Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Countdown to the IPL Extravaganza

Indian Premier League (IPL), a carnival of cricket, brings together cricketers from around the world to exhibit their talent for hefty moolah. The non-stop, action-packed event spanning over one-and-half months springs many a surprise - at times intense soft on other, but always exciting, energetic and entertaining.

IPL 2018 edition starts on April 07, and the final is scheduled to be on May 27 at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai.

Potential Show Stealers

Chris Lynn
The Australian set the stage ablaze in last year's IPL edition, giving Kolkata Knight Riders explosive starts game-after-game. Lynn piled 384 runs at an audacious strike rate of 158. In the Big Bash League (BBL) this season, the volatile right-hander accumulated 127 runs in four matches at a staggering strike rate of 162.82.

Colin Munro
The New Zealander's brute display of sheer power-hitting and stellar form makes him a force to reckon with. In 2018 alone, the left-handed opener has amassed 367 runs at astounding strike rate of 192.14.

Mitchell Starc
Quick, at times unplayable, there is no bowler as fierce as the Australian. Royal Challengers missed the searing pace of Starc exceedingly in the last two seasons. If the left-arm quick remains available for the entire tournament, we are in for a treat!

Ben Stokes
There was nobody as sought after as Ben Stokes among fantasy cricket in India enthusiasts in last edition of IPL. Stokes has made plenty of headlines for the wrong reasons lately. The Englishman displayed great all-round skills in last year's edition to be chosen as the Most Valuable Player for Rising Pune Supergiant.

AB de Villiers
Mr. 360 AB de Villiers, the superman of cricket, is a cricketer with overflowing potential. So far in his IPL career, de Villiers has slammed 3 tons and has won 15 man-of-the-match awards. With Gayle's exit from RCB troop, the role of AB becomes all-important. Sure, he is the one who revels in responsibility.

Rohit Sharma
Rohit Sharma is more than an hot-blooded batsman who has 3 ODI doubles to his name, but an able leader with three titles in the bag in the space of 5 years. His batting ability and headship makes Mumbai Indians one of the favourites again this year.

Virat Kohli
There is no better run machine in the world. He is touted the only one who can reach the summit of Sachin's 100 hundreds. It would not be a surprise if we get to witness a repeat of IPL 2016 season, in which Kohli piled 973 runs in 16 innings, studded with 4 hundreds.

Jasprit Bumrah
Jasprit is in the mould of Lasith Malinga. Just like the latter, he has made himself a reputation for possessing an eerie ability to crush the toes and mastery in death bowling.

Teams that can go over the line

Mumbai Indians
If they play to their potential, there is no stopping defending champions Mumbai from going all the way. In Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Evin Lewis, Pat Cummins, Keiron Pollard and Hardik Pandya, they have an excellent mix to begin their title defence.

Royal Challengers Bangalore
Led by Virat Kohli, there is no other team that will be more frantic for IPL trophy. With AB de Villiers, McCullum and DeKock in their ranks, they are quite strong contenders this year.

Delhi Daredevils
No other franchise has bolstered their squad to an extent Daredevils did. They got hold of a proven leader in Gambhir besides T20 specialists like Jason Roy, Glen Maxwell and Colin Munro. Plus, they've got Chris Morris and Kagiso Rabada to complete a terrific overseas troupe.

Sunrisers Hyderabad
Sunrisers Hyderabad have balanced their squad right. In David Warner, they have a admirable commander who will be accompanied by in-form Dhawan at the top. With experience of Bhuvi, guile of Rashid khan and all-round capabilities of Shakib Al Hasan, Sunrisers are one exciting unit.

Can't wait for more Fantasy cricket predictions and off the field drama? Check out IndiaFantasy.

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

PSL 2018: All you wanted to know about Pakistan Super League Season 3 and the new exciting stars on the Horizon

Pakistan aren't playing enough international cricket, but the annual Pakistan Super League is right round the corner and this year, the league has an additional team - the Multan Sultans.

With the additional team, new and exciting players combined with the Pakistan and International stars, this year's PSL promises to be bigger and better than the two previous editions.

Here is everything you need to know about the teams participating in PSL 2018.

Captain: Sarfraz Ahmed
Pakistani Stars: Asad Shafiq, Anwar Ali, Mohammad Nawaz, Umar Amin
International Stars: Kevin Pietersen, Shane Watson, Jason Roy, Rilee, Rossouw, Mahmudullah, Albie Morkel
Player to watch our for: Jofra Archer

Jofra Archer

This 22 year old Barbados born English cricketer was recently picked up for over a million dollars by Rajasthan Royals for the IPL. He has no international experience but his domestic cricket exploits have been doing the rounds of the cricketing circles.

He consistently clocks at over 90mph, he was the highest wicket taker in division two country cricket in 2017, and he had all the batsmen jumping around in the Big Bash League where he was the second highest wicket taker with 16 wickets in 12 games.

He is a valuable pick for Quetta Gladiators and has the potential to rip through batting line ups in the upcoming PSL.

Captain: Imad Wasim
Pakistani Stars: Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Aamir, Usman Khan, Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan
International Stars: Ravi Bopara, Eoin Morgan, Lendl Simmons, David Wiese
Player to watch our for: Hasan Mohsin

Hasan Mohsin

This 20-year old allrounder from Karachi shone for Pakistan in the U19 World Cup in 2016, where he was among the leading run scorers and wicket takers in the tournament.

In U19 World Cup he scored 293 runs at an average of 98 and a strike rate of 96; and he picked up 11 wickets at an average of 15.

In domestic cricket since then, he has not flourished just as yet, but the PSL provides him the perfect stage to show the world his talent with both bat and ball.

