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Posts Tagged ‘younis khan’

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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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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Following the unusual tribute to Shrove Tuesday that the curators of Karachi’s very own pancake produced for the First Test, it is to be hoped that the Second Test in Lahore will produce a more exciting contest.

The Test will be Mahela Jayawardene‘s last before he steps down as captain, and his last chance to lead his team to a hitherto elusive series win in Pakistan.

The hosts haven’t won a home series since 2006 (although they didn’t play any in 2008), so something looks set to give. Another bore draw would be an ill-fitting result for a Test which has the potential to become very significant for both captains, as Pakistan’s new leader looks for his first series win and Sri Lanka’s looks for his last.

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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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