Pakistan were on cloud nine after a nine-wicket win over England in the Lord’s Test. After all, not many gave them a chance to defeat England in their own backyard and that too with a squad that had more limited-overs players than Test specialists.
After Sarfraz Ahmed’s boys huffed and puffed their way to a five-wicket win in Ireland’s inaugural Test, it seemed England needed to simply turn up to the ground to register victory. However, Pakistan surprised even their most ardent supporters by dominating England in all departments to script a famous win.
However, the second Test in Headingley saw the roles being reversed with England giving Pakistan no breathing space as the hosts completed an innings victory inside three days.
Understandably, the Pakistan management will examine the reasons behind the steep fall. Here, we look at three areas where Pakistan need to change their strategy in Tests.
PICK TEST PLAYERS FOR TEST MATCHES
Things looks good for Fawad Alam after Leeds Test.— Abdul Ghaffar (@GhaffarDawnNews) June 3, 2018
Before the series started, many questioned the wisdom of selecting limited-overs specialists for a Test series. Pakistan’s management wanted those players who are likely to be a part of the 2019 World Cup to get acclimatised to UK conditions. But that should never have happened at the expense of an out-and-out Test player.
How domestic heavyweight Fawad Alam remains out of the Pakistan squad, let alone playing XI, is beyond comprehension. If a batsman has scored 10,000 runs and been by far the most consistent performer in first-class cricket in the last 10 years, he has to be a part of your Test team. That is the case especially if you have lost the services of icons like Misbah-ul Haq and Younis Khan.
REDUCE AMIR’S WORKLOAD
Mohammad Amir appears to be struggling with an injury to his left shoulder. It's reflected in his pace, which is 6kph slower than it was at Leeds. #ENGvPAK— The Cricket Prof. (@CricProf) June 3, 2018
Pakistan pace ace Mohammad Amir is clearly carrying at least one injury. He banged his knee in the Ireland Test and was seen clutching his shoulder on numerous occasions and grimacing in pain during the second Test at Leeds.
Amir is still effective enough to pick up wickets but Pakistan are bowling him to the ground. If he continues to bowl a major share of the overs in Tests, he will break down. And Pakistan can’t afford that as they will need him to be in peak condition for the World Cup in England next year.
TAKE A CALL ON SHADAB’S ROLE
Leg-spinner Shadab Khan’s batting has been a revelation. He has scored fifties in his last three Tests and all have come at crucial moments for the team.
While that is great to watch, it has taken the focus away from his bowling which is why he was selected in the first place. Shadab looked flat during England’s first innings in the second Test when he should have raised his game with the series on the line.
England’s batsmen comfortably played him off the back foot and for wrist spinners that’s a danger sign. It’s all well and good to contribute with the bat but Pakistan would rather have Shadab picking wickets or at least challenging batsmen enough for bowlers to dismiss batsmen at the other end.
Sarfraz and the management would do well to ask Shadab to refocus on his main job – that of an attacking, wicket-taking leg spinner.
Arguably Pakistan‘s greatest-ever cricketer, Wasim Akram, is celebrating his 52nd birthday.
The Sultan of Swing, Akram claimed 916 wickets during a 19-year international career.
Akram is currently in England as part of the Sky Sports broadcasting team and commentating on the second and final Test between England and Pakistan at Headingley.
Here, we look at some of the happy birthday messages that have come in for the 1992 World Cup-winning hero.
33 off 18 with the bat ✅
3/49 with the ball ✅
Player of the Match ✅
— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) June 3, 2018
414 Test wickets
502 ODI wickets
— ICC (@ICC) June 3, 2018
🎂 Happy Birthday to one of the finest bowlers to have ever graced the game.
