Category: Pakistan (page 1 of 22)

‘We played like pretty boys there at one stage’ – Trevor Bayliss

It’s been very humid in the North-West these last few days. That probably didn’t have any impact on the outcome of the T20 International between England and Pakistan but we haven’t got much to say about the cricket so thought we’d flesh out this piece by talking about the weather in true British tradition.

England found it harder and harder to hit boundaries as their innings wore on. Pakistan didn’t – and they didn’t shed wickets either.

Pakistan bowled really well. Eoin Morgan said something about the dew. Is dew related to humidity? Again, nothing to do with the cricket, we’re just wondering.

England’s international summer has come to an end with Trevor Bayliss accusing his batsmen of playing ‘like pretty boys’ which seems as good a way as any to draw things to a close.


The ins, outs and merits of England’s one-day plan

Liam Plunkett

It’s not an elaborate plan. It’s not particularly intricate. It is however consistent and that is perhaps of greater importance than anything else.

Previously, England seemed to pick 11 players before deciding how to play based on what they ended up with. This led to an ever-changing formula from which no-one really benefited (other than the opposition).

England’s current plan basically boils down to having a diverse bowling attack and plenty of batsmen. Whether that’s right or wrong, they’re sticking with it – which at least means the players know their places in the world.

Take Adil Rashid for example. England want a leg-spinner and he is the best available, so he can relax, knowing an imperfect match won’t see him dropped for Stuart Broad.

Pace bowlers like Broad and James Anderson are, in fact, accorded little value. They aren’t seen as two of England’s most successful bowlers so much as they’re seen as just two more right-arm fast-medium bowlers – one of the least valuable commodities in one-day cricket. The two of them aren’t being preserved for Test cricket. They’re being omitted from the one-day side because the one-day side doesn’t want them.

The point here is that while taken in isolation some of England’s decisions might seem odd, they make sense when you consider the overarching philosophy.

Pakistan are different. Pakistan change their team frequently, but there doesn’t seem to be a framework underpinning these decisions. In the first one-day international they included two slow left-arm all-rounders and omitted their leg-spinner. No-one was quite sure how this decision was arrived at. Nor does anyone have any confidence that they will both remain – including the players themselves.

If nothing else, the inclusion of both Imad Wasim and Mohammad Nawaz (or as Cricinfo would have him “Mohammad Nawaz (3)”) smacked of a play-off. Whether that was true or not, that was surely how two near-new players would have taken it. This seems a cruel and ineffective way of gauging their worth.

For as long as the Pakistan plan revolves around selection of two slow left-arm all-rounders, Wasim and Nawaz (3) can be confident of their places in the side. Should one or the other of them have a poor game however, they can fully expect that grand strategy to change.


Typical Pakistan: magnificent one day, diabolical the next (according to the format)

Pakistan have actually achieved an even more impressive feat than becoming the top-ranked Test side. It takes a particular kind of artistry to become the top-ranked Test side while also maintaining ninth position in the one-day rankings. Hats off.

So what’s the difference? An obvious answer would be ‘Misbah-ul-Haq and Younus Khan’ but the truth is Pakistan weren’t actually that good even before that pair retired from the format. Aside from two series against Zimbabwe, a 3-2 win against Sri Lanka last year is all they’ve really had to celebrate in 50-over cricket since beating the same side in 2013.

Not that they’ve played series against West Indies, India or South Africa in that time. Haven’t we had this conversation already?

Sticking with those unarguable arbiters of worth, the rankings, it’s interesting to look at Pakistan’s individual batsmen and bowlers too. Mohammad Hafeez is their highest-ranked one-day batsman in 22nd place, followed by Ahmed Shahzad in 35th and Azhar Ali in 49th.

Somewhat unexpectedly, their bowling rankings are just as bad. While Mohammad Irfan is 10th, next best is Wahab Riaz in 45th and Yasir Shah in 49th. Perhaps this is a product of the ever-changing nature of their attack and perhaps their overall underperformance results from this too. Perhaps underlining that, Irfan has been dropped for this series.

Umar Gul’s back though. People have been talking a lot about Pakistan defying stereotypes this summer, but bowlers don’t come much more Pakistani than Umar Gul. He’s played for Pakistan over 200 times and we still can’t work out whether he’s the world’s shittest fine bowler or the finest shit one.


Pakistan are slightly number one

If there is one great benefit to the ongoing turmoil at the top of the ICC’s Test rankings, it is that it is slowly starting to dawn on people that rankings are relative. Top can mean ‘out on your own, everyone else trailing in your wake’ or it can mean ‘hurray, it rained in Port of Spain’.

Pakistan being top does at least provide a better narrative than any of the alternatives. These itinerant cricketers have had more to conquer, so their narrow superiority seems less offensive to the somewhat unhinged types liable to get upset about the rankings.

Unusually for the current cricket world, Misbah ul Haq’s Pakistan also seem to possess the capacity to learn. After arriving in England early, because they were hugely inexperienced in these conditions, they got to grips with how to go about things and drew the series. Similarly, a year ago, they turned a second Sri Lanka tour into an opportunity to make amends when it could so easily have ended up as more of the same.

