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The Problem with Pakistan's Pacers
Pakistan Tour Of Australia

The Problem with Pakistan's Pacers

The performance of Pakistan pace bowlers so far in the on-going test series against Australia has been abysmal. Not only have they failed to take wickets regularly but they have also been unable to control run-rate as well. They haven’t bowled well with the new ball, which is crucial for any pace attack in Australia. It also seems there is no coordination between pacers. It is very important for bowlers to discuss their plans with each other, and for telling each other where the batsman is struggling and where to bowl him.

For example, David Warner scores the majority of his runs on the backfoot with horizontal bat shots. In the 2nd test Mohammad Amir and Sohail Khan were bowling on good lengths, forced him to play with vertical bat and out of 30 balls, Warner edged or missed 16 balls.

 David Warner’s Pitch Map

David Warner’s Pitch Map

After that Wahab came and bowled to Warner, and out of his first 15 deliveries, 11 were short-pitched balls which allowed Warner to score with horizontal bat. He went on to score 144 runs with a healthy strike rate which allowed Australia to come back into the game after conceding 443 in the first innings.

 Wahab Riaz’s first 7 deliveries

Wahab Riaz’s first 7 deliveries

During the 1st Test when Steven Smith was 6 (29) and struggling to score runs, the captain gave the ball to Rahat Ali to bowl his 2nd spell, but he bowled too short to Smith. Smith was continuously shuffling across off and hitting towards square leg and yet Rahat was continuously bowling short-pitched deliveries, which allowed the batsman to settle down.

 Rahat to Smith

Rahat to Smith

During the same test, Handscomb was batting deep inside crease but none of Pakistani pacers bowled wicket to wicket to get him LBW or bowled. Instead they kept on bowling good-length deliveries outside off stump and because of the slowness of the wicket in 1st innings of the match it became easy for Handscomb to leave it or fend it on the back foot. Out of first 50 deliveries bowled by Pacers to Handscomb, only 10% were hitting the stumps.

This approach indicates that the pacers were lacking pre-match planning. They should have been briefed about the strong and weak areas of this Australia batting unit so that they could chart down their plans to bowl them out cheaply.

Bowling six balls in an over involves a tactical decision by the bowler on what each of the six balls is planned to achieve. Each ball is bowled in the context of the balls around it. The sequence is designed to set up the batsman and then try to get him out, and this is exactly what Pakistan pacers are lacking at the moment. They just seem to be running in and bowling without any plans. Sometimes, it feels like they want to take a wicket on every ball, rather than being patient.

The pacers have to think for themselves when a match is in progress, as well as knowing about their field plans, field placing and bowling. No coach will give them instruction about these things from the dressing room during the match. This lack of game awareness hurt Pakistan’s chances in this series. The pacers need to closely monitor the batsmen when they are playing and ask themselves questions like whether the batsman is moving his feet well or is he playing away from body? Is his head falling while playing towards onside etc, and is he having trouble moving across? They should then bowl according to these weak areas and try to set-up the batsmen.