Pak vs Zimbabwe: A clean sweep is a clean sweep
“They are the weakest team in the world to play top level cricket; they just came back from test match isolation; they don’t have any world class players in their ranks; their fielding sucked.”
Say what you may, but a clean sweep is a clean sweep and it doesn’t come every day.
The Pakistan-Zimbabwe series, in which Pakistan won each and every match, brought to an end the stint of Waqar Younus as Pakistan’s head coach. An 18 month period that had a lot of ups and downs finished on a high note and the final T20 win was the perfect icing on the proverbial cake.
At the start of the tour, Misbah had stated that the goal was to energize youngsters and reintroduce other players. He is believed to have accomplished this goal.
There were some debutants during the series, Aizaz Cheema, Yasir Shah and Rameez Raja, and all except Raja did well. Younus Khan, Sohail Tanvir, and Imran Farhat enjoyed good comebacks and only Shoaib Malik failed to make an impression. However, it was Mohammad Hafeez who continued to improve tremendously and had another phenomenal tour this year. He scored two international hundreds and topped the run scoring charts in the ODI series resulting in Pakistan’s second 10 wicket victory this year in the format. He was also the highest wicket-taker in the two T20 matches showcasing his all-round skills.
Pakistan’s bench strength appears to be really good at the moment especially in the bowling department with Aizaz Cheema, Junaid Khan and Sohail Khan turning up good performances in the absence of the regular pacers, Umar Gul and Wahab Riaz. Yasir Shah also impressed with his performance. Bowling bench strength is really important as India found out on their ill-fated tour of England and it is a good thing Pakistan has so many backup options.
Batting, too, did relatively well with the old guards, Younus Khan and Hafeez, putting up good performances. Rameez Raja should be given another chance to impress. He has a good domestic record and has been touted as an upcoming talent by many especially in the T20 format. I personally had the opportunity to witness some of his domestic T20 innings and they were fabulous.
Fire-power, however, was sorely missed on the field as there were no big-hitters (Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi) on the team. This showed in the second T20 match where Pakistan was kept to 140 odd runs, which was just at par score.
Misbahul Haq’s captaincy has been impressive on this tour. He has led well and the tour has been free of the constant in-fighting and controversies that are the hallmark of the Pakistani contingents. Lawson called him one of the best cricketing brains in Pakistan, and he along with Hafeez, who thinks a lot about the game, can make a really good combination of the tacticians in the middle.
Zimbabwe, for their part, put up some good performances. They came close to winning the first ODI and the second T20 match. Moreover, their batting effort in the first innings of the test match was decent as well. They, however, need to improve their fielding drastically as dropping so many catches will cost them a lot in the upcoming matches. Zimbabwe improved as the tour went on and should become a more competitive side as they gain experience.
Pakistan’s next assignment is against Sri Lanka starting next month. Hopefully the Pakistani cricket team will exude the same zeal as they did in Zimbabwe. However, Sri Lanka is defiantly tougher competition, and Pakistan will, no doubt, find it harder to compete against them.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.