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Posts Tagged ‘mohammad yousuf’

I’m going to be taking a break from updating this site due to work commitments, so in the meantime, enjoy this yorker from Freddie:

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The obvious point to make ahead of a New Zealand – Pakistan Test series is that the two sides have, on the face of it, diametrically opposed approaches. New Zealand are sometimes dull, usually reasonably efficient and often mediocre, whereas Pakistan are exciting, unpredictable, inconsistent and fleetingly brilliant.

Recently, though, New Zealand have been through a series of upheavals which the average Pakistan fan would not find it difficult to empathise with – a bloodless coup to depose the coach and misbehaving players, to name the most prominent. Shane Bond’s return to the Test side will provide a boost, although he is unlikely to be the player that he was two years ago, notably with regard to raw pace. Meanwhile, Jacob Oram’s retirement and Jesse Ryder‘s absence through injury mean that the overall balance of the side may take some time to get right.

Pakistan have (of course) been through upheavals themselves, with Younis Khan’s resignation, which was apparently at least partially motivated by a lack of support from players such as former skipper Shoaib Malik. New captain Mohammad Yousuf has not always seen eye-to-eye with Malik in the past, so there could still be some issues to resolve on that front. Adjusting to the low temperatures of November in New Zealand will also be a challenge, whilst Mohammad Asif‘s return to Test cricket following his drugs ban provides some welcome good news.

Pakistan’s recent Test form has been poor, and although New Zealand are in a ‘transitional period’, the home side will probably be slight favourites for the series win.

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India versus Pakistan often fails to live up to the hype, usually because there is so much of that hype, but this had twists and turns enough to satisfy even the most jaded 50-over cynic.

Shoaib Malik’s 128 from 126 balls, much of which came in partnership with Mohammad Yousuf (who himself made 87), helped Pakistan recover from 65/3 to post 302 – more than has ever been succesfully chased at Centurion.

Malik now averges more than 52 against India, compared with his overall average of around 35, and this was his fourth ODI century against them. After flirting with an opening role, he seems to have found his rightful place in the upper-middle order. Whether or not Pakistan’s selectors will agree, however, remains to be seen.

Malik did let himself down a bit with the ball, though, getting smashed for 14 in a single over by Suresh Raina as India raced along at a pace even quicker than Pakistan’s. Gambhir made a quickfire fifty to set things off, and then Dravid played the anchor role as only he can, remaining steady as wicket after wicket fell at the other end. Once ‘the Wall‘ had fallen, though, victory was out of India’s reach, and they eventually fell 54 runs short.

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The second most prestigious tournament in everyone’s third-favourite format of the game is nearly here. Can you contain yourself? Here are the Group A runners and riders:

  • Australia will no doubt have had a confidence boost from driving a steamroller over England over the latter part of the summer, but doubts remain over how they will perform when faced with tougher opposition. Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson are a potent combination with the ball, and there seems to be no shortage of batsmen able to make runs (foremost amongst which, of course, is Ricky Ponting).
  • India may be missing Virender Sehwag, but will be amongst the favourites as they look to improve on their last showing at a 50-over tournament, when they didn’t make it past the first round of the 2007 World Cup. Since then, however, India have won an ICC tournament in South Africa – the same year’s World Twenty20 – and there is enough quality in the side to beat any opponent on the right day.
  • The West Indies go into the competition still in disarray, with a side full of reserves as the contract dispute rumbles on. Although progress seems to have been made on that front, this competition is likely to be little more than a further embarrassment for the WICB.

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Mohammad Yousuf has made a century on his return to international cricket, making 112 for Pakistan as the tourists recovered from 80/4 to earn a first-innings lead of 50 runs in the First Test at Galle.

Notably, Pakistan continued to play the bowling of Ajantha Mendis well, with the spinner ending wicketless and going for 89 runs from 25 overs, including the runs which brought up both Yousuf’s half-century and the century itself.

Although the majority of the cricketing world’s attention is understandably taken up by the impending Ashes series, this finely-balanced Test is worth keeping an eye on – as is Yousuf, who is now only one ton behind Inzamam ul-Haq in Pakistan’s all-time ranking of century-makers (Yousuf also overtook Javed Miandad on the same list with today’s score).

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The build-up to the imminent Test series between Sri Lanka and Pakistan may have brought up memories of two recent meetings between the sides – the recent World Twenty20 final, and of course the sadly curtailed Test series of four months ago – but there’s change afoot for both sides.

For the hosts, Kumar Sangakkara takes over as captain, whilst Muralitharan, Vaas and Malinga are all absent, opening up opportunities for the likes of Angelo Matthews and Suraj Randiv to make debuts (and for Kulasekara to front the Test attack). Sri Lanka have never won a Test series at home against Pakistan, and in fact have only won a single home Test against the tourists, but their batting form is impressive enough to make the sorts of scores that can remove defeat from the equation.

For Pakistan, Mohammad Yousuf returns from his self-imposed (and self-rescinded) ICL exile, whilst Mohammad Aamer, supremely impressive at times in the World Twenty20, could be in line for a Test debut. The feelgood factor from that tournament hasn’t worn off yet, but bowling Sri Lanka out twice will be a challenge even for an attack featuring the brilliance and form of Umar Gul.

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For Pakistan, the main feeling ahead of the ODI series against Sri Lanka is probably novelty – they’ve hardly played any international cricket of late. The matches they did play in 2008, though, generally ended in victory (although many were against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh). The side has suffered the not inconsiderable loss of Mohammad Yousuf to the ICL, and Shoaib Akhtar‘s fitness is a concern (he looks set to miss the first ODI of this series), but Younis Khan and Salman Butt are both capable of making big scores, and if they can stand up to the twin spin challenge of Murali and Mendis, then they both have a chance of being the first Pakistani batsman to score a century against Sri Lanka since October 2004.

Sri Lanka’s past form has been almost as impressive as Pakistan’s, but their near miss against Bangladesh in the Tri-Series final (and, of course, their defeat in the same competition) has left them with a point to prove. If the spin twins play to their potential, and Nuwan Kulasekara does a decent job in filling Vaas‘ shoes, then Pakistan’s batsmen may be on the back foot. If Sri Lanka win the series 3-0, they’ll rocket up the ODI rankings from 7th to 4th (leapfrogging Pakistan on the way up), so there’s plenty at stake for both sides.

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