Crescent Kashmir

Zimbabwe exploit Pakistan’s batting woes in shock win

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PAKISTAN have only themselves to blame after their shocking failure to chase 131 runs against Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe bowled and fielded out of their skins to claim a famous one run victory at Perth as Pakistan’s batsmen melted under the pressure to return one of the country’s more embarrassing defeats in international tournaments.

In a sad twist of fate, the result once more rested on the shoulders of Mohammad Nawaz in the final over — but this time with the bat. And, as much as every Pakistan supporter wished for a reversal for fortunes, it was Nawaz’s mistimed lofted drive that decisively tilted the match in Zimbabwe’s favour. Nawaz is a cricketer of blossoming talent, although still inexperienced, and it can only be hoped that these traumatic events make him stronger.

But the responsibility lies with his colleagues in the batting order who seemed confused as to how to chase a small total against a bowling attack they were expected to dominate. The ghosts of Pakistan’s ill-fated preparation, where the batting strategy was over-reliant on Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan and the middle order never found form, are back to haunt them.

After raising themselves to near inspirational levels against India, a less intense contest with Zimbabwe always carried the threat of a banana skin. Zimbabwe, to their credit, went in with confidence and never gave up hope — even though many of their batsmen struggled with the pace of Pakistan’s bowling attack.

Here, Pakistan backed four pace bowlers. But instead of dropping an all-rounder they dropped a batsman, Asif Ali, to make way for Mohammad Wasim. With Fakhar Zaman in the wings, it seems that Pakistan aren’t making maximum use of their resources. Wasim’s impact was dramatic though, four wickets on his return that placed Pakistan in a strong position, although his late order swipes cost Pakistan deliveries when his job was to rotate the strike.

Pakistan’s batsmen were wildly out of sorts, mainly thanks to the bounce that Zimbabwe’s tall pace bowlers were able to extract from Perth’s famously bouncy pitch. It’s an adjustment that Babar and Rizwan need to make quickly if Pakistan are to reconnect with their preferred batting formula.

Once more, it was left to Shan Masood to stabilise the innings. And, once more, he rose admirably to the challenge. A target of 131 suited his sure and steady game, and he looked to be steering Pakistan’s floundering ship to safe shores until a sharp leg side stumping gave Zimbabwe renewed hope.

Zimbabwe might have been ordinary with the bat, but they excelled themselves in the field after Pakistan had again dropped straight forward chances, and they made Pakistan work for their runs with tight bowling and excellent fielding.

The result leaves Pakistan in a mess, hanging by a thread in the tournament, relying on other results. Greater miracles have happened, notably in Australia, but key players are underperforming and, criminally, Pakistan’s strategy is still in evolution.

The World T20 of 2022 isn’t over for Pakistan, and their bowling attack remains capable of winning any contest, but they can’t afford any more slip ups. Babar Azam’s team will now need five straight wins, with comprehensive victories in the remaining group stages, to win this year’s World T20.

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2022

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