Pakistan’s batting display was dismal….
After all the hype surrounding the India-Pakistan clash at the Asia Cup 2018, the match was rather one-sided and it was India, who dominated the proceedings, from start to end. India’s record in the UAE against Pakistan hasn’t been all that great and this win would have certainly lifted the spirits of the Indian team after the close win over Hong Kong on Tuesday. Pakistan’s batting was really not tested in their first match against Hong Kong as they had to chase just 117 for a win. But against a full strength bowling line-up like India, they would have gotten a fair idea of where they stand and which areas they must work on.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar had put India in control early on after dismissing openers Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman were dismissed for 2 and 0 respectively. Babar Azam (47) and Shoaib Malik (43) did resurrect Pakistan’s innings to a certain extent with an 82-run stand, but once Azam was dismissed by Kuldeep Yadav with a superb delivery, Pakistan did not find any sort of momentum in the innings. Some poor shots, irresponsible running from Pakistan and some excellent work on the field from India led to Pakistan’s debacle.
After Sarfraz Ahmed and Shoaib Malik, Pakistan have a pretty inexperienced batting line-up. In the absence of Mohammad Hafeez and Imad Wasim, Asif Ali and Shadab Khan have been entrusted with the responsibility to stabilise the middle-order. The duo had played a combined 29 ODIs before this match and the inexperience showed. Both of them were not interested in taking the ones and twos and rotating the strike and instead saw the big shots as the way out.
After Azam’s dismissal, Pakistan would have wanted Malik to bat right till the end as he was the set batsman. However, a brilliant direct hit at the non-striker’s end from Ambati Rayudu led to his downfall. With the pressure building, skipper Sarfraz Ahmed too used the long handle, but an acrobatic catch in the deep from Manish Pandey saw him walk back to the pavilion for just 9. India had gotten rid of the top 5 batsmen – The batsmen who were supposed to be a key cog in ensuring that they get a formidable total on the board. With Ali, a couple of all-rounders and the bowlers to follow, a quality side like India would never lose their grip on the match from there.
That’s exactly what happened. Faheem Ashraf and Mohammad Amir added a few valuable runs but, Pakistan were bundled out for just 162 with 41 balls still remaining in their innings. After Pakistan decided to bat first, their intention would have been to get a score of around 250. In the heat and humidity of Dubai, the Indian batsmen would have found it a touch tad to chase that target. But Pakistan were nowhere close to it and India chased it down with 21 overs remaining.
Pakistan would have certainly learnt a harsh lesson. They need at least one out of the top 5 to get a big score on the board. They need to add more depth to their batting and if possible, their bowling as well. They have the likes of Haris Sohail and Junaid Khan waiting on the bench. Sohail can also bowl a bit of spin and Junaid’s record against India (9 wickets at 20.44 in 6 matches) has been terrific. Plus, he is another left-arm bowling option – Something with which India have struggled in the past.
Not to forget, they have someone like Shan Masood as well. Masood is yet to make his ODI debut, but has scored heavily in the domestic List A matches, which has warranted him a place in the side. Masood was the leading run-getter in the Regional One-Day Cup 2017-18, scoring 656 from 8 innings at 109.33, which includes 2 hundreds, 4 fifties and a career-best score of 182 not out. His form did not drop after that. In the Pakistan Cup 2018, he scored 240 runs at 60 from 5 innings, with 2 fifties and a century. What is staggering is that Masood has scored all of this runs in both the tournaments at a strike rate of over 100. He averages over 58 in List A and his strike rates is 80-plus. This could perhaps be the ideal time to give Masood a debut.
Pakistan play Afghanistan next on Friday and then India again on Sunday. They have one match before they take on their arch-rivals to get their combination and act together. Afghanistan will be high on confidence after beating Sri Lanka in their previous game and if Pakistan perform the way they did against India, they could see themselves losing yet again. However, this relatively young and inexperienced team, which did wonders in the Champions Trophy has too much talent in them to do poorly in two matches in a row.
After the loss, Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur said that he expects his batsmen to play more responsibly and also stick to their roles. “[For] Imam, it’s not his role to be running down the ground to Bhuvneshwar in the third over. It’s not Sarfy’s [Sarfraz’s] role to be hitting over the top and getting caught out there. We’ve got X-factor guys whose role it is to do that. If Fakhar gets out playing that way, it’s okay. If Asif gets out like that it’s okay, because that’s his role. But the other four batsmen certainly need to take responsibility,” Arthur said.
Make no mistake, Pakistan were up against a full-fledged Indian bowling attack. Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya returned for this match and luckily for India, Bhuvneshwar Kumar too struck form after looking rusty against Hong Kong. Pakistan certainly knew what they were up against. The batsmen failed to show application and the willingness to see out the tough phase and stay at the crease till the end.
Pakistan bounced back in the Champions Trophy after suffering a heavy defeat at the hands of India in the group stages. That was perhaps the wake-up call they needed then. Could this defeat also be put down to that?