Pakistan lost due mainly to erratic bowling
A major question, in fact “ the question” here is the choice of Wahab Riaz in the playing eleven. Explanation that Pakistan needed to replenish its bowling department to deal with a powerful Indian batting side, hardly looked convincing. First a winning combination is never changed. That is the basic rule. And even if some bowling additions were necessary, the left armer Rehman ought to been the obvious choice.
Pakistan new that both Umar Gul and Aizaz Cheema had been ineffective in the one day series. The 4-0 whitewash at the hands of England, in the wake of highly laudatory 3-0 clean sweep in Test matches against the same side, was a case study by itself. The wins against Bangla Desh and Sri Lanka were encouraging no doubt. But let it not be forgotten, that Bangla Desh had almost won the opening encounter against Pakistan. It was sheer luck that Saeed Ajmal and Umar Gul, bowled the last three overs with grit and determination to fetch a stunning victory from the under the nose of the defeat against the hosts. The story for the Sri Lanka match was altogether different. They looked a jaded side, demoralized from their recent performances, and the shocking defeats at India’s hands. Their batting crumbled once Sangakarra, Dilshan and a couple of more were out early. Pakistan’s spinning master Saeed Ajmal wrecked the latter order batting, claiming two wickets in an over, and before that breaking the omimous looking partnership. A total of 188 was easy to overhaul, which Pakistan did within 40 overs to win a bonus popint. But the match against Sri Lanka too had lessons for us. The top order had failed.It was only Umar Akmal and Misbahul Haq who planned their innings well for a laudable partnership to see their side home with 9 points in two matches.
Umar Gul polished off the tail quickly, never allowing the opponents to settle down and did a wonderful job with Saeed Ajmal as his partner. Pakistan seemed overjoyed, and bloated in fact after their second win of the three league matches. In came the news before the start of the play that coach Dave Whatmore was trying Wahab Riaz and ultimately had him in the side. Pakistan’s strength lay in Umar Gul, and the spinning trio of Ajmal, Hafeez and Afridi. Aizaz Cheema had conceded 26 runs in his first two overs against Sri Lanka. He later finished with a handsome bag of wickets, but never looked convincing. Like him, Wahab Riaz too wavers in line and length. No balls, wides, pitching short has been their weakness. Both were punished with a flurry by Kohli and Tendulkar in their opening stand of 133.
Off spinner Hafeez, earlier pinning yet another feather in his cap with a fantastic hundred , got a flattering start for Pakistan when he trapped opener Gautam Gmabhir on the second ball of the first over. The Indians were 1 down for naught. It was surprising to see skipper MIsbah remove him after the first over, and introduce Aizaz Cheema, who was punished ruthlessly for his faulty line and length. With Tendulkar as his partner, Kohli flourished with a stroke play that was treat to watch.
Tendulkar too was in his real “master blaster “ form after his historic feat of 100th century in international cricket in an earlier match. Ajmal accounted for his scalp with his favourite “doosra with Yunus Khan taking a low catch in the slips.
But then again came yet another remarkable partnership between Kohli and Sharma, both of whom making strokeplay look so easy and comfortably hitting Wahab Riaz and Aizaz Cheema to help their side gain control over a match which had appeared seemingly difficult for them in the beginning. At a later stage, both relished with their towering sixed and glorious boundaries to take their side to close to a great victory.
The wicket at Dhaka’s Shere Bangla Stadium was full of runs, but spinners tended to check the run rate. The fact that Ajmal and Afridi were punished too, was because the three batsmen looked well set and were spotting the ball much quickly than usual. They found it easy to take liberty against the two major spinners of Pakistan. Hafeez was shown respect but he too yielded many runs. The Pakistan skipper should have relied on their spinners, rather than allowing Riaz or Cheema to bowl poor line and length and being hit to the fence quite often and over it sometime.
It was a great sight to see openers, Hafeez and left hander Nasser Jamshed hoist a record 224 for the opening wicket, both hitting centuries to add to their personal landmarks. They created the highest opening wicket stand for the Asia cup. Both were superb in their stroke play, and also relied on singles to make up for their mistakes in earlier matches, That augurs well for Pakistan. Indian fielding was disturbed, and their bowlers bore grim looks. Pakistan was in winning position, but favouritism in selection cost them heavily in terms of respect and morale positions.
Yunus’ welcome return to form was a good omen for the final which Pakistan will have to play against either Bangla Desh or India.
Chances for Bangla Desh winning against Sri Lanka are dim, although in their two outing so far, they have tremendous spirit to fight against odds, and succeed. They nearly humbled Pakistan, and got past the Sri Lankan total. It remains to be seen as who qualifies for the final now. Pakistan will be happy to meet Bangla Desh in final on Thursday, because a contest against India, is always nerve shattering.