Tough luck

A gruesome day for Bangladesh was highlighted by Mushfiqur Rahim being taken off the field in an ambulance after being struck on the helmet by a bouncer from Tim Southee. The fact that he was batting in the first place, having injured his hand, was a sign of how desperate the situation was for the visitors. They were eventually bowled out for 160 seven overs after lunch. New Zealand, set 217 to win in 57 overs, absolutely raced to victory and with that they broke a record that has stood for 122 years.

Ouch.

In December 1894, Australia put up 586 against England in a timeless Test in Sydney and it became the highest first-innings total to result in a loss. Bangladesh take on that ignominy now having declared on 595 for 8 when they batted first in a match where nearly 50 overs were lost to rain in the first day.

An absolutely stunning performance by Bangladesh which wasn't enough.

One commenter at Cricinfo writes:

Bangladesh did Pakistan here.

That's just cruel.


The Religion of Peace in Pakistan

Pir Muhammad Afzal Qadri, a religious scholar who issued Fatwa of infidelity against Shaan Taseer, has written an open letter to Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Imran Khan over his alleged speech regarding prophet Muhammad (PBUH), warning him of ‘dire consequences’ if he doesn’t render an apology.

The Fatwa alleges that Imran Khan, in one of his speeches, had said blasphemous sentences for the Prophet (PBUH) .

Soon, the captain of the 1992 Cricket World champions will be an open target of faithful Muslims.

Talking to Daily Pakistan, Pir Muhammad Afzal Qadri said that if the leader doesn’t render an open apology, the organisation will formally issue a religious edict, declaring him a ‘Wajib-ul-Qatal’ (liable to death).

“If the state fails to execute Imran Khan, it wouldn’t be a crime if any ‘aashiq-e-Rasool’ (lover of prophet P.B.U.H) kills him. He will be exempt from Qisas and Diyat (blood money),” Qadri told Daily Pakistan, adding the blood of blasphemer – in this case, Imran Khan’s – has no worth compared to Prophet (PBUH).

The insidiousness of this threat is that the police can't do anything.

If Imran Khan grovels and apologizes, then he a) concedes to the legitimacy of the blasphemy rulings and b) admits to saying something terrible about the evil Procunt Muhammad; some Muslims might not accept his remorse.

If Imran Khan refuses to apologize, then it becomes perfectly legitimate for a Muslim to slaughter Khan. At least in Pakistan, no sane judge is going to sentence that murderer.

How can a cornered tiger escape such wicked circumstances?


Minor credit to rain

Foreign teams, understandably, refuse to tour Pakistan. So, they have to travel abroad to play cricket and now they're ranked number 1. Their bowling attack has almost always been top notch but this stat surprised me:

6 Pakistan batsmen who have scored 1000-plus Test runs at averages of more than 44 in Tests during this period - Younis, Misbah, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Mohammad Hafeez and Sarfraz Ahmed. Among them they scored 37 hundreds, and were largely instrumental in ensuring that Pakistan's batting average was a healthy 38.15, better than all teams except New Zealand (38.38) and Australia (39.33).

The members of the PCB made one magnificent decision in 2010:

Perhaps the greatest ever achievement of the Pakistan Cricket Board was to make Misbah Test captain after 2010, narrowly followed by its decision to leave him in charge for the next six years. The PCB got those epoch-making decisions right, Misbah did the rest.

They are still improving:

They will need that improvement to see them through series in New Zealand and Australia. Australia, in particular, is the measure of any would-be world champion.

Australia has the best win-loss ratio in cricket history. Misbah's team will need a draw, at least, to still be regarded as the best modern team.


Half-baked Bates

New Zealand women's cricket captain is interviewed:

Where do you see women's cricket in ten years' time?

I think it could be as big as the men's game. In the last two years it's gone from strength to strength, so why can't it carry on like that? It'd be good to have big T20 leagues around the world - just like the men do - which get lots of TV airtime. Women's cricket is getting more and more professional all the time, the standard has gone up, and it's now a fantastic product in its own right.

Funny girl. Last year, the World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan attracted one billion people. I'd by mighty surprised if any women's cricket game gets that many viewers in the next century -- let alone a decade.


