Bangladesh vs. Pakistan

Pakistan scored 315/9. They needed a miraculous 307-run victory to make the semi-finals. They'll be going home after this match. Their utterly miserable and mediocre performance against the West Indies cost them a spot in the semi-finals.

Their star batsman did as well as can be expected. The MVP, Babar Azam scored 474 runs, averaged 67.1, with three half-centuries, and one century. Fakhar Zaman, the man who owns the record for the highest ODI score by a Pakistani, failed to deliver. The top-order combined scored 491 runs. By comparison, the two mighty Australian openers have scored over 500 runs each in eight matches so far. No wonder, the magnificent bastards are number one in the tournament.

Anyway, Haris Sohail and Imad Wasim did their jobs well. Amir and the new Afridi took 16 wickets each. In fact, Afridi has the best figures for a Pakistani bowler in all World Cups. He's still a teenager! So, it wasn't all bad. They did fight and beat two of the four semi-finalists. They have the same number of wins as the Kiwis who made the final four. Again, the poor net run rate -- the deciding factor -- is their own doing.


England vs. New Zealand

England beat the Kiwis to go through the semi-finals for the first time since 1992. The vicious scoring rate of the top order was enough to seal the match.

It was just a few days ago when New Zealand was ranked number one in the tournament. After three straight losses, they're now number four. They've lost every quantum of momentum. Still, they will go through to the semis to likely face ... Australia! I already feel sorry for New Zealand. Their next match will be remembered as The Massacre of the Kiwis.

The other semi-final will likely be a re-match: England vs. India. Before the tournament began, I wanted them to meet in the finals with England finally getting the trophy. Let's see if they click and beat the tough Indians again.


Bangladesh vs. India

Rohit Sharma has had a phenomenal World Cup. Four centuries and one half-century in seven matches! On top of that the Indian bowling unit is too strong. The first delivery of the 44th over was an absolute gem by Bumrah. Bangladesh lost any chance of winning the match right there.

India has made it to the semi-finals. Australia is already there. This means that the winners of the two previous World Cups could meet for an epic final match. New Zealand most likely will reach the semi-finals as well. If England win tomorrow, then they will complete the final four. If England lose, then Pakistan can reach the semi-finals by winning their match against Bangladesh.

Let's see how England handles the pressure tomorrow.


England vs. India

Two things that were strange about this match:

  1. Sixes hit by England: 13. Sixes hit by India: 1 (!).
  2. England were at 160 runs at the end of the 22nd over. As wickets fell, they slowed down to finish at 337/7. India were 226/4 at the beginning of the 40th over. They barely accelerated to finish at 306/5.

Sharma and Kohli gave the rest of the team a significant platform to chase 338 but the lack of urgency was really surprising. The one and only six of the entire Indian innings came in the 50th over! The whole time I was thinking, "What are you guys waiting for?"

The match was awesome for 90 overs. The last 10 were just bizarre and puzzling.

India has two matches left. Winning only one of them would guarantee them passage through to the semi-finals. Today, what could have been the most epic run chase in World Cup history ended up as a slow, sad, and strange defeat.


Afghanistan vs. Pakistan

The Pakistani batsmen took utterly unnecessary risks and got out. Imam-ul-Haq's charge was the worst example as they were in total control with a "win prediction" of 94%.

Afghanistan's biggest mistake was their bowling of the 46th over. Gulbadin Naib brought himself to bowl and got smashed for 18 runs. That's when Pakistan won the game. When Gulbadin Naib decided to bowl the last over, it was truly over. Imad Wasim richly deserves his man of the match award. In the end, it was an ugly win for Pakistan since they made it so hard for themselves. But then, that's how they play: with MAXIMUM drama. 

Afghanistan fought hard but they don't have the batting or bowling firepower to really beat ... anyone. They've played eight matches and lost all of them.

Pakistan is now at fourth position in the tournament. Their fans will be praying for an Indian win against England tomorrow!


Pakistan vs. New Zealand

The Kiwis weren't tested against India because rain ruined the match. Today, they have a mountain to climb as Shaheen Shah Afridi steps up and takes three wickets through his subtle and consistent swing bowling.

Kiwis 46/4; their captain being responsible for exactly half those runs. If the rest of the wickets fall soon, then Pakistan will be chasing a T20 score.

100-run partnership for the sixth wicket for the Kiwis. That makes for a competitive match. Let's see which Pakistani batting shows up to chase this.

237/6. Pakistan has scored 300+ on multiple occasions in the past few months in England. Now, they have to do it in a match that matters.

