ISLAMABAD - Bowlers and batsmen collective efforts helped Pakistan win the second Test against England and now the green caps need to go all guns blazing in the third and last Test to sweep the series 2-0.
It was superb bowling and batting display by the green caps, who were down and out in the first Test and cricket pundits had written their chances off in the second Test well before start of the match, but hats off to captain Misbah Ul Haq and company, who stood firm and played like lions to show the cricket world that Pakistan is a cricket reality and no one can doubt their abilities and write them off.
Misbah entered the second Test with new belief knowing anything less than victory would all but end his illustrious career, as critics wanted his head. All his past records and wonderful winning ratio was put behind, but Misbah not only made some bold decisions in the match but also led the team from front. He batted brilliantly and scored century in the first innings and than 87 in the second innings, while Younus Khan also further enhanced his reputation as number one batsman of the country and backbone of Pakistan batting. His masterful knocks in both the innings laid the foundation of green caps in tremendous position.
English batsmen must blame themselves, as after enjoying wonderful position in the first innings, they just simply threw it away. It was, no doubt, wonderful bowling display by Wahab Riaz, who, after world cup, looked at his peak, was almost unplayable and rocked English batting with his accurate bowling. Yasir Shah showed why Pakistan team relies heavily on his bowling, and, therefore, he was badly missed during the first Test. English press described Yasir as ineffective against English batting, but the leg spinner shut their mouths with his magical bowling. It was quite surprising that despite taking eight wickets in the match, Yasir was not declared player of the match. Although Wahab did bowl extremely well, but it was Yasir, who rattled English batting.
Rashid and Wood almost denied Pakistan of well-deserving victory, as both survived 29.2 overs before the resistance finally came to an end, when Wood was caught at slips by Hafeez off the bowling of Zulfiqar Babar, who had to face a lot of criticism, reasons best known to illiterate cricket pundits, who were against his selection in the playing XI and termed him too old for Test cricket. But, in fact, Zulfiqar bowled superbly and played key role in the team’s triumph as he removed top 3 English batsmen at crucial stage and also provided much-needed breakthrough by breaking strong partnership of Wood and Rashid. Yasir just killed off the game as he removed last man Rashid with only six overs or so left in the day’s play.
Imran Khan bowled well in both the innings, but Pakistan should have asked for another regular spinner. Malik looked completely off color in the entire match, as after playing so well in the first Test, he failed miserably in the second Test and also failed to excel with the leatherm. He must understand that his inclusion in the playing XI depends on his all-round performance. Shan Masood also needs to make his act together or else he has to face an axe.
Now the first task of taking 1-0 lead in the series is achieved and the green caps must not relax and allow England team space, as they are more than capable of bouncing back. They have players, who can single-handedly turn the entire complexion of the match within no time. Misbah must enter the last match with all guns blazing and with positive and winning mentality. Any leniency on part of green caps can cost them dearly. Pakistan top order including Malik has to deliver, while bowlers must continue good work.
The series is very much in Pakistan cricket team’s grasp. Yasir has shown the world, he is a match winner and proven stuff, as he has taken a whopping 69 wickets in only 11 Tests. Misbah must utilize Yasir carefully and should not put extra burden on him. He has just recovered from injury, so the team can't afford his injury again. Pakistan must not let England off the hook and go all-out attacking in the third Test.