Youth and destiny

Cricinfo on the incredibly young Alastair Cook:

It was Cook's 23rd Test century and his third in successive Tests this series. Not only did that make him the leading century maker for England in their Test history but it also made him the youngest man from any country to pass the milestone of 7,000 Test runs.

He's almost 28 years old. If his body lasts another decade, then he'll likely become the greatest cricket player England has ever produced.


The Indian Bradman

Ian Chappell:

At first there were three and now there's only one. For around a decade Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting were the dominant batsmen in world cricket, but following Ponting's retirement announcement, the Indian maestro will now stand alone. While Tendulkar might still be upright, he's no longer dominating attacks.

I thought that he would retire after the World Cup victory last year. No matter, it'll be some time soon. Though, can't imagine the pressure on the player who "replaces" Tendulkar in the batting line up.


What a terrible waste

Cricinfo:

It's ironic that Amir's cricket career started out with friendly bets, when he challenged renowned tennis-ball batsmen from Lahore and Rawalpindi to hit him for a six in one over and win a meal at any big restaurant in Islamabad. He bowled six dot balls.

"[The batsman's] shoelaces came undone when I bowled him a yorker," Amir said.

It's reasonable to assume that Amir took the same attitude in International cricket: What's the harm in making a little bet (and getting cash) by bowling a certain way that most likely won't affect the final outcome of a match?

Of course, that was utterly stupid. He got caught and paid a terrible price: he lost three years of precious cricket and his reputation is dirt. It will take him years to earn respect and any off-days in the field will invite rumors of possible, probable cheating.


Once in a century event

A spectacular debut:

West Indies bulldozed through the first eight Bangladesh wickets on a flat, low and slow Khulna pitch. In came debutant Abul Hasan, all of 20, and proceeded to do something that had been done only once before in 2059 previous Tests dating back to 1877, by Reggie Duff over a century ago in 1902. Abul, who goes around as a fast bowler, became only the second Test debutant to make a hundred at No. 10.

Bangladesh should definitely bump him up in the order. The fact that he was selected for his bowling means that he could be an excellent all rounder.


Not a popular tourist destination

Cricinfo:

The PCB governing board has sanctioned the purchase of bulletproof buses to ensure best security protocol for visiting teams, and thus address some of the security concerns that have prevented international teams from touring Pakistan over the last three and a half years.

Next: bulletproof vests for the international players while they play their matches? I see a lot of run outs!


T20I no. 288

It's so rare to see the Australian cricket team get annihilated.

So lopsided was West Indies' obliteration of Australia in the second semi-final of the World Twenty20, the victors had near enough to 13 overs to bask in their looming progress to the final against Sri Lanka. Matthew Wade's departure in the eighth over of Australia's reply to 205 for 4 left George Bailey's team at a forlorn 43 for 6.

Can Sri Lanka stop Gayle on Sunday? They won't be victorious if they don't.


World Twenty20 2012

What is so surprising: Just a few weeks ago, South Africa were ranked the #1 team in the world. Yet, they somehow managed to lose all three matches in the group stage of the current global tournament. The South Africans have yet to make it to a World Cup final. For a team that has an awesome win-loss ratio in the last two decades, that's quite disappointing.

Not-so-surprising: Pakistan proving my prediction wrong by winning against Australia. Pakistan have now managed to make it to the semi-finals of all four World Twenty20 tournaments. They are not even close to having the best team in the Test arena but in the shorter game, they have been quite impressive.

Strange: India won the first tournament in 2007 but they haven't managed even a semi-final spot since then. They've got big hitters but, it seems, their bowlers can't contain the opposition. That extremely heavy defeat against Australia a few days ago hurt their chances.

Anyway, a paragraph describing the cluelessness of the Australians:

Australia had secret camps, brought in spinners from across their country, ventured into the desert and took on the beast of Ajmal, all so that they could be ready for this tournament and the wily mystery spinners they would have to handle. They handled the 18 overs of Pakistan spin (it would have been 20 if not for Shoaib Malik getting Mike Hussey treatment) much the same way you would a chest bursting alien popping out.

Ouch.


Asian tigers

Tomorrow: Pakistan vs. India.

