Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pakistan show positive signs for the future of their limited overs cricket...

Pakistan's limited overs cricket has been lethargic and old fashioned for a long while now. Since the highs of reaching the semi final of the World Cup in 2011 and the subsequent dumping of Shahid Afridi as captain, Pakistan's ODI and T20 cricket has been quite abysmal.

For 5 years, the men in Green have not been able to keep up with the demands of modern day white ball cricket.

The result of all that has led them languishing at number 9 and number 7 respectively in ICC's ODI and T20 rankings.

When a team with that sort of sketchy history does what it did in the 5th ODI at Cardiff and then in the T20 at Manchester last night, it is nothing short of mesmerizing.

First, a successful chase of 300 for the first time outside Asia and the first time against a non Asian team.

Then, a dominating performance to register their largest ever win in a T20 international.

The last two matches have got to be Pakistan's best performances in white ball cricket in about half a decade.

It was pulsating to watch Sharjeel and Khalid Latif slay into England's bowlers. For a while they only dealt in boundaries and made it all look too easy.


The 73 runs that Sharjeel and Khalid plundered in the power play is Pakistan's highest ever score inside 6 overs in T20s.

When they managed a 100 runs between themselves by the 10th over of the innings, it was only the second time that Pakistan's openers had reached three figures at the half way mark in a T20. The last time it was Mukhtar Ahmed and Ahmed Shehzad's brutal assault on Zimbabwe in Lahore last year.

Sharjeel and Khalid's onslaught was so good that it reminded me of Ijaz Ahmed and Shahid Afridi against India in Lahore (1997) and Shahid Afridi and Imran Nazir against South Africa in Sharjah (2000).

It was a great victory last night to cap a memorable summer in England.

With a drawn test series, Pakistan's first in England in 15 years, and a T20 win, we can safely say that the tour was an overall success despite the thrashing in the ODIs.

The best part ofcourse is the fact that there absolutely no controversy on this tour.

Pakistan did not give the British Tabloids any sound bytes whatsoever and that is probably the biggest achievement of this tour.

Over the last few days Pakistan have shown the world that they can play modern day limited overs cricket. These are surely positive signs for the future, which has plenty to look forward to with the West Indies coming to UAE and then Pakistan traveling to New Zealand and Australia.

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Monday, September 5, 2016

There is still hope for Pakistan's team in Greens...

A couple of days ago, I got a whatsapp message that said:

"Aik hotay hain dheet log. Kuch hotay hain bahut zaada dheet log. Aur phir woh jo 5th ODI ka intezaar kar rahe hain"

I have rarely seen a more apt message on the eve of a Pakistan ODI.

A message that describes me, and some others I know, to the T!

Given the appalling state of Pakistan's ODI cricket team over the past 5 years, it is left with very few fans. Those few might have given up on Pakistan's colored clothing following the mauling at the hands of England in the first four ODIs.

Yet, some fools, like myself, remained with desperate hopes of avoiding a whitewash.

That hope soon faded away when first Jason Roy and later Ben Stokes took the Pakistan bowlers apart and helped England set up a target of just over 300.

Obviously a target beyond Pakistan.

But no, we will still watch! Because we love the Greens.

Hopes further went down the drain with Sharjeel's wicket, and then were totally washed away when Babar Azam and Azhar Ali went in quick succession.

Babar Azam, for as good as he looks while at the crease, is a constant reminder of Umar Akmal. The same talent, the same range of strokes, the same potential, and the same manner of getting out. Khandaani aadat hai. The only thing missing is that sad bandar face on losing his wicket.

Azhar Ali has got to get full marks for trying. Man he tries hard. But poor guy must realize that aggression is just not his game. He is like that bechara student who studies all day and night before an exam, studies more than anyone else in his class, but still does not get enough marks for a ranking to boast about.

I feel sorry for him. If I were him, I would probably shed tears while at the crease.

70 odd on the board. 3 wickets down. 220 odd more to go. Game over?

Haan pretty much, lekin hum phir bhi dekhenge, kyun ke hum hain Pakistani !

As if realizing the desperation among Pakistanis at the ground and around the world, something dawned on Shoaib Malik and Sarfaraz Ahmed.

All of a sudden, runs began to flow.

The first or second ball of every over started to disappear for a boundary.

