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2023 – a year of ups and downs for Pakistan Cricket

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The year 2023 was an eventful yet a disappointing year for Pakistan cricket in both men’s and women’s competitions as the Greenshirts failed to win any major event this year, barring a few individual accolades.

Let’s take a closer look at how Pakistan’s men’s and women’s teams fared throughout this year.

Pakistan became the number-one ODI team, a rollercoaster of bilateral series

The Pakistan cricket team kicked off the year 2023 with a 2-1 ODI series loss at home against New Zealand in January.

The Kiwis visited Pakistan again in April for the T20I and ODI series, where the T20I series ended in a 2-2 tie, while one match was abandoned due to rain.

However, Pakistan avenged their earlier ODI series loss as they defeated New Zealand 4-1 this time, thanks to Fakhar Zaman, who scored two centuries during the series and was adjudged player of the series.

Pakistan cricket team reached the summit of the ICC ODI Rankings for the first time during the series after defeating New Zealand in the first four matches, however, their reign at the top was short-lived as the loss in the final ODI slipped them to third place.

Prior to the New Zealand series, Pakistan played a T20I series against Afghanistan in UAE right after the Pakistan Super League (PSL), where they rested their key players and sent a relatively young team under Shadab Khan.

The Greenshirts faced their first-ever defeat against Afghanistan in any format when they were defeated by six wickets after being restricted to a meagre 92-9.

Afghanistan improved the margin of victory as they sealed the series with a seven-wicket win in the second match, while Pakistan got a consolation win in the last match.

Both teams squared off in an ODI series in Sri Lanka ahead of Asia Cup 2023, where Pakistan registered a clean sweep in the three-match series to extend their undefeated streak against Afghanistan in ODIs.

The 3-0 victory in the ODI series over Afghanistan ascended Pakistan to the number one spot in the ICC ODI Rankings once again, which they held

Pakistan played only one Test series in the first half of the year because the year was dominated by ODI cricket by virtue of being the ODI World Cup year.

The Greenshirts toured Sri Lanka to commence their Test Championship (WTC) campaign in a two-match series.

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Saud Shakeel scored his maiden double-century in the first Test to script a winning start to their campaign with a four-wicket win.

Pakistan registered a massive victory in the second Test with a margin of an innings and 222 runs, courtesy of Abdullah Shafique’s maiden double-century and Salman Ali Agha’s unbeaten century.

Lahore Qalandars became the first team to win consecutive PSL titles

From being the ultimate underdogs to becoming the only team to successfully defend their Pakistan Super League (PSL) title, Lahore Qalandars’ journey in tournament history is enthralling.

Lahore Qalandars remained at the bottom of the table during the first four editions of PSL, before playing the final of the fifth edition, where they lost to arch-rivals Karachi Kings.

The Qalandars then had another forgetful season in 2021 but they made an astounding return in the 2022 edition and won the coveted PSL trophy.

They kicked off their title defence in the eighth edition of the PSL with a thrilling one-run victory over Multan Sultans.

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However, they faced a crushing 67-run defeat at the hands of arch-rivals Karachi Kings in the next match.

Qalandars then went on to win five consecutive matches, including the thumping win over Islamabad United by 110 runs, which is the joint-third largest margin of victory in terms of runs in PSL history.

However, they improved their record and defeated Islamabad United by the biggest margin of 119 runs, which is a PSL record.

Qalandars topped the points table with seven victories out of ten games and faced Multan Sultans in the first playoff game, where they were bowled out for a meagre 76 while chasing 161.

They then scripted a comeback victory over Peshawar Zalmi in the Eliminator 2 to chase 172 with seven balls to spare.

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Lahore Qalandars once again squared off against Multan Sultans in the final of the PSL, where they came out triumphant thanks to Zaman Khan’s last-over heroics as he defended 13 runs to help his team create history.

Asia Cup returns to Pakistan but not the trophy as India lift eighth title

ACC Men’s Asia Cup 2023 was the first multi-nation cricket tournament hosted by Pakistan since the 2008 Asia Cup, however, the tournament was played in a hybrid model with Sri Lanka being the joint-hosts.

Asia Cup 2023 was played in the ODI format, unlike the T20I format last year as the tournament is being played on a rotation basis to follow the format of the upcoming ICC event.

Pakistan commenced their campaign with a massive 238-run victory over the Nepal side courtesy of Babar Azam’s 151-run knock.

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They next faced arch-rivals India, where Pakistan’s pace trio of Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf shared ten wickets to bowl India out for 266.

