Pakistan handed recalls to Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad for the clashes against the Lankans but both the batsmen have flopped in the two defeats in Lahore which have resulted in a third consecutive T20I series loss for the No1 ranked Men in Green.
Shehzad has been able to muster just 17 runs in his two innings so far, Akmal has been even worse with two consecutive golden ducks to his name. While the two have failed to deliver the required results on their comebacks, the Pakistan head coach has bemoaned the lack of other batsmen putting their hands up in the country’s domestic T20 circuit.
“Both these players have performed well wherever they’ve played in the last one year. Ahmed’s performance in Pakistan Super League was remarkable enough for a chance, while Umar, whichever format he played, was among the good ones,” Misbah was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo after his side’s 35-run loss on Monday.
“It’s unfortunate that in our circuit, there is no other batsman in T20s who had performed better than them. Players who have performed in domestic surely deserve a chance, and that’s why we offered them (a comeback).”
Many have questioned Misbah’s decision to ring in the changes for a squad which has already established itself as the top T20I outfit in the world, but the former skipper remains convinced that experimentation is the way forward in the run up to next year’s T20 World Cup in Australia.
“There are a lot of reasons for this experimentation. Yes, we are the No1 team in the world but mostly our strength has been standing on Babar Azam scoring runs and with him not scoring in two games, we are exposed badly,” Misbah explained.
“We need to find out six or more match-winners, we need to have more dependable batsmen, we need powerhouses in the top and middle, and in bowling we need to take wickets upfront and in the death overs and we need to have good finishers.
“But we failed overall, we are struggling in every department, and it’s a big eye-opener for us. We didn’t play to our strengths and couldn’t deliver. We are looking for more batsmen rather than just relying on one or two.”
Pakistan entered 2019 on the back of 11 straight series wins in the 20-over format but Sarfraz Ahmed and his men have come unstuck with just one victory to show for in the current year, while the losses’ column has swelled to five.
The hosts have been comprehensively outplayed in both T20Is so far by a relatively inexperienced Sri Lanka squad missing key names such as skipper Lasith Malinga, Kusal Perera and Kusal Mendis.
In their absence, unheralded names such as Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Shehan Jayasuriya and the recalled Danushka Gunathilaka have set the stage on fire with some explosive displays.
On Monday, it was Rajapaksa’s moment to turn hero with the left-hander smashing his way to 48-ball 77 that helped the visitors rack up a daunting 182-6 after batting first. That splendid effort was backed up by an electric display with the ball by leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga who claimed three top-order wickets in the space of four deliveries to derail Pakistan’s chase.
Praising the youngsters for playing fearless cricket on the big stage, stand-in skipper Dasun Shanaka has called on the Sri Lankan selectors to give them more chances after the completion of the Pakistan tour.
“We played quality cricket and that’s why we won,” Shanaka stated after Monday’s win.
“Rajapaksa played a masterclass innings. These youngsters should get a good chance after the series and I am sure selectors will look at it.”
While the visitors are currently bouncing with confidence, the wounded hosts will hope to provide the home fans in Lahore with a consolation win when the two sides take the field for the final T02I on Wednesday.
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