@Yas_Wisden 4 minute read
Pakistan’s defeat to Zimbabwe leaves one of the tournament favourites on the brink of an early exit.
Babar Azam’s team succumbed to their second consecutive last ball defeat as Zimbabwe successfully defended 130 against a side who came within an over of qualifying for last year’s T20 World Cup final.
So, what went wrong for Pakistan as they fell to a Zimbabwe side competing in their first major ICC even in six years?
Shaheen Afridi not quite at 100 per cent
The final figures for Pakistan’s talismanic left-arm quick were more than respectable. His four overs, although wicketless, only cost his side 29 runs – a final economy rate of marginally above seven runs per over. But it would be a stretch to say that Afridi is yet back to his ferocious best. Afridi missed the three months leading into the tournament with a knee injury and aside from two warm-up outings came into the T20 World Cup cold. Understandably, it is taking him some time to get back to his absolute best – CricViz data showed that his average pace was down from where it was at the 2021 T20 World Cup. Had Shaheen been at his very best and those new ball breakthroughs we’re so accustomed to seeing, the final outcome may have been different.
First eight balls
Zimbabwe got off to a flier. They took 22 runs off the first eight balls of their innings, 14 off Shaheen’s first over as he searched for swing without finding any and then eight off Naseem Shah’s first two deliveries. Zimbabwe would only score a further 108 runs from the following 112 deliveries. In the context of a low scoring game, that blistering start, made possible by loose new ball bowling, stands out even more.
Losing Babar and Rizwan early
Pakistan’s reliance on their opening pair is well established. When Babar and Rizwan do well, Pakistan generally fare well, too. Rizwan has passed fifty 23 times in T20I cricket, only five times has he brought up a half-century and Pakistan have lost. For all the criticism around their sluggish starts, they are the masters of the low run chase. That Zimbabwe could extract both of them in the powerplay was pivotal to their victory.
Pakistan’s misfiring middle order
For varying reasons, none of Pakistan’s Nos. 3-5 that took them to the semi-finals of last year’s T20 World Cup – Fakhar Zaman, Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez – are currently in the Pakistan middle order. For all of 2022, it has become an increasingly worrying problem for Pakistan and the lack of consistency and firepower in the middle hurt them again against Zimbabwe. Of the eight Pakistanis to bat between three and five in men’s T20Is this year, only Shan Masood (who strikes at under 125) and Mohammad Nawaz (who is occasionally promoted to exploit favourable match-ups) average more than 23 batting between three and five. Against Zimbabwe, Iftikhar Ahmed once more fell cheaply, Shadab Khan holed out at long off a delivery after hitting Sikandar Raza for six when the run rate was well within Pakistan’s control and Haider Ali continued his miserable run with the bat with a first ball duck – after a promising start to his international career, Haider now averages 18.48 in T20I cricket. It was no great surprise that after Zimbabwe claimed the early wickets of Babar and Rizwan that they were able to prevail.
General vulnerability against bounce exacerbated by Australian pitches
Australian pitches offer pace and bounce in abundance and the worries hanging over Pakistan’s batting line up have been exacerbated by the pitches that they have encountered. As the below statistic demonstrates, Pakistan’s batting line-up have struggled against the extra bounce Down Under.
Pakistan Strike Rate v pace in this World Cup
Balls bouncing above stump height: 84
Balls bouncing stump height: 158
These two matches have brutally exposed Pakistan’s issues against bounce.#T20WorldCup
— Freddie Wilde (@fwildecricket) October 27, 2022
Not closing the game out
Despite Zimbabwe having two excellent powerplays and pegging Pakistan back with Sikandar Raza’s double strike of Shadab and Haider, Pakistan still engineered their way to needing just three runs off the final three balls of the game – an equation where you’d back the batting side more times than not. Brad Evans was superb at the death – off the fourth ball of the final over, he beat Mohammad Nawaz for pace and one ball later had the Pakistan all-rounder caught in the ring leaving Shaheen Afridi needing three off the last ball. In two balls, the game had swung dramatically in favour of Evans and Zimbabwe. For that they deserve credit but Pakistan will also rue not closing the game out from an eminently winnable position.
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