Pakistan's tour of England saw three well-contested series' © Getty images
Pakistan’s tour of England saw three well-contested series’ © Getty images

A dip in the ocean of glory, followed by coming face-to-face with the harsh ugly reality, and then a sort-of enlivening spectacle, that promised hope for future. This is how Pakistan‘s tour of England can be summed up, as it comes to an end. When Misbah-ul-Haq‘s well-prepared Pakistan left their first impressions on Day One of the Lord’s Test, the captain had already scored a century, celebrated in what would become a ritual for the series hence; the press-ups, and the first brick in the wall had been laid, for what would end as a series well-contested by the visitors to England, in a long, long time. But as the tour reached its mid-phase, the ghosts of Pakistan-in-green came back to haunt. They left them pondering, made them feel embarrassed, and while it was time for them to leave, they left some hope. Full Cricket Scorecard, Pakistan vs England, One-off T20I at Old Trafford

Misbah’s men were on a mission. Misbah’s men were desperate to change. Change, how they were perceived. Change the way they played. Alastair Cook and his men knew before the Test series started, Pakistan would be difficult to beat. While they (England) were busy dealing with Mohammad Aamer’ s return and the razzmatazz around it, Pakistan were busy becoming a force. Right from the onset, the message was clear. Play with togetherness, play with spirit; Pride will follow. And it did. Pakistan are now the No.1 ranked Test team in the world. READ: Pakistan are No. 1 and cricket is proud of it

No they didn’t even need a series win to reach there. But a 1-0 lead lost, and then a fight to finish what had started well, and needed to end well, was on show in the final Test at The Kennington Oval. If they couldn’t win the series, they didn’t let England win it either. 2-2 it ended. In a way England are not used to seeing it end.

And then someone overturned the hourglass. The script changed completely. So did the scoreline.

In green outfit, Pakistan began the ODI series poorly. Sometimes, their captain Azhar Ali had to bear the criticism, and on occasions their ‘brand of cricket’ was termed traditional. Coach Mickey Arthur had just come to grips with reality. His press conferences in the next few days would bring out, even more frustration from him. He couldn’t stop the embarrassment that his team was going through on the pitch. In the third ODI at Trent Bridge, England registered the highest ever ODI score (444 for 3). With the kind of batting Pakistan had displayed throughout the series, they had no chance to beat the record England had set in that match. 1-0 became 4-0, in a matter of seven days.

Not that Pakistan were easy meat for England, but it was mainly their batting and their bowlers’ failure to take dent England’s impressive batsmen. The visitors did have a few individual performers, coupled with some exciting perfomances in instalments in the series. Sarfraz Ahmed, Imad Wasim and captain Azhar led the charge, but the valour that Misbah’s side had demonstrated looked like it had evaporated. The fact that Yasir Shah, their hero of the Tests, had a forgettable ODI series, summed up their situation. They were now staring at a 5-0 whitewash defeat.

Pakistan were now at their lowest-ever ICC ranking in ODIs and even their consolation win in the final ODI by nine wickets, could not help them much. A distressed Arthur, said, “I hate the phrase, but we are number nine in the world and we can see why.” They are now, in serious danger of failing to qualify automatically for the World Cup 2019. Could it have gone worse? Probably no.

Come the one-off T20I, where Sarfraz lead for the first time, Pakistan blossomed. Brilliant line, length and variations saw their bowlers restrict Morgan’s men to 135 for 7. The Wahab Riaz who had conceded more than hundred at Trent Bridge, had bounced back with 3 for 18. The charisma of Sharjeel Khan, along with Khalid Latif made sure there were no more hiccups. Pakistan won by 9 wickets. Sarfraz was elated, the tour had ended on a ‘high note’.

While the support Pakistan got ever-since the first Test at Lord’s to the one-off T20I at Old Trafford in Manchester, where trumpets, flags and cheers were a must-watch, Pakistan walk back with a lot to take from the tour. Under Misbah, they are soldiers, willing to die for every ‘inch’. Under Azhar they look spiritless; out of sorts. And under Sarfraz they look inspired, organized.

What everyone associated with Pakistan cricket knows well, is the fact that international cricket demands consistency. Pakistan’s next challenge lies against West Indies, where they have to battle it out, in a very important series. If they fail to win then, in the limited-overs series’, they won’t be helping their cause. Arthur realises the enormity of the task at hand.

“When I saw the fixture list, the games aren’t easy. We’ve got two series against West Indies that we have to play well in — West Indies are a decent one-day outfit. Between them we are sandwiched with an ODI series in Australia which is incredibly tough,” Arthur said.

The attention though, cannot just be given to the solutions for Pakistan’s failure in 50-over cricket. Pakistan Cricket has to think about how things will pan out in Tests, when Misbah decides to pack his bags. Not only Misbah, Younis Khan too might call it a day anytime soon. Misbah is 42. Younis is 38. Who will captain the Test side after Misbah? Can someone, ever fill into his shoes? How will Pakistan deal with the absence of someone as experienced as Younis?

According to Misbah,”It’s never easy to take a decision regarding the future.” And how can it be an easy one for him, he is someone who has always placed country ahead of personal goals. And that is why, this decision will be tough indeed. While he might play in the Test series against West Indies, whether he will stay till Pakistan’s tour of Australia or not, is the question.

And that’s why Pakistan’s tour of England has brought up big questions. Questions, of which Pakistan Cricket will have to find answers soon.

(Karan Dewana reporter with CricketCountry, loves following and playing sports. He is a Team India fan and loves winning. Follow him on his twitter handle @karan13dewan)