Sunday, August 28, 2016

An Encounter with Shahrukh Khan in Prague

This is a cricket blog but for this one time I am making an exception and writing about my other love - Bollywood.

I have just come back from a trip to Prague, Vienna, and Salzburg. Nothing really tops roaming around Europe with your wife, but some things come really close, like bumping into the one and only Shahrukh Khan during the same trip!

Yes. That happened. We saw Shahrukh Khan. In Prague.

And I had a brief encounter with him.

While strolling back after seeing some stunning views of the city from Prague Castle and Petrin Tower, we decided to make our way to Charles Bridge and watch the sun set.

As we walked towards the bridge, my wife pointed out towards a large crowd gathered under the bridge.

We thought it was the usual street performer showing his or her moves.

As we approached we realized the crowd was blocking our way towards the stairs leading up to Charles Bridge.

We walked past the crowd and towards the stairs and then suddenly a security guard asked us to stop and this is what followed:

Me: Hey I just want to go up to the bridge.

Security: you can't from here, shooting is going on.

Me: Oh film shooting (as I look around and see some movie cameras). Which movie?

Security: its an Indian movie.

Me: Tell me which one, I know all Indian movies.

Security: It is called The Ring.

Me: Nooo that doesn't sound like an Indian movie. Who is in it?

Security: The most famous movie actor from India is here.

Me: Who Shahrukh Khan!?

Security: yes yes Shahrukh Khan.

Me: Are u serious?

My Wife: baby bakwas kar raha hai.

Security: yes Shahrukh Khan.

Me: Baby THERE HE IS SHAHRUKH KHAN !!

And we saw him, applying some touch up to his face and getting ready for a shot.



As SRK completed his touch up, Imtiaz Ali walked up to him and gave him some suggestions.

Then the shot rolled.

An Arijit song played.

SRK walked up the stairs of Charles Bridge, the same stairs we were supposed to go on.


Ofcourse I knew that SRK and Anushka Sharma were in Europe to shoot for Imtiaz Ali's next. That was the last Bollywood news I had read before leaving for my own Euro trip.

However, I had no idea that they were going to be in Prague and I could not believe my luck that I was in Prague at the same time and by chance walked up to the location of their shooting!

Once I got a bit over the euphoria of watching SRK shoot in person, I looked around the crowd that had gathered and was so pleasantly surprised to see European women pointing towards SRK and telling each other that that is Shahrukh Khan.

Global star is an understatement!

I wanted to shout out his name a few times and kept repeating the same to my wife who was so amused by my excitement.

I said it about the 5th time "I want to shout", when an Indian girl behind me said "come on shout, we will shout with you".

Such encouragement always makes such things easier. I said "sure on 1,2,3, we all shout Shahrukh Khan".

As I completed my 1,2,3 count, a group of about 15 people let out a huge "SHAAAAHHRUUKKHHH KHAAAAN !!!".

He looked up, smiled, and waved.

That was it. Our day, our trip was made.

Soon after Imtiaz Ali called it "a wrap" and SRK started walking away.

Sensing an opportunity to go meet him, shake his hand, take a selfie I turned around to my wife and said I am going to follow him.

After the tiring walk up and down the hills, my wife was in no mood to rush or run, but seeing my excitement she smiled and said "go go I'm walking behind araam se.

It almost sounded like "Ja Simran, jee le apni zindagi".

I first ran past and clicked a selfie, capturing SRK and myself in the same frame.


Then I ran past the crowd and found myself adjacent to SRK, who was surrounded by several bodyguards and a woman carrying a video camera on her shoulder capturing his every move.

I moved closer and and exclaimed "Shahrukh.. Shahrukh" as I extended my left arm out. He stretched out his right hand and gave me a five while moving ahead denying fans asking for selfies.

I ran past him again and switched on my selfie camera to capture SRK and myself in one frame for as long as I could.

Here it is... the video that I will cherish forever. King Khan and I in the same frame for 12 seconds!

video



As you will see, he almost tapped me on the shoulder before being swooshed away by his security detail.

Woh kehte hain na... "Don ko pakarna mushkil hi nai namumqin hai"..

When I shared my excitement and the pics and video with my friends, this is what I got in return from mere bachpan ka dost.










































It wasn't the first time I saw SRK. I have been to a couple of his concerts in Dubai, and also saw him at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi during an IPL match between KKR and Kings XI.


But this encounter in Prague was definitely a memorable one and I just had to write about it.

I even asked around for Anushka Sharma, but no one had any idea. She was probably prowling around Prague in the hunt for Pokemons.

