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Following yet another Pakistan batting collapse, it's time to take a good long look at team composition and strategy
Umar Farooq at the SSC
August 17, 2014
The tale of the Pakistani batting slump is nothing new. A combination of poor shot selection, insecurity, lack of confidence and a fear of Rangana Herath led to a familiar story repeating itself at the SSC. Pakistan was given a target of 271 to chase down in four sessions but it took only one session for their batting to unravel to an extent where victory was only a remote possibility.
The famous victory in Sharjah this January is a one-off in recent years as Pakistan have rarely been strong chasers. It isn't a lack of ability, but more about losing it within their mind.
On day three, Grant Flower tried to make sense of Pakistan's problem, but Herath dominated his answers; several times he applauded Herath and put Pakistan's first-innings collapse down to his skills. Perhaps his responses reflect the sense prevailing in the dressing room, that the opposition can dictate their fate.
Flower was also confident Pakistan could do well the second time around. That did not happen; their top order did not look comfortable at all. Sarfraz Ahmed is the only positive Pakistan can take forward. The average opening partnership in their previous 13 Tests is 26.15, and the experiment with Ahmed Shehzad and Khurram Manzoor does not seem to be working. Both have been guilty of throwing their wickets away with poor shot selection. While Shehzad will be persisted with, Manzoor is not likely to get too many more chances.
Azhar Ali suffered a dip in form in 2013 and was replaced by Mohammad Hafeez, but his impactful hundred in Sharjah pushed him up the pecking order once again. Expectations of him grew as well, but he hasn't been able to meet them. He resisted hard while scoring 32 in the first innings, before falling to an inadvisable shot to Herath in the second.
Younis Khan, apart from his 177 in Galle, has scored just 34 in three innings. Being a senior player, the attempted sweep which led to his dismissal today, with the side already reeling, could be termed erratic. Captain Misbah-ul-Haq has scored 67 at 16.75. He is having a hard time as captain, too, with Pakistan not having won a Test series since beating England in the UAE in early 2012. A 2-0 defeat here could be decisive for him.
While the defeats must hurt, what could hurt Pakistan more is if they do not learn from them. It is vital that the team management gets the team selection right. The likes of Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq seem to be the future for Pakistan, but Umar Akmal and Fawad Alam could probably work well too. The captain and coaches have also rarely been critical of the batting in public.
Minutes after the stumps today, the team had packed up its stuff and left the ground. The media had requested that coach Waqar Younis attend the press conference, but they were told none of the Pakistan contingent would be taking questions. Even if they do not do so for the media, one hopes that Pakistan is answering the many questions that persist over their batting for themselves.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalsonFeeds: Umar Farooq
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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