Thursday, 30 December 2010

Ashes Retained

An overwhelmed English Cricket Team perform the sprinkler at the MCG


England have done it! Yes, they have! They have successfully retained the Ashes with a whole Test Match to spare. They are thoroughly deserving winners. What a major feat they have accomplished, winning an Ashes series down under after 24 years of pain, wait and agony. What a golden year they have had as a unit. They have made remarkable progress and shown they can be true "world beaters." Well played Poms. Here is a reflection of what they have actually achieved. What stands out about them is the consistency in each and every format. Andy Flower deserves to be credited for the success he has been able to taste with advancing English Cricket in a positive direction.

- Winning the 2010 ICC World T20. Their first major global tournament.
- Securing The Ashes
- Beating Pakistan in all 3 formats on home soil
- Beating Australia 3-2 in an ODI series at home
- Test Record Played 14: Won 9/Lost 3/Drawn 2 ( 64% win ratio)
- ODI Record Played 16: Won 11/Lost 5 (69% win ratio)
- T20 Record Played 11: Won 8/Lost 2/Other 1 (73% win ratio )
- Overall Played 41: Won 28/Lost 11 (68% win ratio)

Overall, a memorable year for English Cricket. 2011 shall provide new fresh challenges which compromises of a sub continent World Cup and another Asian summer with Sri Lanka and India visiting this time around . Time shall tell whether they will be able to consolidate or maintain their high standards and levels of professionalism. For now they shall enjoy the moment and savour their sheer brilliance achieved. A thriving organisation with international excellence, systematic planning and continuous development.

2010 For Pakistan Cricket

The controversies have been endless but this thread is focussing simply on the on field performance which has been nothing to write home about on the whole, but here are some key observations, statistical data and general points I will be highlighting below.

Overall Played 46: Won 13, Lost 31, Drawn 2

My Key Pointers

1) Akhtar was Pakistan's leading ODI wicket taker with 19 wickets in 13 matches since his return in June this year at the Asia Cup. His return has been a huge boost for the team with both his performance, experience and energy. I would like to see him lead the attack in the WC and consolidate on his top form. He seems to be settled in the team, relishing the last push in his career and his positive rhythm is really heartening to see.

2) Shahid Afridi was the leading run scorer in ODIs. He scored 2 centuries both in the Asia Cup against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in June this year.

3) During the England Tour young left arm pacer, Mohammad Aamir notched up 36 scalps in the 8 international matches he played against Australia and England respectively. A formidable and memorable tour for the youngster. Sad to see how it finished, but I am not going to go into those details in this review. He must have loved the assistive conditions.

4) Umar Gul magically claimed 15 wickets in 8 matches including 2 instrumental match winning performances of 6/42 and 4/37 against England this September in the thrilling ODI series.

5) Tanvir Ahmed and Wahab Riaz both took 5 fors on debut. They are both different bowlers with their own specialities and have been top class finds. Let's hope they continue to serve well in the important years which lie ahead as Pakistan look to rejuvenate their international credibility.

6) In 2010 Pakistan have discovered a future middle order gem in Azhar Ali who has the attributes to become a permanent long term star and flourish at the highest level with his determination, willingness, application, composed technique, fighting spirit and solid temperament. He has a flawless gritty hard working game plan. A true revelation. He deserves our appreciation and backing. He has really impressed me personally as a favourite and caught my eye.

7) The emergence of Hafeez as a good utility player. Finally he started to make an impact and demonstrate his true potential at the top level. In ODIs this year he averaged a very healthy 37. He is also a cunning bowler who can bowl tightly and accurately. Not an easy target by any means who can do a top job when it comes to containment. A decent fielder too. He can now comfortably play all 3 formats with success and confidence. Hopefully, he copes with the responsibilities as he will be a key face or name in the years to come inevitably. Glad to see him settled and going well at long last.

8) Pakistan played under 5 different captains this year across all formats. They must have a systematic vision and select the best suitable candidate in the future, otherwise we will see instability in the team which directly affects performance. The record is visible for everyone to see.

9) Under Afridi: Played 30: Won 10/Lost 20

Afridi's captaincy is a clear drawback. Winning with a weak minded skipper is certainly difficult, but achievable nevertheless. There is a high chance his leadership limitations will be exposed in tough situations at the World Cup, especially against the stronger sides. Then everyone will be talking against him, but I warn you in advance. It's never too late to change. Better to prevent embarrassment now then in another disastrous World Cup Campaign potentially? Under Younis Khan's leadership Pakistan were a well respected, disciplined and seriously threatening force in the international cricketing circuit. Under Afridi we are nothing but a laughing stock. Those who are foolish enough to think that Afridi is a "good" captain need a serious re-think. His captaincy simply sucks. Even if he had the full resources eventually the realisation would begin to kick in that he is tactically and technically as bad as it gets. The team is not being set example, given any real chance, being used effectively and living up to its maximum potential under such a hyped up figure. We have strongly overestimated Afridi in all fairness. Even individuals like Misbah could do a considerably better job simply with their experience, education, composure and tactical game plans. Higher chances of success lie with alternative options. Moreover, Afridi has hardly done anything in terms of building a team or unit for the mega event and therefore changing will barely be harmful, if anything it will increase our chances and be the best thing that can actually happen at this moment in time.

10) This year Pakistan lost 6 consecutive T20s starting from the 5th of September in Cardiff. The irony is that last year at this time Pakistan had won 7 consecutive T20s and were challenging the record for the most amount of successive victories. It's amazing how things can change so quickly in the mysterious world of Pakistan Cricket.

Successes

T20 Series Whitewash vs. Australia in early July

2 historical Test wins in England under the captaincy of Salman Butt

Reaching the semis in the 2010 ICC World T20 in May

Drawing the Test Series against South Africa in UAE in November

Pakistan U19 reaching the final of the ICC WC

Pakistan's Women Team Winning the Asian Games


Failures

Asia Cup Flop

Being whitewashed 5-0 by Australia in ODIs this January

Losing to England in 4 out of the 5 times we met this year in T20 Cricket

Being comprehensively outplayed by England in 3 Test Matches in August by humiliating margins

SCG Test- An all time low. A sickening picture. An unbelievable and highly questionable defeat from absolutely no where. Endless errors were exposed in sheer embarrassment and humiliation.

Losing both ODI series against England and SA. Yes we competed and took both series to a decider, however we did not manage to win either and therefore have gone virtually 2 years without an ODI series victory or 7 ODI series without one . This needs to change. We have actually statistically become "chokers" in series cricket when it comes to delivering in deciders. We have fluffed our chances on numerous occasions in this decade.

Conclusion

On the whole, it has been a forgettable, shameful and disgraceful year for a descending nation on the cricketing field as well. No doubt as ever there have been some special moments such as Razzaq's unforgettable 109* from 72 deliveries to single handily destroy the Saffas with destructive striking and the Headingly Test Match Victory on the 24th of July which was a major feat accomplished. Afridi has stated that he will try to give Pakistan Cricket the place it deserves in the new year. The WC is literally less than 2 months away now so let's get behind him and the team as they look to save and rejuvenate the wonders of Pakistan Cricket which has arguably been a dying art. The legendary left armer, Wasim Akram who racked up 502 ODI wickets and 414 Test wickets during his illustrious career as an exceptionally gifted talent also insists we get behind the team. It may be difficult considering what's happening and all which has gone on in the recent past, but as patriots and passionate followers we always possess desires, hopes and expectations, regardless of what happens. Long may this continue.

