Pakistan were able to grab an 11-run win in the first of the three-match T20Is series in Harare, but there were some points in the game where the visitors looked like losing the plot against minnows Zimbabwe.
Here are the three worrying signs which Babar Azam-led Pakistan need to ponder upon as they prepare for this year’s T20 World Cup.
Struggling against slow bowlers
Zimbabwe’s spinners Wesley Madhevere and Ryan Burl deserve a lot of praise for helping the hosts restrict Pakistan to a sub-standard 149 for seven in their 20 overs.
Pakistan, after they were sent in to bat first, struggled against slow bowlers from the word go. They may not have given many wickets to them, but the scoring rate against them is a sign that Pakistan haven’t acclimatised to the Zimbabwean conditions.
It also means that they are still accustomed to playing South Africa express pacers and were taken by surprise by the Zimbabwean bowling line-up.
Pakistan may have won the first match due to some poor fielding and incapable batting, but they need to pull their socks up in order to avoid any upsets on the tour of Zimbabwe.
Loss of form for Hafeez
Mohammad Hafeez nearly restarted his career for Pakistan after a wonderful display of power-hitting in the Pakistan Super League sixth edition and also in the T20Is before that, but his last four matches show that he has either been found out of is struggling to middle the ball.
Whatever the case is, Pakistan will be praying that Hafeez once again finds his Midas touch as they will be relying heavily on his experience and power-hitting during the upcoming T20 World Cup.
A good sign against Zimbabwe was that Hafeez bowled four overs for 21 runs and took one wicket as well, but the management needs to be clear with the all-rounder that they need him to perform primarily as a batsman. His bowling may offer the captain an extra choice, but with his action remodelled and him being disallowed to bowl some of his sneaky deliveries, he may well conform to his new role as a batting all-rounder as early as possible.
Over-reliance on top order
Pakistan are turning into India of the 2010s, where the top order trio of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli formed the core of the batting line-up.
The 2017 Champions Trophy final was a testament to the fact that if you could get these three out early, you could easily beat India. Mohammad Amir accounted for all three of them and Pakistan lifted the trophy with ease that year. (What a wonderful memory to cherish always).
Like that same India team, Pakistan are now relying more than ever on Mohammad Rizwan, Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman to fire for them.
We discussed that Hafeez needs to reaffirm his form and occupy the number four spot more responsibly, but Pakistan needs to find consistent performers on the number five, six and seven positions as well.
Shuffling Haider Ali won’t help Pakistan turn him into a star hitter, a fact that the team management should’ve realised until now and trying newbies, who are kicked out after three to four matches, won’t help either.
Pakistan needs to form a solid playing XI right now and they need to find one replacement for each position as early as possible, so when they field a team in the T20 World Cup, the eleven players know each other’s roles and responsibilities.