Friday, October 19, 2018

Mazher bhai - Stat is not Damning, it is Meaningless

Mazher Arshad, Pakistan's Superstar Statistician, tweeted a damning stat about Pakistan cricket yesterday.

That really is quite damning, but it also got me thinking.

If you look at the Pakistan test XI that is currently playing against Australia in Abu Dhabi, 5 out of the top 7 have test centuries, and most of them have multiple centuries.

Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Mohammad Hafeez, Haris Sohail, and Sarfraz Ahmed all made their debut before 2010.

Out of the two who do not have a test hundred, both made their test debuts after 2010.

But one of them is Fakhar Zaman, who made his test debut 3 days ago and has had an incredible first test.

He was unfortunate to miss a debut test hundred in the first innings, but 160 runs across two innings in one's first test is remarkable in my view.

The other, Babar Azam, has been playing tests for two years now and in 14 tests he should have got a few test hundreds, but an unbeaten 90 and a 99 shows that he too has been unfortunate.

He surely has had a slow start to his test career, especially when compared to his limited overs performance, but I have no doubt that he will catch up.

So a Test XI with only two batsmen out of the top seven who do not have a test century made their test debuts after 2010.

That is not really damning.

Just shows that Pakistan have a stable batting line up with batsmen who have many years of first class cricket experience.

When you look at the bowling line up in the current test, you will see that 3 of them - Mohammad Abbas, Yasir Shah, and Bilal Asif - have 5 wicket hauls.

In fact Abbas and Yasir have shown that they can win tests single handedly, and Bilal Asif just made his test debut and had one of the best bowling figures in an innings by a debutant.

All 3 of them made their first class debuts before 2010.

Actually, Bilal Asif made his first class debut in 2011, but I just realized that in his tweet, Mazher mentioned pacers and not spinners.

The fourth bowler in this test, Mir Hamza, is currently playing his debut test, so surely he can't be counted among this "damning" list.

Still not damning I say.

It is a great thing that Pakistan's test cricketers have been around the first class cricket scene for a decade or more.

So who are these cricketers who made their first class debuts after 2010 and have not yet scored a test century or taken a 5-wicket haul for Pakistan?

Imam Ul Haq?

Well he made his test debut this year, has played 4 tests, and in his debut test he scored an unbeaten 74 to guide Pakistan to a successful chase of 160 against Ireland after they were precariously placed at 14-3.

A match winner no doubt.

He also had a good test against Australia in Dubai with a 76 and 48, and I have no doubt that he will be churning out test centuries very soon.

Shadab Khan? Faheem Ashraf?

They too made their test debuts this year and have already played some match winning and match saving knocks in test cricket.

That too in English conditions over the summer, where main Indian batsmen struggled to score.

Plus considering the positions that Shadab and Faheem bat in, they will not be scoring many test hundreds, but they will definitely continue to win and save tests for Pakistan.

If we dig a little further and look at all the test centurions for Pakistan since 2010 (besides the ones playing the current test), the names you see are the usual suspects Younis Khan and Misbah Ul Haq, along with Taufeeq Umar, Salman Butt, Shan Masood, Khurram Manzoor, Ahmed Shehzad, and Shoaib Malik.

All of them made their first class debuts before 2010.

If you think about it, Pakistan's test cricket batting since 2010 has really been about Misbah, Younis, Azhar, Asad, Hafeez, and Sarfraz.

Stable lot who have been around first class cricket since the early 2000s or earlier.

Besides the three names mentioned above, the only batsmen I can think of who made their first class debut after 2010, played test cricket for Pakistan, and have not scored a test hundred are:

Sami Aslam and Iftikhar Ahmed.

Iftikhar Ahmed played only one test. Not enough chances. So can't be judged.

Sami Aslam was around for 13 tests and given his domestic record he should have reached a test century. He did manage 7 fifties in his 13 tests and perhaps was not persisted with enough.

So the only two batsmen that Mazher's tweet is referring to out of the 620 first class debutants since 2010 are Babar Azam and Sami Aslam. I really don't think this stat is damning. Just misleading!

As for pacers, there is only Hasan Ali and Ehsan Adil besides the one mentioned above who made their first class debuts after 2010 and have played test cricket for Pakistan.

Hasan has played 4 tests and has been in and out of the team. There is still a question mark over whether he is test material or just a limited overs format champion.

Ehsan Adil played three tests and was a disappointment.

So again there is really just a couple of batsmen and bowlers who Mazher is judging.

620 players is a lot of cricketers, but hardly any of them have played test cricket. So if they haven't played how will they score a hundred or take a 5 wickets haul or win a man of the match award?

It does not mean Pakistan does not have world class cricketing talent.

It just means they have a stable test team, which not too long ago was number 1 in the test rankings. They have a young test team that drew a series in England this summer, a team that is on the verge of winning a test series against Australia.

Don't damn it with irrelevant and misleading stats like these please.

Why not talk about the great stuff that Pakistan's test cricketers have done since 2010!

Like Azhar Ali, who is one of the leading run scorers in test cricket since 2010.

And Asad Shafiq, who has scored more test centuries at number 6, not only since 2010, but since the time test cricket started! He is also has the world's leading run scorer at number 6 in test cricket since 2010. Well ahead of Ben Stokes who is mentioned in the tweet.

What about Yasir Shah, who is the world's leading wicket taker among leg spinners in tests since 2010, the world's 6th highest wicket taker among all spinners in tests since 2010, and the world's 16th highest wicket taker in tests since 2010.

Have you forgotten Mohammad Abbas? Forget since 2010, he has the best test bowling average in over a 100 years for all test bowlers with at least 50 wickets!

Pakistan's current test captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, is the 5th highest run scorer among wicketkeepers since 2010 - behind only the England duo, Prior and Bairstow, Dhoni, and Rahim.

Younis Khan and Misbah Ul Haq have been retired for over a year now, but even then YK's 18 test centuries since 2010 are bettered by only Kohli, Cook, Amla, Warner, and Smith; while only Cook and Kohli have scored more test runs than Misbah as captain since 2010.

There is so much success that Pakistan have had in tests since 2010 and we should really focus on highlighting that rather than meaningless stats like 620 first class cricketers since 2010 who haven't done this or that - ofcourse they haven't because they haven't even played test cricket!

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Finally, The Perfect Test Debut for Fakhar Zaman!

Following several successful domestic seasons, Fakhar Zaman finally made it to Pakistan's ODI squad for the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017.

The little I had seen of him, I was quite excited to see this potentially explosive batsman open for Pakistan.

However, Pakistan's squad already had Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, and Ahmed Shehzad as openers, which made most people wonder what was the need for another opener.

I remember at the time a number of people said "Fakhar is a mere slogger, nai chalega".

Not many believed he was international standard. But I really wanted to see him open for Pakistan.

