Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 3rd ODI, Colombo June 12, 2012

Should Pakistan play an extra batsman?

With only five specialist batsmen in the line-up, Pakistan are overly dependent on their bowlers to deliver in every game

Pakistan came in to the ODI series with the recent head-to-head record overwhelmingly in their favour. A big reason for their consistency, not only against Sri Lanka, is their penetrative and balanced bowling attack. The presence of two spin-bowling allrounders has given them the option of playing more specialists, depending on the conditions and opposition.

For all their strengths as a unit, Pakistan now find themselves in a predicament similar to Sri Lanka's after the first ODI at Pallekele. Their bowlers may have conceded 280 against an inconsistent batting line-up, but as the captain Misbah-ul-Haq conceded, the batsmen had to shoulder the blame for a heavy defeat.

Both teams have gambled in the two matches so far. In the first game, Sri Lanka invested their senior-most batsmen at the top, but in the process exposed a relatively inexperienced middle order. It prompted a reshuffle and helped them double their score in considerably better batting conditions two days later. For the hosts, it was a matter of identifying the ideal batting positions for their line-up, which has a mixture of youth and experience. Pakistan gambled by playing just five specialist batsmen in both games. It didn't matter in the first game, where they were chasing 136, but in the second, they were caught short in their big chase of 281.

It has put Pakistan in a scenario where they're made to rethink their composition. Unlike Sri Lanka, it isn't merely a case of playing around with the batting order. It's about bringing in the extra specialist, at the cost of a bowler, to give themselves more security.

Misbah, however, didn't drop any hints. "We will have a look at the conditions, see the wicket and decide," was his straightforward response on the eve of the third ODI at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.

The pitch at Pallekele was seamer-friendly for the opening ODI, aided by the recent rain and moisture. It prompted a three-man seam attack, which shut Sri Lanka out of the game before the Pakistan batsmen could pad up. Pakistan retained the composition for the second game - albeit weakened by Mohammad Sami's absence - but later had to digest the truth that if the bowlers have a forgettable day, the pressure piles up on a batting line-up low on resources.

It compounds when the seniors fail. On the one hand, it can be seen an ideal opportunity for someone like Umar Akmal to show he has the temperament to occupy the crease, knock the singles and marshal the middle-and lower-order. It could also boost his chances of a Test recall. After Younis Khan and Misbah failed to make an impact, it left the lower middle order much to do, increasing the responsibilities on Azhar Ali, who worked hard for his 96. He dispelled the tag of being a stodgy Test player by breezing to his fifty, off the same number of balls. If only support was more forthcoming at the other end.

Akmal got a poor decision, and it left Shahid Afridi a lot to do. Afridi has shown in the past that he can play responsibly after a top-order collapse, like in Sharjah against the same opposition last year. However, inconsistency has been his biggest enemy, which explains why, by his own admittance, he's a bowling allrounder.

Misbah was honest in his assessment of the team's failure. "I have always felt that a strong middle-and lower-order is important if we have to win games. From the position we were in, we should have at least scored 250-260 runs. It should have been a closer game."

The bright spot was the ease with which Azhar settled into his new role as opener. "He's got a fine temperament and technically one of the better batsmen in our side," Misbah said. "With the two new balls at either end it's important we have a batsman who has the technique to face the new ball and especially in Sri Lanka where the ball does a bit early on. I think he can be a consistent performer for Pakistan in the opening slot."

The defeat has sent signals to the seniors, including Misbah, to step up. But picking another specialist, like Asad Shafiq, wouldn't hurt either.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Bilal on June 14, 2012, 10:33 GMT

    The pakistan attack would be 1nasir.j 2azhar.a 3younis.k 4misbah.h 5umar.a 6hafeez 7afridi 8sarfaz.a 9sohail.t 10umar.g 11saeed.a

