Category: Pakistan (page 1 of 22)

What does Australia’s Test series win over Pakistan actually mean?

Does it amount to a hill of beans? A fell of discarded iPhone covers? A mountain of offcuts of plasterboard?

Just before Christmas, we said that Pakistan are, essentially, a swing bowling side, and therefore pretty much always do terribly Down Under. There has been more to the series than that – but it still explains a lot.

The tourists’ batting collapses have drawn attention, but it is their inability to take wickets that has left them… well, it’s left them fielding mostly.

Taken as a whole, the batting has ticked over. They made a decent stab at chasing 490 in the first Test, kicked off the second Test with 443 and Younus Khan has just become the first player to score a hundred in all 11 nations that have hosted Tests after making 175 not out in the third.

In contrast, their best bowling performance was when they dismissed Australia for 429 in the first innings of the series. You wouldn’t think that an especially lofty point from which to fall, but Pakistan appear to have been positioned over a bone dry Mariana Trench. They’ve just conceded 241 in 32 bleak overs of declaration-awaiting.

“Today was more about the ball not swinging,” said David Warner after making a hundred before lunch on the first day of this Test. It was a glorious innings, defined by the batsman’s utter conviction that he should seize the moment, but that assessment also casts a bit of light on other contributions, such as Matt Renshaw’s 184 and Peter Handscomb’s 110.

These two certainly have the air of being batsmen who could thrive in Test cricket, but we’ve been here before. Just over a year ago, Joe Burns made 129 against New Zealand and 128 against the Windies. Australia arrived in Sri Lanka and he promptly made 34 runs in four innings. He then made one run in two innings against South Africa.

Ensuring you cash in is a vital part of batting in Australia – and every bit as worthy as other qualities in matches where such a quality comes to the fore. Elsewhere it doesn’t necessarily influence the batsman’s returns to quite the same extent.

These kinds of VERY BIG NUMBERS can sometimes conceal more than they reveal. Adam Voges averaged 95.50 when he arrived in Sri Lanka. He averaged 14.80 in the three Tests against them and the two against South Africa.

So where does that leave us? Well, if nothing else, we know that Australia are better than Pakistan in Australia. It’s hard to draw any firm conclusions beyond that – and after 400-and-odd words already, why would we even want to try and do so?


Did Australia win or did Pakistan lose? YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE

England v Australia: 3rd Investec Ashes Test - Day One

Photo by Sarah Ansell

One of the rules of cricket coverage is that Australia, England and India have results and the other teams are merely inactive participants.

In 2016, India beat New Zealand, Australia lost to Sri Lanka, and England drew with Bangladesh. Technically, this also means that New Zealand lost to India, Sri Lanka beat Australia, and Bangladesh drew with England – but you’ll be hard-pressed to find things presented that way.

Like many rules, this one has an exception – and like so many cricketing exceptions, it involves Pakistan.

Pakistan lost to Australia today. The home team didn’t snatch victory. The tourists – who were already one down in the series – threw the match away.

That is the unwritten result on the scorecard because a Pakistan implosion is even more headline-worthy than Australia snatching an unlikely victory.

Could it be that despite how we may be inclined to perceive things, it is impossible for one team to be wholly responsible for the outcome of a match?


Mop-up of the last couple of days – Angelo Mathews still has work to do

For a good long while you could accurately gauge Sri Lanka’s score by whether or not Angelo Mathews was walking out to bat or not. If he was, they were 22-3. If he wasn’t, it was some other score.

A couple of recent batting finds had encouraged the notion that Mathews would no longer be obliged to be his team’s Shivnarine Chanderpaul as well as serving as captain and doing a load of bowling. This optimism may be unfounded, for against South Africa it has been business as usual.

Mathews appears to be back to leading by example regardless of whether or not anyone shows the faintest interest in following. It is at least very thoughtful of the rest of the cricket world to limit his workload by refusing to schedule many matches against his team.

Down in Melbourne, Pakistan are still batting and no-one really knows what it means because it’s still the first innings. Whether theirs proves to be a good team score or not, Azhar Ali’s unhurried rise continues.


Neil Wagner sacrifices the opportunity to run in for a small fragment of the final session

Pakistan had already lost six wickets in the final session of the match when Kane Williamson brought forth The Great Neil Wagner. Three ducks later, the series was over.

This isn’t going to help Wagner’s reputation one bit. How the hell are you supposed to run in all day when you keep bringing the opposition’s innings to a close.

Maybe that’s why our man waited until right at the death before joining his team-mates in the rampant wicket-taking. He wanted every opportunity to run in for the majority of the day, but with no play tomorrow, he also knew he had a responsibility to deliver a Test win.

Neil Wagner: he maximises his opportunities for in-running, but without compromising New Zealand’s chances of victory.


The riddle of Kraigg Brathwaite’s extra G

Maybe one day someone will be able to answer the riddle of Kraigg Brathwaite’s extra G. The K we can understand – it’s jarring, but not unprecedented. But the second G? What does that contribute to proceedings?

Maybe his parents wrote Kraig, knew it looked wrong and added a bonus G in the hope that this would prove the necessary correction. Realising they had actually made matters worse, they would then have resolved to stop messing lest things really got out of hand. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses.

Kraigg’s made a few Test hundreds, including a double against Bangladesh, but an away win against Pakistan – should it come about – would make for a far more significant match result than for any of those others. His first innings 142 not out already looks like being the most significant contribution to the Test and at the time of writing he’s not out in the second dig as the Windies set about chasing 153 to win.

Perhaps this is the Test when Kraigg will finally make a name for himself. If he gets to choose, may we suggest ‘Craig’.


Why has no-one asked Jonathan Trott’s mum how we can stamp out match-fixing?

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

We don’t normally report on excerpts from cricket autobiographies because, you know, read the book.

We have to make an exception for this majestic exchange from Jonathan Trott’s Unguarded though. (We haven’t read it, but he wrote it with George Dobell, so we’re pretty confident it’s excellent.)

After Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ijaz Butt uttered his immortal line about “some English players” and “loud and clear talk in the bookies’ circle” back in 2010, the players in question got the hump.

At nets the following morning, Trott asked Wahab Riaz: “You going to accuse us of match-fixing again?”

Quite why Trott confused Wahab with Ijaz Butt is unclear. Maybe Wahab had said something too, or maybe Trott believed Pakistan to be operating with some sort of Borg-like group consciousness. It doesn’t matter either way. What matters is Wahab’s response.

Wahab went with: “Your mum knows all about match-fixing.”

Quite apart from the fact that this was crying out for a “no, you are” riposte, this was nevertheless an excellent meaningless schoolboy insult and we heartily approve.

Trott didn’t agree and so hit Wahab round the head with his pads before attempting to throttle him.

In this weeks’ edition of The Spin, Andy Bull starts with this incident before exploring the merits of sledging with particular reference to Australia.

We’ve already said all we need to say on that matter: It’s a myth that Australia play better when they’re aggressive. What actually happens is that they become gobbier when they’re winning.


Mickey Arthur really knows how to retract a compliment

Even by the lofty doublespeak standards of a Test match press conference, this was an impressive effort from Mickey Arthur after Pakistan were bowled out for 123 by West Indies’ Devendra Bishoo.

“I am not going to take anything away from the way Bishoo bowled because he bowled really, really well. I thought we gave him eight soft wickets.”

One can only presume that Bishoo was incredibly unlucky with pretty much all his non-wicket-taking deliveries but then dismissed batsmen with each of his eight poor deliveries thanks to terrible shots.


‘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.


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