England v Pakistan, 1st npower Test, Trent Bridge July 28, 2010

Pakistan batting needs a guiding hand

19

Pakistan will feel they can look England in the eye ahead of the Test series after they clawed their way to victory against Australia at Headingley, but it is probably wise to throw in a dose of reality. It was only their fast bowlers who stood tall and bailed out an inexperienced batting line-up that remains incredibly brittle. A collection of players brought up on a diet of one-day and Twenty20 cricket didn't often show the mental resilience or physical technique for the longer format.

The MCC Spirit of Cricket series was bizarre as it didn't include a single century, although the overhead conditions in both games clearly played a part. Still, Pakistan's batsmen scored just four half-centuries compared to Australia's six. There were just two hundred-plus partnerships, both for the second wicket, with the 110-run stand between Imran Farhat and Azhar Ali at Headingley leading the way.

Yet that was nothing new for Pakistan with their batting having been a concern for a considerable amount of time. A comparison between the number of hundreds Pakistan's batsmen have scored in relation to other sides in the last five years makes the deficiencies glaring, although Pakistan's relative lack of Test action needs to be considered.

Australia have 80 hundreds in 45 Tests followed closely by England with 76 from one fewer match. Pakistan have notched 39 centuries in the same time. In the last year itself four of England's batsmen have managed nine Test centuries while just three Pakistanis have recorded a ton each.

The key factor behind the top batting teams performing consistently is the presence of one or two established players who have not only led from the front but have stabilised the innings in the event of a collapse. Their anchor presence has helped more times than not to build large partnerships, which in turn has helped the bowlers find their own feet in unfriendly conditions. In contrast, Pakistan's batsmen consistently fail to adapt.

It isn't a question of talent, Pakistan have that in bucket loads. But as far as experience goes they are a long way back. Following the retirement of Inzamam-ul-Haq, and coupled with the PCB's growing indifference towards Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan, the only man who has the skills and the experience to play the batting pivot is Salman Butt.

Butt's elevation to the captaincy has already put a truckload of responsibility on his shoulders, but Pakistan's latest leader is also their highest run-maker in Tests this year. He has become their go-to batsman. For years Butt has been seen as a promising opener, but his career batting graph is highlighted by more troughs than peaks. His conversion rate is low having passed fifty 13 times with three hundreds. Making a start is not often his problem, but despite logging thousands of miles on the Test highway he still remains stop-and-jerk driver. Out of 54 innings to date, 19 times he has been dismissed between the scores of 20 and 49.

Captaincy could bring out the best in him if he worries less about his own game. But he also needs to remember he is the batting captain and the young middle order will look up to him. England will be confident of attacking the nerves of the inexperienced figures. "It's a young batting line-up, there's no doubt about that and if there is inexperience in these conditions we need to exploit that," Andrew Strauss said.

Butt and the team management have been relentlessly telling all comers that the youngsters will only learn and grow with time. Farhat's aggressive attitude is hard to tolerate when he chases every second ball, but he can equally put pressure back on the opponent if he uses his aggression more selectively. The new pair of Azhar Ali and Umar Amin have shown the openness to learn. Umar Akmal will flourish soon despite his recklessness. But these youngsters need somebody who is willing to act as the driver-cum-navigator. There is nobody else better than Butt to accomplish that.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Advan on July 29, 2010, 12:00 GMT

    How has Umar Amin shown his openness to learn-2 test avg 16,is thiis u called a good performance he should be replaced by yasir hammed

  • on July 29, 2010, 9:28 GMT

    Duh, i think we all knew that Imran Khan was the BEST.. PS: Afridi has 2 b the nxt Imran Khan 4 ODI and T20

  • Ali_J_01 on July 29, 2010, 6:51 GMT

    when taking about the patience, Asim kamal is the good option, and can surely fill Umar Akmal' s spot

  • Sherazpakistan on July 29, 2010, 6:17 GMT

    England 3 - 0. ur bowlers cant carry you every time.....& if u look @ it...its just the 1st 2 bowlers doing all the damage...

  • Farhan-Sg on July 29, 2010, 6:12 GMT

    If Shoaib Malik doesn't bowl, then why is he keeping the place of a specialist batsman? He is clearly struggling, I wonder why they don't play Yasir Hameed instead of Malik. Hameed has a good track record and has scored well in all his recent outings. Remember he was dropped from the test side after scoring two fifties in one match (against Australia in Sydney).

  • on July 29, 2010, 5:30 GMT

    Well said hopefully pak players will learn from their mistakes and value their wickets more.

