Pakistan started the Test series against England on a disastrous note as they lost the first Test against England by 3 wickets at Old Trafford. A match they were on the verge of winning for most of the fourth day, a match that was out of England’s grasp when they lost their recognized batsmen, a match that should have ended long ago before the final hour of the penultimate day. Was it complacency that cost Pakistan the first Test, hurried decisions or selection issues, let’s try to find out:
Going for two spinners was a risky decision!
Nearly a decade back, Australia experimented with two leg spinners in a Test match and that experiment was successful because a) both Stuart MacGill and Shane Warne were world class bowlers and b) the team had world-class batsmen in their side. Sadly, Pakistan tried to follow the Aussies too late but also on one count (Yasir Shah and Shadab Khan being good bowlers) but forgot about their usually brittle batting line up that collapses even in the batsmen-friendly UAE conditions. They were playing England where the ball swings, where the batsmen has to play according to the situation and where playing without getting used to the conditions is criminal. Pakistan lost the match by 3 wickets, because they missed a proper batsman (notably Fawad Alam who spent the four days on the bench), a good all-rounder (like Abdur Razzaq and Azhar Mahmood) and a Captain who had no clue how to lead.
Playing with one batsmen less was stupidity
When the Pakistan Cricket team is good, they are very very good and when they are bad they are horrid. I want to know whose brilliant idea was to go with one less batsman against a side that has a bowler like James Anderson nearing 600 Test Wickets, Stuart Broad who has just completed 500 Test wickets and an all-rounder like Chris Woakes who is both a formidable batsman and a bowler with over 1000 Test runs and 100 Test wickets. Pakistani batsmen applied themselves well in the first innings but when they came out for the second time, they seemed to have wiped out everything from their memory and started from the scratch, as if they were new to the game of Cricket, and not just to the conditions. Had Mohammad Rizwan not ran out Asad Shafiq in the second innings, things might have been different; had Shan Masood played for the team in the second outing than himself, Pakistan might have had a different kind of start; had Azhar Ali not played in the Test match because of his wretched form, who knows Pakistan might have ended up winning the match in less than three days.
Azhar Ali is not a Captain, why is he still at the helm?
It seems that Pakistani bowlers were bowling in an auto mode without the Captain providing any input as if he wanted them to do whatever they had in mind. Former skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed was so better at giving instructions; he was dropped because of his bad form with the bat, will PCB do the same with Azhar Ali? Sarfaraz Ahmed without the wicket-keeping gloves is still a better batsman than Skipper Azhar Ali who seems to have forgotten how to bat, how to lead and how to set the field since becoming the skipper for the second time. The last time he was sacked because of his bad form, inability to handle his players and above all, his negative attitude. That’s exactly what happened at Old Trafford where he didn’t change the bowlers when he should have, didn’t set the field according to the situation and didn’t try to break partnerships by going out of the box. It seemed as if the Pakistan team was being controlled by a remote control from beyond the boundary, than from someone in the ground.
If Pakistan is there to win, so is England?
And the Pakistan team and their supporters must realize that while they are in it to win it, so is the other team. The opponents also have a lady luck rooting for them so if the going can get tough for one team, it can go tough for the other too. Dropping catches because the slip fielder was standing too far, not hitting the stumps in an era when even blind cricketers can throw the ball near the stumps, not able to bowl Yorkers, bouncers or even a slower one (and in the spinners’ case, a wrong un) when you have people like Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed in the coaching department shows that either these players don’t want to learn or the veterans don’t want to teach them.
Whatever the reasons, the management will have to decide whether they are in England to beat England or just to play against England. The way Pakistan played at Old Trafford on the fourth day, it seems that right now 'praying hard’ is the best way for these boys to win, because they don’t seem interested in ‘playing hard’ to achieve that!