Monday, September 5, 2016

There is still hope for Pakistan's team in Greens...

A couple of days ago, I got a whatsapp message that said:

"Aik hotay hain dheet log. Kuch hotay hain bahut zaada dheet log. Aur phir woh jo 5th ODI ka intezaar kar rahe hain"

I have rarely seen a more apt message on the eve of a Pakistan ODI.

A message that describes me, and some others I know, to the T!

Given the appalling state of Pakistan's ODI cricket team over the past 5 years, it is left with very few fans. Those few might have given up on Pakistan's colored clothing following the mauling at the hands of England in the first four ODIs.

Yet, some fools, like myself, remained with desperate hopes of avoiding a whitewash.

That hope soon faded away when first Jason Roy and later Ben Stokes took the Pakistan bowlers apart and helped England set up a target of just over 300.

Obviously a target beyond Pakistan.

But no, we will still watch! Because we love the Greens.

Hopes further went down the drain with Sharjeel's wicket, and then were totally washed away when Babar Azam and Azhar Ali went in quick succession.

Babar Azam, for as good as he looks while at the crease, is a constant reminder of Umar Akmal. The same talent, the same range of strokes, the same potential, and the same manner of getting out. Khandaani aadat hai. The only thing missing is that sad bandar face on losing his wicket.

Azhar Ali has got to get full marks for trying. Man he tries hard. But poor guy must realize that aggression is just not his game. He is like that bechara student who studies all day and night before an exam, studies more than anyone else in his class, but still does not get enough marks for a ranking to boast about.

I feel sorry for him. If I were him, I would probably shed tears while at the crease.

70 odd on the board. 3 wickets down. 220 odd more to go. Game over?

Haan pretty much, lekin hum phir bhi dekhenge, kyun ke hum hain Pakistani !

As if realizing the desperation among Pakistanis at the ground and around the world, something dawned on Shoaib Malik and Sarfaraz Ahmed.

All of a sudden, runs began to flow.

The first or second ball of every over started to disappear for a boundary.

Singles and twos started to come really easily.

For the first time in years we were watching two Pakistani batsmen in green clothing dominating proceedings in the middle overs of an ODI.

It was pure magic for about 24 overs.

Sarfaraz and Malik plundered England's bowlers and led Pakistan's march towards an unlikely target of 302.

Sarfaraz in particular was brutal and his 90 off 73 balls was one of the best ODI innings by a Pakistan batsman that I have witnessed in recent times. Probably the best one since Abdul Razzaq's mad assault on South Africa in Abu Dhabi.

Sarfaraz has been one batsman that has shown some modern day ODI intelligence, which has largely been  missing among the men in Green.

Shoaib Malik also played a gem. He started slowly but paced his innings beautifully and finally got some runs under his belt.

I truly believe that playing at number 4 made all the difference. Malik has always been a different, and more successful, batsman when playing at 3 or 4. As compared to when he plays at 6 or 7. I fail to understand why so many captains have wasted Malik lower down the order.

Clearly he belongs in the top order and history will show you how good a batsman he has been for Pakistan in the past when batting in the top 4.

Malik and Sarfaraz' partnership, which amounted to 163 runs off only 143 deliveries, was such a treat to watch. I have not enjoyed Pakistan's ODI batting as much as I did last night, in a long long time.

Finally Pakistan showed that they can play ODI cricket in the modern times.

I had forgotten that they could.

Rarely do we get to see Pakistan successfully chase 300 in an ODI.

It is so rare that Pakistan's test team had done it more times than their ODI team in the past 5 years!

This makes last night's victory even more special.

It was only the 7th time that Pakistan chased a target of 300 or more.

And it was the first time they did it outside Asia.

It was also the first time they did it against a non Asian team.

All this tells me there is still hope.

There is still hope that Pakistan can play modern day ODI cricket. There is still hope that we can compete in green clothing.

A lot may have to change, but for now, I am still cherishing last night's win and the awesome chase thanks to Sarfaraz and Malik.

Make your pitch on this post...

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