THE outcome of the long-awaited and eagerly anticipated match between Pakistan and Australia was an unexpected one indeed. Though the Aussies were favourites for the game, Pakistan restricted them to just 307 after a whirlwind start but then lost their way to succumb by 41 runs.
Unfortunately, the reasons for defeat were several, but the main reason that stood out was the team’s lack of focus, so much so that on more than a few occasions our players were caught napping. Dropped catches, poor shot selection from batsmen, inconsistent bowling and absurd field placings indicated a very unprofessional approach by Pakistan, which certainly does not augur well for future games in this World Cup.
Bouncing back is never easy for any team and Pakistan has another stiff challenge coming up against India on Sunday which surely wont be a walk in the park for them.
However, it is never too late and if our team simply focus on one thing — which is learning from their mistakes in the previous games — they can for sure put up a winning performance against the arch-rivals on Sunday. In hindsight, bowling first against the Aussies was not the best option. But if they had opted for that, then the bowlers should have bowled to a method, pitching up and bowling wicket-to-wicket. Instead, they were wayward and did not bowl to the field which allowed the Aussie openers to pounce upon every opportunity they got to post a century stand on the board in no time.
Our opening bowlers, apart from Amir, could not make the full use of the conditions. The fielders joined the party with some really sloppy fielding and dropped catches to ensure Australia was on track for 400. Had those catches been taken the story would have been drastically different.
In the late half of the innings, though, the bowlers finally got their act together to restrict the Aussies remarkably well.
The target of 307 looked well within the grasp but our batsmen continued to display immaturity by falling to needless hook shots on short balls. They clearly lacked the application, focus and dedication which is required to win a match against a quality side like Australia. If we look at the dismissals, they were most unexpected and very soft in nature. Fakhar Zaman has been out of sorts lately and that was evident from the fact when he cut the ball straight down the throat of third man. It was an extremely irresponsible stroke where Fakhar easily fell into the trap set for him by the opposition.
Babar Azam, who was timing the ball impeccably, lacked the discipline to duck the shorter ball and went Fakhar’s way. Babar is such a classy batsman and it is a bit disappointing to see him fall to such soft dismissals. He knows he is the mainstay of this batting line-up and should stay longer at the wicket to score a hundred or more to ensure a formidable total for his team.
Imam, too, have fallen to needless leg-side flicks in the last couple of games which have angered the experts and former players. It is a terrible way to get out and he needs to curb this habit at the earliest to score more runs. Had he carried on in that fine partnership with Hafeez it would have been a big boost for the batsmen who followed as they had scored freely in the death overs. Alas, it was not to be.
Although there were a lot of disappointing moments in the match, the pick of them was the Hafeez dismissal who should have smashed a full toss out of the park but handed an easy catch to Mitchell Starc instead who was positioned for just that shot. From thereon, the Aussies tightened the grip to get rid of Shoaib Malik and Asif Ali in quick succession to take control. Despite brilliant cameos by Hasan Ali and Wahab Riaz, Pakistan never looked like getting back in the game.
It is imperative that Pakistan have a solid game plan against India now. They have to really switch themselves on to a different, aggressive mindset. Team slection is vital here and the struggling duo of Asif Ali and Shoaib Malik need to be rested and replaced by Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim.
Sarfraz Ahmed and his men showed earlier this month that they have the skill and the resilience to bounce back and beat the best when they stunned England. There is no reason why they can’t do it again. Best of luck Pakistan!
Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2019