Losing to England

Published October 4, 2022

AFTER tantalisingly close finishes in the fourth and fifth matches against an England side visiting the country for the first time in 17 years, there was expectation that there would be no let-up in the drama in the last two games of the series. Pakistan had defended low-par scores in consecutive matches to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead. But the buzz around Babar Azam’s side dissipated quickly as England hit back in ruthless fashion, tearing apart Pakistan’s much-vaunted bowling attack in the final two games to take the series. Pakistan, however, hope that the return of the injured pace spearhead Shaheen Afridi and teenage sensation Naseem Shah, who missed the last two matches after contracting Covid-19, will add more potency to their bowling at the T20 World Cup. Key pacer Haris Rauf was also rested for the sixth T20, where England chased down a target of 170 with more than five overs to spare. Haris, however, was back for the decider on Sunday as England batters posted 209 before cruising to a 67-run win. England rested three important members of their World Cup squad while skipper Jos Buttler, recovering from an injury, didn’t feature in any match. The way they strolled to victories in the last two games exposed brutally how Pakistan are yet to address their middle order issues which have plagued them since the Asia Cup.

Shan Masood, drafted into the side for the series and the World Cup later this month, got two half centuries but neither was game-changing and came when Pakistan had already given up the chase. Iftikhar Ahmed, Haider Ali and Khushdil Shah continued to struggle for runs — none of them showing the impetus they needed once they lost openers Babar and Mohammad Rizwan. Luckily for Pakistan, they have a tri-nation series in New Zealand — against the hosts and Bangladesh — which gives them an opportunity to iron out those issues. Failure to address them will see them head to Australia for the World Cup on very shaky ground.

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2022

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