ISLAMABAD - Green shirts middle order batting failure gifted victory to Sri Lanka in the inaugural match of the Asia Cup played at Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium, Fatullah.
Pakistan team was well on course for landslide victory when Umar Akmal and skipper Misbah were at the crease. AT that time, Sri Lankans were looking desperate, but the entire situation changed in one over of Malinga, who before that failed to pick even a single wicket in his first spell. Both Umar and Misbah went back to pavilion in the same over, which signaled end of Pakistan team’s resistance.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PSB) committed a huge blunder by excluding Younus Khan from the squad. Past greats, including Mohsin Hasan Khan, had expressed reservations over Younus’ exclusion and warned that Pakistan had to pay dearly for it and the same was happened. Now Pakistan players are under tight situation and they have to win remaining matches to stay alive in the event, otherwise, they have to pack their bags for early return. Pakistan's nemeses Sangakkara once again played an important knock along with centurion Thirimanne. Their 161-run second-wicket stand laid the foundation of a huge total, but Pakistani bowlers did manage to pull things back and restricted them to 296. Umar Gul once again was the pick of the bowlers while Afridi also bowled well.
Pakistan team selection was once again very questionable. Anwar Ali is being long ignored despite playing match-winning knocks. Instead of going with Bilawal Bhatti, the selectors should have given chance to Anwar. Afridi has long developed habit of throwing away his wicket when it matters the most.
The way Umar Akmal and Misbah were out in same over was also looked dubious. The PCB must have to closely monitor the situation, as Pakistan team had long history of throwing matches, fall of six wickets with less than 50 runs required for victory indicate something fishy fishy. Moin Khan is well-known for fixing matches and he had accepted role of fixing Lahore Badshah matches during Indian Cricket League (ICL). Moin’s appointment as head coach was very questionable and now results like this would further raise eye brows. Time is ripe when the PCB must root out corrupt elements.
Pakistan opening once again let the team down. Sharjeel Khan flopped miserably while Ahmed Shahzad and Hafeez also went cheaply. But it was fifth-wicket stand between Umar Akmal and Misbah, who almost took green shirts home but poor and casual shot selection cost them their wickets. Malinga once again saved the day for Sri Lanka with exceptional performance getting 5-52.
All is not lost yet as Pakistan will face minnows Afghanistan, who will make debut in the event at the same venue today (Thursday). Pakistan must be aware of the real threat the Afghan team could pose to them. Any leniency in this regard can cost green shirts dearly.
Zaheer Abbas is very much available for the team so the players should take full advantage of his presence and take batting tips from him because Zaheer can resolve the team’s batting woes. All the tall claims made by PCB regarding players’ exceptional preparations for Asia Cup was badly exposed. Opening and middle order have to perform, if the team wants to stay alive in the event.