Yet another, yet another Pakistani batting collapse….

Pakistan need 12 runs to win. They have two wickets in hand and Azhar Ali, one of their mainstays in the format is at the other end. Hasan Ali, the no.10 batsman, goes for an almighty heave across the line with one ball remaining in the over and gifts a catch to long-on. Typical of Pakistan? Very. As Azhar Ali fell to Ajaz Patel with Pakistan five runs away from a win, the cricketing fraternity couldn’t believe what the hosts had managed to do.

At 130/3, Pakistan needed just 46 to win with seven wickets in hand. The pitch had no demons and the New Zealand attack, while good, was nothing special. A crazy run-out, some wild, meaningless heaves and it left Hasan Ali to do the madness that will continue to dumbfound you howmuchever times you watch it.

Since Sarfraz Ahmed, who was all animated behind the stumps when Pakistan were bowling, fell meekly, Pakistan faced 81 balls of which Azhar Ali took it upon himself to face 54. In the 27 remaining balls that the tail faced, they – save Mohammad Abbas –  showed a little character.

In another time, under another head coach or another skipper, the recklessness of the tail might have been met with some sharp words. Not now, though. Sarfraz appeared polished and polite in the post-match conference and despite criticizing the tail, never went to the extent of chastising them for their complete lack of application.

“Obviously it is disappointing. The start today wasn’t good, but the way Azhar and Asad played, we should have finished it off. The collapse after that was very disappointing for the team. We obviously need to give credit to Ajaz here, he bowled superbly. The pitch has changed and he bowled well. Our batsmen should have handled it better, given ourselves a bit of time, but we just didn’t. The batsmen should have scored the runs itself in the first place, but some of the shots played by some of them in the tail were quite disappointing. We had opportunities right through the game, first to score big runs after getting them out for 153 in the first innings and then to finish off the game now; the fact that we couldn’t do it is very disappointing,” he said.

Also read: From a pacer to spinner, Ajaz Patel announces himself in Test cricket

Truth be told, it was far from disappointing. It was outrageous that a team should lose from the position Pakistan were in after dominating the entire Test. That it happened at home, in Abu Dhabi, a fortress-like no other for Pakistan, is a bigger travesty. That it happened against New Zealand, who hadn’t played cricket in six months, shows it had nothing to do with the opposition. This was Pakistan being Pakistan at its peak.

Mind you, they are owners to some of the most dubious collapses in Test history but most of the recent ones are so terrible that even for those who acknowledge Pakistan’s unpredictability, this was too much to take.

This was the fifth narrowest win in the history of Test cricket but the match was anything but narrow until Pakistan chose to go full retard. More than the margin, the shocking manner in which one batsman after another were dismissed would haunt Mickey Arthur and co.

Yes, Neil Wagner and debutant Ajaz Patel were special, but this surely was chase-able. With Azhar Ali at one end, the tail just had to hang around but they somehow felt an urgent need to go for glory. This isn’t Pakistan’s first time in the spotlight for a batting collapse.

In 2016 in Edgbaston against England, Pakistan lost 9 wickets for 122 runs on the final day in less than two sessions lose. A few months later, they lost nine wickets in a session against the Kiwis in their backyard in Hamilton to lose a Test. The same year,  in that memorable Boxing Day Test against the Aussies, Pakistan, looking for a draw were cleaned up for 163. Set a target of 183 by West Indies in Barbados a year later, Pakistan were skittled out for 81.

Yet, all of those seem acceptable compared to what unfolded at Abu Dhabi today. It was retro Pakistan committing harakiri of the highest order when all the situation demanded was to bat sensibly.

But Oye Hoye!

The Cup had to live up to its name and Pakistan have just about managed to make this Test one of the most memorable in the history of cricket. If you aren’t a Pakistan fan, chances are that you aren’t complaining.

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