Their 2014 tour saw Rangana Herath doing the Rangana Herath thing, plodding his way to 23 wickets in two Tests to take Sri Lanka to victory. “We’re not having that,” said Pakistan and second time around they allowed him just two wickets and he was dropped for the third Test.

Compared to other modern sides, Pakistan are unusually disposed to fighting back. Let’s say it’s something to do with being forged in adversity. If nothing else, that at least allows us to characterise Australia, England and India as pampered prima donnas in comparison – and who wouldn’t want to do that?


Seven things we learned from England v Pakistan

 

Via Sky Sports

Via Sky Sports

We’ve been trying to provide some sort of pithy and insightful summary of the Test series for 24 hours now, but it’s not really happening. We’ll instead content ourself with a vague collage of observations. If these are our workings-out, maybe you can provide the conclusion yourself.

Specialists and all-rounders

If you need someone to bat at seven or bowl right-arm fast-medium, England are spoilt for choice. However, if you want a specialist batsman, a fast bowler or a spinner, you’d be better off looking to the tourists.

England had more batsmen, but fewer effective specialist run-scorers. Despite greater numbers, they also had less diversity in their bowling attack.

If Moeen Ali could avoid being clattered for six…

Moeen emerged from the series with a better strike-rate than almost all the specialist bowlers. Blind yourself to the rate at which he concedes runs and he’s a very effective spinner. His stellar batting is an excellent distraction, but not quite blinding.

James Anderson has lost a quarter of a yard of pace

We don’t normally take claims that bowlers have ‘lost their nip’ too seriously because pace often varies from one match to the next. The difference with Anderson is that he said himself that he was down on pace in the second Test and then didn’t really seem to recover it. If he can retain a viable bouncer, he’ll probably be okay. Pace isn’t everything – but it is something.

Beware the out-of-form old pro

Younus Khan’s had it. Look at him. Look at the state of him.

Oh.

Beware the conquered leg-spinner

Yasir Shah hasn’t posed a threat since Lord’s. He doesn’t spin it. England have worked him out.

Oh.

Looking good and being effective are different things

Shivnarine Chanderpaul could have told you that, but James Vince has been trying to prove it from the opposite direction. We feared for Vince’s chances before he played and we haven’t seen a huge amount to reassure us since then. Nor has anyone else. County cricket’s who-saw-a-future-England-player-first-and-championed-his-cause-the-most competition will have to forget about this and move on. Do yourselves a favour though – don’t claim that a player ‘looks good’.

Misbah-ul-Haq

The last time Pakistan toured, cricket fans were left feeling sick and unenthusiastic about the game. Pakistan themselves were left a fractured mess. This time they leave with fans more enthused about the game and with a level of solidity to their cricket that it is hard to remember their ever having had before.

Misbah-ul-Haq is an alchemist who can turn middle-age into youth and chaos into order.


Yasir Shah the best bowler in the world again – shortly after being worthless

Yasir Shah dismisses Jonny Bairstow at Lord's (via ecb.co.uk YouTube)

Yasir Shah dismisses Jonny Bairstow at Lord’s (via ecb.co.uk YouTube)

It’s hard to say whether memories are fading faster these days – because who can honestly remember how things were previously? This was nevertheless a thought that has crossed our mind a few times of late – generally when some commentator or other has claimed that England have ‘worked Yasir out’ or something along those lines.

We’re pretty sure England themselves never felt like that about Pakistan’s leg-spinner (or why would they have elected to bat first in this match?) Commentators though, they’re a different breed. They don’t need to accurately gauge the dangers knowing they’ll have to confront the player in question again some time soon. They can content themselves with saying whatever they’re thinking at that exact moment and if the statement seems to hold up when measured against what’s happened in the last 10 days, then it can be presented as The Truth.

The thinking was that Yasir took England by surprise at Lord’s. Apparently you can deliver 10 surprises before a team will react. After that, England realised that he didn’t spin it all that much and DOMINATED HIM WITH EASE.

But now that particular piece of fiction needs a rewrite.

There is never one solitary solution that turns failure to success when it comes to countering a good bowler. Different batsmen will have different issues and no spin bowler will be successful in internationals without being able to pose at least a decent handful of questions.

Yasir had less success at Old Trafford and Edgbaston, but a guy who takes 10 wickets in a Test match ususally has something about him that won’t fade away inside a fortnight. Sure enough, bowling at the Oval with runs in the bank, he dismissed half of England’s batting line-up.

Maybe with another match and another five-for, everyone would be calling him flawless.


Younus Khan knows what he’s doing – even if it doesn’t look like it

Younus Khan (via YouTube)

We really wanted Younus Khan to get runs in this Test. A lot of commentators who have at no point in their lives been able to bat even half as well as him have not just been criticising his batting during this series, but actually making fun of it. We’ve found that a bit unsavoury.

