December 3, 2016

Six Pakistani collapses, one story

Poor shots, hilarious run-outs, making decent bowling look terrifying, and losing all ten for less than hundred: a look at the team's meltdowns this year
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And they all fall down: Pakistani collapses tend to become the stuff of legend © Getty Images

Visit a Pakistani's home and he will offer you tea; give a Pakistani a melody and she will make a beautiful song out of it; ask some Pakistanis to bat and they'll eventually collapse.

The collapse is the great tragicomedy of cricket, and in recent years has become quite a recurring event, even for once-mighty sides. But like Michael Jackson with pop, Pakistan have the ability to transcend the collapse beyond its genre, producing works that are instantly unique and yet timeless.

The simplified narrative about Misbah-ul-Haq's team and the discipline it espouses leads one to believe that this side is immune to collapses, but that is not at all the case. Each year of Misbah's six as leader has seen some ridiculous implosions, though what distinguishes his side is their ability to fight back afterwards. However, even for this Pakistan team, which held the No. 1 position in Tests for a while, 2016 has been a remarkable year for collapses.

At least part of the problem resides in the origin story of #TeamMisbah. In its first couple of years, the team distinguished themselves by their grit, holding their own in tough rearguard situations.

Defeat in Galle in 2014, courtesy another collapse, suggested that the once-successful strategy of batting slowly to take time out of the game was becoming a problem. The following year, Pakistan embarked on a golden run in which they batted heavily and more quickly on their way to a number of wins.

The early years of Misbah-ul-Haq's captaincy were defined by a more defensive approach to batting © AFP

By 2016, the change was quite apparent. Of the four wins this year, only in the second innings at Lord's did Pakistan score below 3.18 runs per over. In the five losses, they didn't cross 3.31 per over; in six of those innings in matches lost, they scored under three an over. In Christchurch, Hamilton, Sharjah, Edgbaston and Old Trafford, these efforts came in the midst of stunning collapses.

The only exception was Dubai, where Pakistan collapsed while scoring faster than they have in any innings this year. But what Dubai had in common with the collapses in Christchurch and Sharjah, in particular, was a peculiarly Pakistani tradition - the abject surrender to an otherwise limited bowler. The successes of Devendra Bishoo, Jason Holder and Colin de Grandhomme were not surprising, given that over the years, Pakistani batsmen have made heroes out of the likes of Murphy Su'a, Paul Harris, Imran Tahir, Marcus North, Nick Cook and Neil Mallender among others.

The collapses of 2016 also show some more general trends that are not specific to Pakistan per se. For example, the team repeatedly displayed the modern trait of largely batting in one gear in Test cricket. Unlike most teams, though, Pakistan's preferred gear is neutral. In Hamilton and Dubai, they struggled to impose themselves when the situation demanded it and collapsed when aggression was required. More worryingly, at Edgbaston and in Sharjah, Pakistan struggled in closing out the game - a skill that used to be this team's forte.

Like in every collapse, there were many poor shots in Pakistan's various failures, but once again it was a case of almost always only poor shots, with few good deliveries to be seen. Forty-five wickets fell in the six collapses discussed below, and even applying the most lax of standards, at least 35 fell to totally avoidable and largely brainless shots.

Sarfraz Ahmed edges one to second slip, Edgbaston © Getty Images

Edgbaston, 8 for 72
The key to any good collapse is panic, and there can be no panic greater than knowing you are about to lose a match in which you held a 100-run lead. On this site, Jarrod Kimber described the collapse as "going the full Hafeez". The hapless opener had indeed got out to (yet another) loose shot, but he wasn't part of the eventual collapse. Pakistan stabilised before throwing it all away. Both Misbah and Younis Khan fell to good balls on the fifth stump that drew a shot, and Yasir Shah received a very good lifter. The other seven batsmen fell to more ordinary deliveries, almost always playing shots they didn't need to.

