Category: Pakistan (page 1 of 24)

Peak Pakistan

Virat Kohli makes the least of his reprieve off Mohammad Amir (via ICC)

Scrape into a tournament through being ranked eighth in the world, throw in a few debutants, win the thing.

Quite often you get to play Pakistan. Occasionally you have to play Pakistan. India suffered the latter.

How in blazes?

If we were to imagine that winning a cricket tournament involved repeatedly writing the word WIN on a piece of paper, then Pakistan do not issue their players with pens.

The Pakistan approach is to take a whole bunch of magnifying glasses and then throw them into the air hoping to hell that the sun’s rays strike them at such an angle and at such a moment that the refracted beams scorch the letters into the page without incinerating it. This normally results in a lot of broken glass, but not always.

Fakhar Zaman, the opening batsman who made a devilishly effective hundred in the final, made his one-day international debut last week. Shadab Khan has played five first-class matches. Pakistan also managed to shrug off dropping the finest one-day batsman in the world in the time it took Mohammad Amir to walk back to his mark. Somehow it all worked out and India were not just beaten but positively monstered.

How do you win a one-day tournament in 2017?

The narrative ahead of this competition, at least in the UK media, was that modern one-day cricket is all about hitting sixes and making 400 on flat pitches. This storyline coloured perceptions to such an extent that the national team felt hard done by when they were asked to play a semi-final on a used pitch.

‘That’s not the way one-day cricket is supposed to be,’ they seemed to say, as if there were an official diktat about such things from the governing body. ‘Make the version of the game that we’re good at the only permissible version,’ they added.

But it turns out modern one-day cricket can be many different things.

In the end, the team that won the Champions Trophy was the one that cobbled together the most effective bowling attack, as is so often the case.

Pakistan may well have aspired to build their game around heavy run-scoring, but that never really became an option. A friend of ours maintains that using moisturiser makes your skin “lazy”. Similarly, we wonder whether Pakistan’s bowlers have actually benefited from knowing the value of a run.

Which isn’t to say the Pakistan batsmen didn’t switch it on in the knockout stages, despite suspicions that they lacked the switch, let alone a power source. The truth is that the team – the unit, if you will – did a lot of things well. This was a three dimensional win.


Video: Virat Kohli dropped off Mohammad Amir… Virat Kohli caught off Mohammad Amir

Virat Kohli makes the least of his reprieve off Mohammad Amir (via ICC)

Pakistan often lunge enthusiastically towards the ridiculous in the firm knowledge that this is their best hope of rebounding to sublime cricket – but even for them this moment was something else.

There is a strong argument that Virat Kohli is the finest one-day batsman there’s ever been. He is not a man you can afford to drop in the final of the Champions Trophy.

Oh no, turns out you can.


Nine things to watch out for when India play Pakistan in the Champions Trophy final

There are all sorts of India v Pakistan previews out there, but this is currently the only one on this website that goes up to nine.

1. Jasprit Bumrah’s bowling action

Jasprit Bumrah’s bowling action (via ICC)

Evidence, if it were needed, that the “hey, what’s that over there?” bowling ploy can work just as well at international level as it can in the back garden.

2. Jasprit Bumrah’s name

We’ll literally never tire of it. This is why.

3. Hasan Ali

Who’s been taking all the wickets and not going for runs? Hasan Ali, that’s who.

4. Azhar Ali

Azhar Ali plays a textbook wild hoick (via ICC)

No-one has scored more runs at a lower strike-rate in this Champions Trophy. Not too many people have scored fewer runs at a lower strike-rate either. Yet Pakistan are still in the final, so can anyone really quibble with his approach thus far?

5. Virat Kohli’s anger level

Misfield by team-mate – angry. Lack of effort by team-mate – very angry. Hugely pleasing individual or team performance – positively enraged. Never mind measuring bat speed or the distance covered by fielders, what we’d really like to see is some sort of videogame-style graphical representation of Virat Kohli’s fury levels; a sort of gradually filling bar that turns red and glows once it’s completely full.

6. Virat Kohli more generally

He’s only been out once in the entire tournament. For a duck.

