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A year to remember

The last sun of 2017 will set today, taking along all the good and bad ...

A year to remember

The last sun of 2017 will set today, taking along all the good and bad memories that must have taught us many things and will certainly help us in turning the new year into a more fruitful one.

2017 was a memorable year for Pakistan cricket for many reasons. Pakistan won the first ever Test series in the West Indies. Pakistan clinched the ICC Champions Trophy for the first time. International cricket returned to Pakistan with the tour of World XI and the Sri Lankan team for a Twenty20.

The final of the Pakistan Super League second edition was also played in Lahore. Peshawar Zalmi won the title, beating Quetta Gladiators in the final.

Pakistan’s most successful captain Misbah-ul-Haq, highest Test scorer Younis Khan and doosra specialist Saeed Ajmal announced retirement from international cricket.

Hosting the PSL final in Lahore was a success for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) as it opened the doors for international cricket in Pakistan after which a World XI comprising international players from different countries and the Sri Lanka team visited the country.

During the year, Pakistan played just six Test matches, one against Australia in Sydney, three against West Indies in West Indies and two against Sri Lanka in the UAE.

Overall, it was not a great year for Pakistan Test cricket. They started the year with a defeat against Australia by 220 runs in the last Test of the series in Sydney. The Green-shirts also lost the ODI series to Australia by 4-1. The defeat put Pakistan in danger of missing direct qualification for the World Cup 2019.

In April-May, Pakistan toured West Indies. It was the last Test series for Misbah and Younis.

Pakistan won the first Test in Kingston by seven wickets, but unexpectedly lost the second by 106 runs in Bridgetown. Pakistan won the final Test at Roseau after a thrilling contest when only one over was left to be bowled. Despite the 2-1 series win, Pakistan were eighth in the ICC Test Team rankings.

After the retirement of Misbah, ODI captain Sarfraz Ahmed took over the Test team charge, but unfortunately he failed in his first assignment miserably as Sri Lanka won both the Tests against Pakistan in the UAE.

It was Sri Lanka’s most inexperienced side who had won only a Test against Zimbabwe and drawn a series 1-1 against Bangladesh during the year.

Pakistan had to pay a huge price for playing with three fast bowlers in the UAE conditions. Pakistan missed the services of Misbah and Younis.

Pakistan’s most dependable batsman Azhar Ali was the top run-getter in 2017. He scored 504 runs in six Tests. Sarfraz Ahmed was behind him with 350 runs in as many matches.

Ace leg-spinner Yasir Shah was Pakistan’s most successful bowler with 43 wickets in six Test matches. Fast bowler Mohammad Abbas took 23 wickets in five Tests.

But it was a great year for Pakistan team in ODIs as the men in green played 18 One-day Internationals, winning 12 and losing six.

Babar Azam was the most successful batsman of the year with 872 runs in 17 innings, including four centuries and two fifties.

In bowling, young sensation Hassan Ali remained on top with 45 wickets. His three five-wicket hauls in the year were the most by any bowler in ODIs.

Pakistan’s main ODI success of the year was winning the Champions Trophy in England. The Green-shirts began the Champions Trophy with a heavy defeat against arch-rivals India at Birmingham. But that was Pakistan’s last ODI defeat in 2017.

Pakistan made a remarkable comeback and beat South Africa and Sri Lanka to qualify for the semi-final of the Champions Trophy. Pakistan surprised England in the semi-final to qualify for the final. India reached the final after beating Bangladesh in the second semi-final.

In the mega-final, India were the favourites and the results of all previous clashes between the two arch-rivals in any ICC tournament had given them the edge. But Pakistan’s young guns outclassed them in the final to lift the ICC Champions Trophy.

Pakistan unearthed some talented youngsters during the year like Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan and Rumman Raees.

The Sarfraz & company proved that the Champions Trophy win was not a fluke, as they continued their winning streak by whitewashing Sri Lanka in the five-match ODI series. They ended the year with nine successive ODI wins.

The most powerful performance from the Green-shirts came in the Twenty20 Internationals, however. During 2017, Pakistan won 10 matches out of 12, losing to West Indies and World XI only.

Pakistan first won The T20 series against West Indies 3-1 on the latter’s soil. Pakistan hosted Independence Cup consisting of three-match T20I games against South Africa’s Faf du Plessis-led World XI in Lahore. Pakistan’s young players again proved their dominance by defeating the star-studded World XI by 2-1.

Then they whitewashed Sri Lanka in a three-match T20I series. The first two matches were played in the UAE. The last one was hosted at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore.

Babar Azam continued his ODI form in T20Is and was the most successful T20 batsman for the country during the year with 352 runs in 10 innings; he was just five runs behind T20I top scorer West Indian Evin Lewis, who scored 357.

Leg-spinner Shadab Khan claimed 14 wickets in 10 T20Is, while Hasan Ali was behind him with 12 wickets in nine matches.

Leading the Pakistan team is one of the toughest jobs in the cricket world. Pakistan under Misbah-ul-Haq finally conquered the West Indian fort, winning their first-ever Test series on the Caribbean soil 2-1.

The third Test win against West Indies was Pakistan’s 26th victory under Misbah’s leadership. He left Imran Khan and Javed Miandad far behind who led Pakistan to only 14 wins.

During the West Indies tour, in the first Test against them in Kingston, Younis became Pakistan’s first batsman to score 10,000 Test runs. He was the second quickest to complete 10,000 runs as he did it in 116 Tests. Only former West Indian captain Brian Lara is ahead of him as he reached the five-figure mark in 111 matches.

Younis and Misbah scored 3213 runs in 53 innings together with 15 century partnerships at a high average of 68.36. No other pair has had over 10 century stands for Pakistan in Test cricket.

In 2017, another great Pakistani player Saeed Ajmal retired. The 40-year-old Ajmal played 35 Tests and took 178 wickets at an average of 28.10. He last played against Sri Lanka at Galle in 2014 where his bowling action was reported for a second time.

He was more effective in ODIs as he grabbed 184 wickets in 113 appearances, averaging 22.72.

In Twenty20 Internationals, his economy rate of 6.36 was impressive with 85 wickets in 64 matches.

Pakistan need to do a lot to improve their Test ranking. They begin 2018 with New Zealand tour for five One-day Internationals and three Twenty20 Internationals. Let’s hope for a more exciting and adventurous 2018.


Khurram Mahmood

Sports Khurram Mahmood

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