Sunday, August 5, 2018

Pakistan's ODI Team's Successful Run

Pakistan's international limited overs teams have had a ball for past year and a half. The T20 international team is the number one ranked team, and while the ODI team is still in the middle of the table at number five, it has had a magnificent run since the Champions Trophy last year.

Since June 2017, Pakistan have the second best W:L ratios among the 10 ODI teams that will be participating in World Cup 2019.

Only England has a better record than Pakistan during this period; however Pakistan has lost the least number of ODIs in this time among these teams.

Pakistan's successful run during this period has been helped by the induction of some fresh blood with the likes of Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Hasan Ali, Faheem Ahraf, and Shadab Khan making great strides as match winners.

There are various cricket betting sites around and if you are a betting person, you could have made a fortune by placing bets on Pakistan wins over the past year.

Sarfraz's Captaincy

It is no surprise though that these match winners have been born under the leadership of Sarfraz Ahmed.

While his antics on the field may display nervousness and temper, Safraz has grown as a well respected leader within the Pakistan dressing room.

This recent success that Pakistan's ODI team has had has led Sarfraz Ahmed to the top of the heap among Pakistan's ODI captains.

His Win % of 70.8% is the best among all captains that Pakistan has had in ODIs.

While these are still early days in his captaincy period, Sarfraz is ranked along side some legendary captains in ODIs with only a few of them with higher Win %.

Fakhar's Batting

Fakhar Zaman is among the leading run scorers in ODIs since June 2017, which was when he made his international debut.

While the Indian top 3 and Johnny Bairstow have outscored Fakhar during this period, Fakhar has the second best average among these batsmen, behind only Virat Kohli and equal to Ross Taylor.

Fakhar is also among the only four batsmen with a strike rate above 100 during this period and he also has the highest ODI score of 210 during this period.

Hasan's Bowling

Among the bowlers, Hasan Ali has been the pick from Pakistan. Overall, Hasan is the 6th highest wicket taker in ODIs since June 2017; however among the fast bowlers, he is only behind India's Jasprit Bumrah.

More than his tally of wickets, it is Hasan's average, strike rate, and economy rate that stand out. He is miles ahead of all pace bowlers, and among all bowlers since June 2017, his metrics are bettered by only Afghanistan's wonderkid Rashid Khan.

Babar's Magic

One batsman who always deserves a mention when talking about Pakistan's recent rise in ODI cricket is Babar Azam, arguably the best ODI batsman to ever play for Pakistan.

While Fakhar has overshadowed Babar in the past year, it was Babar who had a dream run in the preceding years and he is still considered the cornerstone of Pakistan's batting line up.

His frequency of scoring centuries, his ability to build innings, his defense, his attack, they are all sublime.

Babar, in fact has scored more centuries at number 3 for Pakistan in ODIs in the history of Pakistan's ODI cricket.

He is also the 10th batsman from Pakistan to score more than 1,000 runs at number 3 in ODIs and at the rate that he is going, it won't be long before Babar becomes Pakistan's leading run scorer at number 3, and maybe overall too!

Pakistan have had a magical run for the past year, and if they can maintain this form for the next year then they will be one of the front runners for World Cup 2019!

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Monday, July 23, 2018

Fakhar, Imam, Babar - The Pakistani Trinity

I don't think there has ever been a more mismatched ODI series than the one between Pakistan and Zimbabwe that just concluded last night. Already ranked 11, Zimbabwe were further weakened by the absence of a few players resulting in them fielding a second string XI in the series. And hence the flurry of records broken and created by the Pakistanis.

Weak opposition or not, I am not going to take anything away from Pakistan's young ODI team, which has grown in character by the day since that fateful Champions Trophy win a year ago.

This ODI team is special. This team has reached, and I believe, will continue to reach, uncharted territory with respect to Pakistan's ODI cricket.

Collectively they have not even played 100 ODIs and neither one has yet completed 50 ODIs, so it is too early to make judgments, however it is quite a feat for a nation not known to produce top quality batsmen that each one of its top 3 - Fakhar Zaman, Imam-Ul-Haq, and Babar Azam - is averaging over 50 in ODIs!

And these averages are not inflated by not outs!

The first ever batsman from Pakistan to average above 50 in ODIs emerged a year and a half ago. Now there are two more.

Fakhar Zaman is an absolute star!

He made his ODI debut just over a year ago in the Champions Trophy 2017, which he capped with a scintillating match winning century in the final against India.

He hasn't looked back since.

Most Runs in a 5-ODI Bilateral Series
He ended the ODI series against Zimbabwe with 515 runs, a new record for runs scored in a 5-match bilateral ODI series and the second highest run tally in any bilateral ODI series.

Most ODI Runs Between Dismissals
During the series, Fakhar was dismissed only twice, and in between those two dismissals he amassed 455 runs, which is a record for number of runs scored in ODIs between dismissals.

The previous record was also held by a Pakistan batsman, Mohammad Yousuf, who knocked 405 runs also against Zimbabwe. The third batsman to score 400 runs between 2 ODI dismissals is Lance Klusener who managed this during his dream run at the World Cup 1999.

Fastest to 1,000 ODI Runs
Fakhar's run spree led him to another record during the series when he reached 1,000 ODI runs and became the fastest batsman to achieve the feat in only his 18th innings. He broke the previous record of 21 innings, which was jointly held by Sir Viv Richards, Kevin Pietersen, Babar Azam, Jonathan Trott, and Quinton de Kock.
Pic courtesy ESPN Cricinfo

Highest ODI Score
Fakhar's 515 runs in the series included a record unbeaten 210, which is the highest score by a Pakistan batsman in ODIs, beating Saeed Anwar's 21 year old record of 194.