The Pakistan team management probably did not have much faith either as they went with Azhar and Shehzad as the openers for their first Champions Trophy game against India.

An embarrassing loss against India and loss of patience with Shehzad resulted in Fakhar finally getting the nod for Pakistan's next match against South Africa.

I could not wait to see this left hander in greens.

Fakhar impressed everyone with a 22 ball attacking 31, which was laced with 6 hits to the fence.

Fakhar looked every bit the international batsman, but even then there were questions.

"He just lasted 20 odd deliveries"

"He's just a T20 batsman, shouldn't play ODIs"

All sorts of judgments were passed.

But Fakhar would have none of it as he marched on and improved with every outing in the Champions Trophy.

His next three innings were 50, 57, and 114, with the last one coming in the Final against India.

Fakhar Zaman had arrived!

He continued to dominate the bowling in ODIs and T20Is.

He scored against all sides and in all conditions.

He was so good in limited overs that even Babar Azam was over shadowed.

With an average of 59 and a strike rate of 99 in ODIs, coupled with an average of 31 and a strike rate of 143 in T20Is, there is no longer any doubt in anyone's mind that Fakhar is every bit an international opener and a world class batsman.

His success in the shorter format earned him a call to the Test squad for the one-off test against Ireland and the two tests against England this summer.

I thought that was a great idea and just what Pakistan needed - someone who could take the attack to the opposition early on.

Since Saeed Anwar, Pakistan really hasn't had a dominating opening batsman in tests.

Fakhar was a great prospect and once again I was excited to see him don the whites for Pakistan.

But throughout the UK tour, the team management preferred to open with Azhar Ali and Imam Ul Haq. Fakhar did not get a chance to display his talent in whites.

I had thought that it would have been ideal to open with Fakhar with Imam with Azhar at 3, but the Pakistan team management opted to play 5 batsmen, with Sarfraz at 6, followed by a couple of allrounders.

That combination worked no doubt, but I feel Pakistan missed a great opportunity to test Fakhar.

Especially in the tour games and the test against Ireland. That would have been an ideal start to Fakhar's test career.

It didn't bog Fakhar down however as he continued to destroy bowling attacks in ODIs and in the process became the first batsman from Pakistan to score an ODI double hundred.

When Pakistan's test squad for Australia was announced, Fakhar was in there again, as the third opener alongside the first choice pair of Azhar Ali and Imam Ul Haq.

If Fakhar had any chance of making his test debut, it was all dispelled when Pakistan's selectors decided to include Mohammad Hafeez in the test squad at the last minute.

A fourth opener meant that Fakhar had moved even further down the pekking order.

For the first test, the team management moved Azhar Ali back to number 3 with Hafeez and Imam opening.

Hafeez, coming back to the side after two years, celebrated his comeback with a hundred.

Imam continued to show why he will be opening for Pakistan for the next decade and a half.

Both were also involved in a 200 run opening partnership, which meant that Fakhar will have to wait a while.

I wondered whether Fakhar will ever play test cricket.

Some even thought it was best he doesn't because his game is only suited to white ball cricket.

I always thought otherwise. Look at the impact the likes of Virender Sehwag, Matthew Hayden, and Chris Gayle have had while opening in tests. They all have triple centuries against their names.

Then Imam injured his hand and was ruled out of the second test.

This was Fakhar's chance I thought. He will finally make his debut.

A few days away from the second test against Australia, I started hearing that Sarfraz and Arthur will move Azhar back to open the innings and slot Usman Salahuddin in the middle order.

Meaning Fakhar will not get his chance in whites yet again.

On the eve of the second test however, Sarfraz Ahmed confirmed that Fakhar will play.

That was it. I couldn't wait for the debut.

All of Pakistan was excited to see Fakhar make his debut, see Fakhar take Australia's bowling apart.

While some skeptics continued to say that it was a mistake and Usman Salahuddin was once again hard done by.

Maybe Usman was, actually I think he was, because he truly deserves to play test cricket for Pakistan, but the prospect of Fakhar Zaman opening in test cricket is too good to ignore.

Pakistan won the toss and out walked Fakhar Zaman in whites making his test debut.

While I had thought that he will play his natural attacking game, Fakhar not only surprised me, but also silenced all those skeptics who had wondered whether he was good enough for test cricket or not.

Fakhar was sedate and cautious.

Maybe it was the nerves of a test debut, or maybe it was the fact that he saw three batsmen fall for ducks while he looked on from the non-striker's end.

Fakhar was out there when Pakistan collapsed from 57-1 to 57-5 in the span of 10 deliveries.

While an experienced campaigner might have been used to this, for a debutant that would have been nerve wrecking.

Not for Fakhar though.

He continued to bat cautiously and started to rebuild Pakistan's innings together with Sarfraz Ahmed.

A batsman who was used to batting at a strike rate of over a 100, was batting at a strike rate in the 40s.

It wasn't the same Fakhar I, or anyone else, was used to.

He was really unfortunate to miss a debut century, but Fakhar's 94 scored of 198 deliveries at a strike rate of 47 was a test innings par excellence.

It was one of the best debut innings played by a Pakistani batsman under pressure.

Forget the skeptics, even I did not think that Fakhar could curb his natural instinct and play sedately.

It was an outstanding debut innings.

Fakhar wasn't done yet.

He walked out for the second innings, with a lot less pressure as Pakistan was already leading by 137 runs, and he took the attack to Australia's bowling.

He raced to a run a ball fifty becoming the first opener from Pakistan to score a 50 in each innings of his debut test.

His second knock ended on 66, scored at a strike rate of 80.

This one was more a Fakhar innings, but more importantly what Fakhar showed in his debut test was that he can bat according to the situation.

If caution was required he can easily rein himself in and play like he did in the first innings. If aggression was required he can easily smash the bowling around like he did in the second innings.

It was the perfect debut for Fakhar Zaman and I can't wait to see more!

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Trip Down Memory Lane Reminiscing Pakistan's unlikely Test Victories

This morning, with Australia at 91-7, a friend on Whatsapp commented that this has got to be the mother of all comebacks after Pakistan were 57-5 on the first morning of the test.

That discussion led to more examples of Pakistan coming from behind to win a test.

Here are five of Pakistan's great test wins that came after they had their backs against the wall.

On a green top, a typical surface in New Zealand, Pakistan were put in by the Kiwis and in no time were reduced to 12-3. A customary captain's innings of 92 from Javed Miandad saved Pakistan from complete disaster as they managed a somewhat respectable 216 in the first innings.

Mark Greatbatch played a magnificent knock of 133, but Wasim, Waqar, and Mushtaq ensured that New Zealand do not bat Pakistan out of the game. The rest of the Kiwi batsmen could not do much and New Zealand took a modest 48 run lead.

Pakistan's woes against seam and swing continued in the second innings as they were bundled out for 174 with the only saving grace being Inzamam's 75.

