Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Pakistan must be applauded for their ODI series win over Sri Lanka

This article first appeared on DAWN.

Pakistan were well and truly hammered in the 5th ODI against Sri Lanka but it must not overshadow what was a remarkable series win in the Island after 9 years.

This was also Pakistan's first ODI series win against a top eight side since December 2013. Yes, Pakistan had gone on for a year and a half without winning a bilateral ODI series against a what can be termed a ‘top tier’ team.

There is no reason why the players and fans should not rejoice this victory. For a long time we had been witnessing an under achieving Pakistan ODI team. During this series we all witnessed some of the best ODI cricket Pakistan has played in the past few years. At least in terms of their batting.

With the series won 3-2 and the Zimbabwe tri-series not going ahead as proposed earlier, Pakistan has also sealed a berth in the Champions Trophy 2017 (assuming West Indies don't play any ODIs till 30th September). After being whitewashed 3-0 at the hands of Bangladesh and facing potential exclusion from the Champions Trophy, this ODI series win could not have come at a better time for Pakistan.

Despite the convincing run, there has been plenty of noise from some skeptical fans who are under the illusion that Pakistan won this series only because they were up against a significantly weakened Sri Lankan team.

These fans could not be more wrong.

Surely the retirement of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene has left a massive hole in the Sri Lankan team, but the team that took on Pakistan in the ODI series was not inexperienced. Definitely not when compared to the Pakistan ODI team.

Compare the batting line ups of the two teams and you will realise that Sri Lanka's top 7 have played almost double the number ODIs and scored almost double the number of runs than Pakistan's top 7. In fact, Tillakaratne Dilshan alone has scored 75% of the runs that Pakistan's top 7 have scored on a collective basis! 

Similarly, comparing the bowling line ups of both the teams shows that Lasith Malinga and Thisara Perera, individually, have played more ODIs and picked up more wickets than Pakistan's entire bowling attack. There is no comparison between the experience of the two bowling attacks. It is quite clear which team was the inexperienced one out there.

If Sri Lanka were hampered due to the absence of their two batting stalwarts, what about Pakistan? Were they not hampered by the absence of Misbah-ul-Haq and Shahid Afridi, their two most experienced ODI cricketers of recent times?

Moreover, do not forget that Angelo Matthews has captained Sri Lanka in thrice as many ODIs than Azhar Ali has even played in his career.

Azhar Ali entered the series having lost his two premier pacers to injury and his premier spinner to a changed and ineffective action. Furthermore, he even lost the bowling services of Mohammad Hafeez, one of Pakistan's most effective limited overs bowler, to a ban on his action in the middle of the series.

Sri Lanka was clearly the more ‘stable’ but in the end it boiled down to better execution of plans and skills.

Pakistan excelled in batting and fielding, two facets of their ODI cricket that had constantly failed them over the past few years. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Pakistan played some of their best and most consistent ODI cricket in five years to win a series that not many gave them a chance to.

The effort cannot be discounted by illogical reasons like “Sri Lanka was playing their most inexperienced side ever”. If anyone was playing an inexperienced side, it was Pakistan.

Another reason being cited for Sri Lanka's loss is their players' sudden drop in form. 

Does anyone think that Pakistan won their ODI series in India (2012) and South Africa (2013), the only two ODI achievements in Misbah's 4-year tenure as captain, were achieved because Kohli, Gambhir, Sehwag, Yuvraj, Raina, Amla, Smith, AB, and Kallis were out of form? Not at all. Those victories were achieved because Junaid and Irfan bowled beautifully and made those batsmen look like rabbits for the most part of each series.

Similarly, Pakistan's batsmen, namely Hafeez, Shehzad, Malik, Rizwan, Sarfraz, and Azhar himself batted brilliantly in this series against Sri Lanka and made their bowling attack look pedestrian. Pakistan have not batted in this manner in an ODI series for a long time; and definitely never this consistently in any series under Misbah.

Impressed with Pakistan's ODI batting resurgence, I wrote an article after the 3rd ODI between Pakistan and Sri Lanka comparing Pakistan's batting under Misbah's captaincy to that under Azhar Ali's. Following that, several other articles also came up during the series that analyzed possible reasons for Pakistan's unexpected batting form.

While I agree that any comparison between the ODI captaincies of Misbah and Azhar Ali is premature given that Azhar has only captained in 11 ODIs, I am also absolutely certain that Azhar's leadership has brought about a change in mindset and approach that had been missing from Pakistan's ODI cricket for the past 4 years.

No one expected Azhar Ali to be an aggressive leader. No one expected Azhar Ali to change his style of batting for ODI cricket. Everyone expected Azhar Ali to be another Misbah-like batting anchor who would occupy the crease endlessly and meaninglessly.

How Azhar has defied all such expectations!

Not only has he adopted a more aggressive style play, he has instilled the same sense of urgency in his batsmen. Following his match winning knock in the 4th ODI, Ahmed Shehzad spoke about how he and the other batsmen were looking to change the way they had been batting in ODIs in the past.

There will always be arguments for and against Misbah's approach to ODIs, but one thing is absolutely clear - there is a conscious effort being made by every single batsmen in Pakistan's ODI line up to play a more aggressive brand of cricket and that effort is being led by their new ODI captain.

And there is no one who can deny that it is this brand of cricket that Pakistan was always known for and that it was dearly missed during the 4 year tenure of Misbah.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Misbah vs Azhar - Appreciation, Retaliation, and a Response

Two weeks ago, we witnessed my article on Younis Khan become one of the most read and shared post on social media.

