South Africa v Pakistan, 2nd ODI, Centurion March 14, 2013

Pakistan face selection conundrum


What seems to be keeping Misbah-ul-Haq from panicking is the faith that Pakistan can only get better after Bloemfontein. Given what he called their overall "mediocrity," in the first match, even just a more spirited display will prove him right.

But to achieve that Pakistan will have to do more than simply up their motivation levels. They will have to get their selection right because that was one of the primary reasons they were shut out of the contest last Sunday.

Pakistan went into the match with only two quicks who, as Misbah said, "gave us a very good start in the first eight overs." Umar Gul and Junaid Khan moved the ball off the seam and beat the bat but after them there was little else.

It was not long before Pakistan discovered leaving out a third quick on a South African surface was the equivalent of touring the subcontinent without a spinner: it just does not work. Their slew of spinners were unable to make breakthroughs or keep the run-rate down even though have established themselves as the team's strength.

"South Africa played really well against them on a pitch where it was gripping and turning. Our bowlers did not find the right length," Misbah said. "Offspinners are our strength and we could not get Colin Ingram out."

As a consequence, even someone as cagey about starting XIs as Misbah was forced to admit his team is considering an obvious change. "We might need another fast bowler after looking at the last game," he said ahead of the Centurion match. Mohammad Irfan may come into contention on surfaces that will offer bounce or Wahab Riaz could be used.

Either way, Pakistan will have to sacrifice either one of their frontline batsmen or one of the two allrounders. Shahid Afridi found his boom-boom in the latter stages of the first match which puts Shoaib Malik in the firing line. Other suggestions would be dropping Younis Khan and even considering finding a way to make room for Umar Akmal in the team.

Misbah acknowledged that changes have to be made in the batting but ruled out sweeping personnel swaps. "Just because we lost one match, does not mean we have to make a lot of changes. If we do that players could lose confidence. At the moment, we've got a few batsmen who are still waiting for their turn. They are good enough to be in the side but the combinations we are looking at are keeping them out."

Instead, the alteration will come in approach. Pakistan will look to create more run-scoring opportunities and turn around both the strike and their reputation as middle-overs' stagnates.

"We need to be more aggressive, rotate the strike and take a few chances so we can push the fielders a little bit back in the circle. We need to improve that because when we play dot balls in the innings it creates pressure on the batsmen who are playing and the batsmen coming in," he said. "The batsmen need to show a little more responsibility and we also have to understand the opposition's line of attack. Most of the time, they are bowling back of a length so we have to be able to play that.

Allan Donald has promised South Africa will send down more yorkers so Pakistan will know they have to watch out for that as well. What they should also be wary, according to Misbah, is the moments in which the opposition could take the game away from them because that affected their morale.

"Once they got us on the back foot we lost a bit of confidence," he explained. "The most important thing in one-day cricket is wickets. When we didn't get wickets, automatically and slowly, it drained us." That goes back to the opening point. If Pakistan can play with more energy they will better their Bloemfontein showing and repay Misbah's faith. If they get their selections right as well, then they can have an eye on winning too.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on March 15, 2013, 11:35 GMT

    We have too many players who have proved with consistency that they are not fit to play in the ODIs forPakistan . The most obvious in this lot isounis Khan and Misbah . Then we have players who have very successfully demonstrated that they are not fitti play for Pakistan in any form of cricket . these are Imran Farhat , Shoaib Malik , Afridi , Kamran Akmal . They may with luck perform in about one inning in about ten . Team selection is clearly not on merit . This is Pakistan,s biggest weakness.

  • Dummy4 on March 15, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    A team that can bench its best batsman without looking into the records can never win. Umer Akmal's stats prove that he has been pakistans best ODI batsman over the past 4 years... Avg of 37 and Strike Rate of 84. Non of the players in current batting lineup hav a better record.

    The coach , captain etc have been selecting players who are not even close to umer akmal as far as the average and strike rates are concerend.Its frustrating to see that not only the coaches , captains etc fail to understand whats best for your team but even fans don't realize it.

    YK is a great test player , but he has been a proven failure in ODIs over 200 ODIs ... and yet we prefer people like YK , Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq( who i think can be persisted with still and given a longer run) over Umer Akmal . If there is one player who has performed consstently at a level which is required for ODIs is umer akmal and still no body wants him in the team

  • Satish Chandar on March 15, 2013, 10:18 GMT

    Personally, i would open with Kamran and have Umar Akmal in the 11. Would play only two of Haafeez, Afridi and Malik as all rounder. Bring Malik into top 5. Drop one of Misbah/Younis. Kamran, Hafeez, Jamshed, Asad, Malik, Misbah, Umar, Riaz/Irfan, Gul, Ajmal, Junaid.

  • Aleem on March 15, 2013, 9:58 GMT

    This Pak team needs inclusion of some fresh players who can bring the life back in the team ...

    My winning team is:

    1)Kamran Akmal, 2)Ahmed Shehzad, 3)Hafeez, 4)Nasir Jamshed, 5)Umar Akmal, 6) Misbah, 7)Afridi, 8)Gul, 9)Junaid, 10)Wahab Riaz, 11)Saeed Ajmal/Rehman

  • Dummy4 on March 15, 2013, 9:15 GMT

    Nasir=hafeez=malik=umar=misbah/younis=asad shafiq=afridi=gul=junaid=irfan=saeed ajmal/rehman

    Misbah only because he is captin and asad only because no other option as haris sohail or umar amin are not included in the saquad.

  • Dummy4 on March 15, 2013, 8:18 GMT

    Ahmed Shahzad and Umar Akmal should be in the side and Pakistan should play with at least 3 fast bowlers. but centurion is also good for spinners.

  • Dummy4 on March 15, 2013, 7:01 GMT

    Where is Haris Sohail, He is the Michael Hussy of Pakistan, but our seniors are frightened from him that they are giving him a single chance because he will prove himself and some seniors may lose their place in the team.

  • Dummy4 on March 15, 2013, 5:12 GMT

    It is same whether pak play umar akmal or kamran , they both are club level players , who can play some lottery games here and there but at the end of the day ,they are same batsmen with pathetic technique and temperament . Pak wanted to catch up the bits and pieces players ,but spoiling the career of geniuses i,e mohammad yousf and rszaaq, hafeeez can somehow paly in subcontinent but is such a gaebarage at offshores that even chris martin , can play better than him to steyn , shoib malik should be ashamed of himself by consuming place of someone better talanted player, he is most medicore player in the world ...

  • Dummy4 on March 15, 2013, 4:16 GMT

    Players U.Akmal A.Shafiq Misbah Younis I.Farhat S.Malik Match 71 36 110 249 51 207 HS 102* 78* 93* 144 107 143 Average 38 29 41 32 32 33 SR 84 69 74 76 71 78

    How we can drop umer Akmal, give him long run at no. 4, he will win matches for you.

  • Nizamdeen on March 14, 2013, 23:06 GMT

    Umar Akmal and Irfan should play in this game. Umar is a very talented player he should not be sacrificed for his brother Kamran.