110/3. 25 overs left. Hafeez walked down and tried to hit a six!? Why? Take singles, get a half-century, and finish the game.

Munro is bowling? He's the eighth bowler used by Williamson! Anyway, Babar Azam is playing really well. Excellent opportunity for him to get his first hundred of the World Cup.

Babar gets a century after a few minutes at 99 runs. The last time a non-opener from Pakistan got a century in a World Cup match was in 1987! The Kiwis are undefeated no more. Pakistan still alive in this World Cup after winning by six wickets against New Zealand.


1992 again?

The eerie similarities between 1992 and 2019 for Pakistan.

This made me laugh:

In 1992, Asif Ali Zardari, a former president of Pakistan and husband of the late Benazir Bhutto, was in jail.
In 2019, Asif Ali Zardari again is in jail.

In 1992, Aladdin was released as an animated musical film.
In 2019, an Aladdin reboot was released.

New Zealand should be very worried. They really haven't been pushed and tested in the past month. Their undefeated status in the tournament will be in danger tomorrow when they face Pakistan.


Australia vs. England

The two Aussie openers smashed 153 runs off 177 balls. They built an excellent platform but the rest of the team managed a poor 124 runs off 123 deliveries. Australia could've had a score close to 400 but they couldn't even reach 300. They got 285/7.

If Starc and Cummins don't take quick wickets, then England can definitely chase this.

Wow. 30/3 in 7 overs. Root and Morgan gone. Bairstow and Buttler are the two big batsmen left. Aussies in control.

England couldn't chase 232 against Sri Lanka last Friday. Now, 285 is a bigger ask. They're 54/4 after 14 overs. Unless Buttler produces an epic century, this game is lost for England.

England beat Pakistan 4-0 in an ODI series last month. Then, they lost against Pakistan in their World Cup match. England absolutely crushed Australia 5-0 in an ODI series one year ago. Now, against Australia, they're losing the match that actually matters.

The last time England had a strong enough team to make the World Cup finals was in 1992! It took them almost three decades to cobble together a powerful and potent team that, at this very second, is ranked number one in the world. Yet, in the grand tournament, they will soon lose their third match.

Anyway, it makes things interesting for Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Buttler gone for 25 runs. Stokes has a half-century but he's hobbling. Aussies need to target the lower order and it'll be over soon for England.

Beautiful yorker by Starc to get Stokes. England need 110 runs but zero firepower to get them. Australia (of course!) will go to the semi-finals.


Pakistan vs. South Africa

Pakistan finally dropped Shoaib Malik. The replacement? Haris Sohail! The man showed his class and top scored for Pakistan with a blistering 59-ball 89. That's man of the match performance right there. 308/7 for Pakistan. It should do the job.

Amir gets a wicket with his first ball. Amla: LBW. The big question: Will Amir get enough support from the other bowlers?

Having Hafeez bowl early was a bizarre choice. Bring in Riaz and see what he can do.

South Africa have built a decent partnership. 73/1 after 17 overs. Inzi's nephew takes an excellent low catch. SA 92-2 after 20 overs. Pakistan has the edge. Shadab gets another! SA 103/3. That was a very poor shot choice by Markram.

One captain hits it high and the other takes the simple catch. Amir, again, is the leading wicket-taker of this World Cup. What a golden tournament he is having so far.

The professor takes a catch and Shadab has his third wicket. 189/5. 10 overs. 120 runs needed. This is beyond South Africa. There's no Klusener. No de Villiers. SA out of the World Cup. It will be shocking if they win.

Yup. South Africa are out. They've lost five out of seven games with two more to go. Pakistan's next match is with the undefeated Kiwis on Wednesday. It should be very interesting.


Carlos vs. The Kiwis

West Indies vs. New Zealand. What a heartbreaking finish to an epic innings by Carlos Brathwaite. He smashed three consecutive sixes in the 48th over to make the Kiwis sweat. Next over, he brings up the first century of his career. Then, gets out for an unnecessary big hit with 6 runs needed off one final over.

India and New Zealand remain undefeated in this World Cup. They should have dominated their weak opposition today. Instead, we got two entertaining, nail-biting thrillers.

Tomorrow, we have, in effect, a knockout match: Pakistan vs. South Africa.


India vs. Afghanistan

That's the undefeated Indians vs. the winless Afghanis in this World Cup. 

I thought that India would smash 400 runs. Instead, India scored a shockingly low 224/8. Now, Afghanistan need 68 off 10 overs! This will be a stunning upset if India doesn't get a few quick wickets.

