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Saturday, December 3, 2022

ICC T20 World Cup Final: Pakistan Lost With Grace and Earned Respect

By Jay Rover

(Photo courtesy Iftikhar’s Tweeet)

Pakistan’s ambitions to repeat its 1992 ICC World Cup glory in Melbourne, Australia, did not materialize. The green shirts lost by five wickets as the English team made its own history by becoming the first team to win the coveted title twice. England also became the first team that has both the World Cup and T20 World Cup titles.

Weather and luck seemed to be of little favor to Pakistan when Babar Azam lost the toss. Then came the uninspiring batting performances, Shaheen Afridi’s injury and Babar’s bad captaincy that contributed to the green shirts’ defeat. Experts had predicted that the team batting first will find it hard to put up a big total. Those predictions were on the dot as Pakistani batsmen struggled.

With the exception of Shan Masood, Babar Azam and Shadab Khan, none of the players in the Pakistani batting line-up were impressive. They played average and many a time casual cricket, going for weaker strokes and that too devoid of technique and angles that could beat the fielders. For some reason, the Pakistani batsmen were lagging in class and power-hitting.

Pakistani batsmen, skipper Babar Azam included, were jittery, raw and looked weak and lacked good timing. While batting conditions can be blamed to some extent but it will be wrong to say that Pakistani batsmen used the conditions well.  They did not. They badly misread them. The way the middle order and the tail-enders collapsed gave the impression as if they did not have the drive and the urge to put a decent total on the scoreboard. The end result was an unimpressive 137.

Pakistan’s last three recognized batters – Shan Masood, Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz – were all caught attempting the big hits. “The ones and twos that were so good all the way through the innings, they disappeared and all of a sudden they were just trying to hit it out of the ground over 85-meter boundaries,” Stephen Fleming former New Zealand captain, told ESPNcricinfo’s T20 Time Out show. “And that just doesn’t work. Livingstone’s there, just picking it off. Sorry, I reckon it just wasn’t smart and it could cost them, the score of 165 was easily there.”

Defending such a meager total against a world-class team with some of the best batsmen in the world was always a Herculian task. Despite Babar’s average captaincy, the bowlers largely delivered. If Babar had introduced his spinner battery during the power play, Pakistan could have had a better chance of taking more wickets and slowing down the English runn rate. The spin attack can speed up the overs delivery, control run rate and bring batsmen under pressure. Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz and Iftikhar would have made the match even tighter, if employed on time. This does not mean the pacers did not deliver. But a combination of fast-spin attack would have sped up the overs delivery as well as less runs because MCG has the world’s longest boundaries and playing big shots for any play remains a problem. And an in-form batsman can easily go for the maximum even at third man, as we saw during the English inning.

The most surprising and questionable decision of Babar was that he did not give in-form spinner Mohammad Nawaz a single over. Even if Nawaz does not have an impressive economy rate, he remains a match winner. Babar could have tried him to complete Shaheen Afridi’s abandoned over after he retired injured. That would have been a perfect bet because he is a  recognized spinner and very much capable of taking wickets. Many Pakistani and international cricket commentators are questioning Babar’s decision on Nawaz. Babar did not use Nawaz much during the entire world cup campaign.

But Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf and Shadab Khan really played superbly. Shaheen’s injury added to Pakistan’s challenges because he was bowling so well. His early retirement certainly contributed to speeding up the loss, which looked inevitable because of the low-scoring game. Pakistani bowlers earned tons of accolades on social media where ICC T20 World Cup remained a top trend. Noted Indian cricket commentator Akash Chopra was one of them recognizing Pakistan’s pace battery

Former Pakistani team captain, Waqar Younis also took to Twitter to support the green shirts.

 And the best words of support came from the man who lead Pakistan to World Cup glory in 1992. Former Pakistani skipper and prime minister Imran Khan was full of praise for the team.

Former captain of Sri Lankan cricket team Sanath Jayasuriya had some sweet remarks for both sides. He wrote on Twitter:

Jayasuriya is right. Pakistan did go down but it went down with grace by putting up stiff resistance. While the English team deserves hearty congratulations, the Pakistani boys also deserve a good pat for living up to the expectations of their fans by playing until the last ball. Cricket indeed was the ultimate winner!

 

 

 

 

 



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