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Posts Tagged ‘shoaib malik’

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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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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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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The second season of the IPL (or the first season of the SAPL, if you prefer) gets underway this weekend, so here’s the lowdown on the teams taking part:

Bangalore Royal Challengers
Bangalore’s main pre-season activity was the purchase of Kevin Pietersen and KP will join a host of his fellow countrymen in Kallis, Steyn and Boucher. Last year the Royal Challengers finished seventh of eight teams, with only 4 wins, and Rahul Dravid didn’t look much of a Twenty20 batsman last time out, so it is to be hoped that the signing of Pietersen and the availability of Nathan Bracken following injury last year will improve things.

Zaheer Khan has departed to the Mumbai Indians in a swap deal for Robin Uthappa, but Steyn and Bracken – when available – should be enough to keep the bowling up to standard. Nevertheless, the Royal Challengers are unlikely to be amongst the favourites for the competition this year (although as Rajasthan showed last year, the odds may not be a fair indicator of each team’s relative chances).

Chennai Super Kings
Initial indications are that Chennai look strong again this year. Matthew Hayden’s retirement from international cricket means he is available for the whole competition, and new signing Andrew Flintoff, if fit, could potentially be the archetypal IPL all-rounder. In addition, MS Dhoni remains a potent threat.

Last season, the Super Kings lost out to Rajasthan in the final on the last ball, and the squad looks good enough to go one better this time around if fortune (and fitness) favours the Super Kings.

Delhi Daredevils
Dehli have been hit by the loss of Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Asif, but have added Australian master blaster David Warner and English duo Paul Collingwood and Owais Shah. Perhaps most important of their new additions is ‘Dirty’ Dirk Nannes, a Twenty20 specialist who has been part of successful Middlesex and Victoria teams in the shortest form of the game.

Dehli also have the likes of Sehwag, Gambhir, Vettori, de Villiers and McGrath at their disposal, so if the Daredevils can get the make-up of their side right, they have a strong chance of success. The fact that most of their overseas stars will be available throughout may lead to the odd selection problem, but they will be problems of the sort that other franchises would like to have.

Deccan Chargers
Last year’s wooden-spoon winners in dead last place, the Chargers suffered heavily in the batting department as Shahid Afridi, Scott Styris and even Herschelle Gibbs failed to live up to expectations. he has been recalled, and they have a preponderance of all-rounders having also added Dwayne Smith and Ryan Harris.

RP Singh is also under pressure after a disappointing season last year, as is Chaminda Vaas, and Fidel Edwards’s arrival should improve the effectiveness of the bowling unit. In all, there is some hope for a better performance this year, although it would be hard for the Chargers to do any worse.

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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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