Review Of The T20 Series vs New Zealand

I review the 3 Match T20 Series played between two sides who have been facing hardships and are desperately looking to find some form and confidence going into the World Cup

A re-furbished and modernised Eden Park played host to the first match of theT20 leg of the tour. The crowd turned up in their numbers on Boxing day to support their respective sides. The ground dimensions were small, especially straight. The pitch was fast paced and the ball came on to the bat nicely. Bowlers inevitably had their work cut out whereas batsmen would get value for their runs. Pakistan got off to a breath taking start with Hafeez and Afridi blazing away in promising style with 31 runs coming from just the first 3 over's. It was a highly pleasing start for the men in green. The intent was wonderful. However, Afridi then carelessly gave his wicket away as he so often does on the final ball of the 4th over with poor shot selection and execution. Shehzad entered the crease and looked good. He showed glimpses of positivity and executed some cracking strikes off the blade before being caught behind. At the conclusion of the PP overs PK were nicely placed at 58-2. However, then Southee made his mark with a hattrick in the 8th over of PKs innings. He bowled a perfect length, controlled the white ball as well as getting some luck which is so needed for any fast bowler in Twenty20 cricket with a few lucky decisions going his way. Suddenly PK had their backs to the wall, being 68/6 in the 10th over. It was bitterly disappointing for the Pakistani fans, but at the same time one has to acknowledge the brilliance of Tim's spell where he bowled with thought, purpose and precision to tear through Pakistan's batting line up. PK managed to post 143-9 in the end with 16 invaluable runs coming in the final over thanks to some responsible and fine striking from the lower order, especially Wahab Riaz who contributed with an unbeaten 30 and Gul who also made 30 which enabled Pakistan to reach respectability and have some hope and momentum going into the field. The lower order demonstrated their credentials and relished the shortened boundaries. However, some highly questionable thinking and captaincy from Afridi which followed proved costly as he decided to open the bowling with Razzaq. 15 runs came from the first over which set the tone for the NZ innings. Akhtar bowled a fiery spell up front where he claimed 3 scalps with sheer pace. However, Guptill had other ideas and was looking in fine touch. He scored a well deserved half century and ensured NZ stayed ahead of the required run rate. Ross Taylor played a responsible captain's knock to finish the job and guide New Zealand home in style with 17 balls and 5 wickets to spare as the Black Caps took a moral boosting 1-0 lead with 2 to play in due course.

The second Twenty20 was played at Hamilton. Afridi won the toss and opted to insert the home side into bat. The change of strategy and mindset had the potential to change fortunes. The greens got off to a sensational start when Ryder was caught off the inside edge on the first ball of the game by make shift keeper Umar Akmal who was impressive and showed sound technique and composure. However, after that, the pressure was totally released and the Kiwis began to dictate terms and get away freely thanks to a substantial 2nd wicket stand of 90 odd between Guptill who continued his brilliant form and Franklin who got the opportunity to bat at number 3. From there on the foundations were laid for New Zealand to kick on and post a commanding total which they did by aggressive striking, innovation and second guessing the bowlers targets. New Zealand concluded on a match winning total of 185/7. The pick of the Pakistani bowlers was Saeed Ajmal which was pleasing to see as he had not really made a contribution or impact for a while. The unorthodox spinner finished with respectable figures of 3-35. Pakistan started off promisingly once more with Hafeez timing and middling the ball spectacularly. He unleashed some remarkable shots and was on song. However, a careless run out and quick succession of wickets which followed set back Pakistan's advance as the required run rate was increasingly climbing to mere impossible grounds. The New Zealand spinners bowled exceptionally well, taking 4-36 combined in their 8 overs. They bowled with good accuracy, trajectory and ran through their over's quickly. Inevitably Pakistan were well short by a margin of 39 runs as New Zealand comfortably took the series honours. Now it was a question of whether Pakistan could salvage some pride by winning the dead rubber ahead of more tougher assignments which will follow. A victory was desperately needed just to gain a sense of positivity, restore hope and prevent embarrassment.

Pakistan won the toss at Christchurch and elected to bat first. Hafeez and Shehzad played extremely well early on and set a splendid platform, putting on 81 for the first wicket. Shehzad caught the eye and impressed with his hard blooded on drives and lusty blows when hitting through the line on the off side. He dominated proceedings with his free scoring stylish stroke play and looked in tremendous touch which was heartening to see. Franklin got the necessary break throughs, before Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq partnered at the wicket and struggled to get going and consolidate on an excellent foundation which way laid by the openers. From being 81/1 in the 9th over Pakistan slumped to 106/4 in the 14th. Umar Akmal demonstrated his intent and skill with 30 runs from just 19 deliveries before being caught in the final over. Abdul Razzaq finished off the job as 19 runs came from the final 5 deliveries and Razzaq concluded with an awesome display of clean destructive striking with 34* from just 11 deliveries in his final international appearance in a golden year for him personally. Pakistan finished up on a highly competitive 183/6.
New Zealand's innings never got going as they lost the in from Guptill in the very first over of the innings, caught in the gully area off a moving delivery from Razzaq. Tanvir Ahmed then got his first T20 wicket in his first over just like he did on his Test Match debut. Afridi also brilliantly ran out the number 3 with a direct hit from mid off. Razzaq followed it up by trapping the NZ skipper in front with an in dipper. New Zealand were 3/4 and then 11/5. Razzaq finished up with outstanding figures of 3-13 up front. It was an excellent day for him as he took the match completely away from New Zealand's grasp with sheer skill, dominance and thoughtfulness. Afridi then joined the party towards the end and revived his bowling form by taking 4-14 in just 17 deliveries with his sharp drift, guile and accuracy. In the process he also became the first bowler to reach 50 wickets in international twenty20. This was encouraging to see and hopefully he will be able to maintain this positive rhythm, control and mystery as this is a job which he needs to do with reliability and effectiveness primarily as his batting and captaincy is more or less mediocre as one will realise over time. Good positive signs for Pakistan overall. He can be a key impact player on his day but his bowling leads the way. Pakistan subsequently won the match by a comprehensive margin of 103 runs as New Zealand were demolished for a disappointing 80 as the visitors finally had something to smile about.

That's why Pakistan are the number 1 T20 side in the world. Today they showed exactly why. Everything fell into place. It's about as good as it gets. When they come to the party and click like they did today, they are well and truly unstoppable. When it happens, it feels so damn good. The beauty of Pakistan Cricket. Long may this continue. Psychologically one really comprehensive and clinical victory like today is arguably bigger than a series win. Perhaps this is the start of bigger and better things to come?

3 Leading Run Scorers

1) Hafeez 104
2) Guptill 98
3) Styris 86

3 Leading Wicket Takers

1) Southee 8
2) Afridi 5
3) McCullum 5

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Ashes Update After Perth

The Ashes series is now interestingly poised at 1-1 with 2 matches to go in due course at the MCG and SCG respectively following England's 269 run defeat at the W.A.C.A. It was a formidable turnaround from Australia who looked dead and buried with endless woes prior to the 3rd Test. However, they miraculously managed to transform their fortunes with some inspirational individual performances from Hussey, Johnson and Harris particularly. Australia now have the momentum with this moral boosting victory in which they demonstrated a great deal of skill and character to take England and worldwide viewers by surprise, having written them off previously.

One the stand out performers I would like to highlight is MJ who really began to click with his confidence, direction and responsibilities. He utilised the experience he had of bowling on his home ground and masterfully got the ball to talk appreciably both off the pitch and in the air too. It was a special exhibition of quality left arm fast bowling we witnessed. MJ notched up 9 scalps in the match and also contributed with a first innings half century in order to help Australia restore some respectability after being 69/5 at one stage on day 1. Overall, it was a drastic transformation from the Western Australian from being a lost soul to a threatening match winner.

From an English point of view the outcome was bitterly disappointing, but now it is important they quickly re-access, stay in a positive frame of mind and get themselves mentally and physically prepared for the traditional boxing day Test which is set to be a special occasion for all concerned.

Swann was below par at Perth and failed to make a constructive contribution, however the wickets at the SCG and MCG are highly suited for spinners. Therefore, this is an opportunity for him to stamp his authority and turn the tables. He is a world class performer England will be banking on in these moments of desperation.

Finn
Andy Flower raised doubts about Finn's inclusion in the following matches due to the heavy burden of bowling he has completed on this tour with mixed results. He has taken wickets which I credit him for, especially for someone of his age, but has been expensive. Personally, I feel this would be a perfectly reasonable and sensible move to side line him. One of the Yorkshire seamers could surprise the Aussies with their freshness and style. Hence, the decision could pay dividends and possibly be a refreshing one with all due respect to Finn and his fine contribution on this mentally challenging tour. He has coped and responded well, but England need to do what is best for them in order to successfully retain the precious little historical urn.

Bell/Collingwood Switch Over
It is inevitable that England's playing eleven won't change on the batting front of proceedings, however a slight alteration in the middle order could maximise their individual impact. Bell usually has to give his wicket away when batting with the tail and looking to accelerate which is a pity as he is a stylish attractive stroke maker and someone who is capable of making meaningful bigger scores if, as and when provided with the best possible opportunity. Colly has been out of sorts in this series and potentially a change in position and mindset could change this. Surely this is a logical and necessary move the England management need to enforce as a matter of urgency?

