Pakistan’s latest batting collapse came in the second innings of the Boxing Day Test against South Africa with the side slumping from 100-1 to 190 all out at Centurion. That dramatic collapse saw the hosts chase down a paltry target of 149 with six wickets to spare to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Batting collapses have been plaguing Pakistan for almost two years now and played a significant role in their recent ‘home’ series loss to New Zealand in the UAE.
Speaking to the media after the Centurion loss, the Pakistan skipper urged his men to take more responsibility in a bid to stop the rut.
“We take a lot of mental pressure because of which we are unable to perform in the fourth or second innings. We are struggling in the second innings. We do get starts but then a wicket falls which initiates a collapse. It has been a while now,” the wicketkeeper-batsman lamented.
“Since Hamilton (in 2016), this is happening. We will have to sort this out going forward. The responsibility lies on everyone: the players and the coaching staff.”
The Pakistan captain was himself under the firing lone after registering a pair in the Test. It was reported that head coach Mickey Arthur lashed out at the senior batsmen including Sarfraz, Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq for throwing their wickets away cheaply following the collapse.
However, the Pakistan team management came out later to refute those reports strongly. Sarfraz has backed Azhar and Shafiq to bounce back strongly from their Centurion failures.
“Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq have been working hard and we expect them to bounce back in the next match,” he said.
Pakistan will now hope to put in a much improved batting performance when they take on South Africa in the second Test of the series which gets underway at Newlands, Cape Town on January 3.
Pakistan’s totals of 181 and 190 did not prove to be enough as the Proteas made short work of the eventual target of 149 to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
There is plenty to ponder for the visitors after the Centurion loss.
Here, we look at three things learned for Pakistan from their Centurion defeat.
AMIR BACK TO HIS BEST
If there is any solace Pakistan fans and the team management can take from the Centurion defeat, it is the return of form of pacer Mohammad Amir.
Not picked in the Test squads for the home series against Australia and New Zealand following a disappointing run in 2018, the spotlight was well and truly on Amir on his return to the international arena.
The left-armed pacer was the pick of Pakistan’s bowlers in the first innings along with young Shaheen Afridi with a four-wicket haul. The swing was back in Amir’s armoury with the pacer bowling at a good rhythm throughout the Test.
He looked effective in the second innings as well but was unlucky to not bag any further wickets. With star seamer Mohammad Abbas still nursing a shoulder injury, Amir’s return to form could not have come at a better time for Pakistan.
BATTING COLLAPSES CONTINUE UNABATED
The onus was on Pakistan’s batsmen to stand up to the task heading into the series with both teams possessing an excellent bowling attack. In recent years, Pakistan have developed a notorious habit of suffering dramatic batting collapses from positions of strengths and the same was evident in their 1-2 series loss to New Zealand in the UAE recently.
With both Sarfraz Ahmed and Mickey Arthur calling on the batsmen to step up in South Africa, the pressure was on the senior batsmen to make amends for the New Zealand loss.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be with more questions being thrown up rather than answers as the tourists collapsed in extraordinary fashion in both innings, especially the second.
They were in a relative position of strength on day two with Imam-ul-Haq’s half-century taking them to 101-1 in the second innings. However, once the Pakistan opener fell to a poor shot, the entire batting unit came down like a house of cards. From 101-1, Pakistan were bowled out for 190 within the span of a single session.
The senior batsmen in particular were the biggest culprits with Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz all throwing away their wickets cheaply.
SARFRAZ CAPTAINCY UNDER FIRE
Sarfraz’s Test captaincy was as it is under fire heading into the series and the skipper’s performance in the Test will have done him no favours in that regard.
The wicketkeeper-batsman was dismissed for a duck in both the innings as his wretched form with the bat continued. More than his non-existent contributions, it will be the manner of Sarfraz’s dismissals which will frustrate the team management and coach Mickey Arthur the most.
Sarfraz poked tentatively to a Duanne Olivier short-ball in the first innings before chopping it onto his stumps before perishing to a loose drive away from his body in the second.
Add it to the reports of Arthur losing his cool with Sarfraz in the team meeting on the second day, it does not make for a happy situation for the Pakistan skipper.
Even though the Pakistan team management have come out to deny those reports on Friday, the damage might already have been done. If things don’t improve for Sarfraz in the coming two Tests, his captaincy could very well be on the chopping blocks.
Chasing a paltry target of 149 for victory on day three, the Proteas romped to a comfortable win following half-centuries from Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla.
The Pakistan bowlers started strongly on day three with Hasan Ali dismissing opener Aiden Markram for a duck. The Pakistan pacer then saw Fakhar Zaman drop a sharp chance off Hashim Amla at third slip as South Africa breathed a sigh of relief.
The tourists then thought they had captured a second wicket when Dean Elgar knicked a Shaheen Afridi delivery towards the slip cordon. A tumbling Azhar Ali claimed the catch at second slip with the on-field umpires referring the decision to the television umpire.
Despite the soft signal being out, the decision was overturned much to the dismay of Pakistan’s fielders.
From then on, Amla and Elgar made the most of their reprieves as they stitched together a 119-run stand for the second wicket. Both the batsmen had their moments of luck on a spicy pitch but their respective half-centuries ensured a comfortable chase for the hosts.
By the time Elgar was dismissed for 50 by the part-time spin of Shan Masood, the match had already veered towards its inevitable conclusion.
The visitors did manage to pick up two more wickets in the form of Theunis de Bruyn and South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis but it wasn’t enough as the Proteas completed victory with six wickets to spare in the end.
The two sides will now meet in the second Test of the series which gets underway on January 3 at Newlands, Cape Town.
Pakistan: 181 and 190
South Africa: 223 and 151-4
Hashim Amla: 63 not out
Dean Elgar: 50