Who will win? Usually the team with the stronger bowling has the advantage. Thus, the Pakistanis have the edge. Though, history is not on their side since they have never defeated India in a World Cup match. Plus, India will be playing with added fury: defeat means knockout from the tournament. So, it should be very interesting.

Who knows, Afridi might even get a score that's positive!

Update
I was hoping for a thriller like the first final in 2007. Instead, the Pakistani batting crumbled and India had a comfortable target which they achieved with three overs to spare. Kohli, as usual, was solid. 

Now, the Pakistanis will face the Shane-Watson-powered Australians. I'd be very surprised if Pakistan manage to win that match.


T20I no. 277

Pakistan managed to win after their explosive top order committed collective suicide. They were reduced to 76/7. Umar Gul, of all people, provided the most spectacular batting performance of the match which in the end was just enough.

South Africa succumbed to spin but they also succumbed to two Umars who came of age. When Pakistan’s batsmen fritter away their opportunity, Umar Gul sometimes smites a few long balls as a release valve on everybody’s frustration.

More:

Dav Whatmore has work to do. He knows that. But his team are doing what they do best, strutting the fine and life-shortening line between success and failure.

It's very unlike the Australian way: crushing the opponents.


T20I no. 274

Bangladesh put up an impressive batting performance against Pakistan in the recent T20. They scored 175 runs in 20 overs. Given the bowling riches in the Pakistan team, that score should have been no more than 150.

No matter. The batsmen from Pakistan demolished the weak bowling attack from the Bangladeshis. The first wicked partnership of over a 100 runs practically sealed the win.


The next "Wall"?

On Virat Kohli:

When they first donned the Indian colours, the likes of Ms Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh were self-assured, resilient, fiercely talented and more. Today, though, Virat Kohli seems to have outmoded his predecessors in a manner that has made him the face of Indian cricket's next generation. He has scored 13 centuries in 90 ODI matches.

I've been impressed with his consistency. Pakistan has Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi -- high impact players but sadly, and largely, unreliable. When they click, it's game over for the opposition but that is often too rare. Kohli almost always makes contributions to the team total. He's a player to watch over the next decade.


Test no. 2053

The South Africans defeated England 2-0. The South Africans are now ranked #1 in International Test cricket. They are looking very fierce. The World Cup will be next on their agenda.

England has been on a downward trajectory for a while. It was shocking to see them lose 3-0 to Pakistan recently. Though, they fought hard to save the recent Test and their ranking, the bowling fire power of the South Africans was too much.

Kallis must be thinking of the World Cup. The ODI version of it.


Another pillar goes

VVS Laxman has retired from international cricket. This batsman played during a time when India had many excellent wielders of the blade. He wasn't the most consistent (Dravid) nor the most popular (Tendulkar). But what he did in March 2001 has yet to be surpassed by an Indian player.

March 13-15, 2001
Very, very special
The defining innings. Steve Waugh's Australians were relentlessly marching towards conquering the "Final Frontier" with a 274-run first innings lead in the second Test in Kolkata. His epic 281 leads an astonishing recovery and India sneak to victory by 171 runs.

That is, in my opinion, the greatest test innings of the last two decades. At the time, 281 was the highest score ever by an Indian player. He made that against the strongest and most vicious team of the era. India went on the win the next match and thus the series.


Test no. 2049: England crushed

South Africa thrash England by an innings. In England. Their bowling needs to click if they want to save the series and keep their ranking.

South Africa's domination has set a new record:

Against South Africa in this game, they took two wickets for 637 runs, an average of 318.50 runs per wicket. England's batsmen, on the other hand, averaged 31.25 in the match. The difference of 287.25 is the highest ever in a Test which has produced a result, which makes this the most comprehensive win ever.

Damn.


GOAAAALLLL!

Cricinfo:

Wherein lies one of cricket's most compelling saving graces. In f***ball and rugby, such are the unprecedented standards of fitness and stamina, it is becoming ever easier to frustrate, spoil and negate your way to victory - or, at the very least, non-defeat. New Zealand held Italy to a draw at the last FIFA World Cup; New Zealand, to whose inhabitants f***ball holds roughly as much appeal as a Crowded House tribute band from Canberra.

I'm sure f***ball requires one to be, er, fit and possess tremendous amounts of stamina. I do wonder about the rules of f***ball, though.


