Even before Pakistan’s in-form pacers Hasan Ali and Shadab Khan were brought into action, Sri Lanka had already lost four wickets on Friday in Sharjah. After the fast bowling duo came into the play, the rest of the Sri Lankan side were washed away as they managed to put up a mere target of 174 for Pakistan to chase in the fourth ODI. The semi-hosts, who had already sealed the five-ODI series with victories in the first three ODIs needed 39 overs to go 4-0 up and hand Sri Lanka their 11th consecutive loss in ODIs.
On the other hand, Pakistan have registered their eighth consecutive win in ODIs. It is their second-longest successful streak against the top sides after 10 wins in a row in 1990. The year 2017 has been rather extraordinary for Pakistan, at least so far. It began with winning their maiden ICC Champions Trophy, followed by beating West Indies in their backyard in limited-overs series and now they have hammered the Lankans in their adopted home of UAE. According to the latest ICC rankings, they have a batsman in the top five – Babar Azam is the No. 4 ODI batsman at present, majorly because of his two tons in this series.
However, the department that is a major driving force behind Pakistan’s success this year in the limited-overs is their bowling department. The excellent blend of fast bowlers and spinners have left many opponents in ruckus. These players are not one match or one series wonders but with immense consistency, they have numbers to back them. The fact that their 23-year-old Hasan Ali has beaten his senior counterparts from other teams to become the No. 1 bowler in the ODIs deserve appreciation. The youngster has done something no other player in the history of the game has ever done. After 25 games, Hasan has 54 wickets and no fast bowler in ODI history had more wickets than him at this stage of career.
Ever since Hasan Ali has made his international debut for Pakistan, they have played five series and sixth one is underway. Prior to the Sri Lanka series, Hasan was the leading wicket-taker for Pakistan in all the series but one which was in West Indies and this has been quite impressive from the youngster. Ever since Hasan Ali made his international debut, Pakistan have played six series; the one underway against Sri Lanka is the sixth one. Apart from the West Indies, Hasan has been their leading wicket-taker in all the occasions and with 10 wickets to his name in UAE, he is already on the top of the bowling charts in the ongoing ODI series against Sri Lanka. This is some impressive performance for player at a young age of 23.
While he holds a strong ability of wicket-taking, he has an influential support from Mohammad Hafeez, who with his accuracy, flat trajectory and well pace for a spinner, has a special tendency to choke players in the middle. Although, Hafeez might struggle on flat surfaces, has an ordinary bowling average and has just one four-for, he has the tendency to restrict the runs flow and put the batsmen under pressure.
For example, when Sri Lanka had a decent start in the second ODI, Hafeez was used in the middle overs and as expected he put brakes in the runs flow. He was the only bowler who bowled all 10 overs and finished with excellent figures of 1 for 24. The most significant performance that testified his worth as a bowler in the middle was when Pakistan took over England in the semi-final in the Champions Trophy earlier this year. He managed only a wicket but successfully pressurised the hosts with his accuracy and ruthless flat trajectories.
Without Hafeez, Pakistan struggle to get their bowling combination right. Massive loss for the team if his action is found illegal. #PakvSL
— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) October 19, 2017
Pakistan, recently, restricted its opponent under 250 in eight consecutive matches; the fourth ODI against Sri Lankan was the eighth occasion. During such situations, wicket-taking bowlers are given the majority of the credit but Hafeez has been their unsung hero. The veteran, who has been reported for an illegal action, bettered Pakistan as he rose to No. 1 in ICC ODI all-rounder’s rankings.
Apart from Hasan Ali and Hafeez, Pakistan have been lucky to witness the likes of Shadab Khan, Junaid Khan and Rumaan Raees step up. Especially when their spearhead Mohammad Amir has been ruled out with an injury, the variety that is present in Pakistan’s bowling department at present has only got better with the others handling their roles with at most responsibility.