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The Pakistani Collapse Affair

The Pakistani Collapse Affair

The word ‘collapse’ translates to, ‘to fall down suddenly because of pressure, or having no strength or support’.If someone collapses, they fall down because of being sick or fragile. In cricket, the term collapse is associated with the sudden fall of wickets in quick succession. And who better than a Pakistani cricket fan would know the heartache a collapse brings along.

 Pakistani cricket fan would know the heartache a collapse brings along.

Pakistani cricket fan would know the heartache a collapse brings along.

It is like one of those relationships where you feel everything's going fine but somewhere in your head there is an unwavering fear of losing the love of your life; no matter how hard you try to convince yourself, the inevitable breakup is right around the corner. Similarly, you want to keep faith in the batsmen but eventually one wicket falls after the other leading to a collapse. Desi fans use the phrase ‘line lag gayi’ . (They’ve queued up now)

Pakistan gave us back-to-back blockbuster collapses in the recently concluded test series against Sri Lanka in the UAE. This wasn’t the first time we witnessed a classic collapse and it certainly wasn’t the last. After drawing the series against England last year - which also involved collapses at Edgbaston and Old Trafford - Pakistan have played 13 test matches, losing 9 and winning 4. From being n0. 1 in the rankings not so long ago to now being no. 7, the downhill journey within a year is a hard pill to swallow.

“From being n0. 1 in the rankings not so long ago to now being no. 7, the downhill journey within a year is a hard pill to swallow.”

Each of the 9 losses in the past one year have a collapse story of their own.

Holder’s Sharjah

If you thought the collapse in the first test match of the series in Dubai was bad enough (8 wickets fell for forty-six runs but all was forgiven because Pakistan still managed to find a way to win) you got it wrong. In the last match of the series, the Pakistani batsmen felt an obligation to return some kind of favour to the Windies. Jason Holder first bounced Sami Aslam out and then in his very next over got rid of Asad Shafiq by aiming a short ball at his body. Holder went on to take the prized wicket of Younis Khan while wickets from the other end also kept tumbling as Pakistan lost 4 wickets for just 11 runs upfront. Azhar Ali and the tail-enders showed some resilience before the team was all-out for 208. Holder’s career-best spell (5 for 30) inspired the Windies to a famous victory.

 Jason Holder holds the ball after taking five wickets in the match against Pakistan

Jason Holder holds the ball after taking five wickets in the match against Pakistan

Restless in New Zealand

Before this two-Test tour, Pakistan hadn’t lost a series in New Zealand since 1985. Put into bat on a green top with seam, pace and bounce, all they had to do was survive the opening spells of Tim Southee and Trent Boult and then capitalise from there on in. The openers did manage to provide a steady stand of thirty-one runs before the entire team decided to make a hero out of the debutant Colin de Grandhomme. He kept on bowling outside the off stump and kept on enticing the batsmen to drive to produce career best figures of 6 for 41. Pakistan crumbled from being 31/0 to 133 all-out in no time.

In the next Test at Hamilton, Pakistan needed 369 runs to win on the final day, or play it out for a draw. Azhar Ali and Sami Aslam provided plenty of hope in the form of an opening stand of 131 runs which lasted almost two entire sessions. Yet things turned Pakistani in the final session of the match. Not only did the men in green manage to throw away the match by losing nine wickets in the final session but they also created a world record. No team in 140 years had managed to pull off such a spectacle , i.e. losing all ten wickets in the final session of a Test to lose the match. As we all well know, Pakistan sure does know how to set new records.

Down and out downunder

1st Test- Brisbane: Pakistan fell 4o runs short of a potential world record chase in the 1st Test of the series in Brisbane. Their conservative batting, which ultimately collapsed in the first innings is what cost them the match. After a sluggish start, the first four wickets fell for 51 and the next four for 46. In between, Sarfaraz Ahmed was the lone batsman who looked comfortable as he scored 59 out of a total of 142.