As you can tell, I am a huge SRK fan. I have been since I saw Baazigar. And I still am after watching Happy New Year, Chennai Express, and Dilwale.

I am such a big fan that I even managed to convince my wife to pay a tribute to him and the greatest love story ever made the last time we went traveling around Europe.


Now I can't wait to witness the beauty of Prague that Imtiaz Ali will capture coupled with the magic that he will create with SRK and Anushka Sharma.

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Younis Khan's Art of Building a Test Innings

Move over Hafeez, Pakistan has a new professor!

Younis Khan and what he has done for Pakistan cricket over the past decade is well documented on Well Pitched. Rarely does a Pakistan test series go by without us mentioning the great achievements of the one and only King Khan.

This series against England is no different. It could have been following the horrendous hopping and jumping Younis did during his 6 innings in the first 3 tests of the series. However, like all great batsmen who can't be kep quiet for too long, Younis found his feet again at the Oval and reminded the world why he is among the best batsmen in the business.
Most bookmakers had Younis as a favorite to top score for
Pakistan. For the latest cricket odds, visit Matchbook.

Younis Khan's monumental innings at the Oval, his 6th double hundred, was a batting masterclass that educated everyone on how to construct a test innings. It was so beautifully executed that one can put it on repeat and use it to educate generations.

Younis Khan went through every phase of his innings with perfection. From caution at the start, to aggression once set, to caution with the second new ball, to continued watchfulness at the start of day 3, to aggression when batting with the tail. It was mastery at its best.

On day 3 he actually batted as if he was starting a new innings, rather than batting like someone who had already scored a century.

There are so many examples of batsmen reaching their test centuries with Younis at the other end and at the Oval Asad Shafiq added one more to that list. When Younis is at the crease for a long period of time, he not only scores big himself, he also guides his partner to significant contributions.

Besides Shafiq's century, Younis also guided Pakistan's tail, arguably the worst tail in test cricket at the moment, to decent contributions.

Pakistan's tail has been nonexistent in this series, yet he first shared a 37 run partnership with Wahab, where Wahab's contribution was 4 off 32, and then a 97 run partnership with Mohammad Amir for the 9th wicket, during which Amir reached his personal best (39*) in test cricket.

It was a true education by Younis Khan. A batting masterclass really that only he could have provided.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Pakistan back at the Oval, their happy hunting ground

After the euphoria at Lord's, hammering at Old Trafford, and embarassment at Edgbaston, Pakistan move to their favorite ground in England, the Oval. Pakistan's record at the Oval, 4 wins and 3 losses, is better than their record at all other grounds in England.

The Oval has always been kind to Pakistan.



Great wins at the Oval

The Oval is where Pakistan won their first ever test match in England on their first ever tour to the country in 1954.

The Oval is where Pakistan sealed their historic series wins in 1992 and 1996.

The Oval is where Pakistan won their only test during their last visit to England in 2010.

Besides all these happy Oval memories, there is also the forfeited test of 2006. Even during that test Pakistan was in a winning position before Inzamam Ul Haq decided to take a stand against the very questionable Darrel Hair.

If we ignore that forfeited test, Pakistan have not lost at the Oval since 1967, in almost half a century.

Power Packed Bowler Performances at the Oval

Pakistan's 4 victories at the Oval have all been on the back of power packed performances by the pacers and spinners.

1954: Fazal Mahmood 6-53 and 6-46; England bowled out for 130 and 143.

1992: Wasim Akram 6-67 and 3-36; Waqar Younis 5-52; England bowled out for 207 and 174.

1996: Wasim Akram 3-83 and 3-67; Mushtaq Ahmed 6-78; England bowled out for 326 and 242.

2010: Wahab Riaz 5-63; Mohammad Aamer 5-52; England bowled out for 233 and 222.

Quite similar to Pakistan's win at Lords in the first test of this series, which seems like such a distant memory now.

Bold Steps to be taken at the Oval

Questions are already being asked on whether Pakistan can bounce back from their defeat at Edgbaston or not. Rarely do teams return from the embarrassment of collapsing in 2 sessions. However, Pakistan did bounce back from the hammering at Old Trafford to dominate England at Edgbaston for the first half of the test.

Based on that, there is no reason why Pakistan cannot bounce back at the Oval. But certain bold steps will need to be taken.

