For the third consecutive time, Pakistan batting failed to exhibit character……
It was not surprising to see the grass on the Cape Town pitch. In South Africa, the tracks are expected to be suited to pace and swing bowling and being a tourist, you have to be prepared to face the heat. South Africa won the toss in second Test and invited Pakistan to bat first on a greenish deck. Despite losing the loss, Sarfraz stated, he would have batted first on this deck, which sent a message to the opposition camp that his men are ready for the fight.
The same old story
But as soon as Pakistan came out to bat, it was the same old story. Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Pakistan’s new nemesis Duanne Olivier moved the ball around and banged the short ones at will, which left Pakistan top-order at bay. The outcome was probable. Five wickets went down, even when the Test match did not gain momentum – the South Africans were celebrating quite casually as they know very well, these batters are nothing but show ponies on the flat decks in the Middle East.
Poor technique and temperament, yet again
When you write about Pakistan touring away from the desert, even if you don’t wish to use the words technique and temperament, still you cannot but use them as because Pakistan batters of present times lack them horribly. It is easy to dismiss the deck as “not ideal for Test matches” or “very tough,” but last year, it was on such sort of tracks, on which Virat Kohli and his fellow colleagues fought back. What the likes of Virat and Cheteshwar Pujara did was, trusted the basics of batting more. Whereas, Pakistan, in the third consecutive innings, failed to do such.
Astute footwork, occupying the crease and trusting the defence matter very much if a team wish to fare well in South Africa. And only on two occasions, these factors clicked for Pakistan and they went on to win a Test in 1998 and 2007. Mind you, those tracks were as tough as this one. Obviously, the bowlers were the heroes back then, but they had the back-up of batsmen. At Port Elizabeth in 2007, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Younis Khan and Kamran Akmal weathered the storm with sheer grit, while in Durban in 1998, Azhar Mahmood and Saeed Anwar produced some superb quality stuff to become part of an epic victory.
But on rest of the occasions, Pakistan batting had been below-par and the tradition continues. The Pakistani batsmen cannot just rely on backfoot stroke-play, execute shots with a straight bat, drop the wrists against shot balls and leave as much as possible to spend time at the crease.
Basic things…… boring to repeat and boring to read. But they are extremely important.
Shan tried, Sarfraz overcame a lean-patch, but they weren’t enough
At 54 for 5, under-fire Pakistani captain came at the crease to join Shan Masood. Shan held one end firm, while Sarfraz threw his bat at everything. Some scratchy boundaries came n to ease the pressure, but just when a partnership started to develop, Masood was dismissed and which exposed the tail. Sarfraz decided to curb his attacking instincts and decided to trust his defence and back foot stroke-play, but his batting was never out of nervy stuffs – tentativeness outside off was evident. His half-century did not convert something big – the temptation to work one away outside off might have worked earlier, but not always a safe option. Sarfraz left the scene, and Pakistan folded for just 177 – a respectable total after being left reeling at 54 for 5, but never enough to pose a threat to South Africa.