On Wednesday night, the eyes of the 20 million people were on Shahid Afridi’s men; who were going to face an opponent whom they lost against 10 months back in their last meeting.
At that moment, coach Waqar Younis and the all-rounder himself said that they are experimenting for the upcoming World T20, which starts in less than a week’s time.
However, the night turned sour as the Men in Green lost to Bangladesh.
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People who were praying their heart out for the team saw Mohammad Sami bowl two untimely no-balls, and that too in a penultimate over. The reaction — full of anger and disappointment — was justified, and why wouldn’t it be. This is the same cricket-crazy nation who didn’t see their team losing against the same opposition for nearly 15 years in any format, but times have truly changed.
The 35-year-old Karachi-born right arm fast-bowler might bear the burden of this defeat, and he might face the axe come the World T20 but the real question is, will it be justified to make him the scapegoat? The answer is clearly no. The reason for that is that the Islamabad United pacer had a decent tournament by any standard, where he ended up with an economy rate of 6.16 and picked up three wickets. Even in the match, where he ended up as the villain, he had figures of 4-0-30-0.
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It won’t be an understatement that Men in Green lost the match in the first 10 overs while batting which was their first little defeat out of many, where they only managed to score 34 for the loss of four wickets, on a pitch that didn’t seem to have any real demons.
This was Pakistan’s lowest score in first 10 overs in T20Is, and it was also the worst in the tournament by any team, with the next worse scored by UAE (44-5) against Bangladesh.
Out of those 10 overs, Khurram Manzoor, Mohammad Hafeez and Umar Akmal managed to score just seven runs in 29 balls they faced; nearly 5 overs out of the allotted 20.
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Pakistan did remarkably well to recover from such a dreadful start, thanks to Sarfraz Ahmed and Shoaib Malik, who showed some real steel and brought Pakistan right back into the match when the team reached 100-run mark in the 17th over.
Then comes another pivotal moment, where the Men in Green lost another little battle, and hence the match in the end. The stage was set for the likes of captain Shahid Afridi, who had 20 balls to produce a high-flying finish, but unfortunately he failed once again, and scored his seventh duck in 86 T20I innings. It is also important to note that the man who is supposed to be the finisher Pakistan is looking for averages just over 12 his last 14 T20I innings.
Then while fielding, there were so many pivotal moments where the team just couldn’t stick to what should have been the plan.
The first was of not giving Anwar Ali the new ball in seaming conditions; especially when he recently showed on the New Zealand tour what he is capable of.
Then came the decision to play just one spinner on a pitch where spinners took 83-4 in 13 overs. It is quite astonishing to see that the captain and the team management once again misread the pitch.
Then come the fielding howler. Pakistan had Sharjeel Khan fielding at long-off, one of the most important positions at the death, and on the first no-ball Sami bowled, he took the catch, but his return was so poor that it cost the team an extra run.
It was a night where the flaws of Pakistan cricket were exposed. It was a night that exposed the flaws of Afridi’s captaincy once again, where he suffered his 20th defeat in 38 matches as a captain.
It also exposed the flaws of the selection committee, who selected Khurram Manzoor, who managed to score 11 runs in three innings.
And in the end, that dark night exposed one more fact; that Pakistan cricket as of today stands nowhere.
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