However, it literally rained on their parade as the downpour did not allow a single ball to be bowled in the second innings, thus abandoning the match.

Both teams advanced to the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup, where Pakistan thumped Bangladesh by seven wickets in their first game courtesy of their pace bowling led by Haris Rauf’s 4-19.

Pakistan’s pace attack looked invincible in the tournament and it seemed like they would finally end their Asia Cup trophy drought this year, however, they were stopped in their tracks in the next match against India.

Indian batters piled up 356-2 on the reserve day of the rain-effected match in Colombo, with all four of their batters crossing the 50-run mark.

Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill scored half-centuries, whereas Virat Kohli and Kl Rahul scored centuries to post the mammoth total.

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Notably, Naseem Shah also got injured during the match and was subsequently ruled out for the entirety of the Asia Cup as well as the ICC World Cup 2023.

In response, Pakistan’s batting line bundled out for a meagre 128, courtesy of Kuldeep Yadav’s five-fer.

The Greenshirts were needed to defeat Sri Lanka in their last Super Four match to qualify for the final, where they would have faced India again.

But, Pakistan lost to Sri Lanka in the last-over thriller, where Charith Asalanka held on to his nerves and guided his side to a two-wicket victory.

Sri Lanka faced India in the final with dreams of winning back-to-back Asia Cup titles, little did they know that their dreams would be shattered destructively.

India bowled out Sri Lanka for 50 runs inside 16 overs, thanks to Mohammed Siraj’s impressive bowling figures of 6-21.

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They then comfortably chased the total without losing a wicket in the seventh over, winning their eighth Asia Cup title.

A disastrous ICC World Cup 2023 campaign for Pakistan

Pakistan cricket team landed in India for the first time since ICC T20 World Cup 2016, in their quest for a second ODI World Cup title.

However, the Babar Azam-led side had a shaky start as they were reduced to 38-3 against the Netherlands in their first game, which they eventually won by 68 runs.

In the next game, the Green Shirts avenged their Asia Cup loss to Sri Lanka, that too in a grand style as they recorded the highest successful run chase in World Cup history, courtesy of Mohammad Rizwan’s unbeaten century.

However, they lost to arch-rivals India in a one-sided contest by seven wickets after bundling out for 191 in front of the packed Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, extending their World Cup losing streak against India to eight matches.

After two early victories, Pakistan lost four matches on the trot, leaving their semi-final hopes hanging off a thread.

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Among those four losses, the most embarrassing was the eight-wicket loss against Afghanistan in a one-sided match, which was Pakistan’s first loss against the neighbouring country in the ODI format.

However, keeping their unpredictable tag intact, Pakistan made a comeback in the tournament as they were required to win their last three matches convincingly with several other results going their way.

Pakistan defeated Bangladesh by seven wickets and New Zealand by 21 runs (DLS) courtesy of Fakhar Zaman’s whirlwind performance in both matches.

While chasing a mountainous 402 against New Zealand, Zaman kept his team in the hunt during the rain-effected match with an unbeaten 81-ball 126, pushing the team’s total ahead of the DLS par score, resulting in the victory.

Pakistan now had to defeat the struggling England in their final group match with a huge margin to qualify for the semi-final spot, however, they lost by 93 runs, thus ending a dismal World Cup campaign.

Australia went on to win the tournament, as they defeated undefeated India in the final by six wickets.

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Dawn of a new day in Pakistan cricket

In the aftermath of the ICC World Cup 2023 debacle, the Pakistan cricket team saw major changes in team management as captain Babar Azam relinquished the captaincy of all three formats.

PCB handed the reigns of Test captaincy to top-order batter Shan Masood and T20I leadership was handed over to pace bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi, meanwhile, the ODI captain will be announced later as there are no ODIs scheduled in the future.

Moreover, Mickey Arthur was replaced by former captain Mohammad Hafeez as the Team’s Director while Umar Gul and Wahab Riaz were appointed bowling coach and chief selector respectively.

The old challenge for the new management

Shan Masood’s first assignment as Test captain was the three-match Test series against Australia in their backyard, where Pakistan had not won a Test match since 1995.

Pakistan’s losing streak in Australia extended further as the Green Shirts suffered a massive 360-run loss in the first Test in Perth.

Pakistan’s batting lineup unfolded at a mere 89 in the fourth innings while chasing a mammoth total of 450.

