Pakistan have slid on a banana skin and there are no signs of regaining balance after they just got routed by clinical Australia side that is shaping up nicely for the next year's T20 World Cup. The visitors appeared like they were undergoing amnesia after bullying oppositions in the shortest format for the last couple of years - mainly in their fortress UAE though.
However, the honeymoon period is well over now that they have been whitewashed effortlessly on the bounce with an unchanging spineless show in Lahore, a couple of weeks ago against Sri Lanka, followed by the latest surrender against Australia - where they looked like a fish out of water - and yet they are still hanging by a thread on the number one ranking in T20 format with no signs of a dramatic turnaround.
Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Amir have run out of gas and intensity - which is a recurring problem. The former may well have passed his prime and the latter springs to life inconsistently. Amir has become a ghost of his former self with occasional glimpses of brilliance. He ups the ante in ICC tournaments but drops the guard in bilateral tours.
The duo didn't try bodyline attack, yorkers and fell short of adhering to bowling in the channel - something which allowed the explosive three Australian top-order batsmen to whack them out of the park. On the contrary, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins thrived in conditions best suited to fast bowling.
The Aussie speedsters nailed sandshoe crushers, produced lateral movement, and exposed the likes of Haris Sohail, Fakhar Zaman, Imad Wasim, and Imam ul Haq in trying conditions - as they couldn't ride the bounce on simmering tracks. The aforementioned names didn't seem fit for T20I style of batting either as the format demands power hitting and bludgeoning strokeplay.
Mohammad Irfan, the ladder, was bowling well in the National T20 Cup in Faisalabad which earned him a call up to the national team but his performances were patchy with a few odd snorters. He would often release the pressure with looseners in a spell. The lanky pacer can be a handful though on bouncy pitches if he maintains his fitness and is taken care of by the management.
Pakistan batsmen were mentally stuck at home in view of the fact that they couldn't adapt quick enough to the conditions where the ball comes quickly onto the bat. The reflex actions were slow; the ball hit the bat high on most occasions except Iftikhar Ahmed and Babar Azam who were able to time the ball better than the rest.
There wasn't much support for the lone rangers as their companions found fielders whenever they went for the aerial route. Furthermore, it's about time omnipotent Misbah-ul-Haq look past Asif Ali than pinning hopes on the one-hit-wonder to come of age.
The youngsters didn't have much idea about how to acclimatize to Australian conditions. It was like the selection committee brought knives to a gunfight which brings attention to the roles of Waqar Younis and Misbah-ul-Haq. Waqar, a seasoned coach, may have prepared the bowlers better on which areas to target and made them undergo adequate drills on practice pitches before leaving the freshmen on the stage for a stern test. Strategy and homework could have been better.
In the 3rd T20I, Mohammad Hasnain and Mohammad Musa struggled a bit to find the right length and that leeway was enough for the likes of David Warner and Aaron Finch to pounce on the inexperience of the rookies - who nevertheless hold great promise.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) favourite guy at the moment, Misbah has had a rough start to his coaching career and it's only getting tougher by the day. Will the man who resurrected the team after the ignominious spot-fixing saga in 2010 trigger another recovery with the coaching hat? He has made some inspired selections but a lot of work needs to be done in the realm of grooming the rookies.
Starc got the ball to move whereas Amir kept losing his mojo with the ball. Wahab, we know, is a deck hitting enforcer and relies on seam movement but it's becoming increasingly difficult for the ageing warrior to crank it up and stay disciplined around the fourth or fifth stump line which had been the reason for his resounding success.
The sky-high confidence and oozing class from resurging Australian players couldn't be challenged through mediocrity. The side under Sarfaraz Ahmed that won 11 out of 13 series - the bulk of those triumphs came in UAE - is in turbulence as Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez have been shown the door. Also, Hasan Ali and Shaheen Afridi have been recovering from injuries which disturbed the winning combination.
The replacements are finding it hard to play the same brand of fearless cricket and the problem is compounded by their limited skill set. The batters are not gifted stroke makers - which is a must trait to survive in the T20 format. Moreover, the fielding standards are continuing to decline post-Steve Rixon era as there were a couple of easy run-out opportunities gone begging in the series.
Australia were far too strong for Pakistan team as the visitors are on the never-ending transition merry go round. The touring party ran into Aaron Finch men while they are hurtling on an unstoppable train to World Cup 2020, sounding the alarm for the top teams by remaining unbeaten and unblemished this year.
Australian selectors have found the missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle as Warner and Smith have returned to the fold after year-long forced hibernation and they are ravenous like Lahoris in food streets. Australia has found a potent combination that can only be tested with equally great players.
Does Pakistan stand a chance in the Test series?
With the young prodigy Naseem Shah to make his debut, Shaheen Afridi back in the side, alongside experienced players coming back for the two Tests, we can expect better performance, not to mention the fact that Test match rhythm is more suited to Pakistan batsmen' temperament. Although, some help from the rain squalls and outbursts from Australia players in the dugout - referring to Mitchell Marsh incident - might help the underdogs put up a good fight.