Pakistan's imperfect cricket team
Pakistan's first victory came under favourable conditions. Some things need to be taken care of for the second Test.
Not taking anything away from Pakistan’s victory, the fact that the win in the Hamilton Test came under slightly fortuitous circumstances (some freak dismissals and the condition of the pitch), cannot be and, perhaps more importantly, should not be ignored.
To keep up the good work that was undeniably done by an at-last-united looking Pakistan team, and to ensure a series win, the management and the players need to take care of some issues very quickly, before the second test at the Basin Reserve, Wellington, starts on Saturday.
The favourable pitch
The first and foremost factor that went in favour of Pakistan in Hamilton was the condition of the pitch and the square. Unlike most New Zealand pitches, Seddon Park’s wicket was slow and dry. The hot and humid conditions too, were more like the sub-continent’s usual fare than the little island down-under’s. The weather and the pitch combined, helped the Pakistani batsmen, who time and again have shown an aversion to seaming tracks and swinging conditions. Thus, they would be well advised to put the victory behind them and prepare for the next Test, where batting conditions might be more challenging.
What should be of particular concern to the management is that none of the batsmen could convert their starts into anything substantial, despite the docile nature of the pitch and the impotent New Zealand bowling attack. Had it not been for a rallying innings from wicketkeeper Adnan Akmal and significant contributions from Abdur Rehman, Umar Gul and Tanvir Ahmed in the lower order, Pakistan would have been hard put to post a lead in the first innings, which might have changed the course of the Test match significantly. So the batsmen, once they are in, need to knuckle down and play big innings without thinking that they have done their job every time they get to 50 runs, if Pakistan are to continue their winning ways in the Test cricket arena.
Leave it to the bowlers
The bowling form of Abdur Rehman, who has always been considered something of a limited-overs specialist, must have pleasantly surprised the Pakistan think-tank, and will give the on-tour selection committee a nice little headache once Saeed Ajmal is available for selection. The way Abdur Rehman deceived the New Zealand batsmen with clever variations of pace and flight was admirable, as he was the only one who looked like he had an impact when things weren’t going too well during the Kiwis’ first innings.
Wahab Riaz was, without a shadow of doubt, Pakistan’s next best bowler and although he could not get wickets in the first innings, he showed remarkable control over his length and swing particularly to decimate the Kiwi line-up the second time around.
Umar Gul and Tanvir Ahmed, who did take more wickets than Riaz, were quite frankly a disappointment most of the time. Ahmed simply looks unfit for the five-day format of the game, since he was visibly unable to exert any kind of pressure in his second and third spells, and looked like he was struggling to bowl at even a respectable pace at times.
Gul’s is sadly a case of talent going to waste, due to what can only be called lack of brains. Why a bowler, who has his amount of pace and the ability to swing and seam a cricket ball, needs to keep banging the ball in so short, and that too, on a distinctly unresponsive pitch, is beyond comprehension. It is time he works with the coaches and works out a better plan, because he does become very predictable sometimes, especially when things are not going his way.
The captain’s call
The last point that would have disturbed the observant cricket fan was the readiness with which captain Misbahul Haq started setting run-saving fields when McCullum was on the pitch. His decision to put men on the boundary in the first innings was particularly disconcerting, because however well a batsman is playing you just do not stop attacking him on the first morning of a Test match.
It has been said of Misbah that he is the best cricketing brain in the country and perhaps he has his own individual way of doing things, but he will need to adopt a much more attacking stance in the future if he wants to keep winning Test matches against oppositions that are more formidable than New Zealand.
I might come out looking a like a spoilsport, but the discrepancies outlined above cannot be neglected amid the euphoria of winning a Test match, if our team is to become a potent force in the world of Test cricket.