Category: Pakistan (page 1 of 19)

Mohammad Sami is still playing cricket – as are India and Pakistan

India are playing Pakistan. It’s a big deal. This website being what it is, the only appropriate course of action was for us to wander out halfway through.

At the time of writing, Mohammad Sami – Mohammad Sami! – had taken two wickets in two balls as India set about chasing not-all-that-many runs with no real sense of urgency.

Mohammad Sami is a million years old, but apparently he still bowls quite quickly. He was too quick for Suresh Raina, that’s for certain. Then again there have been days when Raina has played as if Chris Harris would have been able to bounce him out – even though Harris really digging it in would be unlikely to get the ball above bollock height.

As we prepare to click ‘publish’ a couple of big shots have edged India closer to ‘cakewalk’ territory. Hopefully there’s some sort of late drama which’ll be really conspicuous by its absence in this post.

Ooh. A wicket. [Clicks publish.]

 


India v Pakistan – five things to make subheadings out of

Everyone likes a listicle – and how’s that headline for clickbait? Pretty brazen, eh? They’ll be flocking here from Twitter when they see that auto-tweeted at some point in the next hour.

Pakistan still can’t bat

Teams do get bowled out in Twenty20. It’s not unheard of. They usually manage a run a ball in the process though. Pakistan’s batsmen left their opposite numbers in the India team needing to score at barely four an over to secure the win.

Pakistan can still bowl

By any stretch, Rohit Sharma is in form. Before this match he was averaging 40 in Twenty20 internationals and 110 in one-day internationals in 2016.

First ball, Mohammad Amir bowled him an inswinger. It smacked him on the pad and he should have been out. Concluding that he’d basically done everything right, Amir offered pretty much the same thing again second ball and this time got the decision.

A few balls later, he did the same again to Ajinkya Rahane. Batsmen know what’s coming. They just can’t do anything.

Yuvraj Singh saw India home while trying to bat himself out of the team

Apparently it’s possible to get the job done while simultaneously giving the impression that there is no chance you’ll manage to do so. Yuvraj Singh was not out at the end of the match, but scored just 14 runs after batting for over an hour in a Twenty20 match.

Pakistan need to experiment more with first names

Yes, we know Muhammad’s an important sort of fella, but to field a pace attack almost entirely comprised of Mohammads is too much. Amir, Samir and Irfan were only slightly diluted by Wahab Riaz.

Wahab. There’s a name you can set your watch by.

Bumrah was playing

Always worth a mention.


Mop-up of the day – Hello and goodbye and are you leaving?

Buoyed by a first innings display in which he took six for a million, Neil Wagner persisted with his innovative attritional shock tactics in the second. He took 1-60.

It’s worth noting that Wagner produced this display despite a broken hand. More accurately, he produced this display despite a broken bowling hand.

Neil Wagner.

Hello

To the new top-ranked Test side, Australia. It was a hugely impressive performance from them in New Zealand. The only reason we didn’t write about it was because we didn’t want to because we were supporting New Zealand.

Goodbye

We’ve just noticed that we started an article about Brendon McCullum at some point recently and it’s saved as a draft. Rather than writing anything about him here and now, we’ll investigate what we’ve already written and maybe try and get something up tomorrow (if we get time).

Odds are the draft article’s just a heading and nothing beyond that, but we live in hope.

Goodbye?

Some classic Pakistan retirement talk from Shahid Afridi this week. Our man’s previously said that he’s retiring after the World T20, but now he’s admitting to being under pressure from friends and family to stick around a while longer.

His reasoning’s magnificent.

“I am saying there is a lot of pressure on me that I shouldn’t retire from T20; that I can play on – and as there is no real talent coming through in Pakistan whose place I am taking?”


Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif are back

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

As in ‘returned’. What else would the word ‘back’ mean in that context? It’s not like there’s an ambiguous apostrophe-S in there or anything.

Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif both played for Water and Power Development Authority against Federally Administered Tribal Areas in one of those somehat fictional sounding domestic fixtures in which Pakistan specialises. Butt made a ton.

Back when Asif, Butt and Mohammad Amir were banned, we wrote that a reformed cricketer would acknowledge wrongdoing and accept a fitting punishment that would serve the greater good of the sport. Whether you believe him or not, this is pretty much what Amir did. The other two, less so.

Butt spent most of his ban denying that he did anything, while Asif is just a dick and therefore saw no real need to apologise or seek redemption. As far as we can tell, he simply doesn’t care. He probably passed his time away from the sport shoplifting from charity shops and throwing his plunder into the river in a bid to clog it up.