56 off 48 needed. Afghanis fighting hard with 4 wickets in hand.

40 off 30. Indians nervous. They need a wicket to upset the rhythm.

Rashid Khan out! What a thrilling match!

Nabi hits a clean six off Bumrah! 24 off 18.

16 off 6. Damn. It's Nabi vs. India!

Nabi out! Couldn't clear the six. Shami gets a hat-trick to finish Afghanistan. India win by 11 runs. Afghanistan fought hard. India had a mediocre batting effort. Dhoni's slow runs almost cost them the match.


Big trouble for England

How many matches have Australia, India, and New Zealand lost in the current World Cup?

Australia: 1. India: 0. New Zealand: 0. This doesn't look good for England.


England massacres Afghanistan

The number one team in the world took on the lowest ranked team in the World Cup. The result was predictable. England won by 150 runs.

A lot of records were shattered. Here's one:

17 Sixes hit by Morgan in his innings - the most by an individual in an ODI. Morgan hit one more than the previous record, which was jointly held by Rohit Sharma, AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle. The previous World Cup record was also 16 sixes, Gayle's mark against Zimbabwe in 2015.

Morgan made a century from his sixes! Absolutely devastating.


CWC: India vs. Pakistan

Rohit Sharma unleashed an imperious display of batting today. A 113-ball 140 against Pakistan in a World Cup match. An excellent platform for India to push towards 350+ runs!

The Indians are treating Amir with respect and the rest with contempt. A simple and smart strategy. India have already won. Their batting was enough.

Update
Rain stopped play. It doesn't spoil the game since India has a 99.99% chance of winning. Yadav deserves a prize for his fantastic delivery to Azam. To get Zaman out in his next over was the icing on the cake. Pakistan simply don't have the firepower to recover from those two nails in the coffin.

Also: Shoaib Malik should have retired before the World Cup. He has managed a grand total of zero runs in two important matches. He's too old, too slow, and too scared. He's the only player in this tournament who started playing ODI cricket in the previous century! And it shows.

The only positive for Pakistan: Amir is the leading wicket-taker in the World Cup.


An easy win today

England showed West Indies why they're number one in the world. West Indies imploded and scored a miserable 212 runs all out. England didn't even sweat making 213 runs in only 33 overs. Even an extra 150 runs by West Indies would have been totally insufficient. Joe Root opened and made a very tidy 100 runs not out.

As predicted by many, the top four teams in the tournament are:

  1. New Zealand
  2. England
  3. Australia
  4. India

The World Cup is almost half done. The only team that can upset that ranking is Pakistan.

May 31: West Indies crushed Pakistan.

June 3: Pakistan fought hard and beat England.

June 14: England destroyed West Indies.


The rain spoiled it again

The two undefeated teams in the grand cricket tournament were to play against each other today: India vs. New Zealand. Instead of an awesome clash, the hundreds of millions of fans across the globe got an abandoned game. It must be sorely disappointing for those who bought expensive tickets and traveled from another continent to only get soaked in the end.

The really big game is on Sunday when India take on Pakistan. Even though Pakistan has an overall decent ODI record versus India, they've lost every single time against the Indians in a World Cup game -- six in total.

If Amir can conjure up another miracle and get support from the other bowlers, then Pakistan has a chance against the powerful batting lineup of India. Otherwise, it's revenge for the Champions Trophy final.


CWC: Australia vs. Pakistan

Australia had a fantastic first-wicket partnership of 146 runs in 22 overs. They looked like cracking 400 runs at that point but when Warner fell for his excellent 107, the rest of the team fell apart. The Pakistani bowling was poor with one exception: Mohammad Amir became the leading wicket taker of this World Cup by taking five scalps. He now has 10 wickets in 3 matches. It would be funny and sad if he ends up being the leading wicket-taker of the tournament while not even making the semi-finals.

Anyway, let's see if Pakistan batting shows up to chase this or if they crumble like they did in the sorry 1999 World Cup final.

Update
Pakistan scored 266 all out in 45.4 overs. The failures of Zaman, Malik, and Ali hurt them in the end. Hasan Ali and Wahab Riaz showed the middle order how to take risks.

"We probably made more mistakes," was Sarfaraz's candid and accurate assessment of this error-ridden game. "We won a good toss. The pitch was helping fast bowlers. We didn't bowl in the right areas. Until 30 overs, we were just not up to the mark. Batting, little, little mistakes. There was a partnership between Babar and Imam, Babar got out soft, Imam, Fakhar [Zaman] also, the entire top four got out to very soft dismissals."

