Pakistan’s Kiwi debacle and a few talking points

Pakistan’s New Zealand debacle continues as the national cricket team loses fourth successive One-Day International (ODI) in a daring environment. The hosts, quite expectedly, have been flawless throughout the series. Pakistan, on quite the contrary, has been gasping for air, and a way out of the Kiwi stranglehold seems impossible for the Shaheens. Pakistan’s cricket is infamous for its unpredictability. One moment, the team looks untouchable and the other, it seems as if a light stroke of breath would make them fall to pieces. The series has been quite like that.

First ODI

Coming off a whitewash of Sri Lankan cricket team, and on top of that, a major International tournament triumph in ICC Champions Trophy 2017, Pakistan’s spirit, confidence and passion were sky-high. The spirits, confidence and passion, however, started to decay as soon as the Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson started to whack Pakistan’s star-studded bowling line-up all around the Wellington Park. Williamson went on to score a ton, while Collin Munro and Henry Nicholls, both scored half-centuries to help their team pile up a humongous total of 315.

Pakistan’s reply was short-worded, short-phrased and short-lived. They were 7-2 in first few overs, in a very Pakistan-esque style. A good odd knock from Fakhar Zaman (82) helped Pakistan reach 166-6 before rain stopped play and saved the team from the ‘all-out’ humiliation. New Zealand won via DRS.

Kane Williamson’s ton helped New Zeland pile up 315 – picture courtesy ESPNCricinfo

Second ODI

Much of the same: New Zealand dominated, Pakistan did not, rain, DRS, and the green team’s over-simplified batting performance. Pakistan went on to bat first at Nelson, and their top three in Azhar Ali, Imamul Haq and Babar Azam wasted no time in making their long walk back to the pavilion. Thanks to Muhammad Hafeez’s 60 and Shadab Khan’s 50 – Pakistan succeeded in gathering 246 runs in 50 overs.

Given Pakistan’s bowling credentials, one would think 246 would have been a mouthwatering chase, but New Zealand at their own backyard, are just miles ahead. Muhammad Aamir’s early dismissal of Collin Munro gave Pakistan the start they needed, however: it was only a mere consolation as opener Martin Guptill showed no signs of either mercy or deterioration as the game progressed. It was raining fours and sixes before it finally rained, and New Zealand won again via DRS.

 

Guptill scores 82 to help New Zealand chase rained-affected target of 152 – courtesy ESPNCricinfo

Third ODI

Not much like last two ODIs, in fact worse. Batting wise, a nightmare. Pakistan, this time around, bowled first and bowled remarkably well, restricting the otherwise unstoppable Kiwis to a humble 257. Pakistan had their hopes high since the target was achievable, but Pakistan made it look like the total was a hundred more than the actual reality.

Kane Williamson scored 73 in the third ODI, just one less than Pakistan – who were bowled out at 74. The scorecard was something like this: 0 – 2 – 8 – 0 – 3 – 14 – 0 – 1 – 14 – 16, courtesy Trent Boult’s 5/17. Captain Sarfaraz Ahmed scored an unbeaten, rather hopeless 14. Tail-enders Muhammad Aamir (14) and Rumman Raees (16) were amongst the highest run achievers. To put salt on wounds, this time, it did not even rain.

Boult’s 5/17 blows Pakistan away – courtesy ESPNCricinfo

Fourth ODI

The fourth fixture has a lot of positives to talk about, even though the Shaheens managed to lose once again. Pakistan batting line-up scored their highest score of the series (262) this time around. Fakhar Zaman (54), Haris Sohail (50), Muhammad Hafeez (81) and Sarfaraz Ahmed (51) shared majority of the scorecard runs. This might be a sign that the national team’s batsmen are finally getting accustomed to the Kiwi pace, but it might have come a little too late.

New Zealand started decently but 3-wickets in a span of 10 runs (99-4) put the visitors in the driving seat – for the time being. Henry Nicholls (54) and de Grandhomme (72) put up an unbeaten partnership of 164 runs to hand Pakistan their fourth consecutive loss.

Collin de Grandhomme partners with Henry Nicholls to see the Kiwis through – courtesy ESPNCricinfo

Talking Points

The dawn of 2018 has been tough for Pakistan’s national cricket team. Playing in unfamiliar conditions, against a dominant home side in spectacular form has been a challenge, but what’s more agonising is surviving in non-Asian conditions as an unapologetically Asian cricketing nation.

Pakistan has had their moments throughout the series. They have had their claws around the Kiwi throat, but the fierce grip was missing. Pakistan failed to capitalise on moments, and moments in any form of life, especially in sports, are timely and valuable. The opportunistic, predatory nature of Asia’s cricketing powerhouse was invisible.

There has been a lot of criticism from media, supporters and also from those who do not even have a general know-how of cricket. Pakistan, historically, has been on the wrong end of results when it comes to facing fire-spitting teams like New Zealand and Australia. The Shaheens have played 12 ODI series in NewZealand, winning only twice and losing a convincing 9 times. On only 1 occasion have both teams shared the spoiled.

There is no need to blame the team for the results, they have been trying but to struggle out of one’s comfort zone is normal. Playing in dry and flat Dubai pitches would not elevate Pakistan’s cricket to International standards. An international standard overhaul is required to transform Pakistan raw talent into a more reformed, exceptionally well-designed end product.

It’s true that Pakistan has lost four out of four and a whitewash seems evident, but the team’s performance during the fourth ODI has produced positive vibes. The only thing they require is a bit more aggression and little less showcase of respect.