At the time of writing, the West Indies are 144/3 after 35.5 overs in Tuesday’s decider. So this piece won’t be able to comment on the actual result of the three-match ODI series, which was tied at 1-1 after the first two games. But despite the impressive comeback in Game 2, Pakistan’s struggles and shortcomings in the 50-over format have been evident in the series so far.
Pakistan’s lack of power hitters has been regularly discussed in this space. They’ve been documented to a point that the Chief Selector Inzamam-ul-Haq dedicated an entire press conference to the fact that we don’t have an Abdul Razzaq or an Azhar Mehmood anymore. What that effectively means is that Pakistan has been without a reliable lower-order power hitter, post-Razzaq, for over half a decade. Over the same time, ODI cricket has skyrocketed to new heights.
It is fitting, then, that the only reason the series was level going into the decider was because of explosive batting by a West Indian. Jason Mohammed’s 91 off 58 balls turned the first game on its head, giving his side the win, while making Sarfraz Ahmed look clueless as a captain, for the first time in his short span as the skipper of his PSL and the national sides. The Pakistani captain was given his first tough lesson in international cricket by Jason Mohammed.
While the second ODI seemed like a comprehensive win for Pakistan, and in certain ways it indeed was, the team’s shortcomings were highlighted, interestingly, by those who were instrumental in winning the match for Pakistan.
One would think that when you score 125*, are the second quickest to five centuries, and have scored the most runs in your first 25 games in the history of ODI cricket, there wouldn’t be anything that one can point a finger on. But Babar Azam’s ODI and T20 innings are following a pattern that he needs to rectify if he is to become a truly world class batsman for Pakistan.
Of course, when ODI centuries have been a rarity for Pakistan over the past decade, Azam’s run spree – even if beefed up by his performance against the Windies – needs to be appreciated. But it’s evident that he is putting personal milestones before team goals.
The two Babar Azams before and after he reached the 100-run mark is precisely what he needs to undo. The effortless six-hitting that he conjured after that, should have been summoned much earlier, and Pakistan would have scored well in excess of 300, had that happened.
Imad Wasim might have ended up with 43* off 35 in the end, but he was all over the place in the first three-quarters of his innings. He needs to work on his hitting if he is to be promoted to a designated all-rounder slot lower down the order. Having added spin to his bowling, Imad has proven himself to be a keen learner.
If Pakistan had another gear they could have scored a lot more runs in the first ODI as well, which might have put the equation even beyond Mohammed’s heroics.
Bowling has been on the mark in the 2nd ODI and the first 36 overs of the third. Hasan Ali led the way in the second ODI, with Mohammed Amir and Junaid Khan also doing well with the new ball. Shadab Khan might not have reproduced the magic of T20s in 50 overs, but he’s done more than establish himself in the ODI side as well, and might also get a start in the Test side. He needs to be batting above the number 8 that he is being given right now.
Mohammed Hafeez has found form with the ball as well and got some runs in the first ODI. His problem, like most of the batting line-up, however, remains the strike rate. But he too has the ability to play with a much higher strike rate than he does, if he stopped consuming all those dots.
Sarfraz is doing well as a captain, but has a lot to learn, especially if he takes over the Test side as well. Patience is a virtue that one can’t learn, but he is going to need plenty of it in all forms of the game.