Despite the protestations of some of his team-mates, Amir is now returning to the Pakistan side. The selectors said they went purely on ability in making their decision. By that rationale, it surely can’t be long before his one-time new ball partner also makes a return. Amir was good, but he was hit and miss. Asif, as unpalatable as it may be, was always better.


When is an omission a rotation and when is it a good old-fashioned drop?

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

There’s a subtlety to England’s current approach to one-day cricket which may have passed some by. It’s not about ball-wallopery or -whangery, it’s to do with that other key aspect of international cricket – man management.

Everyone’s agreed that one of the keys to one-day success is a no-blame culture which allows the player to go out and express themselves. Quite why ‘joyous abandon’ is the only thing players are expected to express is beyond us. Players of earlier vintages used to express uncertainty and paranoia incredibly well, but apparently you don’t talk about those as being expressions of self.

Add ingredients and cook on heat for time

There’s a certain alchemy to creating this sort of environment. We’ve said before that as a coach you can’t simply say ‘play positively’ – you have to show, not tell.

England have partly ‘shown’ through picking a whole bunch of players with reputations for cricketing positivity. It’s not just about picking ‘the right players’ – the constitution of the whole also serves as a message to each of its parts. Were any of the individual players in an entirely different squad, they wouldn’t be able to play in the same way. They wouldn’t believe that they could get away with their current approach without being harshly judged. If we had to boil the psychology we’re describing down to three words, we’d go with ‘safety in numbers’.

There’s a certain critical mass that’s necessary for this to work and this gives rise to an interesting academic question as to how players from earlier eras might fare were they dropped into this squad. Encouraged by his surroundings, maybe someone like Mark Ramprakash would have felt liberated enough to play with the devil-may-care attitude that would have allowed him to succeed – no more gritty paralysis with the weight of his entire career bearing down on the innings being played in the here and now.

How to drop someone, how to rest someone

Which brings us to dropping players or ‘rest and rotation’ in the parlance of our times. Trevor Bayliss has thus far employed a neat trick, making it clear to everyone that ‘dropped’ and ‘rested’ are not synonyms.

The traditional way of doing things is that as often as not, you ‘rotate’ the players you’re not sure about. You leave out your third seamer or a young batsman finding his way and you say that they’re not dropped, they’re rested and they’ll be back again soon enough.

However true this is, when it’s always the same players in and out of the side, it blurs the distinction. England have of late operated a different policy. When a player’s been omitted, it’s been the captain or the vice captain or the best batsman. As often as not, it’s been abundantly clear that they haven’t been dropped.

Rather than showing support to those who least need it while undermining those on the fringes, Bayliss has flipped things around. There’s an illusion that he’s been able to rest his strongest players because his squad has such depth, but the squad has depth precisely because he shows support to those on the margins.


England cricketers never last – why learn lessons when you’ll probably never return?

It’s a truism that the England players will learn from this series defeat to Pakistan. You could actually see it happening before your eyes at times: Jonny Bairstow fighting his impulses or Ben Stokes seemingly devising a batting method on the fly. We just wonder whether these players will ever get chance to demonstrate what they’ve taken from this schooling.

We touched on this a few days ago. England cricketers may well play as many Tests as their counterparts from other parts of the world – but they don’t tend to play for as long (quite possibly because of the very fact that they play more frequently).

The class of 2012

Last time England were in the UAE – which was all of three years ago – Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar all learnt plenty. But what for? When did they get chance to use that knowledge?

It’s surely no coincidence that the survivors from that series – Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, James Anderson and Stuart Broad – were among England’s best-performing players this time around. Yes, even Bell – that’s how ineffectual everyone else was. Broad even had the gall to finish with England’s third-highest batting average.

The Trott template

In many ways, Trott is the archetypal England cricketer. Other than a brief aborted comeback as an opener, his Test career basically comprises one Test touring cycle from 2009 to 2012. One tour of Bangladesh, one tour of India, one tour of New Zealand, one tour of South Africa, one tour of Sri Lanka, one tour of the UAE and one full tour of Australia, plus one aborted. Funnily enough, his later reappearance provided his only tour of the West Indies.

All of those lessons learnt. No chance to demonstrate his knowledge.

The one thing in England’s credit this time around is that the comprehensive implosion of that previous side has meant that this current one is that much younger, so there is actually a decent chance of a few of them returning to the UAE if it remains Pakistan’s rented ‘home’. We wouldn’t bet on it though, because no matter what their age, very few England players endure.

What else?

