Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Jos Butler

Jos Buttler graduated with a sterling school cricketing record to becoming a regular choice for Somerset and has recently formed part of the England national team, and is Vice Captain for the One Day International team. Jos Buttler is available to appear at a multitude of private or corporate events as an after dinner speaker or to be part of a brand endorsement when booked through London based talent agency MN2S.

Appearing in a number of Somerset youth teams, Buttler played great cricket at a young age, earning the accolade of Young Wisden Schools Cricketer of the Year in 2010. Once wicket keeper Craig Keiswetter was called up to the England One Day side in 2010, Buttler snatched at the opportunity for an extended run as part of the Somerset County Cricket team. After a many successful performances with the club, Buttler moved to Lancashire CC in 2013.

After representing the country at a number of youth levels, he was called up for senior inclusion in 2011 in the England Twenty20 squad for the match against India, and later in 2012 for the side that would compete in the 2012 T20 World Cup. Upon Matt Prior’s retirement in 2014, Buttler was called into the England test squad for the third test against India, contributing solidly with the bat and quelling any doubts about his abilities with the gloves by taking 11 catches over the matches he played in the series.

After a tough time in the 2015 Ashes series, some have called for Jos Buttler to hang up the gloves, given a tendency that is sometimes seen with wicket keepers that upon giving up their wicket keeping duties their batting subsequently improves. England selector Trevor Bayliss believes a break from the Test side could do Buttler good, with Jonny Bairstow set to take over wicket keeping duties in his stead.

Commenting that he takes inspiration from hot headed maverick sportspeople, Buttler has cited footballers Paolo di Canio and former Manchester City loose cannon Mario Ballotelli as figures that he holds in high regard, and indeed they are emulative of his own approach to cricket, where his forceful batting and individual style are always apparent. His characteristic bottom handed, wristy style gives him the ability to fashion unexpected shots, and he comments on his own style, “I was never afraid to try things, especially in practice, whether it was cricket or whatever. I’d have fun and try and do things just to see if I could do something a bit different. I wouldn’t be afraid of giving something a go and it not working in practice.”

Despite initial doubts from some when he first started for the England test side, he made a good early impression, much like former England wicket keeper Matt Prior during the early days of his career, scoring five half-centuries in the eight matches before the Ashes batting at number 7 or 8, averaging 52.66. He has expressed pleasure at how he has been batting up until the 2015 Ashes, pleased he is capable of ‘proper cricket’ and not just regarded as a ‘slogger’.

Forging the beginnings of what is sure to be fruitful England cricketing career and continuing to perform impressively at county level, Joss Buttler is definitely a strong choice as an after dinner speaker and is available to appear at public, private and corporate event when booked through MN2S Agency. 

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Pakistan's Test Dominance over New Zealand

Pakistan have lost just 8 tests to New Zealand, while they have won three times as many! Pakistan have lost fewer tests only to Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Their W:L ratio of 3.0 against New Zealand is their second best W:L ratio.

Safe to say that Pakistan have been quite dominant over the Kiwis in Test cricket.

Even in New Zealand's seaming conditions, which are alien to Pakistan's batsmen, Pakistan has dominated with 10 wins to New Zealand's 5.

Some may say that given the history of dominance, Pakistan may treat these upcoming two tests against New Zealand as a warm-up to their tour of Australia.

That may be a grave mistake.

History might be on Pakistan's side, but Trent Boult, Tim Southee, and Matt Henry are on New Zealand's.

Those three have the capability of running through any batting line up.

Pakistan's batsmen have been in sterling form for a while now so they are no pushovers, but they will have to be at the top of their game in seaming conditions.

Its not like they will be playing pokies at the source where they can try their luck.

It will be interesting to watch what batting combination Pakistan goes in with. Given the conditions in New Zealand the 5 batsmen-WK-Allrounder strategy may not work and Pakistan will have to move back to their original successful formula of 6 batsmen + WK.

Additionally, with no requirement to play an additional spinner, Nawaz may not be required.

The next question is that will Azhar Ali continue to open?

If he does, it allows Pakistan to play a middle order comprising Asad, Younis, Misbah, and the super talented Babar Azam.

If Azhar moves back to his preferred number 3 then Sharjeel will be included in the XI and Babar will have to miss out. This will also move Asad back to number 6.

This is probably going to be the most important decision that Pakistan's think tank takes on this tour.

Nevertheless, the batting definitely has a more sorted look than the bowling.

Yasir Shah along with three seamers is what the bowling will probably feature. The question is which three seamers?

Mohammad Aamer, Wahab Riaz, and Sohail Khan seems likely. But Rahat Ali was a great asset in England so maybe he will be preferred to Sohail.

The thing to look forward to with the bowling is surely Aamer's swing in New Zealand's conditions. The English summer was quite dry and Aamer barely got any swing. New Zealand might be different and it might end up being the tour that Aamer needs to bounce back to his very best in Test cricket.

Pakistan vs New Zealand has provided plenty of exciting matches in the past and this promises to be yet another exciting Test series.

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Can Sharjeel Khan make an impact in Tests?

Sharjeel Khan's inclusion in Pakistan's test squad for the two match series against New Zealand has met with mixed reactions.

Rightly so given the sort of batsman he is.

My initial thoughts on Sharjeel were that at best he is a T20 batsman. His initial international outing in 2013 also showed that he was best suited for T20s, however he was dropped from both limited overs formats after failing in ODIs.

