The 4-0- whitewash against England was indeed disappointing, for, the ninth consecutive series loss was enough to demoralise any team but luckily some major plus points have emerged from the just-concluded competition, the biggest one being the optimism that continues to boost spirit of the Pakistani team.
Safaraz himself remains undemolished, and his team members equally confident for the more hectic campaign and demanding performance in the World Cup, six-week long from May 30 to mid-July. They seem ready for the challenge, which despite being massive, remains a compulsion. Honouring themselves and their country with the coveted title, will indeed be a feat to remember. The 1992 victory under Imran remains fresh in our memories, and another one, will indeed do something really good for Pakistan.
The Pakistani skipper, team management is conscious of dire responsibilities placed on their shoulders, So is the PCB management headed by Ihsan Mani, tall in stature, and greatly experienced with ICC rules and regulations, its demands, rules, procedures.
He was a former chairman of game’s global watchdog for considerable length of time. His experience should be driving guide for the team, out in England for the Herculean task.
Just in the middle of this piece, came the announcement of the final 15, entrusted to enrich themselves with glory for the second time. It is a dream that has to come true for if achieved, will be tremendous morale booster for a people, agonised by price hike, and numerous other difficulties. They all are waiting since long for something really great, and the the World Cup victory, elusive but not unattainable, will be the biggest prize for them.
While the first ODI was washed out by rain, the Pakistani team, despite defeat, put up a great batting performance, crossing 350 runs mark three times in a row, but bowling clicked only in the last match. Call it bad luck or bad play by the top-order, flopping in the last fixture, but a century partnership between one-down Babar Azam, skipper Safaraz Nawaz, rebuilt the hope for consolation win for the series wrap-up. Both unfortunately in their bid to overhaul rival’s 351/9, ran themselves out, Yet Shaheen Afridi and Hasan Ali, put up a gallant fight back for the last wicket, but Alas, their dream remained unfulfilled. While in the earlier three matches, Pakistanis showed grit and determination, coming extremely close to winning the 2nd ODI, falling short by just 12 runs, which in fact was a moral victory, but Pakistani pacers, were punished for their poor line and length, short deliveries. Shaheen Afridi, with four wicket, and Emad Wasim with three, kept opponents in check more than often, However England team is vastly experienced, and a hugely optimistic for making the last four alongwith India, Australia, and Nezealand. But Pakistanis too are capable of surprising the rest.
For England the lead-uto the World Cup campaign, gone spotlessly. Centuries from Butller, Skipper Morgan, and another player, was matched by euqlly brilliant hundreds from Imamul Haq,Fakhr Zaman, and then 97 from Safaraz, and 80 from Babar Azam, needs to be lauded.
While the batting for England has been relentlessly brilliant over the series, and indeed since 2015, it was Chris Woakes’ performance that stood out at Headingley. Three wickets in his first two overs reduced Pakistan to 6 for 3 and in a chase of 352.
PCB hasnow announced the final 15, which is Fakhr Zaman, Imamul Haq as openers, Asif Ali,Mohammad Hafeez,Babar Azam,Sarfaraz Ahmed (captain, and wicket keeper),Haris Sohai, and Shoaib Malik in the middle order, Emad Wasim, and Shadab Khan as spinning duo, and Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali, Shaeen Shah Afridi, Mohammad Amir and young 19-year old Hasnain. They should work very hard to get their names recorded in history.Junaid Khan, Faheem Ashraf,and opener Abid Ali, have been omitted for lack of performance.