Set a target of 127, it should have been a walk in the park for New Zealand.

But Pakistan's deadly Ws duo had other things in mind.

Wasim Akram bowled unchanged for 22 overs and dismissed half the New Zealand side, with Waqar Younis running through the other half, leaving the Kiwis in tatters.

The greatest pacers to play for Pakistan destroyed New Zealand giving Pakistan an unlikely 33 run win.

Having just drawn the test series 1-1 with India, Pakistan took on India again in Kolkata in the first match of the Asian Test Championship.

After winning the toss and batting first, within 45 minutes of the game, Srinath and Prasad had Pakistan reeling at 26-6.

The entire batting line up, barring Saleem Malik (32), had succumbed to the seam and swing of India's opening bowlers. Moin Khan played a valuable knock of 70 and with support from Malik and Wasim Akram (38), managed to give Pakistan a total of 185.

India could not capitalize on this as they also folded for 223 in the first innings as Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar shared 7 wickets, including Shoaib's two scalps of successive yorkers to Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar.

Pakistan's second innings was a one man masterclass from Saeed Anwar as he carried his bat with a magnificent career best 188 off 259 deliveries, which was laced with 23 boundaries and a six. He found some support from Mohammad Yousuf (56) with the rest of the Pakistan batting not doing much.

Javagal Srinath, Pakistan's first innings tormentor, took 8 wickets in the second innings, giving him career best match figures of 13-132.

Thanks to Saeed Anwar, Pakistan managed to post 316, giving India a target of 279 to win. In response, India managed only 232, and Pakistan won by 46 runs.

No one expected Pakistan to win after they were 26-6 inside 9 overs on the first morning of the test.

This test match started in similar fashion to the one in Kolkata. After winning the toss, Indian put Pakistan into bat on a breezy Karachi morning on a damp wicket.

At the end of the first over, Pakistan were 0-3 having lost Salman Butt, Younis Khan, and Mohammad Yousuf to an Irfan Pathan hatrick!

By the 10th over, Pakistan were reeling at 39-6.

Kamran Akmal then played the innings of his life as he smashed 18 boundaries in a classy 113 where he shared a 115 run 7th wicket partnership with Abdul Razzak (45) and a 82 run 8th wicket partnership with Shoaib Akhtar (45) to take Pakistan to a respectable 245.

Pakistan wrested the initiative away from India once again as Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif, and Abdul Razzaq combined to bowl India out for 238.

In the 2nd innings, Pakistan just smashed their way to 599-7 declared. Faisal Iqbal hit 139 and every other batsman that batted got 50+, including a couple of 90s from Mohammad Yousuf and Abdul Razzaq.

India managed only 265 in their improbable chase of 607, giving Pakistan their largest win ever by 341 runs (which was later broken in 2014 when Pakistan beat Australia by 356 runs).

Who would have thought that Pakistan will manage a record breaking win after they were 0-3 on the first morning!

This was the second test of the series against England and Pakistan were behind in the entire game except for the final 30 overs of the match.

On day 1, Pakistan collapsed from 203-4 to 257 all out as Broad, Anderson, and Panesar proved too much for Pakistan's lower order. In response England posted 327 taking a 70 run first innings lead.

In the second innings, Pakistan again could not handle Monty Panesar as he picked up 6 wickets to bowl Pakistan out for 214.

Needing only 145 runs to win, England began their chase cautiously putting on 20 runs in 14 overs. They lost Alastair Cook to Hafeez off the final delivery of the 15th over to make it 21-1.

Then the carnage began.

From there it went to 26-2, 37-4, 68-7, and then 72 ALL OUT !

Abdur Rehman's 6-25 and Saeed Ajmal's 3-22 gave Pakistan one of their most improbable wins ever.

No one gave Pakistan a chance to defend 145, but they did and how. It was a great escape and a wonderful win! 

DUBAI 2012
After winning the series following the great escape in Abu Dhabi, Pakistan should have been confident going into bat after winning the toss in the third test against England.

However, within 45 minutes of the morning, Pakistan found themselves at 21-5, with Broad and Anderson ripping through the batting. Panesar further added to their woes and Pakistan were bowled out for 99.

England should have run away with the match but their Abu Dhabi tormentors, Rehman (5-40) and Ajmal (3-59), combined again to restrict England's lead to only 42 runs.

In the second innings, Azhar Ali (157) and Younis Khan (127) combined in a 200 run partnership to give Pakistan a 300 plus run lead.

Pakistan set England a target of 324, which at the end proved too much for them.

No one thought Pakistan will end up winning the test by 71 runs after they were bowled out for 99 in the first innings.

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Quite a day for Pakistan in Abu Dhabi

The second test between Pakistan and Australia got underway yesterday in Abu Dhabi.

Soon after the start, two bad shots and two unbelievably freaky catches later, Pakistan found themselves at 57-5.

From 57-1 to:



Who would have thought that Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, and Babar Azam will all walk back to the pavilion for a duck.

Even if you are a betting man and wanted to make a cricket betting prediction you would not place your money on Pakistan losing half their side in the morning session.

It took a 147 run 6th wicket partnership between a debutant and the captain to steer Pakistan out of complete disaster.

Fakhar was unfortunate to miss out on a debut test ton, but he batted with grit and determination in his first test. His innings of 94 was unnatural, at a strike rate of 47, and showed Pakistan and the rest of the world that he can adapt his game to play at the highest level.

Pakistan will now have an interesting problem at hand when Imam is fit again.

Sarfraz Ahmed finally produced a captain's knock when it was required. Sarfraz hasn't batted the way he did yesterday in over 3 years.

He batted as if it was 2014 all over again. Without giving a damn.

He attacked, he found the gaps, he ran, and he scored 94 without even breaking a sweat.

It was a splendid captain's knock and a much needed one, not only to steady Pakistan's first innings, but also to boost his own confidence and ensure some continuity in Pakistan's top job.

The Fakhar-Sarfraz partnership and some late blows from Yasir Shah took Pakistan to 282. It is not a total Pakistan would have wanted after winning the toss, but it is good enough runs on the board following what happened in the morning session.

Pakistan ended the day on a high note with their newest superstar, Mohammad Abbas, picking up 2 Australian wickets including the key wickets of the first test's hero - Usman Khawaja.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Mohammad Abbas' Test Average - Best in over a Century

Mohammad Abbas did not quite get to 50 test wickets in his 9th test match, which means that he will only equal, and not beat, the record created by Waqar Younis, Mohammad Asif, and Shabbir Ahmed - 50 test wickets in 10 matches, which is the quickest for Pakistani pacers.

Despite not achieving the record, Abbas has remarkable figures in a short test career.

He has 49 wickets in 9 tests at an average under 17, which is something no pacer has achieved in the last 100 years of test cricket.