Younis Khan gives a leg-side catch to Jonny Bairstow, Old Trafford © Getty Images

Old Trafford, 5 for 33
This collapse en route to a crushing defeat wasn't quite as wondrous as the others, but did include a charmingly Pakistani brain fade. Seeking to bat out the day in reply to a mammoth first-innings total by England, both Azhar Ali and Younis fell to needless shots. At this point Pakistan decided to send easily the worst batsman of their fragile tail as nightwatchman. Rahat Ali was soon bounced out, and the next morning Shan Masood offered a simple catch to slip. Asad Shafiq then rounded off the slide by playing a truly terrible drive straight to backward point.

Mohammad Amir is bowled by a big Devendra Bishoo legbreak, Dubai © AFP

Dubai, 8 for 46
This innings unfolded a bit like a shy adult being asked to mind a bratty child. It appears to be a simple task and yet the adult finds himself unable to deal with the brat kicking his shins and calling him names. Pakistan were extremely uncomfortable walking out to score quickly in a match they had dominated until then. Bishoo played the role of the impish prodigy, taking a remarkable eight wickets. No Pakistan batsman was a victim of a good ball: they slogged, dragged on and played against the turn to almost throw away the match.

Azhar Ali helps Devendra Bishoo improve his bowling figures with a simple catch to first slip, Sharjah © Getty Images

Sharjah, 4 for 11
The annals of cricket history are filled with the romantic exploits of Caribbean fast bowlers bouncing out terrified batsmen, but none of them can quite compare to Holder's heist in Sharjah. Bowling a little quicker than gentle, he managed to bounce out Pakistan's top order, who used leaden feet and wild swishes to help him to his career-best first-class figures (5 for 30). The tail put up more of a fight, but it was undone by a truly marvellous run-out. Mohammad Amir had spent several minutes admiring a shot he thought was going to be a six, and had started to walk towards the non-striker, Wahab Riaz, when he suddenly realised that the ball was live and was being thrown back in. He ran back without his bat in a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to make his ground.

Younis Khan gloves a short ball from Neil Wagner to the keeper in the second innings, Christchurch © Getty Images

Christchurch, 10 for 102
Most teams would struggle if sent in to bat on a rain-affected pitch greener than jade. Pakistan's situation was made worse by the fact that their tour games had been washed out, leaving this their first bat of the trip. But like Radiohead after OK Computer, Pakistani batsmen were unwilling to do what was expected of them. After seeing off the dangerous opening pair of Tim Southee and Trent Boult, they proceeded to collapse to the dibbly-dobbly charms of de Grandhomme, who went on to set a record for the best figures by a New Zealand bowler on debut. Almost none of his deliveries were truly lethal. Sticking to a fourth-to-fifth-stump line, he picked up Babar Azam, Younis and Shafiq thanks to some terrible shots.

The police line-up: Pakistan's players ponder defeat in Hamilton © Getty Images

Hamilton, 10 for 99
The final release in an awe-inspiring collection, Hamilton was the Ozymandias moment of Pakistani collapses - "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair." How many sides can imagine batting out two whole sessions in serenity before losing nine wickets in the last session of the match? As always, Pakistan took it a step further by making this the third time in their history that they lost ten wickets for less than 100 runs after putting together a century-plus opening stand. Indeed, such opening stands seem to be the kiss of death for Pakistan, who were once 101 for 0 before losing all ten wickets to Anil Kumble. The shot selection in Hamilton was ludicrous as only Amir and Wahab fell to decent deliveries. More than the context, it was the concept itself that merited admiration here. Any magician knows that every great trick requires a great distraction, and by batting out 59.5 overs for no wicket, Pakistan unveiled their most magical collapse of the year.

Ahmer Naqvi writes on cricket, music, film and pop culture. He appears on Journoeyes and Pace is Pace Yaar. @karachikhatmal

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • RazaAbbasZaidi on December 6, 2016, 5:05 GMT

    They will win from a point of no return and they will loose from the point where win looks evident. Test Team will be in transition soon. There will be a dearth of captain. The moral of the story is "Pakitsan falls on its own" so bowling sides don't have to great all they need is a 100+ lead from their batting Pakistan's batting will do the rest.

