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Pakistan won the toss. It was a straightforward task to close out the Test series, wasn't it? It's what the coach expected. Dale Steyn struggled to be fit for the match. Imran Tahir had struggled to take any international wickets. Advantage Pakistan? Seemingly so, but that first innings of the match became a disaster; so great a failure that Dav Whatmore expressed his displeasure at the performance of his batsmen in the middle of the Test. Now Pakistan have crumbled with victory imminent in the first one-day international. The basics of shot selection, playing straight, and managing a simple run chase evaporated into the Sharjah night. I can't remember a time since the 1970s, when Pakistan were weakened by Kerry Packer, that the batsmen have seemed so vulnerable. It isn't even Pakistan's habitual crime of being unpredictable. A depressing inevitability surrounds the batting performances, so much so that the achievements of the first Test were an utter surprise, albeit a pleasant one. The prime responsibility lies with the top order, we know, where Azhar Ali's loss of form adds to the dilemma of the openers. But the top-order issue cannot alone explain Pakistan's woes. The middle order lacks depth. The main wicketkeepers are some of the weakest at batting in international cricket. Let's not start on their keeping. A nation of allrounders has exhausted its pipeline. The lower order barely know which end of a bat to hold. Only the captain, Misbah-ul Haq, is able to bat with any consistency. But for Misbah and the skills of the country's bowlers, Pakistan would be at the bottom of every pile.One particular weakness is batting first in an international match. How often do Pakistan dominate a Test match from the first innings, particularly when they bat first? Batting first in a Test match is an opportunity to seize the initiative. The better teams expect to post big totals and apply pressure. But Pakistan rarely do. Yes, Pakistan's defeat in Sharjah came from a run chase, but let's take this measure of how a team performs in the first innings of an international match as a proxy for the ability of its batsmen. To investigate, I looked up a illuminating statistic. Since the damaging England tour of 2010, Pakistan's average score when batting first in a Test match is 261. To put that into perspective, South Africa's average score when batting first during the same period is 382, the best of any Test team. Indeed, Pakistan's record is the worst of all. Even Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are better.Misbah's response has been to dig in, to fight and grind out a rearguard. But there is only so much one man can do Pakistan's record in one-day internationals in this period is little better. When batting first since that England series in 2010, Pakistan average 223. South Africa, by contrast, average 268, which is the best, above India with 265. Pakistan do better than Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, but that's it.Using this statistic as a measure of batting performance, Pakistan have declined sharply since 2010, both in Test matches and one-day internationals, when compared with their own performances before 2010 and against other countries since 2010. What this means is that Pakistan's whole batting order is failing to respond to the challenge of batting first in an international match. When the top order lets the team down, as it usually does, the middle order struggles to take the initiative, and the tailenders do little to defy their opponents. In general, teams that score heavily in the first innings of an international match tend to be more successful.These failings in the first innings, when batting conditions are traditionally at their best, are destroying the confidence of Pakistan's batsmen, so much so that a hospitable track becomes a minefield, a friendly attack becomes endowed with devilment, and an easy run chase becomes impossibleThe solutions for Pakistan aren't obvious. The alternatives are unready, thanks, as Misbah-ul-Haq rightly points out, to an inadequate domestic circuit. The four young openers across both formats will require time to establish themselves. At No. 3, it's clear that Azhar Ali should be rested from Test cricket, but it's less clear who can replace him. Perhaps Asad Shafiq can step up in both formats? Even if that solves one problem, Pakistan still seek depth in their middle order, wicketkeepers who can bat, a bowling allrounder, and generally more tenacity from their lower-order batsmen. But both Test and one-day squads struggle for opportunities and fixtures to allow replacements to be tested and establish themselves.Misbah's response has been to dig in, to fight and grind out a rearguard. But