Shan Masood was replaced by Sami Aslam for the third test, a change that did wonders for Pakistan. Their other opener, Mohammad Hafeez has been out of sorts; despite an average in excess of 50 in tests in Asia, Hafeez has been a mere passenger in tests outside Asia. Pakistan don't have another replacement opener in their squad so the coach and captain need to think outside the box.

Either of Azhar Ali or Sarfraz Ahmed can be asked to open for this all important final test of the series.

That will then allow Pakistan to either play Iftikhar Ahmed, a middle order batsman who can bowl some off spin, or a specialist bowler, who can add to Pakistan's tiring 4-man bowling attack.

Pakistan's tail is so weak that the urge to play a 5th bowler will probably be curbed. Though if you think about it, Hafeez'z non-contribution pretty much has meant that Pakistan have been playing with 5 batsman and the wicketkeeper.

There is no doubt about the fact that Younis Khan will have to rediscover his form of old. He has been a stalwart for Pakistan and has not had a test series without a 50 in over a decade. This is a rare bad series for him and it shocks me that people are asking for him to be dropped given his contributions to the test team over the past decade.

Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz Ahmed have been crucial to Pakistan's success at test level. So much so that their ducks in the final innings at Edgbaston were their first ever such scores after 49 and 43 innings respectively. For Sarfraz, it was his first ever in tests.

Having said that, Pakistan's batting has always been questionable, especially when away from Asian conditions. It has always been their bowling that has won them test matches.

In both the innings at Lord's and in the first innings at Edgbaston, Pakistan's bowlers managed to restrict England for under 300. This is what is needed again at the Oval. Aamer and Yasir need to discover their magic.

What a win at the Oval will mean

A win at the Oval will put Pakistan within touching distance of the number 1 ranking in test cricket for the first time since the inception of the rankings. As long as Pakistan win, Australia lose or draw their third test against Sri Lanka, and India don't win both their remaining tests against West Indies, Pakistan will be number 1.

That will be an achievement and a half for them. For Misbah, it will be the culmination and a well deserved award for 6 years in command of a team that he lifted from the ruins in 2010.

For Pakistan it will be an epic story of a turnaround for a team that was left embarrassed by the News of the World the last time they were in England.

For a team that has remained unbeaten at "home" under Misbah, it will be a vindication. It will be enough for critics to at least consider the fact that this team can also win away from home.

It is all to play for at the Oval and there is enough meaning to the test for Pakistan to lift themselves and make sure that they continue their winning ways at the Oval and remain undefeated at the ground for 50 years!

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

How Can Pakistan Rebound for the Oval Test?

With England’s incredible win at Edgbaston still fresh in the memory, England and Pakistan now head down to The Oval for the final match of what has been a pulsating four match series. After dismissing Pakistan in little over two sessions on the final day at Edgbaston, some commentators now think that England hold the advantage and will wrap up the series 3-1. In this post, we take a look at a couple of things that Pakistan can do to turn the tables.

Find a Way to Stop Chris Woakes
When England first announced their team for the Lords test match, many were surprised by the inclusion of Chris Woakes, a man who many thought was “a yard of pace” short of being effective at international level. However, the work he’s put in over winter and back at Warwickshire has clearly paid off, with the England quick pickingup 23 wickets so far this series.

With Broad only on 12 wickets, and Anderson on 8, neutralising the threat of Woakes could give Pakistan a great chance of building a big total.

Get Younis Firing
Much of the talk going into the series was about the strength of Pakistan’s middle order; chiefly Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan. Misbah was able to set the tempo from the off, scoring 100 at Lords in the first test. However, Younis is yet to make a score, averagingonly 20 across the three tests in the series, with no half centuries, Pakistan may consider dropping him, the exclusion of Shan Mahsood from the previous test shows the selectors are willing to give players the chop.

Younis’ complex trigger movements and shuffling around the crease have made him a prime candidate for being caught in the slip cordon, and the pace and swing of Anderson and Woakes has had him in trouble on multiple occasions. However, Younis is highly experienced in English conditions, and has over 9,000 test runs to his name. The Oval test is the time for him to step up and show his worth.

Help Yasir Find His Magic Again
Finally, at Lords, Yasir Shah was the difference between the two teams. However, it appears as though England have found a way to neutralised the fantastic young leg spinner. If Pakistan can win the toss, bat and get a big total, then the leg spin of Yasir could come into play on a wearing Oval pitch that usually takes turn. If he finds his magic in the way he did at Lords, then Pakistan have a great chance of levelling the series at 2-2.


