Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Rise of Babar Azam and Hasan Ali


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Australians Have Won the Ashes

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

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

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

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Mohammad Hafeez Reported for Suspicious Bowling

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

Match Official’s Report Handed to Management

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

Bowling Action to be Scrutinised

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

It Is Not the First Time

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

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

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

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

A History of Problems for Pakistan

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

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

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


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

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Monday, October 23, 2017

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

Victoria is Chasing 345 after Blitz by South Australia

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

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

Victoria Boosted by Internationals’ Return

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

Weatherald Crashes Vital Elimination Final Ton

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

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

Cooper Set the Vics Ablaze with a Record-Equalling 50

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

The Redbacks Go Crazy in Death Overs

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

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


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

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Monday, October 2, 2017

2017-18 Ashes: Aussies to watch

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

5-0 whitewash universally expected

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

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

Smith can be ‘captain fantastic’

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

NSW Trio to give England the ‘blues’

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

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

David Warner: 30 not out

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

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

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


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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Andrew Black and the road to Exchange Betting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Pakistan roller-coaster on the up

Life as a Pakistan cricket supporter is like being on a roller-coaster with similar emotions suffered by fans of the proverbial ‘yo-yo’ football teams that enjoy the highs of promotion before tumbling down again the next season.

The summer’s triumph in the ICC Champions Trophy was clearly a high and one that not many people saw coming.

But a glance at history shows that the Asians have never really been a consistent side and it really should have surprised nobody that they were able to fly under the radar to pull off such a stunning tournament success.

Whether they can carry it into the 2019 World Cup only time will tell and it is unlikely they will be among the favourites, and for those who like to bet on cricket, why not take advantage of a bonus at BookmakerAdvisor.

The 1992 World Cup triumph under the leadership of the legendary Imran Khan remains the nation’s pinnacle in the sport and a success that was borne out of adversity, with the side barely making it out of the group stage.

To quote the great man himself they fought like ‘cornered tigers’ and it was a never-say-die attitude that saw them all the way to the final and past an England team tipped for glory.

The current crop of players may not quite have the talent of their compatriots from 25 years ago but they have no less fighting spirit and were simply too strong for England in the semi-finals before takingapart rivals India in the final.

Pakistan have always been tough to beat once they get on a roll but they have also shown a brittle side in recent years with some poor defeats and displays.

Form in the months leading into the Champions Trophy was patchy, with a 4-1 ODI series loss to Australia but they did manage to beat a relatively weak West Indies side 2-1 in April.

Test results have not been much to write home about with losses to Australia and New Zealand in the past 12 months but, once again, they were too good for the men from the Caribbean.

Misbah-ul-Haq must take a lot of credit for the way he led the side from the turbulent times after the 2010 England tour, and his retirement will leave a huge void in the side both in leadership and batting.

Any success that Pakistan had in the five-day game was in no small way down to the veteran, who scored runs for fun after being handed the captain’s armband.

His 26 Test victories is a Pakistan record and the new man at the helm, Sarfraz Ahmed, has big shoes to fill in all three formats of the game.

All Pakistan’s recent success has been achieved without having a home to call their own with matches played in the United Arab Emirates, and it was a welcome sight to see international cricket back in the country.

The World XI may not be the strongest side that will ever visit Lahore but it is one of the most significant for a nation starved of matches on home soil since 2009, and the hope is that it will be the forerunner of Test cricket returning to Pakistan soil in the near future.


There will doubtless be many ups and downs for the Pakistan side in the future but, when they come, the peaks are certainly worth the wait.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Which two batsmen will replace Misbah and Younis in Pakistan's Test XI?

From Javed Miandad to Inzamam Ul Haq to Mohammad Yousuf to Younis Khan, Pakistan have always had a formidable number 4 in Test matches. In most of Pakistan's Test XIs, the number four batsman is usually their primary batsman.

Javed Miandad fulfilled that role for most part of his career. He batted at number 4 in 140 out of his 189 test innings.