Tremlett's Come Back
It wasn't all doom and gloom for the Poms. The tall pole impressed with an 8 wicket match haul in his international return. Bowled with purpose, intent and extracted good seam movement and bounce to trouble the Aussies and give England hope. His goal should be focussed on maintaining consistency and staying fit because he is a handful on his day and one which has plenty of potential. The ECB selectors deserve praise here for picking him which was a brave and bold move, but it has paid off, richly. They clearly assessed the tactical requirements needed to flourish and picked accordingly, the surprise package.

Hussey Dominance
The left hander has been in prolific form in this 2010/11 series with scores of. He looks an organised player who really understands and senses game situations. He frequently delivers when it matters with his solid composure and authoritative game plan. In this ongoing series he has been in exceptional touch. From an Australian perspective, long may this continue for the 35 year old professional. He has all the assets and qualities to be remembered as one of the finest of this generation.

Merry Christmas to all. All international cricketing action will resume on Boxing Day including SA vs. India and the start of Pakistan vs. New Zealand in the first T20 at Auckland. Let me also take this chance to congratulate Sachin Tendulkar aka the little master for reaching his 50th Test Hundred at Centurion, funnily enough! What a player he has been and what a sparkling career he has had as a legendary sportsmen. Nonetheless, it was a grand failure for India who lost comprehensively by an innings and 25 runs. I told you previously, they were going to struggle on this tour and so far that has exactly been the case. It would be unreasonable to pass any judgement about them being overrated and overhyped as of yet, but by the end of the tour we should get a more insightful indication of where they actually stand in tougher conditions. Lets at least give them a chance to respond to their critics in all fairness.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Ashes So Far.................

Congratulations to England supporters on their comprehensive victory at the Adelaide in the morning session of December 7th 2010. It was pure humiliation for the Aussies and the media has come out hard against them. Now England only needs to win one of their next 3 Tests in order to successfully defend the precious little urn. So far they have outplayed the woeful Aussies in each and every department. They therefore thoroughly deserved the victory at Adelaide and thankfully for their sake rain didn't intervene quite early enough! Here is a reflection of some memorable moments in the series so far having played 2.

1) Strauss out of the third ball of the series. What drama this was. The English skipper departed early in the piece as Australia drew first blood.

2) Siddle's hattrick on his birthday on the 25th of November 2010 at the good old Gabba. What a special moment for him undoubtedly.

3) The unbeaten record stand of 329* between Trott and Cook in order to ensure the visitors had a comfortable draw having very much so had their backs to the wall earlier on.

4) Australia being 2-3 in the early minutes of the 2nd Test. What a shambolic start for the home side, but what an overwhelming, sensational and dream like start for the Poms. Literally unbelievable.

5) KP dismissing Clarke on the final ball of day 4 at the Adelaide Oval, caught at short leg by the Essex man aka Alastair Cook. He began to walk back to the pavilion reluctantly, but then changed his mind. Later he apologised via twitter for his action but this was symbolic of how emotionally tormented he was by the moment. So near, yet so far.

6) Swann claiming the final wicket of the 2nd Test with a classical off spinners dream ball. Lovely drift and length drawing the lower order batsmen out of his crease, which created a gap known as the gate for the ball to spin back into and dislodge the stumps. This created an air of delightfulness for the Barmy Army as they savoured a remarkable English victory, whereas Australia reflected on their absolute battering, dismally.

Will England be able to wrap up the series in Perth and consolidate on the joyfulness which they are presently experiencing when the 3rd Ashes Test commences on the 16th of December? Who will be the replacement for the injured players? Personally, I am backing England and would like to see Chris Tremlett preferably, however the Yorkshire boys are also more than capable of proving their worth if they get their chance to shine at the Waca. Hopefully, we see many more memorable moments.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

A Unique View About Afridi

The most famous/popular Pakistan Cricketer in the current day and age has a mammoth fan following


A unique view about Afridi. To be honest I would not care less what he does with the bat. He is not a "proper" batsmen. Its hit or miss. It's not something to take seriously. Inconsistency is inevitable. If he comes off great, if he doesn't oh well. I always view him as a bowler and judge his performance and contribution towards the team as a bowler and cult figure who creates this "buzz" in the team. He is a fine spinner with potential and a great human being.

However, as a captain his bowling form has dipped considerably . Also, he needs to bat with responsibility in order to set the standards and set a bold message which is clearly neither his instinct or style. Hence, I am not overly in favour of him as a captain, with the exception of perhaps T20 if anything.

He may have firmness, respect and experience if that even matters for such an extravagantly aggressive approach, but as a captain we have overestimated his mindset and individual contribution. As ever he has a chance of winning the WC for Pakistan under his captaincy, but there is even a higher, easier and better chance under different, more composed and tactically stronger candidates i.e. YK and even Malik I dear say.

He needs to realise the importance and value of his bowling. He needs to use himself as an attacking option and have a real "game plan" when he is bowling rather than just trying and hoping for the best. I am backing him to fire, with the ball rather then being a conservative/defensive operator who claims average figures match after match. He is a much better bowler then that.

Adelaide Test Preview

An Excellent birds eye view of the stadium is displayed below


The picturesque Adelaide Oval hosts the 2nd Ashes Test Match tonight! At this ground Australia have played 68 Matches and won 34/Lost 16/Drawn 18! England go into this match with confidence and momentum.

England have a fine record as this ground as they have won 16/lost 5/drawn 8! They will certainly fancy their chances of adding to this rather impressive record.

The pitch tends to be a flat one and therefore with the strength of the two batting line ups a draw is very much the likelihood once again.

However, having said, equally the bowling was not at its best by either side at Brisbane. Perhaps with a better performance from either bowling side, an outcome could be enforced in this 2nd Test Match.

The last time there was an Ashes Test Match played on this ground it was an absolute thriller in which Australia won by 6 wickets, despite England getting 550 and declaring in the first innings thanks to a brilliant hard working and gritty double hundred from Durham's Paul Collingwood! Australia went on to achieve the unthinkable. It was a fascinating Test in which Australia demonstrated great skill bonded with adorable belief to claim a remarkable victory.

Scorecard: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ausveng/engine/match/249223.html

England will certainly need to remain in a positive state of mind and forget about this nightmare this time around.

Australia will inevitably be ringing the changes following a frankly woeful bowling display at the Gabba in the 2nd innings. Johnson is dropped and Australia have the choice between Harris and Bollinger as the replacement who both have the potential to make an impact as well as show consistency. North will be under pressure to get some runs. His technical deficiencies for an international cricketer speak volumes and its important he contributes at number 6 which he has not been doing with regularity and doesn't seem to be able to do anyhow.

Personally, I am backing the great memories of this ground to come good for Paul Collingwood at number 5 who failed at Brisbane with the bat in the first innings. Perhaps the script is written for him to deliver here and produce the goods with his low bat lift and strong bottom hand craftiness combined with methods of unorthodoxy or gutsiness.

Should be interesting as ever. Have a good one whether playing or watching. Adelaide 2010 take it away!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Pak-Ind vs Eng/Aus

Personally I have an equal affiliation with both rivalries being a British Pakistani and therefore will clearly be fair and unbiased in analysis:

Why Ashes is bigger and better

1) More organised and systematic. Happens every 4 years in both locations. Everyone can understand where and when it will happen. Is planned more specifically and purposefully and therefore is much stronger administratively.

2) Historical context stretches for longer as the first series commenced in 1882. Plenty of history and tradition and it epitomised the popularity of cricket in they early days. Perhaps cricket would not stand where is does nowadays had this not been in place. This adds all to the meaningfulness and fascination for such a global spectacle.

3) Better conditions and pitches which are most conductive or conducive for the 5 day game which inevitably makes it undoubtedly more lively and interesting to watch or play in for that matter.

4) Anticipation and build up is second to none. For these two sides every thing with planning and feats are built towards this more or less. Whether this is healthy or not is certainly an argumentative or debatable like issue, however it all adds towards the fun in the overall equation when making contrasts.

5) Crowd and popularity/attendance for Tests is appladuable. It is considerably higher. Both countries on the whole show tremendous appreciation and acknowledgement towards the 5 day game which other countries supporters could take a leaf out of.

It would be reasonable to say that on the Test front Ashes is clearly the bigger and better affair. However, don't get me wrong, Pak-Ind rivalries are of also of high and well anticipated significance and a special encounter when ever and where the two sides clash in what ever format. On the ODI front, they are the biggest ecnounter in cricket which is followed with admirable intensity combined with a heart of passion, however the Ashes clearly remains the daddy when it comes to Tests.