In fact, Abbas is the only bowler, with at least 45 test wickets, to average under 17, since Sydney Barnes, who hung up his boots in 1914!

So what Abbas has achieved till now is something done by only 2 bowlers since the start of the 20th Century!

Remarkable is a gross understatement.

I reckon he would have got his 50th test wicket in the first test against Australia had Sarfraz gone to him immediately on the 5th morning. Instead, Abbas did not get the ball till after the 15th over of day 5.

Such a bad decision.

Anyhow, back to Abbas, and it is not only his average that is outstanding, but even his strike rate.

His strike rate of 42.1, just a bit more than 7 overs is bettered by only Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, and Shane Bond from the modern era.

Right now he is striking faster than Waqar Younis did for Pakistan, which will be quite some feat if he manages to continue with the same vigor.

The result of the first test between Pakistan and Australia might have been different had Abbas been given the ball at the start of day 5, but what is done is done and now it is time to look ahead to the second test.

Abbas will be key for Pakistan if they are to win this test series and Sarfraz must use him better than he did in the first test.

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Mohammad Abbas is Pakistan's Premier Pacer

Mohammad Abbas has quickly risen to the status of Pakistan's premier pace bowler in tests.

While it was Bilal Asif who ripped through Australia in the first innings of this test, Abbas played a crucial role as well ensuring a strong lead for Pakistan.

Abbas then follow up his first innings 4-29 with another special spell in the second innings where he picked up 3 wickets in the space of 7 deliveries for no runs that left Australia reeling at 87-3.

Abbas is special and he is one wicket away from his 50th test wicket in only his 9th test.

Another wicket today and he will join Yasir Shah as the quickest to 50 wickets among Pakistan bowlers. Better than that, he will become the quickest among pacers from Pakistan, breaking the 10-test record set by Waqar Younis, Mohammad Asif, and Shabbir Ahmed.

Abbas spoke to the media yesterday and you can watch his press conference on our Facebook page. Here is a transcript of what he spoke about:

"Firstly as a batsman or as a bowler, you need to know your strengths. I just concentrate on my strengths. On these kinds of surfaces I try and stick to my line and length and I bowl in the right areas. I try to keep the batsman quiet. As soon as the ball starts reversing, I attack. I think that's one of the reasons why I am successful. When you talk about pace, among the four fast bowlers here, my fastest delivery is 138 kph and average speed is 130 kph. I am happy with this speed. I'll keep on working on my fitness in order to keep getting opportunities"

"I adjust according to the conditions. Thank God I was the man of the match and man of the series in England. I feel I am the main bowler in our Test team. I compete with myself. I always look to improve from my last performance"

"I feel I am not under pressure, rather the opposition is wary of me as they are planning against me. In the first innings the first wicket fell for 142 and at 87 in the second innings. I stuck to my line and length. I eventually struck, so I was really happy"

"I have benefitted from the County circuit a lot. It was pretty hot there this season. I got reverse swing going as well. On Day 4 in Leicestershire the ball keeps low as well. The wickets are like we have in Sind/Karachi. I played 10 games and got around 50 wickets. My aim was to continue the good work and serve my nation"

"I think the wicket isn't going to change a lot. I want to say something here. The most number of wickets in first 9 Tests for Pakistan is by Yasir Shah's, but as a fast bowler, it's Waqar Younis, Mohammad Asif and Shabir Ahmed (they had 50 in 10 games. My aim before the game was to become the fastest t 50 wickets for Pakistan. One more to go, Insha'Allah I'll get that tomorrow morning"

"My first target will be to complete fifty wickets in the morning and contribute towards my team's victory. I'll keep on working hard - it's up to the selectors and team management if they want me to be part of the white-ball set up"

"I know what my strength and limitations. I limit myself to that. I try and bowl according to the conditions and what the team requires from me. I stick to the plan. I feel that is the reason behind my success"

"My speed ranges between 130 kph & 138 Kph. I try and keep the batsman quiet. I bowl wicket to wicket. I feel that's the reason behind my success"

"We'll try to wrap things up as quickly as possible. We shouldn't forget it's an Australian team after all. We'll need to be patient. We'll try to get them out before Lunch. They are under pressure, we aren't"

"Last year I got 8 wickets in two games, which was the most by a fast bowler in the series. In all my series, I have been the top wicket taker among the fast bowlers. I bowled in the right channels and was very patient"

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Bilal Asif Rises to the Occasion

I don't know a single person who was not surprised by seeing Bilal Asif's name in the Pakistan squad for the test series against Australia. Everyone wondered why he was the only off spinner in the squad and asked where were all the other off spinners.

I was quite sure that Bilal Asif will not play a single game and that thought became even more certain when Pakistan called up Mohammad Hafeez to join the squad.

But then, Shadab did not recover from his injury and on the eve of the first test against Australia, Sarfraz announced that Bilal Asif will play.

I read someone's social media post that said that this was Pakistan's weakest bowling attack ever. Even I was skeptical about the support for Abbas and Yasir, so I did not even bother to refute that statement.

And then on day 3 of the first test, Bilal Asif surprised not only Australia but all of Pakistan too!

Bilal Asif's magic made the Aussies fold like a pack of cards as they lost 10 wickets, 6 of them to Asif, for 60 runs in 30 odd overs resulting in one of the worst ever collapses in Australia's test history.

Asif's 6-36 is the third best bowling figures in an innings by a Pakistani debutant and the second best by a Pakistani debutant off spinner.

Look at that average, economy, and strike rate. Never has a Pakistani debutant dominated the way Bilal Asif did.

Pakistanis love to create the unexpected, don't they? I don't know any other team that dismisses the fans' expectations, both good and bad, like Pakistan does!

Asif's figures are not only one of the best ever for a Pakistani debutant, but they are one of the best among all off spinners on debut.

Fourth best to be exact, but again no debutant has done it as economically or as destructively as Asif did against Australia.

And that holds true among all bowlers that have made their test debut against Australia.

No one has produced as a good a spell as Asif's 6-36 on debut against Australia.

It is not surprising that no one considered Asif to be test material before the series started. He doesn't have a first class record that showcases abundant talent, nor does he have domestic performance that have startled, yet the Pakistan selectors and the team management saw something in him.

That something paid off yesterday.

Fortunately, Shadab Khan was not fit for this test, because if he was then I doubt Asif would have ever gotten a chance. And the way Pakistan's other leg spinner went in the first innings, wicketless, Pakistan may not have been in the position they are in now had Asif not been in the XI.

So thank you Inzamam, thank you Sarfraz and Mickey, and thank you Shadab for letting us witness the heroics of Bilal Asif.

