Pakistan regained the lead in their five-match series against Sri Lanka with an emphatic 135-run win in the third ODI in Colombo but the men in green have been warned against complacency going into the important final two games.
What was especially heartening for the away side was that, after a very long time, the entire team contributed in the win, rather than the usual individual brilliance that Pakistan have been relying upon.
Caught in a must-win situation to keep their ICC Champions Trophy aspirations alive, Pakistan produced a remarkable performance. Every batsman in the top six impressed for the away side, with wicketkeeper-batsman Sarfraz Ahmed top scoring with an impressive 77 after being promoted up the order.
They then followed it up with a tight bowling performance in which the impressive Anwar Ali made early inroads and then the spinners followed up by taking wickets at regular intervals, with leggie Yasir Shah claiming four.
Former skipper Rashid Latif — who had claimed after Sri Lanka’s win in the second game that the hosts will struggle despite the triumph — feels that Pakistan must not rest on their laurels as there is still a lot of room for improvement.
“It’s just one win and it’s important to keep that hunger till the series is won,” Latif told The Express Tribune. “Pakistan must not slow down because the players have the tendency to relax a bit after such convincing wins.”
The top six batsmen all chipped in with significant contributions; the first time in the country’s history that each of the top six made at least 35. Even more impressive was the rate at which they got it, with all batsmen scoring at better than a strike-rate of 80 and the last three scoring at better than a-run-a-ball.
However, the running remained comical throughout the innings and the men in green were involved in several miscommunications and running calamities, with two resulting in the run-outs of Azhar and Sarfaraz.
Latif stated that Pakistan could have added 30 to 35 more runs as it was a flat Premadasa pitch and hoped that the batsmen would decrease the number of dot balls that they played out.
The former wicketkeeper also praised leg-spinner Yasir for finally delivering in ODIs as well. “I feel Yasir will do wonders in ODIs and will be even better in this format despite his extraordinary Test record,” he said.
Another aspect which has dramatically improved is Pakistan’s fielding, courtesy Anwar Ali and Mohammad Rizwan, both of whom have been taking some blinders.
Basit lauds decision to promote Sarfraz up the order
Former Test batsman Basit Ali lauded skipper Azhar and the team management for promoting Sarfraz up the order and said that the batsman can become the mainstay of the Pakistan line-up for years to come.
“Sarfraz is a gutsy players and deserves to bat up in the middle-order because he can milk singles and doubles with ease,” said Basit. “Pakistan need that sort of player at number four and Sarfraz has the capability to fulfil that role. Thankfully, the team management realised that his talents were being wasted at number seven.”
Basit also expressed satisfaction with the current side and the firepower available in the batting line-up. “In Sarfraz and Mohammad Rizwan, we now have two batsmen who can improvise, while all-rounders Imad Wasim and Anwar will provide us depth going forward.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2015.
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