Captain: Brendon McCullum
Pakistani Stars: Fakhar Zaman, Umar Akmal, Yasir Shah, Aamer Yamin, Bilawal Bhatti
International Stars: Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Mustafizur Rahman, Dinesh Ramdin, Mitchell McClenaghan
Player to watch our for: Shaheen Afridi

Shaheen Shah Afridi

He is only 17 and is already making waves in the cricket world. Standing tall at 6'6 and hailing from the same region as Shahid Afridi, this Afridi bowls at 150kph+ and recently had the world notice him in the U19 World Cup where he picked up 11 wickets at an average of 14.

He has played only 2 first class matches and his his debut first class match for KRL he rocked Rawal Pindi with a haul of 8-39, which immediately brought him to the forefront of the emerging fast bowlers in Pakistan's domestic circuit.

The PSL is the perfect platform for Shaheen to showcase his talent with the ball to the world.

Captain: Misbah Ul Haq
Pakistani Stars: Shadab Khan, Rumman Raees, Faheem Ashraf
International Stars: Sam Billings, Samuel Badree, Luke Ronchi, JP Duminy, Andre Russell, Alex Hales
Player to watch our for: Sahibzada Farhan

Sahibzada Farhan

With one season of domestic cricket behind him, this 21 year old from the Northern Areas of Pakistan has rapidly made a reputation of being a hard hitting opening batsman.

In 17 List A games for Peshawar he has hit 831 runs at an average of 49 and a strike rate of 88. In 9 T20 matches he averages 46 and has a strike rate of 111, which makes him an ideal batsman for the PSL.

He could be key at the top of the order for Islamabad United and a decent run in the PSL may give him the chance to partner with Fakhar Zaman in international cricket.

Captain: Darren Sammy
Pakistani Stars: Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Wahab Riaz, Hammad Azam
International Stars: Tamim Iqbal, Dwayne Bravo, Chris Jordan, Shakib Al Hasan, Andre Fletcher, Evin Lewis
Player to watch our for: Sameen Gul

Sameen Gul
He is only 19 and this past year has been his breakthrough year in First Class cricket. In only 13 matches, he has picked up 62 wickets at an average of 15 and a strike rate of 30.

He was part of Pakistan's U19 squad for the World Cup in 2016, where he did not shine as expected; however since then he has developed rapidly and has been taking big strides in Pakistan's first class circuit.


Captain: Shoaib Malik
Pakistani Stars: Ahmed Shehzad, Sohail Tanvir, Sohaib Maqsood, Junaid Khan, Umar Gul, Mohammad Irfan
International Stars: Kumar Sangakkara, Darren Bravo, Keiron Pollard, Imran Tahir, Thisara Perrera
Player to watch our for: Zahir Khan

Zahir Khan

This 19 year old left arm chinaman bowler from Afghanistan has been rocking it in the domestic circuit. Batsmen have been unable to pick him and he has been able to pick up a heap of wickets in all forms of the game.

He has a tally of 31 wickets in 6 first class matches, 12 wickets in 5 List A matches, and 15 wickets in 8 T20 matches.

He has a sub-20 average in all forms of the game and can prove to be a wildcard for the Multan Sultans.

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Kohli's Remarkable 100

Watching Virat Kohli bat yesterday was a delight like never before.

He has scored so many hundreds in such short time that it almost feels like an every day occurrence. No doubt each of his century is a spectacle but yesterday's innings was in my view one of his best, if not THE best.

He was out there for 49 of the 50 overs, he faced more than half of those, and he remained unbeaten.

But that is not what made it such a delight to watch. Why I found this innings to be magnificent was the fact that Kohli scored only 60 runs in boundaries, meaning that 100 of his runs were scored by running between the wickets.

Yet he had a strike rate in excess of 100.

I have never seen a batsman as consistent as Kohli. His fitness, his timing, his running between the wickets, the way he paces his innings, and his ability to hit big - it is all top class.

Soon after his innings ended, I was amazed that he had made 100 runs in singles and doubles. I felt that it was quite a rare achievement and didn't think it happened many times in ODIs, if at all.

So this morning I tried to find out which other batsmen had achieved the feat of scoring 100 runs in an ODI by running between the wickets.

Turns out, it has happened only 4 times before, and Kohli's was the 5th such instance. Only 5 times in 3,971 ODIs!

Quite remarkable.

With every innings he inches closer to Sachin's record of hundreds in ODIs and overall. With every innings he shows why he is the best in the world.

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Friday, February 2, 2018

India Looking to Make Amends with the White Ball

The third and final Test played at the Wanderers between South Africa and India had it all as far as pulsating Test matches go: from a lively pitch, where 40 wickets fell in three and a half days, to the umpires stepping in and taking the players off the ground for their safety after a ball crashed into Dean Elgar’s helmet. The captains unanimously agreed that the show must go on and out the South Africans came to face the music on the fourth day.

A monumental collapse, where the Proteas lost 9 wickets for 53 runs, saw South Africa fall short of the 241 run target set by India. A consolidatory victory for India but that was about it as far as any real satisfaction goes as they eventually went down 2-1 to South Africa in the series.

Kohli will see the six-game ODI series as the chance to win a series in South Africa and salvage some pride before they head home and begin gearing up for an immensely tough fixture list during 2018. Shastri’s men will leave for England after the IPL comes to an end and will then travel to Australia towards the end of the year. That is about as tough as it comes for the Indians as far as touring fixtures go and having already been beaten in their first test series of the year by South Africa, the need to find some momentum is crucial.

The chance is there for India to use the momentum from the test in Johannesburg to their advantage as they tackle du Plessis' charges. Having already beaten India in the Tests, the Proteas could have their eyes on the Australians who touch down on South African shores for a four-Test series in March. Ottis Gibson’s men are 8/11 in the latest cricket odds to beat Australia at home for the first time since readmission, so India may have an opportunity to drive the knife in with the attention of the Proteas shifting towards the threat coming from Australia.