  • simon_w on July 29, 2010, 4:58 GMT

    Good piece, wish Butt and Pakistan a lot of luck. This group of players has the potential to become a seriously good side, especially if Butt can be one of those captains whose own game flourishes under the additional responsibility of captaincy (like, for example, Strauss).

    btw though, "go-to" is not a simple synonym for "leading", or "best". A "go-to batsman" makes no sense whatsoever.

  • 123234 on July 29, 2010, 1:43 GMT

    I think Pakistan's batting line up is better then worse, and in couple of years this young team will be a threat, but i also think instead of Shoaib Malik we should have kept Fawad Alam. with shoaib malik theirs no guarantee he will make more then 60 runs, where as Fawad Alam has shown a glimpse of his talent and has a positive effect towards the rising of the new team and their hopes.

  • cricsecular on July 29, 2010, 1:21 GMT

    Butt, Farhat, Kamran, Sohaib/Yasir need to show their temperamant at this time, stick to basics, just don't throw your wicket, the runs will come easily based on the nature of their skills. If 2 or 3 of these stays for 50+ or 100+ definitely it the team will score easy runs and they are very capable. Better not to control Umal Akmal while shifting that responsibility to the older Akmal. If these seniors takes responsibilities, definitely it will help Azhar/Amin/Umar and they can score runs too. Probably they all need to listen to Azhar Ali as how to choose or leave balls, he is a definite bet, who knows one of these Tests he might go for a very big runs say anywhere around 150-250 provided others support the other end. I can definitely bet on this lad. Go PAK Go.

  • on July 28, 2010, 22:29 GMT

    I THINK now the selectors should give a long run to this team and atlest give the youngsters this full ENGLAND series ...i am sure they will come good IN SHA ALLAH..:)

  • Advan on July 29, 2010, 12:00 GMT

    How has Umar Amin shown his openness to learn-2 test avg 16,is thiis u called a good performance he should be replaced by yasir hammed

  • on July 29, 2010, 9:28 GMT

    Duh, i think we all knew that Imran Khan was the BEST.. PS: Afridi has 2 b the nxt Imran Khan 4 ODI and T20

  • Ali_J_01 on July 29, 2010, 6:51 GMT

    when taking about the patience, Asim kamal is the good option, and can surely fill Umar Akmal' s spot

  • Sherazpakistan on July 29, 2010, 6:17 GMT

    England 3 - 0. ur bowlers cant carry you every time.....& if u look @ it...its just the 1st 2 bowlers doing all the damage...

  • Farhan-Sg on July 29, 2010, 6:12 GMT

    If Shoaib Malik doesn't bowl, then why is he keeping the place of a specialist batsman? He is clearly struggling, I wonder why they don't play Yasir Hameed instead of Malik. Hameed has a good track record and has scored well in all his recent outings. Remember he was dropped from the test side after scoring two fifties in one match (against Australia in Sydney).

  • on July 29, 2010, 5:30 GMT

    Well said hopefully pak players will learn from their mistakes and value their wickets more.

  • simon_w on July 29, 2010, 4:58 GMT

    Good piece, wish Butt and Pakistan a lot of luck. This group of players has the potential to become a seriously good side, especially if Butt can be one of those captains whose own game flourishes under the additional responsibility of captaincy (like, for example, Strauss).

    btw though, "go-to" is not a simple synonym for "leading", or "best". A "go-to batsman" makes no sense whatsoever.

  • 123234 on July 29, 2010, 1:43 GMT

    I think Pakistan's batting line up is better then worse, and in couple of years this young team will be a threat, but i also think instead of Shoaib Malik we should have kept Fawad Alam. with shoaib malik theirs no guarantee he will make more then 60 runs, where as Fawad Alam has shown a glimpse of his talent and has a positive effect towards the rising of the new team and their hopes.

  • cricsecular on July 29, 2010, 1:21 GMT

    Butt, Farhat, Kamran, Sohaib/Yasir need to show their temperamant at this time, stick to basics, just don't throw your wicket, the runs will come easily based on the nature of their skills. If 2 or 3 of these stays for 50+ or 100+ definitely it the team will score easy runs and they are very capable. Better not to control Umal Akmal while shifting that responsibility to the older Akmal. If these seniors takes responsibilities, definitely it will help Azhar/Amin/Umar and they can score runs too. Probably they all need to listen to Azhar Ali as how to choose or leave balls, he is a definite bet, who knows one of these Tests he might go for a very big runs say anywhere around 150-250 provided others support the other end. I can definitely bet on this lad. Go PAK Go.