— Lord’s Cricket Ground (@HomeOfCricket) June 3, 2018
One of the greatest left-arm fast bowlers in history
A record 916 international wickets for Pakistan
6,615 runs in international cricket
A world cup winner
One of the most successful captains of Pakistan
Happy Birthday @wasimakramlive pic.twitter.com/DetaqV1bNg
— PCB Official (@TheRealPCB) June 3, 2018
— Rumman Raees (@rummanraees15) June 3, 2018
Happy birthday @wasimakramlive bhai. You’ve been a role model & an inspiration for our generation of fast bowlers. Seeing u run in & bowling with whippy quick action still gives me goosebumps even if it’s highlights on YouTube. Not to forget, u r an institute of fast bowling. pic.twitter.com/JGJJKOVJl7
— Imran Khan (@ImeeK218) June 3, 2018
— Dean Jones (@ProfDeano) June 3, 2018
To me he is THE GREATEST bowler ever. Happy birthday to @wasimakramlive one of the legends of Pakistan cricket & the man who gave us so many memorable moments growing up. May you continue to be successful. #HBDWasimAkram #cricket
— Usama Mir (@iamusamamir) June 3, 2018
Mohammad Amir will be aiming to polish off England’s innings quickly on day three. The Pakistan seamer chats to birthday boy @wasimakramlive and @WardyShorts in our #ENGvPAK build-up from 10am on Sky Sports Cricket. pic.twitter.com/oM4TBqNVxt
— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) June 3, 2018
Sarfraz Ahmed’s boys won the first Test at Lord’s convincingly by nine wickets, raising hopes of a stunning series win after struggling for large parts of the one-off Test against Ireland which they eventually won by five wickets.
Pakistan caught everything that came their way at Lord’s while their entire top-order chipped in with useful runs to outplay the hosts in every department.
In Headingley, Pakistan batted first in what looked like ideal scoring conditions but England finally found their rhythm to peg the visitors back and gain the upper hand by the end of Day Two, stretching their lead to 128 having scored 302 for seven.
Here are three reasons why Pakistan have fallen behind in the second Test after looking like dominating England.
VARYING FIRST INNINGS CONDITIONS
When Pakistan batted first, conditions looked perfect for batting as the wicket was devoid of any grass. But as Stuart Broad and James Anderson charged in for their opening spells, the ball not only pinged off the surface but also moved in the air and after pitching. In such conditions, it was only a matter of time before edges were found and Pakistan’s inexperienced batting got exposed.
However, when it was their turn to bowl, Pakistan’s seamers did not get anywhere near as much movement. The wicket still had life in it but apart from Mohammad Amir, who bowled snorters every spell, most Pakistan pacers got much less movement from the pitch compared to their English counterparts.
LACK OF SWING SUPPORT
Sarfraz had just shouted at the start of the over “tyar rehna catch aye ga (be prepared for a catch).” Three balls later, Hasan Ali drops Jos Buttler at midwicket. #EngvPak— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) June 2, 2018
Seam bowler Mohammad Abbas (1-60) was a revelation in the first Test as he picked up four wickets in each innings to script a famous win. His seam bowling partner Hasan Ali (1-68) was supposed to play the role of the aggressor. But both looked below par in conditions which offered help to quick bowlers.
In fact, all-rounder Faheem Ashraf (2-43) looked the best of the lot, apart from Amir, as he not only pegged away at a line outside off stump but also kept the runs down while picking up two crucial wickets. Hasan did not get as much movement from the pitch as expected and was also not economical enough to keep Pakistan in the game.
With the second new ball, Abbas bowled within himself and even his edges barely carried to slip. Not the effort you need when the team is gunning for a series win.
Not only that, Hasan dropped the dangerous Jos Buttler at mid wicket when the batsman was on four. A horror day in the field.
Leg-spinner Shadab Khan has been a great find for Pakistan cricket. Not only has his bowling given Pakistan an edge in limited overs cricket, his batting at the Test level has surprised one and all. It was his 56 in the first innings that helped Pakistan score 174, which should have given him confidence with the ball.
However, Shadab was handled competently by the English batsmen. In fact, England were comfortable playing Shadab of the back foot, which meant they had enough time to read him from the hand the off the pitch.
The young leggie has the talent and will soon learn the art of tying the batsmen down when the conditions are not ideal for spin. At Headingley, sadly, that was not the case.