Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My World T20 Eleven

The World T20 has come to an end after three weeks of thrilling cricket. There is no tournament in this world that provides entertainment and competition like the World T20. Once these tournaments end, there is a sense of withdrawal, an emptiness, that you are unsure of how to fill; and you can't help but reflect about the matches and the players that left an impact on you and the cricket world.

Here are the eleven players that left had the biggest impact on the World T20 in my opinion.

The Openers - Numbers 1 and 2

Several openers did well and ended the tournament among the leading 10 run scorers in the World T20. Rohit Sharma, Hashim Amla, David Finch all gave their teams good starts throughout the World T20 and notched up impressive tallies.

But the two openers that left the greatest impact on the tournament are the two centurions - Alex Hales and Ahmed Shehzad. Both Hales and Shehzad became the first batsmen from their respective countries to knock T20 centuries.

It is interesting to note that England and Pakistan were the only two test playing nations (besides Bangladesh and Zimbabwe) who did not have a T20 centurion among their ranks before the start of this World T20.

Quite fitting that they do now.

The Number 3

This is probably the most easiest choice as it is impossible to ignore the leading run scorer of the tournament and man who ends a tournament with a 100+ average. That too a T20 series / tournament.

Virat Kohli's tally of 319 runs is the also the highest number of runs scored in any World T20 tournament. Kohli was in sublime form throughout the competition and he never looked like getting out. In the final, it seemed like it was only he was out there to play while the rest of the Indian batsmen struggled against a good bowling attack on sluggish pitch.

Virat Kohli is in a league of his own. There is absolutely no comparison.

The Middle Order

The stand out middle order batsmen in this world T20 were Glenn Maxwell, JP Duminy, and Darren Sammy.

In a tournament where Australia refused to turn up, one man definitely turned up. Glenn Maxwell spared no one and smashed all bowlers to all corners of the grounds he played in so effortlessly that it looked like he was playing against school boys. I have not seen anyone deposit balls over midwicket and square leg with the ease that Maxwell did throughout this World T20.

It is difficult to be the best batsman in your team when you have names like Hashim Amla and AB De Villiers in there. But JP Duminy managed just that, despite both Amla and De Villiers being in fine touch.

No one finished games in this World T20 the way Darren Sammy did. No one clubbed sixes the way Sammy did. No one celebrated hitting sixes the way Sammy did. And no one celebrated winning a game the way Sammy and the West Indies did.

You can't keep a man who averaged over a 100 and hit the ball at a strike rate of over 220 out of any team.

What's more is that all three of these batsmen - Maxwell, Duminy, and Sammy - can bowl as well!

The Wicket Keeper

Even though he failed with the bat, Quinton De Kock was by far the best wicket keeper in the World T20. Everyone was raving about Dale Steyn defending 7 runs in that final over against catch of Luke Ronchi, which could have so easily gone for four to third man. Not many wicket keepers in this world would have held on to that.

The Spinners

With the World T20 played in the subcontinent, the spinners were always going to be crucial. It is no surprise that 4 of the leading 5 wicket takers in the World T20 are spinners. Imran Tahir, Samuel Badree, Ravi Ashwin and Amit Mishra scripted many  a victory for their teams.

Imran Tahir ended the World T20 as the leading wicket taker in the tournament, despite playing a game less than both Ashwin and Mishra. Leaving him out of this team will be injustice.

There is very little to choose from between Badree, Ashwin, and Mishra. Badree and Ashwin took 11 wickets each, while Mishra took 10. Badree and Ashwin have slightly better economy rates than Mishra.

I would play both Badree and Ashwin but considering that Maxwell and Duminy can also turn over their arms, it will be too many spinners in the side. And I do think that a team should have at least two genuine pacers, no matter what the conditions.

I'll go with Ashwin purely because of variety. Playing two leg spinners can never be a good strategy.

The Pacers

It is very difficult to ignore Ahsan Malik, the highest wicket taker among the pacers in this World T20. In fact he is the joint highest wicket taker of the tournament. He did play two more games than other pacers, but his average, economy, and strike rate in the tournament were phenomenal.

His 5-19 almost led the Dutch to victory over South Africa. It was the only 5 wicket haul by a pacer in the entire tournament and one of the only two 5 wicket hauls in this World T20.