ODI no. 3275

What a spectacular collapse.

The five guys -- Hafeez, Akmal, Khan, Afridi and Ahmed -- who were expected to put runs on the board contributed a combined 1 run! Ajmal, a pure bowler, scored 12 runs. Had those guys scored nine to ten runs each at a good strike rate, Pakistan could have won.

There was only one positive for Pakistan: Azhar Ali. He was not out at 81 in the end and now he has become only the second batsman from Pakistan to carry his bat in an ODI. Misbah also played his part by scoring an efficient fifty but the rest were epic failures. Let's see if they play any better after this humiliation.


Half excellent

Cricinfo:

Over the last two years (July 2010 onwards), Pakistan have won 33 ODIs and lost 19. By all accounts that's an excellent record - only three teams have a better win-loss record during this period, and even there, Australia's ratio is better only by 0.02.

They made it to the World Cup semi-finals thanks to their bowling ...

It's a credit to Pakistan's bowlers that the team has such an impressive win-loss ratio, for their batsmen haven't done a whole lot to justify that record: in terms of averages and strike rates, Pakistan rank seventh among all teams

... but then crashed and burned there because of their atrocious batting.

Despite their fairly ordinary batting stats, Pakistan have won more than their fair share of matches, thanks to their outstanding bowling attack. During these two years, Pakistan have taken their wickets at 30.62 runs each, and are one of only three teams to concede less than five per over.

Pakistan fields the most potent bowling attack in the world when their premier bowlers are all fit. Only South Africa has a comprable line up of bowlers today.

Of course, in a direct match between Pakistan and South Africa, the Pakistanis would lose big time since their poor batsmen would get slaughtered by the South African bowlers. The Pakistanis need at least one near-great batsman in their team to win matches more regularly. Someone like Anwar, Inzi or Youhana. Younis Khan is fading; Umar Akmal hasn't matured; Afridi is too unpreditable; Hafeez is excellent but only as an all-rounder -- his batting is average.

Let's see who steps up in the near future.


Bloody rain

Cricinfo:

The south-west monsoon allowed only 6.2 overs of play in the third ODI between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at the R Premadasa Stadium, leaving the series level at 1-1.

That sucks. With two games to go, it's possible to get a series draw: 2-2. That's no fun.


Aussies want the best

Cricinfo:

Waqar Younis, the former captain and coach of Pakistan, has been interviewed for the position of Australian bowling coach, as Cricket Australia intensifies its search for the man to replace Craig McDermott.

Excellent choice by Australia. Waqar was one of the most impressive fast bowlers in the world in the early 90s. His knowledge of reverse swing will be particularly useful for the Aussies as their overall bowling has been weak since Warne and McGrath left the sport.


ODI no. 3267

What a stunning match between Bangladesh and Pakistan.

When their gut-wrenching disappointment dies down, Bangladesh will remember that they were just one stroke away from the Asia Cup title. And see it as clinching evidence of their progress. When their sense of relief passes, Pakistan will remember that they were tested to the hilt, but came through somehow. And see it as confirmation of their renowned ability to win the big moments.

Bangladesh were two runs short of their greatest triumph. Only once has a team defeated India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in a single tournament. That was in the World Cup 2003 when the all-conquering Aussies crushed everyone. Bangladesh could have become the second team to perform the same feat. Instead, they fell so agonizingly short.

The Pakistanis had to squeeze every ounce of discipline from their bowling to win this one. Afridi, Hafeez and Ajmal provided the best bowling figures. Gul got hit for a few fours in the end which ruined his figures a bit. Their batting was disappointing considering that they scored an extra 100 runs against India less than a week ago. Hafeez was too lethargic. Afridi and especially Ahmed made the important contributions with the bat.

Other stats from the historic match.


ODI no. 3265

The minnows spoiled the final which is to be played in two days.

It ended a mixed season for a travel-weary Sri Lanka, following the highs of Australia. Not too long ago, India were in their hotel rooms in Brisbane, hoping for a Sri Lankan defeat to push them into the CB Series finals. This time, in a hotel not far from the ground, they were ironically hoping for a Sri Lankan win. There were no back-door entries for a team which has suffered its worst away season in recent history.