As this series comes to an end, Test cricket’s kicking off elsewhere in the world with four of the five teams above England in the rankings (Pakistan are the other) currently in action. Australia are continuing their annual tradition of comforting themselves that everything’s okay during their home summer, racking up a huge total against New Zealand. Meanwhile India, the home of spin, has just played host to a masterclass from that all-time master of the art, Dean Elgar.


England poised to make some sort of history

It might be an unlikely series-levelling victory; more likely it’ll be a defeat. Either way, someone somewhere will make a note and history will be made. History is always being made. On a personal level, we have a history of drinking tea and typing that stretches back at least as far as this morning.

Our overall assessment of this series is that England have generally made decent decisions and applied themselves well, but that Pakistan bowl better spin and also bat better against it. The tourists compete well in patches, but over time that fundamental gap will probably tell.

So what is there left to look out for?

Will Alastair Cook avoid being dismissed by Yasir Shah four innings in succession by surrendering his wicket to someone else? (Maybe)

Will any England batsman other than him make a hundred in this series? (No)

Will Samit Patel, powered by a majestic lunch, launch a reasonably impressive but ultimately inconsequential batting salvo before subsiding out of the side after this Test, never to return? (Probably)

Will Zulfiqur Babar concede less than a run an over? (Yes)

Will Jonny Bairstow continue playing the cut shot to him and Yasir Shah, even though doing so means it’s clearly just a matter of time before he’s dismissed? (Yes)

Will some sort of history be made? (Yes)


Shoaib Malik adds to the rich tradition of Pakistani cricketer retirements

No-one does retirement quite like a Pakistan cricketer. Mohammad Yousuf’s was a textbook departure, entirely equivocal such that his absence can perhaps only now be considered permanent, some five years later. Or at least it could have been considered permanent if he hadn’t played a number of international matches after that announcement.

That isn’t actually all that impressive by Pakistan standards though. Abdul Razzaq was turning out for the national side some six years after he retired. The latest to deliver a masterful exit is Shoaib Malik who said “the time was right” to stand down from Test cricket, a good fortnight after concluding the time was right for a return after five years out of the side.

That’s still pretty piss-poor as short-lived returns go, however. Shahid Afridi made a four-day cameo comeback before he jacked in the longest format. He was captain at the time too.

Hopefully Shoaib Malik’s got something a little more innovative up his sleeve. We fully expect him to have reversed his decision by the time we click ‘publish’. That’ll set the scene perfectly for him to be named Misbah’s replacement as captain, at which point he can retire again with even more impact.

 


James Taylor – middle order giant

England in UAE middle-order partnership shocker. Who’d have Liam Plunkett (thunk it)?

Fours and sixes are all well and good, but it’s important to cater for fans of the nurdle as well. Today was a most nurdlesome day. Nudges, leaves, jabs into the offside, works to the legside – all were on display.

James Taylor showed himself to be impressively nurdle-adept. With England’s batting currently weighted towards bombast, that’s most welcome. Batting line-ups should be like your plate after your first incursion into good buffet territory. You want a bit of everything.

This writer is also rather pleased to see Taylor and Jonny Bairstow making a decent labourers-gloved fist of things. People can sometimes get too clever with their tips for the Test team, picking out whatever second division stylist happens to have made a hundred that day – but it’s clear this pair have been too good for domestic cricket for quite some time now. That should mean something.

Last night, in a dream, someone tried to persuade us that there weren’t many famous people called Jim any more. They wouldn’t accept Jimmy Anderson as a Jim, so we very much doubt we’d have got away with suggesting James Taylor. It was still clearly a sign though.

This article was going to end with a bit about why it was the right time to pick James Taylor and how continually overlooking him up until now has helped build inner steel and and indomitable spirit. Turns out we wrote that article last year. Have a read.


Wahab Riaz achieves the impossible

The formula for deciding on the man of the match is as follows:

  1. Which team won?
  2. Which of that team’s batsmen scored the biggest hundred?

And that’s your man of the match. In the event that no-one made a hundred, you pick the guy who took most wickets.

However, in an unprecedented subversion of the normal rules, whoever was responsible for naming the man of the match during this Test picked Wahab Riaz (4-66 and 1-78). Misbah-ul-Haq could have been a contender for delivering another excellent coin toss, but by dismissing Root, Stokes and Buttler in the space of one monster weather-and-pitch-defying spell, Wahab inserted a sharp corner into what has generally been a smoothly meandering series. The odds were against England from then on.

Adil Rashid deserves a mention too for an innings of glorious futility. At 172 balls, it was longer than any of England’s first innings efforts. Much like life, it was all effort and no reward.


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