The outrageous cricket that Pakistan played
Outrageous would be an apt term to describe Pakistan’s show on the fourth afternoon in Abu Dhabi. How the team produces such cricket when you least expect them to is beyond belief.
Pakistan were expected to stir up a few surprises – on the cricket field this time – against England but a series-win, despite the home-like conditions, remained a hope rather than an aim.
Die-hard optimism notwithstanding, it was always a push from God that the team management and the captain sought considering the gulf that existed between the two sides prior to the series.
Pakistan’s batting line-up remained meek – and inexperienced – compared to the England stars, the fast-bowling department devoid of an all-out aggressor capable of ripping through staunch defences consistently and Saeed Ajmal was Pakistan’s sole world-class spinner, dubbed second-best to Graeme Swann.
But the way the series was wrapped up in just seven days – Dubai lasted three, Abu Dhabi managed one better – a new wave of resilience and, most importantly, belief has transcended the uncertainty that existed in the minds and the limbs.
Pakistan didn’t lose a Test series last year but the opponents included Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and a shockingly dismal Sri Lanka, trying their best to revisit their lowest ebb.
But despite a more-than-respectable 2011, the struggles within remained. There was a change at helm at the Pakistan Cricket Board, the search for a full-time coach continues – should Mohsin Khan even be sacked? – and the question marks surrounding Misbahul Haq’s successor are getting darker. The team still doesn’t have a home to play at and Bangladesh’s pending tour still hangs in the balance.
But all that was driven neatly off the meat by the eleven who took the field.
The gap between bat and pad did grow alarmingly wide at times and the dropped catches as well as the fumbled opportunities – including the seemingly inbred deficiency that is choosing reviews carefully – did induce the fans’ fury.
However, justified inclusions – recent and persistent ones of the past – who were deemed obstacles to the team’s rise to recognition now form its very own skyline, standing tall in defiance with a warning to those who dare stare and ponder a closer visit.
As the celebrations grow louder – don’t expect them to die down so soon – the twin batting failure springs up alarmingly. Demons of the left-arm mutilation re-emerged, haunting the Pakistan batsmen into submission, an act that had seemingly taken the series away.
But the young duo, plucking a leaf out of the captain’s book on calm and composed cricket, showed us what Misbah meant when he said that he’d rather win playing defensively than lose by playing attacking cricket.
The win was crafted, constructed and then skilfully executed in a manner similar to the 1992 World Cup, the 2006 Karachi Test against India and the 2009 World Twenty20.
With a team producing such exciting cricket seemingly at will – while throwing spanners in the run-machines that England possesses – calls for consistency with the bat will surely die an unnatural death.
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