The hosts ultimately squared up the two-match series with an innings win in Headingley. However, the visitors can take a lot of comfort from their performances over the course of the series against England and the one-off Test against Ireland.
While the performances of young Shadab Khan, pacers Mohammad Abbas and Hasan Ali were highly encouraging, those of the skipper himself left plenty to be desired.
2018 has not been the kindest to Sarfraz who started the year brightly with some excellent innings in the T20I series against New Zealand. It has been in the five-day format that the 31-year-old has been found wanting with some uninspiring performances on the tours of Ireland and England.
Sarfraz failed to fire with the bat in each and every match which included three Tests and three warm-up first-class matches. In eight innings, the right-hander managed to score only 88 runs at a measly average of 11.
More than the Pakistan skipper’s lack of runs, it has been the manner of some of his dismissals which has been the frustrating aspect of his batting. In the one-off Test against Ireland at Dublin, Sarfraz was guilty of throwing away his wicket against Stuart Thompson in the first innings with a careless glide straight into the hands of second slip during a crucial juncture of the match. He perished while attempting to play a pull shot off the same bowler in the second innings to give Ireland a sniff of a famous victory.
In the Lord’s win over England, the Pakistan captain once again threw away his wicket at a crucial stage with a baffling shot-selection. With the visitors four wickets down and Babar Azam retired hurt, Sarfraz was unable to resist the temptation of going for the hook and paid the price as he could only miscue a Mark Wood short-ball into the hands of fine-leg. The shake of disgust from coach Mickey Arthur in the dressing room as Sarfraz made his way back to the pavilion said it all.
The senior Pakistan man has been shown up with the bat by youngsters Shadab and Faheem Ashraf who are making their first baby-steps in Test cricket. The former went on to register three half-centuries in the three Tests while the latter too put in some promising displays with both bat and ball.
In a squad filled with fresh faces and high on inexperience, the seniors in the Pakistan side, including Sarfraz, need to step up their performances if they want to usher in a new era post the retirements of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan.
As the tour of England and Ireland has shown, the Pakistan squad have all the makings of a great Test team. An excellent pace attack along with an exciting all-round spinner in Shadab has been backed by some encouraging batting displays from Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam and Haris Sohail.
It is time for Sarfraz to now lead by example if he wants to truly fill in the boots of Misbah and Co.
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