Talent, confidence, and aggression

Buttler didn't make a huge impact on the previous World Cup. He should make up for that next year:

Eoin Morgan labelled Jos Buttler "the best white-ball cricketer in the world" after his innings of 162 not out off 70 balls led England to a record ODI and List A total against the Netherlands in Amstelveen, while Buttler suggested he was playing the best cricket of his career.

Buttler hit seven fours and 14 sixes, a boundary every 3.33 balls, after England's bright start saw him promoted to No. 4 and his partnerships of 184 off 90 balls with Dawid Malan and 91 not out off 32 with Liam Livingstone saw them fall two runs short of the first 500-plus score in 50-over history.

250 runs was a competitive score in ODI cricket in the previous century. England couldn't chase it in the 1992 World Cup final. Today, they smashed 248 runs ... in 30 overs! It would be quite a sight to see them successfully chase 400+ runs against big teams.


Poor Netherlands

They met the World Champions of cricket today and it was a massacre:

An ODI world-record total of 498 for 4, built on Buttler's brutal 162 not out and further centuries from Dawid Malan and Phil Salt before Liam Livingstone smashed 66 from just 22 balls, left Netherlands facing an implausible target after winning the toss on an exceptional surface.

It beat England's own record for the highest ODI total of 481 for 6, made against Australia in 2018, and, despite spirited knocks from Max O'Dowd and Scott Edwards, who helped them come within two balls of seeing out their 50 overs, Netherlands lost by 232 runs.

The scary thing is that England wasn't at full strength! Bairstow and the legend were not in the team today. The Champions still have the most powerful batting order in the ODI world: Roy, Bairstow, Root, Stokes, Buttler, Malan, and Livingstone. A few of them can bowl as well.

England went into the 2019 World Cup as the favorites. They look even more fearsome for their title defense next year.


Who can handle the pressure?

The Australian captain doesn't shy away from risks:

Captain Pat Cummins had ended Australia's second innings at 227 for 3 shortly after tea in a bid to ensure plenty of time for his bowlers on a pitch playing tricks but is not a minefield. The declaration dangled a carrot to Pakistan, who defied the odds during their remarkable chase of 506 in Karachi when they finished at 443 for 7 from 171.4 overs.

278 runs scored, ten wickets shattered, draw, or a tie!? It sets up a thrilling fifth day.

Update: History was on Australia's side and they won by over a 100 runs.


Fire from the ashes

Joe Root 0
Ben Stokes 2
Jonny Bairstow 0

The Big Three in the England middle order crumbled for a grand total of two runs and then something happened that hasn't happened in over 100 years: the last two "batsmen" fought to become the top scorers.

[...] out of the wreckage strode the batting saviours of Jack Leach - still as diffident as ever, even with his contrasting heroics at Headingley and Lord's to serve as cult-status proof of his unlikely prowess - and England's newest recruit Saqib Mahmood, who fell to the day's final ball for an agonising 49, the highest score of his professional career. With Leach left high and dry on 41 not out, Nos. 10 and 11 had top-scored in a Test innings for the first time since 1885, when Australia's Tom Garrett and Edwin Evans had made 51 not out and 33 not out respectively, in what turned out to be a thrilling six-run win against England.

The bowlers averted total humiliation. Now, they'll have to save the match tomorrow.


Few wickets for Aussies

Pakistan batter Imam-ul-Haq has dismissed the debate surrounding the Rawalpindi pitch, insisting that the hosts were simply playing to their strengths, and that the pitch was the same for both teams. Imam went on to question whether Australia would ever prepare their pitches at home after consulting the opponent.

True. Though, a lame draw with such stats leave the fans unsatisfied:

Australia's combined bowling average of 238.33 and strike-rate of 478 were their second-worst in 145 years of Test cricket.


Aussies crushing it

For England, their best showing was that one match in which they didn't lose. The rest of their scorecards were abysmal.

So, it was quite dismal but I didn't realize that this was their worst performance against Australia in over a 100 years!

