New Zealand v Pakistan, Champions Trophy, semi-final, Jo'burg October 4, 2009

Pakistan powerless in Powerplays

If we are to dissect, it is the batsmen who lost it and nothing new is said in that

Is it fair to say that Pakistan overachieved in this tournament by getting to the semi-finals? Probably so on balance, especially given that they had lost their last three ODI series. There will be disappointment at going out to a team they would've fancied their chance against on a good day, but not many in Pakistan would've turned down a semi-final run beforehand, during which they beat the West Indies, India and were a couple of wickets shy of beating the team to beat in this tournament, the team to beat anytime and anywhere.

If we are to dissect, it is the batsmen who lost it and nothing new is said in that. Pakistan's batting has been a strange beast in the Champions Trophy. It hasn't been entirely flimsy, for there has been enough depth to arrest poor starts. It has been solid enough to prevent total collapse, but not always to build from it, which is what the best teams can do. At very critical moments, they have lost wickets. Mohammad Yousuf has been the symbol of it in a way, two untroubled innings after his beautifully-constructed hand against India, ending unfulfilled in the 40s.

And throughout they have miscalculated the Powerplay; the Pakistan ODI way has always been to expect a poor start, then consolidate and build and end strong. It is the batting template that has most often seen them reach 300-plus totals and to be fair, it hasn't been without success since 1992. But Powerplays allow you to begin the onslaught early, at your choosing and ideally when batsmen are set. There is no need now to wait till the very end, as Pakistan have done, for in the death overs, common sense dictates that you will hit out in any case.

Yet Pakistan have not utilised the Powerplay when the pair in the middle is set, preferring cautiously to leave it till the end: even in the win against India, they failed to do so. In a tournament of thin lines, it has been the cause of their downfall.

As against Australia, men didn't make the most of what they began against New Zealand. Imran Nazir, Kamran Akmal and Younis Khan all fell when it seemed easier to go on and two at least to poor strokes. And just as Yousuf and Umar Akmal put things in order, the Powerplay left to the lower order. "It was a problem for us and especially in the Powerplay, where we didn't score again," said Younis afterwards. "We had a couple of good starts and they didn't cash in. At one stage we were under pressure and 160-70 looked likely. But Akmal and Yousuf had a good partnership but didn't cash in. If they had stayed till the Powerplay we could've reached 250-260."

But there have been good things about Pakistan here. They have seemed more together than in many campaigns, no scandal has rocked their boat. Key players have returned and others have continued their growth. The younger Akmal looks, with each innings, a proper find. There is a smartness and thoroughness to his work that has been missing in most young Pakistani batting talent, an ability and willingness to complement his natural range of strokes, with less flash matters, such as running well and rotating the strike.

Likewise Mohammad Aamer, who from the moment he bowled his first ball for Pakistan has looked - scarily actually given how young he is - like he has been doing it for the last ten years. He was outstanding again tonight with ball; and surely with the bat he deserves to be higher than Umar Gul?

Saeed Ajmal has brought a real edge to the middle overs. Though he aims to stem the scoring first, he is a wicket-taking threat and that is something they missed often under Shoaib Malik's captaincy. And Mohammad Asif is around again, though that must be a meticulously-handled comeback.

"It has been a good experience for us," said Younis. "We finished in the top four and it has always been my aim to finish in the top four. After that, in the semis and final you need some luck, a good catch, a good run out, an umpiring decision. But we didn't get any so we lost. But overall, after a long time, we looked like a team and we fought as a team. Overall in this tournament I think we looked good. We have two excellent young players in Mohammad Aamer and Umar Akmal, who is a very mature batsman. Even Saeed Ajmal, who has been around, has done really well. If our youngsters are performing well, then the future is bright."

It should be, even if we have all been here before. Actually this kind of situation is traditionally a fragile time for Pakistan sides, terribly prone to tipping the wrong way. But if some kind of stability can be maintained in the set-up, they are at a point again where they can look ahead with genuine hope.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Imdadullah on October 6, 2009, 9:00 GMT

    Batting powerplay should always be taken at an earlier stage of the match probably when Yousuf & Umar Akmal were batting as in powerplay best bowlers bowl even if u see them & score atleast 7 an over then there is all chances of scoring more runs at death over or after the powerplay overs bowled by part timer/not the best bowler in the rank. one suggestion push Afridi & Umar Akmal up the order & push Younis & Yousef down the order. this is keep the flow of runs at the earlier stage & Younis & Yousuf then later on can concentrate on rotating strikes with one's, two's & odd boundries.

  • rob on October 6, 2009, 7:25 GMT

    Naveed, You are asking why pakistan didn't take power play when afridi was playing. According to quite a few pakistan supporters afridi is playing as a specialist bowler so it wouldn't have made much difference. He would have got out in first over of powerplay like he usually does. In last couple of years how often has he lasted for more then 1 over. Instead of pakistan waiting for afridi the great slogger to turn up they should play a proper spinner like kaneria.

