Cricket success

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PAKISTAN’S emphatic series-levelling victory against England at The Oval came after a sterling performance. Besides the impressive show put up by the players in the do-or-die fourth Test, the team quite refreshingly displayed a resolve to make a comeback to draw the four-match contest.

Pakistan, for most of its 65-year cricket history, has featured among the world’s front-ranking Test sides.

However, strong comebacks like the one witnessed at The Oval, have seldom been associated with them, especially on away tours and despite the tag of unpredictability which they have acquired over the years.

After having made a perfect start by winning the first Test at Lord’s, Misbah-ul-Haq’s men were comprehensively beaten at the Old Trafford by a rejuvenated England team and then lost the hard-fought third Test at Edgbaston by wilting on the final day.

Accused of playing thoughtless, unprofessional cricket by critics, they rose from the ashes to beat the hosts in the fourth Test and salvaged a more than respectable 2-2 result.

Quite significantly, ‘comeback’ has been a buzzword for Pakistan in the series. There were quite a few players that carried the team and never allowed their ambitions to fade.

It was pleasing to see middle-order batsman Azhar Ali overcoming his poor early form to make a century at Edgbaston, a nearly forgotten Sohail Khan re-emerging as the bowling spearhead and young opener Sami Aslam proving his potential with some exquisite batting after a dismal series in Bangladesh in 2015.

But best of all was the return to form of veteran Younis Khan who dazzled the world with an epic, match-winning 218 at The Oval.

Skipper Misbah should be given the credit for Pakistan’s recent successes in Tests. He has been a most influential figure and certainly one of the finest of modern captains.

A determined character who has led the batting from the front in times of crises, Misbah’s success stems from picking the right combinations, building confidence in the players and getting them to stick together.

With tough tours of New Zealand and Australia to follow before the year is out, coupled with a short series against the West Indies, the challenges ahead are quite daunting for Pakistan.

But with their formidable display in England, Misbah and his team have hopefully shrugged off the ‘UAE winners’ stigma for good and are set to conquer many more frontiers from this point on.

Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2016