19.18 England's batting average in this series, the lowest for any team in a five-match Test series since 2001. It is also England's worst batting average in an Ashes series since 1890, where they averaged 15.74 across the two matches.

The big guns -- Root, Stokes, and Buttler -- couldn't make any impact.


Zero home advantage

Rain washed out most of the Test match and somehow Bangladesh went down by an innings. They almost had their most humiliating result:

1291 Balls bowled in the Dhaka Test, the second shortest Test match in terms of balls in Bangladesh to yield a result. The shortest completed Test was 1287 balls long, between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in 2018, also in Dhaka.

Another close one:

87 Bangladesh's first-innings total is the joint-lowest in Bangladesh in Test cricket. Bangladesh equal their own mark, against West Indies back in 2002. The 87 all-out is also the joint-fourth lowest total for Bangladesh in this format.

It must be painful for the fans.


Kiwis fight against history

Cricinfo:

New Zealand's record against Australia in 50-over World Cups and the Champions Trophy reads: P17 W3 L12. But in T20 World Cups, it's P1 W1.

Yeah, that's still an advantage for Australia. Plus, they won the toss and sent in the Kiwis to bat. Wouldn't it be something if Australia fail to score more runs or ... less? Now, that would be surreal and spectacular.

Update

New Zealand get to 172/4. Four less than what Pakistan managed when they lost to Australia a few days ago.

Australia 82/1 after 10 overs. Kiwis can't get wickets. The team chasing is going to win again. No surprise there. Australia will soon add another trophy to their vast collection.

On Nov. 11: Australia scored more than 176 runs in 19 overs. Today: The Aussies scored over 172 runs in 18.5 overs. That's some chilling efficiency at the big stage.

Australia has reached the finals of World Cups seven times in the past 25 years. They've only lost two.

  • 1996
  • 1999
  • 2003
  • 2007
  • 2010
  • 2015
  • 2021

New Zealand has a most unwanted record. They got to the finals three times in their entire history: 2015, 2019, and 2021. Zero trophies!


History repeats

In the semi-final of the 2010 World Cup, Hussey smashed sixes to chase down the Pakistani total. Today, Wade hit three consecutive sixes to take Australia to the final match.

Pakistan was at 70/1 at the end of their ten overs whereas Australia was 89/3. Australia, thanks to Warner, had kept up with the run rate which allowed the lower order to wait out for the proper deliveries. The Pakistani bowling unit didn't deliver. Only Shadab Khan had a spectacular night -- taking four out of five wickets. Of course, that's not enough to stop the Aussies.

Just like in the 2019 World Cup, we'll have a completely new champion. New Zealand has played exceptionally well over the past six years but history is not on their side. Australia has the psychological edge.


Top ranked defeated

The Kiwis make it to the last match of the World Cup:

Finalists in 2015, Finalists in 2019, Finalists in 2021. And a World Test mace in between whiles. These are the times of their lives.

It was an astonishing and brutal display at the finish:

Oh, and here's Sampath with a stat to see you into the night: "New Zealand chased down 57 runs in the last four overs, the most target runs successfully chased by any team in men's T20Is at the death overs.

The other semi-final is tomorrow: Australia vs. Pakistan. If the Pakistani bowlers can't contain the aggressive Aussies, then we'll get a rematch of the ODI final from 2015.


The Final Four

October 19:

Pakistan will go to the semi-finals. England and Australia will likely make it. The winner of the Sunday match between India and New Zealand will fill the fourth slot.

That's how it played out. The two semi-finals:

England vs. New Zealand. A mini-rematch of the most epic day of cricket. The Kiwis have a score to settle but England go in as favorites.

Australia vs. Pakistan. Shoaib Malik saw what Australia did in the World Cup final in 1999. Then, he made his debut. Yes, he's been playing for 22 years! One of his teammates wasn't even born then! It's now or never for him. Of course, the one team that can't be underestimated in a global tournament is Australia.

