Wednesday, August 12, 2020

What about Asad Shafiq?

Following the piece on Azhar Ali and his performance during the Misbah era and post it, a lot of enquiries have been made regarding Asad Shafiq.

Most believe that his performance too has deteriorated since the retirements of Misbah and Younis Khan.

Initially, I had thought so too, and had planned to write regarding both Azhar and Asad. However after reviewing Asad's numbers, I was quite surprised.



























A career average of 38.9, an average of 39.4 during the Misbah era, and 37.4 after it suggests that Asad has been consistent throughout his 10-year test career.

The only thing that has changed since the Misbah-Younis retirement is his conversion rate. Under Misbah he scored a test hundred every 5-6 matches, now it is every 10 matches. Under Misbah he converted every second fifty into a century, now he converts every fifth fifty.

That is not the problem though.

My foremost criticism of Asad's test career has been that he has scored a lot of easy and inconsequential runs. Not match saving or match winning ones.

I went back and looked back at his 12 test centuries, and this is what I found.

Note: Pakistan Score is the score at which Asad walked to the crease.

104 vs Bangladesh at Chattogram
Pakistan Score: 311-4

Exploited a relatively weak and extremely tired bowling attack completely to bring up his first test hundred.

100* vs Sri Lanka at Pallekele
Pakistan Score: 176-4

Helped Pakistan set a target of 270 on the final day. A more aggressive knock could have given Pakistan more overs to bowl Sri Lanka out; however they had only 62 overs, which did not prove enough at the end.

Many criticized him for playing selfishly for a test 100 rather than for a win; while others pointed out that caution was important otherwise Sri Lanka may have had an easier target to chase on the final day.

111 vs South Africa in Cape Town
Pakistan Score: 33-4

His best test century till date. Joined Younis Khan in a 220 run partnership on a tough pitch and against arguably the best test attack in the world at the time.

130 vs South Africa in Dubai
Pakistan Score: 70-4

Having been bowled out for 99 in their first innings, Pakistan were facing a deficit of over 400 runs when Asad joined Misbah. They had a 200-run partnership to delay the inevitable.

137 vs New Zealand in Sharjah
Pakistan Score: 36-4

Belligerent knock off only 148 deliveries while facing a deficit of 340 odd. After being 63-5, Asad had no choice but to attack and play his shots in a lost cause.

107 vs Bangladesh in Dhaka
Pakistan Score: 323-4

Easy runs were on offer against a weary attack that had been plundered for plenty already.

131 vs Sri Lanka in Galle
Pakistan Score: 86-4

A great test match winning century. Put on 140 runs with Sarfraz, batted with the tail, and helped Pakistan set up a match winning total in excess of 400.

107 vs England in Abu Dhabi
Pakistan Score: 251-4

More easy runs as he walked out to bat against some tired bowlers, who bore the brunt of a Shaoib Malik double hundred.

109 vs England at the Oval
Pakistan Score: 52-2

His first and only test century while batting at number 4. Put on 150 runs with Younis Khan, who scored a monumental 218. A century that helped Pakistan to a match winning total.

137 vs Australia in Brisbane
Pakistan Score: 165-4

This could have turned into the greatest test knock ever played. Yet it will be remembered for not being enough.

Pakistan faced an improbable task of chasing a target of 490. Asad, along with the tail, helped Pakistan inch to within 40 runs of that target.

There are many arguments stating that Asad had no choice but to try his luck for as long as it lasted, which he did. Could he have scored the same way if he was under pressure chasing a total of say 270? Doubt it.

112 vs Sri Lanka in Dubai
Pakistan Score: 49-3

Once again it was just not enough, in a chase of 317, where Pakistan ended 68 runs short of the target.

104 vs New Zealand in Abu Dhabi
Pakistan Score: 85-3

This is the only test match, post MisYou, where Azhar and Asad did what they should have been doing from the day Misbah and Younis retired. They put on 200 runs for the 4th wicket to take Pakistan out of a difficult situation; however it was still not enough to save them from defeat.


So then, in a career spanning 10 years he has scored 12 test centuries; however only 2 of those were match winning ones, and only 1 other was a truly great test knock. The remaining 9 were largely inconsequential.

What does this tell you about Asad Shafiq?

A batsman with a sub-40 test average is not a mainstay of any batting line up.

All this suggests that Asad is a decent test batsman, not a great one. He is very good as a supporting act, but can never be the one responsible to steer the ship.

He has an enviable record at number 6. He is the only batsman in the world besides Steve Waugh to score over 3,000 runs at that position. His 9 test hundreds at number 6 are more than anyone else in the history of test cricket.

However, he averages 41 at number 6, which again is decent, but not great. 

There are batsmen like Steve Waugh, VVS Laxman, Sir Gary Sobers, Allan Border, Shiv Chanderpaul, AB De Villiers, Ian Bell and Saleem Malik who average over 50 at number 6.

So the expectation that Azhar Ali should have become the main batsman of the side after MisYou was valid; however to expect the same of Asad is perhaps not correct.

I still feel he fits into Pakistan's test XI, perhaps at number 6 and not any higher. That is the position where he has shone as a batsman, and that is where he should continue to bat in my view.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

How long will Pakistan persist with Azhar Ali the batsman?

A lot has been said about Azhar Ali's captaincy in the Old Trafford test against England.

I will reserve my comments on his test captaincy, given it is only 7 tests old. He is an inexperienced captain no doubt and 7 tests is no measure to judge one's ability.

My problem is with Azhar Ali the batsman.

Azhar was supposed to be the one to take the baton from Younis and Misbah, following their retirement. 

Similar to how it was passed on from Javed Miandad to Salim Malik to Inzamam Ul Haq to Mohammad Yousuf to Younis Khan over the past 3 decades.

Azhar had all the ingredients to become a test batting great for Pakistan. 

In the 7 years under Misbah he blossomed as a test batsman. He has the most runs for Pakistan in tests at the number 3 position; more than Younis Khan.

As an opener he flourished too, becoming only the second Pakistani opener to score a triply century in tests. He also knocked a double ton at the MCG.

He averaged closed to 50 in those 7 years.

But when the time came to become the senior statesman of Pakistan's test side, his form deserted him.

Losing form happens to everyone. 

But losing form for 3 years is a cause for concern.

Pakistan cannot afford to keep a batsman who has not been in the runs for over 3 years!

The difference between Azhar Ali's performance during Misbah's tenure and after is drastic.

A batsman who is averaging 27 in tests over the past 3 years does not command a position in the team, let alone at the crucial number 3 position.