Once he retired, Saleem Malik took over the number four position briefly, before moving back to number five and promoting Inzamam Ul Haq up the order.

Inzamam batted at four in half of his total career innings and made that position his own before moving down the order and promoting Mohammad Yousuf to four, who was at the time at the peak of his batting prowess.

Younis Khan, who had batted at number three for most of his career and formed part of Pakistan's best test middle order with Inzamam and Yousuf, moved to the number four position after the retirements of the latter two.

Younis batted at 4 till the end of his career performing as well as he had done at three and as well as his predecessors.


As evident, all these batsmen performed admirably at number four. These 5 batsmen were always the book makers' favorites to be the top scorer for Pakistan in a match and in a series. Check out NetBet Sport for sports odds and other favorites that such book makers have.

So who is going to fill these big boots now that Younis Khan has retired?

More importantly, who is going to fill the big hole left in Pakistan's Test middle order with the retirements of both Younis and Misbah Ul Haq?

In the past 7 years since Misbah took over Pakistan's Test captaincy, he and Younis have collectively scored 30% of Pakistan's Test runs and 38% of Pakistan's Test hundreds.

How do you replace 9,000 test runs and 26 test centuries?

Just like Miandad and Malik passed on the mantle to Inzamam and Yousuf, they passed it on to Younis and Misbah. And now with these two moving on, the mantle sits firmly with Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq.

Both Azhar and Asad made their test debuts around the same time as Misbah made his test captaincy debut. During this period, Azhar and Asad have established themselves as the cornerstones of Pakistan's test batting line up.

While Azhar made his mark as a number 3 and later as an opener, Asad has made history as a number 6 test batsman.

Asad will most likely fill the vacant number 4 position, but Pakistan still require two test batsmen to bat at numbers 5 and 6.

Here is a list of potential incumbents whom I believe can take Pakistan's Test team forward.

FAWAD ALAM

He is 31. He has scored over 10,000 first class runs with 25 centuries and averages 56, higher than any other cricketer in Pakistan ever.

He has played 3 tests for Pakistan and even scored a debut 100. In fact he was the first batsman from Pakistan to score a test century on debut away from home.

Yet after 6 test innings, he was discarded and never played a test again.

In last season's Quaid-e-Azam trophy, he averaged 55, scoring 500 runs in 11 innings. In every first class season, he is among the leading run scorers. I have not seen a more consistent batsman in Pakistan than Fawad and it will always remain a mystery to me as to why he is constantly ignored by the selectors.

USMAN SALAHUDDIN

This 26 year old batsman from Lahore was picked for 2 ODIs during the tour to the West Indies in 2011. He did not appear for the international side after that, however he has been a consistent performer in domestic cricket.

In 10 first class seasons, he has piled on 6,000 runs with 19 centuries at an impressive average of 47.

He was the 4th highest run scorer in the last Quaid-e-Azam Trophy where he amassed 843 runs in 17 innings with 3 centuries and 5 fifties at an average of 70.

He has been on the verge of national selection for a while now and it is finally time he finds a permanent spot in Pakistan's Test XI.

HARIS SOHAIL

Haris has not played a first class match in over 3 years due to injury, however he has a phenomenal record, and he has shown in ODIs that he belongs at the highest level of the game.

His career first class average of 52 and 11 centuries in 80 odd innings with a career best of 211* suggests that he is made for the long version of the game. Even in ODIs, he showed his liking for staying at the crease, and his ODI average of 43 demonstrates that he is a world class batsman.

He might be the ideal replacement for a batsman like Misbah.

IMAM UL HAQ

He is only 21 and has been around for only 3 seasons. His overall first class average of 35 suggests that he still has to establish himself in the domestic circuit; however he has just had a breakthrough season where he notched up 848 runs in 20 innings in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and ended the tournament as its third highest run scorer.

Imam, who is the nephew of Chief Selector Inzamam Ul Haq, was extremely impressive in the QEA Trophy where he knocked 3 centuries and 3 fifties, including a career best unbeaten 200.