His 210 was only the 8th double century in ODIs and the 5th highest score ever in ODI history.

Rohit Sharma's 264, Martin Guptill's 237, Virender Sehwag's 219, and Chris Gayle's 215 sit above Fakhar's feat.

He was labelled a 'parchi' given his family ties to Pakistan's chief selector Inzamam Ul Haq, but how he has thrown that label away by outclassing even his paternal uncle's ODI career launch.

Inzamam made his ODI debut in late 1991 and very quickly stamped his authority in international cricket by scoring 2 centuries and 2 fifties in his first 10 ODIs.

Now 26 years later, his nephew Imam, has bettered that by scoring 4 centuries in his first 9 ODIs!

No one has scored this many this quick.

There is only one other batsman who has scored 3 centuries in his first 10 ODIs - Dennis Amiss.

Think about this - Virat Kohli and Hashim Amla, who have the best frequency of scoring 100s in ODIs, scored their 4th century in their 36th and 30th ODI respectively. While Sachin Tendulkar, who has scored more ODI centuries than anyone in the world, scored his 4th century in his 96th ODI!

Imam scored his 4th in his 9th ODI! He added three tons to his tally, which also includes a debut ODI ton, during the series against Zimbabwe.

I agree with most critics who feel that Imam's strike rate requires improvement and that he is not a modern day ODI batsman and may be better suited to test cricket. However, I also feel that 4 centuries in 9 ODIs cannot be ignored and that he is probably the best foil to Fakhar Zaman's aggression at the other end.

Give him time and I believe his strike rate will improve as his confidence grows as we witnessed in the 5th ODI against Zimbabwe.

Pakistan's newest opening pair not only created individual records, as mentioned above, but also created partnership records during the series against Zimbabwe.

Highest Ever Partnership in ODIs
Fakhar and Imam added 304 runs for the opening wicket in the 4th ODI, which was only the 4th instance of 300 runs being added for any wicket in ODIs.

It was the highest partnership by any Pakistani pair in ODIs breaking Inzamam Ul Haq and Aamer Sohail's 24 year old record partnership of 263 runs against New Zealand.

It was the highest ever partnership for the opening wicket in ODIs breaking Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga's record of 286 against England in 2006.

And it was the 4th highest ever partnership in ODIs.

Most Partnership Runs in an ODI Series
Fakhar and Imam added 704 runs during the series against Zimbabwe, which is a record for most partnership runs by a pair in a bilateral ODI series. They broke the record of 590 runs set by their own countrymen - Imran Farhat and Yasir Hameed - against New Zealand in 2003-04.
When non-bilateral series, including World Cups and Multi Nation Tournaments, are considered then Fakhar and Imam's tally behind only Tillekaratne Dilshan's and Upul Tharanga's 800 partnership runs scored during World Cup 2011.

Best Opening Pair for Pakistan
It is way too early to consider Fakhar and Imam in the same league as Saeed Anwar and Aamer Sohail, the best opening combination Pakistan has ever had in ODIs.

However, they have had a dream run of late and they are well on course to writing their own history down. The similarities are uncanny and I have no doubts that this left handed duo will take Pakistan to great heights.

They already have the most century opening partnerships for Pakistan and you can feel it that there are more to come!

The third part of this trinity is Babar Azam who till very recently was the best batsman in Pakistan's XI. Now Fakhar is strongly challenging him for that label.

Babar has been Pakistan's leading run scorer in ODIs for the past few years, and he showed again why he is one of the world's best with a perfectly timed century in the final ODI against Zimbabwe.

Highest Frequency of ODI Centuries
That was his 8th ODI hundred in his 44th ODI innings. Only Hashim Amla scored 8 ODI centuries quicker than this, and he managed them in 43 innings.

Among all batsmen with at least 5 ODI centuries, Babar Azam has the best frequency of scoring ODI hundreds in the world. His current rate of 5.5 is better than Kohli's and Amla's.

And among these batsmen with the highest frequencies, Babar has the second best ODI average, behind only Kohli.

He also has one of the best 50-100 conversion ratios - in fact he is the only one with a conversion ratio of over 1.

Fastest to 2,000 ODI Runs
Babar requires another 27 runs to reach 2,000 ODI runs. While he can't break Hashim Amla's record of 40 innings to reach the milestone, he can equal Pakistan's record, which is also the second fastest, held by Zaheer Abbas who got to 2,000 ODI runs in 45 innings.

What is fascinating about this Pakistani trinity is that the records set by Fakhar for fastest to 1,000 runs and by Babar for fastest to 8 ODI centuries among Pakistan batsmen can really be broken by their third partner in crime - Imam Ul Haq!

He has 544 runs in 9 ODI innings. What is another 456 runs in 8 innings?

He has 4 ODI centuries in 9 innings. What is another 4 in another 33-34 innings?

Pakistan have found quite a combination here.

We all fondly talk about the 90s and the superstar team Pakistan had then. I feel this team is close. Its not there, but Pakistan have not had a better ODI team than this one in this century, and this team has totally shown the potential of being a champion one!

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Sunday, July 8, 2018

Pakistan - The World's Best T20 Team

Pakistan's win in the Final of the T20 Tri-Series against Australia cemented their position as the World's number 1 side in T20 Internationals.

It was a clinical victory led by Fakhar Zaman's brutal assault after Maxwell had provided a double breakthrough in Australia's opening over.