Now, over the past two days, we have received an unprecedented reaction to my article that compares the ODI era under Misbah and Azhar. The reaction, however, has been quite varied. We have been ridiculed by some who stand strongly (and blindly) by Misbah the ODI captain, while at the same time we have been appreciated by two of the most respected sports journalists of our time - Ahmer Naqvi and Emmad Hameed - who have followed up with articles of their own regarding Pakistan's recent ODI resurgence.
While Ahmer has followed up with a brilliant statistical piece highlighting the differences between Misbah's and Azhar's ODI teams, Emmad fondly writes about the last time Pakistan's batting was so dominant and how this team is shaping up so well.
I can't thank these two, and many others who have read, shared, and commented on the article, enough for the mentions and appreciation.
Besides this appreciation, there was also some retaliation as I mentioned.
Instead of replying to each one individually, which I tried to do yesterday but failed in getting the message across and in process got called all sorts of inventive names like "a well documented Afridiot", I thought it best to reiterate some points in one place.
1. The entire article is an analysis of the performance of batsmen in ODIs. There is no mention of bowling performance. The fact the Misbah was excellent in how he used bowlers in ODIs holds no bearing on how he crippled our batting in ODIs.
2. Being a critic of Misbah does not automatically make one a Afridi fan, and vice versa. It is quite humanly possible to love both, hate both, appreciate certain qualities of both, and criticize other things about both. "Humanly" being the key word.
3. While openly blaming Misbah for destroying our ODI batting over 4 years, I have also publicly hailed his test leadership, talked of how he is the best thing to happen to Pakistan test cricket, and appreciated his utilization of bowlers in ODIs. It does not make me a Misbah hater when I say that he was the single reason for our regression in ODIs between 2011 and 2015.
4. If the same Misbah fans can praise him for taking Pakistan to number 3 in the test rankings, shouldn't they also criticize him for taking Pakistan to number 8 in the ODI rankings? Just common sense, isn't it?
5. It is interesting how so many people blame Afridi, Malik, and Hafeez for having captaincy aspirations and under performing under Misbah. Isn't it so ironic that despite that, Hafeez is Pakistan's leading run scorer under Misbah, and that besides some outstanding bowling efforts, most of Pakistan's ODI victories under Misbah were a result of outstanding performances from Hafeez and Afridi. In fact Afridi's numbers in ODI wins under Misbah's captaincy are exceptional!
6. The problem I have was never the sacking of Afridi as captain of the ODI team. The problem was appointing Misbah as ODI captain. The person he replaced and alternative options are irrelevant. Misbah was the wrong choice as ODI captain.
7. When Misbah took over the Test team in 2010, it was in turmoil. Yes, it was facing the worst scandal in its history. When Misbah took over the ODI team in 2011, they were World Cup Semi Finalists, had won their last two ODI series vs NZ (3-2) and vs WI (3-2), and lost the two ODI series prior to that vs SA (3-2) and vs Eng (3-2). The ODI team was NOT in any turmoil.
8. The argument against sample size is something that is partially accurate. I say partially because I can agree to revisit the performances of Hafeez, Malik, Haris, and Azhar after a year or two when they have faced tougher opposition in tougher conditions, and when they have played more ODIs under Azhar's captaincy. I also say partially because the sample size in no way changes the fact that in 4 years under Misbah, Pakistan scored > 280 only 5 times and chased > 250 only twice, yet Pakistan has done the same in only 4 months under Azhar Ali.
In fact, last night they just completed a third successful chase above 250, making it more times than they ever managed under Misbah.
Why is it so difficult to understand that in 4 years under Misbah, Pakistan also played in batting paradises, they also faced Bangladesh and Zimbabwe (in fact more times than they have done now), they played against even weaker opposition like Afghanistan, Ireland, Scotland, and yet they managed a score above 280 only 5 times.
9. For those saying that beating Sri Lanka is no big deal because they are a team in transition with the retirements of Sangakkara and Jayawardene, what about our team? Aren't we also a new team with the retirements of Misbah and Afridi, the absence of Saeed Ajmal, and the ban on Hafeez?
Moreover, it is our batting that is winning the matches and the presence of Sanga and Mahela would not have had much of an impact on our batting.
10. Last night's win further strengthened my argument regarding a changing mindset within the Pakistan camp. In his post match interview, Ahmed Shehzad clearly said "we are trying to change the way we used to bat", highlighting that he and other batsmen are making a conscious effort to bat more in line with the requirements of modern day ODI cricket. Shehzad's innings was testament to that fact.
I believe I have addressed all the arguments that were raised by some people. While I understand that I cannot change certain opinions, I am a firm believer of presenting arguments with evidence and there is ample evidence that suggests that under Misbah's captaincy, Pakistan witnessed its worst era of ODI cricket ever. That in no way takes away the fact that under Misbah's captaincy, Pakistan has also witnessed one of its best, if not the best, era of Test cricket ever.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How Pakistan wasted 4 years of ODI Cricket under Misbah

The third ODI between Pakistan and Sri Lanka was one of those ODIs where everything went according to plan. It happens rarely for Pakistan but when it does it feels like there is no team better than them.

The openers gave Pakistan a solid start. The middle order consolidated the platform. The late order accelerated and ended the innings on a high note. The new ball bowlers got early breakthroughs. The spinners choked the middle order. The fielders caught well. The wicketkeeper took some breathtaking catches.

Everyone clicked. Everything worked. Pakistan won comprehensively.

When they perform like this it makes you wonder why they can't do it more consistently. However, despite being notorious for playing like champions one day and like clowns the other, some semblance of consistency has definitely crept into this ODI team.

Since the 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Bangladesh, Pakistan has played 6 ODIs - 3 vs Zimbabwe and 3 vs Sri Lanka. In 4 of the ODIs, Pakistan batted first and posted a total in excess of 280; in the other 2 ODIs, they successfully chased targets above 250 comfortably.

Does anyone remember the last time Pakistan played 6 ODIs with this level of consistency?

Does anyone remember how many times Pakistan posted a total above 280 in the 4 years they played under Misbah?

Does anyone remember how many times Pakistan successfully chased a target above 250 under Misbah?

Lets answer these questions.

Batting First under Misbah
In the 4 years between 2011 and 2015, while Misbah was captain of the ODI team, Pakistan batted first in 40 ODIs (barring ODIs vs Associates). In those 40 ODIs, Pakistan scored over 280 a mere 5 times.

Moreover, Pakistan's average score in those 40 ODIs was 235.

Chasing under Misbah
In the 4 years between 2011 and 2015, while Misbah was captain of the ODI team, Pakistan chased targets in 37 ODIs (barring ODIs vs Associates). In these 37 ODIs, Pakistan successfully chased a target of 250 or above only twice!

So basically, what Pakistan achieved in 4 years and 77 ODIs under Misbah, is pretty much what Pakistan has managed to achieve in 4 months and 9 ODIs under Azhar Ali.

What a joke! What a waste of 4 years.

Batting First & Chasing under Azhar Ali

In 9 ODIs under Azhar Ali, whether batting first or second, Pakistan have failed to cross 250 only once.

So what has changed for Pakistan? What are they doing differently now? What were they missing under Misbah?

I can think of a few reasons.