Asif addressed the media at the end of day 3 and you can watch the video on our Facebook page. Here is a transcript of what he had to say:

"Being a professional cricketer, you need to be strong from within. When I was not getting my big break, I kept on working hard. I believe, one can obnly work hard, success is in the hands of Allah. I kept on working hard, 2015 is when I last played for Pakistan (ODIs v Zimbabwe). In the last three years I attended camps at the National cricket academy. I want to mention Mushtaq Ahmed here. I want to thank him for teaching me a lot. Today, I reaped rewards for all the hard work he put in. The credit of today's performance goes to Mushi Bhai (Mushtaq). He has been my biggest support"

"No I wasn't bothered about that (my action was called in the ODIS in Zimbabwe in 2015). That's a thing of the past. I concentrated on my bowling performance today. Thank God I did well."

"I wasn't sure I was going to play the game beforehand. I only realized when the final XI was announced. Well they had announced the 12, a day before the Test, so I had an idea but wasn't sure. Whenever I am in the squad I keep my confidence level high. I was always ready to grab my opportunity with both hands."

"I have been bowling for a while, in first class and ODIs (List A). I had an idea of how to bowl on this pitch. The conditions here are conducive for spin. I tried to vary my pace. Thankfully, I achieved the desired results."

"This is a team game. Yasir Shah and Hafeez are world-class bowlers, drawing comparisons is unfair. To say that they aren't good because they were wicket-less today doesn't make sense. It was my day today. I was lucky. I took time to get my rhythm going. I didn't find success in the first session. There was a bit of pressure but I refocused in the afternoon and thankfully was successful."

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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Haris Sohail posts his Maiden Test Century

On day 2 of the first test against Australia, Pakistan further solidified their position through a 150 run partnership between Haris Sohail and Asad Shafiq.

In the process Haris Sohail posted his maiden test hundred, scoring 110 with 8 boundaries and two sixes.

Haris has been in and out of the Pakistan team across all formats since he made his debut. He has an impeccable first class record, where he is among very few Pakistani batsmen who average above 50, and now he has finally showcased that potential at the international stage.

Haris addressed the media at the end of day 2. You can view the video clip of his press conference on our facebook page.

Below is a translation of what he had to say:

"I got out in 30s a few times during the series against England. I wanted to come out and make a big one. Thankfully I have achieved it."
"When you score your maiden Test ton, it's an indescribable feeling .When I reached the milestone, it felt very different."
"It means a lot. When you are playing for your country and score your maiden hundred it means a lot. You talked about my knee surgery; I have struggled a lot due to my knee injury. I worked very hard to come out of that phase. Thankfully I am out now."
"Our target was to get in excess of 450. This is a difficult wicket to score runs on. It's a slow surface. The outfield is slow as well. I think it's a pretty good score."
"I am a humble man (laughs) If they tried to take a dig at me or sledge me, I didn't even look back at them. They tried to sledge a few times. I ignored it."
"I worked a lot on my bowling with the coaches. If I get an opportunity, insha'Allah I'll try to do well."
"At one stage the seam had worn out, they were delaying to take the new ball. It was so soft that scoring runs had become really difficult. The ball wasn't travelling at all, even when it found the middle of the bat. The plan was to stick around and wait for the new ball. Eventually when they opted for the new ball, the runs started flowing."
"There were a few spectators in one corner. I could clearly hear them call out my name and cheer me up. If it's a full house you can't really hear the crowd clearly (laughs)."
"One of the reasons behind sending me at number four was to play with a left hand, right hand combination. They have Nathan Lyon and a left arm spinner (John Holland). As far as Younus is concerned, we all know he is a legend, I hope I can be a shadow of how good he is."
"As I told you before as well, I got out in the 30s against England. Sometimes I got a good delivery on other occasions I threw my wicket away, in panic. I was trying to stay calm, and come out of that phase. My main target was to avoid the panic button. As I moved out of that situation, runs started flowing for me. "

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Monday, October 8, 2018

Mohammad Hafeez, one of Pakistan's best Openers

Mohammad Hafeez, in his first test innings in two years, smashed a century ensuring that no one takes away the title of Comeback King from him.

Hafeez' 126 against Australia in the first test in Dubai was his 10th test century. He has now joined an elite club of Pakistan openers with 10 or more test centuries, whose only other member is Saeed Anwar!

Can you believe that? No test opener from Pakistan has scored more than Saeed Anwar's 11 test hundreds and Hafeez is only one century away from equaling that feat!

Considering that Australia, England, and India have each produced a couple of openers with more than 20 test hundreds. And at least 1 opener with 30 test hundreds, I was quite surprised.

But then, Pakistan hasn't really had that many stable openers. We are never patient enough with our openers and a couple of bad matches or 1 bad series and the selectors move on to the next one.

I wonder why that is.

In the middle order, batsmen seem more safe. They can go through more failures than openers can.

Case in point, Mohammad Hafeez, who was kept away from Pakistan's test side for two years despite scores of 224, 197, 151, 101*, 98, 96, 51, 42*, 42, 40 in his last 10 tests! He really only failed in one test in England (0 and 2) and he was dropped.

Doesn't seem right for a batsman who has arguably been Pakistan's second best opener in tests ever!

He has the third highest runs tally, the second highest number of test hundreds, and the third best average among all test openers produced by Pakistan.

Hafeez has been a world class opener for Pakistan, more so since November 2010 when he made his return to the Pakistan test team under Misbah.

Since that time, Hafeez is among the best openers in the world!

His average of 42.2 in this period is behind only that of Alastair Cook's, David Warner's, and Dean Elgar's.

It really makes me wonder why he was dropped from the team.

What further strengthens Hafeez' case as the first choice test opener for Pakistan is the fact that he has been involved in 7 out of the 13 century opening stands and 11 out of 15 fifty opening stands for Pakistan since 2010.

Hafeez has easily been Pakistan's best test opener since 2010 and I really cannot understand what resulted in him being dropped.

Please save me all the bull crap about his runs coming on flat decks and his centuries against weaker opposition. Hafeez has test hundreds against all test countries that he has played against, barring South Africa, and the only country he hasn't played test cricket against India.

For each one of his 10 test hundreds, there was another opener in the team also, playing the same opposition in the same conditions as Hafeez.

Mohammad Hafeez' comeback was so strong that he put on 205 runs for the opening wicket with Imam-Ul-Haq, which was Pakistan's 5th opening wicket stand of 200 runs or more, and the 6th highest test partnership ever against Australia.

I wonder how long Hafeez will last this time, but if he maintains the form that he displayed in Dubai yesterday, he will be on top of the list of Pakistan's test openers by the end of the Test series against New Zealand.

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Mohammad Hafeez makes his comeback Memorable

There was no surprise when Pakistan captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, won the toss and elected to bat first under the scorching Dubai sun in the first test against Australia.

Before the toss, Pakistan handed a Test cap to off spinner Bilal Asif, while Australia handed out three caps to Aaron Finch, Travis Head, and Marnus Labuschagne.

