“Until and unless Pakistan decide to take foreign tours seriously and plan accordingly to win rather than maintaining formalities, their progress in Test cricket would remain stagnant”
It was a matter about when and how!
When would the batting lineup of Pakistan collapse?
How long would South African bowlers take to finish the Test?
But the spectators and experts present on the ground, did not have to keep themselves guessing about such things. With still two days left for the Test and 228 runs to get, Pakistan were not the team to dish out a brilliant run chase. Pakistan’s unpredictable nature is more evident among their bowlers rather than batsmen.
The Pakistani batting lineup melted quickly to digest yet another whitewash in a Test series in South Africa.
Pakistan's last 4 tours to SA/Aus:
2009-10: Lost 3-0 (3)
2012-13: Lost 3-0 (3)
2016-17: Lost 3-0 (3)
2018-19: Lost 3-0 (3)#SAvPak
— Bharath Seervi (@SeerviBharath) January 14, 2019
Of course, without Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq in the batting lineup, it would be silly to invest faith in someone like Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali. The kind of consistency and responsibility, which were needed to show after retirement of MisYou, Asad and Ali have failed to exhibit such.
Also read: Pakistan batsmen fail, yet again
Both Asad and Ali have been playing Test cricket since 2010 and were expected to develop under Younis and Misbah. But so far, they remain as flat-track-bullies, who shows their sparks on rare occasions away from home and earn accolades to establish their respective places in the team. A break follows after touring SENA countries and within this break, all forget about the past.
Azhar has played 73 Test matches so far. 5669 runs at an average of 43.27 could be regarded as something good. But that average goes down whenever Ali batted away from home. He averages 37.41 on foreign soil and when the matter is about playing in SENA countries, apart from Australia- where he averages 81.20, the numbers are not so satisfactory: 16.00 against South Africa, 29.68 against England and 29.42 against New Zealand.
About 2 years ago Pakistan were number one in Tests. Today, they have fallen to seven. They are badly missing Misbah & Younis and need to find their replacements. That will be possibly only if the current players go through the same first-class system Misbah & Younis did in 90s.
— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) January 14, 2019
The numbers are not chummy in case of Asad as well. His overall batting average is 38.94 from 69 Test matches – a frustrating number after playing Test cricket for almost eight years. It did not go down further as the flat decks at Middle East helped a lot. But away from Middle East, Asad’s journey has not been rosy: In England, he averages 36.5, 32.08 in South Africa, 23.28 in New Zealand and surprisingly, his average is slightly better in Australia than his actual average: 39.83.
Certainly, you don’t expect such an average number from two of the batsmen, who played around 70 Test matches. Apart from a sparkling performance from the bowlers, it is very important for the batting lineup to shine as well. And when you have batsmen, who have played more than 50 Tests, the expectations remain high.
Azhar Ali could only manage 59 runs from his six outings against South Africa ?
This is his lowest aggregate in a Test series comprising of three or more matches ?
— Cricingif (@_cricingif) January 14, 2019
But in the 3-match Test series against South Africa, the experienced men in the post-MisYou-era hardly could create an impact. As the numbers suggest, Ali had contributed 5% of total team runs while Asad just 14.32%.
Also read: Pakistan shine at Johannesburg from nowhere
It would be too much to expect from the likes of Imam-ul-Haq, Shan Masood or Babar Azam to steer the ship through troubled waters. These batters are still not experienced enough and it was the duty of Ali and Shafiq to guide and shield rather than exposing them against the red-hot South African bowlers. Neither would I like to criticize Sarfraz Ahmed’s batting as because, his job in the team is not as a specialist batsman, but wicketkeeper and captain mostly. Certainly, I should not expect someone to smash hundreds and double hundreds each time while he walks out to bat at number six and seven. It is the job of your experienced campaigners.
Babar’s dam care batting against Dale Steyn and Shan Masood’s unexpected composure might be something to cheer, but overall, Pakistan’s batting had cut a frustrating figure in South Africa.
Since the Test series started in Centurion, Pakistan bowlers had been inspiring. Most of the times, they challenged the experienced batting lineup of hosts. But they were let down by the poor batting display. The scenario would have been different in Johannesburg, if the Pakistani batting clicked in first innings. Even if Pakistan could post 262 runs in their first innings, they would not have been chasing 381.
Batting in SENA countries not only require technique, but the willpower to fight against all odds. Sadly, the current Pakistani batsmen, especially the senior ones, lack the fighting spirit immensely.
Obviously, since the heavyweights of past left in 90s and mid-2000s, a tour in South Africa for Pakistan remained a place for formality – just go there, play the way you like, then return home with so-called positives and learn nothing. People will forget in course of time!
Such a mentality would never help Pakistan to evolve. Until and unless Pakistan decide to take foreign tours seriously and plan accordingly to win rather than maintaining formalities, their progress in Test cricket would remain stagnant. And that is where the captain of the team needs to inspire. But sadly, Sarfraz has failed to inspire his men in Test cricket so far.