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.


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


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.


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.

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.


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!

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