That's it really and it leads to the simplest truth. You can't afford this many mistakes at any level of any sport, let alone at a World Cup.

Yup. Also, when three batsmen -- Zaman, Malik, and Ali -- score 5 runs combined, then chasing 300+ is nearly impossible.

Next big game? India vs. New Zealand tomorrow.

Next really big game? India vs. Pakistan on Sunday. Big things are expected from Zaman. We know what he's capable of. Pakistan has five games left. If he goes supernova soon, then Pakistan still have a chance.


Rain, rain, go away!

The match is abandoned. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will split points for this one, as 2019 becomes the World Cup with the most abandoned games. Just to explain the distinction between 'Abandoned' and 'No Result', let me quote Varun Shetty here: "A match is called Abandoned if no toss happens - today will be the second instance in this World Cup, making it the highest number of abandoned games in a WC.

Horrible for the spectators and even worse for the weaker teams who needed the points to have a chance of making the semi-finals. The weather has now spoiled three games in only five days!

New Zealand benefits the most as they are undefeated with 6 points. It would be utterly shocking if the Kiwis didn't make the semi-finals.


CWC 2019 - Favorites clash

The two winners of the previous two World Cups collided today. India scored a mammoth 352/5 and then Australia had a bizarre batting display. The run rate just kept on climbing till Maxwell was sent out but then it was too little too late. The Aussies should have sent Maxwell at three or four for his much needed firepower.

Australia had a rather sluggish start; Warner laboured to his slowest ODI fifty. Fifty of Warner's 84 balls were dots. Smith made a more fluent fifty and Carey hit Australia's fastest World Cup fifty, but the rapidly rising asking rate was simply too much to overcome.

50 dot balls out of 84 when chasing 353! That built up way too much pressure on the rest of the team. Let's see what happens on Wednesday when the disappointed and likely furious Aussies take on the mercurial Pakis.


World Cup points table

The match today between Pakistan and Sri Lanka didn't happen because of rain. This means that both teams get one point which puts them in the top four in the table!

Given the performances so far, Afghanistan, South Africa, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka won't make the semi-finals. So, the real battles come down to England, India, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, and West Indies. I think that Pakistan and West Indies will likely not make the cut. However, they are capable and unpredictable. Not to mention the rain factor.

Australia, as usual, looks like the strongest side. Their ability to thrive under pressure is absolutely stunning. The magnificent bastards have won four of the last five World Cups. They are, again, the team to beat in the grand tournament.


Pressure vs. Nothing to lose

In the third ODI of the series on May 14, 2019, Pakistan smashed 358/9 in 50 overs. That's a very respectable score in the modern cricket game. Plus, Pakistan are known for their bowling riches. Surely, such a high score was sufficient for a win.

Nope. England won. It was shocking just how comfortable it was for them. Pakistan could have built a mountain of 400 epic runs and they would have still lost. England's batting firepower is immense. They bitch-slapped Pakistan repeatedly and won the series 4-0. The last game was played on May 19.

And then the World Cup started. Today, it was England vs. Pakistan. England is ranked number one in the universe. Pakistan had lost eleven consecutive matches. Their worst losing streak in history.

Pakistan scored 348/8 in 50 overs. No team has ever successfully chased over 300 runs in the World Cup. Root and Buttler scored fantastic centuries but it just wasn't enough from England. In fact, they became the first team to lose a World Cup match with centuries from two players. The entire bowling unit of Pakistan showed up. Amir now has five wickets from two matches. Riaz took three today. If they keep firing, then Pakistan will be responsible for a few more upsets. At least, the World Cup has become a lot more exciting.


T10 Cricket World Cup?

Pakistan 105 all out. They fell 300 runs short.

Now, it's the Chris Gayle show. He just got his blistering half-century as Pakistan get absolutely crushed in their opening game.

Seriously? 105 runs!

Update
West Indies annihilated Pakistan today:

218- Margin of defeat for Pakistan in terms of balls remaining in their Word Cup opener against West Indies. This is their biggest defeat in World Cup history. In fact, in ODI cricket, they have suffered only one bigger defeat, which also came against West Indies, in Cape Town in 1993.

Another nail in the coffin:

11- Number of consecutive defeats for Pakistan in completed ODIs. They lost four ODIs to England, five to Australia and one to South Africa before heading into the World Cup. This is their longest losing streak in ODIs. The previous worst was 10 losses in a row between October 1987 and March 1988.