Some may feel that it may be too early to blood him, but I feel it might just be the right time for a young batsmen with tremendous potential to be introduced the highest level.

ASIF ZAKIR

A veteran of the domestic circuit, Asif has been around for 15 years and at 33 he might be past the ideal age to make a test debut, but then we have all seen Misbah blossom as a test batsman after the age of 35.

Asif's overall first class record is not that impressive - 7,000 runs, 19 centuries, and average of 37. However, he was the second highest run scorer in last season's Quaid-e-Azam Trophy with 853 runs in 11 innings at an average of 85.3. He hit as many as 4 centuries during the tournament.


So there are a few options for Pakistan's selectors to consider. Pakistan's next test series is some time away so the selectors have time on their hands before making their decisions. It will be interesting to note which batsmen make it into the squad and then which two make it to the XI.

My first two choices will be Fawad Alam and Haris Sohail; however I would also like to see Usman Salahuddin and Imam Ul Haq in the squad.

With Babar Azam set at number 3, ideally Asad Shafiq should move up to number 4, with the two new batsmen fitting in at 5 and 6.

Sami Aslam should also be brought back to open with Azhar Ali. The tour to West Indies showed us that Ahmed Shehzad and Shan Masood are not in the same league as Sami, who impressed with his temperament during the tour of England.

Azhar, Sami, Babar, Asad, Haris, Fawad sounds formidable enough to me!

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Monday, July 3, 2017

What does Pakistan’s victory in the Champion’s Trophy mean for the world of cricket?

Pakistan’s victory in the Champions Trophy final is already one of the sporting stories of the year and proves once again the unpredictable nature of cricket is what makes it so great.

Nobody gave them a prayer after the way they tamely succumbed to India in their opening group game and the fact that India skipper Virat Kohi let them have first use of a belting Oval pitch suggested he did not either.

What followed was a powerhouse display of batting and bowling that Pakistan’s neighbours could not live with and a side tipped to win everything were simply annihilated.

Pakistan have always blown hot and cold and those who are slightly longer in the tooth will remember the 1992 World Cup when they fought back from near elimination to beat England in the final.

Fast forward 25 years and, once again, they refused to give in and, with fierce criticism still ringing in their ears from many ex-players after the early India defeat, turned things around to land the spoils.

Although it is somewhat of a cliché, the result was certainly good for the game as it capped an excellent tournament that began in the wet but ended in glorious sunshine with raw emotion pouring from Sarfraz Ahmed’s side.

The usual suspects were tipped to do well, with England favourites to win on home soil but dispatched with ease in the semi-finals by the eventual winners, while Australia did not even reach the last four.

Everyone loves an underdog and, with no home base and devoid of experience after the retirement of a number of veterans, Pakistan certainly fitted that bill.

The fact they were able to beat such a talented India team will give hope to others that the result is never a foregone conclusion if you have belief.

The next World Cup takes place in 2019 and Bethut has all the best markets and sites available for those who like a flutter on cricket.

Bangladesh were the other surprise side of the Champions Trophy and, despite the one-sided nature of their semi-final loss to India, were a credit to their nation.

The Tigers have come a long way since the days when they were the whipping boys of international cricket and the fact that commentators were not surprised to see them qualify for the semis shows the progress they have made.

They too will have been pleased to see David down Goliath on Sunday as it is a battle they have fought many times in the past and are starting to reap the rewards of their persistence.

Pakistan are unlikely ever to dominate the cricket world like the great West Indies and Australia sides of the past, as it is not in their nature to be consistent.

They always have talented and exciting players in their ranks but it is getting them to perform at the same time that has been the problem.

When it all clicks it is a joy to watch and stars such as Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Amir and Hasan Ali have the class to be huge players on the world stage for years to come.

Nobody expected Pakistan to win the tournament and few thought they could even get out of the group, with the result breathing life into a format that has been choked by the emergence of Twenty20 cricket.

