An exciting stalemate

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Round one of Pakistan’s short tour to India is over. In the event that you reside on a different planet, the two match T20 International series ended all square with both ties providing ample proof why this rivalry is arguably the most exciting to watch amongst all sports. Pakistan drew first blood at Bangalore winning their first T20 International against India in the process. India were pushed till the very end at Ahmedabad but just about held their nerve to level the series. Suffice to say, this sets up the One Day Internationals perfectly.
Two matches are not a large enough sample size to be drawing far reaching conclusions and any judgements thus made would have to be taken with a pinch of salt. That being said, there were some positives that one can take heart from and hope that the team builds on them.
The aftermath of the ICC World T20 saw not only Hafeez’s leadership being questioned but also his place and/or role in the side by several critics including this scribe. In many ways during said tournament, his leadership and decision making mirrored his batting: defensive and timid. This was perhaps best reflected in the Super Eight fixture with India where Pakistan was bundled out for 128 with Hafeez who opened the innings scoring 15 from 28 deliveries. Three months on and fittingly against India, Hafeez played the innings of his life. Coming in at two down, the Pakistani captain nearly engineered a quite remarkable run chase scoring at a strike rate of over 200. This, after scoring a match winning half century in the previous match. Deciding not to open was something not many people expected him to do but one must give credit where it is due. One does wonder though why he cannot play like this when he opens the innings.
Speaking of openers, Ahmed Shahzad failed to replicate his domestic form on to the international stage and at this point is not much of an upgrade on Imran Nazir; devastating in domestic and various T20 leagues around the globe but found out on the international stage. The only silver lining is that he has time on his side and one hopes that unlike Nazir, he makes good use of it. It may not have come off but the decision to open with two aggressive batsmen was the right one.
Another pleasing aspect was Hafeez’s intent of banking on his pacers which has traditionally been Pakistan’s strength. The by-product was by last count 7’1” in size. The lethargic and ungainly Irfan who made his debut against England was replaced by a leaner and meaner version who managed to clock speeds up to 90mph. This can only bode well for Pakistan cricket who are surprisingly short of quality fast bowling options presently. Pakistan in theory fielded three fast bowlers for both matches but in reality there were only two and a half; Sohail Tanvir being the half in case you are still wondering. The only semi plausible explanation for playing him ahead of the talented Junaid Khan can be that he can occasionally (read rarely) hit a few lusty blows but then why send Gul ahead of him in the 2nd T20?
Malik’s return to form (?), good fielding display and a fighting spirit were also evident but this is not the first time we have witnessed this and probably will not be the last. The key is to make this a permanent feature. By the time you read this, the first ODI is likely to be underway and here is hoping that the men in green continue with the same intensity and positivity.

Email: [email protected], Twitter:@MuhammadButt22