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News

Pakistan slowdown: Babar on the defensive, but Shadab wants more 'impactful innings'

"Making runs consistently in T20 cricket isn't difficult, but playing impactful innings is difficult," Shadab says

Danyal Rasool
Danyal Rasool
22-Apr-2024
Babar Azam kept the Pakistan innings chugging along after Saim Ayub fell, Pakistan vs New Zealand, 3rd T20I, Rawalpindi, April 21, 2024

Babar Azam failed to provide the impetus the Pakistan innings needed  •  PCB

New Zealand's win over Pakistan in the third T20I has raised familiar questions around Pakistan's approach to T20 cricket, with Babar Azam defending Pakistan's batting performance and rejecting suggestion that a middle-overs slowdown played a part in his side's defeat. This, even as Shadab Khan stressed that T20s needed "impactful innings" - something Pakistan lacked on the day.
Pakistan posted 178 on what Babar acknowledged at the toss was an excellent pitch for batting, but New Zealand demonstrated what was possible on such a surface, cantering to a seven-wicket win with ten balls to spare thanks to an unbeaten 87 off 42 balls from Mark Chapman.
"We did well with the bat," Babar said at the post-match presentation. "I don't think it [the slowdown] made much of a difference because we had caught up in the end. You can say we were ten runs short. Unfortunately, we had a bit of a setback with [Mohammad] Rizwan's injury because it wasn't easy for new batters. But Shadab recovered well and had an outstanding partnership with Irfan [Khan]. In Pindi, 180-190 is a par score."
The passage of play in question came immediately after the powerplay, not for the first time.
While Saim Ayub got Pakistan off to a fast start with a 22-ball 32, he was dismissed just after the powerplay, which ended with Pakistan scoring 54. That brought Babar and Rizwan together, a pair whose consistency in accumulating runs has never been in question, even if the intent has.
"In the middle period, we were slow. Between overs seven to ten, and then 11 to 15, the ball was gripping and we slowed down. These are the things we have to learn to improve"
Azhar Mahmood
Pakistan managed just 51 runs in the next seven overs as New Zealand applied the brakes. Collectively, Babar and Rizwan scored 59 runs in 50 balls. Babar was dismissed in the 11th over. Rizwan retired hurt with a hamstring injury in the 13th.
Shadab and Irfan's fireworks helped Pakistan score 75 in the last seven as they got close to the score Babar said Pakistan were originally targeting.
However, when the Rawalpindi pitch has been at its best of late, 180-190 hasn't truly been a par score. The six completed T20Is at the venue over the years (all since 2020) have all been won by the chasing side, including last year when Pakistan posted 193, only for Chapman, last night's hero too, to thwart them with an unbeaten 57-ball 104. And in the PSL, of the ten times the side batting first has won in Rawalpindi, only twice did they post a lower score than Pakistan's 178 last night.
Pakistan head coach Azhar Mahmood appeared to acknowledge this in a more direct way than his captain. "We were 15 to 20 runs short," he said. "We started very well, our score in the first six overs was 54, which is very good. In the end, Shadab's innings was excellent. In the middle period, we were slow. Between overs seven to ten, and then 11 to 15, the ball was gripping and we slowed down.
"These are the things we have to learn to improve. But you have to pay credit to the way Chapman played. In T20 cricket, if one man stands up, he can take the game away from you."
It was Shadab's 41 off 20 that took Pakistan to their eventual total after he came in to bat at six. He has made the upper-middle order his own with Islamabad United, but said he was happy to be moved around as and when required. Most significantly, though, the vice-captain looked to draw a distinction between a big innings and a consequential one.
"I have played one-down and two-down in the PSL and that's where I think I am most comfortable. But I'm also fine with being used as a floater," he said. "If I get a chance, the planning will be the same - I'm the sort of player who will look to make quick runs.
"Sometimes, you need impactful innings, especially in T20 cricket nowadays. Making runs consistently in T20 cricket isn't difficult, but playing impactful innings is difficult."

Danyal Rasool is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @Danny61000

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