2nd Test- Melbourne: After posting a score of 443 in the first innings, it seemed like the batsmen had gotten the hang of things Down Under, . but that didn’t prove to be the case. Pakistan were bundled out for 163 on Day 5 in the second innings as Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood’s pace proved fatal. Pakistan were 63 for 2 at one point before tea, but then lost Younis Khan, Misbah ul Haq, Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali for just 38 runs. Sarfraz Ahmed added 43 to the total but once again he couldn’t help avoid the inevitable. Pakistan were all out for 163; losing 10 wickets in just two sessions.

3rd Test- Sydney: Pakistan were 55 for 1 at the end of play on Day 4. Day 5 was nicely set for the batsmen to bring out their habit to crumble under pressure. Azhar Ali was the first to fall as Josh Hazlewood struck twice in the first half hour of play, and just like that the scoreboard showed 96 for 5. Misbah ul Haq’s 40 run partnership with Asad Shafiq and then a 52 run stand with Sarfraz Ahmed wasn’t enough to save the team from yet another humiliation downunder. Australia completed its fourth consecutive whitewash over Pakistan since 1999.

 Josh Hazlewood struck twice in his first three overs to put Pakistan on the mat early

Josh Hazlewood struck twice in his first three overs to put Pakistan on the mat early

Chaos in Bridgetown

In the farewell series for MisYou in the Caribbean, Pakistan were chasing history. They had never won a test series in the West Indies. In the second test, all Pakistan required was to chase down 188 to clinch the series. Pakistan being Pakistan avoided the easy route, and instead chose to post their tenth lowest test score overall and their second lowest against the Windies. It was an all-pace affair on Day 5 lead by Shannon Gabriel who took 5 for 11. Pakistani batsmen and their ability to make meagre targets look herculean isn’t a phenomenon the world is unaware of. The horrors of a Day 5 pitch were enough to cast doubts, and it showed as Azhar Ali and Ahmed Shehzad began by scoring only six runs in the first six overs. Then Gabriel struck with a short ball and it was a downhill affair after that. Sarfraz Ahmed and Mohammad Amir managed to take Pakistan past their lowest Test score of 49, but couldn’t prevent the humiliation of being all out for 81.

The fortress is no more

It was quite obvious that the void Misbah and Younis left in the team both in terms of their batting stability as well as their wisdom to pull Pakistan out of tricky situation more often than not, wasn’t going to be miraculously filled overnight. In the recently concluded two match Test series against Sri Lanka, Pakistan managed to pull off two mind boggling collapses.

First Test- Abu Dhabi: it was all down to the final two sessions of the match, Pakistan were in pursuit of 136 runs. Another Day 5 pitch, another not-so stiff target and yet another collapse. Pakistan’s batsmen were strangled by the brilliance of Rangana Herath, who by the way loves Pakistan more than you’d ever love fries - or is it the other way around? Herath took 6 for 43 (reaching the milestone of 400th test scalp, the first left-arm spinner to achieve this feat to go with 11 fourth-innings 5-fors). The batsmen were left dazed and confused as one wicket fell after the other. The debutant Haris Sohail did manage to stitch a partnership with captain Sarfraz but failed to capitalise. In the end Pakistan fell short by 21 runs , losing a Test in Abu Dhabi for the first time ever.

 Herath became man of the match for his outsdtanding bowling spell

Herath became man of the match for his outsdtanding bowling spell

Second Test- Dubai: Sri Lanka collapsed in the second innings only to witness Pakistan collapse TWICE and lose the series. Pakistan required 119 on Day 5 with five wickets in hand to avoid the baggage of losing their first ever series in the UAE. The hosts had previously found themselves five down for 52 before Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz Ahmed counter-attacked the Lankan bowling. Their partnership of 173 runs was a treat for sore eyes; the captain and vice captain batted beautifully under lights.

If only there were more overs to be bowled on Day 4, the result could have been different. The momentum was broken on Day 5 and the hero of the match Dilruwan Perera finally managed to break the partnership by removing Sarfraz. All hell broke loose once again, as the second collapse was now inevitable and Pakistan predictably lost their last 5 wickets for 23 runs. Sri lanka became the first team in 115 years to win a Test match after being bowled out for less than hundred in the third innings. For Pakistan, this series loss marked the end of a majestic era, or the continuation of a nightmarish recent era.