1. The Captain's Attitude

It is no secret that Misbah had a defensive mindset and Pakistan never adopted the modern approach to ODIs under him. Not losing wickets was the order of the day instead of trying to take risks and bat with a high run rate. Misbah himself never tried to play his natural game and instead built a game that focused on blocking endlessly and cutting loose only near the end of the innings and losing his wicket while doing so. The entire batting order played defensively and as a result Pakistan hardly scored enough runs to win ODIs.

Misbah's approach to batting was so outdated that instead of progressing, Pakistan's ODI cricket actually regressed during his 4-year tenure, which ended with Pakistan languishing at number 8 in ODI rankings.

Azhar Ali, on the other hand, started his ODI captaincy career by accepting the fact that ODI cricket can no longer be played the way Pakistan had been playing it for the past 4 years. He showed awareness of his own game and focused on improving his own strike rate and asking the same of his team mates.

While Misbah mostly played at number 5 and blocked away his time at the crease, Azhar Ali took on the responsibility of opening the innings and taking charge from the get go. Misbah was happy blocking the ball back to the bowlers, Azhar Ali charges down and clubs the ball over the bowlers' heads.

Talk about taking responsibility head on and leading from the front.

While Misbah the batsman did alright as captain, it was never enough. He also pales in comparison to Azhar Ali the batsman in the short period that Azhar has been captain.

2. Utilization of Key Players

Mohammad Hafeez is a key batsman in Pakistan's line up and he was key under Misbah as well. However, under Misbah, Hafeez was entrusted with playing the anchor role and his instructions were largely to keep one end intact. Not only did that curb the scoring rate but also denied Pakistan of aggressive starts considering that Hafeez either opens or plays at number 3.

Under Azhar Ali however, Hafeez has shown more aggression. The change is apparent and it is quite visible that the instructions from the captain and the dressing room are quite different from what they used to be with Misbah in charge.

The difference is highlighted by Hafeez' significantly higher strike rate under Azhar Ali as compared to under Misbah.

Shoaib Malik is a player who suffered a lot under Misbah. He lost his touch around the same time that he lost his captaincy to Younis Khan in 2009, however under Misbah he was constantly in and out of the team and did not seem to have a permanent position in the batting order.

Every time Malik would make a comeback to the team on the back of his prolific domestic form, Misbah would use him sparingly at 6 or 7. Malik was never able to translate his domestic form on the international stage and finally was out of favor with the selectors.

Out of the 21 innings that Malik batted in under Misbah, 15 of them were at 6 or 7. It makes you wonder why you would use him there considering that he bats at 4 in domestic cricket and that majority of his international success has also come at numbers 3 and 4.

The difference between his performance under Misbah and under Azhar Ali is drastic!

Under Azhar, Malik has comfortably slotted at number 5 from where he has successfully finished games for Pakistan while chasing, and he has taken advantage of solid platforms and played aggressively to give Pakistan strong finishes while batting first.

We finally have the Malik of the mid-2000s back. Unfortunately, Misbah never utilized him to his full potential.

Haris Sohail made his debut under Misbah after several successful domestic seasons. He displayed his prowess soon enough, yet for some reason he too had to curb his natural aggressive instinct under Misbah. Just take a look at the drastic difference between his strike rates under the different captains he has played under thus far in his short career.

Umar Akmal is another player who was wasted under Misbah. The junior Akmal played 67 ODIs under Misbah and batted in 59 of those. In 15 innings he batted at number 5, while in 35 innings he batted at number 6. Umar averaged 35 and had a strike rate of 86.6 under Misbah, which is similar to his career stats. He is one of the only 3 batsmen from Pakistan who average above 35 with a strike rate above 80 (other two being Saeed Anwar and Zaheer Abbas).

Umar is by far the most talented batsman to come out of Pakistan in the past decade, yet today he finds himself out of the international scene. Under Misbah, he was used as merely a slogger, despite various requests from him to play up the order. A batsman with his ability and stats to match should have been playing at 3 or 4, yet Misbah continuously played him at 6 while persisting with the likes of Asad Shafiq and Younis Khan in the top order.

Even Azhar Ali has been performing far better as captain than he did in his initial ODIs under Misbah. He had a pretty good average back then, but look at the difference in strike rates, which clearly highlights the changing mindset and approach.

3. Persistence with Non-Performers

I will never understand Misbah's fascination with the likes of Asad Shafiq. It is obvious to everyone that Asad is an absolutely magnificent test batsmen, yet at the same time he is a total misfit and atrocious in ODIs. I never understood why Misbah persisted with him for so long and that too at number 3 or 4 while the likes of Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Umar Akmal, Sohaib Maqsood, and Mohammad Rizwan either warmed the benches or languished lower down the order.

It really makes you wonder why Misbah never fought hard for Fawad Alam's inclusion the way he did for Asad Shafiq's.

*               *              *

While Misbah has been a brilliant captain in tests and has even gone on to win more matches as test captain than any other captain in the history of Pakistan cricket, he was completely rubbish as an ODI captain. He has been the driving force behind Pakistan's rise to number 3 in the test rankings, while at the same time he has been the sole reason behind Pakistan's fall to number 8 in the ODI rankings.

Not only did Misbah cramp Pakistan's batting in ODIs, he made the batsmen around him play defensively as well. It is the same players who are now flourishing under Azhar Ali, which goes to show what Pakistan has been missing in ODIs for 4 years.

With Haris Sohail and Sohaib Maqsood out with injury and the likes of Sami Aslam and Babar Azam warming the benches, it augurs well for Pakistan's batting bench strength.

The future looks bright, yet it could have looked this way had the PCB not sacked Afridi and replaced him with Misbah at the helm 4 years ago. Probably the biggest mistake ever in Pakistan's ODI history.

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Azhar Ali has been a Revelation as an Opener

The popular view when Azhar Ali was announced as Misbah's successor to lead the ODI team was that the PCB had taken a step backwards. Public opinion, and that of some experts, was that the PCB had not learnt from its past mistakes. Having seen the ODI team crumble under the defensive tactics of Misbah, the predominant view was that Pakistan required an aggressive captain and the modern day approach to ODI cricket.

I was also skeptical about Azhar Ali as the ODI captain. I never doubted his ability as an ODI batsman and also called for his inclusion in the team in the past, but as captain I had my doubts. We ran a poll on Boys in Green, and also wrote a letter to the PCB Chairman about it including our poll results, which showed that Azhar Ali was the least popular choice among fans.

