LAHORE, Dec 15 (APP):Pakistan national women cricket team’s journey in the ICC Women Championship 2017-20 culminated in the Bismah Maroof-led side breaking into the top-four of the eight-team tournament standings with their third ODI against England women getting washed-out in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.

For a side which sits seventh on the ICC Women’s ODIs team rankings, the past two years have seen them achieve new heights by recording historic victories on the basis of some outstanding individual performances and remarkable teamwork, said the information made available here on Sunday by the Pakistan Cricket Board.

Pakistan’s campaign began in October 2017 with a three-ODI home series against New Zealand women. Though Pakistan lost the series 2-1, they made history in the final one-dayer by beating New Zealand for the first time at the back of Sana Mir’s four-fer. With seven wickets at an average of 14.57 in three matches, the right-arm off-spinner was the leading wicket-taker in the series.

Sana Mir said, “Our journey in the tournament had begun after a very tough 2017 World Cup and I was given the opportunity to bowl with the new ball. We had come very close to beating New Zealand in the first ODI but we couldn’t cross the rope. But, that moment came in the last match when we beat them by five wickets.

“Those four wickets are more special to me than any five-fer as they helped Pakistan to secure a victory in a historic match.”

Bismah Maroof said the, “Winning against New Zealand was very important for us as it helped us gain momentum and it gave us confidence that we can do something in this championship. That historic win went a long way in giving us the self-belief which helped us in our next series.”

Pakistan’s second assignment in the ICC Women’s Championship was the tour of Sri Lanka in March 2018 where they recorded their first-ODI series win since October 2015. Sana Mir, leading from front, rolled over the opposition taking 10 wickets at a phenomenal average of 8.80 in three matches. Javeria Khan became only the second Pakistan batter to score two ODI centuries with a 113 not out in the first contest.

Javeria Khan said, ” The Sri Lanka series was quite a memorable one. It gave a lot of confidence to the girls and boosted the team’s morale. Every individual played according to her role, which helped us outclass the opposition in all three facets of the game. The credit for that victory goes to entire unit.”

“On a personal note, it was very special for me to score a century in a winning cause. It was important for me to get runs under my belt early in the tournament.”

Sana Mir said, “As a bowler you want to have your team backing you and I got the desired support in Sri Lanka. I was very well supported by Nashra Sandhu in the whole series. We bowled in good partnerships. It was a great series and it was very special to be able to receive 10 wickets.”

With eight points in their account after six matches, Pakistan hosted Australia women in Kuala Lumpur. The tourists won all three ODIs comfortably. But, the silver lining for Pakistan was their premier off-spin bowler, Sana Mir, climbing to the number-one spot.

She took seven wickets at 16.57 runs apiece to be the highest wicket-taker in the series. Javeria Khan led Pakistan in Bismah Maroof’s absence as the latter recovered from a surgery for a sinus problem.

Javeria Khan said, “Playing against Australia was not easy but there was a gradual improvement in our performances after every match. We couldn’t put up decent totals in the first two matches but we put our best score against them in the third match.

“Sana led us from front on the bowling front, providing breakthroughs at crucial moments. We couldn’t sustain pressure as a unit which helped them put good scores”.

Sana Mir states, “Becoming the number one bowler in the ICC bowlers ranking was a dream as a child. What made it more special was that it came after the series against Australia – who by far are the best side in the world.

“This also sets a statement for spinners not only from Pakistan but Asia that if one bowler can achieve it than they all can also do it.”

The 3-0 whitewash against Australia was followed by Pakistan’s sensational victory against the West Indies women in the UAE. Pakistan came from behind to beat the West Indies 2-1 and that it had come on the back of youngsters like opener Sidra Amin, who struck two half-centuries in three matches and averaged almost 50, and pacer Diana Baig (seven wickets at 10.85 runs apiece in two matches) made it more special. This was also Pakistan’s first-ever series win against the West Indies.

Diana Baig said, “I wanted to make a strong impression as I had not played the first match. I wanted to attack with the ball and bowl positively which would not only help me take wickets but also stop the flow of runs. I am glad I was able to get wickets early on in both matches.”

“My favourite moment was the wicket of Deandra Dottin. She is quite a good batter, but what made getting her wicket special was the fact that she was in good form after how she had scored runs in the T20I series [158 runs in three matches] which preceded our ODI series.”

Sidra Amin said, “It is always a good feeling to contribute in a winning cause. But helping your side secure a historic series win against a side like West Indies was truly special. It is quite a memorable part of my journey. I scored 96 and 52 and had some good partnerships with Nida Dar.”

