Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Yasir Shah vs Ravi Ashwin: The Debate Continues...

By picking up his 100th test match wicket in the just concluded test against the West Indies, Yasir Shah reached the landmark in just his 17th test match.

Only one bowler, George Lohmann, got there faster, while three other bowlers, Barnes, Turner, and Grimmett took the same number of matches. Yasir is the second spinner after Grimmett to achieve the feat in just 17 tests.

Not only did Yasir create a new Pakistan record, which was previously held by Saeed Ajmal (19 tests), he also created a new Asian record by getting there faster than India's Ravi Ashwin, who picked up his 100th test wicket in his 18th test.

Before the start of Pakistan's first test against the West Indies, Ashwin tweeted a good luck message to Yasir Shah, who was on the verge of breaking the Asian record.

Ashwin has recently been very gracious towards the Pakistanis. He also tweeted about wanting to watch Babar Azam bat.

After Yasir created the new record, Ashwin tweeted a congratulatory message as well.

While Yasir thanked Ashwin for his tweets, he also said that he would love to play against him in a test, which ended up stirring a debate among the public on who the better spinner is.

I also had a discussion on the same with a friend from across the border, who obviously thought that Yasir was no where close to Ashwin.

I don't hold that against him for Ashwin is currently the number 1 ranked bowler in test cricket and he also created a new Asian record by picking up his 200th test wicket in his 37th test, breaking Waqar Younis' record of reaching the landmark in 38 tests.

However, the best way to compare Yasir and Ashwin is to probably assess their performances at the same stage of their careers - 17 tests.

Not taking anything away from Ashwin, but Yasir does have more wickets at a better average and strike rate than Ashwin after 17 tests.

Currently, Ashwin has 220 wickets from 39 tests, so his 20 odd tests after the first 17 have definitely been better in terms of performance, but there is no way to tell which way Yasir Shah will go in his next 20 tests.

Given that India and the UAE are fortresses for the two great bowlers, I wanted to compare their performances away from home as well.

While Yasir's performance in tests away from home is quite similar to his overall record, there is quite a huge discrepancy in Ashwin's record.

Based on the above, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that majority of Ashwin's success has been driven by the dust bowls produced in India.

70% of Ashwin's wickets have come in India; he gives 9 runs less to pick up a wicket in India; and he bowls 13 fewer deliveries for a wicket in India.

Those are eye opening numbers.

Whether Ashwin would have taken as many wickets as he has if he was not playing tests in India is anybody's guess.

My guess is NO.

On the other hand, Yasir Shah has not played a single test in Pakistan. His success is built as much in the UAE as it is on foreign shores.

Sure Ashwin is the number 1 ranked bowler in tests, but Yasir is ahead of him at the 17-test mark, and Yasir is ahead of him in terms of overseas performance.

Taking nothing away from Ashwin's achievements, I wanted to close this debate by mentioning that Ashwin is the same bowler that Afridi hit for two sixes in the final over of the Asia Cup match in 2014 to take Pakistan to victory !

I will revisit this comparison when Yasir picks up his 200th test wicket; we will surely have a more clearer picture then, but for now, I am signing off by picking Yasir ahead of Ashwin.

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Azhar Ali's Monumental 300

Azhar Ali's rise since his debut in 2010 has been quite exciting to watch.

He is not the most pleasing batsman to watch; much like the way he accumulates his runs one requires a lot of patience to sit through an Azhar Ali Test innings. For the traditional fans, it is a treat really.

Azhar Ali made his 50th test match truly memorable with a monumental triple century and reaching the landmark of 4,000 test runs.

After Hanif Mohammad, Inzamam Ul Haq, and Younis Khan, Azhar Ali became the 4th batsman from Pakistan to hit a triple hundred. After Hanif Mohammad, he is only the second opener from Pakistan to achieve this feat.

He also became the first batsman since Hanif Mohammad to score a triple hundred against the West Indies; 58 years after the feat achieved by the original Little Master.

Azhar now holds the record for the highest test score ever in the UAE and at the Dubai Cricket Stadium; he also became the first batsman to score a hundred, double hundred, and triple hundred in a day night test match. His 302* will probably remain the highest score in a day night test for a long long time.

Besides all this, there were a number of milestones Azhar achieved during his monumental knock.

4,000 Test Runs

He became the 10th batsman from Pakistan to reach the 4,000 run landmark in tests. Among the 10 batsmen, he took the least amount of time - 6 years and 92 days and second least number of matches - 50.