    And as far as bowling is concerned it is too over ratted. Pakistan's bowler have lost the ability to knock out sides rather they wait for batsmen to get out and even when an opportunity arises the fielding complements the ordinary bowling by dropping catches and missing other opportunities.

    With this kind of approach they will sit in tests where they are sitting in one days.

  • golgo_85 on December 5, 2016, 22:57 GMT

    Keep playing Wahab and Rahat whilst ignoring Imran who can give Amir better support plus keep overhyped Azhar and Shafiq in the team at wrong batting positions whilst ignoring Fawad Alam and Umar Akmal (should have never been dropped from the test squad, similar fate awaits Babar if he keeps playing his natural game which is forbidden in Pakistan if you are an up and coming, naturally attacking player) and keep dropping Yasir Shah in favour of Wahab - and again and again the reason for more Pak losses will be strange team combination. Not grooming a seam bowling allrounder over the years under Misbah (his biggest and ONLY failure) has started to cost them matches as well. Oh well.

  • siddharthxoom on December 5, 2016, 19:46 GMT

    ON a more serious level though, i feel Pak batsmen might find batting in aus relatively easier as we know NZ are not super-friendly for (visiting) batsmen. On Oz pitches, they would find truer bounce and pace with lesser swing. Pitches are not what they used to be 10 years back, making batting relatively easier if batsmen apply themselves (thats the key part for pak batsmen - apply themselves).

  • siddharthxoom on December 5, 2016, 19:08 GMT

    At present time, if aus played Pak, they would make a batting paradise look like a bombshell. Collapse in all four innings. Difference in both sides will only be smith, warner or probably a misbah. Apart from these three, no one else can even think about batting at the point in these teams

  • siddharthxoom on December 5, 2016, 19:06 GMT

    @CRICFAN61646232 - Saw your comment "one-by-one" but i would agree to the article. You feel its disrespect, because you are taking it such and are overly defensive. Instead Pakistan batsmen should take it i stride and work on improving it. Batting was never Pak forte and they should really focus on it instead of trying to criticizing the critic.

  • cricfan61646232 on December 5, 2016, 14:43 GMT

    "Poor shots, hilarious run-outs, making decent bowling look terrifying, and losing all ten for less than hundred: a look at the team's meltdowns this year" I will comment one by one

    1.Poor shots (this is disrespectful) "one could say poor shot selection" of course. Any one like Sir Viv, Gower or lara could use that phrase. 2.hilarious run-outs Again disrespectful. Run outs are not meant to be stylish any way they could be either sad or unfortunate not hilarious if you are a proper cricket fan 3.making decent bowling look terrifying this is total disrespect to NZ bowling. Plz check the ICC ranking of Bolt, Sauthee and wagner 4.losing all ten for less than hundred The great windies was shot out by Wasim for mere 53. Recently that happened to Aus a few times. what say eh. 5.a look at the team's meltdowns this year. What the heck. Team lost a series after how many years??? Get a hair cut

  • CricketoverChai on December 5, 2016, 14:26 GMT

    Perhaps if the current Pak team play the current Aussie team, we can have the shortest test match ever ! A collapse in each innings of a match must be the rarest of rare events in a test match !!

  • cricfan62719727 on December 5, 2016, 11:25 GMT

    Loving the shoehorned-in Radiohead reference. A combination of two of my favourite things ^.^

  • Haleos on December 5, 2016, 9:28 GMT

    @cricfan55981349 - bcoz in reality barring the bowling sometimes there is nothing good in them. Historically they have always played for a captain. @Adiel - rightly said. Surprising to see tht they can not find 11 players who would pride themselves playing for the country= and be passionate abt it.

  • muzika_tchaikovskogo on December 5, 2016, 5:54 GMT

    Hilarious article! But there's no denying that Pakistan in recent months have shown a worrying tendency to collapse in a manner reminiscent of their predecessors a generation ago.

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