Singles and twos started to come really easily.

For the first time in years we were watching two Pakistani batsmen in green clothing dominating proceedings in the middle overs of an ODI.

It was pure magic for about 24 overs.

Sarfaraz and Malik plundered England's bowlers and led Pakistan's march towards an unlikely target of 302.

Sarfaraz in particular was brutal and his 90 off 73 balls was one of the best ODI innings by a Pakistan batsman that I have witnessed in recent times. Probably the best one since Abdul Razzaq's mad assault on South Africa in Abu Dhabi.

Sarfaraz has been one batsman that has shown some modern day ODI intelligence, which has largely been  missing among the men in Green.

Shoaib Malik also played a gem. He started slowly but paced his innings beautifully and finally got some runs under his belt.

I truly believe that playing at number 4 made all the difference. Malik has always been a different, and more successful, batsman when playing at 3 or 4. As compared to when he plays at 6 or 7. I fail to understand why so many captains have wasted Malik lower down the order.

Clearly he belongs in the top order and history will show you how good a batsman he has been for Pakistan in the past when batting in the top 4.

Malik and Sarfaraz' partnership, which amounted to 163 runs off only 143 deliveries, was such a treat to watch. I have not enjoyed Pakistan's ODI batting as much as I did last night, in a long long time.

Finally Pakistan showed that they can play ODI cricket in the modern times.

I had forgotten that they could.

Rarely do we get to see Pakistan successfully chase 300 in an ODI.

It is so rare that Pakistan's test team had done it more times than their ODI team in the past 5 years!

This makes last night's victory even more special.

It was only the 7th time that Pakistan chased a target of 300 or more.

And it was the first time they did it outside Asia.

It was also the first time they did it against a non Asian team.

All this tells me there is still hope.

There is still hope that Pakistan can play modern day ODI cricket. There is still hope that we can compete in green clothing.

A lot may have to change, but for now, I am still cherishing last night's win and the awesome chase thanks to Sarfaraz and Malik.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Pakistan's rise to NUMBER ONE in Test Cricket

Pakistan have reached number 1 in the test rankings for the first time since the current rankings system came into place. It is a feat never achieved by a test team from Pakistan and one that should be cherished by every single one of Pakistan’s fans.

A definite cause for celebration.

For Misbah, this is one hell of an achievement considering how he started his tenure as captain in 2010. What a phenomenal rise it has been from those murky depths 6 years ago.

Recently Pakistan celebrated their test win at Lord's with a celebratory salute as a tribute to the Pakistan army.

Now, we all salute Misbah and his men for reaching the top of the pile in test cricket.

It has been quite a journey for Pakistan over the past few years during which they have achieved a lot as a team, as well as, individually.

Here's a look at what the team, its captain, and its players have achieved since November 2010, when Misbah took over as captain.


Second Most Successful Test Team
Pakistan's test team has the second best W:L ratio in the world, after South Africa, in tests played since November 2010. They also have the second best Win % in tests in this period, behind only Australia.

They are unbeaten in the UAE during this period where they have beaten Sri Lanka, England, Australia, West Indies, and drawn against South Africa and New Zealand. They are also unbeaten in test series played since August 2014; the only team that has not lost a test series in this 2-year period.

Their series wins also include clean sweeps over England and Australia, with the latter their first series win over Australia after 2 decades.

During this period, Pakistan were also involved on two record run chases, both against Sri Lanka.

The first came in Sharjah when they chased a target of 300 odd in under two sessions completing a successful run chase with the highest run rate ever.

The second was a mammoth chase of 382, in Pallakelle, their highest ever and the 5th highest in the world.


Most Successful Test Batsmen
Pakistan is the only team in the world with 5 batsmen in the Top 20 of ICC's Rankings for Test Batsmen. No other team has more than 3 batsmen in the Top 20.










































Captain Fantastic, Misbah Ul Haq
No words are enough to praise Misbah for the way he has marshaled his troops over the past 6 years. He has led from the front and has been an example for everyone on the test circuit. 

During his reign, he has notched up 22 test victories, an unprecedented number for a Pakistan captain. He is well past the previous Pakistan record of 14 test wins shared by Imran Khan and Javed Miandad.

