Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 1st semi-final, World Twenty20, Colombo October 4, 2012

Pakistan fail to adjust to demanding pitch

Pakistan's batsmen needed to show discipline on a demanding pitch and their failure to do so cost them the semi-final

Sparks of instinct, moments of inspiration, flashes of genius. They just happen. And sides like Pakistan seize them. They can't be planned for, and they just weren't coming today for Pakistan. What they required was sensible and unglamorous batting through and through, as is usually the case in tricky chases on difficult pitches. And even the most ardent fan knew in his heart that Pakistan's batsmen had been found wanting twice before in this tournament.

From the moment Sri Lanka chose to bat on a powdery pitch in the semi-final of a world event, Pakistan were up against it because of their shaky batting, unless their bowling and fielding was of the standard that sunk Australia. That was Australia on a surface out of their comfort zone; this was Sri Lanka at home. Pakistan's bowlers didn't have an off day, though. They kept Sri Lanka to 139, which Mohammad Hafeez said was not even a par score, and was definitely achievable despite the turning pitch.

But Pakistan's chase alternated between reckless and clueless. Three of the top seven batsmen got out the reckless way, two of them the clueless way. Kamran Akmal and Shahid Afridi had no business playing the strokes they did so early. Kamran went hard at his second ball, a cutter; Afridi tried to force his first ball from the crease.

Pakistan had seen Mahela Jaywardene assess the pitch early and play an innings full of strokes he thought were safe on it. Sweeps, reverse-sweeps and dabs worked for Jaywardene, but expecting Afridi to take a few deliveries to size up the surface is to expect the sun not to rise tomorrow.

After the game, Mohammad Hafeez kept calling Afridi his match-winner but Pakistan have to seriously review Afridi's batting position now. Powerful and reliable batsmen like Suresh Raina come in at No. 7 in limited-overs cricket. Afridi might still have a lot to offer as a legspinner, but Pakistan desperately need someone who can last more than a few deliveries at No. 7.

While Afridi and Kamran refused to respect the surface, Imran Nazir and Shoaib Malik were uncertain in defence. They too paid the price. The track demanded several skills from the batsman, and Pakistan did not have answers. Only Nasir Jamshed, who got a poor decision, can escape blame.

Hafeez can, as well, to a certain extent. He is clearly not the man to open in a Twenty20 international. He just does not have the explosive game. On this pitch, however, he could have played a decisive role, and had it not been for his charge-and-heave at Rangana Herath in the 15th over, Pakistan might have won the game. Hafeez had shown character until then, moving from 3 off 15 to 42 off 39. Like Jayawardene, he took his time; unlike Jayawardene, he scratched around, looking entirely unconvincing; and unlike Jayawardene, he worked out that he would be scoring in front of square, rather than behind it.

With 49 needed off 36 balls and six wickets in hand, few Test-level sides will unravel as quickly as Pakistan did. Even before the 18th over had ended, they were almost out of the game. The batting had lost them the India match as well, and it had nearly lost them the South Africa game, but that evening Umar Gul experienced a few moments of inspiration.

A team cannot go through entire tournaments reliant on moments or sparks or flashes to cover for a lack of batting backbone. Imran Khan didn't win the 1992 World Cup in that fashion. Those instants are an opportunity to shift momentum, the chance to build something. In the end, sustainable building requires old-fashioned masonry, something Pakistan were just not willing to do tonight. Is it any wonder then, that after six successive ICC tournament semi-finals - a commendable achievement - they have just one title to show?

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Syed Abid on October 6, 2012, 18:10 GMT

    Pak has made it to Semi-Finals of previous 6 consecutive ICC tournaments, 2007 WT20- Finalists 2009 WT20- Winners 2009 ICC champions trophy- Semi-Finalists 2010 WT20 - Semi- Finalists 2011 WorldCup- Semi- Finalists 2012 WT20 - Semi- Finalists Only one player was common in all these tournaments, it was AFRIDI !!!!

  • MOHAMMED on October 6, 2012, 6:43 GMT

    Dear All, Watching Pakistan chase any kind of target is like watching a delivery live. They just simply find it or make it extremely difficult chasing any kind of target & against any opposition. Easy to criticize Afridi & Nazir, but the truth of the matter is that, until & unless Pakistan produces quality Batsmen i dont think this problem will ever finish. Pakistan has the Best Bowling Attack & worst batting among the test Playing Nations.

