captain and renowned commentator Ramiz Raja said on Tueday that Pakistan fought well in Manchester Test but missed a great opportunity of taking a 1-0 lead. However, he added that Azhar Ali and company must not take this defeat to heart since Pakistan is capable of making a strong come back in second Test.

Talking to Dawn News program ‘Replay’, Ramiz said: “To be honest Pakistan missed a wonderful opportunity in Manchester Test. Though they played superbly on the first two days and dominated England in 70% of the game, but one bad session with bat and ball cost them the match.

“It is good for Pakistan than there is only a three-day gap between the two Test matches. Azhar and teammates must regroup and should forget about the defeat and must focus on the coming Test,” said the former opener.

Ramiz urged Azhar to adopt a aggressive approach as captain and added that the right-hander urgently needs to get his confidence back and score runs to to lift his own morale as well as of the team.

“A captain should lead from the front. It is worrying that Azhar has not been amongst the runs for quite some time, especially against quality sides, and until he gets back his form with the bat he will not able to lead the team strongly,” observed Ramiz. “Captain has to take so many key decisions, some at the spur of the moment such as team combinations, fields placing, bowling changes and even DRS calls. So if the captain himself is noot too confident, a lot can go wrong.”

The former skipper also said that there are many positives for Pakistan despite defeat in the first Test and they can take inspiration from these to plan better for Southampton Test. “Shan Masood’s brillant hundred in the first innings is a definite positive from Old Trafford,” said Ramiz. Shan did a great job by not only scoring a quality hundred but also negating a world class bowling attack early on which helped others to bat well. I though he really played well against in form Stuart Broad who has a fantastic record against left-handers.

“Babar played well in the first innings but i wa disappointed at the way he got out the next morning. Our batsmen must realize that in English conditions, no one can afford to relax. You need determination and a responsible attitude. Also Yasir Shah did well in the first innings and also took wickets in the second innings too but it is very important that the Captan and team management gives him full confidence from hereon:”

Ramiz further said that absence of Ben Stokes at Southampton will surely disturb England’s combination. “Of course, the absence of Stokes is a big factor. He could not score much in at Old Trafford but he is someone who brings wonderful balance to the England team with his world class batting and ability to takes wickets. It is an opportunity for Pakistan to cash in on his absence.

“England batting not did do well in the first Test until Buttler and Woakes changed everything. So I guess Pakistan bowling attack should challenge them again. This England team is beatable and West Indies already showed that by winning the Test. Having said that, I feel that in bowling England have a slight edge over Pakistan as Broad Ansderson Archer and Woakes can be more dangerous in favourable conditions.”

Ramiz said conditions in Southampton will be different from Manchester and Pakistan must replace Shadab in the final playing eleven. “Playing an extra spinner in Manchester was the right call but i was amazed that Shadab did not bowl much,” said Ramiz. “But now in Southampton Shadab should be dropped and Pakistan have to take a big call to whether include a pacer all rounder like Fahim Ashraf or to include Fawad Alam or Imam-ul-Haq to strengthen their batting.

“In my opinion, due to challenging conditions in Southampton, Pakistan need to go with three openers as Azhar is struggling at number three and he can perhaps bat better at number four,” said Ramiz. “Team selection would be the key factor at Southampton, and I hope our star-studded and big names like Misbah, Younis, Waqar and Mushtaq guide Azhar before and during the match too,” Ramiz said.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2020