Pakistan team was on top of the world after claiming a historic win in the first test match against England at the home of cricket Lords. Despite, gaining an upper hand and some much-needed momentum, the team was all at sea in the second test match and suffered a heavy defeat of 330 runs. With the series now leveled at 1-1, all eyes are now on the third test match at Edgbaston Birmingham from 3-7 August. The third test match will prove to be the toughest challenge for the men in green as the players will be low on confidence after taking a big loss moreover, the fact that Pakistan has never won a test match at Edgbaston in the past will also add further pressure on the players and the team management. In order to bounce back, the team needs to address some alarming issues that caused them to lose the second test match. So let’s take a look at some of the areas Pakistan needs to improve on going into the third test match.
- Top order batting
So far the Pakistani top order batsmen have failed to provide the team with a good start in both test matches. Mohammed Hafeez, Shan Masood, and Azhar Ali have only managed to score 100, 71 and 39 runs with an average of 25, 17.75 and 9.75 respectively. In contrast, two of the three top order England batsmen, Joe Root and Alastair Cook have scored 382 and 270 runs at an average 127 and 90. The big difference in this stat clearly shows that the England top order has given them an advantage in the match whereas, the lack of good starts from the Pakistani batsmen have meant that the middle order batsmen had to come in to bat earlier than they would have preferred. The burning question on everyone’s mind is whether there will be any changes to the opening slot as Shan Masood has clearly been struggling against James Anderson. The problem for Pakistan though is that there doesn’t seem to be a suitable replacement for the left-handed batsman. Since the start of the tour, the team management has been backed into a corner due to the selection of Sami Aslam as a replacement opener. While the former under nineteen captain is surely talented, in the past he was dropped from the side due to issues with his batting technique. Expecting Sami Aslam to come in and face a top class bowling line up would be unrealistic. Furthermore, Sami Aslam hasn’t been able to score runs in the tour game against Worcestershire. Even though, Shan Masood did score a fifty, in my opinion, Azhar Ali and Mohammed Hafeez will most likely open the innings and Iftikhar Ahmed will take Masood’s place and play in the middle order. Asad Shafiq can be slotted on the one down position as he has clearly shown decent form and has been able to score more runs than other batsman. Regardless, of whoever plays, it is important that one of the top three batsmen goes onto score big as not only will a big score provide the team with a god start but it will also make the conditions less difficult for the middle order batsman.
Unfortunately, fielding has always been the Achilles heel for Pakistan team. In both test matches, Pakistan has dropped catches on important times giving England batsmen plenty of chances to score runs. The ground fielding has also been weak and on countless occasions, the team has conceded extra runs due to fumbles in the field. In order to improve their performance in the next test match Pakistani players have to make sure they grab on to the opportunities that are created by the ballers. The team simply cannot afford to give world class batsmen more chances especially when our own batting line up is vulnerable. Shane Warne once claimed that on their best day the Pakistani players are on song in the field. A good effort in the field by the players lifts the spirit of the entire team including the bowlers who try harder to get wickets if they are backed up by the fielders. On the other hand, a poor fielding effort dampens the spirit of the bowler and the entire team.
- Fast bowling
It would be safe to say that the Pakistani fast bowlers haven’t been able to perform up to the expectations of the fans. Even though, the fielders have dropped some important catches, the fast bowlers haven’t been able to dominate the opposition batting line-ups. All three left arm quicks have tried too hard to bowl the magic ball rather than try to keep it tight when the pitch is not offering any assistance. On certain occasions, the bowlers have also bowled a bit too short rather than pitching the ball up. The team management should now opt for a right arm fast bowler in place of Wahab Riaz as it will offer a change of angle and will give more options to the captain. Plus the fast bowlers also need to pitch the ball up in order to use the conditions to their advantage.
- Team combination
Speaking of more options Pakistan would also need to change the team combination. In the last match when the England batsmen were dominating it seemed like Pakistan was missing a fifth bowling option. Thus, part-time bowlers like Shan Masood had to bowl a few overs in order to give rest to other bowlers. The only all-rounder currently available in the squad is Iftikhar Ahmed who would most likely play the third test match. Iftikhar’s inclusion will also give Misbah more options furthermore, the all-rounder also scored runs against Worcestershire thus, Iftikhar would also be a useful addition in the batting line up. However, the problem for Pakistan is that Iftikhar selection was questionable from the start. The all-rounder has only scored 1659 first class runs and taken 27 wickets. There were a lot of other deserving players like Fawad Alam, who should have been selected instead.
- Adapting to conditions
Perhaps the most important area which the team needs to focus upon is adjusting to the conditions in Birmingham. In the first test match, the conditions were favorable and Pakistani players applied themselves accordingly, however, the batsmen were immediately thrown off guard and were unable to deal with the bounce of the Old Trafford pitch. If the past matches are anything to go by then Edgbaston will feature a seaming wicket. In order to put up a fight against England Pakistani players would have to play according to the conditions and make sure they apply themselves.
The third test match will be the team’s toughest challenge on the tour however, if the players and team management improve on the areas mentioned above then Pakistan can put up a tough fight against England. Regardless, of the conditions the players will have to find a way to get a favorable result as the match will decide which team takes an upper hand in the series.