Final? I'd like to see England vs. Pakistan for two reasons. They are the top two teams in the world and it'll be great to see the battle between the powerful English batsmen and the skilled bowling unit of Pakistan. The absence of Jason Roy boosts the chances for Pakistan.


Stating the obvious

if New Zealand beat Afghanistan on Sunday in Abu Dhabi, India will be knocked out along with Afghanistan.

At the post-match press conference, Jadeja even quipped: "Toh fir bags pack karke ghar jaayenge, aur kya?" (Pack the bags and go home, what else?), if New Zealand win on Sunday.

New Zealand has been quite the nemesis for India in the last two years. The ODI World Cup, the Test Championship, and now the T20 World Cup.


No trophy, again

In the World Cup, India have played two T20 matches in which their bowlers have taken a combined total of two wickets. Forget winning the tournament, they likely won't even make it to the semi-finals. Just like in 2019, it's New Zealand that squeezed the life out of the Indian batsmen.

The Indians have performed admirably in bilateral series over the past few years but their unfruitful record in global tournaments is becoming sadly predictable. The Champions Trophy, the two ODI World Cups, the Test Championship (effectively the final of a global event), and now the T20 debacle. What should be really concerning for Kohli is that in the past week, the matches weren't even close. 

I don't know if it's the burn-out from playing too much during Covid or if it's becoming a psychological thing -- kind of like how South Africa choke at basically every big event. 


Aussies annihilated

Jason Roy smacked the Australian bowlers with absolute contempt in the ODI World Cup two years ago. Today, it was Jos Buttler's turn. The new, super-aggressive approach of the English team got them the title then and they're certainly the favorites for the T20 trophy now. A battle between the power-packed English batting order and the skillful bowling of Pakistan should be pretty entertaining. If their performances continue, then the finals match will be between the two undefeated teams of the tournament.


T20 World Cup

Group 2 rankings:

  1. Pakistan
  2. Afghanistan
  3. Namibia
  4. New Zealand
  5. India
  6. Scotland

If someone had offered me a bet stating that at some point in the World Cup, Afghanistan and Namibia will be ranked higher than both India and New Zealand, I would have lost.

Oh, it could get more surreal today if Afghanistan beats Pakistan to lead the group!

Update: Afghanistan fought hard and got close. Babar didn't respect Rashid and paid for it. Pakistan needed 24 off 12 balls. Asif Ali didn't even wait for the last over to absolutely destroy the target. Ali faced seven deliveries for his Man of the Match award!

Pakistan will go to the semi-finals. England and Australia will likely make it. The winner of the Sunday match between India and New Zealand will fill the fourth slot. If the two best teams make it to the final, then it'll be England vs. Pakistan. Though, it would be more fun to have a re-match of the very first T20 World Cup final. Why, Misbah, why!?

Anyway, the scheduling in the tournament is bizarre. Pakistan has already played three matches while big teams like New Zealand and India play their second match two days later!


Kock Cucked

South African cricket goes full retard:

Quinton de Kock has apologised to his team-mates and fans for the "hurt, confusion, and anger" he caused by refusing to follow a CSA directive to take the knee at the T20 World Cup and sitting out the game against West Indies. [...]

"I understand the importance of standing against racism, and I also understand the responsibility of us as players to set an example. If me taking a knee helps to educate others, and makes the lives of others better, I am more than happy to do so."

Taking the knee isn't merely tolerated, it's mandatory! Surely, all those slaves workers in the United Arab Emirates must be elated when they see multimillionaire athletes on their knees for a few seconds. Perhaps, for the next World Cup, the South Africans can bend over and spread their cheeks. You know, for anti-racism.


Don't bend the knee

The BLM (Burn Loot Murder) BS has infected the world of cricket:

CSA has noted the personal decision by Quinton de Kock to not take the knee ahead of Tuesday's game against West Indies*. All players had been required, in line with a directive of the CSA board on Monday, to take the knee in a united and consistent stance against racism. And de Kock, who had chosen not to take a knee - or raise a fist or stand in attention, the other expressions of support for the BLM movement - in the past, opted against taking part in the game in Dubai altogether in a late decision.