With a confidence-boosting win under their belts, Pakistan travelled to South Africa to play the hosts. The three-match series turned out to be a thriller. Pakistan won the first match, but entered the last ODI with the series hanging in balance. A six of the penultimate ball by tailender Nashra Sandhu helped Pakistan secure a tie and level the series 1-1. Aliya Riaz truly announced herself as an all-rounder when it mattered the most by taking 2-49 and scoring 71. Javeria Khan was the second highest run-getter in the series, six behind Laura Wolvaardt, as she made 128 runs in three matches at an average of 64.

Bismah Maroof said, “Before landing there I had never thought that we would be able to secure this result. Winning the first match of the series gave us a lot of confidence in our abilities. Unfortunately, we lost the second match, but we made a strong comeback in the third match after South Africa scored 265.

“Our batting was a bit out of touch, but Javeria Khan’s partnerships with other batters, especially with Aliya Riaz, played a vital role in giving us the momentum.”

Aliya Riaz said, “I thoroughly enjoyed that innings. It was an important match for the team and I had to bat deep, while ensuring that the runs keep coming for us. South Africa are a quality team and they don’t let you off the hook that easily. I was enjoying the competition and it helped me execute the plan which was given to me by the coaching staff.

“Earlier in the match, with the ball in my hand, I wanted to provide early breakthroughs and having taken a crucial wicket at a critical stage really boosted me. I wanted to put up all-round performance for the team and I am glad everything worked out according to the plan”, she expressed.

Pakistan’s final round assignment in the ICC Women’s Championship was the recently-concluded ODI series against England Women in Kuala Lumpur. They were in a tight race with South Africa, who still have six matches to go in the tournament, with only one point separating them. Pakistan got that point as the third ODI was washed-out and by the virtue of having a better net run-rate they leapfrogged South Africa to the fourth spot.

Pakistan lost 2-0 in a series in which their captain with two half-centuries in three innings stood out.

Bismah Maroof said, “It is good to be amongst runs but my runs would have been more valuable had we won these matches.

We played good cricket in bits and pieces but we couldn’t stretch them to longer spells. The difference between us and good sides is that they don’t let the momentum slip away which is something we are lacking and it was the difference between us and England. There was certainly an improvement in our performances in the series. We did not give easy runs to England. Our fielding has improved a lot over, which is also a big positive. We are aware what areas we need to improve going forward.”

Despite having played only 15 matches in this tournament, Sana Mir leads the overall wicket-takers’ chart with 35 wickets at a phenomenal average of 13.74. Pakistan’s next best bowler Nashra Sandhu is ranked 15th with 20 wickets in 17 matches. The third best bowler from Pakistan is Diana Baig with 12 wickets in 13 matches.

The weight of Pakistan’s batting over the course of the ICC Women’s Championship was carried by Javeria Khan (552 runs in 18 matches), Nahida Khan (521 runs in 18 matches) and Bismah Maroof (447 runs in 14 matches) – the top-three batters from the side.

Whether Pakistan stays at the fourth spot in the ICC Women’s Championship will be determined by South Africa’s run over the course of their next six matches. In the inaugural edition of the ICC Women’s Championship, which ran from 2014-2016, Pakistan finished second last with only four wins from 18 matches. In this edition, however, there has been a marked improvement. And, going forward, they will hope to build on the impressive performances they have put over the course of the past two years.

Javeria Khan added, “Our side has the talent, it just needs a bit enhancement. What we need to learn from sides like Australia is how to handle pressure at critical stages. We often let matches slip away because of our lack of experience, but playing more against quality sides will help us learn better.”
Sana Mir expressed, “It is extremely important that we know our role and deliver accordingly. As a player you cannot win every match for your side, but if everyone is sticking to the game plan then that can complement those who are having a good day in the field.
“I can’t emphasise enough on how good this championship is for women’s cricket because it provides opportunities to play against higher-ranked sides, previously against which we only played in the World Cups, consistently. When you put performances against good sides it boosts your confidence and allows you to gauge where you stand as a team.”
Bismah Maroof said, “The girls have shown great improvement in all three facets of the game in the past two years. Our fielding and fitness standards have improved and now we give top-ranked sides a tough competition. We are taking steps in the right direction.
“We need to be more consistent in our performances. We can overcome that by playing competitive cricket on regular basis and the ICC Women’s Championship is providing teams opportunities to grow.”
Pakistan’s fixture against India couldn’t take place as the PCB didn’t receive the invitation from the BCCI. With the series window already closed, the matter has now been referred to the ICC event secretariat in Dubai.