  • on July 28, 2010, 22:29 GMT

    I THINK now the selectors should give a long run to this team and atlest give the youngsters this full ENGLAND series ...i am sure they will come good IN SHA ALLAH..:)

  • on July 28, 2010, 22:03 GMT

    Mohammad Yousaf and Younis Khan should be in the squad. At least to teach the youngsters some of the skills that they have. We should make full use of experience they have. Otherwise it will take ages for these young talented players to play properly in Test arena.

  • on July 28, 2010, 20:36 GMT

    Dear Nagraj,

    You are absolutely correct about Salman having to guide the youngsters properly. The new guys blooded in the last series can become mainstays in the PAK batting lineup but they need to be shown confidence in and persisted with. Regarding the other two players that you have mentioned, well Farhat for me has always been a walking wicket. Last test, if Watson hadnt dropped his catch earlier on then things would have been very difficult for PAK. On the other hand, Umar Akmal is a prime example of wasting God given talent. He plays so fluently but then plays a completely asinine shot to get out. The excuse that he is young is acceptable but only to a certain degree. Anyone playing test cricket for his or her country has to know the value of his or her wicket and not treat it like some galli match

  • on July 28, 2010, 19:49 GMT

    When the two Ws retired in 2003, they left a big hole in the bowling department; the team never recovered, ideally Waqar should have stayed on for at least another 2 years, but that was not be be and it took almost 7 years to recoverin the form of Aamer an Asif. We should not make the same mistake again at least one of the two Ys should be inducted in the test team at the expanse of Shoaib Malik. This way the team can have a mentor in the middle order who can guide the youngstars (Azhar and the two Umars). One more thing the selectors should call upon M. Irfan as the 4th seamer (based on the advise of Wasim).

  • on July 28, 2010, 19:47 GMT

    Assistant editor Mr. Nagraj Gollapudi, You are always a biased person. You never acknowledge Pakistan Cricket success with open heart. Pakistani batsmen may have scored 39 centuries in last five years but you should keep in your mind that these centuries were made in less number of test matches as well. Look at the number of test matches we have played in recent years, how you can develop any test team with limited exposure to test cricket. It is better if you think and write without any discrimination ..Other wise your write up looks really ugly.

  • Abidmashwani on July 28, 2010, 19:23 GMT

    This needs to be taught to Butt the Buffoon, not Butt the baby. Pakistan have those driver-cum-navigator in Younas Khan and M Yousaf, but PCB management needs their own navigator. Some one has to teach PCB management and selectors that you groom talented youngster among some experienced players. You can make world class players from Azhar and Umars if you play them along side YK and MY. If PCB talk of cleaning politics from the side then shows the door to Malik, not to MoYo and YK.

  • fastballer138 on July 28, 2010, 19:23 GMT

    this is why i just dont like the pcb. they forced mohammad yousuf to retire and they also made younis khan lay back for a while and none of them now have any desire to return and play for pakistan because right now mohammad yousuf is just mentally hurt by the pcb and younis khan is just playing domestic cricket in england and i heard that the pakistani players saw younis khan and they didn't even say hello to him so i think that younis has a good reason of staying out. in the match tomorrow i really think that shoaib malik shouldnt really play because he doesnt really contribute that much, he just hits 2 or 3 boundaries and then gets out in a silly fashion and kamran akmal isnt test material either, so the only good player is salman butt and umar akmal can also create some damage when it is his day so pakistan cricket board really needs to reconsider what actions they are making.

  • Farhan-Sg on July 28, 2010, 17:59 GMT

    They should play Yasir Hameed.

  • Shujaat56 on July 28, 2010, 17:29 GMT

    Very well commented upon... I guess the Batting line up of Pakistan needs experience.... these 06 test matches would help them in this regard.. although it would be tough for the bowling line up.... but for the batting line-up, it is a good oppurtunity to establish themselves.... i think Pakistan should give a chance to Yasir Hameed instead of umer Amin.. his addition will be a good addition to the batting line-up.. rest of the team should be similar to headingly.... wish u all the best Pakistan... and yes... get rid of yousaf and younis.... we are much better off without 'em...

  • on July 28, 2010, 17:00 GMT

    So , PCB hasnt recalled YoYo .. Now, would love to see till how long PCB continues to pose faith in this team ..... Just hope that the batting linuep is maintained unchanged (except Malik) even if Pak falter for less then 200 8 consecutive times ... Give Azhar & Amin a long long run, even if they fail a few times (or may be more than a few times) ... But if they do, I doubt that will happen in Pakistan ... So unpatient you see, rooting for Afridi before & as he retired , he became the villian of masses ... As a nation, Pakistan (whole, not just he PCB) needs to be patient ...