Pakistan are undoubtedly the best T20 team in the world currently. In 2018 alone, they have lost only 2 of the 13 T20 Internationals that they have played.

Their Win% is miles ahead of all other teams.

Pakistan's T20 batsmen and bowlers have also been ruling during this period.

Fakhar Zaman, who notched up scores of 91, 73, 47, and 61 in the just concluded Tri Series is the leading run scorer in T20 Internationals in 2018.

Pakistan's captain is also in the list.

Among the bowlers, Shadab Khan has really shone for Pakistan providing them breakthroughs in almost every match, the same way he did in the Tri Series Final against Australia.

He is Pakistan's leading wicket taker in T20s in 2018 and behind only Andrew Tye in the global list.

Mohammad Amir and Faheem Ashraf are also among the world's leading wicket takers in T20s this year.

And look at those economy rates!

Pakistan's current streak in T20 Internationals dates back to July 2016 when they won the only T20 against England.

Since then they have won 23 T20Is and lost only 4! They have played 9 T20 series during this period and have won them all.

After beating England 1-0, they beat West Indies 3-0 in the UAE, West Indies 3-1 in the West Indies, World XI 2-1, Sri Lanka 3-0, New Zealand 2-1, West Indies 3-0, Scotland 2-0, and now the Tri Series in Zimbabwe where they beat Australia and Zimbabwe twice each and lost once to Australia.

That is an incredible record, which includes a 9-1 lead over the reigning World T20 Champions, the West Indies!

This streak has made Sarfraz Ahmed the world's most successful T20 International Captain.
He has a strong lead over the next best captain and looks set to establish himself as the best T20 captain in the world.

He has to be considering he is leading the best T20 team in the world!

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Sunday, June 3, 2018

Wasim-Waqar are the epitome of the age old adage "Fast Bowlers Hunt in Pairs

Stuart Broad's three wickets in the first innings of the second test against Pakistan at Leeds took his tally to 414 test wickets, level with Pakistan legend Wasim Akram, making him joint 8th on the list of fast bowlers with most test wickets.

Broad's partner James Anderson is second on that list, behind only Glenn McGrath, and collectively the Anderson-Broad pair have 952 test wickets!

That is the most for any fast bowling pair in the history of test cricket.

In comparison, Wasim-Waqar have 787.

McGrath-Gillespie have 822.

Walsh-Ambrose have 924.

Pollock-Ntini have 811.

In my view, these are the 5 most potent fast bowling pairs that we have witnessed in test cricket in the past 3 decades.

The age old adage "Fast bowlers hunt in pairs" holds true when one looks at each of these pairs have achieved together in test matches.

What one also realizes after looking at these figures is that the Wasim-Waqar pair were miles ahead of the rest!

In tests that these pairs played together, the Anderson-Broad pair lead the wickets tally with a combined haul of 806 wickets, followed by Walsh-Ambrose with 762.

These two pairs have also played the most number of tests together, 106 and 95 respectively.

In comparison, the other three pairs have played only 58-63 tests together.

Wasim-Waqar played only 61 tests together, in which they picked up 559 wickets at an average of 22.1 and a strike rate of 45.7.

The 2 Ws have the best average among these pairs, which is marginally ahead of Walsh-Ambrose and significantly ahead of the rest.

They also have the best strike rate among the 5 pairs and it is miles ahead of the rest. The 2 Ws picked up a wicket every 45 deliveries, whereas none of the other pairs managed to do so in less than 50 deliveries.

Their 5WI and 10WM hauls are also more than each of the other pairs.

The Ws picked up a 5 wicket haul in every other test they played together. In fact their ratio of matches to 5WI hauls is 1.6!

That's how far above the 2 Ws were compared to other fast bowling pairs.

What makes the 2 Ws even more special is that more than half of their tests, 32 to be exact, were played in the subcontinent! Significantly more than the other 4 pairs.

Test cricket never has and probably never will see a pair like the 2 Ws. They truly were special!

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Mohammad Abbas - Full Speed Ahead ...

Two weeks ago, after Pakistan's test match against Ireland, I wrote about why Mohammad Abbas was Pakistan's new pace spearhead.

In that article, I showed that Abbas has an average, strike rate, and economy among the world's best in the past year since his debut, and that he is also Pakistan's second highest wicket taker in Tests in this period.

At Lord's, Abbas lived up to this new reputation of being Pakistan's pace spearhead, picking up the man of the match award for his 8-64, the best bowling figures by a Pakistani pacer at Lord's.
Abbas' 8 wickets at Lord's took his tally to 40 wickets after just 7 test matches at an exemplary average of 16.6.

No other bowler in the world has a better average than Abbas does in the period starting from 21 April 2017 (min 20 wickets).

He is a clear 1.4 runs per wicket ahead than the next best average. His economy rate and strike rate are also right up there.

Abbas' 40 wicket in just 7 tests is the highest tally of wickets after 7 tests among all Pakistan test bowlers.

He is miles ahead of legends like Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, and Waqar Younis were and also significantly ahead of his peers, including Yasir Shah who holds the Pakistan record of being the fastest to reach 50 wickets.

Abbas' average and economy rate after 7 tests is also significantly better of all other Pakistan test bowlers at the same stage of their respective careers; while his strike rate is slightly behind only Mohammad Asif's.

While there are many bowlers who have taken more wickets in their first 7 tests, almost all of them belonged to another era.

In more recent times, only Vernon Philander with 51 wickets was ahead of where Abbas is after 7 tests.

