For an average cricket lover the past couple of matches played by Pakistan may seem like a mere dream filled with too wondrous a joy that a fan of this team could ever hope to feel. Yet karma, with all its bullishness, has similar moments in store for all of us and we can only pray for more as such.
The Australian series seems to have gone by in a flash, a mere blink of the eye and voila! Losing the ODI series to them and the sole T20 put the Green Caps in the farthest back seat ever imaginable. Their confidence, shaken and shattered, lay on the floor like shards of glass. Who then, would’ve thought that that very team could put up such a show as it did in the Tests.
Pakistan made a grand total of 454 in the first innings of the first match, with a spectacular 106 off Younis Khan’s bat. The work of the batsmen was well done, and then came the time all had been waiting for. A bowling line up without the magic of Saeed Ajmal. To the shock of many, debutants Yasir Shah and Imran Khan managed to grasp everyone’s attention.
The second innings of Pakistan was no less than the first when it came to a show of class by unpredictable batsmen. A brilliant 131 by Ahmad Shahzad reminded us yet again why he is of critical importance to the team’s future. Younis Khan too showed us what we were missing out on by using him as a seasonal member of the team by scoring yet another century. Team Green’s bowlers stunned fans, Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar particularly showing great levels of skill and presence of mind, thus paving the way towards a well deserved victory.
The second and final match was labelled ‘the decider’. It would be a match that would show whether the class and form showed off by the Pakistan batsmen was one to stay or a stroke of luck. The latter opinion was duly proved wrong in the first innings when Azhar Ali and Misbah ul Haq hit centuries and Younis Khan went on to put up a double century therefore further improving his stats.
In this innings Imran Khan showed up as a reformed bowler, as one who knew exactly which line and length to bowl. Yasir Shah, Rahat Ali and Zulfiqar Babar continued with the form they left off in the previous match and made significant contributions.
The second innings by Pakistan was a relatively quite one with Azhar Ali scoring a tonne and Misbah ul Haq with the fastest 50 in test history.
The match was then rounded up by Yasir Shah, Zulfiqar Babar and Mohammad Hafeez who looked as if they would bowl each delivery a wicket taking one.
Pakistan then managed to grab the 4th position in the Test rankings and defeat the confident Aussies (who had just recently put England through major turbulence in the Ashes) 2-0. It was their biggest win over any team by a runs margin. There was never really any doubt they would wrap it up. Clever captaincy from Misbah kept them on in tandem with the second new ball. The bowlers made the extra grip and zip count.
The series proved to be one in which Misbah silenced his ever blabbing critics for good.
Now Pakistan are knee deep in the series against New Zealand, having won the first match the second is in play.
In the first innings of the first match Pakistan batsmen put on a magnificent show and all five of those who came to the crease scored more than 80 runs – a record.
Zulfiqar Babar and Rahat Ali proved to be immensely important.
The second innings of Pakistan was quite literally the traditional Pakistan making an appearance. None of the batsmen impressed, worth mentioning is perhaps the 101* scored by Mohammad Hafeez.
To wrap up the match all bowlers played their part by being right on spot when and where needed.
As I write this New Zealand have won the toss and are batting first and have scored 131 for the loss of 1.
The man steering the ship is perhaps the key to all recent successes. Misbah truly rose above the crowd and established his credentials as a top-class batsman and a leader of men. The most remarkable aspect about Misbah-ul-Haq is his unflappable temperament. It shows in his batting, which reached unprecedented levels of consistency in 2011, and in his captaincy, which helped lift Pakistan from the depths of the spot-fixing saga in England in 2010. Taking over as leader immediately after that episode at the age of 36, Misbah’s calm approach was exactly what Pakistan cricket needed after the tumultuous period it had gone through.
A right-arm fast bowler from Peshawar, Imran Khan made his Test debut against Australia in October 2014 at the age of 27. The promotion to the national team was just reward for extremely consistent domestic performances in the three previous seasons. The bowler surpassed all expectations the management or the captain may have had of him.
Thirteen years after making his first-class debut, Yasir Shah had 279 wickets at 24.43 heading into the Australia Tests. He has been regarded as a bright prospect since making his ODI debut in 2011, but the presence of Ajmal meant Yasir always had to wait. He finally got to make his Test debut in Dubai, but as a specialist spinner against Australia, he had plenty to prove and live up to.
The lad grabbed the legendary Shane Warne’s attention, who tweeted “I like the look of this leggie Yasir Shah, plenty of energy and nice variations of pace. He is going to take 200-plus Test wickets.”
After being dropped from the ODI squad for the Australia series, a “hurt” Younis Khan told the PCB, “Don’t select me. Not even in Tests. I sacrifice my future.”
His words carried a lot of weight, and echoed in every floor of the PCB headquarters. Younis eventually made himself available and was selected for the Tests, but he was under massive pressure to cash in on the chance and prove his value to the squad.
And prove his value he did, with scores of 106, 103*, 213 and 46 from four innings, and by breaking a number of records on the way. Younis put himself among the best batsmen in the history of Pakistan cricket by becoming only their third player to collect 8000 Test runs. His 213 in Abu Dhabi was the fifth double of his career, and took him to second in the list of Pakistan batsmen with most double-hundreds, behind Javed Miandad who has six. Younis also became the leading century-maker for Pakistan, with 27 tons. His 468-run tally in this series is the second best by a Pakistan batsman against Australia, after Saleem Malik’s 557 in 1994.
It came as little surprise when the PCB later hinted that Younis would be a part of Pakistan’s 2015 World Cup plans.
Clearly the Pakistan that we have seen recently is one none of us are accustomed to. It is one that seems to be doing nothing wrong, one that, for once, knows exactly what it wants to achieve and how it will do so.
By: Fatima Arshad