With such a negative reaction prior to even taking the field as captain, Azhar Ali must have felt the world's burden on his shoulders. He must have felt that he needed to prove the fans wrong, the experts wrong, and above all he needed to prove to himself and his team that he belonged.

With such pressure, any lesser batsman / person would have crumbled.

Not Azhar Ali though.

Azhar Ali stood up to the challenge, took it head on by opening the batting, and slogged each one of his critics out of the park.

As an opener, Azhar Ali has been a revelation!

Azhar Ali stands above and beyond all openers Pakistan has ever had in its entire ODI history. His average of 63.84 as an opener is almost 18 runs more than the next best average of a Pakistan opener.

The most pleasantly surprising fact is that Azhar has the best strike rate among all Pakistan openers; even better than the legendary Saeed Anwar's.

Unlike Misbah the ODI captain, Azhar Ali decided to take charge of the ODI team and lead from the front by moving out of his comfort zone and adopting an attacking style of play at the top of the order. He showed everyone that it could be done and naturally demanded the same of his players, which has resulted in the consistently high ODI scores that Pakistan has been posting; a welcome change from the struggle to 220-230 over the past 4 years.

Sure it is still early days for Azhar Ali, but at the moment he is at the top of the pile in terms of average among all openers ever to play ODI cricket (with a minimum of 10 innings as an opener). Azhar is among the only 3 openers in ODI cricket who average above 50.

He recently created a Pakistan record when he completed 1,000 runs in ODI cricket in his 23rd inning. He equaled the great Gordon Greenidge, and got there in 2 innings fewer than Sir Viv Richards and Kevin Pietersen.

Azhar Ali reached 1,000 ODI runs faster than modern ODI greats like Virat Kohli, Hashim Amla, and AB De Villiers, and faster than the all time great ODI batsmen like Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, and Inzamam Ul Haq.

At the moment, Azhar Ali is among the only 8 ODI batsmen in the history of ODI cricket who average over 50 (minimum: 1,000 ODI runs). The other names on that list include Hashim Amla, AB De Villiers, MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Michael Bevan.

Talk about being a part of elite company.

He is also among the few ODI batsmen who average over 50 as captain. The top of that list reads Virat Kohli (70.8), AB De Villiers (69.8), and Azhar Ali (65.0).

Azhar Ali has not only shone alone as an opener in ODIs; he has always ensured that Pakistan get off to a good solid start by building a strong opening stand. In the 14 ODIs that he has has opened in, he has had 4 different opening partners, and he has been able to forge a strong partnership with each one of them.

All those recent claims that Azhar Ali is a selfish batsman are baseless in my opinion. He has taken responsibility on his own shoulders, he has taken up a role that has traditionally given Pakistan the most problems, and he has stood above all batsmen currently playing ODI cricket. He has flourished as an opener.

I will be the first to say that these are still early days, but the glimpses that Azhar Ali has shown in this short period have demonstrated an ability that will bring Pakistan back to being a force to reckon with in ODI cricket.

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Ashes First Test Review: England thrash Australia to take a 1-0 lead in the series

England were magnificent as they cruised to a 169-run victory over tourists Australia with a full day's play in hand. New head coach Trevor Bayliss was in charge of his first Ashes Test match and will be ecstatic at his side's performance after dominating Australia on both sides of the ball. The match, which took place at Cardiff's SWALEC Stadium, was comfortable for England and has instantly dismissed any suggestions that Australia would earn their second successive Ashes series whitewash.

Joe Root was instrumental for the hosts, scoring 134 runs in the first innings, 60 in the second and taking two wickets as Australia desperately looked to stay in the contest. England haven't lost an Ashes series on home soil since 2001 and have made the perfect start in the latest edition of the game's greatest rivalry. At the time of writing, England are priced at evens with betfair to go on and lift the Ashes this summer and if they can maintain such high intensity, they will stand a great chance. We've recapped the main events throughout play and consider the key performances that secured a maiden victory for Australian-born Bayliss as England's head coach.

England won the toss and captain Alistair Cook elected to bat but the hosts didn't get off to a great start. Yorkshire's Adam Lyth, playing in his first Ashes Test match, was out after scoring just six runs. In no time, Cook and the struggling Ian Bell had also lost their wickets and England were teetering on 43-3. However, Gary Ballance and the in-form Root dug deep to start a spirited fightback. Root, who was dropped by Australia wicketkeeper Brad Haddin on 0, went on to score 134 off 166 balls. Ballance, meanwhile, scored a respectable 61 off 149 balls as England began to establish an impressive target. The runs didn't stop there as Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali both scored half centuries.

Stokes knocked two sixes on his way to 52 and the latter scored a quick-fire 77 off just 88 balls. Mitchell Starc, who was the pick of the Australian bowlers, removed both batsmen and finished with figures of 5-114, but not before the hosts had been bowled out for an impressive 430. The 153-run partnership between Ballance and Root was vital for the hosts at a time when they were struggling to cope with Australia's quick bowling attack. Without their contribution, the result of this Test match could have been very different.

Australia got off to a good start as Chris Rogers and David Warner set about chasing England's first innings total of 430. At 52-0, the tourists were cruising before Jimmy Anderson dismissed Warner. Useful scores from Steve Smith and Rogers, who was dismissed in the 'Nervous Nineties', saw Australia reach 180-3 but the visitors capitulated from there. Michael Clarke fell for 38 after an incredible catch off his own bowling from Moeen, before Ben Stokes picked up his first wicket of the series to dismiss Adam Voges.

At 258-5, Australia were still in a reasonable position and, with the likes of Shane Watson, Nathan Lyon and Haddin still to bat, they will have been quietly confident of posting a decent total. However, Watson - who failed once again when his nation needed him the most - and Lyon were bowled out in quick succession and suddenly the score was 265-7, with Australia still 165 runs behind. Haddin threatened a mini revival but England's bowlers got the job done and dismissed the Australian tail-enders without much trouble. After posting 308 in reply, the tourists were still 122 behind the hosts and England were very much in the ascendency. Jimmy Anderson, pictured below, took three wickets for 43 runs from his 18.5 overs.

