Pak vs England: A welcome green sweep
For a team that continuously lives out of a suitcase and has no home to call its own, this victory is no mean feat.
Pakistan cricket was burnt down in 2010 and from those ashes rose a green phoenix. This phoenix conquered all it faced, even before the start of the England series; it set up an epic encounter with the whites but was not given due credit and was instead written off as 'winning against the minnows'. Critics felt that the series against England would expose the Pakistan side's weakness.
However, the encounter turned out to be lopsided as the whites were no match for the phoenix’s tenacity, determination and skill. England came to the Middle East with great confidence but was found wanting as their much-vaunted batting line-up collapsed time and again against what is possibly the best bowling attack in the world.
It was the middle order that painted a gloomy picture. Bell, Pieterson and Morgan were instrumental in posting big totals in the past few series but here they were all at sea against quality spin bowling. Pieterson’s technique was exposed ruthlessly and his dismissal in the last innings, where he was bowled through the gate by Ajmal, showed it.
Bell, who averaged over 100 last year, was Ajmal’s bunny this series and couldn’t read the doosra at all. Eoin Morgan, whose reputation before the start of the series was of a player who could play spin well, a reputation built on innings played in the shorter versions of the game, was also unable to make a statement. Ajmal and Rehman’s control over the English side was complete.
Team Green re-wrote a number of history books as they marched on their way to victory, clean sweeping England in the process. It was their fifth clean sweep ever and the first against England. They also became the first team in 105 years (since 1907) to win a match after posting fewer than 100 runs in the first innings.
Ajmal took the first shot as he made a statement, Shane Warne style, before the start of the series, claiming to unleash a devastating teesra at the visitors. Although the teesra barely made an appearance on the field, it continued to haunt the English psyche. So afraid were they of the teesra, that the English couldn’t even play the pehla (regular off-spin) let alone the doosra! Ajmal was rightly named man of the series for his 24 wickets. Rehman, the unsung hero, provided adequate support and together they took 43 wickets between them.
Misbah is a man of few words. He is not as charismatic as some of the others that have preceded him, neither is he in the same class as Mohammad Yousuf, Inzamam or Javed Miandad with the bat. But he is a worthy competitor and a captain that has united the team under one flag. United is not a word that has not been used often to describe Pakistan. Talented, mercurial, interesting - but never united. Usually, it is the individuals who win matches for us singlehandedly and not the team as a whole. Misbah’s team is bent on changing that outlook. They have given up some of their flair for consistency. There have been far more talented individuals who have represented Pakistan concurrently than the current bunch. However, this bunch punches harder as a whole, a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
The future of Pakistan’s batting was on display in this series as Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq showed their temperament and soaked the pressure at crucial junctions. They will form the bedrock of Pakistan batting in the coming years around which the rest of the batsmen will play. It was fitting that the highest individual score of the series was made by Azhar.
The number one Test ranking currently seems to be a curse as the two teams to have held it recently have been whitewashed in a period of less than eight months. England remains the number one side, even after this defeat, but it doesn’t have a resounding sound to it anymore.
For Pakistan, the saying ‘we create our own destiny’ has come true. For a team that continuously lives out of a suitcase and has no home to call its own, this victory is no mean feat. Sterner tests will follow when the team travels outside Asia but for now Team Misbah and the nation should savour this win.