Good on Quinton for refusing to bow down to his lunacy.

CSA's board has steered away from directing the team until this point, but changed their mind after South Africa's opening T20 World Cup match against Australia, where Australia took a knee but South Africa maintained their three options. England, West Indies, India and Scotland have also taken a knee so far, while Pakistan held their hands to their hearts.

Stop with the absurd political nonsense. Just play cricket!


The Pathans are merciless

Scotland crushed:

4 - Ducks by the Scotland batters at Nos. 3, 4 5 and 6. It is the first instance of a team's No. 3 to No. 6 batters getting out for a duck in a men's T20I innings. Five Scotland batters bagged a duck, the joint-second most in a men's T20 World Cup innings.

The Afghanistan matches against Pakistan, India, and the Kiwis should be quite entertaining. Anyway, it's quite funny to see Afghanistan leading its group.


The streak is over

There's something about the United Arab Emirates that makes the Pakistani cricket team into absolute monsters:

Pakistan recorded their first win in the men's T20 world cup against India, having failed in their previous five attempts. It was also the first time Pakistan won a men's world cup game - ODI or T20 against India, across 13 matches.

The Shah delivery that got Rahul was pure gold. Later, the Indian bowlers didn't build any pressure. Bumrah is outstanding but he couldn't make a breakthrough today.

It would be shocking if Pakistan and England didn't make the semi-finals. India will have to fight hard against the Kiwis next Sunday.


No Kiwis for Pakistan!

New Zealand have called off their limited-overs tour of Pakistan citing security concerns, leaving the cricket community in Pakistan unimpressed. PCB chairman Ramiz Raja was especially critical of the New Zealand Cricket decision, saying, "Walking out of the tour by taking a unilateral approach on a security threat is very frustrating. Especially when it is not shared! Which world is NZ living in? NZ will hear us at ICC."

"Which world is NZ living in?"

The real world, Ramiz. And it looks like New Zealand isn't alone:

"We're aware of New Zealand's decision to pull out of the Pakistan tour due to a security alert," an ECB spokesperson said. "We are liaising with our security team who are on the ground in Pakistan to fully understand the situation. The ECB Board will then decide in the next 24-48 hours whether our planned tour should proceed."


Strong Root

78 all out. Sharma, Rahul, and Kohli scored a combined 26 runs. It was even more shocking to see England score 135 runs before losing a wicket. What happened?

Root is in phenomenal form. Three centuries in three matches. Over 500 runs! Reminds me of Alastair Cook's epic Ashes series in which he scored 766 runs. Root has a chance of surpassing that.

One record he'll most likely break:

875 Runs by Root against India in Tests in 2021. These are the third-most runs by any player in a calendar year against an opponent, behind only Don Bradman's 974 against England in 1930 and Clive Lloyd's 903, also against India, in 1983.

They might as well give Root the man of the series award right now.


Three failures

You know you're in trouble when you've lost more wickets than scored in runs. Pakistan was reduced to 2/3 by the West Indies. The Ali, Butt, and Ali trio managed two epic runs. Of course, this is Pakistan. So, they had a prompt century partnership for the 4th wicket.

56 runs. That's the combined score of the Pakistani openers in this series so far. That's in three innings. For context, both Babar and Fawad scored more than that today. Pakistan might as well have these two to start in the future.


Near total humiliation

Australia are back home and have began their two weeks' quarantine. They will have plenty of time to reflect on a tally of two wins and eight defeats in ten T20Is over the last month in the West Indies and in Bangladesh. There was a one-day series victory in the Caribbean which was not insignificant, but in terms of the immediate priority, it was a sobering experience.

Australia had never lost any series to Bangladesh before. Then, they got a 4-1 thrashing.

The very last game was literally their lowest:

62 Australia's total in the fifth T20I against Bangladesh, their lowest ever in the format. Their previous lowest was 79 all out against England in 2005, which was only their second T20I appearance.

Australia will bounce back. They eventually do. But that last game was really ugly.


