Pakistan

14

Mop-up of the day – rail and radar

Bowled on 13th November, 2014 at 09:39 by
Category: Mop-up of the day, Pakistan

A lot of people were going for the ‘we can land a robot on a comet but we can’t get the trains to arrive on time’ line of reasoning yesterday. Just to let you know, it’s not the same people. Different people are responsible for space missions and rail travel.

Also, to be fair to the rail networks, the European Space Agency were only focused on one journey. There are loads of trains. Ask Zulfiqar Babar about it. He found public transport so overwhelming he was reduced to carving himself a second career as a Pakistan international cricketer.

We have no idea how desperate you’d have to be to willingly embrace the tensions and unpredictability of that side, but Zulfiqar’s been rewarded with three massive Test wins in little over a fortnight. You’d think the odds of that would be even slimmer than the likelihood of successfully landing a robot toolbox on a rubber duck-shaped lump of something following a 10-year, 6.4 billion kilometre trip.

Radar

Tell you what wouldn’t pick up the 46P/Wirtanen comet – the radar being used ahead of the World Cup. 4km across and 180 million kilometres away even at its closest, the comet’s more than safe because there’s a school of thought that says even England could creep in under the World Cup radar.

England who brought cricket to the world, at an event where at most only eight teams have even the slimmest hope of winning – and they think they might arrive undetected. More on this over at Cricinfo.

14 Appeals
11

Mop-up of the day – bones, Bangladesh batsmen and battery

Bowled on 12th November, 2014 at 08:33 by
Category: Bangladesh, Mahendra Dhoni, Mop-up of the day, New Zealand, Pakistan, Zimbabwe

Is MS Dhoni’s arm made out of just one super fast-growing bone? We’re imagining an ever-extending protuberance that requires regular pruning based on the following from Cricinfo:

“On the eve of the meeting, a BCCI insider revealed that Dhoni was recovering from a “right forearm” injury. By the time the selectors finished the meeting, an aide close to Dhoni said it was a “wrist” injury. Two hours later, BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel told reporters that Dhoni had been advised rest after hurting his “right thumb”.”

Dhoni was apparently carrying the injury during the aborted series against the West Indies when it was presumably some sort of shoulder problem.

Bangladesh batsmen

In Chittagong, something very unusual is happening. Bangladesh are making a dominant start to a Test match. They’ve already won the first two Tests against Zimbabwe and appear to have drawn some confidence from this. At the time of writing, they were 213-0 and both Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes had made hundreds.

We were going to bring you some exciting statistics about Bangladesh partnerships like a proper media outlet, but Statsguru isn’t working so we’ve quickly lost interest. Someone put something in the comments. Make it up if you want.

Battery

Pakistan are still battering New Zealand. It’s odd how each of their recent Tests appear to have taken place on two different pitches. You’d think the opposition would object to having to bat on a pitted minefield when Pakistan do all their run-scoring on a complete featherbed.

11 Appeals
10

Shivnarine Chanderpaul talking about Wasim Akram

Bowled on 11th November, 2014 at 07:43 by
Category: Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Wasim Akram

Rahul Bhattacharya’s piece about Shivnarine Chanderpaul in the November issue of The Cricket Monthly is full of highlights, not least because a man who is himself one of our favourite cricketers also seems to revere exactly the same players we do.

He describes how Brian Lara would sometimes put spin on the ball with his shots to evade fielders and then at other times wouldn’t, depending on where they were positioned.

There’s also a fantasic quote about the challenge of facing Wasim Akram:

“After looking for swing-swing-swing all of a sudden I saw a ball on my face.”

However, our favourite moment is the way he tells another Wasim Akram story and more specifically how he punctuates it.

“Wasim bowl a few that went across him. Hooper normally play bat-and-pad, but he left a little gap just enough for the ball to pass through. Wasim had a look at him. Then Wasim had one go back through that little gap and hit them stumps. That is how good this guy is. Wasim is an unbelievable bowler. Wasim Akram.”

That’s how you end a cricket anecdote. You say the name of the player as if you’re ending a prayer.

That Shivnarine Chanderpaul, he’s one hell of a guy. Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

10 Appeals
16

New Zealand witness a perfect stellar eclipse

Bowled on 10th November, 2014 at 07:58 by
Category: New Zealand, Pakistan

Poor New Zealand. In recent times, they have slowly been putting together a solid side. Since losing to England last year, they have drawn one Test series and won three. They have one of the more promising seam attacks around and have even found a few batsmen. Now they find themselves up against a happy, determined, organised, well prepared, in-form Pakistan.

What are the chances?

Do stars align? We’ve never really understood that saying and not solely because we fail to see the link between the relative positions of celestial bodies and events on Earth. Does it literally mean some stars appearing in a straight line? Why is that a good thing?

However rare an event star alignment is, Pakistan’s current status is rarer still. It’s like all the planets and stars – every last one of them – getting into a giant, intergalactic queue. It’ll never happen again and nor can it last.