The Indian batsman will have to do a far better job of supporting Kohli than they did in the Tests if India they are to win the ODI series. The Indian captain was the leading run scorer overall during the Tests but still saw his side fail to capitalize on his brilliance at the crease by getting out cheaply and not showing the same hunger and fight Kohli had.

An ODI win in South Africa will help settle the Indians before their whirlwind year ahead picks up pace. Failure to do so will put them under an unnecessary amount of pressure and will have them with their backs to the wall going forward. Many of the batsman on the tour will be hoping to rekindle their touch with the willow and the change to the white ball may help as they are given licenses to come out and play, throwing off the shackles of fear that can arise in the test arena. 

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Friday, January 26, 2018

Virat Kohli - The Best Ever?

A few days ago, on one of my many Whatsapp groups for cricket, I was involved in quite a discussion regarding Virat Kohli.

It started off with whether Kohli was worthy of the ICC Award for ODI Cricketer of the Year, and then moved to his press conference at the conclusion of the second test against South Africa.

Some felt that Kohli had lost his cool and should not behaved the way he did. While others, including me, felt that the journalist was needlessly poking him and Kohli did nothing wrong.

Amidst all the discussion, I passed a statement (in context) about Kohli being the best batsman in the world at the moment.

One friend said it was debatable, to which I replied that among the current crop, he is far ahead of the likes of Steve Smith, Joe Root, and Kane Williamson and what is debatable is whether Kohli is the best ever batsman or not.

Average Across Formats

In my mind, there is absolutely no doubt that Virat Kohli is the best batsman in the world at the moment. The one fact that I always state to support that statement is that he is the only batsman in the world who averages above 50 in every format of the game.

There is no other batsman in the world, past or present, who has managed that.

Among the current crop of leading batsmen that play all three formats, only Joe Root and AB De Villiers average above fifty in two formats.

The 'Index' shown in the above table is an average that has been determined by assigning a weight of 50% to the test average, 40% to the ODI average, and 10% to the T20 average. This Index shows that Kohli is well ahead of the rest of the world.

Undoubtedly, Steve Smith has a remarkable test average is arguably the better Test batsman; however when it comes to adapting your game across formats, Kohli is the absolute champion.

Average in Subcontinent and Outside

The biggest criticism of batsmen from the Subcontinent is that they have inflated averaged because they score in batsmen friendly conditions at home and fail when batting in foreign conditions.

Strangely enough that argument is never used for batsmen from Australia and England when they pile on the runs at home and fail miserably in the Subcontinent.

Well, the table below will highlight that Virat Kohli is just as good in the Subcontinent as he is outside of it.

If anything, the table above shows that the Australian Pair - Smith and Warner - perform exceptionally at home and in similar conditions; however their average drops significantly in the subcontinent.

The South Africans are a strange anomaly as both AB and Amla average more in the subcontinent than they do outside of it.

Williamson and Root have the least difference between their averages in the two conditions.

Centuries Across Formats

The fact that impresses me most about Virat Kohli is his ability to score international hundreds.

Whether it is an ODI or a Test, whether his team is batting first or chasing, whether the match is played in home conditions or foreign, Kohli scores an international hundred on an average every 5.7 innings!

That is remarkable considering that no other batsman with at least 40 international centuries scores a hundred as frequently as every 6th inning.

Kohli has scored 53 international centuries. In ODIs, with 32 centuries, he is behind only Sachin Tendulkar. In tests he has a long way to go; however his combined tally is right up there with the best the world has ever seen.

Only Tendulkar, Ponting, Sangakkara, Kallis, and Amla have more international centuries than Kohli does. All of them have also batted in significantly more innings than Kohli has.

Barring Tendulkar, Kohli will surpass all of them in the next 3-4 years.

He has scored test centuries against all 7 opposition that he has faced. He has not played tests against Pakistan and Zimbabwe. Out of his 21 test hundreds, 10 have been scored in India and 11 outside India.

He has scored ODI centuries against all 9 test playing nations. Out of his 32 ODI hundreds, 14 were scored in India and 18 outside India.

This is his most remarkable feat. His ability to score hundreds frequently against all opposition and in all sorts of conditions.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Virat Kohli is the best batsman in the world currently and perhaps also the best ever to play cricket.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Latest Injury to Dale Leaves Stain on Newlands Test

Dale Steyn’s long-awaited return to the international test fold got off to the perfect start. The Phalaborwa Express removed Shikhar Dhawan after just 14 balls during his first comeback spell when he took a catch off his own bowling after Dhawan had ballooned a pull after being rushed by Steyn’s skidding pace.

The roar of the Newlands crowd reverberated around Cape Town and could be heard on even the highest peaks of Table Mountain once Steyn had safely held onto the catch. The collective joy of cricket fans would have been shared throughout the world as Steyn got his reward after being out the game for 13 agonizing months.

The celebrations didn't stop there and Steyn wasn't done yet. South Africa’s premier fast bowler trapped Saha LBW for a duck on the second day and took his test wicket tally for South Africa to 419 scalps, only two behind leading wicket-taker Shaun Pollock with 421.

The highs of the second day at Newlands completely vanished after Steyn had indicated to his captain Faf du Plessis at slip that he was experiencing a problem in his foot and needed to abandon the bowling of his over to seek further treatment. The diagnosis left fans of the Proteas and Dale Steyn shattered as word came through that the fast bowler would be outfor between 4-6 weeks.

It seems now Steynwill miss the remainder of the series against India as he begins yet another battle to regain match fitness. The blow to South Africa is a substantial one and leaves them in the lurch but they remain favourites to claim a series win still.

