The awe that England struck us all with, may have made us feel slightly better about Pakistan’s defeat in the first Test, but deep down, we all know Babar Azam’s men could have done better.
We all want to say it out loud that Pakistan could have gone on to break the unbreakable Ben Stokes, making him regret THAT bold declaration.
It was just 343 in four sessions! How did we fail to grab this opportunity on a batting paradise? How did we go from being just 86 runs away from what could have been a historic win with five wickets in hand?
Again, maybe, it is too harsh to hold Pakistan accountable given that they lost to a side that has no respect for the opposition bowlers.
What if Pakistan had won the toss? What if Haris Rauf hadn’t been injured? It could have been the express pacer’s reverse swing on a dry fifth-day track that would up-root Ben Stokes’ stumps.
It may have then been the English journalists — travelling in numbers to Pakistan — questioning the sustainability of “Bazball”.
At this point, I’m done with the what-ifs. It’s time to get practical. The second Test in Multan starts Friday. Pakistan have been forgiven. England have been hailed as the best Test side in the world right now. This is Pakistan’s chance to prove “Bazball” is not going to make the cut in the long run.
If the cricket hungry crowd at the scenic Multan Cricket Stadium has to be entertained, the hosts need to take the responsibility to do that.
It’s Imamul Haq and Abdullah Shafique who should be treating the early overs as the powerplay on what would most probably be another belter. It should be Babar, who delivers a ton, or double, to the Multanites. It should be Mohammad Rizwan, who needs to display his exuberance and make England pay for what they did to Pakistan’s bowlers in Rawalpindi .
The bowlers, despite their youth and inexperience, need to pick themselves up, need to bounce back, need to hit that line and length, and those pads and stumps.
Pakistan’s coaches need to understand that cricket — in fact, sports in general — is not about camaraderie with the opponent. It’s about blood and sweat, and it’s about preying on it.
England’s predatory instinct was exactly what got Pakistan tamed in Rawalpindi. It’s time for Pakistan to be on the offensive.
Babar said on the eve of the first Test that teams have their own styles of play and that being defensive may help sides win matches despite England’s relentlessly attacking cricket.
Even if Babar’s argument is bought, it is hard to makes sense of Pakistan’s defensive batting approach when the target was within their sight.
But as they say: “Loha he lohay ko kaat’ta hai” (diamond cut diamond), Pakistan need to bring out the heavy metal if they want to have a chance against England in the Multan Test, as only a victory there would make the final contest in Karachi worth gold for the spectators.
“Bazball” may have been adopted by England nine months ago, but what it is defined by — flare, aggression, expression, emotion — has also been a part of the Pakistan cricket’s DNA. It just needs an outlet and it is about time the Pakistan players and coaches let the players express what comes naturally to them.