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Pakistani team played as a team and rejoiced as a team after their clean-sweep victory
It was a hope, a wish and a desire among all Pakistani to see Pakistan win against the Number 1 side in the world, England. That desire did come true for every Pakistani but the manner in which it has come true is jaw-droppingly amazing because Pakistan has gone on to absolutely blow away the top side in the world, winning the series by an eye-popping scoreline of 3-0.
In our last article (Wizardry of Pakistan) we had talked about how professional and clinical Pakistan had been in that 1st Test match which they finished inside 3 days. Here though, things were a little different where we saw Pakistan being bundled out for 99 on the very first day of the Test match and then there were moments where Pakistanis dropped catches as well as, like always, made some horrendous calls while using the DRS. The match was far from perfect, but the reason why we highlight the pitfalls is partly because the scoreline won't suggest anything like this and partly because it didn't make much of a difference to the result of the match as England was mentally scarred to such an extent where they weren't even able to capitalise on Pakistan's mistakes. However, a good cricketing brain that the Pakistani captain Misbah-ul-Haq possesses, it was heartening to listen to him during the post-match presentation that they need to improve in a lot of departments, which means the captain won't allow his team to sit back and relax on this richly deserved performance.
The result also opened a flood-gates of records, while one team basks under the glory of breaking records set in a time as old as 1907, the other team (England) was breaking its own record for the worse, as they averaged the lowest per wicket since 1888.
And if records are to be kept aside to be maintained by statisticians, then cricket-lovers would admit that this was a series was touted as an acid test for both teams. England had retained the Ashes in the summer of 2010/11 in Australia and then went on to beat Sri Lanka and India by hefty margins but were desperate to prove a point about their ability to play in sub-continental conditions which, to date, has been a bit of a nemesis for them. On the other hand, the Pakistan team hadn't lost a test series since drawing a series against South Africa in 2010, but had faced teams like New Zealand, Zimbabwe, West Indies and Bangladesh during the period that raised questions over their achievement. The series in every possible sense was getting quietly hyped up as there was a lot to look forward to in a span of roughly three weeks of unadulterated battle of nerves, skills, patience and talent. And by the end of the series, it seems as if only one team turned up to hold their nerves, exhibit their skills, play patiently and show their talent to the world, while the other team was left groping in the dark in front of a team that was heads and shoulders above them, especially in the bowling department.
For years, Pakistan had won matches on the back of some brilliant performances by the likes of Fazal Mehmood, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. That brought a lot of joy among cricket-lovers as the imminent demise of the batsman's stay on the crease was fast and quick. Now though, it is more of a slow and painful death where a trap is set for a batsman to walk and fall into it. It really was an excruciatingly tardy yet highly efficient show from Saeed Ajmal and his partner-in-crime, Abdur Rehman who has certainly grown in stature in a period of two back-to-back series. The mesmerising show that was put up by Pakistani bowlers, especially by the duo of Ajmal and Rehman sharing 43 of the fallen 60 wickets, was to further the point that it is bowling, and bowling only that can win you matches in the longest version of the game. Umar Gul deserves a special mention for putting his heart and body into every spell that he was able to eke out between the two main spinners as he struck gold whenever the captain put faith him. It speaks volume of Pakistani bowlers' talent and level of skill as only 3 bowlers shared among themselves 54 wickets of the total 60 wickets on pitches that were deemed as dead and docile as a dead leaf and against a team that made seemingly better ranked than Pakistan teams sweat for wickets.
The credit for this turn-around squarely goes to Misbah-ul-Haq who has brought stability and more importantly sanity to proceedings, who kept controversies away from the team and better discipline was infused that is being noted by all. As a result of all this, it allowed the team to gel as a unit – which is a rarity in Pakistani cricket – and perform consistently, an aspect they obviously understood with some difficulty in the past.
If we are honest, the team is a far cry from what we have seen in the past from Pakistan cricket, where fast bowlers blew away batting lineups in a jiffy and batsmen blasted their way to centuries or just imploded like a controlled demolition job. This team is different and it approaches the game differently, where slow and steady is the order of the day. It might not necessarily be pretty to look at and neither is it too exciting in an age where centuries are made in a little matter of a session. But as long as Misbah and company rack up wins and keep feuds and blowups away from their dressing room, we can be sure that this team can be world-beaters. They have the discipline, and they have the talent. They have the hunger and they have a captain to keep their heads straight. The combination is right, the equation is favourable. Now is the time to make it count.
What was heartening to see most was the ruthlessness with which the team went about their business. There was a real sense in Pakistan to complete the job thoroughly as anything less than 3-0 would not be acceptable. Fortunately, the team also went into every test thinking about a win. Hence the 3-0 scoreline, a rare sight in Pakistan cricket. Well played boys, you really have made us proud!