Besides that, everyone from Glenn McGrath, to Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock Dale Steyn, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Courtney Walsh, Curtley Ambrose, Malcolm Marshall and even the likes of Kapil Dev, Richard Hadlee, Sir Ian Botham, and Dennis Lillee had fewer wickets than Abbas does after 7 wickets.

That is quite a list of name that he has bettered.

The yesteryear bowlers from another era who had many more wickets than 40 after 7 tests include the likes of Sydney Barnes, George Lohmann, Frank Tyson, Rodney Hogg, erry Alderman, Charlie Turner, Alf Valentine, and few others.

Mohammad Abbas has had a sterling start to his test career and he is forging full speed ahead as Pakistan's main pace spearhead. He has a long road ahead but with the start he has had, he is already miles ahead of all the legends that ever bowled for Pakistan.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Pakistan - The Lords of London

Lords of Lord's, Lords of London, Oval Hero, have all been used in recent days and over the past 60 odd years to describe Pakistan's dominance over England, especially in tests played at Lord's, as well as, at the other ground in London - the Oval.

London has a special place in Pakistani hearts and it has truly been a significant location for a lot of cricket success that Pakistan has had over the years.

The World T20 Final in 2009 was won in London, at Lord's.

The ICC Champions Trophy Final in 2017 was won in London, at the Oval.

Pakistan won their first ever test outside the subcontinent in London in 1954, at the Oval.

Both Lord's and the Oval are part of Pakistan's cricket history and besides Australia, there is no other team in the world that has had as much success as Pakistan has had against England in London.

Here's a look at some amazing Pakistan cricket feats in London.

Test Victories at Lord's
Pakistan's win over England in the 1st test of the series was their 5th test win at Lord's. This is the second most victories for a touring team at Lord's, behind Australia's 17.

Pakistan have the second best W/L ratio and Win % at Lord's among all touring sides.

Test Victories at the Oval
Even though Pakistan's 5 wins at the Oval are behind West Indies' 6 and Australia's 7, Pakistan's W/L ratio and Win % at the Oval is the best among all visiting teams.

In fact, no other team has won more games at the Oval than they have lost, while Pakistan have a lead of 2 over England.

Test Victories in London
When it comes to test performance in London, combining the tests played at Lord's and the Oval, then there is no team that comes close to Pakistan's dominance over England.

Pakistan's W/L ratio and Win % in London tests is significantly better than all other visiting teams.

Pakistan Test Captains at Lord's
With this win over England, Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed joined the likes of Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram, and Misbah Ul Haq as the Pakistan captains who have led their teams to test wins at Lord's.

Leading Pacers at Lord's and London
Mohammad Aamir picked up 5 wickets in the just concluded Lord's test and his 2 wickets in 3 deliveries were crucial in scripting this historic victory for Pakistan.

Aamir's 5 wicket burst brought him into the top 10 wicket takers among visiting team pacers at Lord's. He is now the joint 6th highest wicket taking visiting pacer at Lord's with a few legends ahead of him.

Among Pakistan's bowlers, Aamir has more wickets at Lord's than any other pacer and spinner. He has surpassed the feats of Pakistan's 2 Ws, Imran Khan, and Pakistan's legendary leg spinners.

Overall, in tests played in London, Aamir is third on Pakistan's list of bowlers, very slightly behind the legends Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis in terms of wickets tally.

Leading Spinners at Lord's
Yasir Shah's 10-141 at Lord's that led Pakistan to victory in 2016 is the second best match haul by a visiting spinner at Lord's, behind only off spinner Sonny Ramadhin's 11 wicket feat in 1950.

Yasir's 6-72 in the first innings of that Lord's test is also the second best innings haul by a visiting spinner at Lord's, behind off spinner Marcus North's 6-55.

Among leg spinners, Yasir's innings and match hauls are right there at the top.

Yasir's average of 14.1 and strike rate of 36.0 at Lord's are also second best among all visiting spinners.

Not many teams and individuals come close to Pakistan and its cricketers' achievements at Lord's and in overall in London.

They have faced more success than any other visiting in London and have just become the only team to win two back to back tests at Lord's in recent times.

They have won two ICC trophies in London and they will have the opportunity to win the one that they haven't when the ICC World Cup comes to London next year!

Pakistan have truly earned the tag of being the Lords of London and with the way this young team is playing right now, it seems like they will be holding on to this tag for some time to come.

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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf have Promising Futures

I am not a fan of wicket keepers playing at 6 and a test eleven comprising 5 batsmen and 5 bowlers including a couple of allrounders.

In limited overs cricket, sure that is ideal; but in test matches, definitely not.

I am a traditionalist who believes that test cricket is a game for specialists.

6 batsmen, wicket keeper, 4 bowlers.

That is the combination to play in a test.

If some of the batsmen can bowl and some bowlers can bat then great, but essentially they need to be a force in their specialist department.

That is the combination that West Indies used to dominate world cricket for two decades. That is the combination that Australia used to rule world cricket for a decade and a half. That is the combination that Misbah's Pakistan used to remain unbeaten in the UAE and reach the number 1 ranking in test cricket.

There is no reason to change that balance.

Australia didn't do it with Adam Gilchrist, even though he could easily fit into the top 6 of any test nation.

Even England are playing this test at Lord's with this combination.

Pakistan changed it around against Ireland, pushing Sarfraz Ahmed up to 6.

I did not like it but thought maybe they can afford to against a first time test nation; however they went into this Lord's test with the same combination and I thought it was criminal.

