“Pakistan can take heart from the fact that they have the best pace bowling average in the English conditions (30.66) since the last World Cup but they need to buckle up the other two facets of their game i.e. batting and spin bowling”
Pakistan made wholesale changes to their squad for the ODI series against Australia with as many as six players, including regular captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, being rested after a gruelling cricket season which has resulted in them shuffling across the cricket pitches since the Asia Cup in September. That move was understandable as it is really important for any national team management to manage the workload of their key players ahead of a marquee tournament like the World Cup.
The idea was to give their bench strength a chance to prove themselves against an in-form opposition. Yes, that word can now be used for the Australians without any hesitation. They are well and truly in top form after scoring a series win in India along with victories in the first two ODIs in Sharjah. Pakistan, in both games, batted first and put on a score of 280 and 284 runs respectively. Both these scores indicate a fine batting performance but merely looking at these scores wouldn’t reveal the fallacies of Pakistani batting lying underneath such fine scores.
In both the games, Pakistan looked to conserve wickets at the death so that they can go all-out in the final overs but despite having wickets in hand, they failed to take the full toll of the death overs. In the first ODI, they were 190 for the loss of 3 wickets towards the end of the 39th over. Anyone with a normal cricketing sense would back Pakistan to score at least 300 from such a strong position but Pakistan being Pakistan, squandered that advantage and ended up with only 280 runs on the board which ultimately proved to be quite deficient.
A similar story was repeated in the second ODI where Pakistan were very well placed at 211 for four wickets after the end of the 40th over. Again, expectations were high for an over 300 finish and yet again they didn’t leave any core in flooring those expectations as they could manage a below-par 73 runs from the last 10 overs and lost 3 wickets in the process. Clearly, they lacked a finishing flourish in both the games and, as a result, were left ruing their unchallenging scores.
But here arises a question, is this happening only in the present series that Pakistan have been unable to reach the 300-run mark or they have a history behind it? Well, looking at the data since the World Cup 2015 suggests towards a history of such inability. Pakistan have played 72 ODI games since the last World Cup but have managed a 300+ score in only 13 such games while teams like England (34), India (21), South Africa (18), Australia (17) and New Zealand (15) have breached the psychological mark more often than their Pakistani counterparts.
Besides their batting strategy failures, one more aspect that is worth taking a look has been the performance of their spinners in the series. Their spinners have performed under the shadow of their Australian counterparts which is a really baffling stat as Pakistan know the pitches in UAE better than anyone else in the world. According to CricViz, Australian spinners, in the second ODI, conceded at 5.32 runs per over in the first 40 overs whereas their Pakistani colleagues went for 6.45 runs per over in the same phase of Australian innings. Australians were even more effective in the first 40 overs of the first ODI where they conceded at a miserly 4.32 runs per over while Pakistani spinners went over 5.5 runs per over.
These are worrying signs for Pakistan as they haven’t been able to capitalize on the conditions that they know by heart and have been grounded into submission by an alien opposition. Pitches in England will not be as conducive to spin as they are in UAE which will make it even more difficult for Pakistani spinners to come good after such a beating on the friendly pitches of the middle-east.
Pakistan can take heart from the fact that they have the best pace bowling average in the English conditions (30.66) since the last World Cup but they need to buckle up the other two facets of their game i.e. batting and spin bowling. The return of rested players will certainly boost these two departments but, as of now, they should look to rectify their finishing problems as such bad finishes can cost them dearly at the mega-event in June.