Younus has his own way of doing things and if it looks fairly stupid then so much the better as far as we’re concerned. The fact that he can quite literally make runs batting on one leg – or occasionally while airborne – is a large part of his appeal. It adds to his brilliance that he should be able to shepherd so many moving parts and compel them to deliver perfect timing. A number of England players couldn’t even coordinate two hands to wrap around a ball when it came in their direction.

When a Pakistan player drops to his hands and knees in the wake of some sort of achievement, you can never be quite sure which way it’s going to go nowadays. Younus spurned the press-ups in favour of a turf kiss. So did Asad Shafiq a little earlier in the day. Their demeanours were different, but three figures seemed to mean a lot to both of them.


The beard that smeared – Moeen Ali enjoys the evening session

Cricket - England v India - Fourth Investec Test - Day Two - Old Trafford, Manchester

Smeared with exquisite timing and grace, we should say. It was poetic smearage. Smearage without breaking sweat. Smearage that involved all moving parts working in perfect harmony to pan the ball to the fence.

Morning session

It’ll be interesting to read the reports about this morning’s play. Was Alex Hales unlucky after hitting the ball in the air towards a fielder? Was Alastair Cook unlucky to completely mishit the ball, propelling it into his own stumps?

What happened after that was easier to interpret. Joe Root did a James Vince impression and James Vince was sufficiently unimpressed by it that he immediately felt compelled to demonstrate how edging behind should be done.

Perhaps England felt threatened by the looming presence of the mace. No-one seems to want the damned thing.

Afternoon session

Gary Ballance’s dismissal clearly belonged in the morning session, both thematically and because it came in only the 28th over.

Pakistan were now so dominant that mace-spurning duties switched to them, allowing England to counter. Jonny Bairstow did his usual hunched biffing and Moeen Ali did nothing of the sort, nonchalantly flicking the ball to and over the ropes as if long hours in the gym were the most pointless activity in which any wannabe big-hitting batsman could ever indulge. He loves to feel bat on ball.

Evening session

Jonny Bairstow got a bit ahead of himself and thought it was Pakistan’s turn to be on top. This meant England’s two finest batsmen were now at the crease. Chris Woakes joined Moeen in their favoured pastime of batting sumptuously until it was time for the famously feckless momentum to yet again shift.

Woakes was out, just when it seemed he was entirely without failings and then Broad departed two balls later. Moeen Ali didn’t care. He just carried on whopping the ball wherever he chose. He just loves these evening sessions for which Pakistan’s bowlers seemingly don their heaviest shoes.

Moeen was last man out, which meant England got to bowl in what we’re now going to name the night session on the grounds that it only began after the scheduled close of play.

Night session

With England having scored a somewhat ambiguous 328, no-one was quite sure which team was most at risk of being a mace recipient. Probably India, so Stuart Broad took a wicket.


Where is the ICC’s Test mace?

Not much more than a week ago, Australia captain Steve Smith was presented with the ICC Test Championship mace in a closed ceremony. The media and public would of course have been clamouring to attend such a spectacular and meaningful event.

The nature of the presentation gave rise to an obvious question. If an ICC Test Championship mace is handed over and no-one is there to see it, is that team really the top-ranked Test nation?

The answer, it seems, is no – or at the very least ‘probably not but let’s see how this final match goes’.

Australia could stay top if they (stop laughing) beat Sri Lanka in the next Test; India could go top if they win their next two Tests; and either England or Pakistan could theoretically go top if they win the fourth Test at the Oval. There are of course many permutations and it’s hard not to conclude that life’s too short before turning your attention to far more important questions.

Far more important questions like where they hell is the Test mace right now? Where does it live?

The mace should really be something of a nomad, tucked into the kit bag of whichever Test captain currently has the right to wield it, but this seems unlikely.

Many people would doubtless feel it appropriate for the mace to bed down each night at The Home of Corks, but we don’t believe this is the case, otherwise that ground would be entitled to call itself The Home of The Test Mace. This would clearly supersede its preferred Home of Cricket nickname on the grounds that such a name would at least be accurate.

More likely the mace lives in Dubai at ICC headquarters, but does it just sit there, idle? Surely in uncertain situations such as the one in which we currently find ourselves, it should be loaded onto a private jet ready to be deployed.

Imagine becoming the top-ranked Test nation and not instantly being handed a giant mace. Just imagine it. Just imagine how that would make you feel.


England’s age of all-rounders

England fielded eight batsmen to Pakistan’s seven in this match and five bowlers to their four. That is quite an advantage to carry.

It was most notable when England batted in the second innings, when the duration of a Test match was really starting to bite. Pakistan’s quartet held it together for the first two session of day four, but they then reached some sort of tipping point when they started to tire and England still had batsmen to come. England’s six and seven made merry and there wasn’t even the motivation that a wicket would be enough with Chris Woakes padded up.

England appear to have entered the age of the all-rounder. Ben Stokes would ordinarily be in the team as well and the winter offers the prospect of Adil Rashid, Zafar Ansari – or even both – being added to the side on top of that.

If there’s a tragedy here, it’s that a surfeit of bowling options makes it so much less likely that Alastair Cook will give Gary Ballance an over.


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