With rain expected on day five, England continued to attack Australia's bowlers on day three in their second innings as they looked to set a lofty total for the tourists to chase. Cook was disappointing again as he fell for just 20 runs before Ballance was dismissed on 0 to leave England stuttering at 22-2. Lyth contributed 37 before his wicket fell and it was once again left to Root to revitalise the innings. The Yorkshire batsman hit 60, as did Ian Bell, to improve England's score up to 207-5. The hosts were playing some scintillating cricket and taking the Australian bowlers on but something had to give... and it did.

Spin bowler Nathan Lyon began to enjoy himself as the pitch started to succumb to turn on the surface. The New South Wales star took four wickets for 47 runs from his 20.1 overs, claiming the big-name scalps of Lyth, Jos Buttler, Stuart Broad and Anderson. Meanwhile, the dangerous Mitchell Johnson - who tore England to shreds throughout the previous Ashes series - bowled over 200 balls before claiming his opening wicket of the series. The hosts lost their last five wickets for just 82 runs to set the visitors 412 to win. That is a total that would be the third highest successful run chase in Test cricket history.

Faced with an incredibly difficult run chase of 412, Australia set off slowly but made a steady start as Warner found his form with the bat. However, they lost opening batsmen Rogers off the bowling of Broad. Warner continued to score runs and, at one stage, there were whispers of a surprise Australia victory. However, Moeen trapped Warner for lbw and the tourists lost all momentum. Wickets quickly began to fall and, when Smith was bowled out for 33, Australia looked down and out.

Captain Clarke managed to score just four runs before his wicket fell - a key moment in the clash. From there, Australia were a beaten side and lost the next six wickets for 136 runs. Moeen and Root dismissed the dangerous pairing of Haddin and Johnson before Moeen, who teased Australia's bowlers throughout the entirety of the innings, claimed the wicket of Hazelwood to send the home fans into raptures. After their second innings capitulation, there could be a plethora of changes in the Australian side with Watson's place under severe threat. The dismissal was his 29th lbw dismissal of his career and it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see him lose his place in the side. For England, however, it was the stuff of dreams and they will look to build on this success at Lord’s.

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Is Australia Over Rated?

Well, its a pertinent question, is it not?

Sure they are the number 2 ranked Test Team in the world with a clear 10 point lead over the team at number 3. But the difference between South Africa at the top and Australia is 19 points. That is a huge difference.

What that really means is that Australia is close to the same level as Pakistan, New Zealand, India, and England. Only 14 points separate Australia at 2 and England at 6. Furthermore, they were clean swept by the number 3 team just last year.

That is not even the reason why I asked the question though.

The fact that really surprised me was that Australia has won only one of the last 15 tests they have played in England.

Yes. ONE. Out of FIFTEEN.

Damn! Right?

But there's more to the story.

In the entire history of Test Cricket, Australia is the only team that has won more games away from home than it has lost.

However, in the past 5 years that is not the case any more,

In all Tests played since the beginning of 2010, Australia have lost more than they have won away from home. Their W:L record is similar to England's, who have traditionally been considered poor travelers.

It is clear that Australia has lost some of its mojo when it comes to playing tests on foreign shores. Especially in England.

Even the personnel is not good enough.

Besides their captain Micheal Clarke and Chris Rogers, none of the top 6 batsmen in their line up have a record to speak of in England.

While Rogers, mostly due to his significant exposure to English conditions through his county stints, averages slightly more (43) in England than he does in his career (40), Clarke averages 6 runs less in England.

David Warner has a career average of 46.47, but his average in England is almost half that - 25.9. In fact Warner's test record is entirely due to his record at home in Australia and his 3 centuries in 3 tests in South Africa, where pitches play similar to the way they play in Australia. In India, he averages a meager 24.4, and in West Indies, he averages 26.9.

Steven Smith has rapidly become Australia's most reliable batsman and the heir to the all important number 3 spot previously occupied by greats like Ponting, Langer, Boon, Chappell, and the greatest Sir Don Bradman. His career average of 55 and 9 test centuries in only 29 Tests shows why he is considered to be the best of the lot. But even he averages more than 20 runs less than his career in England! Smith's record is also inflated by his performance at home, which yields an average of 66 and 6 test centuries. He averages 34 in England and in the low 40s in India and the UAE.

Adam Voges is too new to be judged yet, but even that questions why the Australians would play a green batsman at 5 in an Ashes series when the likes of Shaun Marsh and Mitchell Marsh are warming the bench.

Moreover, how can they even think of benching the Marsh brothers while playing Shane Watson at 6!??

Watson has a career Test average of 35. How that gets him into an Australian top 6 is beyond me. Australia's infatuation and persistence with Shane Watson is beyond me. He never really made is as a test cricketer, and now when he is over the hill, he is still being preferred. Mindboggling!

It is not only Australia's batsmen who do not perform on tour as well as they do at home; even their bowlers have found it tough in foreign locations.

Mitchell Johnson, who is this lean mean machine on Australian pitches and makes the batsmen hobble around, transforms into a medium pacer who is so easily bullied in England and other foreign locations. He averages 24.5 in Australia; his averages in New Zealand (23) and South Africa (25) are also respectable. However, in England he averages a shocking 41.9! He averages above 40 in India an Sri Lanka as well.

On top of all this, they lost Ryan Harris, the one bowler who was their premier strike bowler, especially in Ashes Tests.

So while Australia is still ranked number 2 in the ICC's test rankings, I believe they are grossly over rated. Their players dominate at home and become the tamed on tours. This used to be true for teams from India and England in the past.

Now, even he Aussies can be tamed.

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Ashes: The Biggest Cricket Rivalry

Ashes Series is one of the world’s most popular cricket series in the world. This series is played each year between England and Australia in one of the either countries. The history of The Ashes Series goes a long way back in the nineteenth century when the English team was defeated for the very first time by any of its colony. England in those days had control of many different colonies all over the world and the English were ruling the world in most of the fields. In the field of sports cricket was considered as a game which only the English could master.

When the English team was defeated for the first time the event was taken as significant defeat of the English. On that day there was a famous headline in the English newspapers in which it was mentioned that the English cricket has died and it will be cremated and the ashes will be taken to Australia. In the next series that was taking place in Australia the English captain gave a statement in which he called that he is in Australia to recover the Ashes and take them back home. This statement made the series popular as the Ashes Series.

The Ashes series is one of the most viewed sporting events in England and Australia. People off all ages watch these matches with great interest and they watch these matches as a rivalry against the opposing team. Betting on cricket is at its peak during the ashes series and people from all over the world support their respective teams. Over the last few years betting industry has developed significantly and thanks to the internet now anyone can place a bet whenever they want. Betting is getting more and more mobile as time passes and now betting is almost available anywhere you have internet access.