The ecstasy written on the faces of the Pakistan supporters is evidence enough that one-day international cricket is still important and can provide just as much excitement as any T20 event around the world.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Finding Similarities to the Past in Pakistan's Champions Trophy Victory

Pakistan's victory in the Champions Trophy has brought so much joy to Pakistanis in all corners of the world that even two days later we can't stop talking about it. It is such a historic moment that everyone is talking of Ramzan miracles, making analogies to past World Cup wins and Pakistan-India encounters, and simply expressing their elation.

The final was so good that it almost felt like a dream. As Ahmer Naqvi described it, we were truly transported back to the 90s when such victories over India used to be the norm.


Rehan Ul Haq went a step further and said that this was redemption for Bangalore. It truly was!

And the best of them all, Osman Samiuddin, tried to make sense of every thing that happened. And even he admits that not much sense can be made out of what Pakistan did.


There are so many articles on the internet that it is impossible to mention all of them, but one writer that deserves a mention and an award for describing the way Pakistanis feel during their team's matches and their team's fluctuating fortunes in a tournament is Jarrod Kimber. I don't know any non-Pakistani who can describe our feelings that way Jrod does. What am I saying, he describes them better than we do ourselves!

If you have not read the master pieces by Jrod during the Champions Trophy, you can find them all here.

While all these analogies to past Pakistan vs India encounters and "Haal" are apt, the best message I received talking about similarities between the ICC Finals Pakistan has played over the years was:

1992: in Ramzan
1999: in England
2007: in Ramzan
2009: in England
2017: in Ramzan in England

Deadly!

For me, this victory over India wiped away all the heartbreaks, particularly Bangalore, Johannesburg, and Mohali.

It truly is redemption for all of Pakistan's fans.

1992, 2009, and 2017 will forever be engraved in our memories and for those like me who have watched each of those finals ball-by-ball, what a time to be alive!



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Monday, June 19, 2017

Pakistan are the Champions Trophy Winners and this is just the Start...


1992. 2009. 2017.

Pakistan is the 4th team in the history of international cricket to win all three ICC tournaments and only the 3rd team to hold every single ICC trophy including the Test Mace.

That is an achievement.

In 2015, Pakistan were the 9th ranked ODI team and they had to beat Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka to move to qualify for this Champions Trophy. Now, Pakistan are on top of the world and they have got there by beating the best in the business.

That is remarkable.

Pakistan's win in this Champions Trophy is stuff dreams are made of. It is a fairy tale ending. It is a movie where in a make believe fantasy world the underdog does the unthinkable and you leave the theater saying "this only happens in movies".

Along their glorious victorious run, Pakistan created some records and left us with some amazing memories. Here's a look back at the magic the team and its players created yesterday in the final and over the past two weeks.

THE TEAM

Beat the Best
To be the Champions, one has to beat the best. Pakistan won this Champions Trophy by beating:

- World's number 1 ranked ODI team.
- Tournament Favorites.
- Defending Champions.

Highest Total in CT17
For a team that is not known for its aggressive batting or big hitting, a team that does not score 300 as often as it should, a team whose batsmen tend to play too cautiously, a team that is far behind global standards of modern day ODI cricket, put up the highest total of this Champions Trophy; and that too in the Final!


Highest Total in all Champions Trophies
Pakistan's 338-4 in the Final is the second highest total in a Champions Trophy match; it is the highest total against a test nation in Champions Trophy, and it is the highest total in a Champions Trophy Final.


Highest Total in Pakistan vs India ODIs
Pakistan's score was their second highest ever in ODIs against India and the highest score ever in a Pakistan vs India ODI played outside the Subcontinent and the UAE.


Largest Win in Champions Trophy
Pakistan's win the final by 180 runs is not only the largest win in a final of an ICC tournament, it is also the largest win against a test nation in all Champions Trophy matches ever.


Largest Win in Pakistan vs India ODIs
The win the final is also the largest win by runs in the history of ODIs between Pakistan and India.


This team achieved results that no one expected them to. The players did the same...