Dale Steyn took wickets, won South Africa a match, but he was expensive. The pacer who made a greater impact in my opinion was Nuwan Kulasekera. He opened the bowling for the champions and got early wickets for them almost every time. He was also one of the few pacers who finished the World T20 with an economy of less than 7 runs an over.

This is the World T20 IMPACT Eleven:

1. Alex Hales 2. Ahmed Shehzad 3. Virat Kohli 4. Glenn Maxwell 5. JP Duminy 6. Qinton De Kock (WK) 7. Darren Sammy* (C) 8. Nuwan Kulasekera 9. Ravi Ashwin 10. Ahsan Malik 11. Imran Tahir

12th man: Samuel Badree

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

India, Sri Lanka, and the Zip Factor

World Cup 2007, World T20 2009, World Cup 2011, World T20 2012 ...

The winners of these four World Tournament have one thing in common. They all beat Sri Lanka to win the title.

Today, Sri Lanka will play their 5th final in a World Tournament in the past 7 years. That is an unbelievable tournament.

No other team has featured in so many finals in such a short period of time. No other team has a better record than Sri Lanka does in World T20 matches, where their success percentage is second to none.

Yet, they do not have a world title to boast of.

Tonight will be their 5th attempt and probably their best chance to make it right. Sri Lanka have been in stationed in Bangladesh since the end of January. Barring the loss to England (read Alex Hales), Sri Lanka have won everything in Bangladesh over the past 10 weeks: the test series 1-0, ODI series 3-0, T20I series 2-0, Asia Cup title without losing a match, World T20 group games and semi final.

However, all this will count for little when they take the field against India, a team that has been on a roll in this World T20 tournament.

India have dominated this World T20 winning all their games in convincing fashion.

It is no doubt going to be a tough contest as Sri Lanka try to overcome their final syndrome and India aim to become the holders of the all three limited overs ICC titles - World Cup, Champions Trophy, and World T20.

MS Dhoni is the only captain in the world who has held all three titles, and tonight he will want to become the only captain to hold all three titles at the same time.

On the other side, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara will want to ensure that they hang up their boots as at least one time World title holders.

Jayawardene is the leading run scorer in all World T20 matches and the second highest run scorer in World T20 internationals. It is more than likely that he will end his T20I career in those positions as well.

There is absolutely no doubt about the impact that players like Dhoni and Jayawardene have on their respective teams.

Do you know how to measure this impact?

There's a new cool app in town that enables you to measure the impact a player has made in a T20 game. The new app is called 'Zip Factor' and it has been developed by Castrol Activ Scooter.

Harsha Bhogle and Rahul Dravid recently spoke about measuring the impact of a player in a T20 game and introduced the Zip Factor, which takes into account batting, bowling, and fielding efforts of players and determines their overall impact.

The following table illustrates how the Castrol Active Scooter Zip Factor works.

So what are you waiting for?

Start using the Zip Factor and determine the impact that players make.

It will be a cracker of a final tonight... and it will be interesting to find out which player had the largest impact on the final of the ICC World T20.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pakistan slay the ghost of St. Lucia

It was 2010, Pakistan were the defending T20 Champions, and they were up against Australia in the semi final of the 3rd edition of the ICC World T20 in St. Lucia, West Indies.

Pakistan were one of the favorites to win the title and repeat their 2009 win, and they looked well on their way to a third straight final after posting 191-6 in their 20 overs.


That is the exact same score that Pakistan managed in today's world T20 group game against Australia.

In 2010, it was the Akmal brothers, each of whom managed a 50, who set up Pakistan for a big total.

Today, it was also the Akmal brothers who put together a 96 run partnership to bring Pakistan back into the game after they were 25-2 in 4 overs.

In 2010, Pakistan were well on course to make it to their third straight World T20 final when they had Australia reeling at 105-5 after 12 overs.

But then Cameron White and Mike Hussey went on a wild rampage to give Australia an unlikely win, reaching their target with 1 ball to spare after Hussey smashed three sixes of Ajmal in the final over of the chase.

Saeed Ajmal has gone on record to say that he still thinks about that final over. No one has ever treated Ajmal the way Hussey did in that 2010 semi final.

Till Glen Maxwell today.