The Ashes series is just a few weeks away now and almost everyone is waiting for the series to begin. This year Australia appears to be the stronger team and they are most probable to keep the Ashes with them because they have a really high morale after their World Cup victory. While England will be favorites from the betting perspective because the will be performing in an unpredictable manner which might give them some amazing victories which the fans will love. Every cricket enthusiast is talking about this year’s Ashes series and it will be an interesting series.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

There is no HERO like YOUNIS KHAN... not even SUPERMAN

This article first appeared on DAWN.

There is no doubt in my mind that Younis Khan is the greatest test cricketer ever produced by Pakistan. There are very few Pakistan test records that he does not own. Those that don't belong to him, will be his very soon. He holds a few world records as well, and with the way he is going, he will make some more for sure.

The 37-year-old's achievements are truly magnified if one considers the fact that Younis has only played 101 Tests. The number came as a shock to Michael Clarke when Pakistan and Australia squared off in UAE last year.

“Younis is a very good player and has been for a long time. I found out yesterday this is only his 93rd Test match, I thought he'd played a lot more than that. He's one of the gentlemen of our game, a class player,” Clarke had said.

At the conclusion of Pakistan's sensational win in the third Test against Sri Lanka, captain Misbah-ul-Haq said Younis was a ‘blessing’ for the team. “His achievements are in front of us and explain what he is and what he can do.”

By Younis' own admission though, “in life you are constantly proving yourself” and there maybe a few more corners the Pakistan great turns.

Here's Younis in numbers.

1. Pakistan's Best Test Batsman

Younis Khan already has more test centuries than any other batsman from Pakistan; and 5 more than the next best tally of 25 by Inzamam. He is only 18 runs away from becoming the leading run scorer for Pakistan in test cricket; a record that has been held by Javed Miandad for over 2 decades. Younis is currently third on the list in terms of runs, but in terms of average he is well above the rest.

His unbeaten 171 that led Pakistan to a historic victory over Sri Lanka was Younis' 11th score of 150 or more, which is the highest number of 150+ scores for Pakistan in their history. He went past Javed Miandad who has 10 scores of 150 or more for Pakistan.

While Miandad's 10 innings include 6 double centuries, Younis' innings comprise 5 double centuries and 1 triple century. He is one of the only three Pakistani batsmen who have scored a triple century.

2. One of the World's Best Test Batsman

Younis is among the 10 highest run scorers in test cricket in the past 10 years. It is no surprise that he has played the least amount of tests among these 10 batsmen; significantly less at that. Among these 10 batsmen, Younis is one of the only two who average over 60; Sangakkara is the other one.

Yes, he has been better than KP, Cook, Ponting, Clarke, Kallis, and AB De Villiers in the past 10 years! Talk about being under rated!

Not only has Younis been better than his contemporaries, he has also been better than the popularly mentioned modern day great test batsmen. Here's a look at where the top 6 leading run scorers in test cricket were after 101 tests. It is so unfortunate that Younis has played only 101 tests in his 15 year career so far.

Younis has more runs than Dravid, Sachin, Ponting, and Kallis did; the same number of centuries as Sachin did; he is the only one along with Lara to have scored a triple hundred; and he has the best 50 to 100 conversion ratio among all of them.

And then all the names we hear are Sachin, Ponting. Kallis, Lara... Can you imagine where Younis would be if he played as much test cricket as these batsmen?

3. One of the Biggest Test Match Winners for Pakistan and in the World

Inzamam Ul Haq is the biggest match winner produced by Pakistan. His 4,690 runs at an average of 78 with 17 centuries in test match wins is unparalleled in Pakistan's test history. Younis Khan is not far behind and will probably end up a bigger match winner than Inzamam before his career ends.

In terms of averages among all batsmen that have scored at least 1,500 runs in test match wins for their countries, Younis Khan is right up there; behind only Sir Don Bradman, Inzamam, and Sir Gary Sobers.

4. The Best Batsman in the World in Tests away from Home

Everyone scores runs at home. Well almost everyone. A true test of a batsman comes when he plays in unfamiliar conditions away from home. In the history of test cricket, only Sachin and Dravid have scored more runs, and only Sachin has scored more centuries, than Younis has in tests away from home.

Furthermore, Younis Khan is the leading run scorer in the history of test cricket in test match wins away from home. He also has the most number of centuries in test wins away from home with his unbeaten 171 taking him past Steve Waugh's 14. And no one even comes close to him in terms of average in test wins away from home.

5. The Best Batsman in the World in 4th Innings of Tests

The 4th innings of a test match is the most difficult time to bat. The pitch has deteriorated, players have been in and out of the field for 3-4 days, and the pressure is at its peak considering that the batsmen are out there to either chase a target or save a match.

When it comes to performing in such situations, there is no one who is better at it than Younis Khan. He is the absolute king and by far the best batsman in the history of test cricket in the 4th innings.

Younis has scored 5 centuries in the 4th innings of tests, more than anyone else in the world. His 4th innings average among all batsmen who have scored at least 1,000 runs in the 4th innings is the highest in the world. He is the only batsman to average over 60 in the 4th innings in the history of test cricket.

Furthermore, Younis Khan's match winning unbeaten 171 against Sri Lanka beat his own personal 4th innings best of 131* and also created a new record for the highest score by a Pakistan batsman in the 4th innings; beating Saleem Malik's 155, which he also scored against Sri Lanka in 1997.

His 171* is also the 4th highest score ever in the 4th innings of a test in a successful chase, behind Greenidge's 214*, Morris' 182, and Bradman's and Butcher's 173*.

6. A King of Partnerships for Pakistan

Partnerships are the key to batting in international cricket. They help build strong totals, they help set targets, and they help chase down targets. And Younis Khan is the absolute king of partnerships for Pakistan.

He has now been involved in 61 century partnerships for Pakistan, which is the highest number for anyone from Pakistan.

He has added 3,137 runs at an average of 78.42 with Mohammad Yousuf, which is the most partnership runs by any Pakistan pair in tests.

He has 13 century partnerships with Misbah Ul Haq, which is the most for any Pakistan pair. He also has 9 century partnerships with Mohammad Yousuf.