I found it extremely strange that after losing your two best and most experienced test batsmen in Misbah and Younis, Pakistan's leadership decided to sacrifice another batsman and play an additional bowler.

One would think that an additional batsman would be required to fill the gap left open by Misbah's and Younis' departure.

Instead Pakistan have gone into tests in bowler friendly conditions with 5 batsmen, Sarfraz at 6, and 5 bowlers.

I don't like it. I feel it makes Pakistan's batting look weak. Sarfraz is not a top 6 test batsman. Some may argue that he averages 40+ in tests and he is good enough to bat at 6, but his form over the past two years has not been good and to promote him at a time like this just does not seem right.

Having said all this, seeing how Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf have batted at 7 and 8 respectively in these two tests has made me rethink my stance.

Shadab has played innings of 55, 4*, and 52 in 3 innings against Ireland and England.

Faheem has innings of 83 and 37 in these two tests.

The two came together to take Pakistan out of a precarious situation against Ireland when they were reduced to 159-6. Shadab and Faheem forged a partnership of 117 runs in quick time and ensured Pakistan got a healthy first innings total.

In the ongoing test at Lord's, they again contributed with a steady partnership of 70 odd ensuring that Pakistan did not end their first innings with only a lead of 50.

Pakistan's lead in excess of 165 is due to the way Shadab and Faheem batted.

The duos current form is covering up for Sarfraz' constant failures at 6.

The duos current form has strengthened Pakistan's batting significantly.

It also allows some batsmen to be a bit more aggressive.

It is heartening to see two young allrounders like Shadab and Faheem put on strong performances in just the first few tests, that too in foreign conditions where subcontinental teams take time to adjust.

They are taking wickets, they are scoring runs, they are fielding well - they both provide Pakistan a rare luxury of having two genuine allrounders that are good enough to play all three formats.

I am extremely impressed with the discipline Shadab has shown while batting. And I am extremely impressed by the dominance and aggression that Faheem bats with. Faheem has an amazing straight bat and I believe he is one of the best batsmen in the side.

Number 8 seems too low for someone like Faheem and I reckon he has the ability to be a long term number 6 for Pakistan in all formats.

While I am still not a fan of the combination that Pakistan is playing, I am pleased that they did as it provided all of us the chance to witness the start of two very promising careers of Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Pakistan vs England at Lord's

On Thursday, Pakistan will take the field against England for the 15th time in a test match at Lord's, the home of cricket (16th overall with the one test they played there against Australia in 2010).

Here is a look at some Test cricket history for Pakistan at Lord's.

Since 1954, Pakistan and England have squared off in 14 tests at Lord's with 4 wins apiece. Pakistan leveled the playing field by winning the most recent test played at Lord's in 2016.

Sarfraz Ahmed will become the 14th Pakistan captain to lead them in a test match at Lord's. Only Imran Khan and Intikhab Alam had captained Pakistan twice at Lord's.

7 batsmen from Pakistan have scored test centuries at Lord's with Mohammad Yousuf's epic 202 in 2006 the highest score by a Pakistani in a Lord's test.

Misbah Ul Haq's 114 at Lord's in 2016 is the most recent test century scored by a Pakistan batsman at the home of cricket.

6 bowlers from Pakistan have picked up a 5 wicket haul in an innings at Lord's and 1, Yasir Shah, is the only bowler from Pakistan with a 10 wicket match haul at Lord's, which came in the same test as Misbah's century, the last time Pakistan played at the home of cricket.

It is going to be an intriguing contest starting on Thursday. At least 6 players from Pakistan will be playing their first test at Lord's.

Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Mohammad Aamir, and Rahat Ali are the only survivors in the squad from the eleven that played at Lord's just two years ago.

Azhar Ali and Mohammad Aamir were there in 2010 as well when Pakistan played at Lord's twice - against England and against Australia.

Azhar Ali in fact made his test debut at Lord's in 2010. Both he and Aamir will be playing their 4th test at Lord's joining legends like Wasim Akram, Javed Miandad, Inzamam Ul Haq, and Mushtaq Mohammad, all of whom have played 4 tests at Lord's.

The most capped test cricketer at Lord's from Pakistan is Wasim Bari who has played 5 tests at Lord's.

Performing at Lord's and getting your named inked on the honors board is a dream for all cricketers. From the current squad, Aamir is already there and he would love to get his name there again.

For Azhar Ali, this might be the perfect opportunity given he is the senior most batsmen in the side and has finally found some form on tour.

Even first timers like Abbas and Imam will be geared up for this moment.

I am placing my bets on the teenage leg spinner, Shadab Khan. His performance against Ireland was impressive and with England always suspect against spin, I feel Shadab has a great chance to follow in the footsteps of Mushtaq Ahmed and Yasir Shah.

A Pakistan vs England series is always exciting and I can't wait for the action to start at Lord's this Thursday!

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

It is time for Fakhar Zaman to don the Whites

Fakhar Zaman finally got a match on tour and he wasted no time in showing what Pakistan had been missing.

Why he was left out of the two tour matches before the test against Ireland still remains a mystery.

With Zaman scoring a fluent 71 off 98 deliveries, Pakistan have an interesting problem at hand.

Imam is of course the in-form opener currently. Azhar Ali had woefully been out of form, however considering he is the senior most batsman in the squad, his place was never in danger. Add to that his 73 against Leicestershire and he is a sure starter against England at Lord's.

So where does Fakhar Zaman fit in?

He surely needs to play.

He is too good a batsman to be sitting on the bench and Pakistan can benefit plenty from his aggressive stroke play at the top of the order.

