Facing a whitewash?

Published January 19, 2024

THE start to the T20 World Cup year has been far from ideal for Pakistan. Having already lost the five-match series against New Zealand, with two games still to go, Shaheen Shah Afridi’s men face the prospect of a whitewash. They are now five games without a win in a T20 International, the run stretching back to last April. For Shaheen, it has been a tough beginning as captain. Pakistan bowlers, notably Haris Rauf, have bled runs, New Zealand making over 220 in two of the matches so far. Babar Azam made half-centuries in all the three matches played but Pakistan failed in their chase each time. With the World Cup in the US and Caribbean set to begin in June, and Pakistan grouped with India, Ireland, the US and Canada, the team needs to pull up its socks. For a start, it could win the last two matches against New Zealand.

However, it is easier said than done, especially with Finn Allen tearing into Pakistan’s bowling attack in every game. In the third game, he hit a record-tying 16 sixes and was particularly severe on Haris, in whose defence Shaheen referred to the small size of stadiums in New Zealand. But Pakistan’s once-feared pace attack, comprising the same bowlers with the exception of the injured Naseem Shah, is lacking bite. For the series, Babar was demoted from his opening slot but has continued to pile up the runs. Saim Ayub, the youngster who replaced him as opener, has only shown flashes. But the batters have faced challenges after the team’s bowlers have been hit to all parts. Babar has not received support from the other end to drive Pakistan to victory, with the middle and lower order not contributing enough. Shaheen has said Pakistan are working in the matches before the World Cup — they also play a four-match series against England — to find the best combination. They need to find it soon.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2024

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