Pakistan's performance at The Oval was certainly one they will need to eradicate from their minds going into the NatWest Challenge decider at Lord's. They faltered in all departments, and it's hard to draw any positives other than Yousuf Youhana's welcome return to form.
Rashid Latif's decision to bat first was perfectly justified. The pitch held no terrors with its consistent bounce very conducive for strokeplay. Although Imran Nazir would count himself unlucky to get a good delivery first up, the same cannot be said for Mohammad Hafeez. He was clearly tempted by the vast open spaces on the legside, and had flirted with danger plenty of times by playing across the line before being trapped in front of the wicket by Andrew Flintoff.
Pakistan have too often been guilty of thrusting their front foot across to the off stump, which means they have to play around their pads, making them serious candidates for a leg before decision. That is a technical flaw that has to be addressed immediately by Javed Miandad, as the youngsters will find it hard to progress at this level if they do not sort it out soon.
The shot selection from most of the Pakistani batsmen again left a lot to be desired. Yasir Hameed once again threw his wicket away after another impressive start, and Abdul Razzaq attempted an adventurous shot at an inopportune time.
Another alarming aspect was the appalling running between the wickets. Youhana may have played an excellent knock, but one cannot forgive the confusion in calling while he was at the crease. Shoaib Malik lost his wicket to a ridiculous piece of running, while both Razzaq and Azhar Mahmood escaped on various occasions when the fielders missed the target. Youhana has a definite problem when it comes to running and calling, and it is affecting the other batsmen.
The low total of 184 to defend forced Latif to instruct Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami to try and blast out a wicket every ball before settling into a line and length. If this was the planned strategy then it failed miserably.
The new-ball bowlers, especially Sami, must seriously consider bowling round the wicket to Marcus Trescothick from the outset. He thrives on room outside the off stump, but a change in angle would definitely counter that problem and rule out his smashing shots over point or gully.
Shoaib's comeback was disappointing to say the least as he over-pitched too many balls and offered too much width. It was a spell that was not far removed from the drubbing he got from Sachin Tendulkar in the World Cup, but this time it was Trescothick and Vikram Solanki in the action. To cap that off was the ineffective bowling by Azhar Mahmood, who was pulled and cut at ease. Pakistan have gone into both matches with a bunch of allrounders and the attack lacks diversity.
By trying to pad out their batting, Pakistan are compromising with the presence of a genuine wicket-taker like Danish Kaneria. He would do well against England, who are traditionally weak facing quality spin. While Razzaq and Mahmood lack penetration, Pakistan must seriously consider drafting in Kaneria for the decider, a game in which Pakistan need to go flat out.
After forgetting this one the Pakistanis must go to Lord's in a positive frame of mind. It will be a test of nerves for the younger players of both sides.