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.
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.
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.
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?”
We watched a bunch of sixes today. Well, we say ‘watched’. What we actually mean is that we heard commentators overreacting to sixes while writing something. We didn’t look up once.
We live in a different world, nowadays. We’ve tried to take you back to the old one in our All Out Cricket piece about Shahid Afridi, but like the £5 base layer we use for winter cycling, it’s not an easy thing to pull off.
Either way, it’s received some positive feedback. One commenter claimed: “You actually wrote my mind out.”
Every batsman suffers the ebb and flow of form. Most will alter their approach when out of form, taking fewer risks in the knowledge that they aren’t middling it. Shahid Afridi never alters his approach and being as his approach amounts to little more than essaying wild, body-convulsing heaves at pretty much every delivery he faces, form has a sizeable impact on his returns.
Out of form, Shahid Afridi gets out. And he gets out quickly. In form, he scores at almost unimaginable speed. On Sunday, he took his time and hit 34 off 18 balls. Today, he notched a half-century in the same number of deliveries, hitting seven sixes. After nine deliveries, he was on 35, after which he chilled out a bit.
It was the second-fastest 50 in the history of one-day internationals and it was the third time he’d scored one that quickly. He also has one off 19 deliveries, two off 20 deliveries, one off 21 deliveries and one off 22 deliveries.
If there is a point to Shahid Afridi – and really, his genius is all about absolute commitment to joyous, unfocused, futile pointlessness – then it is that he should mishit sixes to win matches. That is what happened today.
India and Pakistan have much in common, but they also have their differences – you may even have heard about this. In cricket, the most striking difference is in their respective ‘finishers’.
For India, Mahendra Singh Dhoni typically fills this role. Dhoni is one of the finest one-day batsmen of all time and utterly, utterly reliable. In 214 innings, he appears to have learnt everything there is to know about closing out a 50-over innings and he’s so cool that anyone else on the field of play is at risk of frostbite and hypothermia.
Pakistan field Shahid Afridi at seven. Afridi is basically one last roll of the dice. These dice have just one side that doesn’t say ‘wicket’ and it says ‘six’. In approach, he is as cool as the fires of Hell and in 348 one-day innings, he has learnt precisely nothing. If anything, he has shed knowledge. Certainly, his first innings remains his best.
“The captain told me to take my time and I did that.”
He hit 34 off 18 balls.
Most of the sentiments have been expressed here before, only because this was for Cricinfo we made the article longer, more rambling and less to the point. We pretty much repeat ourself in every paragraph as well to really drive the non-point home.
That non-point is basically that Shahid Afridi is diminished by Twenty20 cricket. One of the comments then says that Twenty20 was invented for characters like him. We suppose that’s not necessarily missing the point. This person might conceivably mean that those who invented Twenty20 were missing the point, which is almost certainly true.
Another comment draws attention to the fact that Afridi’s batting has gone to shit since he retired from Tests, which is actually worth mentioning. They also say something intelligent about the benefits of his reputation when it comes to batting in the longest format.
How many Cricinfo comments do you have to read before you happen upon sense? Many, but it can happen. Well played, Stark62.
Only four days after returning to Test cricket, Pakistan captain, Shahid Afridi, has again announced his retirement with the typically odd yet straightforward statement:
“My temperament is not good enough for Test cricket and we need a proper batsman or a proper bowler.”
Only yesterday we were remarking how Test cricket shows Shahid Afridi at his best; at his most Afridi-ish. You don’t want to see Shahid Afridi batting in a Twenty20 match or in the powerplay overs of a one-day match, you want to see him when he has to bat out time on the final day of a Test match on a wearing pitch.
That’s when Shahid Afridi’s exceptional. That’s when he stands out.
With Shahid Afridi, it’s not about what will happen; it’s about what might happen. Pakistan might need 20 an over, but if Shahid Afridi has got a bat in his hand, that’s not beyond the realms of possibility.
In order to maintain this feeling, Afridi occasionally needs to do something to support it. He doesn’t need to do it very often – just often enough that ludicrous events still seem faintly plausible. Today, in a relatively low-scoring game, he hit a hundred off 68 balls. He can return to his usual airy swishing for a good few innings now.
We once saw a hilarious joke in Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. We watched at least two full episodes on the strength of that. We’ll never get that time back again. Shahid Afridi has a greater success rate than Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps and can keep you interested as a consequence.
You probably knew that.
Very few cricketers combine stellar brilliance with all three major types of retardation.
Update: We’ve done some slightly lengthier writing on this subject for The Wisden Cricketer.
We’re not generally in favour of hackneyed caricatures, but we’ll make one exception: Pakistan the unpredictable.
Pakistan’s cricket team are generally portrayed as equal parts genius and slapstick and with a capacity for self-destruction unrivalled even by Slash. (“I was pissed off at myself for having died. It really ate into my day off.”)
Yesterday was what we would consider a fairly typical Pakistan one-day performance. They lost two of their top three for ducks and were later 75-4. Pakistan have always had a freewheeling sort of lower order though. Shahid Afridi promptly lofted three deliveries into the farther reaches of the Milky Way on his way to 70 off 50 balls; Kamran Akmal hit 67 off 43; and Abdul Razzaq hit 26 off 20. Pakistan then bowled out New Zealand for 149.
The beauty of Pakistan is that you don’t know that they’re going to do this. Although it seems fairly typical, there’s also a good chance they could crumple like a paper cagoule.
Pakistan can actually make even formulaic, overplayed one-day cricket exciting. For once you actually have to watch the match to know what’s going to happen.
Out of form and out of practice, Pakistan were playing like a cutlery drawer full of spoons at the start of the tournament but literally improved with every game.
Shahid Afridi played like a grown-up today, which is again missing the point of Shahid Afridi. But being as he won the World Cup for his nation, we aren’t going to be too critical of him for that. Shahid Afridi embracing sense sits uncomfortably, but it’ll never last. The man’s devoted his entire life to pointless risk-taking with the bat. He’s probably got ‘playing the ball on merit’ out of his system already.
Pakistan had the best bowling attack and it’s nice to see that count in Twenty20. Far from being a barrage of sixes, the World Twenty20 was chock full of awkward yorkers and slower balls. It was ace.