By Obaid ur Rehman.
People were expecting fighting ODI series after when Pakistan beat England in the 4th Test Match and leveled the Test Series 2-2. But the problems with our ODI side remained there and didn’t allow Pakistan a bit to stand firmly in ODI series. Pakistan has always maintained the reputation of having the best bowling attack in cricketing world, but yet our bowlers failed in 3rd ODI and conceded highest ever total in the history of ODI cricket. England made 444-3 in 50 overs and Pakistan could only made 275 in return. Thanks to Muhammad Amir for his magnificent half-century that brought us close enough atleast so that grief of losing with high runs margin could be lessened to some extent. Pakistan tried to give England tough time in 4th ODI, but Azhar Ali, in his captaincy was constantly paving the way for England to whitewash us. England also won the 4th ODI as well and was one victory away from 5-0.
We once heard that Pakistan cricket team is the most unpredictable one. Yes, we heard it right, Pakistan cricket team has the ability to turn the tides in no time. After losing first four ODIs, we saw a completely different team in the final ODI. The spirit and performance put up by Pakistani players both in bowling and then in batting was too impressive to appreciate. Pakistan won the 5th ODI by 4 wickets while chasing 303. After disappointing end for Azhar Ali as a player and captain, it was Sarfraz Ahmad’s turn to lead Pakistan against England in an only T20 match at Old Trafford, Manchester. Sarfraz made his debut as Pakistan’s 6th T20 skipper. His men won the one sided match and outclassed England all the way.
T20 World Cup finalist, England won the toss and opted to bat first. Pakistan with the ball produced vibrant bowling and fielding display in the final leg of the long tour, didn’t allow English batsmen to stable their feet on crease and restricted them to 135-7. Imad Wasim initially provided the breakthrough for Pakistan when he sent off both the England openers, Jason Roy and Alex Hales. Hassan Ali immediately then took the wicket of the dangerous batsman Joe Root after which England were 67-3. After losing first three wickets, English batsmen could not really reassemble themselves and their wickets kept on falling on regular intervals. It was Wahab Riaz who then produced fiery spell and generated fearsome speed, upwards of 95mph on a couple of occasions, mixed with smart pace variations that actually tingled England’s middle order.
Jos Buttler thought to rebuild his form and probably dreamt to charge Pakistani bowlers after coming back from hamstring injury. But after Wahab Riaz’s and Hassan Ali’s brilliant overs, Butlers score from 9 off 4 balls became 16 off 14 balls. He then placed the first delivery of Wahab’s second over to deep point, but in safe hands. Ben Stokes and skipper Eoin Morgan also couldn’t get going on. Harder England tried to hit the ball, the worse off they became due to exceptional on-field display by Pakistani bowlers and fielders. After Powerplay, only 3 boundaries were being scored and in last 10 overs, Pakistan only conceded a single boundary only when David Willey smashed Sohail Tanvir through the leg side for a six, a brilliant statistic, I must say. In front of Pakistan’s bowling, England could only manage 135-7 to put up on board. The stars of show were Wahab Riaz and Imad Wasim who didn’t concede a single boundary in their spells. Wahab and Imad had the bowling stats of 4-0-18-3 and 4-0-17-2 respectively.
Wahab Riaz was awarded Man of the Match for his brilliant spell (4-0-18-3)
Sherjeel Khan and Khalid Latif came to open for Pakistan and what they did was really unbelievable. After Pakistan’s bowlers, it was batsmen’s turn to light up the show and boundaries started from the third ball of first over with Sherjeel Khan initiating it. Khalid Latif then smashed 20 runs off Chris Jordan’s first over. Few moments later, there were raining sixes and fours. Sherjeel Khan took Ben Stokes over long leg then twice took Adil Rashid over the leg-side boundary. Khalid Latif continued to be on the same pattern as of Sherjeel Khan. First, Sherjeel Khan reached his 50 with a six and then Khalid Latif, who flew all the way to from Islamabad to Manchester for this match only, brought up his maiden T20 50 off 34 deliveries.
At a moment, Pakistan were looking to have chased down the target without losing a wicket but at 107, Sherjeel Khan got out on Adil Rashid’s delivery. Babar Azam came on crease with an aggressive approach and tried to smash the ball out of ground, but he missed it and Jos Buttler also missed it for stumping. Adil Rashid thus couldn’t get his second wicket. After a couple of overs, Babar Azam hit the winning shot for four on covers and Pakistan won the match with 9 wickets, ending the tour quite impressively on a high note.
It was Pakistan’s largest victory in terms of margin (9 Wickets) and a well start for Pakistan’s new T20 captain Sarfraz Ahmad. It is always very difficult to end the tour atleast in this way specially when you have been under much pressure for not putting up fighting spirit (in ODIs). The way Pakistan played 5th ODI and an only T20 is something to cheer about. Pakistan has shown that inspite of 9th and 7th spots in ODIs and T20s, Pakistan yet can achieve many more and improve its rankings just like they did in Test Cricket. If they keep on playing in the same way, with spirit and devotion, then surely Pakistan would be having the ability to outclass every team in every format. Good Luck to Pakistan Cricket Team for upcoming T20, ODI & Test Series with T20 Champions West Indies in UAE.
The writer is Islamabad based Journalist / Research Analyst and writes on Politics, Current Affairs, Social Issues and Sports. He can be reached at;