Pakistan cannot continue to persist with him. 

Unless something changes significantly, I feel Azhar's career will be over soon. He was on the verge of achieving a test average of 50; instead it has fallen to 42 in the past 3 years.

It is all about the mindset really. Batting while knowing that Younis and Misbah are in line to bat is surely a lot easier than batting and thinking that you need to take on the burden as there is a lot of inexperience to follow.

Unfortunately I do not see how anything can change.

It is sad that a batsman who could have been one of the best produced by Pakistan will end his career as just an average test batsman.

The question now only is, how long will the selectors persist with him?


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Shan Masood's Second Inning

Shan Masood scored an impressive 75 on test debut against South Africa in Abu Dhabi.

That was 7 years ago and since then he has played only 21 tests scoring 1,345 runs at an average of 33.6.

Those are not great stats, however it is largely due to the fact that he has never had a prolonged run in Pakistan's test playing XI.

Till now.

It is already difficult for batsmen who are not considered for white ball cricket to maintain consistent performances at test level. It is made even harder by the selectors who keep changing their minds.

Shan has had a very start-stop test career, till Pakistan's tour to South Africa at the end of 2018. Since then he has been Pakistan's preferred test opener and he has shown all of us why.

Before the start of that series against South Africa, Shan had played 12 tests during the period 2013-17, scored 565 runs at an average of 23.5, and had knocked 1 test century and 3 fifties.

Since that series, Shan has played 9 tests, scored 780 runs at an average of 48.75, and has knocked 3 test centuries and 3 fifties.

Shan's 156 at Old Trafford was a monumental knock.

It was really unfortunate that he ended up on the losing side, but his effort on days 1 and 2 of the test set up the game for Pakistan.

The sheer determination with which he played on a difficult pitch and countered two new ball bursts from Anderson, Broad, Archer, and Woakes was heartening to watch and completely praiseworthy.

Shan's 156 was a memorable knock for many reasons. Here are a few.

ONE
It was his third consecutive test century, following his 135 vs SL and 100 vs BAN, placing him in elite company that includes the likes of Zaheer Abbas, Mohammad Yousuf, and Younis Khan from Pakistan and batting greats like Rahul Dravid, Ricky Ponting, and Jacques Kallis.

TWO
It was the first test century by a Pakistani opener away from home (Pakistan/UAE) in over 3 years. The last one was scored by Azhar Ali in the Caribbean in May 2017.

THREE
He became only the 5th opener from Pakistan, and the first this century, to score a test hundred in England, following the feats of Mohsin Khan, Mudassar Nazar, Aamer Sohail, and Saeed Anwar.

FOUR
It is the highest test score in England by a visiting opener in 5 years. The last time an opener scored more than Shan was in July 2015 when Chris Rogers hit 173.

FIVE
It is the highest test score by any batsman from Pakistan away from home (Pakistan/UAE) in almost 4 years. The last time a batsman scored more was in January 2017, in Sydney, where Younis Khan played an unbeaten knock of 175.

SIX
The 319 deliveries that Shan faced during his knock were the 3rd highest by a Pakistan test opener in England, after Mohsin Khan (386) and Mudassar Nazar (362). Plus they were the most deliveries faced by a Pakistan opener in England since 1992!

SEVEN
The 319 deliveries faced by Shan were the most by a visiting test opener in England since 2014 when Murali Vijay faced 361 in Nottingham.


This truly is Shan's second inning in test cricket. He has had a great run as test opener for two years now and with the way he batted at Old Trafford, following a good last season at home, Shan looks set to score plenty more test runs for Pakistan.


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Thursday, August 6, 2020

The New Fab 4!

Steve Smith, Virat Kohli, Joe Root, and Kane Williamson have been considered the Fab 4 of Test batting in modern days.

Rightly so, given their numbers.
Each one of these 4 great batsmen made their test debut between 2010 and 2012; they have played over 70 tests each, and scored more than 6,000 runs.

In the past decade, 2010-19, they were undoubtedly the best test batsmen around.

In the past 2 years however, two other batsmen have emerged who have posed a challenge to the world renowned Fab 4.

Babar Azam and Marnus Labuschagne!

Babar made his Test debut in 2016 and has played 27 tests including the current ongoing one against England.

While Labuschagne made his Test debut in 2018 and has played only 16 tests.

Both had a slow start to their test careers; but their last 12 months have been simply phenomenal!

Babar's last few test scores read: 

104 in Brisbane
97 in Adelaide
102* in Rawalpindi
60 and 100* in Karachi
143 in Rawalpindi
69 in Manchester

While Marnus has absolutely smashed it with scores of:

185 in Brisbane
162 in Adelaide
143 and 50 at Perth
63 and 19 in Melbourne
215 and 59 in Sydney

Those are quite some numbers.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that these two have displaced Kane Williamson and Joe Root, whose fortunes have dwindled in recent times, from the Fab 4.

Take a look at Test batsmen with the highest averages since the start of 2018.
It is quite evident who the Fab 4 are based on performance over the past 32 months.

It is also quite clear that Babar Azam is leading the pack with the highest average during this period. Only Kohli has more test centuries than Babar in this period and no one has more test 50s.

Sure both Babar and Labuschagne have a long way to go in their careers, but the way they have been batting in recent times, there is no doubt that both will go on to become greats of the game.

For now, lets just know that there is a new Fab 4 in the cricketing world.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Kevin Pietersen talks about his IPL Experience

The IPL season will be here soon and all the franchise owners, players, and fans are waiting for it with a lot of anticipation. The Indian Premier League is nothing short of a grand cricket carnival, an entertainment extravaganza, which everyone looks forward to every year.

While the fans wait to watch their favorite cricketers, the cricketers themselves look forward to playing alongside some of the greats of the game.

Betway recently spoke to Kevin Pietersen about his IPL experience, in which he has made some very interesting observations while describing the league as spectacular, gripping, and captivating.

Pietersen started his IPL stint in 2009 with the Royal Challengers Bangalore and even captained them, a team that included stalwarts like Virat Kohli, AB De Villiers, Chris Gayle, and Virender Sehwag.

In the later part of his career he moved to Delhi Daredevils, now known as the Delhi Capitals.

KP has scored 1,001 runs in 36 IPL matches at an average of 35.8 and a strike rate of 134.7 with a highest score of 103.

At one point he was the most expensive player bought at the IPL auction.

Speaking to Betway about his IPL experience, KP reminisced about the interaction with other greats, the pressure, team spirit, captaincy, and what it means to play and watch cricket in India.