Australia started on their chase of 192 today in the worst possible manner, losing both Warner and Watson in the first over of the Australian innings to Zulfiqar Babar, who gave Pakistan the ideal start.

From there Glen Maxwell and Aaron Finch proceeded to destroy Pakistan's bowling, including the magician Saeed Ajmal, hitting him for 25 runs off his first two overs.

While Maxwell and Finch continued to score at over 12 an over, the ghosts of St. Lucia came back to haunt the Pakistan team and the fans.

They put on 118 runs in just 10.4 overs as Maxwell smashed every bowler to all corners of the park. His onslaught also included a 30 run over off Bilawal Bhatti.

When Maxwell departed, Australia were left with only 66 runs to get off 50 deliveries with 7 wickets in hand.

From there, it should have been a walk in the park.

In 2010, it was over number 12 that turned the tide in Australia's favor. Today, it was also over number 12 that turned the tide; but this time in Pakistan's favor as they finally slayed the ghosts of St. Lucia.

Those 23 runs that Mike Hussey smashed of Ajmal in the final over in St. Lucia to steal the semi final from Pakistan was exactly the same number of runs that Australia required of the final over in Dhaka.

However this time, Pakistan managed to defend it successfully despite the bowler being Bilawal Bhatti who had earlier bowled only 1 over in the innings, which had gone for 30 runs!

It was a big game for Pakistan, a must win game, and how they delivered under pressure.

Before the match, Mohammad Hafeez mentioned how he had told his players to go out there and express themselves fearlessly.

Express fearlessly is exactly what they did.

Saeed Ajmal, Umar Gul, and Shahid Afridi, the top 3 leading wicket takers in T20 internationals brought Pakistan back into the game after the initial onslaught by Maxwell and Finch.

It was T20 bowling at its best. They expressed and stood up to be counted.

The one man who surpassed all others in expressing himself fearlessly was Umar Akmal.

Pakistan's best limited overs batsman set the game up for Pakistan with a magnificent knock of 94 off 54 deliveries, his highest score in T20 internationals.

Umar Akmal has faced a lot of criticism from all quarters, which I believe has been quite unfair. He is by far the most talented batsman that Pakistan has and he has been their best batsman in ODIs and T20s for a long time now.

His score of 94 is the second highest T20 score by a Pakistan batsman, just falling short of Ahmed Shehzad's 98* against Zimbabwe last year.

It was Umar Akmal's 6th fifty in T20 internationals, which is the second highest number of T20 50s for Pakistan, behind Hafeez' 7.

Umar Akmal's tally of 1,220 runs in T20 internationals is the second highest number of runs for a Pakistan batsman, only 58 behind that of skipper Hafeez. His T20 average of 29 is also the second best T20 average for a Pakistan batsman, behind Misbah's 37.

Those numbers speak volumes of the contribution that Umar Akmal has made to this Pakistan T20 team. His numbers in ODIs are also quite awesome.

Today he definitely showed why he is the best batsman in Pakistan.

And Pakistan definitely showed that their encounter against India was a minor blip. They are still serious contenders in the World T20.

This victory will give their confidence a huge boost and other teams should watch out for them as Pakistan are at their best when playing fearless aggressive cricket.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

England struggling to relive former glories

England know what it takes to win the World Twenty20 but it seems like the current crop of players are some way short of going all the way in the tournament this year.

It has been a winter to forget as far as English cricket goes.

From an Ashes series whitewash to their archest of rivals Australia, to disappointment in the shorter forms of the game Down Under, to the loss of Test coach Andy Flower, to the omission of Kevin Pietersen… the list does go on and on.

The national side have been keen to move on from all the ‘unpleasantness’ from over the winter but results on the field simply have not been improving ahead of England’s start to the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.
At present it would take someone brave to back head coach Ashley Giles and his men to go all the way in the tournament and pundits can use bet365 to back some of the move favoured candidates to lift the trophy in Bangladesh.

A victory for England in their final Twenty20 encounter of their recent series with the West Indies looked like it could be the start of something promising but pre-tournament friendly defeats to the Windies and India have taken Giles’ men back to the drawing board.

At present the lack of boundaries, especially sixes, seems to be England’s undoing but they certainly have the personnel to smashes the ball into the stands down in Bangladesh.

With the likes of Alex Hales, Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler in their ranks, finding the boundary should not be an issue.

