As much as Pakistan has a broad spectrum of talented fast bowlers to choose from, the selectors have a severe headache.
It cannot be emphasized enough how much Pakistan are in dire need of a turnaround.
Put to one side for a minute the opposition in their last two encounters, the spurned chances and the decks on which they have played. The visitors have taken the field without a genuine fifth fast bowler and a decimator at the same time.
It seems the present English side can do no wrong in chasing totals. Though the visitors have had tough months preceding this series, they were reasonably backed up to find form ahead of the World Cup. However, it indeed has been the opposite for their bowling side and their lower-order batsmen.
It is where the Pakistan team are mainly missing the services of someone like Abdul Razzaq. Razzaq was a persistent fixture for long in the team and was believed to be their X factor. He played a telling number of one-day cricket, although for a variety of reasons Razzaq didn’t scale the heights he was destined to. But nothing stopped him from making epic comebacks from the sidelines along with playing blinders to inspire his side to the unthinkable.
The need for such a player flares up not only because Pakistan lacks a genuine hard hitter down the order but also because of the dearth of variety with the ball. There are bona fide contenders who can make the position their own. Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Asif Ali and Hasan Ali have all made compelling cases by giving a glimpse of what they can do. But can they do at the big stage when the blight of pressure looms?
The closest option to a Razzaq with the bat for them appears to be Asif Ali. Notching up two half-centuries in two games, Asif Ali has made himself palpable and may just sneak in the World Cup squad. Although the fiery innings in Southampton was a lost cause, Ali is precisely what Pakistan may need to have, for he gives them the hope to meet the current standards of 50-over cricket.
If the lacklustre fielding effort from the tourists was the sole reason why they lost despite scoring 358, it transcends beyond that. While a lethal pace attack, their bowlers looked hardly threatening to the batsmen. The four-pronged quicks had the speed but failed to mix it up more often, and when they did chances were created but swatted away by the fieldsmen.
This is also where Razzaq stops the bowling attack from taking the one-dimensional approach and bowls the testing and deceptive deliveries to create more chances. Razzaq’s bowling was quite effective even though it was slightly on the dibbly-dobbly side. But in the face of Pakistan producing fast bowlers of cutting-edge quality meant that Razzaq used to go underutilised.
If Southampton and Bristol were anything less than what the tourists expected, Trent Bridge can’t get any easier. Can Sarfaraz drag his form and the bowlers to stop amassing England from crunching yet another 400-plus total at the venue?