He says that he always wanted to be part of the IPL because as a professional one should not be behind the pacemakers of the game, and back in 2008-2009 the pacemaker was the Indian Premier League.

"One could learn from the greats of the game. How they practiced, how they spoke, how they approached the game, how they conducted themselves in team meetings, how meticulous they were in their preparation, how they trained, how they padded up ..."

Hearing KP say this shows the admiration he has for the IPL and what it means for players around the world.

He also spoke about the pressure that the IPL brings on, just due to the fact that franchise owners have invested their millions on a player, which brings with it added responsibility.

The pressure of playing internationals is quite different from the pressure associated with the IPL according to KP. He provides quite an intriguing example and speaks about the difference between walking out to bat at Lord's and walking out to bat for your IPL franchise.

The announcer at Lord's would say "coming out to bat is England's number 4 Kevin Pietersen".

The announcer at the Wankhede or Ferozshah Kotla would say "coming out to bat is the world's most expensive buy in the IPL auction" and with it there will be banging music and fans jumping and shouting in the stands.

Pietersen's most interesting reveals were about his experience of playing with other stars like Virender Sehwag and a young Virat Kohli when he was just starting out.

About Sehwag, he loved his careless free spirit and how he used to sing while bowlers ran up to bowl and then whack them all over the park. KP calls him a superstar and says some his most fun experiences in the cricket field were with Sehwag.

He goes on to talk about how he always knew that Kohli was destined for greatness because of his sheer determination to be the best possible player he could be, because of how he approached the game, how he learnt, how he was always determined to get his team over the line.

KP talks about this incredible friendship he shares with Kohli despite him being a lot senior, while sharing a few stories about making fun of Kohli's chubbiness in his early days.

He signs off by talking about how huge cricket in general and the IPL in specific is in India.

"Nothing compares to the IPL in India. There is nothing more spectacular, gripping, and captivating. There is no better entertainment than watching cricket in a packed Indian stadium"

Hearing the crowd cheering when Dhoni walks out to bat, or watching those partnerships between Kohli and AB De Villiers, according to KP, there is nothing like it in this sport.

It sure is a full entertainment package and the way KP describes it in his talk with Betway, I can only wonder what it would be like to be a part of this extravaganza as a pure spectator.

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Friday, February 28, 2020

IPL 2020 is upon us!

The world's premier T20 competition, the IPL, will be starting its 13th season in a month's time.

When the 6-week extravaganza gets underway, all cricket around the world will come to a standstill and all eyes will be on the world's best players competing for the ultimate T20 crown.

Like last year, 8 teams will take part in IPL 2020, which starts on 27 March 2020 and goes on till the middle of May.

Six teams have won the previous 12 editions of the IPL with Mukesh Ambani's Mumbai Indians winning it 4 times. Chennai Super Kings, who missed out two seasons, have won the IPL three times; while Shahrukh Khan's Kolkata Knight Riders have won it twice.

The other three editions have been won by Rajasthan Royals, Deccan Chargers, and Sunrisers Hyderabad.

LEADING BATSMEN
T20 is a batsman's game and the IPL has seen some scintillating knocks over the past decade and a bit.

The first ever match played in IPL history, in 2008, witnessed a Brendan McCullum classic as he butchered the Royal Challengers Bangalore's attack amassing an unbeaten 158 that included 13 sixes and 10 fours.

That remained the highest score ever made in the IPL till Chris Gayle smashed his way to an unbeaten 175 in 2013. Gayle's knock comprised 17 sixes and 13 fours.


Chris Gayle is among the leading run scorers as well in the IPL, but it is no surprise as to who tops that list.

None other than the King himself, Virat Kohli!

Kohli is only one of two batsmen who have piled on over 5,000 runs in the IPL. The other being Suresh Raina.

There are only 8 other batsmen who have over 4,000 runs in the IPL.


There is another batting accolade that Chris Gayle has the honor of holding - the most number of sixes hit in the IPL.

Gayle is right there at the top with 326 sixes and he has a lead of over a 100 sixes over the next batsman on the list!

More than a 100 sixes than anyone else playing this T20 league!

What a legend this Chris Gayle is.


Gayle's name also makes the list when you look at batsmen who have scored the most runs in one season of IPL; however like the list of batsman with most runs in the history of the IPL, Kohli leads this list too.

He knocked a legendary 973 runs in IPL 2016!


Take a look at today match predictions and decide for yourself on who you will be placing your money on. Chris Gayle is a T20 superstar and a cricket legend. He is a key man to have in your team in T20 cricket. Any team that has Gayle in it will always be a favorite on the day.

Also take a look at this video for match predictions.


LEADING BOWLERS
It is a batsman's game no doubt but bowlers who can check the run flow are worth their weight in gold! Not many bowlers escape the onslaught of T20 batsmen, but there are a few who have been quite successful in this format.

Spinners are among the top wicket takers in the IPL, but there is one pacer who has out done all of them and that is Lasith Malinga.


Malinga has been a T20 superstar with the ball, not only for his IPL franchise for his country too. Mumbai Indians are fortunate to have him in the ranks and he has been a key component of their 4 IPL wins, the most by any team in the IPL.

I would say that the Mumbai Indians will start IPL 2020 as favorites. They are the defending champions and have won 4 of the past 7 IPL Trophies.

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Monday, February 17, 2020

Does the result of the U19 World Cup bear any indication as to the future kings of cricket?


The U19 cricket World Cup played out to a thrilling conclusion in Potchefstroom, South Africa, as Bangladesh beat India by three wickets. This tournament was yet another indication that cricket is alive and well in the international youth ranks, with many outstanding individual performances over the playing of the event.

It was also quite interesting, and somewhat alarming, to see how much winning the World Cup means to these future stars after a scuffle broke out between the players of Bangladesh and India after the final runs had been scored. The ICC have said in this report at https://crickettimes.com, that they will take serious action against the perpetrators. Hopefully, common sense will prevail, with cricket’s governing body aware that these young men still have a lot to learn, and that wisdom comes with age. Having said that, there should be no grey areas about the repercussions of future conduct of this sort. 



No doubt, this will mean that any India vs Bangladesh fixture, over the coming 15 years, will be filled with drama, with the foundations of any coming series between these two countries being built on bad blood. That can only be good for the game; but how likely is it that Bangladesh will continue to beat India over the future? And does the u19 World Cup truly point the way forward in terms of who will dominate in the future?