Something that will never be captured by statistics is Younis Khan's impact on Pakistan's batting line up in terms of guiding younger batsmen. Fawad Alam, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, and now Shan Masood have Younis Khan to thank for reaching their maiden test hundreds. Each one of those batsmen reached their maiden test century while involved in a 100 run partnership with Younis Khan.

His 242 run partnership with Shan that set up victory for Pakistan has created records and that was not Younis Khan's first 200 run partnership with a young batsmen while guiding him towards his maiden century - he also put on 200 runs with Fawad Alam and 259 runs with Asad Shafiq.

This is the impact that Younis Khan has had on Pakistan's batsmen. Not only the younger ones, but even stalwarts like Yousuf, Inzamam, and Misbah have reached many of their test centuries with Younis at the other end.

He is the absolute king of test cricket for Pakistan and undoubtedly one of the best to ever play the game.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Pakistan Breaks Records with every Test Series...

ICC's annual update of the test rankings pushed Pakistan down from number 3 to 6 just before the start of their series against Sri Lanka. For them to go back to number 3, Pakistan had to win the series against Sri Lanka. Something they had not managed to do in the island since 2006.

But they did it!

Pakistan won the test series 2-1, a scoreline that could have so easily been 3-0 for Sri Lanka.

First innings scores of 138 and 215 in the 2nd and 3rd tests respectively showed how inept Pakistan's batting line up can be. Yet it was two brilliant counter attacks with the bat that resulted in a series win for Pakistan.

In the 1st test, they had collapsed to 96-5 after Sri Lanka had posted 300 in the first innings when Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz Ahmed came together. The two Karachi boys turned it on with so much confidence that it was hard to believe that Pakistan had lost their top 5 batsmen for under a 100.

Asad and Sarfraz put on 139 runs for the 6th wicket with Sarfraz playing in his usual aggressive fashion. His 96 off only 86 deliveries took the game away from Sri Lanka. Asad continued in his dogged style and added another 101 runs for the 9th wicket with Zulfiqar Babar. That was the first of the two times that Pakistan's batsmen turned it around during the series.

The next turnaround was even better.

With the series level at 1-1, Pakistan faced a daunting target of 377 and were staring at a series loss. At 13-2 the writing was on the wall and Pakistan's fate as test number 6 seemed certain. Social media was buzzing with criticism. A series that could have gone 3-0 for Pakistan was going to be lost 2-1 said some. Ahmed Shehzad was abused left, right, and center.

However, as always, there were some optimists out there who made outrageous statements like:

"Shan Masood 150 maarega"

"YK ka 200 likh lo"

"Buss Younis 100 kar jaye"

It all happened! I have all the messages saved to show the world that believers still exist.

Shan and Younis produced a fairy tale performance that made the dreamers smile like never before. It was a performance that could have only come from Pakistan to make sure the non-believers start believing in the magic again. It was a turnaround that was so often orchestrated by Wasim and Waqar in the 90s, but this time it was two batsmen doing it for Pakistan.

Shan and Younis added 242 runs for the third wicket in a series defining partnership.

Pakistan chased down 377 and won the match by 7 wickets, and the series 2-1. They made it look so easy; as if the target was just 150.

Off late, it has become common for Pakistan to create new records with every test series and this was like no other. Both kinds of records, team and individual, were achieved.

1. Pakistan's Highest Chase Ever - 377

For Pakistan, this is only the third time in their history that they have successfully chased down a target of over 300 in a test match.

It is by far their highest successful chase ever.

It is their highest 4th innings total ever.

It is the highest target ever achieved in a test in Sri Lanka.
It is the 2nd highest target ever achieved in a test in South Asia.
It is the 6th highest target ever achieved to win a test match.

2. Sarfraz Ahmed - Pakistan's Best Wicketkeeper Batsman Ever - Average > 50

Sarfraz Ahmed has been a match winner for Pakistan. He was there when Pakistan chased 302 against Sri Lanka in Sharjah in January last year. He was there during Pakistan's historic test series win over Australia. And he is there now. He hasn't been there merely; he has made his presence felt with the bat like no wicketkeeper ever has for Pakistan.

He is already among the only 7 wicketkeepers from Pakistan to score over 1,000 test runs. He has by far the best average among all of them, and at the rate he is going it will not be long before he displaces Kamran Akmal at the top of this list.

Sarfraz is not only one of the best in Pakistan, but he is also among the best in the world. He is among the only 3 wicketkeepers in the history of test cricket who have scored over 1,000 runs with an average of over 50.

The way Sarfraz' career has shaped up, I will not be surprised if he ends his career as the most successful wicketkeeper batsman ever.

3. The Younis-Shan Partnership - 242

If there was ever a partnership that could define "monumental", this would have to be it. At least in modern times. Everyone knows that the 4th innings is the most difficult innings to bat in; to score big in the 4th innings to save a test or to win one is by far the most fulfilling achievement for a batsman. So you can imagine what this 242 means for Pakistan, more so because it came after Pakistan had been reduced to 13-2.

In the 4th innings of a test, it is Pakistan's highest partnership ever, it is the highest partnership for the 3rd wicket ever, and it is the highest partnership against Sri Lanka ever.

It is the 4th highest and only the 7th 200 run partnership ever in the 4th innings to win a test.

4. Yasir Shah - The Best Leg Spinner in the World? - 61

With 61 wickets in 10 tests, Yasir Shah has achieved something that no other leg spinner ever did. Neither Shane Warne, nor any of Anil Kumble, Abdul Qadir, Stuart MacGill, or Clarie Grimmett had as many wickets as Yasir has after their first 10 tests.

During the series, Yasir became the first bowler from Pakistan to pick up 50 wickets before his 10th test. Yasir managed it in 9 tests breaking the record that was jointly held by the legendary Waqar Younis, Shabbir Ahmed, and Mohammad Asif.

Yasir reched his 50 test wickets in lesser time and fewer tests than any bowler in the history of Pakistan's test cricket. He left everyone from Imran Khan to Wasim, Waqar, Qadir, Mushtaq, Saqlain, Shoaib, Asif, and Ajmal behind.

Yasir is also one of the only 6 spinners in this world and one of the only 3 leg spinners in this world who managed 50 wickets in 9 tests or less. The only other leg spinners who managed this are Australia's Stuart Macgill and Arthur Mailey.

That is some elite company that Yasir is in.

