KARACHI: The one-run win in the third and final ODI of the home series may have been Australia’s narrowest winning margin against Pakistan, but the visitors were ahead of their hosts in almost all aspects in the series.
It finished 3-0, and deservedly so, as the Australian’s outperformed Pakistan in all departments. In bowling, any team in the world would miss three bowlers of Junaid Khan’s, Saeed Ajmal’s and Muhammad Hafeez’s calibre and Mitchell Johnson is a threat to even the most in-form of batsmen. In the field, Australia have always been superior to almost every other team, while Pakistan have always struggled. But it was with the bat that the men in green disappointed the most, even despite the incredibly reduced expectations.
A new low
Some claim the batting has been this poor for some time now, and it was arguably the world’s best bowling attack that papered over the cracks. With the bowling shorn of its main assets, the weaknesses in batting were brutally exposed as the batsmen were pulled apart, one after the other after the other. They argue that the days of Saeed Anwar, Inzamamul Haq and Muhammad Yousuf are long gone and that batting mediocrity has prevailed for a while now. However, the numbers do not agree with that notion.
The batting, despite receiving its fair share of stick, was considerably better as recently as last year. It is not that the batsmen have failed to get off to starts this year; had that been the case, this could have been chalked off as a blip, as merely a dip in form, and preparations for the challenges ahead could have begun in earnest. This, however, is something altogether more worrying.
The batsmen have been getting off to starts but have not been converting them; there have been only three centuries in 2014, only one against a top-8 team; Fawad Alam’s eventually futile 114 against Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup final.
No player has scored more than a single century this year. For comparison, Pakistan’s top century-maker last year, Muhammad Hafeez, scored five; while Kumar Sangakkara, Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla and Aaron Finch have all scored three each this year.
The numbers keep getting graver. Misbahul Haq and Hafeez were the top two run getters in the world last year in ODIs. This year, there is no Pakistani batsman in the top 15, and Ahmed Shehzad at 19 is the first on the list. Alam, on 34, and Umar Akmal, on 36, make the only three Pakistan representatives on the top 50 list; coincidently the three are also the only ones to have reached triple figures for Pakistan this year. Last year, six Pakistani batsmen were in the top 50.
Of last year’s batsmen, only Akmal has truly stepped up his game, improving last year’s average of 30.3 by more than 10. Alam’s return to the side this year and Akmal’s form are the only two bright lights as the others have either stayed stagnant or regressed.
Not leading from the front
Even the man dubbed as Mr Consistent early on in his career has failed to live up to his usually impressive numbers this year. Misbah, last year’s top scorer, had 15 half-centuries to his name in 32 innings, this year he has just two in 10. In these 10 innings, he has failed to trouble the scorers on a couple of occasions, while he was dismissed on zero only once in the 32 innings last year. This all culminated in the skipper dropping himself for the dead rubber, but it had little effect as Pakistan made a meal of a simple 232-run chase.
With the World Cup around the corner, the decline will surely be troubling for the team management and players as sources of runs dry up at an alarming rate. On difficult Australian pitches, the batsmen would need to improve considerably if Pakistan are to repeat the feats of 1992 down under once again.
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