Putting Pakistan’s 141 All Out Into Perspective

Pakistan collapsed to 141 all out in the first ODI against England, going on to lose the match by 9 wickets.

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When Pakistan lose a match as badly as they did in the first ODI against England, my default response is to laugh, sit back, and tune out of the cricket sphere. Of course, on a few occasions, it’s quite a painful experience, such as the 2017 Champions Trophy and 2019 World Cup matches against India and West Indies.

Emotions are always running high on such occasions. People have different ways of reacting to that. This usually leads to a lot of hyperbolic narratives running wild, especially on social media. Yesterday, most of them were about how bad the Pakistan team is in general, and no one was spared.

Myth #1: Pakistan is prone to being bowled out

If you said this sometime in the mid-2010s, you’d be spot on. Saying it in 2021, however, is the exact opposite, and here’s why.

Percentage of Teams’ Innings That Finished With Them All Out (2010-2017 CT)

Team

AO %

Zimbabwe

56.5%

Pakistan

43.8%

West Indies

42.9%

Average

36.9%

Bangladesh

35.4%

Sri Lanka

35.3%

Percentage of Teams’ Innings That Finished With Them All Out (2017 CT-Present)

Team

AO %

Zimbabwe

50.0%

Sri Lanka

48.6%

Bangladesh

40.4%

Afghanistan

38.3%

Ireland

37.2%

Australia

36.4%

Average

33.8%

West Indies

27.9%

New Zealand

24.5%

South Africa

22.4%

England

21.5%

India

19.0%

Pakistan

18.6%

Pakistan is currently the team least likely to be bowled out in ODIs – on an average day.

Myth #2: Pakistan is a poor batting side

The problem with this narrative is that it fails to acknowledge the change the Pakistan ODI team has undergone over the past few years. It primarily started with the Champions Trophy with Fakhar Zaman, and then later, Imam-ul-Haq entered the fray to solidify the top order.

For much of the 2010s, Pakistan was indeed a poor batting side in ODIs, among the weakest from the major Test-playing nations. That culminated in their ODI ranking dropping to #9 in 2016.

Teams' ODI Batsmen from 2010 to 2017 CT

Team

Avg

SR

South Africa

36.9

90.4

India

35.8

87.6

Australia

34.2

88.1

England

33.0

88.2

New Zealand

31.0

87.5

Sri Lanka

30.4

82.8

Pakistan

28.9

80.5

Bangladesh

27.6

78.2

West Indies

26.2

79.5

Ireland

25.3

76.5

Afghanistan

24.2

73.7

Zimbabwe

23.4

72.2

Since the 2017 Champions Trophy, Pakistan is a middling batting side in ODI cricket. England (scoring rate) and India (volume, consistency) are ahead of the others by far. Then, South Africa, Pakistan, New Zealand, and Australia all have similar numbers.

This is primarily thanks to Pakistan’s top 3 being among the most stable ones in ODI cricket. It’s a testament to how far Pakistan have come from the early 2010s that they are now shifting focus toward strike rate rather than surviving the 50 overs.

Teams’ Top 3 Batsmen in ODIs Since 2017 CT

Team

BPD

SR

India

61.7

94.6

Pakistan

55.8

87.2

Australia

51.9

89.5

South Africa

49.4

88.2

West Indies

48.5

82.8

England

46.5

101.9

New Zealand

44.8

84.6

Bangladesh

42.0

84.0

Sri Lanka

36.9

86.0

Myth #3: This was a “normal” collapse for Pakistan

There’s no point in normalizing something that isn’t normal. Yes, Pakistan has been prone to making low scores in ODI cricket. However, the collapse against England was almost unprecedented in nature, especially since it was in the first innings.

Since 2005, Pakistan have lost two first-over wickets on four occasions in ODIs. This was the only occasion in the first innings.

  • Against Sri Lanka (14 Nov 2011), Mohammad Hafeez and Younis Khan out to Lasith Malinga (chasing)
  • Against West Indies (21 Feb 2015), Nasir Jamshed and Younis Khan out to Jerome Taylor (chasing)
  • Against New Zealand (6 Jan 2018), Azhar Ali and Babar Azam out to Tim Southee (chasing)
  • Against England (8 July 2021), Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam out to Saqib Mahmood (batting first)

Saud Shakeel was dismissed with the last ball of the 7th over, making it four Pakistani dismissals in the first 7 overs. That was only the third time this happened since 2005, and once again, the first time while batting first.

