Is Pakistan Putting Together a Middle Order?
Pakistan’s top three is outstanding, and the attack has tremendous potential, but numbers four through seven have been a crater in the doughnut.
In this series, however, there have been modest awakenings in this area. No. 7 Shadab Khan has done the most to provide some heft through the middle, scoring 39 off 50 when Pakistan were in dire straits in the first ODI, and a rousing 48 off 35 in the second match, as they chased 301 (he left the crease early at the beginning of the final over, leaving the finishing to Naseem Shah, but his innings was crucial).
Agha Salman contributed 38 not out off 31 balls in the previous match, and Mohammad Rizwan scored 67 off 79 balls.
Is Pakistan still reliant on the top three? Quite likely. However, they appear to have concluded the series with more middle-order resolve than they did at the beginning.
Afghanistan has Suffered a Modest Humiliation
The Afghanistan men’s football team is no longer satisfied with picking up solitary victories against more established opponents. As a result, a 3-0 loss to Pakistan will leave a mark.
In each of the three contests, they would have experienced periods of dominance. In the first ODI, they had Pakistan at 62 for 4 before bowling them out for 201; had Haris Rauf not torn their batting apart, they would have felt confident about achieving the target.
In the second match, Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s brilliant run-per-ball 151 propelled Afghanistan to 300 for 5 (it arguably should have been higher), which is typically a very defendable total on Sri Lankan pitches.
Even in the third game, they kept Pakistan within striking distance by limiting them to 268 for eight, but the fragility of their own top order doomed them.
In their previous ODI series, Afghanistan defeated Bangladesh in Chattogram by a score of 2-1. Additionally, they have won two of their last five matches against Sri Lanka.
There are indications that the Afghanistan men’s team is on the verge of something significant. However, this series was a major letdown.
Babar Azam is Rapidly Approaching
In the ultimate tally of Babar Azam’s career, his scores of 53 out of 66 and 60 out of 86 will not warrant significant consideration. However, they are evidence that he is working hard.
Babar has spent the majority of the last two months batting on Sri Lankan pitches, first in the June Test series, then in the Lankan Premier League (where he scored the lone century and concluded as the second-highest run-scorer), and now in these three matches.
Although he will return to Pakistan to play some of his Asia Cup matches, no foreign player has a better recent record on Sri Lankan pitches than he does. Is he approaching a crescendo? In the Asia Cup, you would not wager against it.
Afghanistan: Can Gurbaz Make the Difference?
Afghanistan’s major challenge is its leadership. The only time they scored well in the series was when Gurbaz fired. Gurbaz, like Babar, has extensive exposure on Sri Lankan pitches, having participated in all four LPL seasons.
As the Afghanistan men’s team are in a difficult Asia Cup group with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, it is important to note that Gurbaz has a batting average of 58.6 in six innings against Bangladesh.
Is he prepared to move forward in his career? Perhaps he could bring along Afghanistan’s highest ranking officials.