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

Pakistan batting needs a guiding hand


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

  • Ad 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

  • Dummy4 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

  • Jawwad 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

  • Sheraz 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 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).

  • Dummy4 on July 29, 2010, 5:30 GMT

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

  • Simon 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.

  • JUNAID 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.

  • cric 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.

  • Dummy4 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..:)

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