Misbah has also surpassed Javed Miandad, Inzamam Ul Haq, and Imran Khan to become the leading run scorer as a captain in tests for Pakistan.

He also broke Inzamam's record of most test centuries as Pakistan captain when he notched up his 8th hundred as captain at Lord's earlier this summer.

Best test captain Pakistan has had?

Probably.

Best captain in the world currently?

Arguably.

In terms of runs scored by captains in tests since November 2010, Misbah is at number three, behind Alastair Cook and Michael Clarke, however his average of 54.93 is second best, behind only Steve Smith. He also has the third most number of centuries as captain during this period.




The King Khan, Younis Khan
During this successful period under Misbah, Younis Khan has been an instrumental figure guiding Pakistan's rock solid batting in tests. He stood tall in that record run chase against Sri Lanka, his double hundred secured a series leveling win against England at the Oval, and his partnerships with Misbah, Azhar, Asad, Shan, and several others led them to many a test ton.

During this period, Younis broke all national batting records by going past Mohammad Yousuf, Inzamam Ul Haq, and Javed Miandad to become the leading run scorer for Pakistan in tests, as well as, the leading century maker for Pakistan in tests. He now has 32 test tons, 7 more than Inzamam's record of 25!

There are not enough words and numbers in this world that will do justice to what Younis Khan has achieved and done for Pakistan over the past 6 years. For the many records that he has broken and created, it is probably best that you read my previous posts here and here.

For now, I leave you with the leading run scorers in test cricket since November 2010.

While he is the 5th highest run scorer during this period, he has the second best average, behind Steve Smith, and he has the joint highest number of centuries with Alastair Cook and David Warner.


The Rock, Azhar Ali
Azhar Ali has been a vital cog in Pakistan's test batting line up and has been extremely successful in his role at number 3. He has been so good at that position that he is already the second highest run scorer at number 3 for Pakistan, behind only Younis Khan.

Azhar has played many a match winning century for Pakistan over the past 6 years. During this period, he is among the only 4 batsmen in this world who have scored over 3,000 runs and made at least 10 centuries while batting at 3.



The Calm, Collected and Underrated, Asad Shafiq
The most technically correct batsman produced by Pakistan, Asad is also the most under rated.

Number 6 is a peculiar position to bat on consistently, considering that one gets to bat in such varied situations all the time. At times, one comes into bat with the team in a difficult situation with 4 down for very little; at others there is a huge score on the board and one has to be aggressive. More often than not, the number 6 batsman gets to bat with the tail, and many a times one finds themselves running out of partners.

Most teams do not even have set regular number 6 batsman. Records indicate that there aren't many batsmen in this world who have consistently batted at number 6 with success.

Asad Shafiq, however, is an exception, who has made number 6 his very own. He has played such a significant role for Pakistan at number 6 and has contributed immensely to the strong positions Pakistan has held in test matches over the past 6 years.

Not only is Asad Shafiq the leading run scorer in tests at number 6 since November 2010...

He is already among the all time leading run scorers in test cricket at number 6...

Asad's 8 centuries at the position is a record he shares with the legendary Sir Gary Sobers. He would have broken that record had he remained in that position for the 4th test at the Oval. It is likely that his stint at 6 is over and he is set for a permanent move to number 3, however for the past 6 years he has owned the number 6 position like no other batsman ever.


The Trustworthy, Sarfaraz Ahmed
Pakistan have never had a better wicketkeeper batsman. The impact that Sarfaraz has had for Pakistan at number 7 is equivalent to the impact that Adam Gilchrist had for Australia. He is a busy player who keeps the scoreboard ticking, always gets runs, and always gets them fast.

He has the ability to take the game away from the opposition within a session and he showed that when he played that crucial innings during the record run chase against Sri Lanka in Sharjah.

Sarfaraz is 4th on the list among Pakistani wicketkeepers in terms of test runs and 3rd on the list for most centuries by a Pakistan wicketkeeper. However, his average of 43.8 is the highest ever for a Pakistan wicketkeeper who has batted in at least 10 innings.

Since November 2010, he is 7th on the list of wicketkeepers with the most runs in tests; however his average of 46 is surpassed by only AB De Villiers and Johnny Bairstow.



The Amazing Spinners
Pakistan test teams of the past were built around their fast bowling spearheads. From Fazal Mahmood to Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz to Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, and Shoaib Akhtar, they have all played major roles in guiding Pakistan to historic test victories over the years.