there is only so much one man can do. He needs help. Given the failings of domestic cricket, Pakistan should consider bucking the trend in international selection of choosing different squads for different formats. Why not select essentially the same core squad of players for Test and one-day international cricket? An international cricketer of sufficient class will be able to succeed in both formats. "A" tours and T20 cricket can be then used to blood new talent. Selecting different squads for different formats is just a fashion. There is no evidence to support it. I think this is a good recommendation. Specialist teams per format are a bit of a myth - good test players should be able to translate down. England continues to pick absolute nobodies for ODI and T20 spots, calling them things like "T20 specialists" who have grown up on the game, but they always look out of their dept. Given the number of times Pakistan get bowled out in less than 50 overs, having a test mentality brought in would be better. Let's get Azhar into the ODI team and help him regain his form. Sad to say it, but Afridi needs to go. Why we're not picking Junaid for ODIs consistently is beyond me. We could have had South Africa out for 120 with him in instead of Wahab.Pakistan's batting is in a state of crisis and measures should be taken both short term and long term. Short term - arrange more A team tours to Eng, SA and Aus for the young batsmen. Here's another radical idea - get some of these young batsmen to sign up with a season of County Cricket. Even if it is at PCB's expense. Rather spend money on this than 900 employees.Long term - of course make the domestic setup more competitive which everyone goes round and round making the right noises but nothing meaningful ever takes place.People who say that jamshed shouldn't be given a chance r ones who doesn't understand cricket properly.he's someone whose got the potential in him.he's got the technique,shots n temperament for the big stage.when low profile batsmen like hafeez n azhar Ali r given such a lot of chance why not jamahed with talent.when u find a potential player it's in the hands of the administration to groom them.jamshed obviously is going through a bad patch like any other player.if the administration had the brain they should have taken him to the Zimbabwe tour to let him regain the form The major issue is selection. There are enough players with 50+ average in first class like Fawad Alam, Shoaib Maqsood, Zain Abbas to name a few but who gets the chance to be in the team: Umer Amin. This guy has an average of 38 in first class.I also don't think that the current batting order is proper for the type of batting line up we have. With a fragile batting line up, we can't afford two inconsistent all rounders (Afridi and Hafeez). If one of them was as consistent as Jacque Kallis or Shane Watson (being all rounders), it would have been different. 1) Shahzad 2) Jamshed 3) Umer Akmal 4) Misbah 5) Asad Shafiq 6) Shoaib Maqsood 7) Afridi 8) Tanvir 9) Ajmal 10) Junaid 11) Irfan Shoaib Maqsood can do also bowl - he is a good leg spinner. Shoaib and Afridi can strike big at 6 and 7 if everything clicks upfront. If our top order struggles then Misbah and Shafiq can handle it.I am baffled by your criticism of Asad Shafiq. Regarding his average in ODIs, I would advise you to look at how badly he has been used rather his ODi career has been intentionally damaged by playing him just one or two matches in a series and has been dropped even after performing well. In his short ODi career he has played at almost all the top order numbers. He is the most technically gifted player in current setup and if you go by averages half of your team does not deserve to be in the playing XI Please do constructive criticism and leave bias out while analyzing players performances Posted by Hassan Rafique Mir on (October 31, 2013, 20:10 GMT) Asad Shafiq in both formats ?? Are you serioes ? He has an average of 27 and strike rate less than 70 in ODI. He is trusted with in the Test matches an that is where he should bat He is really lucky to get a chance in this current SA series since he did not perform in the Zin series and I am happy that team management and selectors stuck in with him but he is batting at a very safe number where most teams are batting either an allrounder or the keeper. I think he should only stick to Tests and bat higher up to be tested. Wicketkeeper in ODI is thankfully not a problem anymore but I do believe that Pakistan should try out Mohammad Rizwan too but Umar Akaml should be in the team in any case as he is the only world class batsman in this side with an average of almost 40 and strike rate of 85. As far as the ODI goes, I put the blame on Afridi more than anyone else. With