Following the massive victory in the first Test, Australia defeated Pakistan in the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) by 79 runs as the visitors skittle for 237 in the fourth innings in pursuit of 317 to win the three-match Test series 2-0.

Pakistan cricket team will play the third Test in Sydney from January 3rd, 2024.

Pakistan Women’s Team’s bittersweet year

Pakistan women’s cricket team did not have a different year than the men’s cricket team, however, they achieved a few historic wins this year.

They kicked off the year with a historic tour of Australia after a nine-year hiatus, however, the tour proved to be a horror show as the visitors remained winless.

Australia defeated the women’s team of Pakistan 3-0 in the ODI series and 2-0 in the T20I series, while one match was washed out due to consistent rain in Canberra.

An early exit from the T20 World Cup

Pakistan women’s cricket team had a disappointing T20 World Cup 2023 campaign in South Africa under Bismah Maroof, where they failed to qualify for the semi-final.

They were defeated by seven wickets in their first match against arch-rival India after setting a target of 150, which was chased with an over to spare.

However, the Pakistan women’s team made a comeback in the next game against Ireland, defeating them by 70 runs.

Ireland women’s team was bundled for a paltry 95-run total while chasing 166, inspired by Muneeba Ali, who struck the first-ever century for Pakistan in Women’s T20Is.

In their next game against West Indies, they fell three short of West Indies’ 166 in a last-over thriller which almost confirmed Pakistan’s exit from the tournament.

Pakistan faced the strong England side in their final group match, where they were restricted to 99-9 while chasing a mammoth 214.

Notably, the Pakistan women’s team has never qualified for the knock-out round of the T20 World Cup ever since its inception in 2009.

Meanwhile, Australia went on to win their record sixth T20 World Cup title by defeating host South Africa by 19 runs in the final.

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The wave of change in Women’s cricket

Following the T20 World’s early exit, Bismah Maroof stepped down from captaincy, after leading Pakistan in 27 out of 62 T20Is and 16 out of 34 ODI wins.

All-rounder Nida Dar was appointed the captain of the Pakistan women’s team after Bismah Maroof’s resignation.

Women made history against South Africa, New Zealand

Nida Dar’s first assignment was the white-ball series against South Africa, who were visiting Pakistan for the first time.

Pakistan women’s cricket team created history in 2023 as they whitewashed South Africa for the first time during the three-match T20I series in Karachi.

However, South Africa made a comeback in the ODI series, defeating Pakistan 2-1.

Pakistan women’s team then toured Bangladesh, where they lost both T20I and ODI series 2-1.

Pakistan then had a historical tour of New Zealand in December, where they registered their first-ever series victory over the New Zealand women’s team in the T20I format during the first match of the series.

They then defeated New Zealand by ten runs in the second T20I to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match T20I series, before losing the last game to make it 2-1.

With this victory, the Pakistan women’s team became the first Asian side to beat New Zealand in a T20I series.

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During the ODI series, the hosts defeated Pakistan in the first two games to win the series 2-0 keeping their undefeated streak at home against the visitors.

However, Pakistan broke the streak in the last match of the series as they registered their first-ever ODI victory over New Zealand in New Zealand.

The thrilling match was decided in the Super Over after the game was tied initially.

With this tour, the Pakistan women’s cricket team ended 2023 on a high, as they look forward to new challenges in 2024.

Curtains down on some of the memorable careers

The year 2023 saw some of the stars of the Men’s Pakistan cricket team hanging up their boots and transitioning to different roles, namely, Sohail Tanvir, Ehsan Adil, Hammad Azam, Kamran Akmal, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Khan, Imad Wasim, and Asad Shafiq.

Notably, except for Hammad Azam, all the players mentioned above have represented Pakistan in T20I or ODI World Cup.

Sohail Tanvir and Kamran Akmal were part of the T20I World Cup winning squad in 2009, while Imad Wasim played his role in Pakistan’s triumph in the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017.

Wahab Riaz was initially part of the Champions Trophy squad but was ruled out with an injury after the first match.

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Moreover, two women’s players Ayesha Naseem and Nahida Khan also bid farewell to cricket this year.

Nahida Khan represented Pakistan in three 50-over World Cups (2013, 2017 and 2022) and four T20 World Cups (2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018).

Meanwhile, Ayesha Naseem shockingly retired at the age of 18 after playing only four Women’s ODIs and four Women’s T20Is to spend the rest of her life as per the teaching of her religion.

READ: A glimpse at Pakistan’s 2023 in major sports 

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