Pakistan’s World Test Championship (WTC 2023) campaign came to an end after a thrilling draw against New Zealand in the second and final Test match at the National Bank Cricket Arena, Karachi.
It was a journey of joy, record-breaking, memorable games and disaster. Briefly stating, Pakistan started off their first two series with three wins out of four and were in the top two positions. But since the Australia series in March 2022, it went a complete disaster with the loss to England in the second Test confirming their elimination.
We review the World Test Championship 2021-23 journey and highlight some important moments and where it went wrong.
Pakistan WTC 2023: The winning start
When the second cycle of the World Test Championship was announced, the nation believed that they received the best cycle ever. All the schedules they found were easy in their eyes and believe that it was the national side’s best chance to qualify for the final of the tournament.
PAK were scheduled to tour West Indies, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka while they hosted Australia, England and New Zealand. In total, they were to play 14 Test matches in six innings.
The national team started off with a thrilling one-wicket loss to the West Indies. In a low-scoring thriller, West Indies were asked to chase 168. Pakistan kept fighting but the last pair, needing 17 runs, managed to hold on and win the match. Pakistan won the second Test comprehensively.
The Green Team travelled to Bangladesh for the Two Tests. They won both games by great margins. The second Test was an interesting one as rain played the majority of the part and threatened to draw the game. But Babar’s Men managed to win by an inning with off-break bowler Sajid Khan taking record figures.
By the time of that victory, Pakistan were placed second in the Points Table and with the home series to follow, it was supposed to be a fruitful campaign.
Pakistan WTC 2023: When the downfall began
After occupying the second spot, just below Australia when they arrived in the country after 24 years, there was a lot to look forward to. Having won both of their “home” series against the Aussies in the UAE, PAK were looking to keep that record intact.
However, the series began with an interesting/unforgiving move made by the then PCB Chairman Ramiz Raja. Rawalpindi, known for its lovely bowling wicket which supporters pacers, was changed completely to become a flat track wicket. It ended in an obvious draw. What was shocking is that Ramiz Raja released a video about intentionally preparing a flat wicket to “neutralize” the pace attack of Australian bowling. It was met with heavy criticism.
The second Test was one to remember for the world. After bowling out PAK for 148, AUS took a massive lead and asked PAK to chase 506 in one and a half days. It was Babar Azam’s brilliance with his 196 and along with Mohammad Rizwan (104*) and Abdullah Shafique (96), then secure a memorable draw.
But following a joyful draw with the series tied at 0-0, Australia finally had taken the victory. In Lahore and which was a perfect wicket to play cricket on, Australia won the game by 115 runs to win by 1-0, a series score which was exactly the same as when they last played in 1998 in the country.
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This dented the Green Team’s chances in the WTC 2023 tournament and with England and New Zealand soon to follow at home, they had to cover every flaw. But before that, they had to take on Sri Lanka away.
To keep it short, the series ended 1-1. It was a good contest between bat and bowl and both sides had a fair share of moments. However, one big blow that took place in that series was the long injury of Shaheen Afridi. It questioned the fast bowler’s ability to recover in time for the Men’s T20 World Cup.
Home season against England and New Zealand
Fast forward to early December, the England team were ready to challenge the hosts. Coach Brendon McCullum promised that there will be “no boring draws” in the series. And he and his team proved it.
Three Test matches later, Babar Azam saw another series go down. This time, more embarrassingly a 3-0 defeat. Fans, experts, and ex-cricketers all went wild. Rawalpindi once again got a demerit point for being “below average” where 502 runs were scored on the opening day, a record which it became. Pakistan were eliminated from the World Test Championship and the “easy schedule” turned out to be a nightmare.
The Shaheens had to keep their pride when the Kiwis toured shortly after the English side left. But New Zealand kept the national team on the edge. The series eventually ended 0-0, a rare series draw at home but a thrilling one. The conclusion of the Test series saw Pakistan’s home season end with five games, zero Test wins, three losses and two draws.