So it comes as quite a surprise when one realizes that Pakistan's test victories over the past 6 years have come on the back of their batsmen, as shown above, and their spinners.

Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Zulfiqar Babar, and Yasir Shah have all played an instrumental role in bewildering opposition batsmen and driving Pakistan to test wins.

Three of them are among the leading wicket takers in tests since November 2010.

Considering that these records reflect performances over the past 6 years, it is quite an achievement for Yasir Shah to feature in the ranks as his test career is barely 2 years old.

Yasir's match winning bowling also earned him a Pakistan record of reaching 50 test wickets in fewer matches than anyone before him.

*                    *                     *

Pakistan has had some great test wins and some quite amazing series wins in the past 6 years. The clean sweep of England in 2012 and the first series win over Australia in 20 years will always remain special. The draw in England this summer was a memorable one as well. The record run chases against Sri Lanka have forever entered the record books.

It has all been pretty damn special.

Misbah has been an inspirational leader and I don't argue against the people who claim that he is the best test captain Pakistan has ever had. He may not have done for Pakistan cricket what Abdul Hafeez Kardar and Imran Khan did, but what Misbah has managed is also something that no one else before him has ever managed. And it will be quite difficult for any successor to even come close.

Unprecedented 22 test wins and that too after taking over a team that had been shattered after being cheated by its own captain and players.

Salute hai Misbah ko aur iss team Pakistan ko!

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

An Encounter with Shahrukh Khan in Prague

This is a cricket blog but for this one time I am making an exception and writing about my other love - Bollywood.

I have just come back from a trip to Prague, Vienna, and Salzburg. Nothing really tops roaming around Europe with your wife, but some things come really close, like bumping into the one and only Shahrukh Khan during the same trip!

Yes. That happened. We saw Shahrukh Khan. In Prague.

And I had a brief encounter with him.

While strolling back after seeing some stunning views of the city from Prague Castle and Petrin Tower, we decided to make our way to Charles Bridge and watch the sun set.

As we walked towards the bridge, my wife pointed out towards a large crowd gathered under the bridge.

We thought it was the usual street performer showing his or her moves.

As we approached we realized the crowd was blocking our way towards the stairs leading up to Charles Bridge.

We walked past the crowd and towards the stairs and then suddenly a security guard asked us to stop and this is what followed:

Me: Hey I just want to go up to the bridge.

Security: you can't from here, shooting is going on.

Me: Oh film shooting (as I look around and see some movie cameras). Which movie?

Security: its an Indian movie.

Me: Tell me which one, I know all Indian movies.

Security: It is called The Ring.

Me: Nooo that doesn't sound like an Indian movie. Who is in it?

Security: The most famous movie actor from India is here.

Me: Who Shahrukh Khan!?

Security: yes yes Shahrukh Khan.

Me: Are u serious?

My Wife: baby bakwas kar raha hai.

Security: yes Shahrukh Khan.

Me: Baby THERE HE IS SHAHRUKH KHAN !!

And we saw him, applying some touch up to his face and getting ready for a shot.



As SRK completed his touch up, Imtiaz Ali walked up to him and gave him some suggestions.

Then the shot rolled.

An Arijit song played.

SRK walked up the stairs of Charles Bridge, the same stairs we were supposed to go on.


Ofcourse I knew that SRK and Anushka Sharma were in Europe to shoot for Imtiaz Ali's next. That was the last Bollywood news I had read before leaving for my own Euro trip.

However, I had no idea that they were going to be in Prague and I could not believe my luck that I was in Prague at the same time and by chance walked up to the location of their shooting!

Once I got a bit over the euphoria of watching SRK shoot in person, I looked around the crowd that had gathered and was so pleasantly surprised to see European women pointing towards SRK and telling each other that that is Shahrukh Khan.

Global star is an understatement!

I wanted to shout out his name a few times and kept repeating the same to my wife who was so amused by my excitement.

I said it about the 5th time "I want to shout", when an Indian girl behind me said "come on shout, we will shout with you".

Such encouragement always makes such things easier. I said "sure on 1,2,3, we all shout Shahrukh Khan".