Mohammad Hafeez, making his comeback to the test side after two years, and Imam Ul Haq, wasted no time in ensuring that Sarfraz had made the right call at the toss.

Pakistan's openers dominated the proceedings for the first two sessions and out in 205 runs for the first wicket, in what was the 5th double century opening stand for Pakistan in the history of their test cricket.

Hafeez made his comeback memorable by knocking a superb century. His 126 was laced with 15 boundaries and it seemed as if he was never away from Pakistan's test team.

Hafeez has had numerous comebacks to the Pakistan team and every single one of them has been with a bang!

When he returned to the team at the Oval in 2006, he was playing a test after a gap of 3 years and showed everyone what Pakistan had been missing when he scored 95.

The second comeback that I remember was in 2010 against South Africa when Misbah took charge of the team. Then he came back with a 60 against an attack that included Dale Steyn.

And now, he bettered all his previous comebacks with a scintillating 126!

His opening partner, Imam-Ul-Haq continued the awesome start that his career has had, but he would be disappointed to miss out on his first test century after departing for a flawless 76.

It was a brilliant start from Pakistan's openers, but following their departure, Pakistan gave back some of the initiative that they had snatched away from Australia. At 205-1, one would think that the new batsmen would try to dominate the bowling that would have been tired out by the openers.

However, both Azhar Ali and Haris Sohail batted as if the scoreline was 2-2 and not 222-2!

If anything they showed the quality of the innings that Hafeez and Imam played in more challenging conditions.

It was still Pakistan's day with 250 odd on the board and only 3 wickets down, but it did not end at the same dominant note that it had started.

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Pakistan takes on Australia in the Desert

Another season of Test Cricket started for Pakistan yesterday with the start of the two test series against Australia.

The last time the two sides played test cricket, Australia, in their own backyard, blanked Pakistan 3-0. However, the last time the two sides were in the UAE, Pakistan defeated them 2-0 with ease.

Tim Paine, captain of Australia and Sarfraz Ahmed, captain of Pakistan addressed the media ahead of the 1st Test at Dubai Sports City.

The trophy for the Jubilee Insurance presents Brighto Paints Cup 2018 was unveiled by the two captains in the presence of Syed Usman Qaiser (Chief Marketing manager Jubilee Insurance) & Kamran Ahmed (representative of Brighto Paints.

The last time the two teams played a Test at Dubai Sports City was in 2014. Pakistan won that game by 221 runs and their current captain, Sarfraz Ahmed scored a century in the first innings.

This Test marks the start of Pakistan’s home season. They’ll play two Tests before playing three T20s against Australia. After that Pakistan will welcome New Zealand for three Tests, 3 T20Is & 5 ODIs. 

Sarfraz Ahmed was very candid during his pre-match press conference.

When questioned about the team for the first test, he gave out 12 names, which confirmed a test debut for Bilal Asif with a decision to be made in the choice of Mohammad Abbas' new ball partner.

Pakistan’s 12 for 1st Test: "Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed ©, Bilal Asif, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas – We’ll decide on the fast bowlers tomorrow before the toss - Wahab Riaz & Mir Hamza"

When questioned about Nathan Lyon, who managed 8 wickets in the first innings of Australia's only practice match, Sarfraz said "We played against Nathan Lyon in 2014. He is a different bowler now. He has a lot of wickets in Asia. We have made a plan against him during our batting meetings. Hopefully we’ll execute our plans against him during the match"

On Yasir Shah and the impact he could have, Sarfraz was very confident in stating "Yasir Shah suffered an injury during the England Tour. He is fit now and regularly playing first class cricket. He has worked really hard. He is our main bowler and hopefully he’ll guide us to victory"

When asked about the comeback of Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfraz had plenty of encouraging words "As far as Hafeez is concerned, he has been batting really well on the domestic circuit. We need to benefit from his batting form by playing him as an opener. He’ll also fill in as the fifth bowler.  His inclusion is really crucial for the balance of the side".

With the way Sarfraz addressed the media, he seemed very confident and there is no reason why Pakistan can't repeat the result of 2014.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

What Prompted Hafeez's Test Selection?

Just yesterday I wondered why Hafeez was not part of Pakistan's ODI squad despite producing good performances consistently.

And then we heard the news that Hafeez has been selected in the Test squad for the upcoming series against Australia.

Strange how things work in Pakistan. Hafeez hasn't played a test match in two years. He has played ODIs though and done well.

Yet he was ignored from ODIs, and received a last minute call for the tests.

Again, I wonder why.

Maybe it was because of the abundance of left handers in Australia's test team.

The only off spinner in Pakistan's 17-man squad is Bilal Asif, who has represented Pakistan in 3 ODIs and has done nothing of note in First Class cricket to be considered test material.

Shouldn't the management have considered this when the squad was being selected? Didn't they know about the left handers in Australia's team?

Pakistan does have able spinners in the squad in Yasir Shah and Shadab Khan, but their threat can be minimized due to the left handers. So a quality off spinner was surely required.

Considering Azhar Ali and Imam Ul Haq are the first choice openers, it does not seem likely that Hafeez will open, so he could not have been selected for that, especially when the squad has a back-up opener in Fakhar Zaman.

Or maybe the management is considering to move Azhar to number 3 and open with Hafeez and Imam.

Who knows.

It could be that Hafeez' recent performances in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy resulted in his selection.

A 6 wicket haul in one match and a double century in another surely would have got noticed.

And it is not like Hafeez has not done well in Tests in the past.

He has been one of Pakistan's consistent run scorers in Test cricket also since 2010.

He is actually averaging better than Asad Shafiq during this period. One wonders then why hasn't Hafeez played test cricket for two years?

Strange are the ways of Pakistan cricket!

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Monday, October 1, 2018

Why is Mohammad Hafeez not Playing for Pakistan?

I really wonder what Mohammad Hafeez has done wrong to not be a part of Pakistan's ODI team.

Just last year he was an integral part of Pakistan's Champions Trophy winning team. He played an instrumental role in propelling Pakistan to 338 in the final with a smashing unbeaten 57 off 37 deliveries. It seemed like Hafeez had found a new home in the middle order.

Following on from the Champions Trophy, Hafeez hit a couple of 30s against Sri Lanka including an unbeaten one, also while batting in the middle order.

Then in the series against New Zealand, where no Pakistan batsman really clicked, Hafeez had scores of 60 and 81, again while batting in the middle order. Those were the only two occasions that Pakistan surpassed a score of 245 in the entire series.

When Pakistan played again, a 5-match series against Zimbabwe, Hafeez found himself on the bench. He did not get a single game on tour.

Come the Asia Cup and Hafeez was out of the squad.

So after giving a solid consistent middle order performance over one year, Hafeez first found himself on the bench and then out of the squad altogether.

And I really do not understand why!