Send Livingstone!

England is 104/3 with just under 7 overs left and 52 runs needed and Moeen Ali is sent ahead of Liam Livingstone! What the hell are you saving your fastest centurion for?

Ali is out after scoring 1 run and Morgan walks in. England has made this a lot closer than it ought to be.

This is pure gold. Livingstone come in with 12 runs needed off 8 balls. Smashes a six and then out! Now, 6 runs in 6 balls. More comical than thrilling.

England win by 3 wickets in 19.4 overs. Roy must be shaking his head.


1-1

Again, Livingstone is so quick and fierce in hitting boundaries. He often hits the ball late. His reactions are lightning quick. That six straight down the ground was brutal.

England wins. The series decider is in two days. We should see two near-full strength sides go at it. Can't wait for the World Cup.


Are you not entertained?

That six by Babar at 1:45 was sublime.

Livingstone was absolutely ferocious. No hint of a smile after his blistering century. He knew he had to keep taking risks. It wasn't enough.

A full-strength England would be so dangerous: Roy, Buttler, Livingstone, and Stokes. I could easily see them scoring over 250.


Mountain of runs

The highest score in a T20I from Pakistan: 232/6. That's quite the turnaround for a team that was all out for 141 in an ODI just eight days ago.

Azam has been getting a lot of undeserved flak for his strike rate recently. I think that he should play the anchor role while others take risks around him. Today, he hammered a 49-ball 85. The rest of the team went ballistic as well. Zaman scored one four and three sixes in only seven deliveries before he was caught off the eighth.

England will have to break their chasing record to win. Given all the competitive T20 games recently, the upcoming T20 World Cup should be extremely entertaining.

Livingstone scores the fastest century for his country but it's not enough. Pakistan wins by 31 runs. A commenter at Cricinfo:

Vinith: "You get whitewashed pathetically by a team where the captain doesn't know the name of any teammate but his own and next match score loads of runs and win by a significant margin against the full strength squad of the same team. I've given up on trying to understand Pakistan team"

Pakistan barely made it to the Champions Trophy in 2017 as the eighth-ranked team in the world. After losing the first match, the players were reshuffled which brought Zaman to the top. From then on, they cut through their opposition and won three matches to make it to the final. Looking at that scorecard, it's hard to believe that, statistically, they were the worst team going into the tournament. They are so predictably unpredictable. Just look at their performance on July 8 and today.


Azam won't be denied

Five days ago: Babar Azam was out for 0. The entire team scored 141 runs all out. England viciously crushed them by nine wickets with 28 overs to spare.

Three days ago: Azam out for 19. Pakistan all out for 195 while chasing 247. 

Today: Azam scores the biggest hundred of his life: 158 glorious runs.

Ben Stokes out for 32. England need 150 runs in 23 overs with 5 wickets in hand. This is Pakistan's match to lose.

England need 62 runs in 10 overs with 5 wickets in hand. The Pakistani bowlers couldn't stop Vince and Gregory from smashing their highest ODI scores. Advantage: England.

England win by 3 wickets with 2 overs to spare. The World Champions have incredible depth. They lost so many key players just before the start of the series but kept playing their aggressive style of cricket and beat Pakistan in three increasingly impressive matches. Today, Azam's best wasn't enough! At least, we got one truly competitive match.


Four Giants

What makes Williamson, Smith, Kohli and Root excel?

Each has a signature. In Kohli it is intensity. He is fleet of foot and mastery through extra cover and midwicket. With Root, it is the stroke through point off the back foot, a stroke verging on genius, and the bold sweeping of the spinners. Smith, of course, fidgets like a nervous child before using the spaces on the leg side to pick off his target in the ruthless way of an experienced assassin.

Smith gets tons of runs but, damn, it's definitely not pretty. Root is excellent in Tests but his low strike rate gets him frustrated in ODIs and then he makes mistakes. Kohli is a run-machine in every format but, as a captain, he doesn't have the crushing brutal ruthlessness that many Aussies possess. Williamson, indeed, has the most calm temperament. He gets the job done but it's not really thrilling to watch.