How far can Yasir Shah go is anybody's guess, but for Pakistan he has turned out to be a trump card like none other. He has taken over from Saeed Ajmal like no one would have imagined and he has brought leg spin back as a weapon that Pakistan had so dearly missed. He is undoubtedly the best leg spinner in the world at the moment and if he can keep going the way he has started, he will also be remembered as one of the best leg spinners ever to play the game.

5. Misbah Ul Haq - Pakistan's Best Captain Ever? - 18

This was Misbah's 18th test win as captain. He is 4 clear of Imran Khan and Javed Miandad, Pakistan's (former) most successful test captains. Even though Misbah's W/L ratio is less than that of both Imran and Javed and his win % is less than many others like Wasim, Waqar, and Saleem Malik, Misbah has presided over some of Pakistan's most historic and iconic test victories.

Some include clean sweeping England when they were ranked number 1, beating Australia in a test series for the first time in 20 years, and now this chase against Sri Lanka.

It is not only these victories, which make Misbah Pakistan's most successful test captain, but also his batting. He finished the game off today with a 6 that took him to 4,000 career test runs, 2,992 of which have come as captain of Pakistan.

No one has scored as many runs as Misbah has as captain of Pakistan and he is only 8 runs away from becoming the only Pakistani cricketer to score 3,000 test runs as captain. Misbah's test average of 56.45 as captain of Pakistan is second only to that of Hanif Mohammad.

Misbah has not only scored lots of runs as Pakistan's captain, he has also scored more runs and more centuries as Pakistan's captain in test wins than anyone else. Yes, even more than Pakistan's biggest match winner ever, Inzamam Ul Haq.

6. Younis Khan - Pakistan's Best Test Cricketer Ever

He has achieved so much that I am going to dedicate an entire post to him. As I always do after every test series Pakistan plays in.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Special Performances in Landmark 100th Test

Not enough foreign tours, no international cricket at home, no international cricket against India, not enough tests in a calendar year; despite all this, if a Pakistani cricketer manages to appear in 100 tests, it is an achievement like no other. Definitely a bigger achievement than it is for cricketers from other test playing nations. Especially the ones from the so called "Big 3".

Only 62 cricketers have appeared in at least 100 tests, with Younis Khan being the 62nd. England (13) has the most cricketers who have played at least 100 tests, followed by Australia (12), India (10), and West Indies (9). That is no surprise considering the amount of test cricket England and Australia have played, and the amount of test cricket that India has been playing since the turn of the century. In contrast, South Africa (6), Pakistan and Sri Lanka (5), and New Zealand (2) have far less contributions to the 100-test club.

For Pakistanis it is even more special considering that only 4 cricketers before Younis played in 100 tests - Javed Miandad, Salim Malik, Wasim Akram, and Inzamam Ul Haq. Even the iconic Imran Khan (88 tests), despite a career that spanned 21 years, did not manage to play 100 tests. Whereas two other legendary cricketers, Mohammad Yousuf (90) and Waqar Younis (87), could have easily played 100 tests for Pakistan if it wasn't for injuries and team politics.

Where it has taken cricketers like Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Andrew Strauss, and Michael Clarke around 8 years to play 100 tests, Younis Khan achieved the landmark after 15 years of test cricket! Almost double the time. Players like Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen, who debuted after Younis and have left the game several years ago even played 100 tests.

Younis Khan's test record is phenomenal. Not many batsmen have scored as many runs as Younis has after 100 tests. Only Brian Lara scored more. It is so unfortunate that Pakistan do not play enough test cricket. While Younis could not make his 100th test more special, there have been other cricketers who have made this special occasion even better by producing a special performance.

Here are some of these special performances in 100th Tests:

Javed Miandad
He celebrated his 100th Test by scoring 145 against his favorite opposition - India - and also became the first cricketer in the history of test cricket to score a century in his debut test and his 100th test.

Gordon Greenigde
Missed a 150 by only 1 run against England, but a score of 149 ensured a win for West Indies and placed Greenidge alongside Miandad as the only two batsmen in the world to score centuries in their debut and 100th tests.

It has been 25 years since Miandad and Greenidge managed this special feat; but no other debut centurion has joined their ranks yet.

Ricky Ponting
To date, Ponting remains the only batsman in the world to score centuries in each innings of his 100th test. He truly made his 100th test special by scoring 120 and 143* against South Africa and leading Australia to a test win. He was also captaining his team.

Inzamam Ul Haq
Inzamam was also captaining Pakistan in his 100th test, which was against India. He produced a remarkable performance by scoring 184, which remains the highest score by any batsman in their 100th test. His inning also ensured victory for Pakistan in a test in India. It doesn't get more special than that.

Greame Smith, Alec Stewart, and Colin Cowdrey are the other 3 batsmen who have scored a century in their 100th test.

The spin trio - Shane Warne, Anil Kumble, and Muttiah Muralitharan - are the only bowlers who delivered special performances in their 100th tests. While Murali picked up 9 wickets against Bangladesh including a second innings haul of 6-54 leading Sri Lanka to victory, Kumble picked up 5-89 vs Sri Lanka in the second innings to lead India to a test win. Warne not only managed wickets but scored some runs as well on his special occasion. Against South Africa, he picked up 2-70 in the first innings and then scored 63 while batting; he followed that up with 6-161 in the second innings and remained unbeaten on 15 as Australia chased down the target successfully.

While these 10 cricketers will always be part of history for their performances in their 100th tests, there are some cricketers who would want to forget their 100th test appearance forever.

Allan Border (b Ambrose), Dilip Vengsarkar (b Bracewell), Alastair Cook (b Ryan Harris), Stephen Fleming (c&b Ntini), and Mark Taylor (b Cork) were all dismissed for a duck in their 100th Test. Alastair Cook has the unfortunate distinction of being dismissed of the first ball of the innings. Interestingly, all 5, were also captaining their respective teams.

Another batsman who would like to forget his 100th test is Justin Langer. He faced the first delivery of Australia's innings, like he had done for most past of his career as a test opener, from Makhaya Nitini. The ball was pitched short. While trying to duck, Langer got hit on the back of the helmet and collapsed to the ground. He was taken to the hospital for a check-up and did not bat again in the match.

100 test matches are indeed a special achievement, however only a few cricketers have made their special achievements memorable by producing performances that will remain etched in memory forever. While Pakistan has produced only 5 cricketers who have appeared in 100 tests, 2 of those cricketers hold records for 100th Test Match appearances that may never be broken.

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