In conclusion, both are needed to promote the interest, liveliness, beauty, enjoyment, history, patriotism and uniqueness of the beloved sport in this day and age. Both have done it previously, but as cricket fanatics we can only hope this great legacy continues for generations to come.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Today At The Test, Brisbane Day 4

Score: England 309/1 lead by 88 runs

England are on top at the Gabba on Day 4 thanks to centuries from skipper Strauss and an unbeaten century from vice captain Cook

They are going into the final day with confidence and the match very much looks like its heading towards a draw

England will be much happier with a draw then Australia for two reasons

1) They only need to draw the series to retain the Ashes. Thats how it works of course as they won the urn previously

2) Defeat seemed inevitable and the situation was ominious as Australia were in total command, yet they battled hard and managed to save the Test

I may be speaking too soon in all probability, however it will be very surprising if Australia can turn this one around from here and heavily disappointing on England's part if that happens

Player Of The Day (England): Strauss and Cook both were on song and led from the front. It was highly important that they batted with some responsibility and they did exactly that

Player Of The Day (Australia): As only one wicket fell, no one really. They struggled and plundered miserably

Ball Of The Day: North to Strauss. Of course it was the only wicket of the day, but a great delivery nevertheless from the part time off spinner which beat Strauss both with the flight and turn for an easy stumping by Haddin to complete the job

Photo Of The Day

^The two left hand English openers were centurions who dominated proceedings on day 4 with an opening stand of 188

Looking Ahead

Just keep going and batting for as long as possible. Its more or less just a matter of time. If KP, Collingwood and Prior can get in amongst the runs that will be brilliant from an English perspective as it would then mean that all batsmen have struck form in this all important Ashes opener at the Gabba. Most of the hard work has been done, now its just about ensuring they get the wanted result and the invaluable momentum going into Adelaide on the 3rd of December

Friday, 26 November 2010

Today At The Test, Brisbane Day 2

Score: England 260/Australia 220/5 at stumps (Hussey 81*+Haddin 22*)

Player Of The Day (Australia): Michael Hussey aka Mr Cricket. Stamped his authority and played good cricketing shots all over the wicket. Demonstrated professionalism and variety in approach.

Player Of The Day (England): Anderson got two crucial scalps either side of Lunch. There was a passage of play where he was really getting the ball to talk and deviate off the seam. Was really interesting to see.

SessionsMorning: Australia
Afternoon: England
Evening: Australia

Ball Of The DayAnderson to Watson. The perfect "in between" length creating uncertainty in the mind of Shane Watson whether to go back or forward, there was some movement off the seam, found the edge and Strauss accepted a catch in the slips to get England's first wicket of the series following an opening stand of 78.

Photo Of The Day


^An ecstatic Jimmy Anderson following the dismissal of Watson at the Gabba

Looking ahead....................

If England can strike a few early blows on day 3, they can bowl out Australia for not too much above what they got or even better I say with a sense of optimism. They need to believe they can make things happen in a flash and would and should believe that they can still win this match. I am backing them as a Pom to do it! They are still very much in the hunt if they bowl well and insert the pressure in the morning session, otherwise it could be a long and stiff task which lies ahead for them. I feel after they get Hussey, Swann will be able to rattle through the tail. There are signs of appreciable turn or purchase on this wicket and therefore if England can get some runs on the board, they stand a chance of making life tough for the Aussies as, if and when they come to bat in the 4th innings.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Pakistan vs SA Test Series Review

Ali has been a true revelation for the Test Side with his mental toughness and hard work. He has shown consistency and character in a highly successful career advancing series with scores of 56, 63, 90 & 28* against a potent bowling attack which contained a world class pace combination and decent spinners in order to help Pakistan draw the 2 Match Test Series 0-0 against the 2nd Ranked side in the world . A promising and deserving outcome for the men in green under Misbah Ul Haq who also demonstrated a great deal of determination and consistency and led from the front with his experience.




1)Trivia of the day: Azhar Ali played 632 balls, most by any batsman in series. None other than him played 600 balls. This represents his application with is applaudable.

2)We have drawn against SA, but wait and see what will happen now. SA will own India in the forthcoming 3 Test Match series. India are an overrated Test side in the bowling and fielding department specifically and I expect SA to win the series 2-1.

3) Out of a possible 80 only 52 wickets fell in the series. The pitches were lifeless, flat and not conducive from a bowling perspective. UAE is new to Test Cricket but nothing can beat England as a "home" for PK purely from a cricketing perspective in terms of quality and standards.

It's just a shame that the players can't behave themselves and the management don't take as much care of them that they always are seen indulging in controversies whenever they go along with some biased media coverage. UAE is a decent venue and a less controversial one. Both are special in their own ways nonetheless.

4) Pakistan in 2010 have played 10 Tests under 4 different captains in Yousuf, Afridi, Butt and Misbah. Both our wins came under Butt whereas our draws came under Misbah. Overall. Played 10: won 2/drawn 2/lost 6.

Overall, not bad considering the circumstances. We have had some historical moments in Tests this year as well as some shockers. The future is looking good on the whole.

Its our second Test Series we have drawn this year and we have also lost two. My most memorable cricketing moment in Pakistani Tests this year would be Gul hitting the winning runs in Leeds to give Pakistan victory after 15 years of continuous losses against Australia. That was certainly a special victory in several different shapes and forms.

5) It will help boost Pakistan's Test Ranking. They gain 5 points whereas SA gain only 3. Pakistan will undoubtedly be the happier of the two sides whereas SA would be potentially disappointed and frustrated as they were in commanding positions both times, but were unable to go on and finish the business by any stretch of the imagination.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Ashes Final Thoughts

The winning moment at the Oval in 2009. What scenes and what a series.

England go into the Ashes down under with excellent preparation. Two significant wins against Western Australia and Australia "A" and a draw which was largely influenced by bad weather against South Australia. The signs are looking positive for Andrew Strauss's men as they search for their first Ashes win down under since 1987.

On 23rd August 2009 when Graeme Swann got one to bounce and pop up from the rough to gift a catch to Alastair Cook at short leg, the nation of Britain erupted once more just like it did on the 12th of September 2005 when Bowden and Koertzen dislodged the bails to symbolise a draw at the Oval and subsequently the fact that England had won the Ashes. Since that memorable day at the Oval in 2009, things in cricket have gradually changed for both sides.

Since the 2009 series

Australia played 12/won 8/lost 3/drew 1
England played 12/won 8/lost 2/drew 2

Prediction beforehand: 3-1 Australia
Revised Prediction: 2-2 and therefore England retain the Ashes

Why Revised?

1)Australia's record in their last 8 encounters across all formats: L/L/L/L/L/L/L/W
2)Last time England's preparation in their Australian tour was poor, not winning a single tour match prior to the first Test at Brisbane and that infamous wide ball from Steve Harmison to commence the disastrous series from an English perspective. This time it is considerably better.

Key Players

England

Graeme Swann. The off spinner has been phenomenal in the last year or so and is highly regarded as the best spinner in the world currently. His tendency to pick up a wicket in his first over is an amazing habit as is his ability to produce unplayable deliveries, become a nagging customer and be a true demon against left handers which Australia possess in their middle order. It is reasonable to say on balance that he is bound to do well and will need to perform like he has been doing in order for England to have a successful campaign.

Australia

No one really stands out for me. However, in the batting department Mr Cricket aka Mike Hussey has got the ability to turn around matches with his craftiness and experience. As a bowling attack, it's important they bowl as a unit and support each other. They lack experience and genuine quality in the spinning department which is an area England could capitalise on.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Pakistan's Women Cricket Team Are Asian Champions!




Congratulations to our Women's Team who beat BD comprehensively by 10 wickets in the final of the Asian Games! They finish in 1st place. What a great achievement this is. A proud moment for Pakistan Cricket. This could be the beginning of bigger and better things to come for women's cricket in Pakistan.

Scorecard: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/current/match/485173.html

Comprehensive Victories throughout



Round of 16

Pakistan vs Thailand

Won by 8 wickets

Quaterfinals

Pakistan vs China

Won by 9 wickets

Semifinals

Pakistan vs Japan

Won by 9 wickets

Finals

Pakistan vs Bangladesh

Won by 10 wickets


India did not participate in this event, which was Pakistan's gain and India's loss as Pakistan victoriously claimed the ultimate prize in the Women's cricketing event to the delight of the whole nation.

Pakistan Men's Team are also participating and will start their first match in due course. Khalid Latif who successfully led Pak U19 to WC glory in 2004 will captain the young and talented side which includes the likes of Usman Qadir, Raza Hasan and Azeem Ghumman. India is also not involved in the Men's tournament either. Pak have a relatively strong side they have sent and should win the tournament in my eyes. This could be a double whammy for Pakistan in the Asian Games Cricket Event! We will have to wait and see................



