Dismissing lower order a never-ending dilemma

Since its admission in international cricket, Pakistan remains competitive and achieved many historical victories very early in its cricketing history.

Although Pakistan achieved many laurels and surprised many analysts with its performance on many occasion but Pakistan’s history is ripe with incidents where Pakistan slice through the top order of their opponents but failed to dislodge the lower order which score crucial runs to turn the tide upside down.

The most recent incident where lower order denies Pakistan happened in the first test of Pakistan-SriLanka test series being played at Abu Dhabi. Srilanka lost 8 wickets for 125 runs and it was expected that Pakistan will pick the remaining wickets soon but Pakistan failed to pick up the remaining wickets soon and allow the opposition to score more than 80 runs. These runs scored by SriLanka were very crucial and helped the islanders cause of drawing the test match

Pakistan in early 2013 visited South Africa where the team was thrashed badly and suffer the ignominy of losing all three test matches of the series. In that series, Pakistan played very well in the second match of the series played at Cape Town. Pakistan remains well ahead of the opponent for most part of the match but batting collapse in 2nd innings cost them the match. In this match also, Pakistan was well on course of a huge first innings lead when South Africa in reply to Pakistan’s first innings score  of 357 was struggling 7 for 210. Team after taking 7th wicket of their opponents relaxed and allowed the opponent an opportunity to make a comeback. Robin Peterson and Philander gleefully accepted the opportunity presented to them and form a massive partnership of ……… runs. This partnership narrow down the gap between the first innings score of both teams and Pakistan get a meager lead of only 37 runs. Had Pakistan prevented this 8th wicket partnership and able to get a sizeable first innings lead, they in my view will surely win the test match regardless of the 2nd innings batting collapse.

A heartbreaking defeat Pakistan suffer because of lower order Partnership was  in Sydney in 2010 where Michael Hussy and Peter Siddle stand like rock of Gibraltar in front of Pakistan’s bowling line up and from a seemingly hopeless situation bring their team to a position of strength which ultimately turned out to be a victorious position.

At the end of 3rd day of this test, Australia was only 20 Runs ahead of Pakistan and already lost 8 wickets. Michael Hussy was the only recognized batsman left and along with him was Peter Sidle who was not a capable batsman. Pakistan not won a test against Australia for more than 14 years and it was very much expected that on 4th morning it will just be a formality and Pakistan will break its victory drought against Australia in style. I wake up right on time to start following the match from the first ball of the day hoping to see Pakistan’s march towards victory which was masterly halted by Hussey and Siddle in their 9th wicket Partnership. Pakistan’s wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal dropped Hussey five times during this innings and Australia due to this brilliant Partnership able to set a decent target. Pakistan required a nominal score to win the match but the scars put on players mind have shaken the confidence of whole team and after dominating the test match for three days, Pakistan end up losing the match after tea time on the 4th day. Pakistan’s sporting history had many black days and 6th February, 2010 was also a black day of country’s sporting history

In this list I also want to include the  8th wicket partnership formed by Winston Benjamin and Jeffry Dujjon against Pakistan during the 3rd test of 1987 series. Their partnership   snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and deprived Pakistan a rare opportunity of winning a series in West Indies.

Although history is filled with incidents where lower order batsman scored heavily but in my view these incidents of lower order scoring crucial runs happened with Pakistan more than any other test playing nations. One reason that lower order scored heavily against Pakistan is that our bowlers and fielders seems to get relaxed after picking up 6th or 7th wicket. Their intensity level goes down and everybody started thinking ahead of the game rather than concentrating on the job in hand. The drop in intensity level allows opponents to form a partnership which put undue pressure on Pakistan.

 I hope that team management able to inculcate a sense of professionalism and responsibility in the players and help develop killer instincts so that in future late order batsman did not deprive us of hard earned victories.

This piece is originally published on Cricnama, Pakistan’s only bilingual blog 

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