At around the same time last year, Pakistan were celebrating becoming the Number One Test Side in the World. This was the first time they had been top, since the ranking system was officially started in 2003. Those glory days have long been forgotten as Pakistan now sit seventh on the rankings, just one year after being crowned the best in the world.
In this one-year period, Pakistan have had two test assignments against West Indies both home and away and have lost a Test match in both those assignments. West Indies, being placed lower than Pakistan, meant that Pakistan would suffer for both those defeats despite winning both series 2-1. While these two defeats could be ignored, what cannot be overlooked are the other heavy defeats Pakistan suffered in this period.
Removing these six Tests against the West Indies, Pakistan have played in seven Tests and lost all seven of them in three different assignments against New Zealand, Australia and Sri Lanka. The first was a two-Test tour to New Zealand where Pakistan surrendered rather easily. In the first test, Pakistan registered two scores of 133 and 171 which did not really pose a challenge for the Kiwis as they won by eight wickets. The second test also saw Pakistan unable to challenge New Zealand for long as they lost by 138 runs.
What followed was a 0-3 whitewash Down Under. Pakistan showed character in the first two Tests but could not capitalise on the opportunities to convert them into wins. Chasing 490 to win in the first Test, Pakistan made a very brave 450 in reply to lose by only the 40 runs. The next Test, in a rain affected first couple of days, Pakistan managed a very impressive 443 but their bowlers could not contain Australia and eventually lost by an innings and 18 runs. The third test was a completely one-sided affair as the Aussies won by 220 runs.
Their most recent series loss was at home to Sri Lanka and this is the defeat which really makes for poor reading as Sri Lanka prior to this series were ranked lower than Pakistan. Pakistan since shifting to their adopted home in the Middle East in 2010, had played in nine series, winning five and drawing four of them. Before this series, Pakistan had played 24 Tests, winning 13, drawing seven and losing only four Test matches. Never had Pakistan lost a series in the UAE before Sri Lanka beat them 2-0 in a two-match series.
Pakistan have only themselves to blame for this defeat. After a great show with the ball, Pakistan were set a modest target of 136. However, they were dismissed for a very sorry score of 114, losing by 21 runs. The second Test also saw Pakistan lose their way in the final innings and eventually lose by 68 runs.
Decoding the numbers of a few Pakistani batsmen in these seven Tests, barring Azhar Ali, nobody has registered an average of close to 40. Ali has scored 672 runs at an average of 51.69, but the numbers of the other batsmen paint a dull picture. Opener Sami Aslam has scored only 263 runs at an average of 21.91, Babar Azam with only 249 runs at an average of 19.16. Asad Shafiq, though, has two brilliant fourth innings hundreds involved, yet his tally of 478 runs at an average of 34.14 makes for modest reading. New Test Captain Sarfraz Ahmed also averages a very modest 31.85 for his 414 runs.
The bowling numbers are not very impressive either. Regulars like Yasir Shah, Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz have struggled. Mohammad Amir has taken 13 wickets at a very poor average of 51.69. Yasir Shah had a good series against Sri Lanka with a couple of five-fers, has picked up 24 wickets at an average of 47.29. Wahab Riaz though he has not played every Test match has taken 18 wickets at an average of 34.06 which are decent numbers. Amongst other bowlers used, Hasan Ali has three wickets at 36.33, Sohail Khan has 10 wickets at 39.80 and Rahat Ali has six wickets at 33.33. Pakistan have struggled to contain the opposition and have had no control whatsoever.
Pakistan who won the Champions Trophy earlier this year in one of cricket’s most beautiful underdog stories, are struggling in the longest form of the game. Their two stalwarts, Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq have now retired and its up to new Test Captain Sarfraz Ahmed to take Pakistan back to Test greatness. Number one just over a year ago, this drop in rankings is alarming and the senior players need to take charge. Pakistan’s Test Cricket is currently in free fall. It is clear that Test Cricket is not treating Pakistan well.
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