However the confidence levels in the camp appear to be low, which is understandable considering the winter mentioned earlier. Any team would struggle to bounce back from that.

The hectic schedule which has not given the English players too much time to reflect, has not been helpful and then we can consider the personnel missing from the squad.

Pietersen has already been mentioned but he was key in helping England win this competition in the Caribbean back in 2010, as was now retired spinner Graeme Swann.

At their prime that duo would have walked into any Twenty20 team in the world and now both players are out of the frame for obviously different reasons.

Yorkshire’s Joe Root was starting to find a bit of form in the recent ODI series in the West Indies but a fractured thumb has ruled him out of England’s tournament.

It seems at the moment the cricket gods are working against England but again there is quality in this side and getting confidence back in the ranks is the key.

A positive start is important for any side but even more so far Giles’ team.

Wins in the opening games can get the ball rolling and maybe some scalps against some of the stronger teams in the competition could follow.

However defeats early doors could see this being a long old tournament for the confidence battered English.

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Beware of Australia in the World T20

India, Pakistan, England, West Indies... Each edition of the World T20 has given us a different world champion.

The 5th edition of the championship gets underway tomorrow, starting off with a qualifying round that will involve 8 teams. This year's World T20 is larger than all the previous T20 championships, involving 16 teams.

So who are your favorites?

Will one of the previous champions take the title home? Or will we see yet another new T20 champion being crowned? Or do one of the associates stand a chance of creating a massive upset in the most unpredictable format of cricket?

Shahid Afridi has made a sweeping statement that Pakistan has the best limited overs team in the world. Confident statements have also come from Pakistan skipper Mohammad Hafeez and coach Moin Khan.

All this with good reason too.

Pakistan has been one of the most successful teams in World T20 competitions. They are the only team that have played the semi final of all 4 editions. They have also played in two World T20 finals, winning one of them.

Their success percentage of 63.5 is the second best success percentage in World T20 games. They are behind only Sri Lanka, who have a success percentage of 66%. Even though Sri Lanka have not won the World T20 ever, they are the only other team to play two finals.

MS Dhoni has also made confident statements saying that IPL experience will be enough for India to compete against other more experience teams.

India, despite winning the inaugural World T20, have not had a good time in World T20s. They have not been able to make it to the semi finals of either of the past three editions.

While Afridi's and Dhoni's warnings may have not been taken seriously, the one warning that everyone should seriously is Shane Watson's.

"I think the versatility of this squad (is) more than any squad that I've played Twenty20 cricket for Australia. Certainly in all conditions against any opposition we can match up really well, I think it gives us more of a chance to be able win it."

Those were Watson's words as Australia prepared for the World T20 with a few T20 matches against South Africa.

Watson has been a part of all 4 World T20 competitions and he has experienced Australia failing to win any of them. A surprise considering the success Australia has achieved in all other formats of the game.

Watson' words should be taken seriously by all teams as they really do have a lot of firepower in their squad.

Australia has got some dangerous players who have the ability to play at levels that may not be matched by their opponents.

The sort of firepower they have in their batting and bowling that can easily take the game away from any team.

David Warner, Shane Watson, Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Hodge, George Bailey, Cameron White, James Faulkner...

Just reading those names sends chills down my spine.

I seriously believe that each of those batsmen have the ability to send every single ball they face sailing over the ropes. Every single ball.

Bowlers will have to bowl exceptionally well to contain these Australian batsmen.

Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc give Australia arguably the best new ball attack in the World T20 competition. Add Coulter-Mile and Brad Hogg to that mix and you find a very well balanced bowling attack.

Many believe that subcontinental teams will be the most dangerous in this World T20 given the conditions in Bangladesh, but I really think that it is Australia that all teams need to be scared of.

Beware of Australia!

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Marked for life by Javed Miandad

28 years ago, a stroke from Javed Miandad's bat sailed over the mid wicket boundary and changed Pakistan cricket forever and scarred an entire generation of Indians.

Shahid Afridi repeated the same heroics last week when he clubbed two sixes in the final over to give Pakistan a 1 wicket win over India in the Asia Cup clash.

The similarities between the two matches are so many, and even quite unbelievable. From India's score to the number of 50s their batsmen scored, the number of run outs in Pakistan's innings, the number of sixes the Indian opener hit, the number of wickets taken by the bowler who got hit for the sixes, and the margin of victory are all the same. And these are still a few of them.

