Pakistan’s performance in the final warm up game against England which we won by four wickets with seven balls to spare, was heartening. England are a good side and although they are having a few problems with their batting, their seam attack is as good as anybody’s.
Prior to this, although we had won the practice match against Bangladesh too, the close nature of the contest given the strength of the opposition was rather less than satisfying. In fact, Bangladesh, who at one stage were 184 for 2, should have got much more than the 246 they ended up with. Had they got another 15 or 20 runs, Pakistan might not have come out with the result that we did.
Pakistan did excellently to restrict England to 250, thanks largely to Yasir Shah and Sohail Khan. With two top wickets in the space of four deliveries to reduce England from 135 for 2 to 135 for 4, Yasir changed the complexion of the game entirely. From then on the Pakistan bowlers retained control all through the England innings with some excellent death bowling by Sohail Khan. The batting, once again, owed its success in chasing down the target largely to the efforts of captain Misbah ul Haq and Umar Akmal. Both these players have performed consistently and one hopes that they carry their excellent form into the World Cup.
Yet, encouraging as the result was, it would be wrong to think that Pakistan does not have serious problems and the most obvious is the one with the top order. For the fifth time in six matches, the top order failed and it was only a rearguard action that helped Pakistan to achieve victory. The openers are not performing and Younis is finding the going extremely difficult. I feel the tour officials have to come up with some out of the box thinking to solve this recurring problem because one cannot expect the lower middle order to deliver every time. Given the evidence available, it would appear to be hugely risky to be going into the game against India with Nasir Jamshed and Sohaib Maqsood may have to be pushed up the order to take up an opener’s role.