  • Against Sri Lanka (24 Jan 2009). Younis, Butt, Kamran, Manzoor dismissed in 6.2 overs (chasing)
  • Against West Indies (21 Feb 2015). Jamshed, Younis, Haris, Shehzad dismissed in 3.1 overs (chasing)
  • Against England (8 Jul 2021). Imam, Babar, Rizwan, Saud dismissed in 6.6 overs (batting first)

Myth #4: Pakistan relies on its bowling to compete

When England chased down the total without much of a worry, the focus shifted to the bowling. This was, perhaps, not the best time to focus on the bowling – after the batting had barely left anything for the bowlers to defend. However, saying that Pakistan has been reliant on bowling belies the facts.

Pakistan has been a poor bowling side in ODI cricket for a very long time. They have had sporadic moments where the bowling delivered, especially in 2017 with Hasan Ali’s epic efforts, especially during the Champions Trophy. However, the last time Pakistan has sustained success with ODI bowling was the 2011-2013 era (Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Gul, Mohammad Irfan, etc.).

Year

Mat

Wkts

Ave

Econ

SR

4Ws

5Ws

2011-13

84

588

28.9

4.57

37.9

15

9

2014-16

54

329

40.0

5.46

44.0

9

4

2017

18

136

30.8

5.03

36.6

0

4

2018-

50

304

38.2

5.41

42.4

5

6

Besides Shaheen Shah Afridi, none of the bowlers can really claim to have solidified their spots in the ODI side. The good news for Pakistan is that the next ODI World Cup is still two years away. The bad news is that there are no immediate answers.

Myth #5: Franchise cricket is destroying Pakistan cricket

Of all the narratives doing the rounds on social media, this is perhaps the most cliched and hyperbolic. It is contradictory to common sense and logic. When Pakistan loses a match in such a manner, fans and even journalists tend to search for the boogeyman that they can blame. “If that boogeyman (PSL, in this case) didn’t exist, then this wouldn’t have happened.”

Rather than going into stats and numbers, let’s look at Pakistan cricket’s trajectory. After the 2010 T20 World Cup, Pakistan had a poor 5-6 years in the T20 format. The surge under Sarfaraz Ahmed and Pakistan’s resurgence in T20 cricket came after the PSL started funneling players to the T20I side. While the PSL doesn’t play a huge role in the ODI team, Pakistan’s resurgence in the past few years also came after the advent of the PSL. Hasan Ali, who gained stardom in the PSL, was eventually Man of the Tournament in Pakistan’s title-winning Champions Trophy campaign.

Pakistani players who have participated in the PSL have praised it almost unconditionally. The players who have gone through PSL into the national team always say that the PSL helped them get used to playing under pressure. They also speak of the impact of sharing dressing rooms with international cricketers. Hasan Ali only just recently spoke about this, saying that the PSL undoubtedly made his transition to international cricket a lot easier than it may have been otherwise.

People often blame franchise cricket for funneling “bits and pieces” cricketers to the national team when it comes to selection. This is essentially slang for lower-order batsmen and all-rounders. However, worrying about the output of your lower-order on a day where you lose 4 wickets in 7 overs just means that you were expecting a miracle. There are only a few instances in history of such events taking place.

Teams are picked based on the average scenario where a lower-order batsman or all-rounder will be required to up the ante toward the death of the innings rather than build a collapsing innings from scratch and take the team to a winning total. And while Pakistan’s middle and lower-order batting has been struggling of late, the answers are, once again, not straightforward. From Pakistan’s point of view, it’s great that they have two years to work on the weaknesses before the next ODI World Cup.

Conclusion

Everything points toward Pakistan’s poor display in the first ODI against England being a one-off. Any team can have a bad match. Even India, one of the finest Test teams in recent times, were bundled out for 36 by Australia in a Test match. Yes, with Pakistan, the ‘mercurial’ aspect remains (to a smaller extent), and they will sometimes collapse in a heap or put up an otherworldly performance out of the blue.

When it comes to the larger question of whether Pakistan is a good ODI team, the answer is more complex. How Babar Azam’s side develops in the next two years will show us where we really stand. But when it comes to the myths discussed here, let’s be clear. Pakistan isn’t prone to being bowled out or a poor batting side. Neither is franchise cricket destroying Pakistan cricket.

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4 comments
Fawad A.Khan
13 Jul, 2021

Great rebuttal to the journalist mafia.

Salman Butt
11 Jul, 2021

Yeh kese ghatiya stats Hain? Yeh tau mere agenda ko suit hi nahi kartay? Ab mujhe baghair research karay Kuch bolna paray ga Apne channel par.

Mohammad Khan
10 Jul, 2021

Excellent write-up!.

Sheraz Aslam
10 Jul, 2021

Outstanding effort 👍😊.