At the time of writing, Pakistan are 347-1 and Brendon McCullum’s already had a bowl. New Zealand are really up against it and they haven’t even caught sight of Younus Khan yet.

16 Appeals
21

Learning, reacting, chopping, changing and Ponting

Bowled on 5th November, 2014 at 09:55 by
Category: Glenn Maxwell, Michael Clarke, Pakistan, Ricky Ponting

It may feel like Australia lost the series against Pakistan 4-0, but actually it was only two. No matter how you play, you can’t lose more than two matches when you only play two.

This has allowed Michael Clarke to somewhat disingenuously plead that his captaincy shouldn’t be judged on the basis of two Tests. People will be quick to draw his attention to last year’s 4-0 defeat to India, which is perhaps what he wants as such talk distracts from his batting form.

The truth is that Clarke’s got away with a 2-0 defeat. He can pretend that Australia might have bounced back were they playing a third Test, but history tends to suggest that learning is more than outweighed by the negative effects of reacting whenever Australia start losing.

“We’re learning,” they say. “Look!”

But changing isn’t the same as improving.

The captain’s view

Ricky Ponting’s main redeeming feature as a captain was that he was plain-speaking. He always erred on the side of blunt honesty and had an unusual predilection for answering the questions asked of him.

But there is quite some distance between being open and honest as an international cricket captain and being open and honest as a columnist. The former is like being the least annoying daytime Radio 1 DJ. You’re the least bad of a group that’s pretty much defined by one negative characteristic.

It is therefore no surprise to see that Ponting’s first column for Cricinfo is fairly banal. He still knows those involved, so his criticism is qualified and weak. You have to read between the lines a bit and magnify some of what he’s saying to interpret his true meaning.

When Ponting says that “a lot of what I saw was a bit frenetic, a bit fast,” then maybe – just maybe – he’s talking about Australia’s number three reverse sweeping his way to 37 off 28 balls in a match in which the opposition’s just posted 570-6 with one guy making a double hundred.

Glenn Maxwell at three – but what would have been next?

The selection of Glenn Maxwell to bat at number three might rank as one of the greatest cricketing decisions of all time. In this context, we’re using ‘greatest’ to mean ‘inexplicable and hilarious’.

But all we can think about is what might have happened next.

If this series had run on, who knows where Australia might have ended up. If you’re picking Maxwell at three by the second Test, what do you do when you’ve lost four on the bounce? The team physio, Alex Kontouris, must have harboured serious hopes of opening the bowling if there had been such a match.

Playing a five Test series when all you can do is lose is like being asked to build an elaborate timber framed home when the only tools you’ve got are a spoon and a spatula. It’s a painful, humiliating farce, but every day you have to turn up for work and do your best and then explain your progress to the client afterwards.

If you ever have to go through this, the after-effects are huge. There’s no hiding place. You had ample opportunities to do a good job so if all you managed was abject failure, you have to answer for that. By slinking off after two Tests, the Australian team has minimised the damage.

The moral of the story

Your averages, captain, coaches and players can probably survive incompetence over a relatively short series, so if you’re going to be rubbish against someone, make sure it’s Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand or someone.

21 Appeals
17

Misbah-ul-Haq and the golden robot

Bowled on 2nd November, 2014 at 10:43 by
Category: Misbah-ul-Haq

It’s a difficult gear change from second to 14th, but today Misbah-ul-Haq managed it. Doctor Deadbat transformed into Professor Pulverise and equalled Viv Richards’ record for the fastest-ever Test hundred off 56 balls.

For some batsmen, quick scoring is a numbers game. They play aggressively all the time and a handful of their innings come off. What’s far more impressive is when it’s a one-off. Misbah’s innings is pretty much the only fast-scoring attempt he’s ever attempted. Likewise the fifth-fastest Test hundred, Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s 69-ball effort also against Australia. That was another cracker. En route to his hundred, Misbah also took the record for the fastest Test fifty after going three better than Jacques Kallis’s 24-ball effort against Zimbabwe.

As much as we love Shahid Afridi, you can keep your Gilchrists and your Gayles. These are the innings we value. The inexplicable ones.

A major contributor to this innings was Steve Smith. As a bowler, Smith certainly has a golden arm (he dismissed Younus Khan in this innings). However, quite often that golden arm appears to be part of a golden robot who is employed as a waiter in a Michelin-starred restaurant. It’s not buffet bowling. It’s more accommodating than that. Fours and sixes are presented on a silver salver.

Misbah took 38 off 11 Smith deliveries today, but that isn’t intended to diminish his achievement. It’s just an observation. He still had to play the shots and those shots are certainly worth watching. Cricket Australia have thoughtfully uploaded a video of all the boundaries. Watch out for the straight sixes. They’re eerily similar to each other.

17 Appeals
5

Speaking of Pakistan…

Bowled on 1st November, 2014 at 09:04 by
Category: King Cricket, Wasim Akram

Because surely you are. Australia are 136-5 in reply to Pakistan’s 570-6 at the time of writing. Younis Khan is averaging over 200 in the series. Unless this current partnership really goes somewhere, that’s better than Australia’s top six combined.