The talent pool in South Africa is vast with many good young quicks waiting in the wings. It may not be as easy but an overall victory will be what captain Faf du Plessis still has in mind. Punters who feel Steyn’s absence won’t affect the Proteas chasing of a whitewash can claim a £30 William Hill free beton Oddschecker with two more tests to go in the series, both to be played at fortresses in the rainbow nation; Centurion and Wanderers.

Provided Rabada, Philander and Morkel remain fit, it looks unlikely that India will be able to overcome the fearsome trio. Steyn’s long-term future, however, is in more doubt than it has ever been and no one will be more aware of that than Steyn himself.

Has the clock stopped in his career or will Steyn try and make a return for the series against Australia in March? Being only 3 wickets away from becoming the Proteas all-time leading wicket-taker may play a part in his decision making but the selectors may not share his sentiment after another yet another breakdown.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

England Test Team Must Regroup and Focus Ahead of New Zealand Battle

The England test team showed their inability to handle Australian conditions once again in the Ashes, a series in which they were comprehensively beaten 4-0 by the home side. That performance was simply not good enough from England, but it is more to do with the fact that they are unable to cope with conditions outside of their own, and that is something they need to address.

Next up for the test team is the short journey to New Zealand, a series which will not have as much focus as the Ashes, but will still be a tough test in similar conditions. The New Zealanders are nowhere near as good as the Australians, but they certainly have players who can trouble England with both the bat and the ball. After a poor result in Australia, morale in the England camp is sure to be low, but the players have to regroup and focus all their attention on the Kiwis, and how they can beat them.

England look like going with a very similar starting eleven in New Zealand, and it has already been confirmed that Mark Stoneman and JamesVince will keep their places in the squad. While it would have been nice to see the selectors freshen things up after such a disappointing performance against the Aussies, at least this opportunity gives players the chance to redeem themselves against slightly lower quality opposition.

When you look down the England lineup, there is hope that they can head to New Zealand and pick up a series victory against the Kiwis. Their batsmen should feel more at home on the pitches there, they don’t offer as much pace and bounce, and the bowlers running in at them don’t have the ability that a Mitchell Starc possesses. The latest cricket tips availablewill give an indication of what the experts think going into this new series, but expect to see a lot of support for England from them.

They are the better team on paper, and despite coming here on the back of a tough defeat, they have players with character and experience who can help turn things around.

"MarkWood" by Tim Felce (CC BY-SA 2.0)

One player who will help the England cause is MarkWood, who returns to the squad after injuries prevented him from playing in the Ashes. Wood has genuine pace and is the quickest England bowler available to them, so expect to see him take wickets on the pitches in New Zealand. He could bring what was missing from the bowling attack in Australia, and that is pace and aggression, expect to see him play well in New Zealand.

While the test on the field is not as tough, the trip to New Zealand is going to be a huge mental test for England, and we will see what their players are made of. They need to show mental toughness and character if they are to win against the Kiwis, a win they could really do with after such a disappointing Ashes series.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What is going wrong with Pakistan's ODI team?

So after a 9-match ODI winning streak, Pakistan have now lost the first two ODIs in New Zealand and all has broken lose.

All of a sudden, the batting looks shaky, the captain looks concerned, and the bowling isn't good enough to contain the Kiwis.

So what has gone wrong?

Before that, lets first focus on what is right with this ODI team.

For starters, they have a world class modern day opener and one-down batsman in Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam.

The bowling is top quality, at least on paper. Aamer, Hasan, Rumman, Faheem, and Shadab provide for great variety and potency.

In Shadab, Faheem, and Hasan, Pakistan also has depth in its batting, which will come to use if only the top order can fire.

Now then, what is going wrong?

The bowling leaked 315 runs in the first ODI and could not defend 150 in 25 overs in the second. That is definitely not top quality. Maybe the bowlers have not been able to find their feet yet in NZ conditions. Maybe Guptill and Monroe are too good for them. Could be a number of reasons.

But then, you can't afford to drop players like Kane Williamson, because they will take full advantage of the chances given to them and go on to score a century.

Pakistan also refuses to learn from its mistakes.

Azhar Ali has gotten out in exactly the same manner in both ODIs. His dismissal in the second ODI was so identical that one could be forgiven to mistake it for a replay of the first ODI.

Shoaib Malik continues to edge it behind the wicket whenever he bats outside Asia.

With Hafeez not bowling any more, Pakistan's ODI side may not be big enough for both him and Malik. Especially with the likes of Haris Sohail sitting on the sidelines.

Another issue that needs to be sorted is the captain's batting number. Six is not the right number for him and too low for a batsman of his ability.

He needs to bat in the top 4.

In 13 innings at number 6 in ODIs, he has scored 268 runs at an average of 26.8 with 1 half century.

In 9 innings at number 5, he has scored 421 runs at an average of 60.1 with 1 century and 3 half centuries.

In 7 innings at number 4, he has scored 197 runs at an average of 39.4 with 1 half century.

In 9 innings as an opener, he has scored 344 runs at an average of 43.0 with 1 century and 1 half century.

It is evident that Sarfraz is better at all other positions, besides number 6. He is best at number 5, which is where he batted when Azhar Ali captained the ODI team.

The reason he is lingering down at 6 is because of the presence of Hafeez and Shoaib Malik in the team.

I believe the batting order requires a reshuffle.

Sarfraz needs to be pushed up. Haris Sohail needs to be brought in. One of Hafeez or Malik needs to be dropped.

Or if one wants both Hafeez and Malik in the side, then drop Azhar and make Hafeez open.

This may somewhat improve Pakistan's batting performance and changes need to be made soon as we are only 18 months away from the World Cup in 2019.

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Sunday, January 7, 2018

Impressive 2017 for Pakistan Cricket with Lots More in Store...

2017 was quite a year for Pakistan Cricket.

They won the Champions Trophy for the first time joining India, Sri Lanka and the West Indies as the only teams to win all major ICC trophies.