Express Quotes

Link: http://tribune.com.pk/story/78782/pakistan-beat-bangladesh-to-win-asian-games-final/

Nida Rashid, star of Pakistan's Asian Games' gold in cricket, says her inspiration was Shahid Afridi's World T20 '09 performance. - Express

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari congratulated the women’s cricket team for making history by beating Bangladesh and winning the first Asian Games women’s cricket gold. - Express

Cricket gold boosts battered Pakistan’

“The way the women’s team has played and the way they have handled themselves on and off the field is really wonderful for Pakistanis living in Pakistan and abroad,” she said.

Sana, who took two wickets ...for 23 runs, said the media often focused on the problems besetting Pakistan but the nation “must be proud of us.”

“There are lot of good things happening in Pakistan and this is one of them,” she said.

Sana denied the women’s team was breaking new ground, saying it was thanks to powerful female role models such as the late former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto that they were able to play cricket.

“We are not the pioneers. We are just following in the footsteps of the strong women of Pakistan,” she said.

The 24-year-old said it had become more acceptable for men to watch the women’s game and the women’s team improved by playing against under-19 and under-25 men’s teams.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Come and Join Our Ashes Fantasy League

We are doing an Ashes Fantasy Competition here on BBK. This will be our 2nd Fantasy competition. We also did one for the 2009 ICC World T20. Hopefully we get as many participants as possible for this well anticipated illustrious cricketing rivalry. Let's see how good a selector you are!?

Usual rules apply. Select 11 players combined from both Ashes sides. You have a maximum budget of 125.

Deadline to join is only the 24th of November

The key to join our competition is: 1289142249 under "user comp join"
http://www.cricketweb.net/fantasycricket/index.php

This is how points can be scored

Each Five Runs Scored 1 Point
Scoring Rate 100+ 4 Points
Scoring Rate 80.0 - 99.9 2 Points
Scoring Rate 70.0 - 79.9 1 Point
Notes: Scoring Rate - Only batsman scoring 15+ runs

Each Wicket Taken 5 Points
R.R.P.O: 3.50 or Less 5 Points
R.R.P.O: 3.51 to 4.50 3 Points
R.R.P.O: 4.51 to 5.00 1 Point
Notes: Econ. Rate - A minimum of 3 overs must be bowled.

Per Catch 3 Points
Per WK Catch 2 Points
Per Run Out 3 Points
Per Stumping 4 Points
Notes: If applicable all players involved in a run out score points

50 Runs 5 Points
100 Runs 10 Points
150 Runs 15 Points
5 Wicket Haul 10 Points
Not Out 2 Points
Notes: These bonus points are on top of the standard points

Duck -5 Points
Golden Duck -10 Points
Bowler Concedes >= 60 Runs -5 Points

Have fun and best of luck. Should be interesting to see what happens both in the series and fantasy league.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

A Fan's Insight Into The 4th ODI at DSC

Perfect view of the stadium is displayed below. Taken by HR.

HR aka Harry was lucky enough to be able to witness the 4th ODI at DSC which Pakistan narrowly won by 1 wicket thanks to a brilliant knock from the number 3 batsmen Younis Khan who scored a patient and hard working 73 as Pakistan successfully chased down 275 with 1 wicket and 1 ball to spare for the second time in the series. Without further a do here is Harry's insight.

http://www.cricinfo.com/pakistan-v-south-africa-2010/engine/match/461569.html

Watching the match at DSC was a great experience, the crowd was fantastic but what you see is the inside picture, shit happens outside the stadium, you gotta park your car 1 KM away from the stadium because there is no space anywhere near the stadium they have made special arrangements for VIPs and Royals who get the best parking space close to the stadium, after a walk of 30 minutes once you reach the stadium doors and if you have bought your tickets already from somewhere outside the stadium then it would take you 1 hour to enter the Cheap stands, but if you will buy the ticket from the stadium then it will take you like 2 hours to enter the stadium because as you know Pakistanis does not know what a queue is or for that matter they don't know what manners are or what discipline is. Well, in the last few series the crowd was less because the tickets were very expensive, they have reduced the price of the tickets by 50% and that’s the reason you saw this much crowd in there. The crowd was really loud and supported both the teams which I really liked about them, every South African boundary or good shot was really appreciated, but when Pakistan was batting then for every single the crowd gave a roar, Shoaib Akhtar still got it! People love him each time he runs in to bowl the crowd goes crazy and it seems they just came to watch him bowl and Afridi bat, I wonder what cricket will be without them. I also observed the teams, Pakistan fielders were really all over the place, the thing is that Afridi does not settles the field always, most of the time it is the bowler who does this job, I even noticed some fielders yelling kahan jaon Kahan jaon, Fawad Alam was very vocal and used to direct the fielders which was nice to see, Afridi was really not doing much in this, he also over bowled, shouldn't have really bowled 10 over's because he knew he wasn't performing well and being captain does not mean you become a dictator and do what you want. Whereas on the other hand Smith was really great to see, he seems to be not playing cricket but in a battle or something because the way he was giving those speeches during intervals was really amazing to see and the way he showed his disappointment at bad fielding was really a learning experience. During the innings break and the start of the match, I saw the South Africans and the Pakistanis practicing, the difference was really evident, Saffers were using modern techniques and nets and some really cool equipment during practice, whereas Pakistanis where scattered all over the place no proper practice Younis bhai practicing alone, some players just running around catches being practiced but really not up to the mark compared to the South Africans and yes Harry Potter did his magic to help Pakistan win. (Harry)

Zulqarnain Haider scored 19* to guide Pakistan to victory and keep the series alive as its now sitting very nicely poised at 2-2 with one to go and all to play for as they say. The series decider will be on Monday at 11am GMT. It's about time Pakistan win a meaningful ODI series after such a long time. Will Monday be the day this happens?

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Razzler Is Gold!


He was on fire! Hitting sixes at will!

109* of just 72 balls including 10 maximums! The real "Boom Boom" as Afridi said in the post match presentation. Pakistan magically square the series with 3 to play in Dubai.

http://www.cricinfo.com/pakistan-v-south-africa-2010/engine/current/match/461567.html

He was a genius! It was one of the all time greatest performances one can witness on the cricketing field. It was astonishing. It was remarkable. It was an innings of a life time. An unforgettable moment that will live long in my memory.

Razzler Dazzler is someone to stand and admire as Pakistan narrowly won at Sheikh Zayed Stadium from the jaws of defeat and truly out of the blue! A heroic innings and needless to say a match winning one!

The sheer ease and professionalism in which he cleared the ropes was adorable and admirable. The confidence, the expressiveness, the bat speed, follow through and reaction was all perfection personified.

An extremely proud day for Pakistan Cricket! The atmosphere on facebook fan pages, pakpassion and the blogosphere has been second to none as Razzaq played a knock to say that he played an unmissable gem is a big understatement. It was beyond imagination!

Brilliance!Phenomenal! Absolutely unbelievable!

For me personally this beats Hussey's heroics on the 14th of May in St Lucia which broke our hearts. This beats Miandad's illustrious last ball six in Sharjah. All the mentioned were remarkable and astonishing but this was something spectacular! A champion knock under pressure from the Pakistani all-rounder.

Such performances just make you realise how outstanding Pakistan can be when they click and have some inspirational on field moments,one of the reasons why I stated we can become 2011 WC Winners! Is this the start of bigger and better things to come!?

This one of course is head and shoulders above his other knocks this year but he has also delivered brilliance in other matches this year as well such as:

1) 46* of 18 balls in the UAE 2nd T20 vs. England in February
2) 71 of 29 balls in the domestic T20 final
3) 44 of just 20 balls in the 4th ODI vs. England at Lords
4) 33 of just 19 balls in the Friends Provident T20 Final against Somerset

Has to be one the best year's in Razzaq's batting career surely?

Friday, 29 October 2010

Why Pak Can Win The 2011 WC!?

Will 2/4/11=25/3/92 & 21/6/09!? Is there hope? Surely a lasting legacy script awaits for the likes of Shoaib Akhtar who would love to retire victoriously and triumphantly with something to cherish or savour?