7. Kedar Jadhav’s right-arm filth

Kedar Jadhav’s round-arm shod (via ICC)

This is quite simply what cricket’s all about. Please give him a bowl in the final. Please. Apparently Jadhav doesn’t practise his bowling much in the nets. You’d never guess.

8. Fakhar Zaman

Most teams are keen to groom players for major tournaments in the hope of maximising what they get out of them when it matters. Pakistan pick debutants and see what happens. Zaman has so far made 138 runs in his 117-ball one-day international career.

9. Pakistan pakistanning

Whether it’s a feeble batting collapse, a crazy four-over whirlwind of wicket-taking that decides the match, or Mohammad Hafeez suddenly deciding he’ll bat like Shahid Afridi, you’ll know the moment when Pakistan start pakistanning and it will be (in)glorious.

 


There was a rumour that England had ‘solved’ one-day cricket

Ben Stokes finds a gap in the field directly above him (screengrab via ICC)

Ben Stokes finds a gap in the field directly above him (screengrab via ICC)

Not the case. It was perhaps true that they’d solved modern one-day cricket… but then they came up against Pakistan.

As we said the other day, Pakistan don’t care what year it is. They don’t care how other people are approaching one-day cricket these days, they just do their own thing. Pakistan’s thing is ‘bowling sides out for just over 200’.

England’s thing, by contrast, is buying wickets. They like inflation. With both bat and ball, they splash runs about with abandon and never really worry about the cost.

In the semi-final of the Champions Trophy, the purse strings tightened and England discovered that they had lost the ability to sniff out bargains.

The home team dropped 118 runs on Pakistan’s first wicket alone. Regardless of the opposition’s reputation for providing easily affordable wickets, from that point on they were only ever heading for bankruptcy.


If Jason Roy is “due” what will happen to all those runs he saved up?

Jason Roy edges two cricket balls (ECB via Twitter video)

Jason Roy edges two cricket balls (ECB via Twitter video)

Just because someone’s due, it doesn’t mean anything’s actually going to happen any time soon. Trust us on this.

Referring to Jason Roy, Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur alluded to the concept of dueness, saying: “We had a discussion in the bus this morning. I was particularly worried that Roy hadn’t fired yet because I think he’s very close to something quite good.”

Arthur went on to question Jonny Bairstow’s credentials as an opener, so it seems fair to assume that the opposition are in favour of England naming an unchanged side. Such is the nature of pre-match bullshittery.

Eoin Morgan deployed all of the ifs in his armoury when floating the possibility that England might make the change. They all paled in significance beside the fact that he was entertaining the prospect at all though.

If someone’s a marginal selection, standard practice is to talk them up and bolster them. Failure to do so rather implies that the decision has been made.

Assuming Bairstow plays, what happens to the great stockpile of runs that Roy has been painstakingly hoarding now?


Pakistan don’t care what year it is

Hasan Ali dismisses Suranga Lakmal (via ICC)

Hasan Ali dismisses Suranga Lakmal (via ICC)

“300-plus scores? No, thank you. We’ll just persist with our old approach of bowling the opposition out for slightly less than our own low score, if that’s all right with you.”

Pakistan held South Africa to 219-8 off 50 overs. Sri Lanka managed a whopping 236 all out against them. Pakistan being Pakistan, the latter was almost enough.

But it wasn’t enough.

Pakistan – supposedly the most crisis-raddled of all the sides – swan into the semi-finals like a swan that’s decided to walk even though it has a broken leg.


Video: Yuvraj Singh goes nuts against Pakistan

It’s nice to see that Yuvraj Singh’s nuts-at-the-end-going capabilities are largely undiminished because going nuts at the end has always been very much his thing.

For their part, Pakistan’s end-nutsiness is largely irrelevant these days because they can’t reliably manoeuvre themselves into a position where it would be appropriate to deploy the long handle.

As an England fan, we can offer hope that there may one day be an end to the familiar ill-timed run-outs and forlorn trying-to-raise-the-run-rate catches in the deep. Don’t ask us when though. All we’re willing to say is that it could happen.


India and Pakistan resolve to fulfil fixture obligation despite Abdul Razzaq’s retirement

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

The cliché is that cricket is a religion in India, which has always seemed to us to greatly overstate the importance of religion in a country where such things are basically ten a paise.