I will go with Fakhar and Imam opening the innings and Azhar moving down to number 3.

Asad, Babar, and Haris can follow giving a Pakistan a strong top 6.

They need to go in with 6 batsmen with Sarfraz at 7 and not the combination they went in with against Ireland.

Unfortunately Faheem may have to miss out, despite a great performance with the bat in his debut test against Ireland, as I do not see him as the third pacer. As a fourth seam option, like he was against Ireland, he is fine.

It is time for Fakhar Zaman to don the whites for Pakistan and it will be quite a moment if he is given this opportunity at the home of cricket this Thursday!

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Mohammad Abbas - Pakistan's new Pace Spearhead

Mohammad Abbas was the pick of Pakistan's bowlers in the just concluded test match against Ireland.

He provided with the initial breakthroughs in Ireland's first innings and ended the match with career best figures of 9-110. His 5-66 in the second innings was his second 5 wicket haul in only his 6th test match.

Since Abbas' test debut in April last year against the West Indies, he has shone for Pakistan and has been the clear pace spearhead for the team, ahead of the likes of Mohammad Aamir.

During this 13 month period, Abbas has been the leading wicket taker for Pakistan among the pacers, and second overall behind only Pakistan's biggest match winner, Yasir Shah.

That average of 18.8 is phenomenal and among all test bowlers from the time of his debut, Abbas has the second best average, behind only South African's Vernon Philander (Qualification: Min: 5 Tests and 100 overs).

Abbas boasts a better average than the likes of James Anderson and Kagiso Rabada.

Abbas' economy rate during this period has also been extremely impressive, however in this area he has been out shone by Mohammad Aamir.

However, he still has the 5th best economy rate among all test bowlers since the time of his debut (Qualification: Min: 100 overs).

His strike rate is also among the best in the world during this time (Qualification: Min 25 wickets).

Since his test debut in April last year, Mohammad Abbas has been among the best test bowlers in the world. He is clearly Pakistan's pace spearhead currently and with Yasir Shah absent this summer, Pakistan will rely heavily on Abbas in the upcoming test matches against England.

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A Test Win curated by Pakistan's Young Guns

At the end, Pakistan won quite comfortably by 5 wickets against Ireland, Test Cricket's newest team, but there were some jitters when Ireland had Pakistan reduced to 14-3 during their chase of 160.

It was heartening to witness two batsmen in their early 20s, one of them a debutant, put on a century partnership that steered Pakistan clear of danger and on the course of victory.

Imam Ul Haq, whose selection in the squad was heavily criticized, rose to the occasion in his very first test match and guided Pakistan home with an unbeaten 74.

He shared a 126 run partnership for the 4th wicket with Babar Azam who displayed ample responsibility during his knock of 59, which was cut short due to an unfortunate run out.

There were a couple of other notable performances from Pakistan as well.

Faheem Ashraf, another debutant in his early 20s, and Shadab Khan, still a teenager and playing only his second test, came together at the crease in Pakistan's first innings at the fall of the 6th wicket.

At 159-6, Ireland seemed to be all over Pakistan, but Faheem and Shadab had different ideas. They both batted extremely sensibly.

Faheem was aggressive and displayed a wide range of strokes, while Shadab was more circumspect and showcased immense temperament. Their games complemented each other and they put together a 117 run partnership for the 7th wicket.

Faheem, with a knock of 83 off 115 deliveries, was Pakistan's top scorer in the first innings and if it was not for his partnership with Shadab, Pakistan would have fallen well short of the 310 runs they managed in the first innings.

Undoubtedly there were a number of mistakes that Pakistan made during this test match, but that is for another post.

For now, let us all rejoice a Pakistan test win curated by 4 cricketers who are yet to turn 25!

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Rain & Cricket - a long term Relationship

Ireland took the field on Saturday 12th May for the first time ever for a test match. It was a historic day that marked the entry of the world's 11th test playing nation.

If it was not for rain, the historic day would have been a day earlier on 11th May, when Ireland's first ever test match, against Pakistan, was actually supposed to start.

Rain and cricket have a long standing relationship. It has been a savior for some teams, while it has played spoilsport for many others. It has left spectators wanting more, it has denied teams glory, and it has spoiled the day for TV channels, producers, and advertisers.

But I doubt that rain has ever changed the course of history books the way it did for Ireland. It moved their first steps into Test cricket forward by an entire day!

There is an interesting article on Betway about cricket and climate change, where the author discusses how climate change has impacted cricket in England over the years. Here is an infographic summarizing the contents of the article.

Here are two incidents where rain changed the course of cricketing history.

1. Pakistan vs England, World Cup 1992
With 9 points in the group stages, Pakistan edged out Australia and the West Indies (both with 8 points, to qualify for the semifinals of the World Cup in 1992. Pakistan's 1 point more than the Aussies and the Windies was on the back of a rain interrupted match against England.

Batting first, Pakistan were blown away for 74 runs. With the form that England had displayed during the tournament, they would have chased that total down without any fuss; however due to rain only 8 overs were possible in England's innings and both teams shared a point.

It was only because of that 1 point that Pakistan qualified for the semifinals and eventually went on to win the World Cup. Had it not been for rain, 1992 may have seen a different World Cup winner.

2. South Africa vs England, Semi Final, World Cup 1992
In the second semifinal of World Cup 1992, South Africa required 22 runs off 13 deliveries when rain came pouring down the SCG. Brian McMillan and Dave Richardson were at the crease and seemed to have the target within sights before the rain interruption resulted in a farcical end.

