MANY CHANGES EXPECTED IN PAKISTAN TEAM

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The tour of New Zealand was always expected to be tough for Pakistan team, but nobody was hoping for such a thrashing. The land of Kiwis has always been famous for bowler friendly pitches and that helped Pakistan, as they have always been known as “bowler producing” land.

Among the SENA countries (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia) Pakistan were always most comfortable in New Zealand, winning test series in 1973, 1979, 1994 and 2003. The series in 1994 is famously remembered, because 2 Ws, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were on their best and bowled out New Zealand for 93 while defending a total of 145 runs. That was not the only time Pakistan had dismissed New Zealand for under 100 at their home. They were also bowled out for 99 in 2009 series.

If we talk about New Zealand being bowled out for 200 or less than 200 in last 30 years, Pakistan are by far on top, as they dismissed the Kiwis for that total 11 times. England achieved the feat 7 times whereas India and Australia did it 5 times each, which shows dominance of Pakistan’s bowling over New Zealand’s batsmen in these 3 decades.

This time though, many records were broken. New Zealand scored 600 plus total against Pakistan for the first time, which they had never managed before. They had scored 600 plus against India twice and once each against Sri Lanka, West Indies, Bangladesh and England. But in recently concluded series, they scored 659/6 and Kane Williamson also registered biggest individual score against Pakistan at home.

Kane Williamson did not do without the help of Pakistani fielders, who gave him 4 chances and dropped catches in regular intervals. It was like giving someone 4 innings to score these runs, and when you give that opportunity to World No.1 batsman, he will surely make you pay for it.

Pakistani players looked awful not only in the field or bowling, but also with the bat. Despite multiple failures Shan Masood was given chance again in the second test and his miserable form continued in the worst possible way, as he got dismissed in both innings without scoring any run. The opening batsman has scored 4 ducks in last 8 innings now, scoring 33 runs in the process. He has averaged 4.12 since scoring that century against England in England, which did not help Pakistan either, as we lost that match even after taking 100 plus lead in the first innings. Shan Masood started the collapse in that match, playing a delivery towards leg side.

The irony is, if we see the batting statistics of Pakistani batsmen in the series, even tail-enders like Naseem Shah and Shaheen Shah Afridi scored more runs than Shan Masood’s 10 runs in 4 innings. Muhammad Abbas averaged 3 runs per innings, which was more than Shan Masood’s average of 2.5. Although opener is supposed to play more deliveries than others to see off the new ball, but Shan managed to play only 83 deliveries, 34 balls lesser than 117 played by Muhammad Abbas.

Haris Sohail also failed badly in all 4 innings as he returned with 28 runs in 4 innings at an average of 7 runs per innings. He was playing in the spot of skipper Babar Azam, the backbone of the team, so his failures affected team the most along with Shan Masood.

Questions were also raised on performance of the other opener Abid Ali, who consumed a lot of deliveries and did well to play the new ball, but did not capitalize on it after getting settled. Despite playing 50 plus deliveries in 3 innings, he could not register a 30 plus score in 4 innings.

The next series against South Africa is around the corner now and thankfully for Pakistan team, they will be playing at home. It will be a big opportunity for any newcomer in the side, as they will be playing in familiar conditions. Other than that, Pakistan will be touring South Africa and England before World T20 tournament, so new players must be tried before the big challenges coming up in the year.

South Africa may not be as strong as they were in last few series against Pakistan, as the Protease defeated Pakistan in two of the three test series they have played in Pakistan. Pakistan also could not manage to beat them even in the conditions of UAE, which was Pakistan’s second home. On the other hand, South Africa whitewashed Pakistan 3-0 in last two series at their home.

South Africa also whitewashed Sri Lanka 2-0 at home in recently concluded series, so their morale will be high. But they lost many players due to Kolpak contracts in last few years which weakened their team.

Shan Masood, Haris Sohail and Zafar Gohar are expected to be dropped for the home series and Kamran Ghulam will be expected to make his debut in the series. He was top scorer of Quaid-e-Azam trophy this season and broke the record for most runs in a single season. Hasan Ali, who was sidelined for almost 2 years after bad form, may also make a comeback for the series against South Africa, after his heroics in the QEA trophy final against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Although he was in sublime form with the ball throughout the event, he impressed the most with bat in the final, scoring a century off just 58 balls. His century brought Central Punjab within 1 run away from victory, but unfortunately for them, the 11th batsman Waqas Maqsood got dismissed.

The spinner Sajid Khan was highest wicket taker and best bowler of the season with more than 60 scalps. He is also expected to be in the team for series against South Africa, as Yasir Shah has been failing in overseas tours. In last 9 months, Yasir Shah has average more than 48 runs for 1 wicket.

Above all, it will be important series for Misbah-ul-Haq as well, because there are rumors about his removal from the post of head coach as well. If he could not help Pakistan win the upcoming series, a foreign coach may replace him ahead of the busy year.

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