less than 15 runs to get and million overs left, all he needed was to push the ball around and Pak would have been home comfortable. What did he instead? I think Azhar Ali should be discarded, for he is so slow to get off the blocks in any situation, that the opposition gets on top straight away. It is also time to look beyond Younis Khan. I was a fan of him for years, but I think he is very inconsistent these days to go along with very poor strike rate. And, please give a rest to Nasir Jamshed. He has been a consistent failure of late.Posted by Arijit_in_TO on (October 31, 2013, 17:20 GMT) I like Amit_13's idea about going 'all in' on the bowling. It would take some skillful captaincy --someone like a Mark Taylor, Mike Brearley or Imran Khan-- to pull it off but in a nutshell I don't believe that batsmen could withstand 6 world class Pakistani bowlers going full tilt (with appropriate field placements, of course) at them during a test match. The current crop of batsmen have not shown the application to play test cricket. FWIW, I think the criticism of Misbah ul Haq is pretty harsh but I say that from the perspective of a bystander. Posted by Amit_13 on (October 31, 2013, 16:16 GMT) Given their alienation by the international cricket community, playing more A team tours with better teams or playing the Associate nations would be an option. It hurts me to say this but Pakistan should consider stepping down to preserve their batting and to get more games in. They are sadly not a hard draw anymore. And given the conditions back home, no team will go there for a long long time. Misbah, for all his herculean efforts, is 40 and fit... but he is as disposable as the cricket administration in the country. If he goes, they might have to go the other way and start picking 6 bowlers or more to give the batsmen a chance. That might be another interesting prospect... atleast for test cricket. I have never known a Pak bowling attack the opposition have taken lightly. In world cricket, they are the only country who could boast a world class 4 pack of pace bowlers and an equally competent spin twins. As it happens, most people miss the very obvious that is in the front of their eyes. The problem with pakistani cricket team is that it lacks leadership. Misbah---though a great batsman---is a terrible leader. He does not have the fire in him to lead a team of men as a captain. He has no personality. He is calm under all circumstances---whereas you need someone who has FIRE in him to come out aswinging---to rip the players another a'hole---. Pakistan teams leads an alpha male to lead its players. The job of a leader / captain is to get his players to do their chosen tasks as individuals and as a team at the same time. Misbah has a SOB STORY for every failure---it is about time that pakistan keep Misbah in the batting line up and find a fire brand to take charge. In pakistan's case---Misbah is doing his job in batting---rest of the 5 batsmen are failing---so I would rather have a captain who might fail at batting but lead 5 of his batsmen to perform---. When South Africa lost the first Test of their series against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, they were in danger of losing their first overseas series since July-August 2006, when Sri Lanka beat them 2-0. (Even that series would have ended 1-1 if Sri Lanka hadn't squeezed out a one-wicket win in the second Test by chasing down a target of 352.) As it turned out, though, South Africa kept their magnificent overseas record intact by winning in Dubai and levelling the series 1-1, the 12th successive overseas series that they either won or drew. Their record when playing away from home has been the stand-out aspect of South Africa's cricket over the last six years, and the one stat that's earned them the respect of all teams and critics. It's also differentiated them from the two previous No.1s, India and England, who rose to that position largely on the basis of home wins. During these six years, South Africa have actually achieved a much better winning ratio overseas (16 wins, 5 defeats, ratio 3.20) than at home (17 wins, 7 defeats, ratio 2.42). In 12 overseas series during this period, South Africa have won eight and drawn four. The modern cricket schedule has also meant several short series, with little time to acclimatise, but they've coped fairly well with that too: out of five two-Test series, they have won two and drawn three. When given the opportunity to play longer series, South Africa have done even better, winning six out of seven which have consisted of three or more Tests. And the only series against one of the lesser sides was a 2-0 rout of Bangladesh in 2008.A comparison with other teams during this period indicates how far ahead of the pack