Pak defeat: Mixtures of errors
Since June 2002, Pakistan have not won ‘a decider’ after being levelled 1-1 or 2-2 in a bilateral ODI Series. During the last ten years, they have lost the decider as much as 8 times (vs England 2003, vs South Africa 2003, vs India 2004, vs South Africa 2007, vs Sri Lanka 2009, vs New Zealand 2009, vs England 2010, vs South Africa 2010).”
Monday night it was a different story. Pakistanis were bubbling with enthusiasm and confidence, while their rivals’ morale obviously was shaken after they were humbled in the second match, the series leveller at Abu Dhabi on 31st August. The loss of toss could have affected the ultimate result, but playing four spinners and just one seam, was seen only once before. Sri Lanka committed that mistake and was penalized by the Aussies. Afridi had his left hand heavily plastered, which did affect his performance. He is a match winner bowler, and registers vital breakthroughs. However, if he is injured, he needed to be rested and Sohail Tanveer given another try to cause problems with his late swings. Afridi could not bowl well, conceding a costly 62 runs in his quota of 10 overs. Twice he fell down on his left side, and saw his hands bleeding. He persevered like a fighter, but there is limit to human endurance. If Misbahul Haq wanted to rely on all-spin attack, he should have also kept in mind, that Afridi would become a fielding liability, and fumble from him for not being able to use both his hands to stop a ball, would mean extra runs, which would only be a bonus for the opponents. Fears lurking in the minds of experts and spectators proved 100 percent correct. Afridi neither could bowl perfectly nor could justify his presence on the field.
The Pakistani skipper made too many poor judgements. Apart from changing a winning combination, he said ‘no’ to demand for a review against LBW appeal which Billy Bowden had turned down against Mike Hussey who had yet to open his account then. TV replays showed the Australia pinch hitter was plum in front. He was also guilty of changing Saeed Ajmal after five overs. That was a surprise move. Ajmal had mesmerized the Australians with his magic. At a time when the rivals were 159 for 5, the change came as a big relief for them, for a wicket or two at that stage, may have changed the complexion of the game altogether. Ajmal was unreadable. The batsmen at the crease, were clueless against him. But MIsbah committed a blunder, which was shocking for many.
Further misfortune was awaiting Pakistan team. The old maxim that cricket is very, very unforgiving, was forgotten, and heaped heavy penalties on us. Kamran Akmal, dropped a sitter . Wade was miles down the crease against stock bowler Azhar Ali , but the wicket keeper, a veteran of so many Test matches, and international competitions, failed to collect the ball, which had gone into his gloves, but popped out within fraction of a second. It was a huge mistake, and obviously unpardonable of a wicker keeper of such experience. Australia could have slide down further from 134 for 4. Earlier Afridi had dropped David Hussey who had opened the innings instead of Wade, needing rest after dehyderation in the field in an oppressive heat of close to 45/46 degrees in the UAE desert.
A word of justified praise for Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed. The two again gave Pakistan a solid opening stand of 129 for the following batsmen to build a grand edifice for victory. But alas, our Misbah seemed to have been influenced by over-zealousness of Waqar Yunus and Rameez Raja, the two Pakistani TV commentators, who seemed more loyal than to the king in their verdicts. They pass judgements as if they are the final arbiters. When Pakistan was going great, they began to influence their viewers and listeners that Pakistan could touch the 280 or even 300 plus mark, suggesting that Afridi, or Akmal brothers should be promoted in the batting order. Little did they realize that winning combinations are never changed. Secondly, promoting Afrid higher up, would frustrate and dishearten Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq, both of whom have been maturing with enormous speed. The two Pakistani veterans of Test and ODIs forgot the fundamental lesson that Sharjah’s was a slow turf and slow outfield. The ball hardly came upto the bat or travelled to the fence. Often it stopped near the boundary line for the fielders to go and pick it up without much effort. What at that time was required was single a ball and look for pinch hitters in the 7 or 8 overs. That could have been a better strategy. Afridi, Umar Akmal and elder brother Kamran Akmal all fell to indiscretion and Pakistan found itself at sea from a position of strength. Wasnt it a tragedy? It was of stupidity of highest order. MIsbah eleven could have easily registered a score of 275/280 with correct planning. Australian bowlers were under pressure especially the way they were ill-treated by the two Pakistani openers. They came back in the game with Starc recording 4 wickets to his credit. Wrong planning which cost the team the match and the series. Waqar and Rameez had often been heard passing judgements which is not their domain. The TV umpire too could be influenced by their verdicts and poor remarks. It has happened on more than one occasion. But let us stop it here now.