Posts Tagged ‘salman butt’

A number of sides have left it until the last minute to announce their squads for the upcoming World Twenty20 (the final deadline is May 5), but Pakistan’s has grabbed a couple of headlines for the inclusion of relative unknowns Shahzaib Hasan (scorer of 607 runs in ten matches for Karachi in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy) and Mohammad Aamer (who has taken 56 first-class wickets in ten matches for Rawalpindi this season).

The rest of the 15 is as follows: Younis Khan (the captain), Salman Butt, Ahmed Shehzad, Shoaib Malik, Misbah-ul-Haq, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Fawad Alam, Shoaib Akhtar (who may be lucky to be included given continuing doubts over his fitness), Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul, Yasir Arafat and Saeed Ajmal.

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For Pakistan, heading into their first Test series since 2007 with a new captain, there has been much talk of fresh starts and new beginnings. A pre-series ‘isolation camp‘ spoke volumes about the perceived need for greater team spirit in the wake of Shoaib Malik’s removal/resignation as captain.

For Sri Lanka, heading into their last Test series with Mahela Jayawardene as captain, the talk has been more of regrouping for a final effort, one last heist. The side has struggled against Pakistan in the past, and Jayawardene will be keen to put that right before he rides off into the sunset as Sri Lanka’s most successful captain ever.

For the hosts, there are a number of changes since their last Test more than 14 months ago. Khurram Manzoor looks set to make his Test debut in the first match, and Mohammad Talha may also feature. Much, as ever, depends on Salman Butt getting the batting order off to a good start.

Sri Lanka fans may have been worried by the diminished impact that their twin spin bowling attack had in the recent ODIs against India. The Test arena, however, is very different to the One Day game in its treatment of spinners, and Muralitharan in particular may feel under less pressure now that he isn’t under the kind of intense scrutiny which he was subject to in the run up to his ODI world record.

You can follow the First Test here.

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Tillakaratne Dilshan, last seen bullying Bangladesh, found form for Sri Lanka in the Second ODI to help set Pakistan a total of 291 (youtube here), after which a combination of Muralitharan, Mendis and Nuwan Kulasekara proved too much for all but Salman Butt and Shoaib Malik (who, by the way, seems to be having doubts about Shoaib Akhtar‘s commitment).

Aside from those two Pakistani batsmen, only Shahid Afridi made it into double figures (making 14) as Pakistan collapsed in less than 35 overs. If Mendis struggled to make an impact in the first match, then he bounced back, taking 3-29 in a fine partnership with Murali (who took 3-19) as the hosts’ middle and lower order slumped from 125-3 to 161 all out, allowing Sri Lanka to level the series ahead of this weekend’s final match.

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Yesterday, I wrote that I thought Salman Butt was capable of becoming the first Pakistani batsman to score a century against Sri Lanka since October 2004.

He obviously agreed, making 100 not out as Pakistan powered to victory in the First ODI against Sri Lanka, after Iftikhar Anjum(a career-best 4-42) and associates had the tourists all out for 219 (youtube here).

Ajantha Mendis seemed to give Pakistan little trouble (he took 0-41 from 7 overs), perhaps owing to the training techniques they have adopted to deal specifically with the young mystery spinner. Whether he can bounce back in the Second ODI tomorrow will be something that a lot of people will be interested in, not least the Indian batsmen who will be trying to get their own back on him at the end of the month.

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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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It seems that India and Pakistan play a One-Day International against each other roughly every five minutes. They faced each other twice in the Kitply Cup earlier this month, with India winning the first game comfortably, only for Pakistan to win the final, and now they will face each other at least twice more in the Asia Cup, with their group game taking place today.

So far in the tournament, both sides have hammered Hong Kong, which is a bit like saying both sides have made it through customs -a given, really.

The structure of the Asia Cup basically means that today’s game will be of little consequence in terms of progression in the competition, but there’s always consequence when these two sides go head-to-head.

For Pakistan, Salman Butt will be crucial. He always seems to raise his game when playing against India. For India, Yuvraj Singh seems to have the same boost to his average when playing against Pakistan. All eyes will be on those two today.

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The Asia Cup 2008 gets underway on Tuesday, with the ‘established’ Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and ‘semi-established’ Bangladeshi (no link because the official site ‘may harm your computer‘) teams competing against the ’emerging’ UAE and Hong Kongese sides.

Group A

  • Sri Lanka will be looking to recapture the One-Day form that brought victory over England, but which has been absent more recently. Ajantha Mendis, who I’ve mentioned recently, will be one to watch, and the six over-30’s in the squad will shoulder much of the responsibility as usual.
  • The United Arab Emirates are hoping that a blend of youth and experience will help to produce the kind of performances that suggest they have a good chance of qualification (following good results in the World Cricket League last year) for the 2011 World Cup. Obviously, the UAE will be looking for performances rather than results from this tournament, but they could give Bangladesh a scare if they play out of their skins. Saqib Ali has a first class average of 55, and is likely to be the main source of runs.

Group B

  • India showed both sides of their recent form in the Kitply cup, hammering Pakistan in the group stage, then leaking runs like nobody’s business in the final. Gambhir was impressive throughout the tournament with the bat, and RP Singh, amongst others, continues to show real promise with the ball.
  • Hong Kong, who will be taking part in the World Cricket League Division 4 in October, are almost certain to be unceremoniously crushed by both India and Pakistan. Courtney Kruger could make things slightly more respectable with a few runs, but any difference will be marginal.

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