Change of captains, but no change of fortune. Pakistan ODI captain, Azhar Ali returned today, but the toss result was the same. Australia won the toss, and elected to bat. That’s 4/0 to the hosts in that regard.
I watched the first two overs and immediately tweeted ‘this is a 350+ pitch’. The pitch looked as flat as a pancake. A flat pitch combined with a quick outfield is the perfect recipe to a 350+ score.
Usman Khawaja and David Warner took strike to start the innings. Mohammed Hafeez was the Pakistani opening bowler.
I thought the decision of bowling the first over with a spinner was a poor one. Although Hafeez has generally done well against left-handers, I believed the best chance for Pakistan to pick up wickets with the new ball was with the pacers.
Junaid Khan and Mohammed Amir have been bowling wonderfully throughout the series; why not give them the maximum opportunity to exploit their good form? Azhar should have at least given the first over to a pacer to see if there was movement early on, if their wasn’t, he could have given the second to Hafeez. He didn’t, and as a result it set a defensive tone to the innings. It also meant that when Junaid eventually came on to bowl, he was in a defensive state of mind after Hafeez had gone at 7 runs per over.
I also didn’t agree with the field placing’s on Hafeez’s bowling. He bowled the opening over to two un-set batsman yet there was a long off in place for both. An easy single was allowed down the ground. It’s defensive captaincy, which allowed the batsmen to get set. Warner did, and made the Pakistani bowlers pay.
The powerful left-hander loves the Sydney pitch. He scored a test hundred at the SCG on day 1 before lunch, and today motored himself to 130. He partnered with his captain Steve Smith to put on 120 runs for the second wicket.
Late cameos from Maxwell and Head eventually propelled Australia to 353. Along the way, they were given many free passages. The Pakistani fielding was atrocious with several catches going down. In addition to the missed chances, the ground fielding was terrible.
I remember in Amir’s second over, he bowled four dot balls to Usman Khawaja. The fifth delivery should have been another dot ball, but instead was fumbled by the fielder, which allowed an easy single. The sixth delivery eventually went for four. It’s little things like this that make a difference. This was very early on in the game, and it set the tone for the whole innings.
Chasing 353 was always going to be a tough ask. Things started off on a bad note as captain Azhar Ali nicked to slip in the second over. The in form Babar Azam joined the belligerent Sharjeel Khan at the crease. The pair put on 73 for the second wicket at over a run a ball, until Babar skied one to the deep. Hafeez demoted down the order to number #4 came in and looked at ease right away. Meanwhile, Sharjeel continued his form blasting the Australian bowlers to all parts. To chase such a total, it was imperative Sharjeel gets going, as he is the only free-scoring dominant batsman in the team.
Sharjeel got going, but eventually lost his wicketin the 17th over just as Pakistan were building momentum. Ex-captain Malik joined Hafeez at the wicket. Hafeez was looking positive and rotated strike well, but I felt the pressure of dot balls from the other end resulted in him losing his wicket. After the Sharjeel blitz, the game should have been manageable. The Hafeez-Malik partnership was to blame. At the time of its departure, it was the slowest partnership of the match striking at 4.90 runs per over.
Umar Akmal arrived at the crease with the RR close to 8.5. Once again, he came in with a difficult task. When is he going to get a chance up the order? What made it worse was he had a lethargic partner at the other end that was in no mood to score. An uncharacteristic innings from Shoaib Malik, a man who I feel generally calculates chases well.
The lower order failed yet again, but came in under extremely difficult circumstances. Imad showed intent, whilst Rizwan failed, again.
I thought the placement of fielders by Azhar was particularly poor. Sharjeel, not known for his athleticism was fielding along the boundary in the death overs. He was then moved to point, a position held for the best fielder in the team. Azhar has held the ODI captain position for over a year, yet isn’t aware of such basic flaws. As I mentioned earlier, it’s the little things.
In the end, Pakistan lost the opportunity to win the ODI series and gave away a 3-1 lead. The final game on Thursday will be a dead rubber, and hopefully the last time we see some faces in the Pakistan jersey.