 In terms of innings however, Azhar took a few more than Miandad, Younis, Saeed, Zaheer, and Yousuf.

Leading Run Scorers in Tests Since July 2010

During the period since his debut, Azhar is the second highest run scorer from Pakistan and among the 10 leading run scorers in tests in the world.

Well ahead the likes of Kohli and AB De Villiers.

Highest Average in 2016

Azhar's unbeaten triple hundred not only placed him among the leading run scorers in test cricket this year, but also placed him right at the top with the highest test batting average this year.

One of the Best Number 3 from Pakistan

Now that Azhar has become Pakistan's test opener, he may no longer be able to break Younis Khan's record for most runs scored for Pakistan in tests from the number 3 position. But the fact that he sits in second place behind King Khan is nothing short of a great achievement.

Now that Azhar Ali is opening for Pakistan in tests, he may become their leading run scorer as an opener in tests. He has already knocked 500 runs in 8 innings as a test opener and it won't be long before he becomes the first opener from Pakistan to score 4,000 test runs.

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Babar Azam and Azhar Ali on a Record Breaking Run

Pakistan have now extended their winning streak to 8 international matches following the 3-0 whitewash of the West Indies in the ODI series.

The whitewash also helped Pakistan improve their ODI ranking to 8, making their path to the World Cup in 2019 a little bit easier.

Pakistan's impressive limited overs performances over the past month has got a lot to do with a new look top order comprising Azhar Ali, Sharjeel Khan, and Babar Azam in ODIs and the latter two with Khalid Latif in T20s.

Babar Azam especially has been extremely special. His batting has been so magical that it has entertained our neighbors as well.

Babar created a number of records during this series and is also on the verge of creating some others. Here is a look at what Babar has managed to do in his young ODI career.

1. Most ODI Runs after 18 innings

Babar has now scored 886 runs in 18 ODI innings. That is the highest tally for any ODI batsman ever, breaking Sir Viv Richards' tally of 883 runs in as many innings.

That is some name to be mentioned with in the same sentence.

2. Third Consecutive ODI Hundred

Only two batsmen from Pakistan, Zaheer Abbas and Saeed Anwar, and 5 other international batsmen, had managed this feat before Babar Azam.

He is now the 8th batsman to do so and the second youngest after Quinton de Kock.

Babar's tally of 360 is the second highest, after Gibb's 385 for 3 consecutive centuries in ODIs.

It is quite amusing to see India's name appear so many times in this table above.

3. Most Runs in a 3-match ODI Series

Babar's 360 runs in the 3 ODIs against the West Indies broke Quinton de Kock's record of the most runs score in a 3-match ODI series.

4. Fastest to 3 ODI Centuries for Pakistan

Nasir Jamshed scored his 3rd ODI hundred in his 21st innings. Saeed Anwar had done so in his 33rd.

Babar has done the same in 18 ODI innings. getting there faster than any other batsman from Pakistan.

5. Fastest to 1,000 ODI Runs

The fastest to the feat have been Sir Viv Richards, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, and Quinton de Kock, who got there in 21 ODI innings.

With Babar only 114 runs away from the 1,000 run mark, he can break this record if he gets there in his next 2 ODI innings. He can equal it if he takes 3 innings for another 114 ODI runs.

I reckon he can get there in his next innings!

For perspective, it took Virat Kohli 24 innings.

*                           *                         *

Babar is not the only one who created records during this series against the West Indies.

Pakistan's ODI captain, Azhar Ali, who produced his third ODI century in the final match of the series after disappointing in the first 2 ODIs, became the first captain from Pakistan to score 3 ODI centuries.

I was quite surprised at this given that batsmen like Javed Miandad and Inzamam Ul Haq have captained Pakistan in many ODIs.

It is shocking to note that Javed Miandad never scored an ODI century while captaining Pakistan.

Inzamam's and Shahid Afridi's two centuries as captain were the highest tally before Azhar's third.


Exciting times for Pakistan's ODI cricket with Babar Azam batting like a master and Azhar Ali leading them to clean sweeps and a notch higher in the rankings.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Of Pakistan's streak and Babar Azam's Sterling Form

Pakistan has now won 7 international matches in a row, a streak that started with the win in the final ODI against England and includes a T20 win against England, 3 T20 wins against West Indies, and 2 ODI wins against West Indies.

Considering that this streak is in white ball cricket, it is even more commendable given the dire straits Pakistan's limited overs teams have been in for the past few years.

Moreover, don't forget that those results include dominating victories over both the World T20 finalists!