No matter what happens at The Oval, the England-Pakistan series has been fantastic, with thousands of English children looking to pick up the sport. As a result, it’s no surprise that retailers such as TalentCricket have seen a huge surge in the numbers of children buying equipment, looking to be the next Yasir Shah or Joe Root. One thing’s for certain, regardless of whether Pakistan or England triumph at The Oval, it has been great for the game as a whole. 

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Battle for Test Number 1 Heats Up!

Pakistan squandered their chance of becoming the number 1 ranked test team, for the first time since the inception of the rankings, following the embarrassing defeat at Edgbaston. Yet, they still have an outside chance of getting there if they win at the Oval.

The ICC test rankings are so interestingly poised that any one of the top 4 teams can end up as number one after the end of the Pakistan vs England, Australia vs Sri Lanka, and India vs West Indies test series.

Right now the top 4 teams are:

1. Australia
2. India
3. Pakistan
4. England

This is what needs to happen in each series for each team to end as number 1.

PAKISTAN

Pakistan vs England: Pakistan win 4th test.
Sri Lanka vs Australia: Australia to lose or draw 3rd test.
India vs West Indies: India win at most 1 of the next 2 tests.

This will place Pakistan at number 1, followed by India, Australia, England.

If Australia win the 3rd test or India win both their tests, then Pakistan will not make it to number 1 even if they win at the Oval.

INDIA

India have to win both the remaining tests against the West Indies to become the new number 1 ranked test team, irrespective of what happens in the other series under progress. If India draw or lose either of the next two tests, they will not make it to 1.

AUSTRALIA

Sri Lanka vs Australia: Australia win 3rd test.
England vs Pakistan: England draw or lose 4th test.
India vs West Indies: India win at most 1 of the next 2 tests.

This will place Australia at number 1, followed by England, India, and Pakistan.

If England beat Pakistan or India win both their tests, then Australia will not remain at number 1 even if they win the third test.

ENGLAND

England only need a draw in the 4th tests against Pakistan and they will be the new number 1, as long as Australia don't win the 3rd test and India win only 1 of the remaining two matches.

If Australia win the 3rd test, then England can still be number 1 by beating Pakistan.

The only team that has its fate in its own hands is India. It can't get simpler for them - win the next two tests and become the new number 1 ranked test team!

Pakistan have more to play for at the Oval than just leveling the series. They can become the number 1 test team for the first time since the inception of the rankings if they win.

It is going to be wonderful ride seeing these test series unravel over the next fortnight.

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Pakistan vs England: Pricing the Odds

Pakistan started the series as the number 3 ranked test team in the world, ahead of England who were ranked 4. Yet at the start of the series the bookmakers chose England as the favorites despite the fact that Pakistan had won the last 5 out of 6 tests between the two sides.

Sure I can fathom the fact that Pakistan's vulnerability to English conditions played on the bookmakers' minds resulting in the odds significantly in favor of England.

It got even more interesting when throughout the Lord's test, which Pakistan clearly dominated in every session, England remained favorites to win.

This remained the case till England lost their 6th wicket on day 4. Only then, did the odds tilt in favor of Pakistan and that too slightly. I had no idea what the bookmakers were thinking considering that a target north of 280 had hardly ever been chased at Lord's.

Pakistan won the first test of the series quite convincingly, stamped their authority over England, provided punters with some handsome wins, yet the bookmakers continued to favor England.

England were favorites again for the Old Trafford test and for the series despite the result at Lord's.

Pakistan's hammering at Old Trafford proved that the bookmakers were correct, however with the series at 1-1, the bookmakers yet again favored England for Birmingham and the series.

You can bet on cricket at williamhill.com.au and check how the odds move for the ongoing test between Pakistan and England. It is interesting to note that despite what happens during sessions, the odds remain in favor of who the bookmakers chose as favorites before the start of the test for most of the match.

The third test started with odds on a Pakistan win at 4.00 and odds on an England win at 1.33.

Misbah's decision at the toss tilted these odds further in favor of England - 4.25 to 1.10.

The end of the day, which belonged to Pakistan having bowled England out for 297, saw the odds move to 3.60 to 1.5.

Changed ever so slightly yet still favoring England.

I don't get how bookmakers can give such attractive odds on a Pakistan win, especially after their win at Lord's. It is quite interesting how these bookmakers price the odds.

Keep a note of how these odds will move as the third test progresses. I reckon that even if Pakistan take a first innings lead, the odds will still remain in favor of England.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Party moves to Birmingham

Following a historic win at Lord's and a hammering at Old Trafford, Pakistan will now take the field at Edgbaston for the third test of the series.