A Cautionary Tale

The South African u19 saga is probably a good example to use seeing as the young Proteas won the event in 2014. A look at the match report at https://www.emirates247.com, and you'll see just how clinical these youngsters were. Much was made of this particular winning team as it comprised of Kagiso Rabada, Corbin Bosch, and Aiden Markam. Indeed, these were young players who looked set to help South Africa banish their senior World Cup demons once and for all. 

Fast forward to 2019, and Rabada and Markram were the only players on that side from the u19 World Cup win, and South Africa were utterly dreadful. The Proteas were knocked out of the group stage and looked like a team without any direction whatsoever. And, as for Corbin Bosch, son of the late South African opener Tertius Bosch, well, he hasn’t played any international cricket since. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that a lot of the u19 players won’t go on to become professionals, even if they find themselves on the winning team.

So whilst it is very encouraging to see Bangladesh make such great strides in the u19 World Cup, very few will be backing them to win the senior World Cup in three years time in India. In fact, any punters visiting www.cricketprediction.com will see the opposite, with the Indians way out in front as favourites. 



It's safe to say, not many are expecting Bangladesh to be able to repeat their heroics at an all-ages level. This is by no means a slight on the talented young men that gave their country a day they will never forget, but more of a factual look at how teams who win the event get on over the next 10-15 years.

There is no doubt, however, that Bangladesh is a cricketing nation heading in the right direction.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Babar Azam's time is NOW

Pakistan have played 5 tests this season (2019-20) and in each of those tests, Babar Azam has shown the world why he is the most exciting batsman in the world at the moment.

Babar's scores in these 5 tests read: 1, 104, 97, 8, 102*, 60, 100*, 143.

Four centuries and a ninety odd in 5 tests. A century in each of the home tests played till date.

Babar Azam, the test batsman has arrived!

Currently, Babar is the only batsman in the world who ranks in the top 5 in each format. He is the only batsman in the world with a rating of 800 or more in Tests, ODIs, and T20Is.


Following his 143 in the first test against Bangladesh, Babar has pushed his Test Average above 45 for the first time in his career. His ODI and T20I averages are both above 50.

Currently, Virat Kohli is the only member of the elite club of batsmen with an average over 50 in each format.

With the way Babar's season is going, it will not be long before he joins Kohli in this elite club.

In tests played as a part of ICC's World Test Championship, which began this season, Babar is not only among the leading run scorers, he is the only batsman averaging over a 100!


His 4 centuries are right up there, level with the find of the season - Marnus Labuschagne.

In addition to scoring a Test Hundred in Australia against the world's best bowling attack, Babar has ensured that the return Test Cricket to Pakistan has coincided with his rise in the format.

Babar has made Pakistan's home cricket season, its first in over a decade, his very own!

He has scored a century in each of Pakistan's home tests and he is averaging a phenomenal 202.5 across these three test matches.


Pakistan will play one more Test at home this season and then play another three in the summer in England. The year till end with two tests in New Zealand.

Another six tests; I am going to place my bets on Babar being at the top of ICC Test Batting Rankings by then.

Babar's time is NOW!

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Monday, February 10, 2020

Abbas-Naseem-Shaheen: Pakistan's Pace Triumvirate

Having made his debut in Australia a few months ago, Naseem Shah has quickly risen to become Pakistan's spearhead. Along with Mohammad Abbas and Shaheen Afridi, he has formed a potent pace attack, which has the potential to serve Pakistan successfully over the next many years.

Pakistan has now played this triumvirate in three consecutive tests. In the 5 innings that Abbas, Shaheen, and Naseem have bowled together, they have collectively accounted for 34 out of the 50 wickets that Pakistan has taken.

The trio have a total of 30 tests among themselves; two of them are still in their teens. So young and inexperienced, yet they have given Pakistan glimpses of the hey days of Pakistani pace.

Their numbers are quite remarkable.


Look at those averages and strike rates!

While Abbas is the workhorse who bowls tirelessly at a miserly economy, Shaheen and Naseem strike with their pace. Shaheen has consistently provided the early breakthroughs, while Naseem has provided the closing touches.

NASEEM SHAH
He is only 16 years and 4 tests old and he has already played an instrumental part in Pakistan's last two test victories.

Yesterday he became the youngest bowler to take a test hatrick and only the 4th Pakistani bowler to achieve the feat following in the footsteps of Wasim Akram, Abdul Razzaq, and Mohammad Sami.

For all of Pakistan's sake let us hope that he continues to follow in the footsteps of the former.

Naseem's 4-26 in the second innings initiated Bangladesh's collapse from 124-2 to 168 all out, setting up an innings win for Pakistan.

In his previous test, the second of the series against Sri Lanka, Naseem became the youngest bowler to pick up a five wicket haul in a test innings. His 5-31 in the second innings led Pakistan to a test and series win.

What is even more impressive about Naseem is the fact that 9 of his 13 test wickets till date have come in the opposition's second innings, which is testament to his fitness, passion, and motivation level.

MOHAMMAD ABBAS
In the period since Abbas made his test debut in April 2017, he has one of the best test bowling averages in the world. He has the best economy rate in the world in that period and he is among the only 4 bowlers in the world who have picked up a 10 wicket haul in tests in this period.


SHAHEEN AFRIDI
Shaheen is the only one among the three who has excelled across formats for Pakistan. Not only is his test average of 28 impressive, his ODI and T20I averages of 21.2 and 20.8 respectively are also top notch.

In the period starting from April 2018, when Shaheen made his international debut, he is among the top 10 wicket takers in all international cricket.


In this period, he has the second best strike rate in the world, behind only Kuldeep Yadav's. There is no pace bowler in the world who has a better strike rate than Shaheen Afridi's in the past two years!

And his international bowling average of 23.5 is bettered by only Pat Cummins and Jasprit Bumrah.

For a 19 year old this is quite remarkable.



As a trio, Abbas-Shaheen-Naseem have worked wonders for Pakistan. Let us hope that they will continue to create the same magic for many more years!

Let us hope that Abbas will continue to deceive batsmen with his seam, Shaheen will continue to dismiss opposition openers in the first few overs, and Naseem will continue to give us fiery wicket taking spells reminiscent of the two Ws and Shoaib Akhtar.

Pakistan has always had an abundance of fast bowling resources but so many of them have disappeared into the wilderness due to mismanagement of talent and general issues within the system.

Let us hope that this does not happen to this triumvirate and that they continue to excite, enthrall, and entertain Pakistan cricket fans for a long time.