Strangely, once the rain ended, their target off 22 runs remained the same; however instead of getting the 13 deliveries that they were supposed to, they were told that the rule required them to face only 1 more delivery.

And thus ended the most farcical match ever in the history of World Cup cricket. Rain denied a true fairy tale ending for South Africa, who were taking part in their first ever World Cup after returning to international cricket after over two decades.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Choices for Pakistan ahead of Historic Test against Ireland

Imam Ul Haq, the heavily criticized selection for Pakistan's summer tour to Ireland and England, is in line for a test debut following scores of 61 and 59* against Kent and Northamptonshire respectively.

Pakistan take on Ireland, who will be playing their first ever Test Match, starting this Friday and Imam looks well positioned to open the batting for Pakistan following his impressive scores in the tour matches.

Azhar Ali has not been able to get past 15 in the three innings he has had on tour; however given his experience and track record it goes without saying that he will be walking out to open with Imam in the upcoming test.

Sami Aslam just got 1 innings and failed to put up a score to push his case and it seems he will lose his opening spot to Imam Ul Haq.

I was quite surprised that Fakhar Zaman was not given a go in either game as he would have been my ideal candidate to open in the upcoming test matches.

I would still give Fakhar a go with Imam at the top, with Azhar Ali moving back to the crucial number three position.

This will enable Pakistan to strengthen their middle order with Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, and Sarfraz Ahmed to follow.

I hope they do not go in with Sarfraz at 6, like that did against Northamptonshire, as that leaves the batting quite brittle in my opinion. And if they do not play all three of Fakhar, Imam, and Azhar at the top then they would need to bring in Saad Ali or Usman Salahuddin at number 6 and neither of them were given a hit in the tour matches.

It has been quite a strange tactic by Pakistan to keep these youngsters away from the practice games.

The bowling line up looks more sorted than Pakistan's batting. In fact, Pakistan are actually spoiled for choices.

Shadab Khan will easily fit into Yasir Shah's shoes as he displayed in the tour game with a match winning 10 wicket haul.

The pace options are aplenty with Mohammad Aamir, Hasan Ali, Rahat Ali, Mohammad Abbas, and Faheem Ashraf.

Mohammad Abbas seems like the front runner though as he was the only one, besides Rahat Ali, who was among the wickets in Pakistan's win against Northamptonshire.

Hasan Ali and Mohammad Aamir were not able to pick many wickets, which creates some confusion in the camp. If both Abbas and Rahat get a shot then only one of Hasan and Aamir will get to play, though I am sure Sarfraz would want both of them in the XI.

It will be interesting to see what XI Pakistan field this Friday. My first choice would be:

1. Fakhar Zaman 2. Imam Ul Haq 3. Azhar Ali 4. Asad Shafiq 5. Babar Azam 6. Haris Sohail 7. Sarfraz Ahmed 8. Shadab Khan 9. Hasan Ali 10. Mohammad Aamir 11. Mohammad Abbas

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Monday, May 7, 2018

How Pakistan Cricket Fans Should Plan for ICC World Cup 2019

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Five Key Talking Points Of The IPL 2018 Season So Far

Little has gone to script in the new IPL season and fans have already been treated to a captivating blend of drama, intrigue and excitement. Pre-season favourites have flopped, new greats have emerged and a thrilling unpredictability abounds. Here are the five biggest talking points so far:

Superb Sunrisers
The Hyderabad Sunrisers’ pre-season preparations were plunged into disarray when skipper David Warner was banned for his role in the Australian ball-tampering scandal. It looked as though they would struggle to match last year’s performance, where they finished third in the standings and made it through to the playoffs, with some predicting a grim season. But the Sunrisers came flying out of the blocks and won their first three games in a row to soar to the top of the table. Kiwi batsman Kane Williamson has embraced the role of captain and his phenomenally talented bowling line-up has delivered in style. They have restricted the opposition to fewer than 150 runs in all three opening games, leading the team to a 100% start to the season. They now lead the way in the IPL markets and Williamson’s men certainly look like the team to beat this year.

Miserable Mumbai 
Last year’s champions could not have made a worse start to the defense of their crown as they lost all three opening games of the season to sit bottom of the ladder. The defeats were close, but two were in their own back yard and that will be worrying for everyone connected with the franchise. They are now the rank outsiders for glory this season, and it could end up as the worst defense of an IPL title we have seen.

There is still time for them to turn things around, and they have not played too badly, but to lose their first three games by a whisker suggests a lack of fortitude in the clutch, so they will need to improve in this department.

Rehman comes of age
Mujeeb Ur Rehman became the youngest IPL player in history when he made his debut for the Kings XI Punjab, and what a debut it turned out to be. The 17-year-old Afghan removed the number one T20 batsman, Colin Munro, on just his third ball, swiftly endearing himself to the fans. The fairy-tale start continued when he dismissed Rishabh Pant, and ended up with highly impressive figures of 2-28 in his quota of four overs. Kings XI have made a strong start to the campaign and captain Ravichandran Ashwin is likely to use the teenage Afghan sensation to devastating effect over the coming weeks.

Rahul bidding for the Orange cap
Lokesh Rahul was the most expensive player for Kings XI at the IPL auction and he quickly repaid some of that fee. He came to the crease with his team chasing 166 against the Delhi Daredevils in their opening game, and hit 50 off just 14 balls – an IPL record – to totally demoralize his opponents. He smashed every bowler he faced and hit 24 off Amit Mishra in one over. Rahul has been branded a Test cricketer before, but he has always insisted he can star in limited overs contests, and he has proved it this year. He is not a preferred opener for the Indian national team, but he is keen to wear the Orange cap and his clean ball striking should have given the selectors something to think about.