In England, one finds a lot of Pakistanis. It is home to many, a second home for most holidayers, and a vacation spot for a lot. Birmingham is different though. It not only has a lot of Pakistanis, it almost feels like a Pakistani city. 

Over 15% of Birmingham's population is from Pakistan and you really do see them in every corner of every street!

So one thing Pakistan can count on during this third test is over zealous support. It will feel like a home game as Pakistanis in the ground will definitely out number the English. 

Despite that, Edgbaston remains one of the only two venues in England where Pakistan have never won a test match. And for England, it has been a happy hunting ground where they have lost only one test out of their last ten.

Not the kind of ground you want to play in if you are Pakistan.

Pakistan have another dilemma on their hands.

Everyone knows that they like to bat first, however Edgbaston has never favored the side batting first. The first session of most tests played at this ground has belonged to the bowlers. The last time Pakistan played here, in 2010, they went to lunch with the scoreboard reading 37-6.

They were eventually bowled out for 72 and lost the test by 9 wickets.

With the way Pakistan's top order has performed in this series, that scoreline could be a reality too if Pakistan end up batting first.

However, if they don't bat first, then it puts them out of their comfort zone.

Talk about catch 22.

There is divided opinion our there regarding which match was a diversion from the current state of affairs - Lord's or Old Trafford?

We all know what the skeptics think, but I'll tell you this much - Pakistan had not faced a defeat like they did at Old Trafford in a very very long time.

Misbah and his team are keen to bring out the push ups once again and it is no secret that they will really have to up their game on all fronts to counter England at a ground that Stuart Broad has dubbed "England's Gabba".

That is quite an opportunity that Pakistan have - a once in a lifetime chance to silence not only the skeptics, but Broad as well!

Come on Pakistan, bring out the push ups once again.

Lets do it in Birmingham!

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Mohammed Amir's top three cricketing moments

Mohammed Amir is one of the cricketing world’s favourite sons - despite a rocky past he’s been on top form since his return to the game last year.

Born in a remote village in Pakistan, the left-arm fast-bowler is a symbol of the meritocratic nature of the sporting world - despite humble beginnings, he was able to rise to become one of Pakistan’s biggest cricketing stars.

Read on to find out more about his best cricketing moments:

2009 ICC World Twenty20

Amir’s first international match was played against England during the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 tournament, conceding only one run in his debut international over. The youngster must have impressed the powers that be because after a stellar first performance, he went on to play in every game.

In no small part thanks to his contributions, Pakistan went on to win the tournament and Mohammed Amir was praised from all sides, including by his hero Wasim Akram, another Pakistani left-arm fast-bowler.

Pakistan vs New Zealand, 2009

In the same year that Amir made his Twenty20 international debut, he also played in his first one day international match, and in one of the first matches that he played - against New Zealand - he accomplished a truly impressive feat.

The then-seventeen year old scored 73 runs against New Zealand - a record for a number 10 batsman. In total, with batting partner Saeed Ajmal, he added 103 runs to Pakistan’s chase, though they did not eventually win the match.

Pakistan vs England, 2010

After successful performances in both Twenty20 and one day international cricket, it came as no surprise when Amir was selected to play as part of Pakistan’s test squad too.

In this memorable match against England, played away, Amir was awarded the Man of the Match award for becoming both the youngest player in history to take a five-wicket haul in England, when the opposition was on home soil, and the youngest player ever to take fifty test wickets. It was an eventful test series which eventually saw him take a total of nineteen wickets, more than any other member of the Pakistan team, as well as an impressive double whammy of five-wicket hauls.

Book Mohammed Amir as a celebrity speaker

Though Mohammed Amir’s recent past is somewhat chequered, he remains one of the brightest young talents in cricket today, and his stratospheric rise to occupy the position he does today from such humble beginnings makes him a fascinating public speaker who will appeal to a wide range of audiences, whether dyed in the wool cricket aficionados or otherwise.


If you’d like to book him to speak at an event you’re planning, get in touch with MN2S celebrity agents, who can help you ensure it goes off with a bang. If it’s a cricketer you’re after as a celebrity speaker but Amir doesn’t quite fit the bill then never fear - they have plenty of other cricket legends on the talent roster.   

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Monday, August 1, 2016

Mohammad Amir: A Life Story


For fans of the Pakistani cricket team, Mohammed Amir is a tough nut to crack. On the one hand, he’s one of the best fast-bowlers that the side has ever seen - on the other, he’s been in the midst of a serious corruption scandal in recent years.