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Sunday, February 9, 2020

Shan Masood's Second Innings

20 Test Matches, 38 innings, 1189 runs, average of 31.28, three hundreds, six fifties.

This is Shan Masood's Test Career, which began 6 years and a few months ago. 6 years and only 20 test matches? Exactly!

These numbers don't provide a true picture of Shan Masood the test cricketer.

Having scored 75 on his debut, in October 2013, one would have expected to see Shan as a regular test opener for Pakistan, but after two tests in that series, he did not play for another year, till his return in October 2014 for two more tests.

Following that, he played 7 months later in July 2015 when he scored his first test century and became a part of Pakistan's test history with that record chase in Pallekele.

He played another two tests at the end of 2015, and then went to England with the Pakistan team in  the summer of 2016 but played only two of the four test matches.

After that tour he was sidelined again and returned a year later in May 2017 for one of the three tests in the West Indies. He played Pakistan's next two tests in October 2017, and then was sidelined once again till December 2018.

Since Shan Masood's test debut in October 2013 and his latest return to the test team in December 2018, Pakistan played 45 tests, out which Shan played only 12!

How can any player perform consistently if he plays only 2 to 3 tests every year? How can anyone expect a player to perform if he plays only 12 tests in the first 5 years of his career?

In these 12 tests, Shan scored 565 runs in 24 innings at an average of 23.54 with 1 hundred and 3 fifties.

Shan returned to Pakistan's test side in December 2018 for the tour to South Africa. Since then he has played all of Pakistan's 8 test matches.

In South Africa he stood out for his temperament and the way he countered the new ball against Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, and Kagiso Rabada. Shan was Pakistan's top run scorer in that series and the second highest run scorer between both sides, behind only Quinton de Kock.

He went to Australia and continued to demonstrate immense skill countering the new ball. He gave a good account of himself against the best pace attack in the world comprising Starc, Hazlewood, and Cummins.

When Test cricket returned to Pakistan in December 2019, Shan Masood was there as Pakistan's first choice test opener. In that series, he marked his presence with a solid 135 in Karachi, in another record breaking test match.

Yesterday, Shan walked out to open against Bangladesh, in his 8th consecutive test match for Pakistan. When he walked back to the pavilion he had scored his third test century, and a second consecutive one!

Finally, he has had an interrupted run for over a year in Pakistan's test side and he is completely repaying the faith placed in him by the selectors and the team management.

In these 8 tests, Shan has scored 624 runs at an average of 44.57 with two centuries and three fifties.

In these 8 tests, he is Pakistan's second highest run scorer in Tests, behind only Babar Azam.

Now these numbers are more representative of a test opener, a regular Pakistan test opener. These numbers are also representative of a talented batsman who has been given a consistent run in the team.

Shan is Pakistan's first choice test opener now. Ahead of Imam Ul Haq, ahead of Fakhar Zaman, ahead of Abid Ali. He is a test regular and notably the one that Pakistan rely on the most after Babar Azam.

Shan had shown glimpses of this promise in his debut test innings (7 years ago), and again in that record partnership with Younis Khan in Pallekele (5 years ago). Perhaps he should have never been sidelined and maybe then he would have delivered on this promise much earlier.


But he has a lot to look forward to.

He is still only 30.

Pakistan will play plenty of test cricket going forward...

... and Shan Masood will be the first name on that team sheet for a long time to come.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The HUNDRED

As pricing is released for the brand new Hundred Competition, we take a look at the structure, participants and schedule of the competition.

Following the euphoria of England’s incredible World Cup victory last July, many fans of English cricket have been asking whether the new Hundred-ball competition will ‘cash in’ on securing new audiences that have gained an interest in the game, or do the opposite and become a significant deterrent due to the potential confusing nature of the game. What fans can unanimously agree on is the fact that the competition allows England’s best talent to showcase their skills on a huge stage against the best in the world.

When will the Hundred take place?
The competition will take place from the 17th of July to the 16th of August. Scheduled in the summer school holidays, the aim is to attract more families and younger audiences. All teams will wear a unique The Hundred Official Replica Cricket Shirt.

How many teams are there and where will the matches take place?
There are 8 teams that will be taking part in the competition at the following venues:

1. Birmingham Pheonix - Edgbaston
2. London Spirit - Lord’s
3. Manchester Originals - Old Trafford
4. Northern Superchargers - Headingley
5. Oval Invincibles - Oval
6. Southern Brave - Ageas Bowl
7. Trent Rockets - Trent Bridge
8. Welsh Fire - Sophia Gardens

What is the format of the game?

   100 balls per innings
   A change of ends after 10 balls.
   Bowlers deliver either five or 10 consecutive balls.
   Each bowler can deliver a maximum of 20 balls per game.
   Each bowling side gets a strategic timeout of up to two and a half minutes.
   A 25-ball power-play start for each team.
   Two fielders are allowed outside of the initial 30-yard circle during the powerplay.

Birmingham Pheonix:
Chris Woakes, Moeen Ali, Pat Brown, Liam Livingstone, Kane Williamson, Ravi Bopara, Benny Howell, Tom Helm, Shaheen Afridi, Adam Hose, Cameron Delport, Henry Brookes, Adam Zampa, Riki Wessels, Chris Cooke

Northern Superchargers:
Ben Stokes, Adil Rashid, David Willey, Aaron Finch, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Chris Lynn, Adam Lyth, Richard Gleeson, Ben Foakes, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, David Wiese, Nathan Rimmington, Brydon Carse, Ed Barnard, John Simpson

London Spirit:
Eoin Morgan (c), Kyle Abbott, Mohammad Amir, Rory Burns, Mason Crane, Zak Crawley, Joe Denly, Jade Dernbach, Dan Lawrence, Glenn Maxwell, Mohammad Nabi, Luis Reece, Adam Rossington, Roelof van der Merwe, Mark Wood

Manchester Originals:
Jos Buttler, Saqib Mahmood, Matt Parkinson, Imran Tahir, Dane Vilas, Phil Salt, Tom Abell, Dan Christian, Wayne Madsen, Wayne Parnell, Mitchell Santner, Joe Clarke, Marchant de Lange, Ed Pollock, Eddie Byrom

Oval Invincibles:
Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Jason Roy, Sunil Narine, Sam Billings, Sandeep Lamichhane, Rilee Rossouw, Reece Topley, Hardus Viljoen, Alex Blake, Will Jacks, Chris Wood, Nathan Sowter, Laurie Evans

