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Posts Tagged ‘pakistan’

Two 19-year-olds have made Test centuries in the last week, both on Test debut, and both in a losing cause.

Umar Akmal, younger brother of Kamran, made 129 from just 160 balls in his first ever Test innings, which he followed up with a creditable 75, the highest individual score of anyone in Pakistan’s second innings total of 218, during the First Test against New Zealand. The youngster impressed observers with performances such as his century for Pakistan A in an unofficial Test against Australia A, and from what I have seen, he looks very promising indeed.

Adrian Barath made just 15 in his first Test innings for the West Indies against Australia in Brisbane, but he followed it up with 104 of the Windies 187 as the tourists fell to an innings defeat. Barath was one of the stars of Trinidad & Tobago’s Champions League adventure, and Brian Lara is a longstanding fan, so Adrian could be another star of the near future.

Here’s hoping these two are delighting cricket fans for many years to come.

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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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Australia’s well-documented injury problems in India have allowed one or two players the chance to break into the side. The man with possibly the most masculine name ever, Burt Cockley, may not have made it into the side, but Doug Bollinger did, and took 3-38 on Monday and 5-35 today to move his way up the pecking order of Aussie quicks (Mitchell Johnson also had a good match, so he probably still pecks first).

Bollinger has been on the fringes of the Australian side for some time, having often been a non-playing tourist with the Test side, and having played only 3 ODIs before the current series (in the relatively low-profile series against Pakistan over in the UAE). Given Australia’s problems with bowlers this year, perhaps the Champagne puns that have been (ahem) ‘on ice’ since Dominic Cork’s international retirement will get more regular outings in future.

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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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I’m not sure Tillakaratne Dilshan has fully grasped the concept of what an opening Test batsmen is supposed to do. Filling the role for the first time in the First Test against New Zealand, he ‘steadied the ship’ after Sri Lanka had lost two early wickets by hitting 92 from 72 balls, including the fastest ever Test fifty by a Sri Lankan.

It’s difficult to imagine many other Test openers reacting with in quite such an aggressive approach (certainly not any of England or New Zealand’s openers). Whilst it could be argued that Dilshan was playing high-risk cricket to a degree which is often unsuitable for the longer format, his positivity certainly turned the match in his side’s favour (from 16/2 to 134/3).

Who knows? Test Cricket may just need more crazy openers – what price Afridi to open for Pakistan?

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The legal dispute between the PCB and the ICC has apparently reached a conclusion, with agreement seemingly reached on an out-of-court settlement. The Pakistani board look set to drop their legal action over the security-influenced decision to deny them their share of 2011 World Cup hosting rights, with chairman Ijaz Butt (“possibly the worst PCB chief ever“, in at least one person’s opinion) claiming that they will receive the full hosting rights fee (around $10.5m) as well as “a substantial amount” of compensation from the ICC.

Interestingly, the issue of Pakistan travelling to play in India is still unresolved, with Butt saying that his team will only travel if Pakistan’s government allows it, otherwise “the World Cup could be affected or cancelled“, which shows at least that no-one at the PCB is guilty of underestimating Pakistan’s importance to the competition. I don’t remember Nasser Hussain and company worrying about the possibility of the 2003 competition being cancelled because England wouldn’t travel to Zimbabwe (although admittedly that competition hardly suffered for their loss in the way a subcontinental World Cup would without Pakistan).

Here’s hoping all the politics get sorted out well in advance of the cricket.

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After the Test series, Sri Lanka’s first home series win against Pakistan, the two sides move on to ODIs with the tourists looking for revenge. In trying to get their own back, Pakistan will be boosted by the return of ICL exiles Naved-ul-Hasan and Imran Nazir (as well as Abdul Razzaq,back after sitting out the Tests).

