Pakistan boast if not the best, at least one of the best bowling attacks in world cricket right now, however, New Zealand tail-enders made them look like part-timers on day two of the first Test at Mount Maunganui.
Some may say that the pitch wasn’t offering much seam and the conditions weren’t offering enough swing to the pacers, but Shaheen Afridi’s four-for in 36 overs, which could well have been a five or a six-for if catches were taken by Pakistan fielders on day one, says otherwise.
Muhammad Abbas’ lone wicket in 31 overs where he bowled 14 maidens and gave away a meagre 49 runs don’t highlight the lack of help from the Mount Maunganui top, it actually points towards New Zealand’s discipline where they knew that seeing away the right-arm medium pacer is better than offering shots off his bowling.
Meanwhile, Naseem Shah can be considered the most expensive pacer where he gave away 96 runs in 25 overs at an economy of 3.84, a tad more than Shaheen’s 3.03, and his spells helps us understand that raw pace wasn’t the solution against New Zealand.
The three frontline pacers were assisted by Faheem Ashraf, who bowled 19 overs for 40 runs and was quite helpful in giving the above three some rest. However, if Pakistan wanted to put more thrust into their bowling effort, they should’ve gone with a full-time express pacer, but they chose an all-rounder to bolster their batting.
Yasir Shah did what he does best for Pakistan on a day two pitch: he exploited the rough patches, varied his pace and bowled some juicy googlies to bag three wickets.
If you look closely, the above analysis of Pakistan’s five main bowlers is not meant to highlight Men in Green’s reasons for choosing these five in the line-up. The analysis shows New Zealand’s calculated batting against each bowler and also the strength of their planning against each of them that even the tail knew who to hit and who to leave.
Abbas’ perfect economy and 14 maidens are a clear sign that New Zealand knew that offering shots off his bowling may cost them their wickets.
Shaheen bowled the most overs by a Pakistani pacer and the second most overs overall – 36 overs -- to New Zealand and there must’ve come a point when the Black Caps would’ve decided to put bat to his bowling if they wanted to score runs – another reason why Shaheen was able to extract more edges than anyone else.
Meanwhile, Faheem was able to swing the ball both ways and him bowling only 19 overs seems unjustified, but the Kiwis knew he could hurt them, hence only 40 runs off him.
Naseem was new, inexperienced and hence the easiest target for New Zealand and him giving runs at nearly four runs per overs is a clear sign that New Zealand knew that they could target the youngsters.
Then comes Yasir, he may have bagged the biggest two prizes in the form of Kane Williamson and BJ Watling and later Tim Southee, but he leaked 113 runs in the process. Easy to see that New Zealand knew Yasir may bag wickets, but he will be their golden egg laying goose when it comes to scoring.
New Zealand may not openly discuss their plans against each Pakistan bowler, but their well-constructed first innings shows clearly what they were planning and how they executed that plan.
Also, it shows the inexperience of Muhammad Rizwan in captaincy, where he didn’t bowl Faheem enough, couldn’t pressure tailenders to give away their wickets, didn’t have any bowling plan in mind except bowling two bowlers together and then just bringing on the other pair.
One more thing that exposed Pakistan’s management and not the players is that they didn’t have any plans against the each New Zealand batsman. Who hates bounce, who likes it, who plays outside off, who cannot deal with spin, who cannot deal with pace, there was absolutely no plan ready for each individual, hence the 431 runs on the board which Pakistan now have to match and then score more. Only a miracle can save this Test for Pakistan now, nothing else.
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