For 28 years, Pakistanis have probably thought about when they will be able to live through such a moment again. Or whether something like that resounding last ball six will happen again.

Forget the moment, we all got to relive the entire match again!

Despite all these similarities between the two Pakistan vs India clashes, one stark difference stands out.

The Pakistani man, only a 6 year old boy in 1986, who was marked for life by Javed Miandad's six.

Meet Kamran Haider.

Kamran was in the stands playing on the high stairs, doing what a 6 year old does at cricket stadiums on that fateful day in April 1986.

As Chetan Sharma's full toss was clubbed over midwicket and the entire Sharjah stadium erupted in joy, Kamran was surrounded in blood. The historic shot off Miandad's bat struck this 6 year old boy in the stands and just like Chetan Sharma, he did not know what hit him.

As Pakistanis in the stadium and the world over celebrated the biggest moment (at the time) in Pakistan's cricket history, Kamran's parents were rushing to find a medic.

Kamran was treated by the Pakistan team physio in the Pakistan dressing room, while the rest of the team celebrated the historic win. He even enjoyed a moment in Imran Khan's lap.

Here's the story from Kamran.

1. How does it feel to be the only Pakistani to be "scarred" by Javed Miandad's six?

I feel being stamped in the head with an authentic Pakistani approved stamp. I love my scar! 

2. Did you feel history repeated itself when Shahid Afridi smashed Ashwin for two sixes to win the match for Pakistan?

Yes, after Miandad every Pakistani has this hope of waiting for the very last ball to wait and see if we can win. While others start leaving the stadiums, we sit back and hope someone pulls a Miandad on the last ball...

3. Did you attend more matches in Sharjah stadium after that?

Yes, many. Sharjah has always been lucky for Pakistan. I have experienced some amazing moments and frankly I miss it!

4. Did you ever meet Javed Miandad after that day?

I saw him a few times at airports, in restaurants but never had the opportunity to go up to him and tell him that I am a big fan or what had happened to me. But, I always felt I have the best autograph. I carry it everywhere and it never fades!

5. Do you remember anything that was said to you while you were in the dressing room?

All I remember is people standing up for the last ball, screams everywhere and a sudden thug, a little whistle and then a fade out.

I woke up in my father's arm with blood everywhere. I remember people screaming in Urdu "move, move, here, here" and then I remember being in a room where people were extremely excited. Dad says I was taken in to the Pakistani dressing room and the stitches were done by the Pakistani team physio. Not just that, at one point Imran Khan came to ask what was going on. I think he meant, while all Pakistanis are jumping, laughing and enjoying, why is this little Pakistani boy crying?

6. How does it feel today to think that you were with the Pakistan team in the dressing room after that historic win?

People who know me, know that I am very patriotic towards Pakistan and it isn't limited to cricket. Its about everything!

You assign anything positive to Pakistan and I will love it and make sure of spreading the word. I believe anything than can bring a positive change in the state of Pakistan and my people is worth cherishing it. This scar I hold is very dear to me, it is a trophy and I will take it to my grave as a proud Pakistani!

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Fawad Alam where have you been?

One really has to wonder where Fawad Alam was all this while when the likes of Imran Farhat, Umar Amin, Asad Shafiq kept getting chance after chance for Pakistan.

It requires no genius to know that Fawad Alam continued to pile on the runs in the domestic circuit, while mediocre batsmen continued to fail for Pakistan for the past 3 years.

It was never really explained as to why Fawad Alam was dropped from the team in 2010.

His last ODI series was against South Africa in 2010 where he notched up a 48 and an unbeaten 59 in two of the five ODIs he played. The knock of 48 came in that famous Abdul Razzaq game in Abu Dhabi.

When Fawad was dropped from the ODI team he had played 27 ODIs and was averaging 37.68. That is definitely not the type of player you drop from the team.

He was not only unfairly treated in ODIs, but in tests as well!

In his first test, he played as an opener, a position he had never batted in in any form of the game at any level. You remember how he responded? With a debut test ton! Fawad scored 168 in his first test becoming the first batsman for Pakistan to score a debut century outside of Pakistan.

He played only two more tests after that.