  • Muhammad on October 6, 2012, 5:57 GMT

    I think Shahid Afridi is a better captain in T20 cricket. Muhammad Hafeez has not the capability to sustain pressure. Moreover poor umpiring decisions against the players also change the game scenario

  • Dummy4 on October 6, 2012, 5:45 GMT

    Some one think the inning of TM Dilshan is waste before PAK bats. But that is the way to bat kind of pitch. See what happen to Afridi. TMD understand the pitch from the first few overs and keep his wicket & get runs slowly. Weldone boys. One more has to go.

  • sali on October 6, 2012, 4:38 GMT

    I hope Hafeez provides explaination in the coming days why he presisted with Imran Nazir when he had correct and proven player for this kind of pitch. Asad Shafeeq. He already had 3 other openers in the team. I hope he can enlighten us about Razzaq and why he was being watsed when Tanvir was consistently rubbish in all group matches and why was he kept out of the semi final. Shoib Malik is never going to score except when he plays against Bangladesh or India. His technique is at a club level and getting worst. Pakistan always looks for flashy playes rather than working with correct players and giving them chance to adopt to all cricket formats. I hope this is not about team mafia keeping out outsiders. I hope he knows things that we don't. Pakistan should immediately bring Ahmed Shezad, Junaid Khan, and Haris Sohail and replace Shoib Malik, Imran Nazir and Tanvir. We have great talent, we need to bring them forward and stop playing with discarted players again n again.

  • Ramesh on October 6, 2012, 4:09 GMT

    I dont know what is up with Indian fans, they should understand just by beating Pak and SL will not make them any kind of champions. They will have to beat other teams too. For an example they lost against NZ recently and was thrashed by Aus. Though SL and Pak is not having a good time against Ind, they are doing well against other teams which make them do much better than Ind in big tournaments.

  • Talha on October 6, 2012, 1:49 GMT

    Even 150 was chaseable and it wasn't as tough of the pitch as its been made in the aftermath of the loss. I confess it from heart that we made an absolute mess of the run chase and it was more of self-made pressure and panic rather than the Sri Lankan bowling which really ran riots in the batting line-up.

    But unlike others, I wont either want any senior player to retire, not want them to be discussed. They themselves are as much shocked as anyone and time is to give them rest and let them re-assess their performance and prove the amendments by performing in leagues. Afridi, Malik and Imran Nazir have good chance to prove it in qualifiers of champions league and there is strong chance for one of the team from either Stallions or Hampshire to go through in the tournament, so they should make the most of this opportunity.

    Umar Akmal should always bat at no 4 (in all formats including tests), while Nasir Jamshed must be no 3 in both ODIs and T20s. Time to give role to juniors

  • Bobby on October 6, 2012, 1:42 GMT

    Pakistan's bets fast bowler in last year or so has been Junaid Khan so why was not he selected? Pakistan's best batsman has been Azhar Ali. Yes, he is not as glamorous as lets say Imran Nazir but that is a type of batsman Pakistan line up needs. Why was not he selected? Asad Shafiq played one warm match and he scored the highest. Razzaq played one match and he scored 22 off 17 balls that proved difference against Australia so why were they ignored? Shoib Malik and Imran Nazir are a proven failure and they need to go. Afridi has stayed in team because of his bowling but his bowling has ditched him so time to go. Kamran played a fine knock in warm up against India but failed when it mattered so he needs to go, although if he performs he can always make a come back. Gul and Sohail Tanvir needs to be put on notice. Unlike India,Pakistan has backup players and talent to replaced failed ones,Asad Shafiq,Azhar Ali, Hammad Azam, Sarfraz Ahmad and Fawad Alam are ready and available to replace!

  • Dummy4 on October 6, 2012, 1:05 GMT

    dont forget afridi is an allrounder. i am surprised at how people judge him as a batsman only. he is a world class spinner. he is a better spinner than a batsman. he is a hitter.

  • shahid on October 6, 2012, 0:04 GMT

    Watmore and Hafiz should be fired for not playing Razzaq in whole of the tournament. One match they won because of Umar Gul's batting, another because they had Razzaq to save the batting blunders by making 21.

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