FAKHAR ZAMAN
The man of the moment, Fakhar Zaman has left everyone awestruck. In his debut ODI series, he improved with every match and showed his best in the final with a scintillating knock of 114. He provided Pakistan with the much needed impetus at the start of an innings in every match and showed the world that Pakistan can also play modern day ODI cricket.

Highest Strike Rate in CT17
Fakhar had such a remarkable tournament that he not only was the highest run scorer with the best average for Pakistan, he was 6th highest run scorer in the tournament, had the second highest strike rate in the tournament (Min: 100 Runs), and had the highest strike rate rate among all openers in the tournament.


Most Boundaries in CT17
He brings to Pakistan's team the much needed explosiveness at the top of the order, which is evident from the fact that he hit the second most number of boundaries in this Champions Trophy.


Highest Strike Rate in all Champions Trophies
Among all batsmen that have scored a minimum of 150 runs in Champions Trophy matches over the years, Fakhar has the second best strike rate. Among these batsmen, Fakhar has the third best average, behind Dhawan and Wallace.


Highest Score in a Champions Trophy Final
Fakhar Zaman's 114 in the final against India is the 6th century to be scored in a Champions Trophy final, the second highest score ever in a Champions Trophy final, and the highest score ever in a winning cause in a CT final.



HASSAN ALI
It was his first ever ICC tournament and he ended it with the Player of the Tournament Award and the Golden Ball Award for his 13 wickets. It has not even been a year since he made his debut for Pakistan and he has rapidly risen to become their primary spearhead. Besides the first match against India, Hasan took 3 wickets in each of the other matches and was instrumental in ensuring that Pakistan restrict South Africa, Sri Lanka, and England to chase-able totals. He continued his form in the final and played a part in India's destruction as well.

Highest Wicket Taker in CT17
Hasan's 13 wickets were the highest in this Champions Trophy. He was well ahead of the rest of the bowlers in terms of average and economy, and only behind Josh Hazlewood in terms of strike rate.


Best Average & Strike Rate in all Champions Trophies
Among all bowlers with at least 10 wickets in Champions Trophy matches, Hasan has the second best average, third best strike rate, and third best economy.


Most Wickets in a Champions Trophy
Hasan's 13 wicket haul in this Champions Trophy is the highest any bowler has taken in a single Champions Trophy. He sits equal with Jerome Taylor on this record, however at a much better average, strike rate, and economy.



AZHAR ALI
Many, including me, criticized his inclusion in the ODI team. Despite his sluggish strike rate, he formed a potent opening partnership with Fakhar and gave Pakistan two successive century opening stands in the semifinal and final.

The 118 run stand in the semifinal was Pakistan's first century opening partnership in over two years. The last time Pakistan's openers put on two successive opening partnerships was 14 years ago; in 2003 when Imran Farhat and Yasir Hameed unleashed against New Zealand.


Azhar was Pakistan's second highest run scorer (and 8th overall) in this Champions Trophy. His 3 fifties in the Champions Trophy were the most by any batsman (equal with Virat Kohli).

The primary concern with Azhar opening the batting is his strike rate. He is not a naturally aggressive batsman and struggles to rotate the strike. However, he improved with every match and also took on the role of an aggressor in both matches against India when his partner was struggling.

I will be the first to admit that I am a convert and I believe Azhar has a role to play in this ODI side, especially if the aggressors around him can play theirs.

MOHAMMAD HAFEEZ
He is another player who has been heavily criticized by one and all, including me. What is his role? Is he a batsman who bowls or a bowler who can bat? Where does he fit in the batting line up? There are so many questions about his role in the team that even the team management can't probably answer.

Hafeez's ability to rotate strike is nonexistent. Against India, he scored 33 off 43. Against South Africa, he was worse - 26 off 53. Against Sri Lanka, he couldn't even get going as he went for 1 off 5 deliveries.

In the semifinal against England, he walked in to bat with only 39 left for victory. Hafeez got 31 of them in only 21 deliveries. His innings included 3 fours and 2 sixes. It was like an innings that a younger Hafeez would have played while opening.