Fawad Alam averages 55.87 in first class cricket and 47.05 in List A cricket. Those averages are higher than all batsmen currently playing tests and ODIs for Pakistan. Those averages are even higher than those of Pakistan legends like Javed Miandad, Inzamam Ul Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan, and Saeed Anwar.

I think those averages are higher than anyone who has played international cricket for Pakistan. (I haven't checked but I'm quite sure these are the highest numbers, if not one of).

How can anyone ignore a player with those numbers?

It is not like Fawad has not replicated the same kind of form at international level. He has.

We at Well Pitched have always been a big supporter of Fawad Alam. We used to vouch for him back in 2008-09 before he became a regular for Pakistan back then. And we have continued to wonder why he has been ignored for so long.

Just browse through the following voices we raised for Fawad Alam:







With the unfair treatment meted out to him by the incompetent baboons sitting in the PCB (read Ijaz Butt and Mohammad Ilyas), Fawad's last two inningS in the Asia Cup are solid slaps across those faces. The two innings are a solid reminder of the type of player Pakistan has so needed in the middle order but have been denied due to politics and nepotism.

Fawad notched up his highest ODI score of 74 in Pakistan's Asia Cup encounter against Bangladesh and was involved in two match winning partnerships with Ahmed Shehzad and Shahid Afridi in a record breaking chase.

If that wasn't enough to prove his critics wrong, Fawad went various notches better and scored an unbeaten 114 in the final of the Asia Cup against Sri Lanka.

Fawad could not have chosen a better moment to score his maiden ODI hundred.

When he walked out to bat, Pakistan was reeling at 18-3 in 4.3 overs with both the in from Shehzad and Hafeez back in the hut.

Fawad batted beautifully for the next 45.3 overs and was involved in two century partnerships - with Misbah and Umar Akmal - to help Pakistan to a competitive score of 260, which looked highly unlikely with the way the innings started.

Fawad has probably played a match winning knock in a final of a tournament. Not many batsmen have done that for Pakistan.

You really got to wonder where this boy has been for so long.

And you really got to wonder whether a few slaps are enough for the people who kept him out.

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Shahid Afridi's Milestones & Misbah's Run Outs

Pakistan owe their position in the Asia Cup Final to their hero, Shahid Afridi. If it wasn't for his match winning strikes against India and Bangladesh, Pakistan would probably not be playing the final tomorrow.

In Sri Lanka, Pakistan will meet a familiar opponent in the final. Even though Sri Lanka has been the more dominant team in the tournament, Pakistan should fancy their chances against them.

Head to Head, Overall

Pakistan won the last ODI series between the two teams 3-2, and their overall record against them is also better, which reads Pakistan 80, Sri Lanka 53, Tie 1. Even though there is not such a huge difference in the record in more recent years, Pakistan still leads the head to head 10-8 in matches since 2010.

Head to Head, Tournament Finals

The head to head in Tournament Finals however is even closer. Pakistan and Sri Lanka have played 12 finals with each team winning 6. The last time the two teams met in an ODI final was in 2004 in the final of the Paktel Cup in Lahore. Sri Lanka won that by 119 runs. The last time the two teams met in an Asia Cup Final was in 2000 in Dhaka, which is where tomorrow's final will also be played. In 2000, Pakistan won the final by 39 runs.

Shahid Afridi's Milestones

Shahid Afridi's batting form has been key to Pakistan's success in the Asia Cup and if he proves to be the difference between the two sides once again in the final tomorrow, he may reach some new personal milestones.

1. Afridi is one man of the match award away from over taking Kallis and Ponting to become the sole third highest man of the match winner in ODIs.

2. Afridi needs 3 wickets to over take Brett Lee and 4 wickets to over take Glen McGrath to become the 6th highest wicket taker in ODIs.

3. Afridi needs 60 more runs to go past Inzamam Ul Haq to become the highest run scorer for Pakistan in Asia Cup matches.

If Afridi is at the top of his game tomorrow, he will probably reach one of these milestones, if not more.

Sri Lankan Milestones

Shahid Afridi is not the only who might reach some milestones. If Sri Lanka's best batsman in the tournament, Kumar Sangakkara, and their best bowler, Ajantha Mendis, are in top form then they could become the all time highest run scorer and highest wicket taker in Asia Cup matches respectively.

