x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

A woeful run for Misbah-ul-Haq's Pakistan

Captain blames batting problems for hosts' poor ODI form this year and why they are 1-0 down in the series against Australia, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

Misbah-ul-Haq, who only managed 26 in Sharjah on Tuesday, was critical of his fellow batsmen. Aamir Qureshi / AFP
Misbah-ul-Haq, who only managed 26 in Sharjah on Tuesday, was critical of his fellow batsmen. Aamir Qureshi / AFP

As Misbah-ul-Haq arrived in Abu Dhabi today, for Friday's second match of their one-day international series against Australia, the Pakistan captain was still searching for solutions to his team's batting woes, an ailment that shows no signs of improvement.

In 2012, Pakistan have played 15 ODI matches and lost nine of them, the last four on the trot. They have only five wins – two them against Bangladesh and one over Afghanistan – in this period and one match was washed out.

The Pakistan batting has been the main culprit in those defeats. In seven of the nine matches they have lost, the team have been bowled out and in three of them with five or more overs to bat. Their shortest innings of this period was the 130 all out in 35 overs against England in February.

Worryingly for Misbah, that happened in Abu Dhabi where Pakistan will be battling to take the series into the deciding third game after losing the opening match by four wickets in Sharjah on Wednesday night.

"We have been struggling with our batting in recent times, through the England series [in February] and then in Sri Lanka," Misbah said.

"You could say there is a bit of inexperience. There are a few newcomers to international cricket in the squad and these youngsters have still not grasped how to pace their innings and gauge what might be a good score on a certain wicket.

"Our batsmen need to learn how to bat in different situations. It's something that comes with experience.

"Having said that, I believe we have played enough cricket to know that. Even the youngsters have played a lot of games. So they need to learn that and the most important thing is to play 50 overs.

"You know your bowling line-up is so good that even if you score 230-240, you can defend it. So we need to bat according to the situation and try to bat the 50 overs. We have not been doing that. We score 30-40 runs, or 50 and then just give our wicket away. We have to make one of us bat till the end."

That, of course, did not happen on Wednesday night. Pakistan were bowled out for 198 in 45.1 overs despite loading the side with eight batsmen to counter their frailties.

Embarrassingly for the Pakistan fans, their batsmen scored less than what Afghanistan (206) had managed against Australia on Saturday night.

Four of the Pakistan batsmen got starts, but two of them – Nasir Jamshed and the captain himself – perished in their 20s, while Asad Shafiq (56) and Umar Akmal (52) were back in the pavilion shortly after reaching their half-centuries.

Kamran Akmal and Shahid Afridi, kept at No 7 and No 8 to shore up the lower order, failed to contribute. Kamran made four while Afridi was out first ball, leaving his fans stunned.

"If you look at how we collapsed then you will probably understand why we picked eight batsmen," Misbah said.

"Unfortunately, we still could not bat for 50 overs. The lower middle-order collapsed again. At one time, reaching 230 seemed an easy task for us. If we had batted the full 50 overs, we would have reached that score, but we could not bat the full overs.

"We have not been getting any support from our lower order, which is very important in matches like these. If someone from the lower order had managed to get 20 or 25 runs, I believe we would have had a really exciting game."

Despite their low score, the Pakistan spinners kept the "hosts" in the game, sending the two Australian openers, David Warner and Matthew Wade, and the Hussey brothers, David and Michael, back into the pavilion inside 18 overs with only 67 on the board.

The Australia captain Michael Clarke (66) dug his heels in, getting good support from the Aussie Twenty20 captain George Bailey (57 not out).

And when Clarke departed at 121, with 78 still needed, Glenn Maxwell (38) came in to add 63 with Bailey.

"It was nice to first of all get that partnership with Pup [Clarke]," Bailey said.

"I thought his innings was very good. He was tired out there and he was battling. So for him to push through and to keep the scoreboard ticking along as he was, I thought showed great leadership and paved the way I guess for myself and Maxy [Maxwell] and Dan Christian there at the end."

It was only the second ODI for Maxwell and the 11th for Bailey, and Misbah believes his youngsters should learn from the application showed by these two Australians.

"Clarke's innings was really important, but Australia were under pressure when he got out," he said. "It was not an easy target [78], but the partnership between Bailey and Maxwell took the match away.

"Though they have played few international matches, both of them showed a lot of maturity. They did not give us any chances."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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