If the Asia Cup proved anything was that Pakistan dearly missed Hafeez's services.

Not only would he have strengthened Pakistan's middle order, he would have provided great value through his bowling.

His replacement in the XI, Asif Ali, is at best a T20 batsman. He definitely is not ODI top 6 material and it was apparent that even the team management thinks so when they decided to send Shadab in at the fall of the 4th wicket inside 20 overs.

Hafeez's inclusion the XI will not only strengthen Pakistan's middle order, it will give them an additional bowling option, and it will also allow them to include Asif Ali's hitting prowess at number 7.

That way Pakistan can actually field an ODI team with enough batting till number 7, followed by their allrounders, spinners, and pacers.

For those that feel that Hafeez is past his best and does not belong in Pakistan's ODI XI, here is a look at the performance of Pakistan's batsmen since the start of 2017.

That is actually a great record for someone who has been floating around numbers 4-6 for the past year or so.

The records of Babar, Fakhar, and Imam are inflated because of the run spree they all had against Zimbabwe, a series during which Hafeez warmed the benches.

If we exclude that series from this analysis, Hafeez's performance relative to the others looks even better.

In fact he averages better than Pakistan's current most popular batsman - Fakhar Zaman.

If one takes a look at the performance of Pakistan batsmen in ODIs in this decade, you may be surprised to realize that Mohammad Hafeez has been Pakistan's highest run scorer, as well as, their most consistent ODI batsman.

During this 8 year and a bit period, Hafeez has played the most ODIs for Pakistan and scored the most ODI runs for Pakistan.

Only Misbah Ul Haq and Babar Azam have a better average than him during this period, among all batsmen with at least 1,500 ODI runs.

Hafeez is also far ahead in the number of centuries for Pakistan during this period with 11 ODI centuries. And he has scored them against the likes of England, New Zealand, and India besides bashing the Sri Lankans and West Indians.

Then why is Hafeez out of this ODI Team?

It definitely cannot be due to cricket. There is probably something else brewing. Issues with the coach or management perhaps. Maybe a tiff with the captain.

I don't know what it is.

But whatever it is, for the sake of Pakistan cricket, it is better if this matter is resolved and Hafeez is brought back into the fold as Pakistan can really do with his services.

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Pakistan is NOT a Good ODI Team!

Pakistan started off the Asia Cup as favorites and ended the tournament as an embarrassment. They had an easy win against Hong Kong, barely scraped through against Afghanistan and faced embarrassing losses against India and Bangladesh.

When you go back in history and think of all those times when Pakistan entered the tournament as favorites, I don't think you will find any tournament where they actually lived up to the tag.

World Cup 1987, World Cup 1996, World Cup 1999, World T20 2010, Asia Cup 2018 and so many more.

At the same time, take a look at the tournaments they won and it was those where no one gave them a chance at all.

World Cup 1992, World T20 2009, Asia Cup 2012, Champions Trophy 2017.

There are so many bilateral series and triseries that have gone the same route for Pakistan.

Why then even give Pakistan the tag of favorites?

We were so confident about the Asia Cup. The fans, the team, the odd makers, everyone thought the tournament was Pakistan's even before it began.

I guess a combination of Pakistan's Champions Trophy win, 'home ground' conditions in the UAE, and Pakistan's recent decimation of Zimbabwe 5-0 resulted in everyone feeling that Pakistan was a great ODI force.

When in fact they really are not. Maybe in online cricket, but in International One-Day Cricket they are a below par ODI team.

Pakistan is currently ranked 5 in ODIs and just last year they won a global ODI tournament involving the top 8 ODI sides in the world, but that Champions Trophy win was an exception amidst an abysmal run in ODIs.

If you take a look at 3-year ODI performances of the 10 teams that will be playing the ICC World Cup in 2019, Pakistan's W/L ratio is at the bottom half of the table.

Sure, one can say that Pakistan has won more ODIs than they have lost during this period and this cannot be termed as abysmal.

But delve a bit deeper into this record and you will realize that 26 out of those 32 wins have come against Sri Lanka, West Indies, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Ireland, and Hong Kong, which are teams ranked 8-12 (all below Pakistan) and a team that does not even have ODI status.

That leaves matches against the top 4 ranked ODI teams - England, India, New Zealand, South Africa - plus Australia and Bangladesh.

Take a look!

6 wins in 31 matches over 3 years!

That is a success percentage of 19%.


Now if that is not abysmal, I do not know what is.

Plus, 3 out of these 6 wins came in the Champions Trophy last year. Signs of improvement? Maybe so, but then we were blanked 5-0 in New Zealand earlier this year!

So no. We are not a good ODI team.

We recently reached the top in test cricket. We leveled a test series in England this year. We are the current number 1 T20 team. But when it comes to ODIs, we are at the middle of the table with a pathetic record against the top 7 ODI teams.

We have not beaten Bangladesh even once since the last ICC World Cup in 2015.

And here we were thinking we were the favorites to win the Asia Cup.

Quite delusional, aren't we?

This brings me to World Cup 2019.

The round robin format means to qualify for the semifinal a team will have to win, at a minimum, 5 out of its 9 matches. Even then it may not make it. 6 wins might guarantee a spot.

Who will these 5-6 wins come against?

Think about the opposition Pakistan will face.

On one hand you would think about the matches that you should win, i.e. the bottom ranked teams - West Indies, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh.

Pakistan have not beaten Bangladesh in the past 3.5 years and have lost 4 consecutive ODIs to them. And they just scraped through against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup.

Are these 4 games sure wins for Pakistan? Definitely not.

For a minute consider that Pakistan does manage to win these 4 games. It then still has to win 1 or 2 games out of the matches against India, Australia, England, South Africa, and New Zealand - teams against whom Pakistan has won only 6 times in 31 games since 2015.

Do we really think we are among the top 4 ODI teams or capable of being among the top 4 at the ICC World Cup in 2019?

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Pakistan vs India is back in the UAE!

Growing up in Abu Dhabi in the 80s and 90s, I always used to look forward to the annual cricketing event in Sharjah.

Sharjah Cup, Champions Trophy, Wills Cup, Australasia Cup, Rothmans Trophy, Coca-Cola Cup, Pepsi Cup, there were a plethora of tournaments played at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in last two decades of the 20th century.

Pakistan and India squared off 24 times at Sharjah during that period with Pakistan winning 18 times!

At the turn of the century, it all stopped. There were barely any more tournaments in Sharjah. India stopped coming here, and the annual Pakistan vs India fare became a rare commodity.

The only time India have come to the UAE since 2000 was in 2006 for a 2-ODI series against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, and later for a few IPL games.

The Dubai Cricket Stadium has been open since 2009 and India has not played there even once.

All this will change from Wednesday.

In the span of 4 days, on the 19th and 23rd of this month, Pakistan will square off against India twice in Dubai!