As I completed my 1,2,3 count, a group of about 15 people let out a huge "SHAAAAHHRUUKKHHH KHAAAAN !!!".

He looked up, smiled, and waved.

That was it. Our day, our trip was made.

Soon after Imtiaz Ali called it "a wrap" and SRK started walking away.

Sensing an opportunity to go meet him, shake his hand, take a selfie I turned around to my wife and said I am going to follow him.

After the tiring walk up and down the hills, my wife was in no mood to rush or run, but seeing my excitement she smiled and said "go go I'm walking behind araam se.

It almost sounded like "Ja Simran, jee le apni zindagi".

I first ran past and clicked a selfie, capturing SRK and myself in the same frame.


Then I ran past the crowd and found myself adjacent to SRK, who was surrounded by several bodyguards and a woman carrying a video camera on her shoulder capturing his every move.

I moved closer and and exclaimed "Shahrukh.. Shahrukh" as I extended my left arm out. He stretched out his right hand and gave me a five while moving ahead denying fans asking for selfies.

I ran past him again and switched on my selfie camera to capture SRK and myself in one frame for as long as I could.

Here it is... the video that I will cherish forever. King Khan and I in the same frame for 12 seconds!

video



As you will see, he almost tapped me on the shoulder before being swooshed away by his security detail.

Woh kehte hain na... "Don ko pakarna mushkil hi nai namumqin hai"..

When I shared my excitement and the pics and video with my friends, this is what I got in return from mere bachpan ka dost.










































It wasn't the first time I saw SRK. I have been to a couple of his concerts in Dubai, and also saw him at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi during an IPL match between KKR and Kings XI.


But this encounter in Prague was definitely a memorable one and I just had to write about it.

I even asked around for Anushka Sharma, but no one had any idea. She was probably prowling around Prague in the hunt for Pokemons.

As you can tell, I am a huge SRK fan. I have been since I saw Baazigar. And I still am after watching Happy New Year, Chennai Express, and Dilwale.

I am such a big fan that I even managed to convince my wife to pay a tribute to him and the greatest love story ever made the last time we went traveling around Europe.


Now I can't wait to witness the beauty of Prague that Imtiaz Ali will capture coupled with the magic that he will create with SRK and Anushka Sharma.

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Younis Khan's Art of Building a Test Innings

Move over Hafeez, Pakistan has a new professor!

Younis Khan and what he has done for Pakistan cricket over the past decade is well documented on Well Pitched. Rarely does a Pakistan test series go by without us mentioning the great achievements of the one and only King Khan.

This series against England is no different. It could have been following the horrendous hopping and jumping Younis did during his 6 innings in the first 3 tests of the series. However, like all great batsmen who can't be kep quiet for too long, Younis found his feet again at the Oval and reminded the world why he is among the best batsmen in the business.
Most bookmakers had Younis as a favorite to top score for
Pakistan. For the latest cricket odds, visit Matchbook.

Younis Khan's monumental innings at the Oval, his 6th double hundred, was a batting masterclass that educated everyone on how to construct a test innings. It was so beautifully executed that one can put it on repeat and use it to educate generations.

Younis Khan went through every phase of his innings with perfection. From caution at the start, to aggression once set, to caution with the second new ball, to continued watchfulness at the start of day 3, to aggression when batting with the tail. It was mastery at its best.

On day 3 he actually batted as if he was starting a new innings, rather than batting like someone who had already scored a century.

There are so many examples of batsmen reaching their test centuries with Younis at the other end and at the Oval Asad Shafiq added one more to that list. When Younis is at the crease for a long period of time, he not only scores big himself, he also guides his partner to significant contributions.

Besides Shafiq's century, Younis also guided Pakistan's tail, arguably the worst tail in test cricket at the moment, to decent contributions.

Pakistan's tail has been nonexistent in this series, yet he first shared a 37 run partnership with Wahab, where Wahab's contribution was 4 off 32, and then a 97 run partnership with Mohammad Amir for the 9th wicket, during which Amir reached his personal best (39*) in test cricket.

It was a true education by Younis Khan. A batting masterclass really that only he could have provided.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Pakistan back at the Oval, their happy hunting ground

After the euphoria at Lord's, hammering at Old Trafford, and embarassment at Edgbaston, Pakistan move to their favorite ground in England, the Oval. Pakistan's record at the Oval, 4 wins and 3 losses, is better than their record at all other grounds in England.