- It is virtually a knock out tournament as it is already inevitable which team will make it to the knock out stages as both groups consist of 4 well renowned Test Playing Nations and 3 minnows with all due respect to them being there

-If Pakistan peak at the right time and the big players come to the party we all know then how good Pakistan can truly be then, they are invincible and unmatchable when they are at their best. When they play will a smile and with energy they are a treat to admire or watch

- Playing the minnows such as Canada, Kenya & Zimbabwe in the group stages should of course be easy wins for Pakistan. This is a perfect platform and opportunity for the big players to discover some form, rhythm and confidence before the knock out decisive encounters which will assist peaking at the right time!!!

-Both times Pakistan won the WC the preparation was inadequate and all signs were pointing to the wrong direction. Yet we battled though the difficulties and hardships, had some inspirational on field moments and performances and emerged as WC champions out of the blue! Perhaps 2011 will be similar? Why not?

- 6 group matches is guaranteed which is a substantial amount of time in order to discover the perfect team before the decisive encounters. Surely things can't go that bad for us and there will be some clear benefits and positives gained in the 6 group matches, especially with 3 being played against minnows which will boost our team psychologically, mentally and physically before when it matters most in the quarter finals!

The streets of Toronto, Birmingham, Bradford, Luton, Ilford, Karachi, Lahore & everywhere else Stanis exist shall be partying on April 3rd 2011 when we will be "Champions again" As Faras Ghani titled his book dedicated to the WT20 Triumph in 2009. I urge our Pakistani faithful to remain hopeful and optimistic. Recent times may have been heart breaking, destroying, sickening and shameful, however there could be light at the end of the tunnel for all the aforementioned factors stated. Winning the WC is easier then we think it is and is well within our capabilities if things go our way when it matters!

Anything can happen in the WC this time around. Whilst it may not be able to single out the real "winner" or "best ,"who would simply consider complaining when it will suit your side's overall chances of success and even glory?

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Pakistan's Decline in T20 Dominance 2010

I decide to write this piece after Pakistan's back to back defeats against SA in UAE on the 26th and 27th of October 2010. Both times Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat first but posted lacklustre and uncompetitive totals and consequently lost both encounters by 6 wickets.

Previously, Pakistan lost to England convincingly in a T20 series 2-0 on September 5th and 7th respectively. This means they have been whitewashed by both England and SA and have now lost 4 T20 matches consecutively.

From world champions on 21st June 2009 in London they are now a laughing stock!

Overall, Pakistan have lost 10/15 (66.7%) T20 Matches so far in 2010. This includes unsuccessfully being able to retain their World T20 Title in the Caribbean between 30th April-16th May. Only 10 months after tasting glory and winning triumphantly at Lords on that memorable scorching Sunday afternoon. It's fair to say Pakistan are no longer the best T20 side in the world and are in decline when comparing to this time last year for instance.

Lost to Australia in a sole T20 Match

Drew 1-1 vs England in the UAE

Beat Australia 2-0 in England

Lost 2-0 vs England in England

Lost 2-0 vs SA in the UAE

The victorious frequencies has been limited after such a promising and highly successful start in the format. Pakistan have also now been over taken by SA in terms of the most T20 wins recorded.

T20 should be a format where Pakistan can thrive and excel due to the fact that there is no application, patience, technical testing, mental toughness, temperament, commitment requirements really needed for example like Test Cricket. It is all about natural talent, skill, motivation, handling pressure, confidence and expressiveness. Hence, it is ideal and highly suited for Pakistani players. We have had overwhelming and considerable success in this version of the game, however we need to keep it up and not lack behind. It should or could be something where we are dominant and gain a proud reputation from. It could be seen as a version of strength and pride.

The credentials and attributes to flourish in the format are well and truly available in abundance. It is just about getting the right combinations on to the playing field and for the players to click and unite by performing on a motivational stage as many more people back home have the time and willingness to watch this shortened action packed, mouth watering, eventful and heavily exciting format.

In order for our T20 dominance to be regained or revived, Pakistan will need to put on a good show in NZ where they will next have their T20 assignment by playing a 3 Match Series in between Christmas and New Year. Nothing but a 3-0 whitewash should be accepted from the men in green then! I look forward to regaining our T20 dominance sooner then later and back the players to flourish in the format. Selection, individual form and strategy hold the key in order to succeed.

Shahzaib Hassan Khan

He has know played 6 T20s in a row for Pakistan and his scores are as follows: 0,0,21,3,12,6. This is an average of just 7 runs per innings. He always looks so lost, unconvincing, inadequate and extremely ugly at the crease whenever he represents Pakistan. He may be a demon at the domestic level in Pakistan and score heavily and consistently but the reality is that at the top he is an absolute proven failure who has continuously failed miserably and hopelessly. He comes across as a very overrated and useless product. He has the talent, but will never succeed at the top. Hence, he should never play for Pakistan again in any format soon.

Missing Names

In the last 4 T20s Pakistan have played and lost they have not scored more then 130 and have often lost too many wickets early on frequently and consequently find themselves having to re-build their innings and take their time later on. They need a stable proper opener who can bat for 10-12 overs and just lay the foundations, block one end up and set a platform which enables the middle order to play with freedom and intent when they arrive at the crease. Salman Butt was a perfect example of someone who did this under appreciated match winning role for Pakistan in this version of the game. In order to prevent humiliating and continuous woeful batting displays such a player is necessary to have in your ranks.
In all these 4 consecutive defeats Pakistan have missed Mohammad Amir with the new ball. If he is back in NZ he would certainly make the bowling attack more balanced and add variety with the left arm angle he provides.
Razzaq needs to be promoted up the order and utilised efficiently and productively. He is a very capable match winning destructive experienced established batsmen, especially in such a shortened game. He has done it numerous times in the domestic arena for a variety of sides. It is absolutely brainless to not send him in to bat in the top 4 and show what he can do. Why wait for a crisis? Why not give him the best possible opportunity of playing an incredible self destructive Razzler dazzler?
Imran Nazir is an unmissable name. His ability to play aggressively is much more convincing and ruthless then other sloggers or hitters. He means business with the bat and is capable of delivering the goods as has been established previously with his performances in the ICL, domestic T20 tournament as he is a Stallion too and 2007 ICC World T20 in SA where he was instrumental at the top of the order.
Shoaib Malik is a top player in this version of the game. His ability to milk the ball and accelerate when he gets going is an invaluable asset in the middle order. Additionally, he is an experienced player in this format and an outstanding fielder who can catch brilliantly under pressure. He is not at all a test cricketer, but in ODIs and more so in T20s he is a very capable performer.

Monday, 25 October 2010

An Article About Ijaz Butt Via Guest Writer

Arsal Puri is an enthusiastic American based Pakistani Cricket follower. Here is a piece he has written for BBK.

Once again, everyone's favorite chairman has come out in an unsurprising statement and has lashed out against the BCCI and NZC.
“ I have been in talks with some bookies and I have solid evidence that both the Indian and New Zealand team are apart of Match and Spot fixing.”
When asked on why he is accusing the two teams, Butt had this to say in response, “ It seems that I am not making the headlines for awhile and have decided to create a new scandal that will rock the Cricketing world, obviously though I will deny these comments and say that I did not say anything like this”

The press unsurprised at his unusual statements (or usual for Butt himself) continued to interrogate Butt on what exactly he is accusing the two teams of. “ Our players Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were suspended for bowling a couple of No-balls in which they did not take wickets off of, but Indian supposedly 'quick' bowler Ishant Sharma bowled a total of 15 no-balls and on 2 of them, had the wicket of Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke in the first test against Australia earlier this month.” “I double and even tripled check with my bookies and they have given me concrete evidence that Ishant Sharma took an handsome amount of money to bowl those no-balls.”

Butt continued babbling and his statement eventually turned towards the New Zealand cricket team. “New Zealand lost 4-0 against Bangladesh, surely that in itself is match-fixing!, earlier this year New Zealand were number two in the ODI rankings and had also defeated Pakistan in the ICC Champions Trophy and in the series in the U.A.E. 2-1.” Butt continued saying, “My personal and long-time friend who also happens to be a bookie told me that Daniel Vettori and Brendon McCullum were paid $100,000 US dollars to lose to Bangladesh”.

One reporter asked Butt why he did not report this incident to the ICC yet and Butt responded saying, “ Why go to the ICC, when I call you guys who will write so many wonderful things about me! The ICC would love to take all the credit for this, like when they found out about our match-fixing scandals which I will tell you shortly the truth about in a later press conference”.

