June 23, 2001

Aussies lawnmower Pakistan

In almost a repeat of the '99 World Cup, the Pakistanis caved in against the Aussies in the NatWest Series, handing them a facile but highly satisfying win. All hopes revived by a win over their worthy opponents in the league and promises of making it a great fight, by skipper Waqar Younis, came to nought.

Younis's charges were as frozen as those under Wasim Akram a couple of years ago when they should really have been blazing away. The result was, the Aussies were all over them, crushing them by an emphatic 9-wicket margin.

Adam Gilchrist
Gilchrist raises his hand in triumph at the Australian victory
Photo © CricInfo
The Aussies had obviously saved their best, and the Pakistanis their worst, for the final.

This is the kind of one-sided victory that leaves the losing side with egg all over its face. Sadly, more so in this case, for it seemed Pakistan had learnt from their earlier humiliations. There were too many similarities between the performances in the two finals, though they came two years apart. The final was at Lord's again, and it was again a sunny day. Pakistan had won the toss then as it did now, it had elected to bat then as it again did on Saturday, and it had a miserable collapse then as it did now. The only difference being that it rustled up 20 more runs than two years ago.

Again, it was more or less a case of self-destruction. On a pretty easy wicket with the ball not doing anything really, with 300 on the board a possibility, all the Pakistani batsmen with the exception of Inzamam-ul-Haq maintained their ambivalence about the price they put on their wickets. Inzamam may consider himself unfortunate to be adjudged leg before on full forward stretch. Umpire Peter Willey, declared him out when most umpires may have given him the doubt playing so far forward.

The rest of the batsmen were all pretty ordinary efforts. The worst culprits of them all were Saeed Anwar and Yousuf Youhana, the former giving it all away after being well set for greater things and the latter consuming too many deliveries in a really patchy effort. In his innings, Youhana could have been run out twice and caught off a leading edge once. He didn't make the most of it, and Saeed's and his departure put Pakistan on a downward slide from which they never recovered.

The bowling, a slightly weaker link in the otherwise exceptionally strong Aussie chain, ended up psyching out the might of the Pakistani batting. And that was that, for 152 was really not a defendable target.

Ricky Ponting
Ricky Ponting whacks a six into the Mound Stand
Photo © CricInfo
And with Adam Gilchrist, 76 off 93 deliveries, and Ricky Ponting, 35 consuming just 23 balls, the Aussies cantered home. This time round improving the margin by a wicket - their only loss Mark Waugh, run out going for a third run - from their previous famous victory over Pakistan, with nearly half the quota from a regulation 50 overs remaining unused.

This NatWest Series was a great triumph for the pocket sized dynamo, that Ponting is. His 298 runs at an average of 99.33 and strike rate of 98.7, one hundred and two fifties, in five games is really phenomenal. Bad news for England for the Ashes.

The Pakistanis, licking their wounds as it were, should contemplate what they have been doing wrong to end up like this: frozen whenever there is a crunch. With Pakistan's cricket administration, distancing itself from the dismal results of the national team for the last one year, claiming that its performance should not be judged in concert with that of the cricket team, the lessons still have to be learnt. Sadly, the lessons weren't learnt in the last two years after the World Cup debacle. One is instilling self-confidence, and the other is weeding out players who show a singular lack of it, such as Saeed Anwar, at the top of the order.

Rashid Latif
Latif is bowled by Warne
Photo © CricInfo
Secondly, my question to the selectors and the team management is when would they learn the most rudimentary thing in cricket: that without a settled opening pair and one-down position, a side can never win consistently.

Overall, the failure will require soul-searching within the PCB, and its handpicked management and coaching teams including the latest induction of a foreign coach, failing as miserably as he had on the three previous occasions he had served with the Pakistan team.

To end on a positive note (perhaps an effort to lift the gloomy feeling), Waqar Younis could not have done more to inspire this bunch of cricketers to greater heights. That he has failed, in the final analysis, is not because he lacked in effort, but because there wasn't enough tactical support from the PCB and its selectors. More on that in future pieces to follow.