1. Sangakkara is 145 runs away from Sanath Jayasuriya's record of 1,220 runs in Asia Cup matches.

2. Mendis is 5 wicket away from Muralitharan's record of 30 wickets in Asia Cup matches.

If either of those milestones are achieved, then Sri Lanka will surely be looking at lifting their 5th Asia Cup title.

Misbah's Milestones

Misbah has been a prolific scorer for Pakistan in ODIs since taking over the team. He has bailed the team out on many occasions and on others has set up victories as well. In this Asia Cup, however, it has been a different story.

Misbah scored 73 in Pakistan's opening game against Sri Lanka, yet Pakistan lost the match. Pakistan won their next 3 games against Afghanistan, India, and Bangladesh and Misbah's contribution in those games was 0, 1, and 4.

In two of those games, Misbah was run out.

What is interesting is that Misbah has been run out 7 times in his ODI career, and Pakistan has not lost any of those 7 ODIs - 6 were won, and 1 was tied, with 3 of the wins against Sri Lanka.

So it is not only Afridi's form with the bat that is key to Pakistan's success, Misbah running himself out is too!

Pakistan are the defending Asia Cup champions, and if they manage to win tomorrow Misbah will add another feather to his cap by becoming the only Pakistan captain to win two Asia Cup titles.

Interesting Pakistani Milestones

1. Moin Khan was the Pakistan captain in 2000 when Pakistan won the Asia Cup for the first time. It will be an interesting feat for him if Pakistan win tomorrow, giving him two Asia Cup titles - 1 as captain and 1 as coach.

2. Mohammad Akram will also be a part of a similar feat if Pakistan win. He was part of the team in the Asia Cup in 2000 and is currently with the team as bowling coach.

3. Misbah, Hafeez, Umar Akmal, Afridi, Gul, and Ajmal were part of the victorious Asia Cup campaign in 2012 as well. All of them will become the only Pakistan players to be a part of two victorious Asia Cup campaigns if Pakistan win tomorrow.

4. If Pakistan win tomorrow, Shahid Afridi will become the only Pakistani player to win the Asia Cup three times.

This Asia Cup has provided thrilling matches and one can look forward to the same tomorrow. Here's hoping for a cracking game and Pakistan achieving all these milestones!

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lala Hamara Hero Hai


I have already written so much about this cricketer, that one must feel what else is there to say. But seriously, any praise given to Afridi for Pakistan's victories over India and Bangladesh in the Asia Cup is not enough.

He deserves all that and more.

No other Pakistan cricketer is criticized as much as Afridi is. But the opposite is also true. He surely is the most loved cricketer in Pakistan.

No one ever thought that Javed Miandad's last ball heroics against India in 1986 will ever be repeated. Asif Mujtaba tied a game with a last ball six once. Waqar Younis won a game for Pakistan by 1 run with a last ball wicket. Abdul Razzaq demolished South Africa by chasing an improbable target by going at more than 10 an over for more than 10 overs.

Yet, what Shahid Afridi did to India on Sunday will go down in history as one of the best wins ever for Pakistan. Forget about repeating what Javed Miandad did, Pakistan and India recreated the match from 1986.

The number of similarities between the two games are so many that the phrase "history repeats itself" doesn't fit any other instance more than it does to the Asia Cup match between Pakistan and India.

And who else besides Shahid Afridi to orchestrate it.

Majority of Afridi's critics resorted to claims like "don't expect anything from him for another year", "that's it Afridi for another 20 innings" and so on and so forth.

Yet the moment came again in today's match between Pakistan and Bangladesh.

A record breaking chase, a record breaking win, and who was the man that made it possible - Shahid Khan Afridi!

What a champion!

It had been said all over that Pakistan has not chased over 250 under Misbah's captaincy. Forget about chasing 300, or for that matter 326, a score that Pakistan had never chased in the history of their ODI cricket.

Ahmed Shehzad played a perfectly timed innings. He controlled the chase till the 40th over. Fawad Alam batted beautifully doing what he does best - nudging the ball for singles and doubles and scoring at run a ball without taking any risk. Mohammad Hafeez set it up magnificently with a brisk knock at the top.

But despite all that, the win would not have been possible without Shahid Afridi.

