LAHORE: The series loss to England has forced Pakistan into some soul-searching but skipper Babar Azam remains confident that his side will iron out the issues with the T20 World Cup fast approaching.
England clinched the seven-match series 4-3 here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Sunday after whipping the hosts by 67-runs in a game where Pakistan were never in the hunt to chase down a target of 210 after losing batting mainstays Babar and Mohammad Rizwan early on.
The defeat in the decider came after another one-sided game in the sixth T20 where England walloped Pakistan in reaching a target of 170 with 5.3 overs to spare.
Babar, however, is backing his side to bounce back from the chastening defeats with the World Cup opener against arch-rivals India less than three weeks away.
“Many things have come out clearly before the World Cup and we will sit down to think and discuss each issue to get their solutions at the earliest,” Babar told reporters on Sunday, admitting he was worried with the continuing travails of Pakistan’s middle order.
Pakistan’s batting template hinges on openers Babar and Rizwan getting runs. In Sunday’s defeat, it was pretty evident that the middle-order batters lack the punch to play game-changing innings.
“We were chasing a score above 200 and we had to show positive intent but after Rizwan and I fell early, we couldn’t recover,” said Babar negating the impression that the coaching staff was unable to remove the players’ flaws.
Instead, he said that it was a question of players regaining form. “When a player is struggling for form, he wants to use different methods to come out from the lean period and perform. Hopefully we will remove the flaws soon.”
More worrisome for Pakistan was that the manner of their defeat on Sunday saw several fans turn on the home team. with batter Khushdil Shah leaving the field in tears after being dismissed.
“Pakistan aren’t playing T20 cricket … they’re playing One-day International cricket,” one fan, Sohail Ahmed, told Dawn. “It’s made me lose interest in watching Pakistan at the World Cup.”
Another fan, Saman, was more optimistic. “Hopefully the team will put up a better performance at the World Cup,” she told Dawn.
In a video posted on the Pakistan Cricket Board’s social media accounts, chairman Ramiz Raja defended Pakistan’s performance and said that the side had its own unique playing style which sees Babar and Rizwan provide a steady start albeit they don’t score as briskly as openers from other teams do.
“Our team have its own playing style and there’s nothing wrong in it in my view,” Ramiz said on Monday. “If this style had any flaws, then our team’s success rate in the last 12 months would not have been 80%.”
A chance for Pakistan to rebound from the series loss comes soon with the team departing for New Zealand on Monday to participate in the tri-series against the hosts and New Zealand, which begins from Oct 7, and will meet England on Oct 17 in a World Cup warm-up.
England left for Australia on Monday for a three-match series against the T20 World Cup hosts and their performance in Pakistan had stand-in captain Moeen Ali in buoyant mood.
“The whole series we played really well,” said Moeen, who led the team in place of Jos Buttler, who travelled to Pakistan bit did not feature in any match as he recovers from injury.
“But we could’ve won 6-1 instead of 4-3,” added the 35-year-old, referring to England’s narrow losses in low-scoring fourth and fifth games of the series. “We could not chase low scores, that was disappointing. But we are really happy with how we ended the series, and we will be going to Australia in a good position.”
Moeen, however, stopped short of calling England favourites for the World Cup. “But I know we’re a very dangerous team to play and a lot of teams will fear playing us.”
The Pakistan series showed England’s squad depth with the incoming Harry Brook and Ben Duckett getting among the runs and according to Moeen, “being outstanding in every game”.
Moeen praised his bowlers with England welcoming back Mark Wood and Chris Woakes after injuries. Wood impressed with his express pace, troubling Pakistan batters in the two games he played and picked three wickets in each game.
Moeen also had a word of praise for Pakistan’s Babar and Rizwan.
“They’ve been consistent performers and while they face criticism due to their strike-rate, their contributions are vital in Pakistan’s victories,” he said.
The end of the series concluded England’s first tour of Pakistan since 2005 with their Test team set to tour the country in winter and Moeen said it was a “privilege to come here”.
“We have been looked after, really well,” he added. “The people are hospitable and I really enjoyed my time here. We had some great games. It was a good series.”
Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2022