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Year in review: Pakistan’s ODI cricket calls for improvement

Men in Green registered just one series win throughout the year

PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan’s performance in ODI format during 2018 does not make a particularly pleasing reading.

New Zealand handed the Men in Green an embarrassing 5-0 whitewash in the team’s first assignment of the year in a series where Pakistan looked completely out of sorts throughout.

From New Zealand, Pakistan travelled to the shores of Zimbabwe, facing up against a home side which was missing many of its top players due to dispute with their cricket board.

As expected, the home side could not pose much of a challenge and lost all five matches of the series in a comprehensive manner.

Perhaps, Pakistan’s most important assignment of the year was the Asia Cup in United Arab Emirates (UAE). Bearing in mind that Pakistan are accustomed to playing in these conditions from the past decade or so meant that the side was expected to put up a good show.

But instead, the exact opposite happened. The Men in Green could only overpower Hong Kong and Afghanistan during the tournament while losing to arch-rivals India twice in four days — that too in the absence of their regular captain and star batsman Virat Kohli.

Moving on from the humiliating Asia Cup campaign, Pakistan locked horns with the Kiwis — for the second time during the year in a bilateral series — but this time in the UAE.

Once again, this was a series where Pakistan started as favourites but they were left with a bit of soul searching to do when the visitors went 1-0 ahead by registering a comfortable victory in the first ODI.

Pakistan bounced back strongly in the second encounter to level the series and set things up nicely for a series finale in Dubai.

But rain played spoilsport in the final match as the match had to be called-off and the series was shared between the two sides.

Pakistan must feel slightly undone because they were in control of proceedings with New Zealand 35-1 inside seven over — while chasing a target of 280 runs. In terms of the ICC ODI team rankings, they moved up just one place to fifth position.

Left-handed opener Fakhar Zaman was the top run-getter for the Green Caps in ODIs with 875 runs at an average of 67.30. He was followed in second place by fellow opener Imamul Haq — 672 runs at 61 — and middle-order batsman Babar Azam — who scored 509 runs at 36.35.

Leg-spinner Shadab Khan was the leading wicket-taker with 23 scalps in 17 matches while pacer Hasan Ali bagged 19 wickets in 15 matches and all-rounder Faheem Ashraf 16 wickets in 13 matches.

High-flying Zaman

Pakistan opener Fakhar Zaman had a terrific year with the bat — amassing 875 runs at an impressive average of 67.30. The left-hander became the fastest player in the history of the 50-over format to score 1000 runs in just 18 innings — a feat which he achieved during the fifth and final ODI of the series against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo. Zaman secured the record in three fewer innings than the previous record-holder in West Indies’ Viv Richards. The latter’s record stood for a period of 38 years. During the same series, Zaman also became the first Pakistan batsman to score a double-ton in ODI cricket. Although Zaman could not bring his A game forward during Pakistan’s disastrous Asia Cup campaign but he was back amongst the runs in the drawn ODI series against New Zealand — where he scored back-to back half-centuries in the last two matches of the series.

Malik’s brilliance in Asia Cup

Shoaib Malik is being long termed as one of the most dependable player in the Pakistan team in the shorter formats, and time and again, he has delivered as well. In 2018, Malik was extremely impressive with the bat once again and played a key role in helping the Men in Green in getting over the line on numerous occasions. The most notable of those knocks came in the virtual knock out encounter against Afghanistan in the Super Four match during the Asia Cup, where chasing the target of 258 to stay alive in the contest, Malik scored a breath taking 51 not out off just 43 balls and took the Green Caps over the line in the final over. It was Malik’s composure which was the evident difference between both teams.

Shaheen Shah Afridi’s emergence

Pakistan cricket team is always famous for their fast-bowling resources, and it is always becoming a norm seeing a raw, young talent coming from nowhere and taking the world by surprise. This year, it was Shaheen Shah Afridi’s turn to shine for the Men in Green in the shorter formats as his pace, movement of the pitch and intelligence at such a young age was impressive for everyone to say the least. His most notable performance came in the match against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi, where the tall left-armer claimed figures of four for 38 and played an important role in guiding his team home. With such performance in conditions where there was not much on offer for pacers, Shaheen is being tipped for a bright future ahead.