Pakistan won their first ever Test Series in the West Indies as Misbah and Younis bid farewell to the game.

Fakhar Zaman hit a memorable maiden ODI ton in the final of the Champions Trophy.

Hasan Ali became the number 1 ranked ODI bowler becoming the first Pakistani pacer to reach that ranking since the hey days of Wasim Akram in the 90s.

Imam Ul Haq hit a debut ODI century giving Pakistan another talented batsman.

Babar Azam's limited overs stock continue to grow with more centuries.

New talents like Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, and Rumman Raees continued to shine.

But the moment of the year for Pakistan cricket was surely this...

Aamer got Kohli twice in as many deliveries in a year when not many bowlers could claim to have got him even once.

It was an exceptional spell of bowling by Aamer as he dismissed the tournament's top 3 leading run scorers - Kohli, Rohit, and Dhawan - inside the first 10 overs and sealed the final for Pakistan.

Team Performance in 2017

In 2017, Pakistan's limited overs team had quite a turnaround with impressive performances in ODIs and T20, unlike in prior years.

Definitely that had something to do with the injection of new blood.

At the same time, Pakistan's test performance declined with the departure of stalwarts and despite winning their first ever series in the Caribbean, Pakistan also lost their first ever series in the UAE since it became their adopted home.

As you can see, Pakistan was the best performing T20 team, the 4th best in ODIs, and a low 7th in tests.

Batting Performance in 2017

In Tests, Pakistan's batting did not do much to write about. Azhar Ali was the leading run scorer with an average of 42.00. With the departure of Misbah and Younis, the likes of Azhar and Asad will have to take charge as the new blood will surely take time to settle down in international cricket.

In ODIs and T20s, Babar Azam emerged as Pakistan's new star. He was among the leading run scorers in the world in both formats - 9th in ODIs and 2nd in T20s. Surprisingly, Ahmed Shehzad was also one of the top scorers in T20s.

In ODIs, Babar's average was behind only Kohli, Sharma, and Root. And his tally of hundreds was behind only Kohli and Sharma.

Bowling Performances in 2017

In Tests, Yasir Shah continue to shine for Pakistan ending the year with 43 wickets to his name in only 6 test matches. Imagine how many he would have taken had he played as much as some of the other bowlers.

Yasir was the only bowler to pick up an average of 7 wickets or more in the tests he played. No other bowlers averaged even 6 wickets per match.

ODIs were dominated by Pakistan's newest pace sensation - Hasan Ali - who improved with every game that he played.

No pacer came even close to his tally of wickets, average, and strike rate. He even had the most 5 wicket hauls in the year.

The only bowler who had a better average and strike rate than Hasan was Afghanistan's spin maestro Rashid Khan.

In T20s, it was young leg spinner, Shadab Khan, who impressed finishing the year with the 5th highest wickets. He had a very impressive economy rate as well, which was bettered by only Rashid Khan.

It seems like Pakistan's test team will take some time to get back to the heights they had reached with Misbah at the helm, coupled with Younis as the guiding force for the batting line up.

However, in limited overs, Pakistan should continue to impress with all the new youngsters standing up to be counted.

Pakistan's ODI team has not been this exciting since the 90s.

They have a talented opener in Fakhar Zaman and another one waiting in the wings - Imam Ul Haq. They have one of the most impressive batsman produced by the country in Babar Azam. The bowling stocks are abundant with spinners like Yasir Shah, Imad Wasim, and Shadab Khan; and a pace battery comprising Mohammed Aamer, Hasan Ali, Rumman Raees, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Abbas, and plenty waiting in the wings.

To top it all, the likes of Hassan, Faheem, Imad, and Shadab are all quite handy with the bat.

Surely we are in for some exciting times for Pakistan Cricket.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Examination Down Under Will Show How Strong Root Is

A baptism of fire is almost guaranteed for any new captain who is overseeing his first Ashes series as the man in charge. The microscope focus is intense and both sets of fans and pundits unforgiving when the going gets tough. At 2-0 down in the series, it is safe to say the going will be getting close to unbearable for Root with his decision at the toss in Adelaide being crucified.

"Australia v England (2nd Test, Adelaide" (CC BY 2.0) by mertie.
Root’s decision to bowl first is being seen by many as the critical mistake that led to the Three Lions losing by 120 runs to Australia. Counterpart Steve Smith made a rather audacious declaration with the Baggy Greens at 442/8 on the second day after Root had put them into bat, which highlighted the perceived foolishness of the young Yorkshireman’s decision at the toss.

Mistakes are there to be made and are all part of the learning curve a captain must experience on the journey to becoming a hardened leader. In this particular instance, it may cost England the Ashes as the win in Adelaide gave Australia a 2-0 lead as they head on to the WACA for the third test.

The last time England won at this historic ground was 1978 and they have lost their last seven tests against Australia there. A win for Steve Smith’s men here and they will take an unassailable lead and recapture the Ashes. It doesn't bear thinking about for Joe Root and he desperately needs to find a way to inspire his troops as they look to complete mission impossible.

"1st day, 3rd Test, AUS v RSA" (CC BY 2.0) by www.davidmolloyphotography.com
The Australian camp will feel that they have one hand on the famous and ancient urn already. Root said after the Adelaide test that England were still “massively in the series” but deep down he will know they are staring down the barrel and will need a combination of luck, skill and hard work if they are to get something out of this series.

From whatever angle you look at it, it is hard to see England winning the next three tests. As it stands, they are 4/1 to win at the WACA but that may change as the game goes on should Root and his troops deliver an inspired performance against Australia; tipping and betting sites such as sportsbet.io will keep punters up to date with ongoing proceedings in Perth as England aim to fly out the traps and defy history.

