4 men protecting the boundary on the on side yet he seems to find the fence consistently and consequently, ways to win it, one way or another. It seems like everything Pakistan win recently is just South of brilliance from Fakhar Zaman at the top of the order, something Pakistan had missed so dearly since losing another elegant left hander at the top of the order, Nasir Jamshed, to form and/or fitness. From the historic 2017 Champions Trophy win against India, to this record T20I chase for Pakistan, it seems as though Fakhar is single handedly winning it all for the men in green. Lucky is the captain, Sarfaraz Ahmed, to house such a determined team that looks to win everything he captains. With his star batsman praising the criticism from his captain and deeming it a motivation to do better as the results so blatantly show, seems like a Saifi push was just what was needed to steer the team into the right direction.
2 decades in and beating Australia in finals has still proved to be a quest as big and unrealistic as getting Punter out on the short ball; and with a batting as notoriously fragile as Pakistan’s, especially while chasing, you would feel it’s a veteran pacer going up against him, who in his best days couldn’t get one over the shoulder of a tail ender without being treated for a boundary or two before being taken out of the attack. Might not be the 2-time World Cup winning captain himself, but the side that he left a few years ago has definitely let one slip, or to put it more accurately, has had one snatched from its jaws.
Winning the first game as easy as they did, Australia would be looking around for hidden cameras as if they were on a reality show getting hustled by the number 1 T20 side of the world. 9th consecutive series win in T20Is, 10 consecutive T20I wins while chasing, records are tumbling and Pakistan are making history in the format that they’d made famous very early on at the format’s infancy. Cruising while chasing high totals, this is something unthought-of in the history of the country, even after the quick-fire 300 and the mammoth 378 chases against the Lankan lions, you would expect the unexpected from the predictably unpredictable side. Batting is expected to be as unstable as ever yet Pakistan in recent times have just somehow found that one magic inning and partnership to guide them over the line in recent years.
There’s just something about left handed batsmen for Pakistan that reel in the big fish, or maybe it’s just the rarity and aesthetic bias; 278 runs in 5 matches with three 50’s, 28 runs behind the Aussie captain who’s highest was the highest in International T20s, 78 runs more than the second highest of the tournament and 81 runs more than Fakhar’s 91 today which itself is the highest individual score for Pakistan in T20I run chases. As dominating and easy as batting was made to look, you almost forget that they had to build an inning while being 2 down in the first over.
A sight of modern cricket; the way out of pressure situations seems to be to hit your way out; captain Sarfaraz did just that with Fakhar, taking on the leading role before being caught napping owing to brilliant work by Jhye Richardson running down to deep fine leg from where, Fakhar would take on the role of the brute and smashing the ball to all parks helping Pakistan cruise to their highest chase in International T20s, their first over 180. Fakhar seems to have provided Pakistan the luxury of being able to hit their way out of trouble and with some stability, perfectly contrasting his partner of the 100 run stand, Shoaib Malik who made it certain that the all-important 4th wicket didn’t tumble early on.
Number 1 ranked T20I side yet, they weren’t the favourites coming into the series. There weren’t as many doubts on the Pakistani side as there were expectations from this Aussie side, nearly the same side that earlier this year has made chasing New Zealand’s 242 look like a cakewalk, winning all five of their matches in the tri series against England and hosts New Zealand. Their philosophy of making a team with the top performers of the BBL had paid of exceptionally well. What went wrong? Perhaps too much form in the top order, not giving the middle order enough time to set in, not giving the management the right combination for the batting order. Pakistan were able to expose that, taking 6 wickets in the last five overs, keeping Australia 15-20 runs short of what they would have wanted with the platform provided.
Maxwell who had been their best batsman in the last couple of years couldn’t make an impact in the series, continuing the bad patch shown in the IPL this year, the rest of the middle order was quite inexperienced and hadn’t had a lot of hits in the series and with the two most experienced batsmen and the inning anchor D’Arcy Short back in the hut, the Pakistani bowlers lived up to their reputation with some excellent work, changing their pace and bowling right in the block hole. To be fair, the hadn’t had a lot of luck at the start of the inning with quite a few top edges going for sixes, a couple of half chances not being taken and some brilliant batting by the openers. It wasn’t the best days in the field for the side we’ve seen improve drastically on the field but as we saw in the Champions Trophy final, they don’t have to get everything right to get what they want; they can come from behind and take what they feel belongs, even if their undoing is of their own creating.
Whether Pakistan would win or not might basically be a question of how well they play against themselves on any given day buy it is a testament to how dangerous and unpredictable this side is. 9 consecutive series wins, consistency in batting, bowling and fielding whether chasing or defending, you’d think is enough to shake the dreaded titles off this side but one thing is for certain, a lot of credit is due on the captain, coach and management who’ve taken this side a long way; wins in the backyards of England, the then number 1 ranked side New Zealand and world champions West Indies. The thing you love most about this side is the element of uncertainty; not knowing what they’re going to do, for as human nature demands, the knowledge of the unknown which makes the process all the more interesting.
A few ODIs in the conquered land before they head to the Proteas’ playground, Sarfaraz would be looking to build as much momentum as possible ahead of the 3-test series, no one can predict what this side is going to do, just that we may be in for some raw entertainment from this side going forward. f
Shawaz Lodhi is a freelance writer and a sports freak.