2 years ago

Dependency on top-order can trouble Pakistan in the final

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Their win against India was fascinating, and against Afghanistan, breathtaking. They had a poor outing against Sri Lanka. 

Yet, for the brand of entertaining cricket they are playing, people are rooting for Pakistan in the final of the Asia Cup tonight.

While they might lift the trophy tonight, their inconsistent batting will keep haunting them.

One might wonder how a line-up consisting of Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, and Fakhar Zaman can be inconsistent. Well, let's dig deep.

Pakistan have been considered a formidable T20 side since the last T20 World Cup. Although they couldn't go to the finals, they played some dominating cricket there. But what's the story since then?

Since the World Cup, Pakistan have played 12 T20I matches until last Friday against Sri Lanka.

Babar, Rizwan and Fakhar trio scored 53 per cent of the runs in these matches. Babar scored 12 per cent of the runs while Rizwan scored 28 per cent.

Before the Asia Cup, these three had a combined contribution of 55 per cent of the total runs of Pakistan, where Babar and Rizwan had 16 and 29 per cent of the share, respectively. 

These numbers highlight how dependent Pakistan are on their top order. Another shocking fact is that during this period, there had been only one fifty outside these 3. 

It may seem surprising that a side, which was so good in the World Cup, is facing these problems now. 

Well, things were not much different from the last World T20. If we extend our study back to the World Cup, we can see these 3 contributed 59 per cent of the runs, with Babar and Rizwan contributing 19 and 28 per cent, respectively.

If we only consider the last World Cup, this trio contributed 70 per cent of Pakistan's runs there. 

However, it might be odd not to notice this heavy dependency earlier. And it's because of the middle order. Instead of Khushdil, Nawaz and Iftikhar, they had the likes of Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik and Imad Wasim, some of the all-time bests in the business. They provided much more depth in the batting.

But now they lack the depth and suffer in global tournaments.

Babar is off in this Asia Cup, Rizwan got runs in only two matches, and Pakistan lost the rest except Afghanistan.

Even in that game, none from the top order got runs, and Pakistan almost crumbled to a meagre target of 130.

And the fact that the top-order is not scoring is where the concern lies. 

Again, Pakistan do not bring 'Jacks of all trades' to the team. They only take the masters, and their top-order batters are masters.

Nawaz is a master of scoring quickly in the middle overs. So is Haider. Shadab is a master against spinners. Asif Ali is arguably the best slog-over cricketer currently in the format.

As a result, they do not have a set middle order, leaving them with minimal options. Nevertheless, their gamble works, as it did against India with Nawaz or Afghanistan with Shadab. Can they work in today's big game too?

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