There is a lot on the line for the young Root during the remainder of the season. It won’t be the end of the road for his captaincy even if they lose 5-0. There will be a lot of scrutiny going forward but he will live to see another day. If he turns this around then his future as England captain will be secure for as long as he plays the game.

In Joe Root's career, there won’t be many bigger tests of his captaincy than the one in front of him. All eyes will be on Root to see if he strengthens or withers. 

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Rise of Babar Azam and Hasan Ali

The rise of Pakistan's ODI and T20 teams, which is now ranked number 1, has been phenomenal. From winning the Champions Trophy to clean sweeping Sri Lanka, it has all unfolded with great thrill for Pakistan fans, and all of us are extremely excited for 2019 and rightly so.

Young blood has truly come to the fore and the rise of Babar Azam and Hasan Ali, coupled with the emergence of new stars like Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan, Imam Ul Haq, Imad Wasim, Rumman Raees, and Fahim Ashraf has really set the stage alight for Pakistan's limited overs team.

Here is a look back at what Babar Azam and Hasan Ali have achieved for Pakistan in recent times.

The career of arguably Pakistan's best limited over batsman ever is unfolding right in front of our eyes and Pakistan's ODI batting has not looked this good since the days of Inzamam Ul Haq, which ended a decade ago.

Babar is currently ranked number 4 in the ICC Rankings, behind Kohli, ABD, and Warner.

Babar has rapidly risen the ranks and this year he is among the leading run scorers in ODIs with an average and century tally behind only the Indian duo of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.

Babar hit his first ODI century on 30 September 2016. Since then he has hit another 6 ODI centuries within a span of 12 months. During this period, he has hit the most ODI centuries, equal with Kohli and Warner, and his average is second only to Kohli.

All of Babar's 7 ODI centuries have come while batting at number 3. Out of all batsmen who have scored at least 1,000 runs while batting at number 3 in ODIs, Babar has the highest average ever, and he is miles ahead of everyone else.

Not only does Babar average better than all batsmen at number 3, he was also quickest to 1,000 runs at the position, breaking the previous record held by Sir Viv Richards.

He also got to 1,000 runs in ODIs quicker than any batsman from Pakistan and equaled the world record of 21 innings, which he jointly holds with Sir Viv Richards, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, and Quinton De Kock.

Babar is only 23 and has his entire career ahead of himself. He can achieve wonders and go on to become the best limited overs batsman ever produced by Pakistan.

Since making his ODI debut a year and a bit back, Hasan has risen to the status of being Pakistan's most potent striker with the ball. In just 26 ODIs, he has a tally of 56 wickets at a sub-20 average, and a strike rate of 23. In his last 9 ODIs he has picked up a whopping 26 wickets!

Hasan is currently the number 1 ranked bowler in the world. A feat that no pacer from Pakistan achieved since Wasim Akram was on top in 1994.

Hasan recently got to his 50th wicket in only his 24th ODI, breaking the Waqar Younis' record for Pakistan of being the fastest to the 50 wicket tally in ODIs. Hasan reached the tally in the joint second fewest number of ODIs among pacers and third overall.

Among all bowlers who have taken at least 50 wickets in ODIs, Hasan has the best strike rate and the best average EVER!

Hasan is also only 23 years old and has his entire career ahead of him.

Babar and Hasan have a lot to do with Pakistan's recent ODI success. They are on a streak of 9 consecutive ODI wins, which is their third best streak, behind the 10 they achieved in 1990 and their record of 12 achieved in 2008.

Both of them can take Pakistan to even greater heights in the future years.

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Australians Have Won the Ashes

A half-century from Alex Blackwell that went unbeaten and an exciting cameo from Ashleigh Gardner has led Australia to a win in the final over in Brisbane. The team from Down Under has drawn first blood with a pulsating two-wicket win in the Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes Series which took place on Sunday at the Allan Border Field.

The Ashleigh Gardner Show
The star of the Women’s Ashes Series was undoubtedly Ashleigh Gardner, whose uncompromising cameo in the tense final stages turned the match to the hosting team’s favour, thanks to three wickets being taken with the ball!
As punters enjoying the services of betting sites making markets for the game are well aware, Gardner managed to strike two stimulating sixes in her 18-ball 27 which perfectly complemented the imperturbable innings from seasoned-player Alex Blackwell, who finished undefeated on 67.
A Two-Point Lead in the  Series
This means that Australia has now got a lead of two points in the multi-format series. The two sides are set to travel to Coffs Harbour now, for the remaining two One Day Internationals set to take place on Thursday and Sunday, before the Day-Night Test in Sydney and the three Twenty20 Internationals.
The Playing XI Announced at the Toss
After whittling down the squad to 12 by the day preceding the match, Australia announced their playing XI at the toss. Kristen Beams and Beth Mooney were dropped from the side that lost in the Women’s World Cup semi-final game against India.
Alyssa Healy, a dynamic batter and wicketkeeper who has passed every fitness test with flying colours, got promoted up the order and opened the batting instead of Mooney. Allrounder Tahlia McGrath was brought in to provide an extra seam option for the XI, and Amanda-Jade Wellington, a South Australian leg-spinner, ended up replacing Beams for the game.
Rachael Haynes, captain for the team, won the coin toss, and she elected to bowl. The field was unrecognisable thanks to the billabong of only 24 hours earlier, after non stop heavy rain flooded the whole outfield area. The ground staff had been at work from 6pm on Saturday night to 4:30am on Sunday getting the field ready for play, and their remarkable effort was not lost on the sold-out crowd, who made their appreciation clear.
Ellyse Perry and Megan Schutt managed to find swing with the new balls, but there were no early wickets. That is, until Tammy Beaumont went onto chip Australia’s star allrounder to mid-off in the tenth over.
A partnership 56 between Sarah Taylor and Lauren Winfield lasted all of 175 balls, but then the hosts struck again, with the team getting involved in a mix up and Winfield running out for 48 team-high.
Middle-order resistance was given in the forms of Nat Sciver, Fran Wilson, and Taylor, but the slow bowlers from the Australian team and elite fielding quickly took control. They suffocated the British batters, and these collapsed completely at 5-31.