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  • on July 28, 2010, 17:00 GMT

    So , PCB hasnt recalled YoYo .. Now, would love to see till how long PCB continues to pose faith in this team ..... Just hope that the batting linuep is maintained unchanged (except Malik) even if Pak falter for less then 200 8 consecutive times ... Give Azhar & Amin a long long run, even if they fail a few times (or may be more than a few times) ... But if they do, I doubt that will happen in Pakistan ... So unpatient you see, rooting for Afridi before & as he retired , he became the villian of masses ... As a nation, Pakistan (whole, not just he PCB) needs to be patient ...

  • Shujaat56 on July 28, 2010, 17:29 GMT

    Very well commented upon... I guess the Batting line up of Pakistan needs experience.... these 06 test matches would help them in this regard.. although it would be tough for the bowling line up.... but for the batting line-up, it is a good oppurtunity to establish themselves.... i think Pakistan should give a chance to Yasir Hameed instead of umer Amin.. his addition will be a good addition to the batting line-up.. rest of the team should be similar to headingly.... wish u all the best Pakistan... and yes... get rid of yousaf and younis.... we are much better off without 'em...

  • Farhan-Sg on July 28, 2010, 17:59 GMT

    They should play Yasir Hameed.

  • fastballer138 on July 28, 2010, 19:23 GMT

    this is why i just dont like the pcb. they forced mohammad yousuf to retire and they also made younis khan lay back for a while and none of them now have any desire to return and play for pakistan because right now mohammad yousuf is just mentally hurt by the pcb and younis khan is just playing domestic cricket in england and i heard that the pakistani players saw younis khan and they didn't even say hello to him so i think that younis has a good reason of staying out. in the match tomorrow i really think that shoaib malik shouldnt really play because he doesnt really contribute that much, he just hits 2 or 3 boundaries and then gets out in a silly fashion and kamran akmal isnt test material either, so the only good player is salman butt and umar akmal can also create some damage when it is his day so pakistan cricket board really needs to reconsider what actions they are making.

  • Abidmashwani on July 28, 2010, 19:23 GMT

    This needs to be taught to Butt the Buffoon, not Butt the baby. Pakistan have those driver-cum-navigator in Younas Khan and M Yousaf, but PCB management needs their own navigator. Some one has to teach PCB management and selectors that you groom talented youngster among some experienced players. You can make world class players from Azhar and Umars if you play them along side YK and MY. If PCB talk of cleaning politics from the side then shows the door to Malik, not to MoYo and YK.

  • on July 28, 2010, 19:47 GMT

    Assistant editor Mr. Nagraj Gollapudi, You are always a biased person. You never acknowledge Pakistan Cricket success with open heart. Pakistani batsmen may have scored 39 centuries in last five years but you should keep in your mind that these centuries were made in less number of test matches as well. Look at the number of test matches we have played in recent years, how you can develop any test team with limited exposure to test cricket. It is better if you think and write without any discrimination ..Other wise your write up looks really ugly.

  • on July 28, 2010, 19:49 GMT

    When the two Ws retired in 2003, they left a big hole in the bowling department; the team never recovered, ideally Waqar should have stayed on for at least another 2 years, but that was not be be and it took almost 7 years to recoverin the form of Aamer an Asif. We should not make the same mistake again at least one of the two Ys should be inducted in the test team at the expanse of Shoaib Malik. This way the team can have a mentor in the middle order who can guide the youngstars (Azhar and the two Umars). One more thing the selectors should call upon M. Irfan as the 4th seamer (based on the advise of Wasim).

  • on July 28, 2010, 20:36 GMT

    Dear Nagraj,

    You are absolutely correct about Salman having to guide the youngsters properly. The new guys blooded in the last series can become mainstays in the PAK batting lineup but they need to be shown confidence in and persisted with. Regarding the other two players that you have mentioned, well Farhat for me has always been a walking wicket. Last test, if Watson hadnt dropped his catch earlier on then things would have been very difficult for PAK. On the other hand, Umar Akmal is a prime example of wasting God given talent. He plays so fluently but then plays a completely asinine shot to get out. The excuse that he is young is acceptable but only to a certain degree. Anyone playing test cricket for his or her country has to know the value of his or her wicket and not treat it like some galli match

  • on July 28, 2010, 22:03 GMT

    Mohammad Yousaf and Younis Khan should be in the squad. At least to teach the youngsters some of the skills that they have. We should make full use of experience they have. Otherwise it will take ages for these young talented players to play properly in Test arena.

  • on July 28, 2010, 22:29 GMT

    I THINK now the selectors should give a long run to this team and atlest give the youngsters this full ENGLAND series ...i am sure they will come good IN SHA ALLAH..:)