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The leaders of the pack

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Pakistan_cricket_security_Zimbabwe_tourThe 1992 World Cup winning Pakistani team led by Imran Khan had a great array of pace and seam bowlers. Eventually, this factor stood out in their unexpected triumph. Almost a quarter of a century later, another bowling attack under the leadership of Sarfraz Ahmed is hogging all the limelight.

With some outstanding young pace bowlers, driven by passion and enthusiasm, untouched by the big coaching manuals and only encouraged by the occasion, the Pakistan bowling attack is one to stand back and admire. The immense depth and flair they possess make them a huge force in world cricket only a few months after they struggled to qualify for the Champions Trophy, a tournament that they eventually won.

Attack is the best form of defence: this has been the mantra that has brought Pakistan immense success over the years. Their bowlers have always focused on getting wickets rather than worrying about going for runs. This has led to a group of fearless young seamers, unintimidated by any kind of situation.

Their daunting bowling attack opens with a variety of options with the new ball, ranging from the immaculate Mohammad Amir, the skillful Junaid Khan and fiery Wahab Riaz, to newbies Usman Khan and left-arm quick Rumman Raees. Next comes a middle-overs expert in Hasan Ali and a magical spinner in Shadab Khan to complete the threat. Factor in the experience of Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, and you have a world-beating line up of bowlers.

 

These bowlers played a more than important role in Pakistan's nine match ODI winning streak, complete with a 5-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka. During the Lankan series, Pakistan’s bowlers did not deliver a single no-ball, another sign of the extreme discipline and hard work these youngsters have put in. In the nine games, Pakistan's breathtaking attack has bowled the opposition out seven times. They have made just two scores of 250+ in these games, yet won all of them, underlining the kind of influence their bowlers have had.

 

The major lynchpin in Pakistan's attack has been the impressive Hasan Ali, who has only risen from height to lofty height in the past few months. His meteoric ascent to the position of No.1 ranked bowler in ODIs has been a fairytale story. The seamer has picked up three or more wickets in seven out of the last nine games and has been an extraordinary force with the old ball for Pakistan.

Azhar Mahmood has played an immense, important role in Hasan Ali’s growth. The former all-rounder helped the 23-year-old with reverse swing and gave crucial advice on bowling in the middle and death overs. The knowledge imparted has served Pakistan in good stead. In a team which includes the likes of Amir and Riaz, Hasan has virtually been the leader, a great feat for a young seamer. He is the leading wicket-taker in ODIs this year and has the kind of drive, passion and excitement seen in great fast bowlers of yesteryear.

Teaming up with him are the others, who have been no less important in Pakistan's meteoric rise. The 26-year-old Rumman Raees impressed with his guile in the Sri Lanka ODI series while Usman Khan tore apart the Lankans with his back of a length line and swing in the air. Add Mohammad Amir’s experience to this and they have a trio of left-arm seamers, all threatening in their own unique way.

The young leggie, 19-year-old Shadab Khan, adds another dimension to Pakistan's attacking line up of bowlers. Not scared to give the ball some revolution and flight, Shadab has been eye-catching in his short stint in the Pakistan team. Leg-spinners are attacking options and if used well can reap rich benefits. In Sarfraz, Pakistan have found an able leader, capable of extracting the best from his bowlers. The rookie leggie picked up 10 wickets in the Sri Lankan series while going at a miserly economy rate of 4.17 an over. Bigger tests await him, but for now Shadab is a certainty in Pakistan's limited-overs side.

The back-up spinner, Imad Wasim, is no less impressive, and is best suited to the shorter formats of the game given his variations in pace and ability to squeeze the batsmen for room. Wasim completes a near perfect bowling attack and when he doesn't play, Pakistan have Mohammad Hafeez, currently under the scanner for his suspect action, and Shoaib Malik to chip in with additional overs.

In Sohail Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Rahat Ali and Sohail Tanvir, they have plenty of options waiting on the bench. Sarfraz and the selectors will have a hard job picking out the best among these impressive cluster, but if they do, they will have a world beating side by the time the 2019 World Cup gets underway in England.

 

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