Wellington found stunning turn on the dry surface and managed to regularly beat the bat although she failed to snag a wicket. The off-spin of Gardner managed to bag three wickets from nine overs, and the rest, as they say, is history!

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Mohammad Hafeez Reported for Suspicious Bowling

The Pakistani team’s off-spinner, Mohammad Hafeez, has been reported for a possibly suspect bowling action. The incident took place during the third One-Day International that the team played against the Sri Lankans in Abu Dhabi. The International Cricket council announced the report on Thursday.

Match Official’s Report Handed to Management

The International Cricket Council stated that the match official’s report had been handed over to the management team for the Pakistanis, and that concerns about the lawfulness of the 37-year old player’s bowling action during Wednesday’s match had been stated within it. It seems that law comes into all parts of cricket, from game play to betting and everything in between.

Bowling Action to be Scrutinised

The bowling action which was reported will now be investigated more thoroughly under the International Cricket Council’s regulations governing illegal bowling action. Hafeez will be required to submit to testing within two weeks, but, during this period, he will still be able to play. Hafeez will be allowed to keep bowling in International Cricket games until the assessment results are made known, according to the Council, so he will not suffer undue punishment until guilt has been proved, if guilt exists.

It Is Not the First Time

As punters who enjoy cricket betting options at the various sports betting sites that provide markets for the games will know full well, this is not the first time Hafeez’s action has been reported as suspicious. It is, in fact, the third occasion that Hafeez has been reported.

Hafeez got suspended from bowling in December of 2014, although he was cleared the April following. His action was then once more reported in June of 2015, and his second suspension rapidly followed, within 24 months of the first one. He was then suspended from bowling in International Cricket games for 12 months, with the suspension period commencing in July of 2015.

On the 17th of November last year, Hafeez underwent a bowlingaction reassessment at the National Cricket Center located in Brisbane, but was allowed to get back to bowling thereafter, since his actions were found to be legal.

He bowled eight overs, taking one for 39 in the cricket game which Pakistan went on to win by seven wickets, securing an unbeatable lead of 3 - 0 in the five-match series.

A History of Problems for Pakistan

The Pakistani team has had numerous illegal bowling action problems in the past, with a number of different players being reported. These include quick bowlers Shabbir Ahmed and Shoaib Akhtar, as well as spinners Bilal Asif, Saeed Ajmal, and Shahid Afridi.

Saeed Ajmal’s career was brought to an end after he did not manage to achieve the same level of success with the remodelled action in 2015, but Bilal Asif’s action got cleared after it was reassessed.

Under the new International Cricket Council regulations, all bowlers are permitted to bend their arm by 15 degrees, and anything beyond that is seen as illegal.

Hafeez has managed to claim 136 wickets in 193 One-Day Internationals, and has taken 52 Test scalps and a total of 46 wickets in Twenty20 Internationals.

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Victoria has been set up for a big chase in the JLT final

Victoria is Chasing 345 after Blitz by South Australia

The Redbacks plundered 117 off of the last eight overs, setting Victoria up for a big chase in the JLT elimination final. A century from Jake Weatherald and some brutal blows later on from Tom Cooper assisted the South Australians in setting a sizable total for Victoria to pursue in the One-Day Cup in Hobart.

After being sent to bat, the Redbacks managed to reach 5 for 339 at the Bellerive Oval from a diminished 48-over innings that was cut short by a brief delay due to rain.

Victoria Boosted by Internationals’ Return

Victoria, improved by the return of internationals Dan Christian, Aaron Finch, and Glenn Maxwell, have to chase a total of 345 off of 48 overs under the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method in order to earn a place in the final on Saturday against the Western Australians at the same grounds.

Weatherald Crashes Vital Elimination Final Ton

Weatherald, who was dropped early on, went on to score 116 off of 121 balls, and shared a partnership of 215 runs with Alex Carey, the Ashes hopeful, for the first wicket. This player proved once again why he so strongly features in the kind of online sports betting guide offered by various internet-based bookmakers.

Carey fell excruciatingly short of a maiden one-day ton, and edged Scott Boland, placeman, behind for 92. Cooper then managed to smash a half-century off of 22 balls, making for the equal third-fastest in the history of one-day cricket, before he got holed out for 59.

Cooper Set the Vics Ablaze with a Record-Equalling 50

The South Australians managed to smash 117 off of the last 48 balls of their innings with Travis Head and Alex Ross pinching with strong cameos. Head managed 29 of 16 balls, and Ross 18 off of 6. Boland was the only bowler for the Victorians to go at less than a-run-a-ball, with 1 for 51 off of 10 overs.

The Redbacks Go Crazy in Death Overs

Victoria won the toss earlier on, and chose to bowl first as they were welcoming back an array of international talent that had performed well in training. Travis  Head, Adam Zampa, and Kane Richardson returned from foreign duty, having been on the Australian limited-overs tour in India.

The return of these star players means that Victoria has entered the final without Blake Thomson, Will Sutherland, and Seb Gotch from their last start, a contentious DLS victory against New South Wales at the North Sydney Oval that was deserted due to a dangerous pitch 26 overs into the game’s second innings.

