Often different combinations in cricket can work wonders. Whether an opening pair— with bat or ball— is altered or there is a change in the field, sometimes, something just clicks. Pakistan made some alterations against England in the third and final ODI of the series in Kuala Lumpur; changes that worked for them.
In first two ODIs, Nahida Khan and Sidra Ameen had opened the innings. Chasing mammoth totals on both occasions the pair failed to get the team off to a good start. In the first ODI, they were separated in the second over for a total of five, and in the second game, they put on 24 runs in 6.4 overs. Sidra Ameen had a terrible time, managing scores of only one and 12, while Nahida performed a tad better with a total of 44 runs in two innings.
Expectedly, with the ODI series lost, Pakistan took a different approach, making three changes to their line-up in the final game on Saturday (December 14). For starters Ameen was replaced by Kainat Hafeez, the young middle order batter, which meant Javeria Khan was pushed into the opening slot.
In overcast conditions, Pakistan were sent into bat. Javeria and Nahida walked out to face England’s two senior pros, Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole, with the new ball.
Pakistan had a plan: a strategy that saw Nahida don the hat of the aggressor, while Javeria played second fiddle. Nahida was feeding off anything slightly outside the off stump— disdainfully peppering the point and cover boundary with some powerful strokes off both front and back foot. She raced to 30 in just 27 deliveries, getting Pakistan off to a flier. Mind you, England didn’t bowl too badly, but Nahida’s positive intent seemed to catch them off guard.
There were drives through cover, cut shots, and wristy flicks— a trademark of most players from the sub-continent. Pakistan brought up their 50 in just eight overs with Nahida doing the bulk of the scoring. A change in bowlers, too, did not affect her rhythm as Natalie Sciver also was carted around the park.
At the other end, Javeria’s plan was simple: give her rampaging opening partner as much strike as possible. On the back of some wonderfully positive batting, Pakistan sailed to 96 for 0 in 20 overs— their highest ever opening stand in ODIs— before Sarah Glenn broke the stand with her first of four wickets.
Despite the collapse that followed, Pakistan had finally shown what they were truly capable of with the bat. The opening stand on Saturday had all the ingredients that they would have been looking for from the very start of the series— something that was missing from their batters early on. Only skipper Bismah Maroof was able to put some pressure back on England with two half-centuries in the series.
Early on in the series, Maroof had called for her batters to step up and try and put up more scores of substance. In the last game, the two senior pros finally stepped up, Nahida leading the way with a handy 55.
Going into the T20I series that begins on Tuesday (December 17), if anything the partnership has given Pakistan belief and hope that they can compete with and bat well (positively) against a quality England outfit. Nahida, Javeria and Bismah have shown the way. It is now for the rest of the line-up to step up.