For skeptics who will turn around and say that they are only winning in the UAE against a weak West Indies side, let me remind you that the first 2 wins of this 7 match streak came in England, including a first ever chase of a 300+ total outside Asia, while the same "weak" West Indies was just beating Australia and South Africa at home a month and a half ago.

So no, you skeptics cannot take the sweetness away from these wins.

The Pakistan Under-19 Link

The best part about these wins is that the players at the forefront have been Pakistan's newest young crop of talent; the likes of Sarfraz Ahmed, Sharjeel Khan, Babar Azam, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Nawaz, and Hassan Ali.

It is after ages that Pakistan has got a bunch of talented youngsters in their team at the same time.

In the early 90s, we witnessed the likes of Waqar Younis, Aqib Javed, Inzamam Ul Haq, Aamer Sohail, Mushtaq Ahmed, and Moin Khan form a core group of young talent within Pakistan's ranks.

The late 90s saw Shoaib Akhtar, Shahid Afridi, Saqlain Mushtaq, Shoaib Malik, Abdul Razzaq, Azhar Mahmood, Mohammad Yousuf, and Younis Khan do the same.

Since then Pakistan have sporadically introduced talent, but never in a group like now.

You know the one common link between those stars introduced in the early 90s, late 90s, and now?

Pakistan U19!

Why more U19 players were not drafted in between 2000 and 2015 is anyone's guess!

Babar Azam

The player that has impressed me the most is the youngest of the lot, Babar Azam.

He had a sterling start to his ODI career compiling 5 fifties in his first 10 ODIs. Those knocks came against all comers including Zimbabwe, England, and New Zealand.

He scored 50s on batting friendly pitches in Lahore and the UAE, as well as, in bowler friendly conditions in New Zealand.

The ODI series against England was a disappointment though. He got 30s and 40s and looked extremely good while at the crease, however every single one of his dismissals was a question mark on his temperament. Loose shots, loss of concentration, and recklessness made me think he was another Umar Akmal in the making.

But his last two ODI knocks have been magnificent, and with those he has truly arrived on the big stage.

Back to back centuries in ODIs have placed him among a select few and he has the chance to be in absolute elite company if he can manage another century in the third ODI against the West Indies.

Scoring a ton is not easy, irrespective of how weak the opposition's bowling is. To follow that up with another ton is a sign of greatness. It is so easy to fall into complacency and sit on your laurels.

Babar's first 17 ODIs have produced more runs than anyone who has played for Pakistan before him.

Here is a comparison of where he stands after 17 ODI innings among Pakistani ODI greats and his peers who were once considered the next big thing for Pakistan.

In terms of runs and average in the first 17 ODI innings, no one even comes close to Babar.

His 2 centuries are matched by Inzamam and Ahmed Shehzad, while his 5 fifties are matches by Mohammad Yousuf and Nasir Jamshed. His strike rate is bettered by Nasir and Saeed Anwar.

He is in great company in that table and has given us a lot of promise for the future.

I did a similar comparison of Babar's performance in the first 17 ODIs of his career with other ODI greats and his international peers who are currently dominating ODI cricket.

It is really interesting to note that Babar tops this list too with more runs in his first 17 ODI innings than Kohli, Root, Amla, and Ponting did.

The similarity between Babar Azam's and Virat Kohli's record after 17 ODIs is uncanny.

So many Pakistanis have asked "hume Kohli jaisa batsman kab milega?" ...

Babar hum sab ko jawab de raha hai.

Yes I know that it is really early to compare Babar Azam with the greats. But there is no reason why we can't celebrate the start to his career.

This is a solid platform that he has laid for himself that will eventually lead him to greatness.

He is surely the most exciting batting talent that Pakistan has produced in the past decade and a half.

Yes we said the same about Umar Akmal, Nasir Jamshed, and Ahmed Shehzad; but Babar truly seems like the real deal.

Critics who are saying lets see what Babar can do in foreign conditions, I point them to his 62 and 83 in Wellington and Auckland respectively.

For those who are saying it is too early to compare him with Kohli or for that matter anyone else, I completely agree but it amuses me when the same people say that Imad is better than Afridi and should have been playing many years ago instead of him.

So we can't compare Babar with Kohli but we can compare Imad with Afridi?

Why is it so hard to celebrate our heroes? And so easy to put them down?

Look at what he has achieved and is achieving. Celebrate the feats.

Babar is only 21. There is a long road ahead.

We all know that.

But that should not stop us from celebrating his mega entry on to the world stage.

Make your pitch on this post...

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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?


Best captain in the world currently?


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.

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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.


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!


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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