Captain Sarfraz Ahmed made a confusing call on the second day of the second test between Pakistan and New Zealand in the UAE, choosing to declare the first innings at a total of 418-5.
The declaration at 418 is the lowest first innings total at which Pakistan has declared in more than four decades. After their last minute collapse in the first test, the batting line up seemed to be taking nothing for granted in this game, making a crawl through the first two days after the team’s openers fell early to the New Zealand attack.
The only time Pakistan has declared at a lower first innings total was in the Malahide test earlier in 2018, but even that was effectively a four day game after the first day was washed out by rain without a ball played.
Anchored by Haris Sohail’s agonisingly slow but steady 147 off 421 deliveries at a strike rate of less than 35, Azhar Ali also spent a long time at the crease for his 81. The only flash of some urgency was shown by Babar Azam in the latter half of his 263 ball 127 at a strike rate of just under 50.
The declaration, which came at the end of the second day, seemed to be aimed at getting the New Zealand team in at the end of the day to try and get a couple of wickets in in the last part of the day against batsmen that had been out in the field the entire day.
However, either the Pakistani batsmen did not respond to instruction or Captain Sarfraz Ahmed failed to communicate his intention because there seemed to be no effort to increase the scoring rate at any point before the declaration, despite Pakistan having both the time, wickets and requisite settled batsmen to do so.
“Pakistan declare on 418. It is their lowest first inns total in a declared innings in 40 years! (ignoring Malahide Test earlier this year which effectively was a 4-day Test)” commented cricket pundit Mazher Arshad on twitter.
The commentators on the day were also surprised by the call saying “Pakistan have declared. Have to say I’m slightly surprised by the timing of this, considering there was no noted effort at increasing the scoring rate. It’s abrupt. But it moves the game ahead. New Zealand have an hour to bat. There’ll be pressure, but 418 won’t scare them on this pitch.”
“If they had to declare with 13 overs to spare, why didn’t they go hard at the ball earlier? Wasted a lot of overs for no good reason” questioned one fan.
“I consider this declaration a mistake .. Pak didn’t increase their scoring rate .. Seems like there wasn’t any plan in this declaration at all .. Just followed the routine of declaring before the end of the day.”
After Pakistan’s shock loss in the previous game, Sarfraz Ahmed is already under a lot of pressure. Whether the decision will pay off is yet to be seen, but for now the skipper continues to be under fire over the team’s dwindling twitter fortunes.
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