The Oval has always been kind to Pakistan.



Great wins at the Oval

The Oval is where Pakistan won their first ever test match in England on their first ever tour to the country in 1954.

The Oval is where Pakistan sealed their historic series wins in 1992 and 1996.

The Oval is where Pakistan won their only test during their last visit to England in 2010.

Besides all these happy Oval memories, there is also the forfeited test of 2006. Even during that test Pakistan was in a winning position before Inzamam Ul Haq decided to take a stand against the very questionable Darrel Hair.

If we ignore that forfeited test, Pakistan have not lost at the Oval since 1967, in almost half a century.

Power Packed Bowler Performances at the Oval

Pakistan's 4 victories at the Oval have all been on the back of power packed performances by the pacers and spinners.

1954: Fazal Mahmood 6-53 and 6-46; England bowled out for 130 and 143.

1992: Wasim Akram 6-67 and 3-36; Waqar Younis 5-52; England bowled out for 207 and 174.

1996: Wasim Akram 3-83 and 3-67; Mushtaq Ahmed 6-78; England bowled out for 326 and 242.

2010: Wahab Riaz 5-63; Mohammad Aamer 5-52; England bowled out for 233 and 222.

Quite similar to Pakistan's win at Lords in the first test of this series, which seems like such a distant memory now.

Bold Steps to be taken at the Oval

Questions are already being asked on whether Pakistan can bounce back from their defeat at Edgbaston or not. Rarely do teams return from the embarrassment of collapsing in 2 sessions. However, Pakistan did bounce back from the hammering at Old Trafford to dominate England at Edgbaston for the first half of the test.

Based on that, there is no reason why Pakistan cannot bounce back at the Oval. But certain bold steps will need to be taken.

Shan Masood was replaced by Sami Aslam for the third test, a change that did wonders for Pakistan. Their other opener, Mohammad Hafeez has been out of sorts; despite an average in excess of 50 in tests in Asia, Hafeez has been a mere passenger in tests outside Asia. Pakistan don't have another replacement opener in their squad so the coach and captain need to think outside the box.

Either of Azhar Ali or Sarfraz Ahmed can be asked to open for this all important final test of the series.

That will then allow Pakistan to either play Iftikhar Ahmed, a middle order batsman who can bowl some off spin, or a specialist bowler, who can add to Pakistan's tiring 4-man bowling attack.

Pakistan's tail is so weak that the urge to play a 5th bowler will probably be curbed. Though if you think about it, Hafeez'z non-contribution pretty much has meant that Pakistan have been playing with 5 batsman and the wicketkeeper.

There is no doubt about the fact that Younis Khan will have to rediscover his form of old. He has been a stalwart for Pakistan and has not had a test series without a 50 in over a decade. This is a rare bad series for him and it shocks me that people are asking for him to be dropped given his contributions to the test team over the past decade.

Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz Ahmed have been crucial to Pakistan's success at test level. So much so that their ducks in the final innings at Edgbaston were their first ever such scores after 49 and 43 innings respectively. For Sarfraz, it was his first ever in tests.

Having said that, Pakistan's batting has always been questionable, especially when away from Asian conditions. It has always been their bowling that has won them test matches.

In both the innings at Lord's and in the first innings at Edgbaston, Pakistan's bowlers managed to restrict England for under 300. This is what is needed again at the Oval. Aamer and Yasir need to discover their magic.

What a win at the Oval will mean

A win at the Oval will put Pakistan within touching distance of the number 1 ranking in test cricket for the first time since the inception of the rankings. As long as Pakistan win, Australia lose or draw their third test against Sri Lanka, and India don't win both their remaining tests against West Indies, Pakistan will be number 1.

That will be an achievement and a half for them. For Misbah, it will be the culmination and a well deserved award for 6 years in command of a team that he lifted from the ruins in 2010.

For Pakistan it will be an epic story of a turnaround for a team that was left embarrassed by the News of the World the last time they were in England.

For a team that has remained unbeaten at "home" under Misbah, it will be a vindication. It will be enough for critics to at least consider the fact that this team can also win away from home.

It is all to play for at the Oval and there is enough meaning to the test for Pakistan to lift themselves and make sure that they continue their winning ways at the Oval and remain undefeated at the ground for 50 years!

