Streak over

Pakistan’s tour of South Africa has ended on the most disappointing note, writes K Shahid

Streak over
The whitewash in the Test series was almost a given. In fact, Pakistan’s competitiveness in patches came as a pleasant surprise and can bode well for future tours, with the side not playing Test cricket for another seven months.

The 3-2 narrow ODI series defeat was an overall reflection of how the series went. It was closely contested, with Pakistan in the lead for the majority of the first four matches, which culminated in a 2-2 score line before the one-sided finale. Still Pakistan were competitive and in many parts played the best ODI cricket since the Champions Trophy win in 2017.

Even so, the T20 series defeat – whatever the final score line might be, given that this piece is being written before the third match, which is effectively a dead rubber – is perhaps the most disappointing take away from the entire tour of South Africa.

Hussain Talat

The hosts were the overwhelming favourites in the Test series, given that this was a considerably weak Pakistan side and much stronger squads have failed to win in South Africa. Only one Pakistani side has ever won a bilateral ODI series against South Africa away, when Pakistan under Misbah-ul-Haq actually became the first Asian side to defeat South Africa in a bilateral ODI series away. Hence, Pakistan should similarly be credited with a toughly contested ODI series.

However, Pakistan entered the T20 series as the undisputed top side in the world. Not only were they the number one ranked side, they were off the back of 11 successive series wins in the shortest format of the game since 2016. That streak has now been broken.

In many ways, Pakistan played two identical T20 matches in the first two games, and hence lost them in an absolutely identical fashion. Chasing almost identical targets of 192 and 189, Pakistan lost the first two matches by 6 and 7 runs respectively. And yet, Pakistan would feel that there was a tangible difference between the two contests.

Sarfaraz Ahmed

To begin with, Pakistan had the second T20I in their hands, when Babar Azam and Hussain Talat were going. Not only should the visitors have won the game, they should’ve done so with an over or two to spare. While Babar Azam’s stroke play was jaw-dropping in the Power Play, he couldn’t replicate it later, with the duo losing their in the overs 11-15. While Babar got out earlier, Hussain was there till the 19th over, and failed to do the needful for Pakistan.

Babar Azam played wonderful strokes, but he needs to be reminded again that if a batsman plays half the second innings of a T20 game, their overall strike rate needs to be considerably more than the overall required rate. Babar’s final strike rate was slightly less than the needed rate, while Hussain Talat’s was significantly less.

While the duo did not have a similarly long partnership in the first T20, but the final strike rate for both was less in that run chase as well. And while in Babar’s case it’s just a matter of applying the right mentality – because he clearly has the game to be at the top of the game for a considerable time – one wonders whether Hussain’s limitations were clearly visible in the T20 series.

Usman Shinwari and Shoaib Malik

Babar Azam

Pakistan missed Sarfaraz Ahmed’s captaincy in the T20Is, where he is at his best and most effective

Another difference between the first and second T20I was that while the spanking was more distributed for the bowlers in the former, Usman Shinwari and to a lesser extent Hasan Ali were the guilty party in the latter. Imad Wasim was outstanding in both games, and is now a shoo-in for the Power Plays in the T20 contests going forward.

Indeed, Pakistan missed Sarfaraz Ahmed’s captaincy in the T20Is, where he is at his best and most effective. Pakistan’s 11-match streak was also down to Sarfaraz’s ability as the leader of the pack, which unfortunately hasn’t been as visible in Tests or even ODIs – barring the Champions Trophy win.

Next up is the fourth season of the Pakistan Super League. It would be a well-earned breather from the pressures of international cricket. However, it’s not all fun and games, for PSL has been the breeding ground for many of the current crop, and would witness the future stars of the game coming up as well.