In the final, he continued where he left off against England. His unbeaten 57 off 37 deliveries took Pakistan well beyond the 300 run mark. He batted with aggression and his stroke play was immaculate.

Hafeez's strike rates in those two innings against England and India are the 4th and 5th best strike rates for an innings by a Pakistani batsmen in Champions Trophy. His 50 in the final was the second fastest 50 by a Pakistani batsmen in Champions Trophy.


Against India, he walked in to bat with 10 overs left in the innings. After all these years, we might have just discovered the best position for him to bat on.

MOHAMMAD AAMER
He has now been back in Pakistan colors for 18 months but he is not the same Aamer who left the scene in 2010. Since his return, Aamer has struggled with his swing, and wickets have been rare largely because of Pakistan's inept catching. He has been bowling well for quite some time, what was missing was the wicket taking ability.

Against India, in the Champions Trophy Final, he produced a magical spell, his best since his comeback, and had the tournament's top three run scorers back in the pavilion inside the first 9 overs. It was pure magic out there.

Not many bowlers can claim to have had the better of Virat Kohli. No bowler can claim that they got Kohli twice in two deliveries. But Aamer did just that. It was two perfect deliveries to the world's best batsman; the first one was edged and dropped at first slip; the second one had him caught at point.

Aamer's figures of 3-16 in the final are the second best bowling figures ever in Champions Trophy Finals. His average and economy being the best among these efforts.



JUNAID KHAN
Even though he was not Pakistan's first choice at the start of the tournament, he performed exceptionally well to end as the third highest wicket taker in this Champions Trophy. He forged a threatening new ball partnership with Aamer, and the duo combined at the death with some perfectly executed yorkers.

Junaid has a stellar record in ODIs, and despite falling behind due to injury and loss of form over the past couple of seasons, his partnership with Aamer forms a potent attack for Pakistan.

BABAR AZAM
Even though he did not reach the heights that he did against the West Indies earlier in the season, his scores of 31*, 38*, and 46 against South Africa, England, and India are enough to demonstrate his immense talent.

He remains the only batsman to average above 50 for Pakistan in ODIs and the future of Pakistan's batting is in safe hands with Fakhar and him in the top order.

SHOAIB MALIK, IMAD WASIM, RUMMAN RAEES, SHADAB KHAN, FAHEEM ASHRAF
Even though there was no major contribution from either of these players, they did enough to complement Pakistan's batting and bowling to show the talent that they possess.

Malik failed when he got a chance but he looked sublime in his innings against India (group game) before he was run out and against South Africa before the rain interruption.

Imad displayed control with both the new and old ball and kept the run rate in check every time he came on to bowl. In the final he turned it on with the bat too in the end overs showing his value to the team's lower order.

Rumman ad Faheem got only one match each and either could have easily played more if it were not for the better form with the ball of Pakistan's first choice trio. Both made their debuts during the Champions Trophy and showed that they have the ability to compete with the best at this level. Rumman's accuracy and Faheem's utility with bat and ball will prove to be invaluable for Pakistan in the future.

Shadab Khan is a superstar in the making. His bowling is spot on, he can hit hard with the bat, and his fielding is top notch. He owned the point region for Pakistan and is arguably the best fielders in the team. This boy has a long and bright future ahead.

SARFRAZ AHMED
Last but not least, Pakistan's captain, proved to be a leader. To come back and lift the troops after the decimation against India in their opening match, would have been no easy task. The way Sarfraz, along with the coaching staff, kept this team motivated and inspired in every match after that is a phenomenal effort.

Sarfraz did not get much opportunity to showcase his batting talent in this Champions Trophy, but the one time when a captain's knock was required to take Pakistan into the semifinals, he led from the front. His unbeaten 61 against Sri Lanka ensured a Pakistan win after they were looking down the barrel after being reduced to 162-7 while chasing 237.

In that match, Sarfraz's unbroken partnership of 75 with Mohammad Aamer for the 8th wicket, created a new Champions Trophy record for the highest 8th wicket partnership.


