Saud Shakeel and Harry Brook: Contrasting Starts to Their Test Careers

Saud Shakeel and Harry Brook

Saud Shakeel and Harry Brook have embarked on their Test careers with varying approaches and outcomes. After 10 innings, Shakeel boasts an impressive average of 72.50, while Brook stands at 64.25 after 17 knocks. However, their divergent batting styles have caught the attention of observers.

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England’s star batter Harry Brook has a strike rate of 94.31 in Test matches, even when halved, it still exceeds Saud Shakeel’s strike rate of 41.66. Delving deeper, Shakeel has faced 1392 deliveries at the Test level, hitting only one six. In contrast, Brook has faced 1090 deliveries and recorded 20 sixes.

Yet, in a surprising turn of events after a six-month Test hiatus, Pakistan finds itself racing at a run rate of 4.91 in the first innings, with Shakeel leading the charge with an unbeaten 69 off 88 deliveries. Agha Salman, previously holding a Test strike rate of 56.65, was Shakeel’s main partner in Galle, contributing 61 runs off 84 deliveries by stumps.

The duo united when Pakistan was in dire straits at 101 for 5 after Sri Lanka set a target of 312. Their partnership of 120 runs off 136 deliveries remained unbroken. Notably, they exhibited aggressive play, frequently employing sweeping shots, leaving the crease, and preventing bowlers from building dot ball pressure.

According to Shan Masood, who scored a quickfire 39 off 30 deliveries, Pakistan’s new approach is a result of a team-wide change in strategy. Reflecting on the previous Test cycle, the team management identified the need to match their opponents’ run rates to win and close out matches successfully. Masood stated that the team underwent two skill camps in Lahore and Karachi before touring Sri Lanka, emphasizing the importance of scoring runs to put pressure on the opposition.

This newfound aggression is attributed, at least in part, to the influence of Pakistan’s team director, Mickey Arthur, along with support from the coaching and support staff. The specific conditions and the current opposition may also have played a role in this approach.

Arthur, who previously coached Sri Lanka, possesses an intimate knowledge of the Galle track and oversaw the Test debuts of players like Prabath Jayasuriya and Ramesh Mendis. Masood highlighted that Sri Lanka’s conditions often restrict run rates, making it crucial to build partnerships and score quickly when the opportunity arises.

While the strategy of accumulating runs before succumbing to a challenging delivery is not new in Galle, it is the first time Pakistan, frequent visitors to Sri Lanka, have made aggressive batting a collective focus.

As Masood summed it up, Test matches in Galle tend to conclude within four days due to the challenging conditions, with the ball offering assistance to bowlers throughout. Thus, Pakistan aims to restrict fourth-inning chases to the smallest possible total and capitalize on the advantageous conditions while they last.