But never mind unheralded Pakistani bowlers ripping through top Test teams. Time was, they had incredibly well-known bowlers who ripped through Test teams. Wasim Akram is our second King of Cricket for All Out Cricket.

5 Appeals
17

Mop-up of the day – Younus Khan’s bat and Murali’s balls

Bowled on 30th October, 2014 at 17:50 by
Category: Mop-up of the day, Muttiah Muralitharan, Younus Khan

Younus Khan’s just made his third Test hundred on the bounce. We mentioned that he was underrated after the first one. Let’s revisit that.

We all know Younus averages some way north of 50 and that he’s now made Test hundreds against every nation, but let’s dig a little deeper. Last time we mentioned that only 19 of his 93 Tests have been played truly at home and that hints at what’s so great about him. He’s adaptable.

The first of this trio of hundreds saw him construct non-scoring foundations for his innings. Since then, he’s become ever-more expansive. This third hundred came off 128 balls.

But it’s conditions as well. Not only has Younus scored a hundred against every Test-playing nation, he’s also scored one in every country bar Australia, where he’s only played three matches. Only in South Africa and the West Indies does he average less than 40 and only in the Windies does he average less than 30. There are always gaps and that’s some CV.

Attack!

Midway through our Cricinfo piece about how Pakistan and Australia have prepared for this Test, we poked fun at Australia’s tendency to believe that their success is directly linked to how attacking they are. It was therefore quite amusing to see that they’d tweaked their team and brought Glenn Maxwell in to bat at number three.

Maybe it’ll work.

Murali’s balls

YouTube can make wasters of us all, but every now and again a long shift is justified when you catch a glimpse of what must rank as being one of the all-time great cricket banners.

muralis-balls

17 Appeals
9

The head-wobbling ghosts of Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah

Bowled on 27th October, 2014 at 10:08 by
Category: Australia cricket news, Yasir Shah, Zulfiqar Babar

It can be hard to keep up with Pakistan’s playing staff. Mitchell Marsh gets a debut and great tracts of webspace are devoted to him, explaining what this decision means and why it’s such a monumental event. In contrast, Pakistan players ghost into the side and it’s only when they’ve become the top-ranked batsman or bowler in the world that anyone finally pays any attention to them.

For one reason or another, Pakistan’s bowling attack is particularly untested at the minute but they seem to be doing okay. Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah, the two spinners, were the architects of Australia’s downfall and it’s tempting to wonder whether we’ve just seen the first steps taken by a duo that will one day rank alongside Wasim and Waqar, Lillee and Thompson and Ambrose and Walsh.

Then you look at them and this clearly isn’t the case. Spring chickens they are not. Zulfiqar Babar in particular is an old stewing chicken. He looks like an Indian Railways employee on his Cricinfo profile page. In fact we’re pretty sure we once bought a ticket off him. We remember him repeatedly answering our question about whether the train stopped at a particular station with the Indian ‘maybe, maybe not’ head wobble. Apparently there’s a version of ‘yes’ which is quite similar to that movement, but to Western eyes it was a decidedly unhelpful response. Yasir Shah is at least wearing cricket gear in his picture, but he could still pass for a ticket inspector.

As for Australia, where do they stand after this heavy defeat? We didn’t see the match, but apparently Alex Doolan looked out of his depth, while Mitchell Marsh is never a number six batsman. The two spinners were also strikingly ineffectual on what was clearly a turning pitch. You could perhaps defend Steve O’Keefe by saying it was his debut, but that rings a little hollow when Pakistan’s entire attack was pretty much new to Test cricket.

The whole Australia team probably just needs to be a little bit more aggressive. That’s the answer. That’ll sort it.

9 Appeals
32

Pakistan thrive on hardship and chaos

Bowled on 25th October, 2014 at 14:56 by
Category: Younus Khan

Younus Khan has a stab at smilingPakistan. Is there any sporting team in the world for which the link between sound preparation and performance is less meaningful?

Having lost what was arguably the best new ball attack of its time as a result of that spot fixing thing, Pakistan rebuilt their bowling around Saeed Ajmal. Being as he’s been banned for chucking, they have now been forced to field an attack where the four main bowlers boast eight Test matches between them.

Needless to say, they’re absolutely battering Australia.

Australia’s first innings 303 hinted that maybe the pitch was deteriorating. Pakistan’s second innings 286-2 rebuffed that. Pakistan’s batting has been dire for the last few years but it has just managed 700-odd runs for the loss of 12 wickets.

Younus Khan has spent most of the build-up to this series maintaining a gold standard strop about being dropped from the one-day side.

“Don’t select me, not even in Tests – I sacrifice my future,” he said a couple of weeks ago. Today he scored his second hundred of the match.

Australia are currently 59-4 chasing 438 and will almost certainly win.

32 Appeals
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