After COVID-19 cases were found in the English camp, there was no doubt in my mind that Pakistan would perform well or even win the recently concluded ODI phase of the Pakistan vs England series.
But not only did the inexperienced English lineup shock most of the experts, they outclassed the more experienced and well-balanced Pakistan team.
The way the English team bowled and executed their plans against key Pakistani players was astonishing. They showed that in today’s environment, a well-thought-out and role-based cricket plan is much superior than a random plan.
The T20 leg of the series was a bit more evenly contested and Pakistani players looked more in control despite playing against more experienced and renowned English players.
Stats from the ODI series give a holistic picture regarding the performance of each team.
Pakistan Captain Babar Azam made 177 runs overall, with the highest score of 158 and an average of 59 runs per innings. He scored these runs with a strike rate of 113.46 and topped the batting charts. After that performance, James Vince, Lewis Gregory, Phil Salt, and Zack Crawley were in line with 158, 117, 104, and 97 runs respectively. This shows the dominance of English batters over Pakistani bowling.
Although Rizwan made 90 runs in this series, his average of 30 runs per innings wasn’t up to his usual standards. Fakhar Zaman, Imam ul Haq, Shadab Khan, and Sohaib Maqsood looked out of place and didn’t perform well. It’s very difficult to relate averages of 21, 19, 17 and 15 respectively with these big names.
In the bowling department, Saqib Mahmood and Brydon Carse bowled exceedingly well and grabbed nine and six wickets respectively with excellent averages of 13 and 22. Saqib especially broke the back of Pakistan’s batting line with an economy of just 4.3 runs per over.
From Pakistan, Haris Rauf and Hasan Ali also took six wickets each but their economy rate of 6.6 and 6.8 runs per over respectively was much more than the rate by their English counterparts.
Shadab Khan and Shaheen Shah Afridi just took three and two wickets respectively which is much lower than expected. Their bowling averages were 43 and 68. With 2/28 as his best bowling figure, English spinner Matt Parkinson took five wickets, with an average of 28 runs.
The ODI series concluded with England whitewashing Pakistan and maintaining a winning record in the bilateral ODI series since 1974 when Pakistan defeated England under the captaincy of Intikhab Alam.
The T20 leg of the series was more closely contested and England defeated Pakistan in the series decider by three wickets with two balls remaining.
Mohammad Rizwan emerged as the highest scorer, with 176 runs overall, having an average of 88 and a strike rate of 138. Azam, again, impressed everyone averaging 39 for his 118 runs with a strike rate of 151.
Although Fakhar Zaman, Sohaib Maqsood, and Shadab Khan maintained good strike rates of 161, 162, and 140, they failed to score big runs. They ended the series making just 58, 47, 38 runs respectively.
Liam Livingstone and Jason Roy were the real stars as far as batting in that series is concerned. They made 147, 106 runs respectively but their strike rates of 216 and 200 made the difference. They stole the initiative from Pakistan and their rapid pace of making runs remained a headache for Pakistani bowlers throughout the series.
Next up is the T20 and test series with West Indies. Although the Caribbean side is ranked eighth in the current ICC T20 rankings, their morale is high after defeating the fifth ranked Australians 4-1 just recently.
Their big guns are playing some great cricket and the youngsters are also chipping in. Lendl Simmons, Evin Lewis, Andre Russell, Chris Gayle, and Nicholas Pooran are in good batting form. On the other hand, relatively new Hayden Walsh, Sheldon Cottrell, and Obed McCoy are also bowling well.
West Indies are quite a capable and aggressive side, having two T20 World Cup wins in their bag and some of the most explosive limited-overs cricket batsmen in their ranks. Pakistan has an uphill task of defeating the West Indies in their backyard.
As the T20 World Cup is fast approaching, we don’t have much margin to test our bench strength. We should stick to our best combination now and see how we perform.
Khurram Siddiqi is a senior media professional and member of staff. He writes about sports and politics. He tweets as @siddiqi__