With Pakistan, you do not quite know what to expect. On their day, they can be mesmerising, thwarting the best in the world and, on other days they can be pathetic, going down to the lowest-ranked team in the world. The result of the final hinged on which Pakistan turned out on the day. Rather surprisingly, Pakistan did not commit anything outrageous in terms of good or bad, and were rather subdued. However, while they showed glimpses of consistency in their batting effort, overall it was a disappointing show, which cost them the Asia Cup trophy.
In hindsight, Pakistan fell well behind in the match very early on. They needed a bright start after deciding to bat first, but their top three could not stand up to the challenge on the day that mattered the most. Sharjeel Khan and Ahmed Shehzad could not handle the pressure of the big day. Mohammed Hafeez is a highly experienced campaigner now, but he still struggles to come up with the goods in high-pressure situations. Saturday was definitely one, and Hafeez let down the side again. For someone who has played close to 150 ODIs, his inconsistency continues to puzzle.
If Pakistan managed to put up a competitive score on the board, it was due to a fighting partnership between the in-form Fawad Alam and skipper Misbah-Ul-Haq. Both put their hands down and ensured that the team did not lose any further wickets. It was the need of the hour and both Misbah and Fawad stood up to the challenge. However, what the early loss of wickets meant that the duo could not take many risks, as a result the team’s run rate took a beating. Umar Akmal played a smashing knock to give Pakistan some momentum, but it did not prove to be enough in the end.
It may sound unfair on Alam, Misbah and Umar, but Pakistan probably missed a trick by not promoting Shahid Afridi up the order. The Pakistani batsman was in smashing form having been played two spectacular match-winning knocks. Of course, there is no guarantee that Afridi would have succeeded. He might well have been out first ball playing a rash stroke. But, the fact is that Pakistan did not make an attempt to utilise Afridi’s stupendous form. Everybody knows what carnage he could have caused had his risks come off.
Bowling wise as well, Pakistan were highly disappointing. Saeed Ajmal expectedly came up with a wonderful spell, and kept the side in the hunt with his crucial strikes. However, Ajmal needed some support from the pacers, but there was none. Junaid Khan and Mohammad Tahla were pedestrian. Their failures were still understandable considering their inexperience, but the effort of the seasoned Umar Gul was most shocking. He looked totally out of sorts, and Pakistan thus could not build any sort of pressure on the Lankan batsmen. At the end of their day, the difference in quality between the two teams clearly stood out.
--By A Cricket Analyst