Pakistan were expected to have a tough time during their three-Test series in South Africa. After competing well on the first two days of the Centurion Test, Sarfraz Ahmed’s team were blown away by a rampant South African pace attack to succumb to a 3-0 whitewash.
As the series wore on, the gulf in both the batting and bowling departments of both teams was visible. South African pace attack of Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier, Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander was easily more impactful than that of the visitors. The hosts managed scores of 400 and 300 while Pakistan didn’t reach that latter mark even once.
Here we take a look at how the Pakistan players performed during a difficult series.
SARFRAZ AHMED – 4
Captain, crucial batsman and keeper. Sarfraz’s captaincy lacked aggression and ended up blaming lack of pace in his quicks for the series defeat when it was the batsmen who had let his team down. Bagged a pair in the first Test but did score two counter-attacking fifties. Was good with the gloves and took a record 10 catches in the third Test. But in the overall scheme of things, his uninspiring leadership lowers his grade.
IMAM-UL-HAQ – 4
Occupied the crease for more than 300 balls which is a commendable effort. However, only 149 runs from six innings is not going to win you any Test series. Showed enough promise to be persisted with as he definitely has a better technique than Fakhar Zaman.
SHAN MASOOD – 8
The find of the tour for Pakistan. Asked to play just hours before the start of opening Test due to injury to Harris Sohail, Masood showed excellent composure and technique to deliver in all three Tests. The leading run-scorer for Pakistan in the series with 228 runs, Masood faced 408 balls and was generally at ease against the short ball. Top class.
AZHAR ALI – 2
A horror tour for the veteran Pakistan batsman. Was supposed to hold the innings together but his lack of assurance against the short ball got brutally exposed. Just 59 runs from six innings make it a total disaster for the veteran batsman and Pakistan’s Test plans for the future as the management will be unwilling to rely on him during difficult tours.
ASAD SHAFIQ – 6.5
The middle order batsman was at it throughout the series. Got better after the first Test and ended up with two fifties and almost 200 runs. Shafiq arguably has the best technique in the middle order and should be the one to carry Pakistan’s batting forward.
FAKHAR ZAMAN – 1
The biggest flop for Pakistan. Many hoped he would fight fire with fire against South Africa’s pace attack but his horizontal bat play made him a sitting duck against the rising delivery. Pakistan tried to shield him in the middle order but he failed there as well. Just 32 runs from four innings showed Zaman needs to reinvent his game for bouncier surfaces.
BABAR AZAM – 7
A breath of fresh air. Took on a legend like Dale Steyn head on and spanked him for 21 boundaries. Made the second highest runs for Pakistan – 221 – and maintained a strike rate of close to 80. Babar could have controlled his aggression and played out a longer innings but generally came to the crease with the team in trouble and did what he known best to try and transfer the pressure. Certain to become Pakistan’s finest batsman.
FAHEEM ASHRAF – 5
Was curiously overlooked when the series was alive in the first two Test. Played in the final match and provided control with the ball, picking up six wickets at the Wanderers at an economy of 3.5. Didn’t score any worthwhile runs which counts against Ashraf as he is in the team as an all-rounder.
SHADAB KHAN – 5
Fitness issues continue to plague Shadab and when he did get a chance to play in the final Test, he was under bowled. The leg-spinner ended up bowling just 21 overs in the Jo’burg Test but did snare four wickets. Was excellent with the bat, scoring an unbeaten 47 to raise hopes of a more prosperous future as a reliable Test all-rounder.
MOHAMMAD AMIR – 7.5
His pace was down but Amir’s gave it his all. Easily the most effective bowler for Pakistan as the left-arm seamer snared 12 wickets in three Tests, bowled more than 100 overs and maintained an economy of nearly 2.5. No matter what Sarfraz says about Pakistan’s lack of pace, Amir did the job of holding one end up and picking up wickets perfectly.
SHAHEEN AFRIDI – 7
The youngster bowled his heart out in the first two Tests. Afridi troubled all South African batsmen with his bounce and late movement. Was curiously dropped for the final Test despite taking nine scalps in the first two matches. Fatigue was visible as his body isn’t used to the heavy workloads on away Tests. Will only get better.
HASAN ALI – 4
Blew hot and cold throughout the series. The effort was there but the results weren’t. In two Tests, he picked up six wickets at an economy of more than four runs an over and an average of nearly 45. In a series dominated by quicks, it was a forgettable effort.
MOHAMMAD ABBAS – 5
Did slightly better than Hasan Ali but given the benefit of doubt as he was returning from a shoulder injury. Did provide a semblance of control but did not pick up wickets to maintain the pressure. Just five wickets in two matches at an average of more than 45. No the Abbas of 2018.
YASIR SHAH – 3
The star leg-spinner simply didn’t get a chance to bowl in the first two games. Pakistan kept waiting for the match to enter the fourth and fifth day for Shah to be effective but the match never reached that point. Ended up bowling fewer overs than all seamers and finished with an average of more than 100. A disastrous tour for a fine spinner.
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