Southern Brave:
Jofra Archer, Chris Jordan, James Vince, Andre Russell, David Warner, Liam Dawson, Shadab Khan, Tymal Mills, Ross Whiteley, Delray Rawlins, Ollie Pope, George Garton, Alex Davies, Max Waller, Craig Overton

Trent Rockets:
Joe Root, Harry Gurney, Alex Hales, Rashid Khan, D'Arcy Short, Lewis Gregory, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Steve Mullaney, Matthew Carter, Luke Wood, Tom Moores, Luke Fletcher, Ben Cox, Dawid Malan, Luke Wright

Welsh Fire:
Jonny Bairstow, Tom Banton, Colin Ingram, Mitchell Starc, Steve Smith, Ben Duckett, Ravi Rampaul, Simon Harmer, Qais Ahmad, Liam Plunkett, Ryan ten Doeschate, David Payne, Ryan Higgins, Danny Briggs, Leus du Plooy

All Rounder Cricket is an official stockist for all the teams in the Hundred Ball Competition. We will be stocking the following Hundred Replica Shirts: Birmingham Pheonix Replica Shirts, London Spirit Replica Shirts, Manchester Originals Replica Shirts, Northern Superchargers Replica Shirts, Oval Invincibles Replica Shirts, Southern Brave Replica Shirts, Trent Rockets Replica Shirts and Welsh Fire Replica Shirts.

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Sunday, December 29, 2019

Pakistan Cricket's Decade: The Highs 2010-19

As this year 2019 comes to an end, this decade is also drawing to a close.

This year belonged to Babar Azam. He played that one match winning ODI innings that will define him as a batsman for many years to come; he came into his own as a Test batsman ending the year with 3 centuries in 4 tests; and he ended 2019 as the only batsman in the top 6 of ICC's Batsman Rankings across formats.


This decade, however, was about the many accolades that Pakistan won across formats; the many memorable moments the team gave us despite all the turmoil that surrounds them.

We started the decade with Pakistan as the World T20 Champions; we are ending it with Pakistan as the number one ranked T20 team in the world.


We started the decade with Pakistan an average ODI team; we are ending it the same way. However in the middle of the decade, Pakistan toppled over the best in the business and won the ICC Champions Trophy.

We started the decade with Pakistan mesmerized by a new teen pace sensation; we are ending the decade with Pakistan mesmerized by a new teen pace sensation.


We started the decade with Misbah taking over as captain of the test team; we are ending the decade with Misbah taking over as Head Coach and Chief Selector of Pakistan's cricket team.

We started the decade with a season in Pakistan that had no tests played in the country; we are ending the decade with the country hosting its first test series in 10 years.

Following Pakistan cricket is no less than a roller coaster ride. The bumps, twists, and turns are aplenty, but it is the highs amidst all the lows that we all live for as there is no other feeling in this world that compares with that of the highs.

Here is my list of 10 of the greatest moments in Pakistan cricket that we witnessed over this past decade ... in chronological order ...

July 2010, Leeds
Pakistan vs Australia
Pakistan registered its first test victory over Australia in 15 years in a match they had no business winning! 1-0 down, a captain retired, a new captain in place, a young and inexperienced team, and Pakistan managed a test win as the world witnessed the emergence of a new left arm teen fast bowler from Pakistan who could have been the next big star ...


January 2012, UAE
Pakistan vs England
Up against the number one test team in the world and what does Pakistan do? Push them aside, clean sweeping them 3-0 winning each of the three tests in remarkable fashion on the back of Saeed Ajmal's and Abdur Rehman's heroics.


March 2012, Dhaka
Pakistan vs Bangladesh
Bangladesh were on course to win their first ever Asia Cup but the unlikeliest of heroes for Pakistan, Aizaz Cheema, delivered a near perfect last over of the Asia Cup Final to take Pakistan home by a margin of 2 runs!


November 2013, Port Elizabeth
Pakistan vs South Africa
Chasing 260 odd, South Africa required 20 off 18 deliveries with 6 wickets in hand. Hashim Amla, batting in the 90s, and JP Duminy were at the crease. Pakistan's magic was in the works as South Africa failed to chase handing Pakistan a 1 run win, which made them the first Asian side to win an ODI series in South Africa.


March 2014, Dhaka
Pakistan vs India
A close Pakistan vs India game is a thing of the past century and pretty much a myth for anyone born in the new millennium. But this game was closer than any in the past and it ended with not one but two sixes of the bat of Shahid Afridi when Pakistan required 10 runs to win off 5 deliveries with only their last wicket standing.


October 2014, UAE
Pakistan vs Australia
Pakistan's first test series win against Australia in 20 years! And it was quite an epic win with Australia outplayed in all departments in both the tests to give Pakistan a 2-0 series victory. I will always remember the series for Misbah Ul Haq's fastest test ton equaling Sir Viv Richard's 30-year old record (it has since been broken by Brendon McCullum).



July 2016, Lord's
Pakistan vs England
Another Misbah century, another test victory, but this one was special because of the push ups! What a celebration it was as the team paid tribute to the army jawaans who had helped train the boys in green for the tour.


May 2017, Dominica
Pakistan vs West Indies
Pakistan had never won a test series in the West Indies. This series was tied 1-1 and the third and final test was in its last few minutes with the West Indies having fought it out till the end! It was also the last test of Misbah's and Younis Khan's careers. The way it ended was simply fantastic with Yasir Shah picking up the final wicket of his final delivery of the match.


June 2017, The Oval
Pakistan vs India
After getting hammered by India in their opening game of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, Pakistan were down and out. However remarkable wins over South Africa and Sri Lanka, followed by an unlikely win over England in the semi final, resulted in Pakistan reaching the final. Up against India, whom they had barely beaten in recent times, Pakistan had a herculean task in front of them. But they lived beyond everyone's expectations on the back of Fakhar Zaman's hundred and Mohammed Aamir's wickets of India's top three.


June 2019, Edgbaston
Pakistan vs New Zealand
This was just epic. Not because Pakistan won and gave themselves an outside chance of qualifying for the semi finals of the ICC World Cup 2019. Not because Babar Azam scored a career defining and match winning hundred. Not because Aamir started proceedings by clean bowling Guptill. This was epic because of the Birmingham crowd, a 25,000 strong Pakistani crowd. This was by far the best crowd experience I have ever had at any sort of event. There is truly no sight better than an in-sync passionate and energized group of Pakistanis cheering on the boys in green.


By winning the Champions Trophy and the Test Mace in this past decade, Pakistan achieved a rare of feat of winning every single ICC trophy (U19, WC, WT20, CT) and the Test Mace. Nothing short of EPIC!