Thankfully, the youngster was given a lenient sentence because of his youth and willingness to confess, and the reformed sportsman recently returned to cricket. His willingness to admit to his mistakes and serve out the ban with which he has served has made him into a role-model for sportsmanship.

But just where did Mohammed Amir come from, and why was he banned from the sport?

Amir was born in a rural region of Punjab, the youngest of seven siblings and part of the Kotla tribe. His obsession with cricket started early, and from a young age Mohammed Amir was playing street cricket with his friends and siblings.

This often involved emulating one of his heroes: "Wasim Akram is my favourite, he's my idol.” Amir said.

“When I used to watch him on TV, I would try to see what exactly he was doing with the ball. Then I would go outside and imitate his actions and bowling.”

At the age of just 11 he was spotted by a scout and invited to join a local sports academy, where his talents were honed and he was picked for the national U19 team at the age of just 15 - by his hero, Wasim Akram.

In 2009, aged just 17, Amir was picked for the national team; the first match that he played was an international World Twenty20 tournament. The game he played was so impressive that the young player was picked for every game in the tournament following his debut.

In 2010 the first allegations of match-fixing surfaced, levelled by the now defunct British paper, the News of the World. They said that Amir, along with others, had deliberately bowled no-balls in return for payment from those with vested interests in betting.

The International Cricket Council banned Mohammed Amir for five years - a lenient sentence compared to those he was said to have conspired with. In a criminal court he pled guilty and served three months in a young offenders’ institute, but has since returned to international cricket determined to salvage his reputation.

A fascinating character with a story as colourful as he is, Amir’s chequered background makes him an intriguing public speaker, and one whose past misdemeanours only make his current determination to win over the public more endearing.


Available to book for celebrity speaking engagements of all sorts, Amir is the perfect example to teach an audience about considering the consequences of their actions and motivate them to behave with integrity. He’s a witty and engaging speaker who’s sure to charm any audience and particularly fascinate those with an interest in the world of cricket. Get in touch with London based agency MN2S to find out more about booking his services. 

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Friday, July 29, 2016

What a disaster at Old Trafford

I have very good memories from my time in Manchester. Really amazing ones. However, this past week in Manchester is something I would like to wipe out from memory.

It was a disaster.

After the euphoria of the win at Lords, Pakistan turned out with the worst performance in tests in a very long time. To put it into perspective, England's win at Old Trafford was their 5th largest victory in tests in terms of runs, and their 2nd largest against Pakistan!

After 6 wins and a draw in 7 tests against England, Pakistan finally succumbed to a defeat.

The biggest reason, in my opinion, for this change in fortunes was the toss. In the past 7 tests that resulted in 6 wins for Pakistan, they had batted first in all tests except one.

Despite losing the toss, I did not think that Pakistan would be defeated this badly.

If anyone had told me that England would beat Pakistan at Old Trafford, I would not have placed my money on them given how they had played against Pakistan's attack in the previous 7 tests. I'd be better off playing online pokies than betting on England.

England's batting line up in this test series is quite weak. Their middle order is nonexistent and Bairstow is not the same against this Pakistan attack as he was against Sri Lanka.

England's batting line up starts with Alastair Cook and ends with Joe Root, who Pakistan were able to tame at Lord's.

However at Old Trafford it was different ball game. Root was a man on a mission and he played one of the best test innings I have seen in a long time.

Root's innings was all about learning from past mistakes, application, determination, and dominance.

It was a true blue test classic.

Root's match aggregate of 335 was only 97 runs less than what Pakistan's 22 batsmen collectively scored at Old Trafford.

Pakistan's batting has always been vulnerable, however this test team has been different. Azhar, Younis, Misbah, Asad, and Sarfraz have been more consistent than any Pakistan number 3-7 in the past. For them to struggle across two innings has been rare. Yet, one can still fathom their failure because we have been accustomed to it.

What is quite unfathomable is how toothless Yasir Shah and the rest of Pakistan's attack were at Old Trafford. Yasir had just accomplished a rare feat at Lord's and climbed to the top of bowling rankings, but Root brought him back down to earth - from number 1 to number 5 in the rankings - that is how poor a test match Yasir had.

This Pakistan team though is not one to fall without a fight.

Two remaining tests promise to be thrilling ones. With the series level, there is everything to play for. Pakistan's batsman will have to rise to the challenge. Misbah and Asad require more support from the likes of Hafeez, Azhar, and Younis, who despite starts have been unable to convert their scores into big ones. They are all due and there won't be better opportunities than at Edgbaston and the Oval.

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