WEDNESDAY’S victory over South Africa at Centurion has brought Pakistan a much-awaited overseas ODI series triumph, while the return to form of opener Fakhar Zaman augurs well for the team in future assignments. Since 2019, Pakistan has had a rough ride on away tours in which they have tasted defeat in Tests as well as ODIs and T20 games in Australia, England and New Zealand. However, the back-to-back Test and T20 series wins at home against South Africa earlier this year boosted the players’ morale as was evident this week. For once, Babar Azam’s men looked happy and prepared as they took the field for the ODI series which they won 2-1 against South Africa. Thankfully, there were no Covid-19 cases to haunt them this time, as there were during the New Zealand tour last year which got off to a disastrous start with as many as 10 cases being reported.

It was also good to see the top order performing well for a change. Fakhar, Imam-ul-Haq, skipper Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan all displayed their prowess with the bat in the three-match series. Fakhar’s twin hundreds, though, were the cornerstone of Pakistan’s win. The fact that Pakistan crossed the 300-run mark in two of the three games should give them heart and raise hopes of a strong combination being finalised for the T20 World Cup in India, scheduled in October. Having said that, the lacklustre show by the bowlers remains an area of concern for bowling coach Waqar Younis and the team management. The young pace trio comprising Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf and Mohammad Hasnain went for runs at crucial stages of the game which was not a pretty sight at all. It remains a mystery, too, why Pakistan resisted playing a spinner in the opening two games since South Africa are weak when they face spin bowling. Hopefully, skipper Babar and head coach Misbah-ul-Haq will analyse matters to field a formidable playing eleven in the four-match T20 series that begins on Saturday.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2021

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