You can reminisce about this past decade with all these magical moments and think that it was fabulous, or you can think of all the disastrous ones and feel that it was a terrible decade.

That is Pakistan cricket for you, best defined by Nasser Hussain's quote of the decade "Pakistan cricket at its best. One minute down. Next minute up."


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Monday, December 23, 2019

Babar, Abid, Naseem Rising for Pakistan

Quite a start to the day for Pakistan cricket fans.

A first test victory under Azhar Ali, a 5 wicket haul for teen pace sensation Naseem Shah, and a test series win that saw the rise of Babar Azam in test cricket, the legendary test debut of Abid Ali, many shattered records, and a jump to number 3 in the World Test Championship!

Yes, number 3 ...

Here is a look at the feats of Naseem, Babar, and Abid in the just concluded Test series between Pakistan and Sri Lanka

The Arrival of NASEEM SHAH
Everyone was excited to see a new teen pace sensation coming out of Pakistan when he was selected in the test squad to face Australia.

A video of his 8 over spell in a side match in Australia circulated on social media with enthusiasm not seen since Mohammed Aamer's breakthrough series in 2010.

On his test debut in the first test against Australia, he bowled with pace and snared the prized wicket of David Warner. But he was left out of the second test against Australia and everyone thought he was going to be mismanaged like so many others in Pakistan.

Then there was news of him joining the U19 team for the U19 World Cup. Moving backwards? Not surprising given Pakistan.

Sanity prevailed however and he was part of the test squad to face Sri Lanka.

Two wickets in the only innings of the first test and wicket-less in the first innings of the second test resulted in some saying he was over rated.

But like most Pakistanis, who like to surprise you when you are least expecting it, Naseem Shah showed the world why he was so highly rated by the Pakistan management.

A haul of 5-31 with the last 3 wickets coming in the space of 11 deliveries and Naseem Shah had arrived!

He finished the test in no time this morning and made fans reminisce the times when Wasim and Waqar used to mop up tails within minutes.

Naseem became only the second 16 year old in Test Cricket history to pick up a 5 wicket haul in an innings. He is also the second youngest ever to do so!


Creating records already!

The Rise of BABAR AZAM
For the past three years, he has dominated limited overs cricket and has shown that he is one of the best ODI and T20 batsmen in the world at the moment. While he averaged above 50 in both white ball formats during this time, his test average languished in the mid-30s.

The start of this season however, his fourth in test cricket, Babar made it a point to translate his ODI and T20 success to the Test format.

He started the season with a 104 against Australia at Brisbane and with the end of the Test series against Sri Lanka he has scored 3 test centuries in 4 tests. In the one test that he missed out on, he scored 97.

With scores of 1, 104, 97, 8, 102*, 60, and 100*, in 7 tests innings this season, Babar has cemented his position as Pakistan's premier test batsman.


In the two year period starting January 2018, Babar has the best test average in the world among all batsmen who have scored at least 1,000 test runs.

He has a better average than Smith, Kohli, Williamson, and Root during this time.


In all international cricket formats in 2019, Babar Azam is right up there with the very best in the business. He has the third highest runs tally, third best average, third most 100s, and third most 50s in all formats this year.

Babar is the number 1 ranked batsman in T20Is, number 3 in ODIs, and number 6 in Tests. He is the only batsman in the world who is among the top 6 in each format currently! (Kohli is number 1 in tests and ODIs and number 10 in T20s).

Babar's time is now and he is set to dominate all formats of the game for many years to come.

The Legendary Debut of ABID ALI
Abid Ali has been a heavy scorer in domestic cricket for the past many years, and he finally got an opportunity to represent Pakistan this year.

He began his international career with a bang scoring a century on ODI debut in the UAE against Australia earlier this year.

Abid followed that up with a century on Test debut against Sri Lanka becoming the first batsman in the 142-years of cricket history to score a 100 on ODI and Test Debut.

I say we hand him a T20 debut too asap!

Abid has also become the first Pakistan batsman to score a 100 in each of his first two Tests.


He has really been on a roll.

With scores of 109*, 38, and 174, Abid Ali has scored 321 runs in his first three test innings, which is the third highest number of runs scored by batsmen in their first three test innings (behind Tip Foster's 355 and Lawrence Rowe's 336).

It is not without reason that Abid Ali is referred to as "Legend" in the dressing room.

Records Broken by PAKISTAN BATSMEN
Abid Ali, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, and Babar Azam all scored centuries in the second innings of the second test against Sri Lanka. This was only the second instance of a team's top 4 batsmen scoring centuries in the same innings; and the first ever instance of it happening in the second innings.

Shan Masood, brought up his second test century, cementing his position as Pakistan's first choice opener in Tests. He put on a 278 run opening partnership with Abid Ali, which made its entry in multiple places in the record books.

It was the highest opening partnership in tests against Sri Lanka, breaking a 15 year old record set by the legendary duo of Hayden and Langer.


It was the second highest opening partnership in tests for Pakistan ever, missing the record by a mere 20 runs.


It was the third highest opening partnership in the third innings of a Test.


ICC World Test Championship
This series win by Pakistan has catapulted them to number 3 in the WTC table, and now they join India and Australia as the only teams with a series win in the WTC.


Pakistan rank ahead of Sri Lanka because of more series wins (SW). RPWR stands for Runs per Wicket Ratio (Runs scored per wicket lost minus run given per wicket taken). If teams are on equal points then the team with more series wins ranks higher; and if still equal then the team with a better RPWR ranks higher.

Now that Pakistan has opened its account in the WTC and new Tests stars have emerged at home, there is much to look forward to in 2020 and beyond.

May this be the start for these exciting players and may they reach greater heights in the years to come.


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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Can Altior take a page out of England's book?


England produced history in the summer by winning the Cricket World Cup for the first time in their history. It was a game that will live long in the memories of everyone who watch a breath-taking final between the Three Lions and New Zealand at Lord’s. Eoin Morgan’s men were triumphant on boundaries scored after the game was decided by a Super Over.