India has some very talented batsmen. However, they haven't clicked at the right moments after their World Cup victory.

Bangladesh defeated Sri Lanka and made it to the final of the Asia Cup. Had they lost, India would have progressed to the final to face ... Pakistan! Instead, it'll be Bangladesh vs. Pakistan. Pakistan is, no question, the stronger team. If, however, Bangladesh wins, then this will turn out to be their most impressive tournament ever. It would mean that they vanquished the three Asian giants: India, Sril Lanka and Pakistan.

Though, I don't predict that will come to pass. Pakistan, on the strength of their bowling, will win to become the Asia Cup champions of 2012.


ODI no. 3263

India vs. Pakistan.

Pakistani batted first. Both openers made centuries. The poor Indian captain used 8 bowlers to decrease the flow of runs. Pakistan ended at 329/6. An excellent score for their bowlers to defend.

However, the Pakistanis couldn't stop Kohli who, at present, is in supreme form. He smashed an epic 183. At one point, he could've gone on to score a double century. It's likely that we'll have a re-match of this game in the Asia Cup final on March 22. The Pakistani bowlers have got to bamboozle Kohli to win or alternatively score close to 400 runs or perhaps both.


Dravid answers

Cricinfo:

What motivated him still, after all these years and so many runs? Dravid said that as a schoolboy, he remembered many kids who had at least as much desire to play professional cricket as he did - they attended every camp and net session, no matter what the cost or the difficulty of getting there. But you could tell - from just one ball bowled or one shot played - that they simply didn't have the talent to make it. He knew he was different. "I was given a talent to play cricket," Dravid explained. "I don't know why I was given it. But I was. I owe it to all those who wish it had been them to give of my best, every day."

He succeeded brilliantly.


Boring Misbah

That's the biggest sin of the current Pakistan cricket captain: the dude is seriously boring. He doesn't have the good looks of Imran Khan or the bursting talent of Wasim Akram or the flair of Shahid Afridi. He's slow, methodical and oh so dull!

His virtue? He wins most of the games. That ought to be good enough. 

Anyway, this statistic about the new T20 format is just incredible:

Afridi, Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal are the top three wicket-takers in the history of T20Is and Misbah felt it was Gul's bowling that made the difference on Thursday.

Wow! The three "best" bowlers in T20 are all in one team! Imagine what they could do if they only had more consistent batsmen. Pakistan is the only team to make it to at least the semi-finals of all the T20 World Cups. The fourth edition starts in September. It should be fun.


Pakistan v ... Afghanistan?

The Afghanis are trying to become a 'full member' of the cricket world. They played Pakistan and, predictably, lost.

Pakistan's all-round might proved too much for Afghanistan's carefree spirit, as Shahid Afridi, Younis Khan and Imran Farhat set up an emphatic win with 77 balls to spare.

More:

To Ajmal's third ball, the portly Shahzad calmly reversed his stance and heaved a flighted offbreak a good 20 yards into the stands behind square leg. It was just one shot, but it came against the bowler who had looped circles around England's celebrated top order through six innings of tortuous Test batting. It was a statement as telling as any - Misbah-ul-Haq smiled wryly into the distance as the ball disappeared.

Figures. The pathans are known to be audacious and fearless.


Humiliation complete

Ugly stats for England at Cricinfo:

Pakistan became the first team in over 100 years to win a Test after scoring less than 100 in the first innings of the match. The last time this occurred was when England scored 76 but still defeated South Africa in 1907.

More:

For the second time in eight months (the first being India's series in England), the No. 1 Test team has lost all Tests in a series.

At present, neither India nor England are a 'great' Test team. The manner of their defeats shows that they're not even close.


Not a great team

Cricinfo:

Alastair Cook has warned his England colleagues that they face a thorough examination of their character if they are to avoid the humiliation of a 3-0 series whitewash against Pakistan.

Wouldn't that be a brownwash?

England still have a chance to win if they can quickly take wickets on the third day. The longer it takes them, the more tired their batsmen will be and the more rested the Pakistani bowlers will be. Fourth innings of Tests are almost always hell for batsmen.