“Also I would like to mention once again that I am going to completely deny all of this, but will anyways be pressured into writing an apology to the ICC,NZC, and BCCI and will explain that it is my age that causes me to do such things and my power as the chairman of the PCB, I am still a “youngster”, and hope that with time this random accusations will stop and I will come to terms with myself...Inshallah”

Saturday, 23 October 2010

A Long Term Vision

Cricket is seen as a form of national pride and identification but yet our national team's record, renowned image and ranking is staggeringly disappointing for a country which possesses excessive amounts of natural talent and has unarguably the biggest and most passionate cricketing followers on Earth. Additionally, unlike other nations it's our national sport and one of our only sports and therefore something we should be ahead in when contrasting with the likes of SA, NZ, England and co. Yet, we are on par or behind. Setting high standards and overcoming our negative unpredictability tag is the way forward towards globalised recognition for our cricket socially and significantly as a representation of our capabilities and love/interests, especially in the modern age where negativity is the only word and news we hear in Western civilizations as a matter of regularity as much as fact.

Why we should and how we could be better then what we are currently:

1) Education right from grass root-level for all players so they are aware of the values and principles of life. How to conduct themselves, the importance of behaving sensibly and appropriately and how to refrain from corrupt and negative roots.

2) Improved infra-structure where there are less first class sides, better pay and more recognition and higher standards for first class cricket. Better cricketing wickets and systematic planning of tournaments will help get the best from the best players and prepare the players mentally and physically for the real challenge of international cricket when they flourish through the ranks.

3) Professionalism and constructive productivity in management and hierarchy who use the bounty of wisdom and experience to make planned decisions accordingly and with purpose and thought.

4) Innovation, commercialisation and entrepreneurship attributes from experienced visionaries.

If this is all in place surely and inevitably we will thrive and the results will begin to show and shine. We should be the best team in the world. We could be the best team in the world. The personal drive is there as is the talent/credentials. But we lack hard work, vision, guidance & tactical understanding to succeed. This will not happen overnight. A long term plan needs to be in place and maybe just one day we will see our cricket triumph and delight the public like there is no tomorrow before we know it.

Our over reliance on pure talent is neither wise nor systematic. We need to groove players with important assets like mental toughness, technical and tactical intelligence, desire+ determination, application, hard-work, responsibility on and off the field and the importance of their role in society.

Hence, we struggle and are behind in Test Cricket and are always seen in controversies. This is the huge thing Pakistan Cricket lacks. It’s something which won’t change overnight either.

The Solution is an educational system for cricketers where they can learn about the important values as well develop their credentials. This is a long term vision. Surely we shall triumph and the results will show when this is in place?

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Faysal Bank T20 Review 2010/ Pak Domestic T20 Edition 7

The 2010 Faysal Bank T20 competition was played between the 10th and 16th October at the Gaddafi Stadium and coincidentally with Lahore Lions emerging winners after beating Karachi Dolphins by 37 runs in the final.

This was a relief for the tournament and public in a sense as the invincible Sialkot Stallions finally lost their title and dominance after 5 consecutive triumphs. The team won 25 successive matches before losing to Rawalpindi Rams in the group stages of the 7th edition by 13 runs thanks to a brilliant all-round performance from Hammad Azam who scored 37 and bagged 4 crucial scalps at significant stages.

Hammad Azam's bowling is overrated. He tends to be expensive, inconsistent and and an easy bowler to target and score off. However, he is a wicket-taker and has this knack to provide his captain with essential breakthroughs. His batting is his stronger suit and has plenty of promise such as being able to take the long handle, play aggressively, maturely and carry the bat and produce a spectacular knock if he clicks, skill such as being able to play a wide variety of shots all over the wagon wheel and assets such as being able to play accordingly and under pressure how to handle difficult situations and play responsibly and I am confident with these 3 essentials combined he has, he will flourish at the top level if provided with an extended run of opportunities.

One of the stand out performers in the competition was the Pakistani left arm pacer, Abdul Wahab Riaz who took 10 wickets for 77 runs combined in the 5 matches he played. He bowled very accurately and economically. Hence, played an instrumental role in his team's tournament victory. Perhaps the PCB ought to consider him for the shorter formats as well!? It must have been a funny old year for the former Aitchison College Pupil. Not only did he take a match winning 5 for on debut at the Oval on the 18th of August, he also bowled phenomenally well to help his domestic team to win the FB T20 against many people's surprise. But this all came with a suspicion of match fixing involvement with the NOTW revelations and also a publicised altercation with English batsmen Jonathan Trott before the start of the 4th ODI at Lords on Monday 20th of September. I'm sure he would have reflected on the ups and downs of a series of life changing events, both positive and negative influences!

Additionally, Shahzaib Hassan Khan scored heavily and consistenly with his aggressive batting. He showed his effectiveness and usefulness once more, but one has to remember how embarrassing and pathetic his contributions in England this summer were. Is he really good enough to translate such form on to the highest stage? I am doubtful about that. He looks technically and mentally inadequate for the real business in the long term view but we have to give credit to him where its due.

Imran Nazir also dominated and caught the eye in the two games he played. In my opinion it is completely mindless to ignore him in the T20 format specifically. Umar Akmal scored two half centuries in the group stages which ensured the Lions progressed to the knock out stages as expected.

Abdul Razzaq played a gem against Abbotabad Falcons in the pool game and also played a brilliant knock in the final scoring 71* off just 29 deliveries with some serious domination against a pace battery attack Karachi possessed. This was the difference between the two sides in the well anticipated domestic final and the manner and ease in which Razzler dazzled and took the game away from the strong and experienced opposition was incredible and a true treat to witness. Pakistani fans worldwide can only hope that the likes of Razzaq, Akmal jnr and Wahab will be able to taste similar success with the national side in the important months which lie ahead.

The media coverage and attendance/crowd was a credit throughout the competition's duration. Often an electrifying atmosphere was felt. This just reminds us of how much the country loves their cricket and to an extent how much they would simply adore international cricket to return on home shores in the near future. Overall, a successful tournament and congratulations to the fans and players of the winning side: LAHORE LIONS! Lets hope they get to represent Pakistan in the CL T20 next year. Surely they should have an opportunity like other nation's domestic winners?

Friday, 1 October 2010

When the Men In Green Rose From Ashes like Re-Born Cornered Tigers...

This summer Pakistan won 6/15 of their games or 40% of encounters across all 3 formats which included 2 wins from each so 2 T20 wins, 2 Test wins; all of these which I covered in individual articles dedicated to them but also 2 ODI victories in September which I did not cover, but which took the ODI series to a decider to conclude an eventful summer of cricket on and off the field on the 22nd of September at the Rose Bowl which England won comprehensively to take the series honours. Which means they beat Pakistan in all 3 formats this summer. It's been a memorable summer of proceedings in many more ways than one for both sides! Pakistan showed their power and classy uniqueness or numerous occasion, but were unable to reflect it in the results as often as some would have liked. The discoveries and revelations of debutants provide promise and potential to succeed in the long term vision. So it wasn't a bad summer for Pakistan by any stretch of the imagination. Arguably, they could have done better ,but realistically speaking I am satisfied overall.

England on the other hand, have ideal preparation for the Ashes which I don't see them winning to be frankly honest. Winning down under will be an astonishing achievement undoubtedly and even with the best spinner in the world in their ranks, it looks beyond their capability. I predict 3-1 to Australia. Ironically, I would like to see England retain the urn down under because I live in England, support every team which takes on Australia and actually support England as a "second team" unlike other cricket followers from Asian descent and therefore would be supporting them to accomplish the mission, but we must get down to reality. Additionally, how can one actually be hopeful when the last visit resulted in a 5-0 humiliation and then there were high hopes as well? Just reinforcing a reality check here, would like this to all be proven wrong but tell me how this is going to happen then?

Looking ahead at what's to follow, Pakistan will be playing 20 international encounters this winter before the WC in mid February across all 3 formats which includes 5 T20s, 11 ODIs and 4 Tests combined against SA and NZ respectively. I expect us to win at least half of those encounters. All of this will be valuable preparation towards the big sub-continental spectacle in Spring 2011. With the way the tournament is structured anything can happen which will suit Pakistan's overall chances of success and even triumph!

I am just hoping against all hope that Aamir and Asif will be back for Pakistan. They are two gems and clear match winners and world class performers. Its highly unlikely they will return or if they have not been involved in match fixing or something of the sort but talent and ability wise Pakistan need them, no question about that, ideally speaking. But if can't happen that is totally understandable.

We want Younis Khan back as Test Captain and ODI player. The guy is a world class player and excellent leader who is being wasted by the clueless PCB management. I stand by Younis Khan. Come back soon.

