Pakistan cricket hit heights and terrible lows in 2017

The Champions Trophy triumph was Pakistan's high point in 2017.

Pakistan cricket hit some dizzying heights and terrible lows in an eventful 2017. In a way, it encapsulated Pakistan cricket itself. There were the retirements of two greats – Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan, there was the unexpected but truly spectacular, Champions Trophy victory, and then there was the humbling defeat at home to a struggling Sri Lankan side.

Pakistan and unpredictability might well be synonymous, but even they would have surprised themselves this year.


Wiped away in Australia:

Pakistan’s year began with a solid thumping at the hands of Australia. The side was reminded that they needed consistently all-round performances in order to make it to the top of the ladder. Asad Shafiq, Younis Khan and Sarfaraz Ahmed all averaged over fifty with the bat, but their bowlers came a cropper. In the end, they lost the first two Tests in 2017 on the back of a fighting loss in the Day-Night Test in Brisbane. In the subsequent ODI series, Pakistan managed to seal their only win on tour, in the second ODI, but they lost the series 4-1.

Ignominy in PSL:

Pakistan Super League was shrouded in controversy and embarrassment with Sharjeel Khan, Khalid Latif, Nasir Jamshed, Shahzaib Hasan all coming under the scanner for spot fixing. Sharjeel was handed a five-year ban too, while Jamshed was slapped with a one-year ban.

History and farewell in West Indies:

The series against the Windies was important for more reasons than one. Pakistan had never won a Test series in the Caribbean, and with Younis Khan and Misbah ul Haq retiring, they had their best chance to get one over a weak Windies side.

They started off well, winning both the T20I and the ODI series, but the Test series was the cynosure of all eyes. Mohammad Amir and Yasir Shah sizzled with six-fers in Jamaica, while Misbah was left stranded on 99 in the first innings as Pakistan completed an easy seven-wicket victory.

There was another 99, this time out on the score, for Misbah in Bridgetown, but West Indies, led by Roston Chase and Shannon Gabriel, managed to level the series.

The final game, in Dominica, went in for a heady climax, with Windies’ last-wicket pair of Gabriel and Chase just seven deliveries away from drawing the game. Gabriel needed to fend off one delivery from Shah to give Chase the final over to negotiate, but the tailender went for an almighty slog, inside-edging it onto his stumps in the process and giving Pakistan a historic win, and their batting stalwarts a fitting send off. Younis Khan became the first Pakistan batsman to score 10000 Test runs during the series as well.

Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan bowed out of international cricket during the Test series against the Windies.

Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan bowed out of international cricket during the Test series against the Windies. © AFP
Glory in England:

Pakistan came into the Champions Trophy with hardly a sniff. They were blown away by India in their first game, but came back strongly through a win in a rain-marred encounter against South Africa and a miraculous lower-order buoyed victory over Sri Lanka.

Having made it to the semis, Pakistan turned up a transformed team. They put in a clinical effort to see off hosts England by eight wickets to set up a dream final against India. Led by Fakhar Zaman’s dominating hundred, Pakistan smashed their arch-rivals by 180 runs, thus turning a new chapter for themselves.

Delight at home:

Since the attack on the Sri Lankan team in 2009, Pakistan have only hosted international cricket at home once – when Zimbabwe visited them in 2015. In a big boost to their attempts to bring cricket back home, Pakistan hosted a World XI, for three T20Is, in Lahore in September.

The likes of Paul Collingwood, Tim Paine, Thisara Perera and Grant Elliot among others turned up for the World XI, laying testimony to Pakistan’s claims that it was safe for cricket at home. The result didn’t really matter, but fittingly Pakistan won it 2-1.

Despair at the home away from home:

It was Pakistan’s first Test series after the departure of their two stalwarts. That it was against a beleaguered Sri Lankan gave them the perfect opportunity to assess and overcome the losses in conditions where they have been close to being unbeatable.

But things did not go exactly to plan. Sri Lanka played gutsy cricket and surprised Pakistan. In the end, Pakistan succumbed to a 0-2 loss in a tightly-contested series. The high of the Champions League success and hosting cricket at home suddenly came crashing down.

But the disappointments were soon forgotten when the shorter formats arrived. Pakistan whitewashed Sri Lanka in both the ODI and T20I series to end their year on a high.

Another chucking taint:

Mohammad Hafeez was reported for a suspect bowling action for the third time in his career. Hafeez’s bowling action came under the scanner during the third ODI against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi in October. Hafeez had already been reported twice for an illegal bowling action and was suspended from bowling both times.

Top performer:

Hasan Ali

For someone who made his international debut late last year, Hasan Ali has come leaps and bounds. He currently is the top-ranked bowler in ODIs, and was a key presence as Pakistan won the Champions Trophy, despite being lowest ranked team in the competition, won in West Indies, and whitewashed Sri Lanka at home in the 50-over format.

Ali played 18 ODIs for Pakistan and ended with 45 wickets to his name, boasting of a stunning bowling average of 17.04, with three five-wicket hauls to his name. In 10 of the 18 games, Hasan Ali took at least 3 wickets in a game, underlining his growing stature as one of the best in the format.

There’s going to be more of ‘bomb explosion’ celebrations in years to come. And in multiple formats too.

Looking forward to 2018:

Pakistan have a challenging 2018 coming up. They will start off with a limited-overs series in New Zealand. They will then tour England for two Tests, which will be followed by four away series, in Zimbabwe (full series), Australia (limited-overs), New Zealand and South Africa (both full series).

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