South Africa are. While they have a 16-5 win-loss record, the next best is England's 11-11. Pakistan and Australia have win-loss ratios of more than 0.7 as well. When tours to Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are excluded, South Africa are still clear leaders with a ratio of 2.80 (14 wins, 5 defeats), with England slipping to 0.81. Pakistan slip even further, as four of their 14 wins (and one defeat) came on tours to these countries.South Africa's batting and bowling have both been pretty solid on these tours, but while a few other teams - Pakistan, Australia and England - have achieved similar bowling stats on tours, no other side has matched South Africa's batting prowess. They've averaged 43.43 on tours, around 18% better than the next-best batting team, England. Pakistan's bowlers have been the best of the lot, but the team has suffered because of their feeble batting, while Sri Lanka's bowlers have been the most toothless of the lot on tours. South Africa have been so good on tours that they invite comparisons with the two dominant teams of the last 35 years - West Indies of the early 1980s and Australia of the early 2000s. While the table below suggests their win-loss ratio isn't quite as good as those of West Indies and Australia, it's still highly impressive. Also, unlike South Africa, both those sides lost an away series during their dominant periods - West Indies lost to New Zealand in 1980, while India defeated Australia in 2001. (If the New Zealand series is excluded and the next two are included, West Indies' win-loss drops to 16-4 from 34 Tests; if one of those two series is included, it becomes 15-3 from 31 Tests.) Again, it's South Africa's batting average that stands out in comparison to the other two teams (though it's also a reflection of the times that their bowling average is the poorest among the three teams). In terms of comparison with other teams during their peaks, West Indies were far and away the mightiest during that period: they had a win-loss of 5.33, while the next-best were New Zealand with 0.42 (3 wins, 7 defeats) in away Tests. During Australia's best period, England had a win-loss ratio of 1.18 while South Africa were close behind at 1.09. With the batting average being so high for South Africa, it's no surprise that four from the team find themselves in the top ten of batting averages in overseas Tests (including neutral venues) in the last six years. AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla lead the way, with barely a run separating the two. de Villiers has been the more consistent, averaging more than 43 in all the countries he has played in except Bangladesh, where he averages 33 in two Tests. In the West Indies and the UAE his average is more than 100, while it's between 53 and 58 in Australia, England and India. He has historically struggled a bit at home, but not during this period, averaging 58.83 from 27 home Tests. Amla has exceptional stats in India (average 132.83 in five Tests), UAE (78.40), England (75.70) and Australia (57.81), but on the tour to the West Indies in 2010, he averaged 20.33 from six innings. Overall, though, there's little to separate the two. Shivnarine Chanderpaul is up there too, followed by Graeme Smith, while Jacques Kallis makes it into the top ten despite a poor series against Pakistan. South Africa's bowling effort has been led by Dale Steyn, who has missed only two overseas Tests during this period. In 30 matches, he has taken 140 wickets at an average of less than 25. Like the batsmen, he has been very consistent too, averaging 18.13 in the West Indies, 20.23 in five Tests in India, and less than 29 in Australia, Pakistan and New Zealand. Surprisingly, his average in England is 31.65, while he has done reasonably well on the unresponsive pitches of the UAE, averaging 32.78.The addition of Vernon Philander has been a huge boost to the attack as well: in ten overseas Tests he averages 22, and his control over line and length were on display even on the unresponsive pitches of the UAE. Morne Morkel has taken 99 overseas wickets at 31.97 during this period, and Imran Tahir's incisive spells in Dubai means South Africa have an attacking spinner in their ranks as well, an area which has generally been a weakness for them. Sixteen wins and five defeats is testimony to just how well they've put those resources to use in overseas conditions. I am a proudly South African supporter ... but a keen fan of statistics ... The fact that South Africa have led the way overseas bears testament to the fact that they have a strong batting line up ... Graeme Smith leads the run scoring with 3126 runs ... Hashim Amla is 26 runs behind and played 1 fewer test but between them and Kallis they have each made 11 hundreds in