Pakistan cricket back to the drawing board?

It was a battle between two former champions, but both of whom who had performed well below par in the 2023 ODI World Cup. Many a pundit tipped them as semifinalists.

It was a battle between two former champions, but both of whom who had performed well below par in the 2023 ODI World Cup. Many a pundit tipped them as semifinalists.

Now merely playing for pride, England beat Pakistan by 93 runs to finish seventh in the league standings. The latter, notwithstanding their defeat, remained in fifth place.

Winning the toss was an advantage for England, as it has been in matches at this venue in the tournament. The ball has tended to respond to spin in the second innings, thereby rendering it more difficult for batting for the chasing unit.


But better catching on the part of Pakistan may have made the task of their batsmen less daunting.

England had in their captain Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow two highly-successful exponents in the Indian Premier League (IPL), both wholly accustomed to Indian conditions.

Ben Stokes could be categorised as not far behind in this respect. And in Joe Root, they had one of the world’s best batsmen. Besides, Mark Wood was highly impressive in the last IPL. Only the absence of speedster Jofra Archer was a handicap.

Pakistani wickets are not exactly the same in character as the ones in India; but they are not diametrically different either.

So, why did the Pakistanis underperform?

Fast bowler Naseem Shah was admittedly absent due to injury. But that did not explain Pakistan’s indifferent display. Their spinners were, arguably, not of the quality as some of their predecessors.

In the event, Bairstow at last came into his own with a half-century. Stokes’s unavailability in the initial matches cost England dear. Presently, his 84 with a strike rate of 110.52 — following his hundred in England’s previous match — proved his worth.

Root was not at his best; nevertheless, he posted a 60. And Buttler conjured a quicksilver 27 before he was run out. England’s total of 337 was their second best in the tournament — 339 against Netherlands being better.

In contrast, Pakistan started badly and never quite recovered. They committed the cardinal sin of not batting out their allocated 50 overs. Though their tail wagged in the form of a 10th wicket resistance of 53 runs, the writing was already on the wall and their venture folded up in 43.3 overs.

As the evening wore on, the turn off the track increased. England’s spin twins — Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali, both interestingly of Pakistani origin — operating in tandem got the ball to grip.

A rush of blood on the part of Mohammad Rizwan — as he darted out to attempt a six to long-on — rewarded Ali with a wicket.

Earlier, David Willey, left-arm fast-medium, had struck twice in quick succession — having Abdullah Shafique leg before to a ball that swang in to the right-hander — and Fakhar Zaman caught at mid-off.

But the prized wicket of Pakistan captain Babar Azam went to Gus Atkinson when the batsman hooked straight into the hands of midwicket. Afgha Salman top-scored with 51 before Willey, the pick of the English bowlers, had him caught at mid-on.

For England, the unexpected failure in the World Cup is an aberration in an otherwise admirable series of performances in all formats in recent years, particularly in Test cricket. Yet, they would undoubtedly wish to regroup in ODIs to maintain their all-round potency.

For Pakistan, it is patently more of a crisis.

For a considerable period, they have not been churning out natural talent they once used to out of an assembly line.

Babar Azam, who is unquestionably a class player, has not lived up to his potential. Will he surrender the captaincy to concentrate on his batting? Do Pakistan have the depth of players to replace those who have underperformed?

Will political and economic stability – for this has a bearing on the Pakistan Cricket Board – play a role in reviving Pakistan’s cricketing fortunes?

(Senior cricket writer Ashis Ray is a broadcaster and author of the book ‘Cricket World Cup: The Indian Challenge’)


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