Following the PSL last year, Sharjeel was drafted back into the T20 and ODI squads. In T20s he continued his striking form, while in ODIs he left plenty to be desired with a number of failures in between some sterling whirlwind knocks.

For me, he remains a great T20 batsman and an average ODI one.

So then why has he been selected for the test squad?

What were the selectors thinking?

Is he the best choice for opener / reserve opener in the test squad?

Sometimes it just feels like the selectors are making a play at a Casino and trying their luck at winning with a new opener.

With Sami Aslam cementing one of the openers slots, it was Azhar Ali's initial hesitancy to open in tests, which resulted in the selectors looking for a third opener for the tour.

Having given it some thought, Sharjeel may not be a bad choice despite his average performances in ODI cricket.

Many have likened Sharjeel's stroke play to that of Virender Sehwag and David Warner, both of whom played ODI cricket for a couple of years before breaking into the test squad. All three are quite similar in terms of how they approach batting.

A glance at Sehwag's and Warner's careers shows that they had / have far better performances in Tests than in ODIs. While Warner has closed the average gap in recent times (48 in tests; 41 in ODIs), Sehwag ended his career with a Test average of 49 and an ODI average of 35.

Even thought both batsmen have the aggressive nature to excel in ODIs and T20s, they were far more prolific in Tests than in the limited overs formats.

A look at their ODI performance before either made their test debut bears a lot of similarity with Sharjeel's performance.

In fact, Sharjeel has fared better than Warner and Sehwag did in their initial years of ODI cricket.

This also goes to show that both Warner and Sehwag improved as ODI players after making their test debut. 

Probably it was learning the art of staying at the wicket longer in Tests that made them better ODI batsmen.

Maybe, Sharjeel will go through the same learning curve if he does in fact make it to the Test XI in New Zealand.

Given that he is a batsmen made in the same mold as Warner and Sehwag, his inclusion in the Test team might end up being a master stroke by the selectors. He may end up being the perfect aggressor to complement Sami Aslam's gradual accumulation at the other end. He may provide that spark to Pakistan's Test team whose top 6 batsmen bat in the same mode.

If Sharjeel can have even half the impact that Warner and Sehwag had on their Test teams, it would be a job well done for Pakistan.

While I don't rate him much as an ODI batsman, I am actually looking forward to the prospect of having an attacking batsman at the top of the order in Tests.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

All Hail Misbah, Pakistan's most capped and most successful test captain

Misbah Ul Haq is currently captaining Pakistan in a test match for the 49th time, 1 more than the number of times Imran Khan captained Pakistan.

Misbah has not only captained Pakistan in more matches than anyone before him, he has also won more and scored more than any Pakistan captain before him. On many other fronts, he has surpassed all other captains from not only Pakistan, but also the subcontinent! He is undoubtedly at the helm of the most successful test team Pakistan has ever had, and is without a doubt the best test captain Pakistan has ever had.

1. Most Successful Asian Captain

While there are a few captains from around the world who have had far more success, Misbah is the clear leader among all captains from the subcontinent.

With 24 wins, he is well ahead of Imran Khan and Javed Miandad, and just behind MS Dhoni who registered 27 test wins.

However, in terms of series wins, Misbah now has 10, which is the most by a captain from the subcontinent. The current series win over the West Indies took Misbah ahead of Dhoni and Ganguly who has 9 series wins each.

2. Most Successful Pakistan Captain

Misbah has 10 more test victories than Imran Khan and Javed Miandad did as captains. He is well ahead of them, and will remain as Pakistan's most successful captain ever for a long time to come.

The past 6 years under Misbah have been magical for the test team. There is a stark difference between Pakistan's performance in the 6 years before Misbah and the 6 years under him.

3. Most Successful Batsman as a Pakistan Test Captain

Out of all Pakistan test captains who have batted in at least 20 innings, Misbah has the most runs, highest average, most hundreds, and most fifties.

He is at the top of the pile and will probably remain there for a very long time.

4. Best Test Average among all Test Captains

Among all captains who have batted in at least 75 test innings, only Brian Lara averages more than Misbah does.

5. Most Runs as Captain Batting at Number 5

Which test captains are most remembered for their sterling batting performances at number 5?

For me, Steve Waugh tops the list. Inzamam, Allan Border, Arjuna Ranatunga, and Hansie Cronje also come to mind.

Misbah is above all of these names and many others as a batsman at number 5 while captaining his team. He has more runs than anyone else, and only Michael Clarke averages more than him as a number 5 test batsman as captain.

6. Most Century Partnerships and Partnership Runs for Pakistan

When Misbah ul Haq and Younis Khan posted their 15th century partnership during the second test against the West Indies, they also went past Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf's record tally of 3,137 partnership runs for Pakistan.

Misbah and Younis now stand 5th in the world in terms of most century partnerships ever in test cricket. Not to mention that they are right at the top for Pakistan.

Their average is also right up there with very few pairs of batsmen (Hobbs & Sutcliffe and Langer 7 Ponting) ahead of them.

To think that Misbah has achieved most of this after the age of 35 is nothing short of remarkable. Most captains have retired before that age. Misbah is 42 now and still going strong, creating record after record for Pakistan in test cricket.

He has captained them to the top of the rankings (currently at two), he has led them to victories over all nations in the UAE where Pakistan remain unbeaten for 6 years, and he has created one of the most successful test sides in the history of the game.

Misbah is captain magnificent.

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Tuesday, October 25, 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. I am willing to place a wager on that! You can visit to find the best odds before placing your bets.

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

By picking up his 100th test match wicket in the first 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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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.

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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.

Make your pitch on this post...

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