Sharjeel Khan – 8/10
After a 50 in the previous game, Sharjeel continued his form and blasted his way through to 74. When the bowlers bowled short, he pulled them. When they bowled full, he drove them. It was the kind of innings Pakistan needed to even have a sniff at chasing the total down. It lasted longer then his previous innings, but sadly not long enough to cause Australia any problems. It was an entertaining innings while it lasted, but to be considered as one of the elite batsmen, these are the kind of innings you must expand on.
Azhar Ali – 2/10
Azhar played his second game of the ODI leg after returning from a hamstring injury. He made sure his presence was felt, but not in a positive manner. His bowling option decisions, field placing’s and overall captaincy was extremely poor. Add to that, his batting failed. With every game that goes by, Azhar is proving he is not ODI captain material.
Babar Azam – 6/10
Babar Azam yet again looked a million dollars. He played a straight drive early on in his innings, which demonstrated his good form. It’s a shot that he’s trademarked. His innings at one stage was looking impressive as he rotated strike well. Once again, he got bogged down and threw his wicket away. His lack of ability to rotate strike against the spinners is a glaring issue in his game. It is the one factor that can stop him becoming a great batsman. He didn’t play the situation well today. His partner hit a six a few balls prior to him deciding to play a slog sweep to the leg side, despite a fielder being placed there.
Mohammad Hafeez – 6.5/10
Relived of the captaincy duties, Hafeez entered the wicket with Pakistan 88-2. He started off positively rotating strike with the odd boundary. The demotion in order looked to favour Hafeez as he was away from the moving new ball. I feel his game is suited to the lower order. He is a brilliant player of spin bowling, and he will face a lot of it at these positions. I feel he lost his wicket today due to his partner creating a lot of pressure on him.
Shoaib Malik – 5/10
In a nutshell, it was a very poor innings from Malik, probably the worst since his comeback in 2015. He hit the odd boundary, but in between let immense pressure build upon him and his partners due to a lack of strike rotation. He let the run rate get out of hand. His strike-rate was low, but he hit a few boundaries at the end to compensate for that. In the end, it ended with a leg side slog caught on the boundary off an off-spinner. It was an innings ever so reminiscent of ex ODI captain Misbah ul-Haq. I was very surprised with the way he batted, as chases are an area where Malik usually excels in. He is however allowed to have the odd bad game, and this was the exception, rather then the norm since his comeback in 2015.
Umar Akmal – 4/10
Umar once again entered the crease with a difficult target. When will he get the chance to bat up the order, as his peers have gotten numerous times? Yes he played poor, but he’s extremely unlucky to enter the crease under such situations almost every time. His game is designed for top order batting. Umar has demonstrated numerous times during the course of his career that he cannot calculate a chase. He simply doesn’t have the cricketing IQ for such an art. He’s not calm and calculative under pressure situations as the likes of Dhoni, Hussey & Bevan were. Umar is a dynamic batsman, and one of very few in Pakistan at the moment. His batting has regressed tremendously, but still deserves to be in the team, due to a lack of other options.
Mohammed Rizwan – 3/10
It was a similar story for the stand in keeper. Rizwan kept well and took two neat catches behind the stumps, but his batting let himself down once again. He looks awful against spin and hasn’t improved since he’s joined the Pakistani ranks. He at this point is not worthy of being called an international batsman.
Imad Wasim – 5/10
Imad had another poor game. His bowling seems to have been worked out by the Australian batsmen. His over-reliance on the arm ball is hurting him as he’s become way too predictable. He must learn the art of spinning the ball. He played a short cameo at the end of the innings, which demonstrated his all-round ability.
Mohammed Amir – 4/10
It wasn’t the best of games for Amir. He has played a lot of cricket the past year or so and I believe he deserves a rest. His bowling performance at Sydney was the worst figures he’s ever registered.
Hasan Ali – 8.5/10
Unlike his fellow pace-men, Hasan registered his best bowling performance. He took a 5-fer on an extremely flat pitch showing his versatility and strength as a bowler. His death bowling skills are extremely impressive and will play a big role for Pakistan in future. He deserved a 10/10, if not for his fielding. He dropped several catches today, which was surprising as he’s usually a safe pair of hands.
Junaid Khan – 3/10
Junaid alongside his U-19 partner Amir both registered their worst ever ODI figures. He went at over 8 runs per over in a wicket less effort. He did however yet again have a few chances dropped off his bowling, which would have resulted in better figures.
Warner century helps Australia clinch series win
Warner century helps Australia clinch series win