Shining in Test cricket

Pakistan beat England, the number one Test side, in the second Test match by 72 runs. It would not be wrong to say that England snatched defeat from the jaws of victory because 145 runs was by no means a daunting target given England’s batting depth. The wickets in the UAE, similar to the ones in the South Asian region, give an edge to spinners. In the first Test match, also won by Pakistan, it can be said that England did not read the wicket right. Fortunately, better sense prevailed selection-wise in the second Test and Monty Panesar was included in the English side. Monty did his job well and proved to be an asset. The English bowlers, much to their credit, managed to restrict the Pakistani batsmen in both innings. Thus, it was expected that even on that turning pitch on the fourth day, England would manage to get 145 as it was a doable task. Unfortunately for England, as has been noted by some experts, their batsmen are not technically on top when it comes to spin bowling and have a hard time playing spinners. Most English batsmen played on the back foot and even when they did play on the front foot, there was a gaping gap left between bat and pad. The English batsmen also allowed the Pakistani bowlers to assert too much pressure on them from the very beginning. That said, it was a tremendous victory against the odds for Pakistan.

It has been two very tough years for Pakistan cricket. Apart from no home series being played in the country after the 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, the 2010 spot-fixing scandal proved to be a national shame. Credit should be given to Misbah-ul-Haq and his captaincy for a remarkable turnaround in our cricketing fortunes. As a culture, we Pakistanis are a very excitable lot but Misbah has had a calming influence on our cricket team. Now we do not see any internal factionalism or politics in the team. The way young players are encouraged shows that every team member is revelling in each other’s success. A team has to play as a unit, which is why team cohesion has polished individual brilliance. But there should be no room for complacency just because we have won the Test series. England will fight back — arguably they did that in the second Test as well but faltered at the last hurdle. They can still succeed in the third Test. Each match has to be played on its own merits and the rebuilding of our cricket team must continue.

The Pakistan cricket team has set an example for Pakistani society as a whole, i.e. how to rebound from the depths of adversity. Instead of being defeatist, our cricket team overcame its opponents. We must do the same as a nation.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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