#PAKvsSL: A dominant series win well worth the wait
The Pakistan cricket team, under the supreme leadership of Azhar Ali, has wrapped up the series against Sri Lanka by outplaying the hosts with a superbly dominant performance, winning three out of four matches in the five-match ODI series.
This was Pakistan’s first bi-lateral ODI series win in Sri Lanka since 2006. It has also boosted Pakistan’s chances of making it to the Champions Trophy as Pakistan is currently ranked eighth in the ODI rankings, slightly ahead of West Indies.
The national team has given a great overall performance. Pakistan’s batsmen have batted positively with strike rates ranging from Azhar’s 82 to Shoaib Malik’s 125. Azhar’s technique in the ODIs is going to get him a lot of runs in Asia. However, to challenge himself, he might have to shift back to his Test match technique on Australian or South African pitches. He has already become the fastest Asian batsman to reach 1,000 runs.
Players such as Mohammad Hafeez have performed extremely well in the series and his bowling ban might have just resulted in him batting with ease, with the fear of bowling Tests out of his mind.
Zimbabwe’s tour to Pakistan has probably benefitted Azhar and Shoaib the most as Azhar has learnt some required captaincy skills and they both seemed to have gained confidence in their batting. Azhar’s captaincy can be criticised for not having attacking fields at the end of the second ODI but he is showing improvement for sure.
Hafeez and Shoaib, being the most experienced batsmen in the team, have to continue to bat like this, with Hafeez being a vital member of the top order and Shoaib becoming a finisher, if Pakistan wants to bag more victories in the future. Shoaib had seen some terrible times over the past five years in international cricket, despite having performed in T20 leagues. Hopefully, his performances in this ODI series have boosted his confidence and let’s hope he can maintain his consistency.
Sarfraz Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan and Ahmed Shehzad have batted aggressively and with courage. It is refreshing to see that the management backed Shehzad despite complains of him being ill-disciplined and an inconsistent player. Plans of replacing him with Mukhtar Ahmed were also underway, except he got better and better with every game and made a mark in the fourth ODI, scoring 95 runs off 90 balls.
Our bowling attack has been pretty decent. At first, the exclusion of Wahab Riaz came as a blow, but with bowlers such as Yasir Shah and Mohammad Irfan, our bowling prospects didn’t seem that weak. Yasir is seen as improving in the ODIs whereas Rahat Ali and Anwar Ali provided a great performance, taking seven and six wickets respectively. Irfan made a great comeback from injury, taking four wickets.
Imad Wasim seems like a stable prospect for the future. I feel that with Hafeez banned, Azhar should bowl more as he is a better bowler than Shoaib.
We can talk about the quality of pitches and opposition when it comes to analysing batting and bowling, but fielding is related to fitness and attitude. Rizwan, Anwar, Yasir and even Shehzad have taken breath-taking catches and saved a lot of runs. Such great fielding efforts can lift the whole team as well as steer it towards victory.
Surprisingly, the game changer for the Pakistani cricket team has been its fielding, which has impressed many.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, has not only missed Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene with the bat on the pitch, but also on the field and in the dressing room. They were great team players and leaders. Even when they were not captains, they were the men a Sri Lankan captain would consult.
It is not easy when you lose two great players – one was the world’s most consistent batsman and the other was the most experienced international cricketer after Sachin Tendulkar. Players such as Lasith Malinga and Thisara Perera also put forth an average performance during the series.
Angelo Mathews, and for some time Tillakaratne Dilshan, along with the management will have to take this team along in the future with better efforts on and off the field. Jayawardene has been approached by England for a consultancy role, but Sri Lanka crucially needs his expertise for team mentoring, if he is willing.
Pakistan’s cricket team’s future looks extremely bright. This team seems like a decent and promising squad. However, there is still uncertainty whether Anwar can be termed as a genuine all-rounder despite his performances, and whether Bilawal Bhatti and Sohail Tanvir are the solutions to this problem.
In terms of new players in the squad, only a few have been given the chance to play, such as Hammad Azam, who has been given limited chances, whereas some all-rounders have not been given a chance at all. In terms of batting, Babar Azam played in place of his cousin, Umar Akmal and Sohaib Maqsood, Fawad Alam and Haris Sohail will definitely be under the selectors’ radar. Due to the way Rizwan and Sarfraz are playing, it seems the other Akmal brother, Kamran, will definitely not be joining the current squad.
Mohammad Amir might be making a comeback into the team after his match fixing scandal. We are yet to find a good right-arm fast bowler in place of Umar Gul.
Be it Mohammad Talha, Imran Khan or any new talent that has entered the squad, whoever plays, let’s hope Pakistan plays with aggression and positivity in all departments of the game.
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