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

How Can Pakistan Rebound for the Oval Test?

With England’s incredible win at Edgbaston still fresh in the memory, England and Pakistan now head down to The Oval for the final match of what has been a pulsating four match series. After dismissing Pakistan in little over two sessions on the final day at Edgbaston, some commentators now think that England hold the advantage and will wrap up the series 3-1. In this post, we take a look at a couple of things that Pakistan can do to turn the tables.

Find a Way to Stop Chris Woakes
When England first announced their team for the Lords test match, many were surprised by the inclusion of Chris Woakes, a man who many thought was “a yard of pace” short of being effective at international level. However, the work he’s put in over winter and back at Warwickshire has clearly paid off, with the England quick pickingup 23 wickets so far this series.

With Broad only on 12 wickets, and Anderson on 8, neutralising the threat of Woakes could give Pakistan a great chance of building a big total.

Get Younis Firing
Much of the talk going into the series was about the strength of Pakistan’s middle order; chiefly Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan. Misbah was able to set the tempo from the off, scoring 100 at Lords in the first test. However, Younis is yet to make a score, averagingonly 20 across the three tests in the series, with no half centuries, Pakistan may consider dropping him, the exclusion of Shan Mahsood from the previous test shows the selectors are willing to give players the chop.

Younis’ complex trigger movements and shuffling around the crease have made him a prime candidate for being caught in the slip cordon, and the pace and swing of Anderson and Woakes has had him in trouble on multiple occasions. However, Younis is highly experienced in English conditions, and has over 9,000 test runs to his name. The Oval test is the time for him to step up and show his worth.

Help Yasir Find His Magic Again
Finally, at Lords, Yasir Shah was the difference between the two teams. However, it appears as though England have found a way to neutralised the fantastic young leg spinner. If Pakistan can win the toss, bat and get a big total, then the leg spin of Yasir could come into play on a wearing Oval pitch that usually takes turn. If he finds his magic in the way he did at Lords, then Pakistan have a great chance of levelling the series at 2-2.


No matter what happens at The Oval, the England-Pakistan series has been fantastic, with thousands of English children looking to pick up the sport. As a result, it’s no surprise that retailers such as TalentCricket have seen a huge surge in the numbers of children buying equipment, looking to be the next Yasir Shah or Joe Root. One thing’s for certain, regardless of whether Pakistan or England triumph at The Oval, it has been great for the game as a whole. 

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Battle for Test Number 1 Heats Up!

Pakistan squandered their chance of becoming the number 1 ranked test team, for the first time since the inception of the rankings, following the embarrassing defeat at Edgbaston. Yet, they still have an outside chance of getting there if they win at the Oval.

The ICC test rankings are so interestingly poised that any one of the top 4 teams can end up as number one after the end of the Pakistan vs England, Australia vs Sri Lanka, and India vs West Indies test series.

Right now the top 4 teams are:

1. Australia
2. India
3. Pakistan
4. England

This is what needs to happen in each series for each team to end as number 1.

PAKISTAN

Pakistan vs England: Pakistan win 4th test.
Sri Lanka vs Australia: Australia to lose or draw 3rd test.
India vs West Indies: India win at most 1 of the next 2 tests.

This will place Pakistan at number 1, followed by India, Australia, England.

If Australia win the 3rd test or India win both their tests, then Pakistan will not make it to number 1 even if they win at the Oval.

INDIA

India have to win both the remaining tests against the West Indies to become the new number 1 ranked test team, irrespective of what happens in the other series under progress. If India draw or lose either of the next two tests, they will not make it to 1.

AUSTRALIA

Sri Lanka vs Australia: Australia win 3rd test.
England vs Pakistan: England draw or lose 4th test.
India vs West Indies: India win at most 1 of the next 2 tests.

This will place Australia at number 1, followed by England, India, and Pakistan.

If England beat Pakistan or India win both their tests, then Australia will not remain at number 1 even if they win the third test.

ENGLAND

England only need a draw in the 4th tests against Pakistan and they will be the new number 1, as long as Australia don't win the 3rd test and India win only 1 of the remaining two matches.

If Australia win the 3rd test, then England can still be number 1 by beating Pakistan.