Utter humiliation

Quetta Gladiators: 133 all out in 20 overs.

Islamabad United: 137/0 in 10 overs.

It's quite stunning to see such all-out annihilation when professionals are playing.

No 100-plus partnership in all of PSL history has ever seen a higher run rate than Khawaja and Munro's 13.70, and it wasn't even mindless slogging. Repeatedly, the two used field placement, perfect timing, and sharp footwork to remain one step ahead of the hapless Gladiators, and when Munro reverse-swept Mohammad Nawaz for six over third man in the tenth over, putting Sarfaraz's side out of their misery seemed like an act of mercy.


Bend over, Ollie

Ollie Robinson has "unreservedly apologised" after admitting posting "racist and sexist" comments on Twitter while a teenager. The tweets, sent between April 2012 and June 2013, included use of the 'N' word, comments suggesting Muslim people were linked with terrorism, and derogatory comments about women and people of Asian heritage.

Grovel Mode Activate!

"I want to make it clear that I'm not racist and I'm not sexist.

"I deeply regret my actions, and I am ashamed of making such remarks. I would like to unreservedly apologise to anyone I have offended, my teammates and the game as a whole in what has been a day of action and awareness in combatting discrimination from our sport."

That just won't do. Robinson must donate all his present and future earnings to BLM, Hamas, and colored people who identify as women.


Destined for Greatness

April 14: Pakistan had to score 204 to win against South Africa. Babar Azam unleashed his first century in T20Is and crushed the hapless Africans. Pakistan won with two overs to spare.

Two days later: South Africa is all out for 144. Pakistan 92/1 in 9 overs -- just 53 more runs from 11 overs. Easy, right? Nope. IT'S TIME FOR DRAMA! Their performance in the next 9 overs: 37 runs for the loss of 6 wickets! Magala steps over the line in the 19th over and the free-hit goes for a massive six. Next over, the second-last ball also goes bye bye. Tiny target chased with one ball to spare.

The T20 World Cup should be fun!

It's rare to see so many strong batsmen: Azam, Rizwan, Zaman, Old Man Hafeez, and Baby Ali. The added pressure of captaincy has had zero impact on Azam. If anything, he has improved in the last few months. Hitting exquisite fours is his signature. He looked very uncomfortable when trying to hit outside the ground in the ODI World Cup two years ago. Now, his highest ODI score is only 3 runs greater than the 122 he smashed in a T20I. Let's see how many trophies he collects in the next decade.


There are so many!

In other sports news:

Sachin Tendulkar, who was hospitalised as a precautionary measure after testing positive for COVID-19, was on Thursday discharged and is now recuperating at home in Mumbai, while staying in isolation.

Though, Sachin did go out for a few moments of cricket earlier today. Here's one photo:

No more lagaan

He looks the same as he did twenty years ago. Extraordinary!


A dangerous team

The third match, again, went to the very last over. South Africa fought hard but they were missing too many talented players. Pakistan wins another ODI series in South Africa.

Who would have thought that Fakhar would break the record for the highest number of runs against South Africa in a three-match ODI series after he got out for 8 (!) in the first match?  This is how the top three performed:

Imam: 70, 5, 57
Fakhar: 8, 193, 101
Babar: 103, 31, 94

Imam is often dependable, Fakhar owns two of the top three scores by a Pakistani batsman in ODIs, and Babar is one of the best in the world. If the middle order settles and clicks, then they can cause some serious havoc.

Also, Hasan Ali is back. Speaking of havoc, he was the Man of the Series in that crazy tournament four years ago.


An impressive fight

The highest percentage of a team's total in Pakistan history:

Zaman's 155-ball 193 was heroic, a one-man show in the truest sense of the word because no other Pakistani managed more than 31 in a chase of 342. It is the highest score in a chase in ODI cricket history, and the second highest ever in a losing cause. Zaman also surpassed Herchelle Gibbs' 175 to record the highest individual score at this venue.

