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Year in review: Pakistan’s mixed year in Test cricket

Men in Green won four and lost four out of a total of nine matches

PHOTO: AFP

It has been a phenomenal year for Pakistan as far as limited-overs game is concerned, however the Men in Green had a balanced outing in Test cricket.

Following the departure of two greats — country’s leading runs scorer in the five-day format Younis Khan and most successful captain in Misbahul Haq — the Green Caps had a rather difficult time in whites.

They started their year with the tour of England and Ireland — without their most experienced duo and also star spinner Yasir Shah — and played three Tests with one against newly promoted Ireland and two against Joe Root-led side.

Sarfraz Ahmed-led unit had a tough outing against Ireland, but thanks to heroics from youngsters Faheen Asharaf, Shadab Khan, Imamul Haq and Babar Azam, the visitors went over the line with five-wicket margin.

After that, the team from the subcontinent stunned England in the first Test at Lord’s with a nine-wicket win.

Following Lord’s dominating show, Pakistan team disappointed there fans after suffering a crushing innings and 55-run defeat at Leeds.

In October, Pakistan hosted Australia for a two-match Test series.

The teams were evenly matched, however, Pakistan had an edge over Tim Paine XI due to their experience of playing in United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The first Test in Dubai turned out to be a frustrating one for Sarfraz XI, as they watched victory slipped away from their hand thanks to valiant efforts by Usman Khawaja, Paine and Nathan Lyon in the second innings — ensuring that the match ended in a draw.

In second Test, Pakistan bounced back strongly and wrapped up a 373-run win and won the series courtesy Abbas’s magical spell in Abu Dhabi. He claimed 10 wickets in the game.

After the conclusion of Australia series, Pakistan hosted New Zealand for three Tests in the UAE.

In the opening game at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Sarfraz and company missed a vital opportunity to take 1-0 lead in the series. They lost the match by four runs courtesy of irresponsible batting display — especially in the second innings. 

In the second match of the series, the Sarfraz-led unit roared back and completed a comprehensive innings and 16-run victory thanks to Shah’s superb bowling — which saw him pick 14 wickets during the match. 

In the series decider, the visitors stunned their opposition by securing a 123-run win in the game to win the series 2-1. This was also the first ever victory for New Zealand over Pakistan in an away series.

In the final five-day game of the year, Pakistan faced South Africa on Boxing Day. The Test came to conclusion on day-three — with the visitors suffering a humiliating defeat. 

The bowlers once again did well for Pakistan, however batsmen failed to deliver once again. South Africa secured a six-wicket win and took 1-0 lead in three-match series.

Overall in 2018, Pakistan played nine Tests, winning four, losing four and drew a game. 

With 616 Test runs at an average of 56, Babar Azam was Pakistan’s leading run-getter in the calendar year.

Amongst the bowlers, Abbas and Yasir took 38 wickets apiece and were the pick of the Pakistan bowlers throughout the year. 

Memorable performances of 2018

Victory against England at Lord’s

The Home of Cricket (Lord’s) once again served the spectators with a mouth-watering contest between bat and ball.

In an exciting turn of events, the visitors claimed victory by nine wickets and took a 1-0 lead in the two-match Test series.

Pakistan registered only their fifth win in 15 outings against the home side at this venue courtesy Abbas’s sublime bowling — who claimed eight wickets in the match — and bagged the award for player of the match.

England were bundled out for just 184 in their first innings, after being put in to bat by Pakistan captain Sarfraz.

In response, Pakistan made the most of England’s modest first innings total and took a handsome 179-run lead.

The home side were not up to the mark with the bat in the second innings as well as they could only post 242 runs and set Pakistan a target of 64 runs — which they visitors chased on loss of a single wicket.    

Yasir Shah becomes fastest bowler to pick 200 Test wickets

Pakistan Yasir Shah became the quickest bowler to reach 200 Test wickets — a feat which he achieved during the third Test of the series against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi.

Heading into the final Test of the series, Shah needed just five more scalps to break the record — which he did with ease during the fourth day’s play by picking up the wicket of William Somerville (4) in the second innings.

Shah broke 82-year-old record of Australia’s Clarrie Grimmett — who took his 200th wicket in his 36th Test against South Africa in 1936 — in only his 33rd Test match.

Since taking seven wickets on debut against Australia in 2014, Yasir has been a key figure in Pakistan's Test team.

It must be noted that Shah reached 100 wickets in 17 Tests, second only to Englishman George Lohmann who reached the target in 16 matches during a Test in Johannesburg in 1896.

Abbas’s 10-wicket haul against Australia

Mohammad Abbas turned out to be a nightmare for Australia during the second Test as he claimed 10-wicket haul on a spinner friendly pitch in Abu Dhabi.

The 28-year old became the first fast-bowler to register a ten-wicket haul — five in each innings — in the UAE as Pakistan wrapped up an emphatic 373-run win against the Aussies. 

In the first Australia innings, he led the way with 5-33 to help Pakistan take a 137-run lead. Then, after the batsmen had set Australia 538 to win, he scythed through the top and middle order on his way to figures of 5-62.

His performance caught the attention of renowned cricketers including Dale Steyn — who retained the top spot in ICC Test bowlers’ ranking for almost four years — who coined the Pakistan as the future number one bowler of the world. 

Abbas’s performance also helped him earn career-best number three spot in ICC Test rankings for bowlers.