The only team that has its fate in its own hands is India. It can't get simpler for them - win the next two tests and become the new number 1 ranked test team!

Pakistan have more to play for at the Oval than just leveling the series. They can become the number 1 test team for the first time since the inception of the rankings if they win.

It is going to be wonderful ride seeing these test series unravel over the next fortnight.

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Pakistan vs England: Pricing the Odds

Pakistan started the series as the number 3 ranked test team in the world, ahead of England who were ranked 4. Yet at the start of the series the bookmakers chose England as the favorites despite the fact that Pakistan had won the last 5 out of 6 tests between the two sides.

Sure I can fathom the fact that Pakistan's vulnerability to English conditions played on the bookmakers' minds resulting in the odds significantly in favor of England.

It got even more interesting when throughout the Lord's test, which Pakistan clearly dominated in every session, England remained favorites to win.

This remained the case till England lost their 6th wicket on day 4. Only then, did the odds tilt in favor of Pakistan and that too slightly. I had no idea what the bookmakers were thinking considering that a target north of 280 had hardly ever been chased at Lord's.

Pakistan won the first test of the series quite convincingly, stamped their authority over England, provided punters with some handsome wins, yet the bookmakers continued to favor England.

England were favorites again for the Old Trafford test and for the series despite the result at Lord's.

Pakistan's hammering at Old Trafford proved that the bookmakers were correct, however with the series at 1-1, the bookmakers yet again favored England for Birmingham and the series.

You can bet on cricket at williamhill.com.au and check how the odds move for the ongoing test between Pakistan and England. It is interesting to note that despite what happens during sessions, the odds remain in favor of who the bookmakers chose as favorites before the start of the test for most of the match.

The third test started with odds on a Pakistan win at 4.00 and odds on an England win at 1.33.

Misbah's decision at the toss tilted these odds further in favor of England - 4.25 to 1.10.

The end of the day, which belonged to Pakistan having bowled England out for 297, saw the odds move to 3.60 to 1.5.

Changed ever so slightly yet still favoring England.

I don't get how bookmakers can give such attractive odds on a Pakistan win, especially after their win at Lord's. It is quite interesting how these bookmakers price the odds.

Keep a note of how these odds will move as the third test progresses. I reckon that even if Pakistan take a first innings lead, the odds will still remain in favor of England.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Party moves to Birmingham

Following a historic win at Lord's and a hammering at Old Trafford, Pakistan will now take the field at Edgbaston for the third test of the series.

In England, one finds a lot of Pakistanis. It is home to many, a second home for most holidayers, and a vacation spot for a lot. Birmingham is different though. It not only has a lot of Pakistanis, it almost feels like a Pakistani city. 

Over 15% of Birmingham's population is from Pakistan and you really do see them in every corner of every street!

So one thing Pakistan can count on during this third test is over zealous support. It will feel like a home game as Pakistanis in the ground will definitely out number the English. 

Despite that, Edgbaston remains one of the only two venues in England where Pakistan have never won a test match. And for England, it has been a happy hunting ground where they have lost only one test out of their last ten.

Not the kind of ground you want to play in if you are Pakistan.

Pakistan have another dilemma on their hands.

Everyone knows that they like to bat first, however Edgbaston has never favored the side batting first. The first session of most tests played at this ground has belonged to the bowlers. The last time Pakistan played here, in 2010, they went to lunch with the scoreboard reading 37-6.

They were eventually bowled out for 72 and lost the test by 9 wickets.

With the way Pakistan's top order has performed in this series, that scoreline could be a reality too if Pakistan end up batting first.

However, if they don't bat first, then it puts them out of their comfort zone.

Talk about catch 22.

There is divided opinion our there regarding which match was a diversion from the current state of affairs - Lord's or Old Trafford?

We all know what the skeptics think, but I'll tell you this much - Pakistan had not faced a defeat like they did at Old Trafford in a very very long time.

Misbah and his team are keen to bring out the push ups once again and it is no secret that they will really have to up their game on all fronts to counter England at a ground that Stuart Broad has dubbed "England's Gabba".

That is quite an opportunity that Pakistan have - a once in a lifetime chance to silence not only the skeptics, but Broad as well!

Come on Pakistan, bring out the push ups once again.

Lets do it in Birmingham!

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