the 32 tests ... That is at least 1 hundred per test between the 3 of them ... The only player to get more 100s is Cook from England on 12 ... from 36 Tests which is a lower conversion rate per 100 ... The top 5 batsmen excluding Petersen ... score at an average of 207 per innings taking actual runs scored and no not out factor ... In that respect Amla scored 55 per innings, Smith 54, De Villiers 52 and Kallis 46 ... Petersen include it is 243 ... He contributes 36 ... And when your top 2 bowlers are getting wickets between 7.5 and 8 overs per wicket you can bowl sides out for low scores on a regular basis, on tour.Wow these stats clearly show that SA are head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to test cricket!!! Truly remarkable and well deserved. They have 4 of the best batsmen(Amla,ABD,Smith,Kallis) and two of the best bowlers(Steyn,Philander) in world cricket at the moment. ust like the dominant Aus side, looking at SA's line up and comparing it to that of other teams I can only think of a couple of players playing at the moment who would have a chance of making the starting line up if they were South Africans (Cook for Peterson and Clarke/Chanderpaul/Sanga for Faf/JP ). And oh before you think i forgot Swan and Ajmal, no I haven't, I have seen Imran Tahir bowl better than both of them head to head during the Eng-SA series and Pak-SA series!! This side is very good but I admittedly still think they can be even more ruthless considering the talent they have. These stats are another good argument for the ICC rankings to include a home/away weighting, at least in the test ranking. While we may say that SA need 2 win in sub-continent conditions, we have 2 remember that all the great teams had some weaknesses and so maybe the sub-continent is our weakness. So 4 me a drawn series over there is enough, bcos it means we've survived the packed stadiums, the Virat kohlis, Shikar Dhawans and Dhoni's great captaincy. And its not as playing away from home is the only determining factor 4 greatness, we have to ensure that we win like 20 matches in a row @ home and make sure we can beat the others away from home, even if we can't win a series in sub-continent. And who knows, maybe in th future, when we hav a spinner thts even better than Imran-bcos he's already a gud 1. As a South African, the one thing I would like to still see from this team is a bit more aggression when it comes to our batting. That Aussie team of the 2000s was able to take the game away from you in a morning by bullying bowlers. It was as much in their heads as it was in the skills. I would like to see our batsmen (or at least one or two of them whose games suits it) hitting the ball more in front of the wicket. For many years SA were more afraid to lose than they were committed to winning, but in the last few seasons that has changed which has made them more interesting to watch. I'll take a boring win any day, but with the quality in our test batting line-up we should have the confidence to attack a bit more. Allan Donald has brought that attacking mindset to our bowlers. wow. Greame Smith has actually got more runs than AB & Hash during this period. Silent warrior indeed. Its a real pity that SA plays much shorter series. They a treat to watch.i am an indian by heart. but when it comes to sports, sportsmanship, game... salute SA. i'm elated every time i see best out of both SA & IND cric teams. these particular stats are proof of our honest support towards south african structure. in india we have trains full of cricket talent. what we require is an strong & competetive domestic structure. we have a talented young mature team which has started winning global events, and now what i want to see from them is great test performances especially overseas. GO INDIA! eager to see india present an entertaining brand of CRICKET in these december trip to South Africa........@johnathonjosephs - I agree that this SA team still needs to beat a team in the sub-continent convincingly. Their last victory was in fact in 2007 beating Pakistan in Pakistan after the SL loss. It didn't help that SL changed the tour schedule for this year, swapping out the tests for ODIs. Guess we won't be playing tests in SL for a long time. Good article. It shows that this SA team has the making of becoming a special team. As the stats show, they're not great yet, but I reckon they need to beat a sub-continent team convincingly (preferably India as they are the highest ranked) and then we'll know they're the real deal.India should never be no.1, sorry. I love their team, but you can't just keep winning at home and losing away and then claim you're the best. The young team will take a while to reach the top again.

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