Sarfraz is only 30 and he can captain this side for a long time to come if he can show the same level headed approach that he did in this Champions Trophy. He seems to have formed a healthy relationship with Micky Arthur; nothing can be better for a team like Pakistan than to have a united Captain and Coach to lead the charges.

They have a young team under their wings. Shadab is still a teenager; Babar is 22; Hasan and Faheem are 23; Aamer and Rumman are 25; Fakhar and Junaid are 27; Imad is 28. Only Azhar, Hafeez, and Malik are above 30.

This Champions Trophy win is just the start for this core group of players and they will play together for a long time to come. These boys can truly make Pakistan the ODI powerhouse that they once used to be.

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Champions Trophy & Pakistan's Umeedwaar Supporters

What would a fan be if he is not optimistic?

Here is a recollection of the past two weeks and how a few friends predicted the Champions Trophy proceedings right till the end!

This Champions Trophy was anxiously awaited by Pakistan's fans, particularly for the match on 4th June. It was going to be Pakistan vs India in an ODI after two years.

It was an anxious wait and a sleepless night...


The match itself was an anticlimax. There were so many emotions pouring out, which I would love to share but some of the language used is not for public viewing.

The next day was all about taking the Micky (no pun intended) out of Sarfraz' "out of the box" statement.


Nothing was right about Pakistan's start in the Champions Trophy. Bold statements, bad death bowling, inept batting. Nothing went right and everyone had lost hope; well almost everyone.

The evening of 5th June brought some good news for Pakistan's fans.


Couple of days went by, Pakistan continued to be criticized, the team was not expected to win any of its matches, but come the morning of 7th June, it was Pakistan vs South Africa, and some of us still had hope!


Some of my friends laughed at me when I said we have a chance you know. No one thought we stood a chance against the world's number 1 ODI team. Well almost no one.



At least I was not alone. One friend not only predicted a victory against South Africa, but went on to predict it correctly all the way to the final.


There were reasons presented also about why Pakistan will beat South Africa, and then there was some hope.


As rain came down and Pakistan won by being ahead on DLS, more predictions were made and some were reiterated.


The same prediction was reiterated elsewhere the next day.

Even though I had predicted one of the semi finals to be India vs New Zealand; on the morning of New Zealand's must win match against Bangladesh, I felt otherwise.


Bangladesh became the second team to qualify for the semifinals as Australia lost to England the next day, and on the morning of another knock out game, India vs South Africa, I had another feeling.


That came true when India beat South Africa.

I had already predicted a Pakistan vs England semi final earlier, and reiterated the same on the morning of 12th June.


Pakistan's win over Sri Lanka sealed it and all predictions seemed to be coming true.

The prospects of a Pakistan vs India final were truly alive.

But not many believed Pakistan could get past England... some of us though had all the hope in this world.



Once again, I was not alone. There was the same friend saying the same. He was also trying to arrange tickets for the Final on the morning of Pakistan's semifinal against England.


While the planning continued, optimistic thoughts continued and we were still a few hours away from the start of the first semifinal.


We could not hold in our excitement at the way Pakistan's bowlers dominated the proceedings.


England lost their 8th wicket at 201 and they were bowled out for 211. Everyone was on the bandwagon now. Tickets for the final were being arranged, and hotels were being booked.

The chase was all too easy for Pakistan. No one expected it. No one could believe the turnaround they had witnessed.

Now, India had to beat Bangladesh to make this Champions Trophy epic.


India obliged with even more ease as they smoothly sailed over Bangladesh setting up a first time ever Pakistan vs India final of an ICC ODI tournament.

Match tickets were arranged. Flights were booked. Hotels were booked. And the boys made their way to London to bring home the cup.


Yes, this is the same friend who had predicted a Pakistan vs India final on the morning of 7th June. He however claims that he had made this prediction in February. He might be right.


So here we are then. A rollercoaster ride that has brought us to the eve of an epic final. What are we predicting for tomorrow?


Yep, that sounds about right!

Come on PAKISTAAAAAAAN!

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