Rise To Dominance

England built a reputation of being the most dominant side in the 50-over game by winning all over the world – not just in the comfort of their own homes. That is what makes a great champion. There are examples all over the world of teams that have been able to win on the road or out of their own countries when the chips have well and truly been down or conditions have been against them. The sign of a great champion is also bouncing back when you have suffered adversity.
Morgan’s men were beaten three times in the group stage, putting their place in the semi-finals in jeopardy, losing to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia. However, they regained their form to win four-straight games to secure the crown. The resilience more than their quality was the driving force, needing to overcome huge obstacles to win the title. It is a characteristic that another one of the great competitors in the sporting world will need to define.
Victory is a fickle friend all across the sporting world. If we look to racing, our eyes fall on the great jumping horse Altior who recently suffered his first defeat since April 2015, ending an incredible run of 14-straight victories. Cyrname was the competitor to final oust Nicky Henderson’s charge from the top spot in their duel in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot. The victory was no fluke as the French thoroughbred had too much for his rival from start-to-finish. When Cyrname powered down the stretch, Altior had no answer as his opponent eased over the line to claim the victory by two-and-a-half lengths.

Can Altior Emulate England’s Exploits?

The taste of defeat will be unfamiliar to Henderson, jockey Nico de Boinville and more importantly Altior will be wondering why he’s not enjoying the delights of the winners’ circle. The result has affected the bookies’ confidence in the Irish thoroughbred, with his horse racing betting oddsdropping to 5/1 for the King George VI Chase on December 26 at Kempton Park. It is a contest full of quality runners and would take the nine-year-old on to new ground where he has not competed over three miles before in his illustrious career.
However, it would offer the perfect chance to bounce back. When England were seemingly down and out in the World Cup their next match was against one of the favourites for the competition India on a pitch that suited their opponents more than the host nation. Morgan’s men rose to the occasion and delivereda fine performance to secure a comfortable victory. The eyes of the National Hunt will be on Altior in the King George VI Chase where he could face off once against Cyrname among others including last year’s winner Clan des Obeaux. It would fitting for the great horse to prove his doubters wrong to reclaim his place in the winners’ circle at the first time of asking.

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Monday, November 18, 2019

Pakistan vs Australia Test Series: Selection Decisions for Pakistan


Pakistan's T20 International series against Australia was not the kind of start that new T20 captain, Babar Azam, was looking for; however we at least witnessed Babar take charge and impose his authority with the bat in 2 of the 3 T20 games.

Suffice to say that captaincy burdens will not hamper Babar's batting ability.

Despite Pakistan suffering a 2-0 loss, there has been plenty of excitement building up among the Pakistan fans for the upcoming Test Series.

Particularly due to the video clips of Naseem Shah's bowling circulating on social media.



This boy is going to be a sensation.

Even though it was Imran Khan whose 5 wickets destroyed Australia A in the 3-day match, every Pakistani was focused solely on Naseem Shah's 8 overs, his speed, and his 1 wicket.

There is something about a free flowing express pace bowler who keeps the batsmen jumping.

Naseem Shah is the real deal and every Pakistani is hoping he is the one who will continue the legacy of Pakistan's pace bowling.

But will Misbah and Azhar Ali play him in the first test that starts in 3 days?

Here's a look at some selection decisions that Pakistan will face for the first test against Australia.

THE BOWLING
Mohammad Abbas and Yasir Shah are sure starters in the 4-man bowling attack that Pakistan will field in the first test against Australia at Brisbane.

That leaves two spots and a choice between Shaheen Afridi, Imran Khan, Naseem Shah, and Muhammad Musa.

Musa impressed in the 2-day game against Cricket Australia XI with figures of 2-32 in his 14 overs. He generated quite a but of pace too, consistently bowling in the 140s.

Shaheen has been on a comeback trail and had a good outing against Australia A, picking up 2-42 in 16 overs in the first innings and 1-22 in 9 overs in the second.

Imran Khan was the star of the first practice game with sterling figures of 5-32.

But the talk of the town has been Naseem Shah!

So who gets to play come Thursday?

It will be a tough choice for the Pakistan team management. I think Imran Khan and Shaheen Afridi would be the wise choice, but I really want to see Naseem Shah in the XI.

While Pakistan's bowling does look exciting, its ability to pick 20 Australian wickets is debatable.

THE BATTING
In fact, I believe that Pakistan's batting will shine in the upcoming test series and it will be the bowlers who will struggle against the Aussie batting.

Babar Azam has been in wonderful touch. He kicked off the T20s with two 50s and then followed that up with an unbeaten 150 odd against Australia A. He dominated an international level bowling attack and played some stunning strokes in that innings, leaving everyone in awe of his talent and form.



Iftikhar Ahmed has also been in great form since his comeback to the side in the home series against Sri Lanka. In Australia, he played a brutal unbeaten knock of 62 of only 30 odd deliveries in the last T20, and in the 3-day match against Australia A, he again played an unbeaten knock of 79. Bowlers have found it extremely difficult to dismiss him, and all his unbeaten knocks have catapulted his average in T20 Internationals to a whopping 75!



Asad Shafiq, the mainstay of Pakistan's Test batting line up for the past many years, has warmed up for the test series with centuries in each of the practice matches. He scored an unbeaten 119 against Australia A, where he was involved in an unbroken partnership of 276 with Babar Azam. He followed that up with another unbeaten knock of 101 against Cricket Australia XI, where again he put on a century partnership with Babar.

The openers Shan Masood and Imam Ul Haq have also warmed up well. Shan managed scores of 65 and 76 in the two matches, while Imam played a solitary innings of 44.

The only batsmen not to find any form were Pakistan's new Test Captain, Azhar Ali, and Haris Sohail. Azhar scored 11 and 1 in the two innings against Australia A and then sat out the match against CA XI. While Haris has scores of 18, 2, and 4 in the three innings he played in these practice games. Haris also had a very disappointing T20 series.

THE PLAYING XI
Even though Haris Sohail scored a 147 in the last test series he played for Pakistan, I feel his struggle in Australia is real and he should sit out the first test. Moreso because Iftikhar Ahmed has been in red hot form and deserves to add to his solitary test cap.

The other 5 batsmen pick themselves.

The bowling, as mentioned above is the tricky part, however I am sold on the excitement generated by Naseem Shah, and I feel Pakistan should play two bowlers who bowl in the 140s, rather than two who bowl in the 130s.

I am not convinced with Mohammad Rizwan's ability to shine in international cricket, but there is no choice really. Abid Ali, while a far superior batsman, is not an international level wicket keeper. One needs a specialist for Test matches.

Here's my XI for the first test1. Shan Masood 2. Imam Ul Haq 3. Azhar Ali 4. Babar Azam 5. Iftikhar Ahmed 6. Asad Shafiq 7. Mohammad Rizwan 8. Yasir Shah 9. Shaheen Afridi 10. Mohammad Abbas 11. Naseem Shah

Can't wait for this Test Series to start already!

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