The Asia Cup has brought back excitement to the same 80s and 90s level.

The 25,000 capacity stadium in Dubai was sold out within minutes for the 19th. Soon after the 23rd was sold out too.

Potentially, the two could meet in the Asia Cup final as well on the 28th, which will make it 3 games in 9 days at a venue where Pakistan and India have never met before.

I have been at the Dubai Stadium at full capacity.

A Pakistan vs Australia T20 a few years ago that ended in a Tie and went into a Super Over, a few PSL games, and a couple of other matches.

The atmosphere there is electrifying to say the least. The noise, the cheering, the music all make it quite deafening.

But I have never been there for a Pakistan vs India match and I can only imagine what it is going to be like this Wednesday.

The stadium is going be full. It might be more than full actually. There will be hoards of people waiting outside trying to get in. There will be a traffic jam around Motor City and Sports City. Parking lots will be full. Cars will be diverted away. There will be some very frustrated fans outside the ground. It will be hot and humid. There will be a lot of hurdles getting to the ground.

But once you will be in, it will all be worth it!

It has to be, it is Pakistan vs India after all, and that too in the UAE after 12 years, and in Dubai for the first time ever!

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Pakistan are my Favorites for the Asia Cup!

Pakistan and India have played 26 ODIs against each other in the UAE, out which they played 24 ODIs in Sharjah and 2 in Abu Dhabi.

Those two ODIs in Abu Dhabi in 2006 was the last time the two rivals met in the UAE. It has been 12 years.

They have never played an ODI in Dubai, which seems strange considering the Dubai International Cricket Stadium opened in 2009.

And now they are set to square off twice within 4 days and potentially a third time a week later.

Come Wednesday, 19th September, Pakistan will square off against India for the first time ever in Dubai and for the first time in the UAE in 12 years!

The 25,000 capacity stadium in Dubai was sold out in less than an hour for this match.

I can't wait to be there. I was there for the two games in Abu Dhabi in 2006. I remember being there for at least half of the 24 Sharjah games that Pakistan has played against India.

Those were the days when Pakistan used to dominate India. Out of the 26 matches played in the UAE, Pakistan has won a whopping 19!

Besides their dominance in the UAE, Pakistan has many other things going for them at the moment.

  • The last time they played an ODI, it was the Champions Trophy Final in 2017, and Pakistan completely destroyed India.
  • The last time they played an Asia Cup ODI match, it was the game in Dhaka in 2014, where Shahid Afridi scarred Ashwin for life.
  • UAE is home and a like a fortress for Pakistan.
  • India is coming off a demoralizing England tour.
  • India has come for this Asia Cup without Virat Kohli.

If all this does not make Pakistan overwhelming favorites for its two games against India in this Asia Cup, I don't know what will.

Pakistan are my favorites for winning the Asia Cup too. The team has been on a roll for some time now. The young and talented cricketers have been performing exceptionally and glory for all of them is right round the corner.

Actually, they got the glory with the Champions Trophy win last year, so an Asia Cup win will only solidify Pakistan's position as one of the top limited overs side currently.

They have a courageous captain, some outstanding openers, one of the best number three batsman in the world currently, a hard hitting middle and lower order, and a destructive bowling line up that possesses unlimited variety and skill.

India and the rest of Asia need to be wary of this talented Pakistan side.

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Shan Masood - A World Record Holder

When Pakistan's Asia Cup squad was announced last month, there was little surprise as most of the members were automatic selections. The only choice that created some news was the omission of Mohammad Hafeez and selection of Shan Masood.

But was it a surprise?

Shan has played 12 tests for Pakistan and has been pretty much termed a test match specialist.

He has rarely been given a prolonged run as opener for Pakistan, and hence the limited success, but everyone remembers him for his epic 125 in Palekelle, where he, in the company of the illustrious Younis Khan, led Pakistan to a successful record run chase.

So what led to his selection in the ODI team?

I had the pleasure of meeting Shan Masood this past weekend, thanks to a friend.

While I am usually at the top of records and stats regarding cricket (both international and domestic), but when Shan told me about the record he had established and currently held, I was pleasantly surprised.

Shan told me that he has the highest List A average in the world at the moment, and that his successful domestic season in 2018 led him to a List A average above Michael Bevan's, who had held this record for over a decade.

Shan's 58.2 average is a good 0.4 runs above Bevan's and gives him a record that was considered quite difficult to break.

For the uninitiated, List A includes all ODI Cricket and all domestic 50-over games recognized by the domestic cricket boards.

Shan has had a tremendous domestic season, which resulted in his selection for the Asia Cup that got underway yesterday in the UAE.

In 20 List A games, Shan amassed 1,325 runs at a phenomenal average of 94.6 and a strike rate of 93.8. He has the best average in the format this season, the highest number of fifties, and the joint second highest number of centuries.

No wonder he has been given a chance to represent Pakistan in the limited overs format.

Not surprised any more, are you?

Shan is a record holder and hopefully he can translate this domestic form into some international runs too!

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Cricket betting tips and predictions

We’re now past a time where you could only bet on football and horse racing, leaving far more options for ways to get involved in sports betting. One of the UK’s most popular sports is cricket but even the immense following from sports fans isn’t enough to prompt as much exposure in terms of bets you can place surrounding it.

Bookmakers are always pushing to provide the most cutting-edge markets as well as hoping to cover all possible sports that might interest the many punters they cater for. Cricket is up there with all other primary sports so the availability to bet on it is starting to be just as prominent. The issue then is working out where to bet on it, how to bet on it, and which markets are worth considering.

Key betting markets for cricket include:

Match Winner - As with most sports you’ll consider betting on, the basic match result option is likely to feature early on, if not at the very top of the page. This is the same with cricket, where all major and minor events will be given odds for either side to win or before you get to any of the more advanced bookmaker markets.

Other Result-Based Options - There’s more than one way of placing money on the match result in cricket, with other forms being a double chance option, which is often referred to as Two Chances To Win. You’ll also find handicap markets that indicate the winning margin. While this might not be the go-to way of predicting the result, it improves the price and they frequently feature in TeamFA’s cricket previews.

Player Markets - Buildingyour own special cricket betting tips gives you the chance to add in any outcome and a lot of punters will consider including player markets. This is similar to in football betting where you might add in a player to score first or at any time, but with cricket, it surfaces on the most runs and individual accolades of a specific batsman or bowler.

Special Markets - After rooting through the variety of Match Specials, like the First Wicket Method, a favoured player to score a century or bookmaker price boosts, you might be tempted to bet on a selection with combined markets. These come in many forms and were made popular through SkyBet’s RequestABet feature, but there’s a lot of variations and plenty of ways to capitalise. You’ll receive a better price based on how many selections are included and what markets these selections are, so it’s possible to make a strong one if you do your research.

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