Test no. 2032

The number one team in the world gets beaten by a team which is ranked fifth. The current England team is the strongest of the last 20 years at least. They've annihilated Australia in Australia and crushed India at home. They have earned the right to be called the best.

But then they folded against a rising Pakistan team twice!

... a total of 72 can never be acceptable. It was their lowest score since the debacle of Jamaica in 2009 and the first time they had lost two Tests in a row since 2008. It was also only the second time in a century that they have failed to chase a target under 150 in the fourth innings.

Two things become clear from the two Tests:

  1. Pakistan have recovered from losing their two best bowlers who cheated and were sent to jail. Their bowling department is, I think, the strongest in the world right now.
  2. Even with excellent players like Strauss, Cook, Trott, Pietersen and Bell, England cannot conquer the Asian conditions. Their performances have been exceptional in England but in the UAE, they've been wretched for a team ranked first.

England will try their mighty best to save the third Test. Otherwise, the end will be an utter humiliation.


Test no. 2030: third day

Game over!

What I said last month:

Pakistan, India and Bangladesh were one nation before 1947. Yet, the most consistent and impressive bowlers keep on originating from Pakistan. Right now, Pakistan seems to have the most potent bowling attack in the world. The series against England will be interesting.

England were defeated in three days by Pakistan. I didn't expect that. I thought their batsmen would fight in the second innings but shockingly they failed even more miserably.

England were disappointing, a batting performance unworthy of their status. But Pakistan have also made Sri Lanka look miserable here, and perhaps there is more substance to this revival than could have been hoped for? With Saeed Ajmal in such mesmeric form and Misbah's leadership more impresive by the day, Pakistan are capable of turning their Middle East abode into as much of a fortress as Karachi once was. On this evidence, Pakistan can be a power again in Test cricket and the world game will be better for it.

Yeah.


Test no. 2030: first day

When I read 192 all out this morning I thought that Pakistan had folded on the first day. Upon reading carefully, I realized that England -- the #1 Test team in the world -- had crashed for that low score.

Pakistan at 42/0. Effectively making England 150 all out. It's surprising to see the Pakistani openers survive for that long. Usually they crack under pressure and the middle order has to save the day but not today.

On a pitch that, initially at least, offered little assistance to bowlers of any type, England's top order folded as meekly as a shy kitten in a room full of alligators. All the brave talk about their new-found confidence against spin bowling was shown to be mere bluster. Whatever their success elsewhere, they have acres of room for improvement on Asian pitches.


Australia vs. India

One stat tells the whole story:

There have been nine 50-plus scores in the series for each team. Australia's four best scores, though, are 329*, 180, 150* and 134. India's top four scores are 83, 80, 75, and 73.

Here's another:

In the last 13 months, India have lost five Tests by an innings: one in South Africa, and two each in England and Australia ... Between October 2001 and March 2008 India didn't lose a single Test by an innings.

The Indians simply don't have the bowlers who can contain the English and Aussie batsmen. End result: innings defeats.


Test no. 2025

It's the fourth day and the last wicket partnership is putting the Aussie top order to shame. Warner, Cowan, Marsh, Clarke and Haddin scored a combined 23 runs in the second innings. Pattinson, a bowler, in only his third match has scored more runs!

I hope Tendulkar scores a century to win this match for India. He has scored the most runs, the most centuries and earlier this year he won the World Cup. The only big achievement is to win a series against the Australians in Australia. Let's see if the legend rises to the challenge.

Update
Dang. The Indians got spanked in their second innings. Ponting scored 122 runs in the match which also turned out to be the margin of victory.


Smashing continued!

Run scoring machine:

Virender Sehwag has blasted his way into the cricketing history books often enough during his captivating career. He has written entire chapters about fast scoring. He has helped his country to the top of the Test rankings, and to World Cup glory. He has set new benchmarks in the illustrious athletic discipline of most-slowly-trudged singles. Now he has clattered the highest ever one-day international innings, becoming the second (a) human being and (b) stocky Indian wizard to score an ODI double-hundred. Of all great batsmen, he has arguably been the easiest to dismiss, but the hardest to contain.

So true. A few months ago, he was sent to England while not fully fit. He scored 0 and 0 in the two innings of his first Test match. He completely failed. But we know what he's capable of as he showed the world yesterday.