The Hambantota leg of the Pakistan-Sri Lanka ODI series brought mixed fortunes for Pakistan. The duo of Sohaib Maqsood and Fawad Alam stitched a sensational alliance in the first game to carve a most unexpected win, but it all went pear-shaped in the second match.
While the batting continued its traditional unpredictable ways, the lack of quality in the bowling department was brutally exposed in both games.
Pakistan conceded more than 100 runs in the final 10 overs in both games — relinquishing control over the opposition from dominating positions.
In the first ODI, the hosts were stuttering at 75-4, yet ended up with a monumental 275 for seven in 45 overs.
On Tuesday, Pakistan had roared back in the power-play overs (36-40) through an impressive spell by Mohammad Hafeez — yielding three wickets. Sri Lanka had lost the ground gained by a century stand between Mahela Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews and were loosely placed at 194 for six in the 38th over.
The match was then turned on its head once again by a brutal assault by Mathews and Thisara Perera towards the end of the innings. The last ten overs went for 101 runs with the left-arm trio of Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan bereft of ideas.
The bowlers failed to combat the blazing bats of the hosts to once again reinforce the lack of quality in the absence of Saeed Ajmal.
There remains little doubt that the fielding restrictions (maximum four fielders outside the circle) in place at present have made a mockery of bowling attacks around the world, yet there can be no excuse for letting the opposition off the hook; not once, but twice in succession.
Despite the Lankans on the proverbial mat both times, Misbahul Haq chose to defend rather than taking the game by the jugular. It seems that the team management led by arguably the most potent and aggressive ODI bowler ever – Waqar Younis – either watched helplessly or backed the insipid leadership.
Pakistan fans have great hope from Waqar, team manager Moin Khan and Mushtaq Ahmed — three players who were part of the core of the hugely successful and aggressive 1990s team.
But to date, the trio have failed to ignite the same spark in Misbah that they exuded throughout their own impressive careers.
Pakistan is not playing the brand of cricket that made them one of the most watchable sides a decade or so ago; the team lacks the ability to hunt down opposition like a pack of tigers.
Misbah has time and again been guilty of allowing the opposition to claw back in a game, and one has lost count of such occurrences in both the short and long formats.
The 40-year-old is in dire need of runs with the bat as well after a lacklustre tour of the Pearl Island. He hasn’t registered a half-century yet in the six innings on tour (four in Tests and two in ODIs).
At his age, he simply cannot afford to stay out of nick for long, especially since his leadership continues to suffer from lack of creativity, further lending weight to the longstanding reputation of him being a reactionary rather than being a proactive captain.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2014.
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