  • Pintu on October 6, 2009, 5:36 GMT

    There were couple of mistakes: Misbah-ul-Haq should have played instead of Younis Khan as he is injured, Fawad Alam instead of Imran Nazir as he was injured as well and Mohammad Asif instead of Naveed-ul Hassan as I recall in the past on several occasions he leaked runs at the crucial moments (Alas Abdur Razzaq was not selected as he is always a game winner!) I believe if these changes were made Pakistan would not only beat NZ but also lift the title today!

  • Naveed on October 6, 2009, 4:05 GMT

    I believe that one bad decision can change the match but I also believe this is not the ONLY reason Pakistan lost the match. As rightly said 'powerless in the power play' I fail to understand why Pakistan did not take their power play when Afridi and Umar Akmal were playing? Why they lef the power play for tail-enders?

  • Zeeshan on October 6, 2009, 0:05 GMT

    @anderson2010, u hav nothing better to do than write comments against pakistan? India is a very good team bt they didnt played well in this tournament. Pak played well bt their batting was struggling in all of their matches. Pak group was considered the difficult one in compare to other as Sri Lanka & South Africa were considered to be favorites but knocked out by under dogs teams. they played better cricket than those two. It was bad luck to India that yuvraj was not there bt tat didnt mean India cant win match without him. they could have bt didnt. Australia were almost knock out due to their easy attitude against Pak in the end of 20 overs and bc Pak took several wickets suddenly. till the very last ball of the match pak fought well against Ausies. Even Pointing admitted it and so the indian journalist. i am just saying to be fair in your comments about any team. i dont take side of pak or any other team. If any team plays well i praise them, if not then i mention mistakes.

  • Rumesh on October 5, 2009, 17:15 GMT

    I fail to understand that why are all the Pakistani fans are making a big deal abt one Akmal's wicket. Please give some credit to the Kiwis. Come on guys...The fact is Pakistani batsmen cannot handle raw pace a none of the your club class cricketers have the class or the quality to play on bouncy wickets. Bond & CO were a quiet handful for the Pakistani batsmen to choke.Everyone forgets that in the last 3 years, the only country (apart from BD) Pakis have won a ODI series against is a weak West Indies. They hav lost to India (away), SL (Trashed home and away), Asia cup (home), Australia (UAE) and South Africa (home) during this period. Now please don't blame these results on the umpires.

  • rob on October 5, 2009, 16:26 GMT

    raheelf. you mentioned powerplay and dropped catch. Which is exactly what you can expect from a mediocre and amature team. These a amature mistakes. Captain carrying injury drops a catch. How unprofessional can you get. If captain and senior players can't work out when to take power play, again its down to professionalism. New Zealand were just too shrewd and professional and they exploited all pakistans weaknesses so all credit to new zealand. Vettori sitting out todays match because of injury is yet another proof of new zealand professional attitude. And please stop moaning about umpiring decisions, you guys were quite happy to get umpiring decisions in your favour in previous matches. Please give credit where its due. New Zealand are just too good and professional for a team with dated and amature think tank.

  • Hammad on October 5, 2009, 15:29 GMT

    we did not performed well and thats why we lost, we did not caught our catch, which on other day Younis khan would have taken 10/10 times, offcourse Naveed and Gull didnot balled well in last two overs, Offcourse Akmals LBW was also crucial but, the thing is New Zealand also played well and, the one who played well is in the Finals. Look after one perfomance why we start saying Gul is not a good baller, and this is not a player and he is not a player, In Ausi match they balled well and offcourse there is a day also when you don't ball well, I know i can't match Wasim and Waqar with gul, but they also had so many bad days, like in world 2003 match against Aus, but do we say then they are not good ballers, they are legends. I will back my team, at any cost but will not at same time get racist and start saying other team is not good even they are. I have gone into so many comments and a one can easily say there are so many indians singned up as Pakistani, we should be careful and the writ

  • Raheel on October 5, 2009, 13:53 GMT

    I have to say that Pakistan's performance against New Zealand was below par and they didn't deserve to win. But does that means Newzealand have won it by themselves? This question will remain unanswered forever. There is no doubt that Pakistan team is the most unpredictable and dynamic of the top test playing nations and on their day are capable to reaching any unprecedented feats. But when it comes to winning they are their own fiercest rival not Australia or India. Hadn't umpire given that (Umar's LBW) decision, hadn't Younis dropped that catch and had taken the powerplay between 30 and 40 over, it would have been a different story.

  • rob on October 5, 2009, 12:44 GMT

    Without umpiring errors pakistan wouldn't even be in semis. So all pakistani fans should grow up.

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