  • Macfarland Simbarashe on June 14, 2012, 10:16 GMT

    i am a big fan of pakstain, and over the yrs i have bn really impressed with their bowling, the bowlers have really been working hard and am sorry that i can really say the same to their batting. Pakstain rily nid a agressive batsman at the top that will make a flyer start to the runrate, I think Afridi will do, Because guys remmember that 2004/5 series Pak vs India wher Pak won 4-2... Afridi that series really played with freedom and that rily gev the other top order batsman more time to settle. Ausie have Warner, Srilanka have Dilshan, India have Sehwag, WI now have Gayle. Also Pak nd a wicketkeeper batsman.... the one who we can really rely on... I think Kamran Akmal is our guy... of course he is average as a keeper but he can change the game as a batsman will all know that. This is my team if i were a selectors, it has fresh blood as well as seniors.... 1.M. Hafez 2. S. Afridi 3. A.Ali 4. Shafiq 5. Misbah 6. U. Akmal 7. H. Azam 8. K. Akmal 9. S Tenvir 10. Gul 11. Ajmal......

  • Imran on June 14, 2012, 9:15 GMT

    I cant beleive he did play sami in last match. How many middle order players you are gona put in a team? why dont you understand mr Misbah its ODI and you need proper openers. Openers bring a different flow of runs. Middle order batsman playing up the order can not give a kind of agression like a proper opener does. I am afriad you are not good ODI captain. PCB should reconsider this role of ODI captaincy.

  • Dummy4 on June 14, 2012, 8:55 GMT

    I believe Pakistan needs to do some reshuffling with their lineup and most importantly make some changes in their team. The team does not looks vigorous since I have doubts if this team is fit enough to play against Aus, Eng, Ind, or even S.Af. Both the bowling & batting needs to be changed, we cannot expect with the lights of 3-4 bowlers cum batsman can change an entire game. I would strongly suggest & advise bringing back Azhar Mahmood, Imran Nazir, Abdur Razzaq. The talent is indeed in the team but to play against strong teams, i believe this is not sufficient. No doubt they have quality youngsters who can deliver the goods but this is cricket, even one needs to be consistent and show them with their performance. We have this tendency in Asia to exaggerate players and sometimes tends to overrate them.

  • Ahmed on June 14, 2012, 7:59 GMT

    My Playing XI: 1)Hafeez, 2)U Akmal (Openers), 3)Ahmed Shahzad, 4)Azhar Ali, 5)Asad Shafiq, 6)Misbah, 7)Afridi, 8)Sarfaraz, 9)Saeed Ajaml, 10)Umar Gul, 11)Sami/Tanveer This will be the most balanced side for Pakistan for ODIs ... 3 Specialist bowlers and 2 all rounders, Hammad Azam can be added as an extra allrounder in place of Azhar or Asad...

  • MOHAMMED on June 14, 2012, 6:18 GMT

    its about time to give yonis khan a break to warn him pr complete drop and bring in asad shafiq and give him his last chance to perform.....hafeez nees to sort his batting technique out or dropped him at lower position and play im as allrounder and play a solid oppener......i still think pakistan needs to get rid of misbah as age is catching up n we need to look ahead of the world cup and not prepre for next series and dn keep changing captains.

  • Salman on June 14, 2012, 5:07 GMT

    We need attacking batsmen at top because.. we are not been able to score quickly thats what pressurize the later order batsmen like Afridi, Hammad to score at battering pace lately. Nasir Jamshed was a loss to this squad we should bring in Ahmed Shehzad in for him.

  • Dummy4 on June 14, 2012, 5:00 GMT

    i think batting needs serious changing hafeez and younis not performing up to level good players ahmed shehzad or nasir jamshed needs to back and Pak batsmen should attack rather going to be defensive all the time

  • Amjad on June 14, 2012, 4:44 GMT

    My Playing XI for ODI - 1) Hafeez 2) Afridi(Opener & Captain) 3) Azhar Ali 4) Misbah 5) Asad 6) Umar Akmal 7) Afridi 8) Kamran Akmal(wk) 9) Gul 10) Saeed Ajmal 11) Sami/Tanvir...

  • Dummy4 on June 14, 2012, 4:10 GMT

    SA in WC 2011 were a batsmen short. Played Botha at 7 and lost QF. India in WC final 2003 were clearly a bowler short when Ponting went on a rampage. Balance is important and full utilisation of resources is also important.

  • No featured comments at the moment.