Pakistan missing Afridi at CT13, already


Shahid Afridi Match WinnerTwo highly unpredictable sides clashed in a low scoring but high intensity Group B thriller last night at Oval, London, the first of their matches in the round-robin league. The West Indies got over the line with two wickets in the bag but not before Pakistan’s pace and spin combination made them experience a good 40 overs of restlessness.

On a wicket that offered some assistance to the quicks early on, Pakistan were sent into bat by the new West Indian ODI captain Dwayne Bravo. On the West Indies playing XI, there was no Darren Sammy and that meant only Gangnam style was on offer and so London was going to miss the baby dance. Pakistan went in with four specialist bowlers and Hafeez the all rounder filled in for the fifth bowler, which meant that the idea was to strengthen their batting with an additional batsmen which they know is probably their weakest link for some years now.

But the extra batsman strategy didn’t work and Pakistan’s batting failed yet again. They couldn’t bat the complete quota of 50 overs and despite Misbah’s fighting 96*, they were bowled out for mere 170 in 48 overs. Kemar Roach ran through the top order and Sunil Naraine did the rest.

Pakistan’s bowlers were superb once again with Mohd. Irfan, Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz bowling fast and in the right areas, getting a good bounce and carry from the Oval pitch. Saeed Ajmal bowled beautifully as always and West Indians had a hard time reading his doosra. At one stage West Indies were reduced to less than a 100 for the loss of 5 wickets but Pakistan’s attempt of going for the kill wasn’t strong enough and they probably had a weapon less. Somewhere they missed that fifth specialist bowler and one would agree that to an extent Afridi absence was felt.

The Pakistan selectors have missed a trick by not including Shahid Afridi in the squad. And the reason we think that’s the case is because however bad Afridi performs with the bat, he still is a top class leg-spinner and there aren’t many spinners in the world who can match him for his deceptive variations.

Over the last few years or so, Afridi has been more of a bowler who can bat and not really a batting all-rounder and thus the expectations from him should be set per se. The team, the selectors and his fans at large should do a reality check and understand that now he is someone who is more likely to win Pakistan matches with the ball and not with the bat. Yes, on his day, if he comes off with the bat that’s a huge bonus but overall that shouldn’t be the expectation upfront.

Pakistan missed him last night as a bowler and also for the attitude that he brings with him which is very capable of lifting the whole side. And he may be missed all tournament.

Afridi is a match-winner and there isn’t any doubt about that. How Pakistan plans to leverage him in this later part of his career is a question that they need to find an answer for. He still has some cricket left in him, and you never know what he may win Pakistan before he bids adieu!

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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Can Bangladesh spell some magic and stay alive?


Bangladesh vs. Pakistan

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alright…So all of you thought till ‘Super Eights’ things would be nice, calm and easy, teams can sing lullabies to each other, try different combinations in order to identify their best eleven and that there won’t be too many twists in the tale. Well, for some teams these imaginations did realize, but fairly tales aren’t told in the ‘group of death’ and here we are ready to witness this face-off tonight; which is all but comfortable for the two sides involved.

Bangladesh would take on Pakistan in last of the Group ‘D’ games (it also happens to be the last game in the ‘Group Stage’), that the ‘Bangla Tigers’ must win and win handsomely to be able to advance into the ‘Super Eights’. Here is the magnitude of this handsomeness – Bangladesh, in case they bat first, must win this game by a margin of at least 36 runs to better Pakistan on net run-rate. If they win by exact 36 runs they would still advance because they’ll be one up head-to-head. If however they happen to chase, number of overs that they’ll get to chase and advance would depend upon how much can Pakistan put on the board. For instance, if Pakistan sets them a target of 150, they must chase it down in 15.4 overs or less. Looks really tough given the way both sides have gone till now in this tournament, but who knows; one good innings or a deadly spell from someone.

If we briefly look at the teams, both sides have match winners on them. For Bangladesh Shakib-Al-Hasan, Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim can spring a surprise with the bat plus they have some good spinners, their fielding is also very good. Pakistan on the other hand looks better balanced, with their bowling arguably the best of the lot; Saeed Ajmal – the magician, Umal Gul and Shahid Afridi can trouble any batting line-up; and their batting is also coming good of late. Nasir Jamshed in particular is a very good addition to the side. He is a guy to watch out for; his lofted sixes over extra-cover against the Kiwis were spectacular.

For records, of the 44 times these two sides have met, Bangladesh has won only once; that was in the 1999 ICC World Cup. So, Pakistan start as clear favorites but for sure they’ll be under lot of pressure; we know what sort of situation that infamous 1999 loss resulted in; and what we also know is – there is no reason it won’t repeat if they lose tonight.

ICC World Twenty20, there aren’t any underdogs anymore!


As I am writing this, the very exciting T20 tournament is barely 23hrs and some minutes away from being underway in this very scenic and beautiful island country located in the Indian Ocean. Folks, get ready for some high voltage cricket, the ICC World Twenty20 is here. If some of you have happened to watch the warm-up games you very well know what exactly are we looking at. The warm-up games, where nothing much was at stake, didn’t really look like warm-ups; we saw some very close games, with teams operating at high intensities, wanting to win to gain early momentum…and let me tell you, this tournament is setup quite nicely.

Twenty20: Lockyear Goes Long

(Photo Credit:pj_in_oz)

Few years ago when T20 Cricket hit the scene, fans and experts around the world wouldn’t have envisioned it to grow to its current stature. As it stands today, it is no less. The 4thedition of ICC World Twenty20 promises to be gem of a tournament and at the inception it looks so very balanced.

