South Africa series: Another tale of individual performances only
Vital individual performances and resilient tail won the Test and T20 series for Pakistan. Muhammad Rizwan was the pick of the series who was a man of the series both in Tests and T20s.
Pakistani top order batsmen remained vulnerable to the left Arm Leg spin bowling attack of South Africa. Babar Azam was never comfortable with the bowling of Keshav Maharaj and George Linde throughout the test series.
Even most senior Pakistani batsman Azhar Ali was not able to coup with Proteas spin bowling attack. In the Test series, Azhar Ali scored 115 runs with an average of 38.33. He was dismissed three times in the series and all the time he was the victim of left arm leg spinner. He was dismissed twice by Keshav Maharaj and once by George Linde. Babar Azam was no exception. Out of his four outings in the series, he dismissed thrice by the left arm leg spinners. And Keshav Maharaj succeeded to get him out on all three occasions.
In the Test series success, the all-rounders and the tail-enders played a pivotal role with the bat. Faheem Ashraf was phenomenal with the bat. He scored 171 runs in three innings with an average of 85.50 and his highest score was 78 not out. In the crucial situations, he showed his nerves and was able to earn good scores. Wicket-keeper batsman, Muhammad Rizwan showed mettle and was able to make vital partnerships with the tail-enders. These partnerships helped Pakistan to secure good targets against the Proteas.
Another exceptional performer with the bat was left-arm leg spinner Nauman Ali who in his debut series managed to score 77 runs in three innings. This included an innings of 45 runs which he scored in the second innings of the last Test. This innings really helped Pakistan to reach a formidable total of 298.
Fawad Alam, once again, showed his class and proved all the selectors wrong who did not select him during the last ten years. He scored 170 runs in the series with an average of 56.66. This included a century at a much needed time.
Opening, once again, remained a major problem for Pakistan. Abid Ali and debutant Imran But were not able to impress the opponents in all four innings. Imran But was able to score 36 runs in four innings with an average of 9 and Abid Ali managed to score just 34 runs in four innings with a dismal average of 8.25. Ironically, Nauman Ali and Yasir Shah performed better than the openers with the bat.
After a long time, Pakistani bowling attack managed to dismiss all the Proteas batsmen in all the four innings of the two-Test matches. Hassan Ali made a phenomenal comeback in the Test cricket by grabbing 12 wickets in the series. This includes a match-winning performance in the second Test match where he was able to get 5 wicket haul in both innings of the match. This performance earned him a man of the match award.
Nauman Ali was the find of the series who debuted at the age of 34 and grabbed 7 wickets in the first match of the series. Yasir Shah was also exceptional in the first test match with the dismissing 7 South African players. Restless bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi also justified his selection in the team by getting 7 wickets in both Test matches. Though Faheem Ashraf could not perform well with the ball but his performance with the bat made this series memorable for him.
This series victory is a sigh of relief for Misbah ul Haq and company who were under immense pressure after the consecutive defeats in many away tours. Individual performance and the vigour of the tail-enders have earned a victory in the series for Pakistan but still, there are a lot of shortcomings which have to be overcome by the coaching staff.