After the relative success of both sides in the World Twenty20, the focus shifts to preparation for the World Cup in 2011, but both sides have chosen to focus on experience – whilst Pakistan welcome back their ICL players, Sri Lanka bring back the likes of Thilan Samaraweera. The hosts also enjoy the return of Lasith Malinga (although Dilhara Fernando is available as cover in case the slinger picks up an injury. Meanwhile, the pressure on Mendis to deliver against Pakistan, a side who have played him pretty well, continues to mount amid suggestions that his magic has worn off.

Pakistan will hope that their new opening partnership of Nazir and Kamran Akmal (or whatever other partnership they go for – the squad is as strong as it has been for ages) can deliver, whilst their bowling attack – led by Umar Gul – looks strong as usual. If Shahid Afridi can take his World Twenty20 form into the (slightly) longer form then the tourists have a real chance of victory, but inconsistency (as ever) may prove the largest obstacle to success for Pakistan.

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The Third Test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, which starts tomorrow, will be Chaminda Vaas‘ last. The announcement of his retirement from Test cricket comes just a fortnight after he denied speculation that his Test career was coming to an end, and his recall to the Sri Lankan side for the first time since February gives him the chance to leave on a high, with his side looking for a clean sweep against Pakistan.

Vaas is probably Sri Lanka’s greatest ever fast bowler, having played more than 100 Tests and taken more than 350 wickets. Whilst he intends to play one-day and Twenty20 cricket for another two years, his absence from the Test side will be keenly felt. If you don’t believe me, watch his 5-61 against the West Indies in Guyana last year below.

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Yesterday’s recovery from Pakistan has proved to be somewhat of a dead cat bounce, as the tourists lost their last 9 wickets for just 35 runs (only the top three made it into double figures) to allow Sri Lanka to wrap up a historic win (and their first home series win against Pakistan) within three days.

Rangana Herath and Nuwan Kulasekara took 5-99 and 4-37 respectively for Sri Lanka as the hosts restricted Pakistan to a lead of just 170, before their batsmen reached 171/3 in less than 32 overs to wrap up a victory which seemed improbable 2 hours earlier.

For Pakistan, the brief moment of hope has once again faded, and the number of times that their batsmen were given out LBW is cause for concern. For Sri Lanka, there is encouragement that the absence of Murali need not preclude significant progress, and that the pace bowling attack is robust enough to cope without Vaas and Malinga.

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After their shocking display in the first innings, Pakistan fought back in their second innings of the Second Test against Sri Lanka, closing day 2 on 178/1, having clawed back the first day’s deficit through impressive displays with both bat and ball.

First, it was Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal who took the game by the scruff of the neck, finishing with four wickets each as Sri Lanka were restricted to 240 all out, having been 164/3 overnight. Gul in particular was instrumental, kick-starting the comeback with the wicket of Sangakkara and ending with figures of 4-43 and as the cheapest of Pakistan’s bowlers.

After the innings break, it was debutant Fawad Alam (one of my ‘ones to watch’ from last year, albeit as an all-rounder – this was the first time he had opened the batting, as far as I can tell, in any form of the game) who took over, erasing criticisms and memories of his first innings failure with a fine knock, ending the day unbeaten on 102.

Pakistan are still only 28 runs ahead in the match, but the turnaround since yesterday has been dramatic -yet another compelling argument for the continuing primacy of Test cricket.

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Pakistan’s strong record in Sri Lanka is taking a beating. After the tourists’ collapse from a strong position in the First Test, they have managed to concede a first-innings deficit within less than a day’s play in the Second Test.

Kulasekara, Thushara and Mendis all finished with impressive figures for Sri Lanka as Pakistan made a mere 90 runs, with only three Pakistani batsmen making it into double figures (Shoaib Malik did hang around for more than two hours, but made only 39 not out). All this after Younis Khan won the toss and elected to bat.

In reply, the hosts passed Pakistan’s total in just over 26 overs, and now have a strangehold on the series, no mean feat given the big names that are absent from their side.

For Pakistan, it’s difficult to see a way back, and questions are already being asked about team selection and the batting order.

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