When he walked out to bat, Pakistan required 102 runs off 8.4 overs.

When he left the field, Pakistan were left with only 33 to get off 3.1 overs.

No other man in world cricket would have made this chase successful from that position besides Shahid Afridi.

What he brings to the Pakistan team, no other cricketer does to any team.

He has been doing it for 18 years now, and despite his many critics, today he stands tall as the biggest match winner Pakistan cricket has seen.

Today Afridi got his 32nd man of the match award. He had broken Pakistan's record a while ago, and now with 32 awards he sits level with Jacques Kallis and Ricky Ponting, and only behind Jayasuriya and Sachin Tendulkar.

Afridi wins Pakistan 1 out every 10 matches, if you go by his man of the match awards.

What Afridi has achieved is the stuff of legends. Sure his fastest 100 record is gone, but no one's name appears more times in the list of fastest 100s than Afridi's.

The same goes for fastest 50s. Today was Afridi's 6th fifty that he has scored in 20 deliveries or less. No other cricketer comes even close. McCullum has done that twice, and no one else has done it more than once.

Whatever I say about Shahid Afridi is not enough. Whatever praise you give him is not enough.

Shahid Afridi is a living legend, a true Pakistani hero, the biggest match winner Pakistan has seen in limited overs cricket.

A post was long over due. I had not written anything in 2014, and it is only apt the first post of 2014 on Well Pitched is of our greatest hero - Shahid Khan Afridi!

Ek aur baar bolo, baar baar bolo - Lala Lala bahut aala !!!

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Record Breaking Series for Shehzad, Hafeez, and Pakistan!

Pakistan sealed their second successive ODI series win after defeating Sri Lanka comprehensively by 8 wickets in the 4th ODI.

It was Sri Lanka's tormentor-in-chief, the one and only, Pakistan's professor Mohammad Hafeez who once again notched up an unbeaten century, his third of the series, to take Pakistan to a comfortable victory with over 8 overs to spare.

A Pakistan innings without Misbah walking out to the middle has been a rarity for a long time considering the number of times he has had to save Pakistan from a collapse. Last night, it happened for the second time in 4 ODIs thanks to the tremendous form that Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad have been in.

Hafeez' has had a rollicking year in ODIs during which he has knocked 5 centuries, more than what he managed in his previous 9 years of international cricket (ODIs only).

The Pakistanis have established many interesting feats during this series that they have dominated.

1. Misbah overtook Virat Kohli as the leading run scorer in ODIs this year. His tally of 1,322 runs is well ahead of Kohli and with 1 ODI to go against Sri Lanka he can gain a significant lead and end the year as highest run scorer in ODIs.

2. The only man who can overtake Misbah is his Vice Captain, Hafeez, whose third century in four ODIs has taken his tally for the year to 1,260 runs.

3. Hafeez became only the 6th batsman overall and 2nd Pakistani batsman to score 3 centuries in a bilateral ODI series. He has scores of 122, 140*, and 113* in this series.

4. Hafeez has hit 5 centuries in ODIs this year, which is the most ODI centuries hit in 2013. Shikhar Dhawan also has 5. Hafeez has 1 more innings left and is in with a chance to break several more records.

5. Ahmed Shehzad scored his 4th ODI century in the 2nd ODI of the series against Sri Lanka. At 22 years and 26 days, Shehzad became the youngest Pakistani batsman to hit 4 ODI centuries, beating Salman Butt's record of reaching the feat at the age of 23 years and 35 days.

6. Ahmed Shehzad also became the fastest Pakistani batsman to hit 4 ODI centuries when he got there in only his 37th ODI innings, beating Saeed Anwar's record who hit his 4th ODI century in his 38th innings.

7. Both Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez started this series with their career batting averages below 30. Now they average 33.39 and 30.95 respectively.

8. When Pakistan won the 3rd ODI of the series against Sri Lanka, it was their 78th ODI win at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. They equalled the record for most victories on a single ground, which is held by Australia with 78 wins at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Interestingly, both Pakistan and Australia have a W:L ratio of 2.10 at the respective cricket grounds.

Pakistan's record reads: P 116, W 78, L 37, T 1; While Australia's reads P 120, W 78, L 37, NR 5!

Let's wait for Friday and see what more Shehzad, Hafeez, and Pakistan can achieve.

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