The 20-run defeat in the fifth and final ODI against Australia was symbolic of Pakistan’s struggles in the five-match series with the Men in Green falling short once again of the required gold standard in 50-over cricket.
It was the final ‘home’ series for Pakistan before their departure to England for a five-match ODI series before the ICC World Cup. A 5-0 whitewash at the hands of the Aussies has left the team with plenty of questions to be answered before the global showpiece.
Pakistan have not won a bilateral ODI series against any team not named Zimbabwe since October, 2017. For all their dominance in the T20 format where they are deservedly ranked No1, Pakistan have failed to translate that success into their 50-over displays where they remain a tier below top teams like England, India and Australia.
Granted, they were missing the likes of Babar Azam, skipper Sarfraz Ahmed, Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan and Hasan Ali in the series against Australia, yet the manner of their defeat has exposed plenty of gaping holes in the ODI outfit.
Their inability to force the scoring-rate with the bat was all too evident in the five losses and they were duly punished by a clinical Australia who are starting to click into gear at just the right time.
Quite simply, if you fail to score 300 runs on a consistent basis against the top ODI teams in modern cricket, you will likely end up on the losing side as Pakistan have just found out the hard way.
Amassing 280 odd runs in the first two ODIs while batting first was a decent effort from Pakistan’s batsmen but it wasn’t nearly enough with the Aussies coasting to victory in both chases.
The lack of intent stems from the very top where opener Imam-ul-Haq has struggled to up the ante. The top-order batsmen have failed to score runs at a fair clip and this in return has left the lower order with all to do when it comes to accelerating the scoring rate. If not for some quick-fire cameos from Imad Wasim in the death overs, the report card for Pakistan’s batting would have been even more dismal.
The returns of Babar and Fakhar into the playing XI will no doubt help address some part of this problem but those two alone cannot provide a miracle fix for the unit as a whole. What the team desperately needs is an enforcer in the middle-order and it looks like veteran Shoaib Malik will have to fill that role at the World Cup.
Pakistan would have hoped for Umar Akmal to come good on his international return to provide another alternative to Malik but the right-hander failed to seize his opportunity with some inconsistent displays.
Apart from the lack of intent, the team remains vulnerable to collapses as shown by their defeat in the fourth ODI where they choked to throw away a winning position.
With the ball, Mohammad Amir’s struggles on UAE pitches continued with the senior pacer dropped after just one poor display. It looked like the team management were trying to prevent a further drop in Amir’s confidence after the first ODI which only begs the question as to why he was picked in the first place.
The left-armed seamer might still board the World Cup plane given his 2017 Champions Trophy displays in England, but he is now a shadow of the bowler he was when bursting onto the stage as a teenager.
Young Mohammad Hasnain was barely given a chance to make an impact while Test specialists Yasir Shah and Mohammad Abbas did themselves no favours.
There were a few positives to take for Pakistan like the form of Haris Sohail, Mohammad Rizwan and Abid Ali, but those are too few and far in between.
It will of course be a vastly changed Pakistan team in the World Cup but Mickey Arthur and Co have plenty of work to do in changing their whole approach towards 50-over cricket.
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