Pakistan and England face off for the third Test at Edgbaston and Pakistan will be looking at their last match on this venue for some inspiration.
72. That is what Pakistan’s batting managed at Edgbaston six years ago in their last match on the ground. The batsmen refused to score runs. They wanted to see off the new ball. Except the new ball remained bloody new for 39 overs. The wickets, they never stopped falling.
Does it help then that the weather forecast for most of the match is showing scattered thunderstorms? It will be overcast, most probably. The ball will swing, definitely. Pakistani batsmen just need to find a way to score runs. That is the bottom line. The batting should have done better at Old Trafford. Sure, when the other team racks up 589 runs in the first innings, things can get tricky. But a team on the quest to become number 1 – it is a very real possibility – must fight back.
It doesn’t help that Pakistan’s openers have not fired but, let’s just face it, it was sort of a given. A 50 in the warm up game against Worcestershire will tempt Misbah and Arthur to stick with Shan Masood at the top of the order – the law of averages has to work at some point in time, right? There is talk that Shan will be dropped to give Sami Aslam a chance but Misbah refrained from confirming this in his press conference.
More worrying for Misbah is the form of Azhar Ali and Younis Khan. Azhar has shown so much promise over a number of years and he has certainly come a long way from his 32-ball duck at Edgbaston six years ago. But where are the runs on this tour that legitimise his transformation as a senior batsman?
These soft dismissals don’t just end with Younis. Misbah, Shafiq, Hafeez, Azhar, Shan, and Sarfaraz – they are all guilty.
So where can the batsmen look for inspiration? Perhaps the second innings from that game six years ago can serve as an example. Trailing by 179 at the start of their second innings, Pakistan were reeling at 153 for seven. And then came a solid rearguard action. A little unknown back then, the two protagonists are now very well-known; one for his spin magic and the other for deserting his team a few hours before a series-deciding ODI. Saeed Ajmal and Zulqarnain Haider battled against some serious bowling in testing conditions. They took blows, lots of them. They danced on the pitch and they looked ugly while doing so but they managed to score runs against Anderson and Broad. That is the bottom line. Another 80-90 runs and who knows, that game might even have tilted in Pakistan’s favour.
Pakistan’s players have a choice to make right about now. One very gripping match followed by a lopsided affair means that no one is quite sure which Pakistan team has shown up on this tour.
So, the result in the next match will basically define whether Lord’s was just a one-off victory or the team really has some fire in the belly playing away from its comfort zone. One could argue that they will get another chance in the fourth match but a comeback after losing two consecutive matches will be very unlikely. So now is the time. All those long hours of training, the push-ups, early morning runs, the military discipline – all of that has to come to good use now.
What good is a Pakistani team if it is not unpredictable. Super hot one day, super shoddy the very next. That’s the way it has to be. That is what makes it exciting.
But which Pakistan will show up at Egbaston?
1) Featured Image: Getty Images
2) Younis Khan and Misbah ul Haq GIFs created using ECB’s videos on Youtube
3) Mohammad Hafeez GIF created using Youtube video uploaded by ‘Cricket Videoz’