Improper planning and execution, middle-order frailties hurt Pakistan 

South Africa players celebrate their victory over Pakistan on Sunday. © ICC

Just before the T20 World Cup started there were a lot of questions raised on the selection of the squad – especially former skipper Sana Mir’s exclusion. With a blend of youth and experience, Pakistan landed in Australia with an aim to prove the critics wrong who have questioned the teams’ selection. And they were bang on straightaway.

Placed in Group B with the likes of former champions England and West Indies, and South Africa, it was tough making way for a passage into the semifinals. But they turned on the tables defeating 2016 champions West Indies in their opener by eight wickets – a result which opened up the group.

Many thought that Pakistan are here to make a statement, but their losses in the next two games against England and South Africa dashed all those hopes. And in both these matches batting let them down — especially the middle order.

“I think (in the) batting department, we need to understand what is the best time to accelerate? I think we got a bit late in accelerating, though it was a much-improved performance from the girls,” stand-in-skipper Javeria Khan said after their loss against South Africa on Sunday (March 1).

Chasing South Africa’s 136, Pakistan got off to the worst of starts losing three quick wickets early with just 26 runs on the board. Lagging behind the required run-rate, Javeria started playing her shots using her feet against the Windies’ spinners. But luck wasn’t on her side as the second-most experienced player in the side was run out in the most unlikely fashion.

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Omaima Sohail and Sidra Nawaz also came and went – in the same way they did against England giving little workload to the scorers. The former was run out inside the power play, going for a non-existent run, while Nida Dar misjudged the bounce on the track, getting trapped in front while attempting a pull. Although Aliya Riaz fought her heart out towards the end, it was too late by then. 

“It’s the most important factor we need to realize what needs to be done according to the situation. I think we got to it a bit late, and as more matches go, we’ll play, for sure after this display, they’ll understand the fact that, inshallah, it will be better in the future,” Javeria added.

Riaz was successful against both South Africa and England coming down the order scoring 39 not out and 41 not out respectively. Would Pakistan have been benefited had the think-tank decided to send Riaz up the order before Dar and Sohail?

Pakistan celebrate a wicket. © ICC

Similarly against England, Pakistan were off to a slow start and played far too many shots across the line and were guilty of gifting wickets, especially against the spinners. It was such a pathetic performance from the middle-order that none of them could get into double digits. “We chose wrong balls to play the shots, we weren’t able to execute our shots in pressure moments. We could have chased this down if our shot selection was better,” Javeria said after the England match.

While Diana Baig has been exceptional with the ball early – she gave early breakthroughs in the power plays in all the three games – Pakistan have failed to contain runs in the death overs. They conceded 43 runs in the last five overs against England, while on Sunday they gave away 45 in the last four overs against the Proteas.    

“Really disappointed today. It was a much-improved performance by the girls in the initial 16 overs. It was really good. In the last four overs of the bowling, I think we lagged behind. We were not up to the plans. We didn’t execute our plans well, and the fielding lost a little bit,” admitted Javeria, who is among the four players to have played over 100 T20Is for Pakistan.

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“We slightly got away from the plans, and when there is no fielder, then you can’t stop the boundary. So where the fielders were placed, I think bowlers were not able to bowl according to field setting and I think we should have restricted them under 110, no more than that,” she said.

Javeria also stated that losing Bismah due to thumb injury was a big setback for the girls. “I think it was really disappointing,” she said. “We all knew what this World Cup meant to her, and it was disappointing to see her like this. The girls were quite different today and unlucky we weren’t able to give her the win and Pakistan the win. I’m sure she’ll be back soon, and we all wish her a speedy recovery.”

Although it is true that Pakistan have enough experience in the squad to get through tough situations, it looked like somewhere they missed Mir’s inputs – after all the former skipper had played all the T20 World Cups for her country till the current one and knew what it takes in crunch situations in such events. With England also winning against West Indies, Pakistan are out of contention for the semis but would like to end their campaign on a high when they face Thailand in their last group encounter on Tuesday (March 3).