THE return of Fatima Sana gave the Pakistan women’s cricket team the zip they needed. The fast bowler had missed last month’s tour of Bangladesh due to an injury but quickly made up for lost time. Fatima picked up three wickets in both matches as Pakistan clinched the three-game Twenty20 international series against New Zealand, with a game to spare. In doing so, they became the first Asian side to win a series in the shortest format of the game in New Zealand. It was also their first away series triumph since 2018. More importantly, beating a side ranked five places higher than them in ICC standings is a confidence boost for eighth-placed Pakistan, especially with the T20 World Cup to be held next year in Bangladesh. Fatima secured Pakistan’s triumph, cleaning up the dangerous Hannah Rose when New Zealand needed 12 off three balls to win the second T20. Middle-order batter Aliya Riaz and opener Muneeba Ali delivered in both matches, while teenager Shawaal Zulfiqar stood out in the series opener with a splendid 41. Shawaal had been consistently performing for the ‘A’ side and did not disappoint after being called up to the senior side.
It is a promising sign for women’s cricket in Pakistan when young players step up at the international level. In this regard, the Pakistan Cricket Board took some significant steps recently. In August, it announced domestic contracts for young women cricketers for the first time. The 11-month contracts were handed to 74 young cricketers, 59 of them belonging to emerging and under-19 categories, with 14 having already represented Pakistan. All contract awardees had demonstrated their abilities domestically; incentivising the top performers will enable them to improve. Contracts not only help professionalise women’s cricket but also bring more players into the fold, thus increasing the talent pool and fostering more competition for places in the senior team. By the time the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh comes around, there will hopefully be more players knocking at the door. For now, though, the series win holds Pakistan in good stead ahead of the World Cup. Before their series loss to Bangladesh, the Nida Dar-led side had swept South Africa in the T20 series at home. A good run at the World Cup would be another shot in the arm for the women’s game in Pakistan.
Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2023