After Azam and Rizwan were gone, I thought that they would lose by a 100+ runs. Zaman proved me wrong. Somehow, he dragged his team all the way to the last over with a very tiny possibility of a win. He definitely deserved the Man of the Match award.


Almost choked!

Pakistan were 186/1 in 31.4 overs while chasing 274. They somehow managed to take the match to the very end even when they only needed three off the last over. Luck is rarely on South Africa's side.

Azam keeps going:

76 Innings required by Babar Azam to score his 13th century in ODIs, the fastest to this feat in men's cricket.

Babar's 103 is also the highest individual score by a Pakistan captain in a successful ODI chase.


What are we chasing?

What a bunch of incompetent buffoons:

Match officials had to stop play in unprecedented circumstances soon after Bangladesh began their chase in the second T20I in Napier, as they were unsure what their actual target was. Play had to stop nine balls into Bangladesh's innings against New Zealand because even then it wasn't clear whether their revised target was 148, 170 or 171.

This surprised me:

"[When we met the match referee] they were still waiting for the printouts and calculations to take place. I think if you are waiting, the game can't start before you get it. What was explained now was that they normally get it one or two balls into the innings, but hadn't received it yet. They were waiting for it. There were delays and all sorts of stuff. No excuses [for the defeat], but this is just very frustrating for us.

Why don't the officials and the playing teams have a simple software program that shows the dynamic par and winning scores as the first innings goes past the ten overs? Why the hell are they "waiting for the printouts and calculations" in an international game?


Weaker, smaller, slower, weaker

The equality BS in Australia:

Cricket Australia has marked International Women's Day by committing to addressing gender imbalances in the game, including the lack of statues of female cricketers around the country.

The governing body said there were 73 statues or sculptures of male cricketers in Australia compared to none of women, but that imbalance would soon be reduced a little with pieces commissioned for the country's two best-known grounds.

Wait, ... there are female cricketers?


What the pitch?

Manic, manic, manic. The speed of the final act of the third Test was, on the one hand, a gross misrepresentation of the extraordinary mayhem that had preceded it.

These are the four completed team scores: 112, 145, 81, 49. If that wasn't surreal enough:

There was Joe Root, England's most likely source of a revival but in his most unlikely guise, claiming the astonishing figures of 5 for 8 in 6.2 overs, the most economical five-for by a spinner in Test history, and the first by an England captain since Bob Willis in 1983.


Miller not enough

We got a glimpse of vintage Pakistan when the opposition imploded from 41/2 to 48/6.

Azam hit a few nice fours but David Miller definitely played the best innings with seven huge sixes. The end was jarring when Andile Phehlukwayo sent down one terrible delivery after another. Pakistan needed 16 from 12. They got 20 off just 4 legal deliveries! South Africa will be looking for payback in a couple of months. It should be very competitive.


Losing the first Test

The Indians are under pressure again. They are facing a team filled with champion batsmen like Root, Stokes, and Buttler. The bowlers will have to turn in exceptional performances for India to win this series. The English players gel well together. They are tougher opponents than the Aussies of today. However, they are not above fear. Root's hesitance to declare on the fourth day means that the rest of the series will be more difficult for India.


A Quick Test

I looked at the 220 all out score and thought, "Weren't the T20s after the Test matches?"

14 wickets on the first day! The Pakistani bowling was excellent. Unfortunately, their batsmen failed as usual. Babar Azam will have a lot of work to do in his second innings.

Update: I was too pessimistic. The top order did fail but the middle rescued the match on Day 2. Fawad Alam showcased his experience and talent once again:

Fawad began to use his feet to the spinners more and more frequently, hitting over the top to push the field back. And in a moment that is only likely to grow both Fawad's legacy and his cult, he would get to his first hundred at his beloved home ground with a dance down the crease to Maharaj, depositing him over cow corner for a six.

What a magnificent bastard!

The South Africans are tired and the Pakistani bowlers are rested and ready to go on Day 3. They'll have to score significantly more than their first innings to have a shot at winning.