Pakistan made it to the final of the 2022 Asia Cup but the team management needs to answer some tough questions before taking that flight to Australia for the T20 World Cup. The Men in Green were outclassed by Sri Lanka in the grand finale on Sunday (September 11) despite winning the all-important toss in Dubai.
At 58 for 5, Pakistan had Sri Lanka on the mat, but Bhanuka Rajapaksa (45-ball 71*) and Wanindu Hasaranga (21-ball 36) staged a stunning comeback in the second half of the first innings and propelled their team to a total of 170. You always win in Dubai if your team is batting second but Pakistan simply didn’t show enough intent in the run-chase and fell 23 runs short of the total.
Mohammad Rizwan scored 55 runs but wasted 49 deliveries. Iftikhar Ahmed (31-ball 32) too batted with a strike rate of just over 100 and their partnership made things extremely difficult for the lower-middle order. Wicketkeeper-batter Rizwan was dismissed in the 17th over, leaving the rest of the batters to score 61 off 23 deliveries. Rizwan ended this competition as the leading run-scorer, managing 281 runs in six innings, but did that at a mediocre strike rate of 117.57.
"Every team and player has their own style and methods. The way we played, we reached semi-finals of the T20 World Cup last year, we got to the final of an Asia Cup here. Evidence suggests you're doing something right to get here," Pakistan head coach Saqlain Mushtaq was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo.
"It's not compulsory that you do what the rest of the world is doing (showing more intent with the bat). We'd rather focus on the small things we aren't doing right instead of looking at what others are doing. His andaaz (method) is not bad."
Pakistan would now also be worried about their skipper Babar Azam’s form. The right-hander had a horrible tournament, scoring only 68 runs in six innings at a strike rate of 107.93. "I said it earlier too, if someone looks at his batting, you'd just say he's unlucky, especially the way he's getting out," Saqlain said.
"It's just a patch. If you look at the rankings, he's top in T20Is (No. 2, behind Rizwan) and in ODIs. It's just been bad luck. The way he's training and playing it's amazing. His work ethic is top-notch. I don't need to say more. I hope Allah saves him from the buri nazar (evil eye)."
Talking about the opening combination of Babar and Rizwan, who have been criticised for not showing enough intent in the first six overs, Saqlain said: "You need to show faith, trust and belief. If you keep shuffling, it sends a message that you don't trust them.
“After the second match itself, there was chatter about our batting shuffle. I don't follow social media, but you do hear the murmurs. You need to give time. If you keep shuffling, how will you know? Whatever we did, it's not good to shuffle a lot. It sends a wrong message."
Prior to this game, the Dubai International Stadium had hosted 21 T20Is since 2021 and 18 of those were won by the side batting second. Sri Lanka even got the better of Pakistan in the Super-Four stage and Saqlain didn't shy away from heaping heavy praise on Sri Lanka and Rajapaksa.
"If you're a champion team, you need to be a champion irrespective of whether it's first innings or second innings. In the previous game, they asked us to bat first and won. In this game, we batted second and they still won. The way they played in both games, it's well-deserved.
"The way they played today, we played just nine overs of good cricket. After that they dominated for 31 overs in all aspects. They have been playing brilliant cricket; credit goes to all the boys. Looks like they are on top of the world. The way they played against India and got momentum against Afghanistan, a lot of praise for all of them.
"I'll credit the Sri Lankans. We'd broken their backbone in the first nine overs, but the way Rajapaksa played, and the others rallied around him, no praise is enough. I'm sure it should be the best innings of his life. The way he lifted them, hats off."