The last article I wrote gave all my friends good reason to hurl all sorts of insults my way. What was I thinking suggesting that we could chase down a world record 440 runs to win in the fourth innings? Well for starters, records are made to be broken and secondly, this torrid run against the Aussies had to come to an end eventually. And it did, albeit a Test later than I was expecting but I’m not complaining. Pakistan played the way only Pakistan plays and yet we managed to pull it off. This victory should be savored by all of us for years to come, 15 years is a long time to wait for a win, 16 if you look back to the time where we won a Test that actually means something. This victory is for all the optimists who have managed to stick by Pakistan cricket through all the collapses and the dropped catches and missed run outs, etc. This is also a rallying cry for all the pessimists who abandoned Pakistan cricket when we lost by 8 wickets in the ’99 final or when we failed to make it past the first round in the next two World Cups or when we failed to win at Sydney. The point is Pakistan cricket has gone through a lot to get to this point, and that makes this victory all the more special.
The pessimists will not be turned over that easily though. We barely sneaked across the line, requiring only 40 runs on the last day with 7 wickets in hand on a flat pitch with no cloud cover we lost 4 wickets, and all four were top order batsmen. But you can all read the details on cricinfo, the point is our batting was woeful, and had it not been for Messrs. Asif and Aamer we would have been in a world of trouble. We finally managed to win a test match purely on the basis of our phenomenal bowling, but to expect to bowl the English out for 88 four times over the coming month is a stretch even for the wildest of optimists. The conclusion then is that this victory is only to savor and not to use as a blueprint for success.
Although this victory does not give Pakistan a blueprint for success on how to win Test matches, it gives Pakistan something a lot more important: momentum. Pakistan is a momentum side, when things start going our way the fielding gets better, the captaincy is sharper, bowlers stick to a plan and batsmen learn to apply themselves. When you combine raw talent and momentum you end up with an unstoppable juggernaut, and if Pakistan gets off to a good start in the first test against the English next week then that is exactly what we will become.
A word of caution though before we move forward. On the outskirts of the team lurk Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf, and though they are two of the finest Test batsmen in recent memory, their inclusion into the squad might just wreck this great momentum. Yousuf and Younis’ presence will simply be overwhelming, and their egos have to be handled with care. Salman Butt already has enough on his plate without having to worry about catering to the senior players. Other people may disagree, but Yousuf and Younis are not getting any younger, and they bring too much bad history with them. Yes our middle order lacks steel, but Azhar Ali showed great composure and Umar Amin showed great promise. The former made a crucial fifty in our chase of 180 and the latter has great technique and requires only a bit of experience. Giving these two a chance to come good for Pakistan may set us up for a better team in the long run, Yousuf and Younis will only provide us with a short term solution that will barely last us till the World Cup. Now the only person left to get rid of is that damn husband of Sania Mirza, whose first innings dismissal showed that he really has no place in a Test squad.
All of this being said, we did draw the series with the mighty Aussies. They might not be as great as they were with McGrath, Warne and company, but nonetheless they still are a formidable opponent. Next up are the Ashes victors. Last time the English won the Ashes they went to Pakistan and got HAMMERED 2-0 in a three test series, as well as losing the ODI series 3-2. One feels we are in for one heck of an English summer yet!