Kohli still the star attraction
Even when he is being outshone by the likes of Sanju Samson, Kohli is still the main man in the IPL. The fans worship him, fellow players are full of respect and his star quality shines brightly. West Indian all-rounder Dwayne Bravo likened him to the cricketing equivalent of Real Madrid soccer star Christiano Ronaldo this week. “For me as a cricket player to play against him and to watch him play when he represents India, even RCB, I admire the talent that he has, the passion he has for the game, for the sport when he plays. So hats off to him and he deserves all the achievement,” said Bravo. Royal Challengers Bangalore have made an inauspicious start to the season, losing two of their first three games, but there is still time to turn things around and they are the second favourites behind the Sunrisers to lift the trophy at the end of the season.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

IPL: Stop the Run Chase!

As the most popular T20 league, the IPL, takes over everyone's lives for the next 6 weeks or so, there is an IPL game in town that will take over everyone's social media lives.

With the IPL frenzy ongoing, Expedia India have launched an IPL based game called 'Stop the Run Chase!'.

The objective of the game is exactly as the name suggests - one needs to stop the runs from flowing and keep the points total down to win.

Interestingly, no team has been able to stop the run chase in the IPL yet with Mumbai Indians, Delhi Daredevils, Royal Challengers Bangalore, and Rajasthan Royals all failing to defend their totals.

However in Expedia's IPL game you can defend! All you have to do is tap on the 120 balls that are hit to different parts of India and defend your score.

It is quite an interesting and unique game that will keep IPL fans engaged on social media as they play to better their friends.

The balls coming your way are being hit towards different parts of India - specifically the 8 cities that are represented in the IPL. And your role is to stop the balls and keep the score low.

To obtain top position, you need keep the points total to under 120. And if your points total is above 360 you are at the bottom of the pile.

The different ranks are associated with the IPL teams based on their rankings in the previous edition of the IPL.

Can you beat the defending IPL Champions, the Mumbai Indians?

Play Expedia India's 'Stop the Run Chase' and find out if you can keep the total below 120 to be ranked top!

If you thought the IPL was exciting, you haven't experienced this IPL.

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Monday, April 9, 2018

IPL's leading performers

The 11th season of the IPL is upon us and Cricinfo have come out with some Smart Stats that they are going to use to measure and analyze performances of batsmen and bowlers during this elite T20 league competition.

This all sounds quite interesting as it will shed some new light on how the players perform in T20 in different conditions.

But as this all unfolds in front of us, here's a look at the some basic stats from the past decade of IPL.

IPL Champions
The defending champions are Mumbai Indians who have also won the IPL title more times than any other team - thrice.

Following them, with two title wins each, are Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai Super Kings, who return to the IPL after serving the two year ban.

The other three seasons have witnessed Rajasthan Royals, Deccan Chargers, and Sunrisers Hyderabad win the IPL.

Who will win IPL 2018? Various quarters suggest that this will be the most competitive IPL till date and no one team is being marked as favorite.

The IPL today is the largest T20 league in the world and its title probably the most coveted T20 title that 8 teams will be vying for starting today!

IPL's Top Batsmen
Five batsmen have scored more than 4,000 runs in IPL with Suresh Raina at the top of the list with 4,540 runs at an average of 34.1 and a strike rate of 139.1.

The others with more than 4,000 runs are Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Gautam Gambhir, and David Warner.

Among all batsmen who have scored over 1,000 runs, only Chris Gayle and David Warner average above 40, with Chris Gayle's 41.2 being the highest average.

Chris Gayle also holds the record for most number of centuries (5), most sixes (265), and highest individual score of 175* in the IPL.

Gayle also holds the record for the fastest ever 100 scored in the IPL when he smashed one of just 30 deliveries, which is also the fastest 100 scored in all T20 cricket.

Gayle is a T20 phenomenon and for a decade he has been performing for the Royal Challengers Bangalore, however this season he will turn out for Kings XI Punjab.

The highest strike rate in the IPL for all batsmen with more than 1,000 runs is Glenn Maxwell's (164.4) followed by Virender Sehwag's 155.4.

The fastest 50 record is held by Yusuf Pathan and Sunil Narine, both of whom reached their 50 in just 15 deliveries.

Gayle's fastest 50 is off 17 deliveries, which is the third fastest in IPL history.

IPL's Top Bowlers
Lasith Malinga is the leading wicket taker in IPL with 154 wickets at an average of 19.01 and a strike rate of 16.6.

Malinga is miles ahead of other bowlers with a clear lead of 20 wickets over Amit Mishra who is second on the list with 134 wickets. He is followed by Harbajhan Singh (127), Piyush Chawla (126), and Dwayne Bravo (122).

Malinga's average is the best average among all bowlers with at least 40 wickets in the IPL. While Sunil Narine holds the record for the best economy rate (6.32) among all bowlers who have bowled at least 100 overs in the IPL.

The best bowling figures in the IPL belong to Sohail Tanvir whose 6-14 in the first season for the Rajasthan Royals remains the record even 10 years after.

Adam Zampa is the only other bowler to pick up a 6 wicket haul in the IPL with his 6-19 against the Sunrisers Hyderabad.

These batsmen and bowlers will be in action once again as season 11 of the IPL gets underway. It will be interesting to follow them and all the other talented cricketers that this league displays, especially with the new Smart Stats.

Let the games begin!

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