Over the years we have grown up watching sides play each other and invariably, before a particular match, we kind of know the stronger of two sides. With T20s, that has changed enormously. There are NO underdogs now. In the modern day T20s the side that plays better on the day has a huge chance of winning. The format is such, that few overs, a little cameo or an individual brilliance can change the course of a match.

No, we are not writing off the good sides, neither are we challenging the conventional wisdom that if one has to choose between two sides he can; of the two sides, one would have an edge over the other. We however are certainly telling this – ‘this format is not just for the elite’.

The reality is, when you have lesser time on hand, or let us say when you are in a format that requires a team to spend relatively smaller amount of time in the middle, which are basically fewer overs, the skills that really matter to win a game are so much different. Not to disparage good batting and bowling, but a lot of ‘other’ elements come into play and thus, its a totally different ball game.

A ‘Dilshan Scoop’, a ‘Warner’s swich-hit’ or an ‘Ajmal’s teesra’ are some of these ‘other’ elements. And these are the elements that make this format so awesomely fascinating to watch. Run-a-ball is a thing of past. If you are not going at a strike rate of over 130-135 you stand a decent chance of getting dropped the next game. Fast good length balls are not good enough; they are ‘meat and wine’. A T20 bowler must have multiple variations. A slower off-cutter, a regular bouncer, a slow bouncer and a reverse swinging yorker makes a decent portfolio and that is why guys who possess them are extremely successful in this format, someone like an Umar Gul or Lasitha Malinga.

This is different folks and for sure it is immensely thrilling; you never know what to expect. It is this format where a 30-ball hundred isn’t really surprising.

The ICC World Twenty20 2012 announces – There aren’t any underdogs anymore!

10 Years On, Pakistan aim for a series win against the Aussies


English: Saeed Ajmal in the field during a 50-...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has been 10 years since Pakistan won an ODI series against the Australians. Yes, it was the year 2002 when they last beat the Aussies to win a series. They have a good chance to change these stats when they play at their second home on dry pitches where their spinners can be really dangerous.

Sharjah and Abu Dhabi are scorching hot during this time of the year with temperatures soaring to around 45’C and this can test the fitness of both the sides, especially, Australians’ who aren’t much used to such conditions. More than the heat, its the humidity that really saps a lot out of the players. It is like a sauna in the middle, where the players sweat profusely and with dew cover in the outfield it a two prong battle — outplay the opposition and at the same time fight the dew.

Both sides have won a match each with the decider to be played at Sharjah on Monday-Tuesday night. Australian pacemen ran through the Pakistan batting in the first ODI and after few hiccups in the middle of Aussies innings, the new guns Bailey and Maxwell held their nerve to make sure Australians cross over the line safely. Pakistan’s spinners bowled really well but as the batting again failed to deliver it was little too much of an ask for them.

Pakistan however bounced back in the second ODI, with their spinners, especially the magical off spinner Saeed Ajmal again bowling tremendously well to confine Australians to a modest total of 249. It was followed by a superb almost run-a-ball innings of 97 from Nasir Jamshed who dominated the Aussie attack and Pakistan surpassed the total with more than six overs to spare to set up a comprehensive and convincing victory. For a long time now Pakistan is in search of a genuine opening batsman and it seems with the arrival of Jamshed this wait is over. He just needs to watch out his injuries.

The decider promises to be an exciting contest with both sides looking to end on a high which would give them a psychological advantage ahead of the T20 series. Australia may make a change or two in their line-up by considering playing an additional spinner. For Pakistan, if Afridi recovers from his strain he may come back in place of Rehman whose figures were not too impressive in the last game. Also, with Afridi you have a potential chance of dominating the game if he fires with the bat. Though on that, I rest my case :) !!!WW6PXY4QQTKV

Folks, where is that leggie who used to flight it?


Shane Warne bowling for the Rajasthan Royals a...

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Great spectacle in a cricket game, though the batsman doesn’t see it at all. Amazing science, with a topping of art – popularly known as ‘leg spin’. Suddenly, the masters of this craft have gone missing. As I look around, I see some really good off spinners – (Saeed Ajmal and Graeme Swann in particular have managed to live up to the standards set by Murali, if not able to match him), and, some fine left-arm spinners too, sub-continent teams have a few of them. But, what I don’t see is a genuine leg break bowler who has the courage to flight it above batsmen’s eyes and land it in that ‘blind spot’.

Three men I miss in particular are the greats of our times, Shane Warne, Anil Kumble and Mushtaq Ahmed. While Anil was different in his approach being more of a finger spinner versus Warnie and Mushy who used wrist to create the magic, the fact is, all three were – DEADLY.

Skills of course, but more than that, the beauty of leg spin is in bowler’s attitude. A leg spinner is a tough nut and he is no less tough than a fast bowler. A fast bowler can still bowl a bouncer after being hit for six, a leg spinner cannot, BUT, a genuine leg spinner would flight the next one even more.

I am eagerly waiting for someone to arrive, because the game isn’t as lovely without an intrepid leggie. Imran Tahir, the South African of Pakistani origin is a potential case but he needs to negotiate the challenge of bowling to sub-continent batsmen in sub-continent before he claims any reputation, and that is some job, well, Warnie can tell you about his nightmares. That said, if such a leg spinner arrives, the world shall see batting techniques exposed and shall also know – who knows to bat!!!WW6PXY4QQTKV