Pakistan’s pretty keen on the sport too. It’s good to find things you have in common.

As an outsider, matches between these two teams are a delight. They’re shorn of the tension borne of having any real preference who wins and yet are riddled with zillions of reminders that what is happening is A Big Deal.

And the fixtures are so rare too. You can’t often say that about international cricket.

If we’re to go digging for a cloud beyond this lovely silver lining – which of course we are – it comes in the form of team selection. No Stuart Binny for India and quite inexplicably no Azhar Mahmood or Abdul Razzaq for Pakistan.

The latter (again) announced his retirement from international cricket two days ago, which must rank as a particularly magnificent effort even by Pakistani standards.

The show goes on though. Our in-depth preview is that India have the better recent record but Pakistan have been in Birmingham for slightly longer, which surely must count for something.


The pressure builds – a four-Test story of two opposing batsmen

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

One is English, one is Pakistani. One is young, one is old – or at least he is in cricketing terms. For much of last summer’s Test series between England and Pakistan, Alex Hales and Younus Khan trod a similar path. Come the last Test, their journeys diverged markedly.

Hales was relatively new to Test cricket and still struggling to make an impact. Arriving at The Oval, his scores in the series read 6, 16, 10, 24, 17, 54 for an average of 21.16.

Younus was coming to the end of his career. His scores were 33, 25, 1, 28, 31, 4 for an average of 20.33.

Different situations but similar pressure. Both faced the prospect of losing their places in their respective teams.

What happened next feels significant.

Hales’ tale

Hales’ fourth Test scores – 6 and 12 – do not tell the story. In the first innings, he hit the ball in the air towards Yasir Shah – a man seemingly possessed of those precious fielding utensils, the safe pair of hands.

It was a contentious catch. Yasir said he took it. After being given out, Hales said plenty of things himself.

Nor did it end there. Hales continued to express himself to the full during an uninvited visit to the third umpire and then delivered a ‘boo hoo hoo’ mime to Azhar Ali when Pakistan were batting.

What can we glean from Hales’ Portrait of the Artist as a Petulant Young Man? The main thing all of his actions have in common is that they are targeted at other people. He appeared to blame Yasir for claiming the catch, the umpire for making the wrong decision and Azhar Ali for playing for the wrong team. Seemingly unable to control his own batting, he embarked on a futile quest to influence the world around him.

Younus calm

Contrast this with Younus. In the words of Mohammad Azharuddin – the man whose advice ultimately rescued him – Younus was batting “like a joker” during this series. That’s an unusually accurate use of the word, because the batsman was indeed a laughing stock.

As he jumped around the crease, people flitted between labelling his performances as either comical or sad.

Younus was on the way out and he was on the way out leaving an inadvertent trail of excrement. However, while Hales seems uncertain of his place in the world, Younus is not. Younus wasn’t going to let a trivial little thing like everyone else in the entire world thinking he’d had it put him off. He knew it didn’t look it, but he reckoned he was only  a whisker away from playing as well as he normally does. And so it proved.

“Stay in your crease,” said Azharuddin. “Wait for the ball to come to you.”

“Okay,” said Younus. “I’ll give that a try.”

After a couple of overs, things felt better. “Yup, seems to be working,” he said. “Guess I’ll crack on and make a double hundred now.”

What is this reslience; this imperviousness to the views of the outside world? Is it a deep reservoir of confidence borne of years of success or is it innate? Which comes first? Do you earn the right to have that trust in yourself or is it the very thing that allows you to be so effective in the first place?

Perhaps it’s both. Batting is a fragile profession. On these fine margins the difference can lie.


Shannon Gabriel nicks one for the Windies

Maybe this is why people have started saying ‘snick’ to mean ‘nick’ – to prevent headlines like this one from being ambiguous.

Shannon Gabriel – arguably the finest fast bowler called Shannon currently plying his trade – took 5-11 as the West Indies dismissed Pakistan for just 81 to win the second Test.

Gabriel’s figures were so good that the the official Twitter account of the West Indies Cricket Board added a few runs to make them seem more credible.

Kudos for the #WEvTHEM tag, which can presumably be appended to every post, no matter who they’re playing.


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