SHARJAH: Despite going down to Afghanistan in what was their first bilateral series against the side, Pakistan have got what they wanted from the three T20 Internationals; experience for the younger lot.
On the challenging surfaces at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, the inexperienced Pakistan batters struggled to put the bat on the ball while the visitors’ new-look bowling attack took their time to learn what worked for them.
In the process, Pakistan were beaten in the first two games to lose the series but how opener Saim Ayub (49 off 40) and pacer Ihsanullah (3-29) — both uncapped before the series — stood out to help their team get a 66-run consolation win in the final fixture showed Pakistan experimenting with them wasn’t a bad idea after all.
Other than Saim and Ihsanullah, Abdullah Shafique showed immense grace with the bat for a considerable cameo of 23 off 13 balls while Pakistan’s stand-in captain Shadab Khan capped up the series with an all-round performance — a 17-ball 28 with the bat and 3-13 with the ball — which spoke volumes of his capabilities to lead from the front.
“The motive of the series was to give opportunities to youngsters and improve our bench strength,” Shadab said during the post-match press conference on Monday night.
“Although we couldn’t perform very well, the experience that they have gained from this series will help Pakistan in the future.”
Afghanistan, being the hosts, ensured they challenged Pakistan with the conditions at play while also being extremely disciplined with the ball and pacing their chases in the first two matches perfectly.
Unlike the Rashid Khan-led side, Pakistan had their problems with assessing the conditions, especially coming into the series right after participating in the HBL Pakistan Super League — where easier conditions were at play — according to Shadab’s admission.
“I think we assessed the conditions better [in the third ODI],” said the 24-year-old. “The conditions here were very different from how they were during the PSL and the youngsters took some time to get used to them.
“But how they turned up along with the seniors to get the win was impressive.”
What Saim and Ihsanullah did was certainly impressive. The left-handed opener, who could chip in with only 17 and a duck in the first two matches, took his time on the crease and showed glimpses of maturity in the last game but did not hesitate to put on display the range of strokes he did during the PSL.
Ihsanullah, meanwhile, was lethal. He bowled an array of bouncers, making it extremely difficult for the Afghanistan batters to score quickly with a formidable target of 183 to chase. The right-armer, who finished as the highest wicket-taker in the PSL, also injured Ibrahim Zadran with a bouncer with struck the grill of the left-hander’s helmet, ruling him retired-hurt.
Saim said nervousness may have got the better of the younger players at the start of the series, adding that they received full backing from the team management.
“The coach and the captain had kept the dressing room environment very comfortable and there was no pressure whatsoever,” he said. “But obviously there is nervousness when you are playing for your country for the first time.
“There are ups and downs though and one learns with experience.”
Meanwhile, Afghanistan captain Rashid said the series helped his players to learn about themselves and the team’s strengths and weaknesses collectively.
“..playing three T20s against Pakistan helps you understand your weakness and your strong points and then you work on it and the next time you’re facing them you know what to do [and] what not to do,” said the leg-spinner.
“It’s always a huge boost as a team winning against the team which played the T20 World Cup final and the Asia Cup final.
“These three games were so important for us as a team, to be honest.”
Rashid revealed the series was not only about trying to win it but trying to do the “right things” against a solid T20 side.
“When we came, I only told one thing to the team that it’s just not focusing on winning the series, let’s just focus on doing the right things,” he said.
“By the end of the series we have learnt something and we have made some improvement.”
Muhammad Haris c Usman b Mujeeb 1
Saim Ayub c Mujeeb b Janat 49
Tayyab Tahir c Farid b Nabi 10
Abdullah Shafique b Rashid 23
Iftikhar Ahmed c Rashid b Farooqi 31
Imad Wasim c Janat b Mujeeb 13
Shadab Khan hit wicket b Farid 28
Mohammad Nawaz not out 5
Muhammad Wasim not out 9
EXTRAS (LB-6, NB-1, W-6) 13
TOTAL (for seven wickets, 20 overs) 182
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-3 (Haris), 2-28 (Tayyab), 3-63 (Abdullah), 4-108 (Saim), 5-123 (Wasim), 6-161 (Iftikhar), 7-171 (Shadab)
DID NOT BAT: Ihsanullah, Zaman Khan
BOWLING: Farooqi 4-0-25-1, Mujeeb 4-0-28-2, Nabi 3-0-32-1 (2w), Farid 2-0-28-1, Rashid 4-0-31-1 (2w), Janat 3-0-32-1 (1nb)
Rahmanullah Gurbaz b Ihsanullah 18
Sediqullah Atal lbw Wasim 11
Ibrahim Zadran c Nawaz b Shadab 3
Usman Ghani c Abdullah b Shadab 15
Mohammad Nabi run out Tayyab 17
Najibullah Zadran retired hurt 0
Karim Janat c Haris b Ihsanullah 0
Rashid Khan c Abdullah b Imad 16
Mujeeb Ur Rahman lbw Shadab 0
Farid Malik c Muhammad b Ihsanullah 5
Azmatullah c Tayyab b Zaman 21
Fazalhaq Farooqi not out 1
EXTRAS (B-5, W-4) 9
TOTAL (all out, 18.4 overs) 116
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-35 (Gurbaz), 2-37 (Sediqullah), 3-39 (Ibrahim), 4-71 (Nabi), 5-71 (Janat), 6-73 (Usman), 7-73 (Mujeeb), 8-87 (Farid), 9-95 (Rashid)
BOWLING: Imad 3-0-25-1 (1w), Zaman 3.4-0-20-1 (1w), Ihsanullah 4-0-29-3 (1w), Wasim 3-0-13-1, Shadab 4-0-13-3 (1w), Nawaz 1-0-11-0
RESULT: Pakistan won by 66 runs.
Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2023
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