South Australia made the difficult decision to drop Jake Lehmann for Head, with coach Darren Lehmann’s son scoring 179 runs at 35 in the competition. Dan Worrall has made a surprising return to the game after limping off of the field with a knee issue in the win against the Western Australians. An MRI cleared him of damage, and so he will be taking his place in the XI today. Chadd Sayers has been shunted out of the starting XI for Richardson’s return, and Zampa replaces Tom Andrews.P

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Monday, October 2, 2017

2017-18 Ashes: Aussies to watch

The Ashes, arguably international cricket’s most vicious rivalry, rolls around once more in November. Although England emerged victorious (3-1) in the Australian series of 2010-11, the series of 2013-14 saw Australia enact vengeance in the most emphatic way possible – a 5-0 whitewash. Given the squad’s home ashes record, Australia would always be favourites against England. However, the home side have never been so widely backed to score a second consecutive home whitewash over England.

5-0 whitewash universally expected

To say that the two sides approach the series in contrasting mindsets would be an understatement, and this is reflected in current Ashes odds, which can be viewed by anyone who opts to click here. After losing 2-1 to South Africa last autumn, Australia have bounced back in very real terms, with perfect home test form prevalent after that disappointing showing against the Springboks. By contrast, England will travel to Australia in unusually low spirits, with Ben Stokes’ recent exclusion (on disciplinary grounds) from the visiting squad only serving to divide and disrupt.

England’s away form can only give the Australian squad even more encouragement, with the squad losing 4-1 to India in its last away test series. Some experts would assert that England’s only true hope is Joe Root, with most of the other expected first XI performing erratically of late. To the more ardent England fan, Alastair Cook is considered something of a talisman, but many believe that age is now catching up with him. Even at home, England have been susceptible to the occasional batting collapse, with the fourth test in the recent home series against the West Indies being a very damning case in hand.

Smith can be ‘captain fantastic’

As one of the chosen few to be an Ashes captain, Steve Smith will naturally be in the spotlight more than any other home player. Though his captaincy has seen mixed fortunes for Australia, if all forms of international cricket are taken into account, his personal statistics spell danger for England. As of June 2017, Smith had scored twelve centuries and averaged 73.27 per inning. Overcoming a humiliation at the hands of South Africa in 2016 was also a real test of character for Smith, with his captaincy then very much in the balance. 2017 has been a truer reflection of his abilities, and Smith also has a test win rate of exactly 50% as Australia’s captain.

NSW Trio to give England the ‘blues’

Much of the confidence in the home side stems from the range of efficient fast bowlers that Australia coach Darren Lehmann has at his disposal.

Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc are the most prominent men in that respect. With the latter two being left-handed, Australia will have the luxury of a multi-dimensional approach to dismissing England’s top batsmen. The fact that the trio are teammates at the NSW Blues can only add further fuel to the arguments in favour of an Australian whitewash.

David Warner: 30 not out

Though now the wrong side of thirty, top order batsman David Warner has the experience and composure needed to fulfil the expectation of a whitewash. Though part of a side that completed a 4-1 ODI series defeat to India just days ago, it was Warner’s never-say-die attitude which yielded the century that enabled the touring Aussies to win and avoid a whitewash. As one of the most hard-hitting Australian batsmen in recent memory, those who simply crave entertainment will certainly be keeping one eye on Warner.

Looking ahead
Lehmann’s uncompromising Australia squad has the impetus, but stranger things have happened in international cricket. The 2017-18 Ashes series begins at The Gabba on 23 November.

Author bio
A BJTC-accredited graduate, Tamhas Woods is a sports writer who specialises in betting previews.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Andrew Black and the road to Exchange Betting

One of Britain’s most profitable entrepreneurs, operating in a field that’s remained largely unchanged for several years, Andrew Black’s launch of Betfair in 2000 is a classic example of that inventive spirit that helps a small business take on the big boys and hit one for six!

Black did not come from a gambling background; his grandfather was in fact an MP who made efforts to suppress and outlaw gambling altogether. But such an attitude did not pass down to his grandson who dropped out of his second year at Exeter university due to missing so many classes. According to Andrew himself, he was at the bookies.

After a stretch as a full-time gambler, during which he remained largely solvent, Black had a brilliant idea for a site that would revolutionise how gamblers could place bets
. The only problem was that his plan involved a lot of online gambling and it was coming fresh off the Dotcom crash. It wasn’t easy to secure funding for his business in such a climate, venture capitalists wanted nothing to do with it and it was up to Black and his business partner Edward Wray to find the funds themselves from friends and family. Eventually they got the £1 million they needed together, and the two were off!

Betfair’s focus wasn’t on the traditional method bookmakers used and was instead on
exchange betting. Essentially, you took a sport like Football or Cricket, and instead of betting on a result against a bookmaker, the exchange meant you were betting against your fellow gamblers, so one would back and the other lay, which allowed the site to offer better odds. For example, if you’re betting on the ashes you could either back Australia to win or lay them to lose with the money you’d get from the result reflected in the odds. Other sites had a similar idea and launched around the same time but, crucially, Black and Wray included an element that dramatically enhanced their site. Rather than one gambler placing a wager and another accepting it, Betfair worked more like a financial exchange which increased the scope significantly but, most crucially, meant rather than one large bet being laid by one person, it could be met by multiple other gamblers and produced an exchange which was more like the Tote of horse-racing. After the acquisition of Flutter in 2001, Betfair now holds an impressive 90% market share due to its more flexible model.

As you’d expect, this approach did not sit well with some established bookmakers who were less than appreciative of their new rival. It didn’t take long for them to start making comments about how their business model was “a parasite on racing”. In a 2003 interview, Black responded simply by saying: “The bookmakers have to understand they don't own racing. They have got used to the fact that it has almost become their product because they have been the only people exploiting it. It so happens we now exploit it more efficiently”. There were also claims that the model could encourage corruption due to the anonymity of the bets but this is widely rebuked, not least because, if anything, the online model makes it harder to bet anonymously. It wasn’t long until bookmakers themselves branched into the sporting exchange market with Ladbrokes now owning Betdaq.

Nowadays, Andrew Black is worth approximately £200 million and has become something of an angel investor in UK based technology businesses. 

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