In short, it shall be a very well anticipated winter which lies ahead where there is plenty to look forward to as the 2011 WC approaches. Pakistan will be looking to consolidate on their achievements and learning experiences gained this summer and should be looking to win a much larger proportion of fixtures in the exciting winter calendar. The PCB needs a new chairman who has the awareness, experience and vast understanding to guide Pakistan cricket forwards rather than someone who is destroying pride, humiliating reputation and behaving foolishly and shamelessly in Ijaz Butt. We can hope with a fresh and much needed change that Pakistan can taste the victorious flavour more often and will no longer be the laughing stock of world cricket which has to continuously bow its head in disgust. Surely there has to be light at the end of the tunnel where the cornered tigers can rise emphatically with strong leadership, sound management and a sophisticated systematic infra-structure which enables dreams and talents to be accomplished and strengthened?

Sunday, 29 August 2010

The Darkest Day In Cricket

The story which leaked out overnight on Saturday at Lords was one of shocking magnitude and indescribable disgrace as spot fixing allegations were made by a well known Pakistani Cricket agent. The agent predicted 3 illegitimate deliveries would be bowled at 3 precised times and his predictions were totally correct. It is evident and noticeable that this game has been influenced wrongly and needless to say negatively. And once more ,unsurprisingly ,it is Pakistan who are under the spot light for controversial dealings and at present I am lost for words as I dictate this article, angrily.

The punishments need to be made accordingly to all of those of which have been involved. Pakistan Cricket is in a disgraceful state and it makes one feel extremely let down, truly disgusted, daft and worthless in many shapes and forms as a passionate Pakistani cricket fan and follower. I feel the temptation to stop supporting, following and backing such players with endless passion who would dare to engage in such corrupt affairs. Such players need to refrain from the team unquestionably for the progressiveness of the sport in general as this would send a bold message to youngsters and first class cricketers flourishing through the ranks.

Regardless of ability, performance and history; disciplined and sensible approach is at the forefront of proceedings. Therefore, undoubtedly appropriate actions will need to be taken in order for the national team and game of cricket to move on. All due respect shall be lost to those 4-7 individuals who have clearly been involved/named and Pakistan or more professionally the ICC needs to take a firm stance on banning them for endlessly. Those individuals will always be remembered as criminals irrespective of any such accomplishments and I shall not hesitate to name or shame them but for the bounty of common human decency I shall wait until further developments on the matter, but it's clear that something has gone on and player's have been involved in something that should not be associated with the game.

The "innocent until proven guilty theory" is a mindless, brainless, thoughtless and unnecessary thinking ploy. The evidence is remarkable and if one witnesses from the naked eye the video which was made; they can clearly see the corruption which has evidently taken place.

In a sense I am glad that what has happened has been revealed because it needed to be addressed after years and years of suspiciousness. Finally we know the saddening truth and know really what goes on which can only be good for the betterment of the sport and specifically sub continent sides in the long termed future.

Shame on the game of cricket and more so shame on Pakistan. My faith and passion has been shattered like there is no tomorrow and I am definitely sure I am not alone on the talking subject matter. The limited overs encounters which are to follow will inevitably lack anticipatation and all on field matters will be overshadowed until further date.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

28th August 2010, A Forgettable Day If Your A Pakistani.........

It really was all that bad. Just as one thought things could not possibly get any worse. A day of depression and hopelessness.


A record breaking international 8th wicket stand of 332 between Trott and Broad stole the story of the match at the Oval 2010 Test, overtaking the famous 313 between Wasim Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq against Zimbabwe in 1996 as Pakistan were humiliated in remarkable fashion on a bright Saturday in London. Resuming on 346/7, England were bowled out for 446 shortly after Lunch.

Pakistan batsmen never came to terms with the England bowling and were demolished for just 74 in just 33 overs. This was Pakistan's 3rd failure to reach 3 figures in the series and the 74 was their second lowest score against England in Test Cricket. Unsurprisingly, Strauss enforced the follow on and Pakistan further slumped to 41/4 at the close of play.

The situation is clearly ominous and Pakistan's shambolic and humiliating performance was the last thing one would expect when England were 102/7 on Friday afternoon ,courtesy of individual brilliance from Mohammad Aamir who bagged 6 wickets. However, the youngster's performance was overshadowed by the phenomenal 8th wicket stand which followed and from there in things only got worse for the subcontinental visitors.

Today we saw the limitations of Pakistani batsmen being exploited with sheer ease. We saw an incapable unit looking to thrive in challenging conditions. And for some of us, hopefully for the last time the stances and faces of several tried and tested failures. Pakistan Cricket needs guidance and urgent help. Days like today just represent how weak and vulnerable our cricket really is. It was utterly shambolic and embarrassing for one to witness. The series is closing in and the PCB faces some tough decisions to make in the near by future.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Why Pakistan may win at Lords

Why Pakistan may win at Lords:

1) They have been to Lords already this summer and played reasonably well. They should have learn't from their mistakes and would have probably got accustomed to the slope, atmosphere and surroundings one would have thought.

2) They carry the winning momentum into this match. They will be keen to maintain standards and square the series.REMEMBER: So far this summer they haven't lost a series!

3) Last time Mohammad Yousuf batted here, he scored a double century. Perhaps the great memories will help him to deliver something special.

Off Topic

There is some talk in the British Press and a few writer's have been complaining that ball tampering goes on and Ajmal's action is illegal and therefore England faltered on tea day 3. These are baseless accusations. In my opinion ball tampering should be legalised because bowlers need assistance to perform well just like batsmen too. And ball tampering doesn't make bowling invincible by any stretch of the imagination as bowlers still need pace, control and special ability to swing the ball regardless of the state it is in. It just makes cricket more lively and evenly contested between bat and ball if anything.

I'm not saying that tampering took place at all, but what I am saying is even if it simply did, who frankly cares? Only because Pakistan are good at when it comes to making the old ball "talk" doesn't mean it's easy to do. We have gifted bowlers to perform the art, thats all.

And same concept applies to the mystery off spinner. ICC and cricket in general should be flexible in allowing the doosra to be bowled because it gives cricket more of an exciting contest between bat and ball and of course it's a respectable art in its own right which requires plenty of skill, talent and ability to perfect when bowling. Again, I am not saying Ajmal's action is suspicious but even if it was?

English media's unwillingness to praise Pakistan's bowling uniqueness speaks volumes.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

3rd Test, Pakistan Review

A long term prospect in the making

There were plenty of memorable and joyful moments at the Oval this time round

Pakistan managed to achieve something which many doubted prior to the Oval Test Match following two comprehensive defeats at Nottingham and Edgbaston by winning the 3rd Test Match by 4 wickets on the fourth day's play to bring the series standing to 2-1 with one to go and all to play for at Lords, commencing on Thursday 26th August. It will be Pakistan's second visit of Lords for the summer so there should be limited problems adapting to the atmosphere and famous old slope. Also, as traditionally would be the case with England they play 2 Tests per year at the illustrious venue.

Pakistan had two left armers with 5 wicket hauls in the match in debutant Wahab Riaz and teenage pace sensation Mohammad Aamir who both triggered batting collapses with the quality bowling performances. Ajmal was phenomenal and bamboozled the English batsmen in the second innings with some magical craft and guile.

Azhar Ali impressed with his 92*and demonstrated his batting credentials. His determination, willingness to stay at the wicket, patience and solid defence was wonderful as for the first time this summer in 5 test matches Pakistan managed to reach 300. Mohammad Yousuf returned with plenty of class and character and played 2 significant knocks, scoring 56 and 33 respectively.

The difference in this match in contrast to the other two was that Pakistan actually managed to hold on to their catches with Kamran Akmal holding 8 against many people's surprise. Batting wise, Kamran's appalling form continues and his weaknesses continue to get exploited with ease. This needs to change.

Pakistan made hard work chasing the modest total of 148 but eventually managed to reach the target with the young starts Mohammad Aamir and Umar Akmal hitting the winning runs which was would have been an important experience for the two by getting their nation over the line after a slight collapse.

There is now some news from reliable sources that Younis Khan is set to make a comeback which will only make the team stronger and better. I have the belief that Pakistan can become world beaters and on their day they are unmatchable. Salman Butt rightly dedicated the victory to the flood victims.

Irrespective of the result at Lords, Pakistan can rate the summer of Test Cricket as a success with plenty of bright moments to come in the foreseeable future. The learning curve for the debutants and youngsters must have been like no other. Well played Greens, keep it up!

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