Hard to believe that the same team won the Champions Trophy two years ago.


Cricket World Cup

England, the favorites, beat South Africa very convincingly by over a 100 runs. The best part is the English batting: four players scored half-centuries. Then, the bowlers, er, choked the South African scoring.

Oh, how it could have been different had the magnificent AB de Villiers not retired last year. All the teams play nine matches before the top four go forward with the semi-finals. This would have been an excellent stage for a dynamite player like de Villiers. 


Gritty but inadequate

Afghanistan has a spirited team but they are no match for the number one side in ODI cricket. Today, they were utterly destroyed. England ruthlessly chased 160 in 17.3 overs. It would have been entertaining but cruel to see what would have happened if England batted first.

Afghanistan is going to be thrashed by powerful teams like Australia, India, and New Zealand in the next month. Let's see how well they fight.


The Great One agrees

What I wrote in February:

I expect to see these four teams in the semi-finals: India, Australia, England, and New Zealand.

I wrote this just a few days ago:

In the World Cup, Pakistan can beat the minnows and they might even take down a contender. However, they won't be getting anywhere near the trophy because their bowling is bizarrely weak and their batsmen can't handle pressure. [...] They will probably be ranked #5 in the grand tournament when it's done.

Today, Sachin Tendulkar made his prediction:

Who are your probable semifinalists?

India, England, Australia should be in the semis. The fourth could be one of New Zealand or Pakistan.

Cool. Based on recent strength, it would be nice to see an India vs. England final with England finally winning a Cricket World Cup.


ODI no. 4140

Chris Woakes destroys Pakistan in two overs by taking three wickets and conceding zero runs! Now, Pakistan at 6/3 chasing 352. Unless Babar Azam plays the innings of his career, England will crush Pakistan by a 4-0 margin.

Yup. England won convincingly. The last five Pakistani players played shots and each scored in the double digits. The tenth wicket partnership was a shocking 47 runs. For contrast, the four main batsmen -- Zaman, Ali, Hafeez, and Malik -- scored a combined total of nine runs. That's how you don't chase 351 in ODI cricket.

In the World Cup, Pakistan can beat the minnows and they might even take down a contender. However, they won't be getting anywhere near the trophy because their bowling is bizarrely weak and their batsmen can't handle pressure. Azam is the best batsman in the team but his strike rate is not high enough to shift the balance. They will probably be ranked #5 in the grand tournament when it's done.


ODI no. 4138

The current ODI series between England and Pakistan has been a batting paradise for all players. A few figures:

1st ODI
England 373/3
Pakistan 361/7

2nd ODI
Pakistan 358/9
England 359/4 (in 44.5 overs!)

3rd ODI
Pakistan 340/7
England 341/7

Today, Pakistan became the first team in history to score 340 or more in three consecutive ODI matches. Then, just a few hours later, England became the second team to do so!

  • Pakistan's bowling is utterly mediocre. They likely would have failed to defend 400 in the 2nd ODI. Akram and Younis wept.
  • England's bowling isn't that great either. They haven't managed to get Pakistan out in three games. The Indian batsmen are going to give them serious trouble.
  • The pitches are made for batting. Never in history have two teams scored 340 or more in three successive innings and there's still one more match to go!

Conclusion: Quite a few batting records will be broken in the upcoming World Cup. Teams like England, Australia, South Africa, and India will likely smash 400+ runs against the weaker sides if they bat first.


The Aussies don't give up

Australia lost two games in the beginning but won the series 3-2 against India in India. To be fair, the Indians didn't have their full-strength team as they were experimenting with a few players. Still, the most worrying game for them must be the fourth ODI. They scored an absolutely mammoth 358 runs which should have won the series for them but the Aussies fought back and stunned everyone.

Virat Kohli was full of praise for their spirit:

"If you look at the overall scene, I think Australia deserved to win. They played with more passion, they played with more hunger and they played with more heart than us in the last three games. They were brave in the pressure situations compared to our side. The first two games we were on the mark but the last three games, the way they raised their intensity and the way they grabbed the pressure moments, they are deserving winners of the series."


Ireland murdered

Hazratullah Zazai annihilated the Irish bowlers today. Zazai smashed 16 sixes -- a new record -- and finished with 162 runs. It's astonishing that he didn't get out! Poor Ireland tried eight different bowlers. They all failed. Oh, another small matter: Afghanistan finished with the highest T20I total in history.

Now, Ireland start with a required run rate of 14.

Ireland lose by 84 runs. With one T20I to go, Afghanistan has a huge psychological edge.


June 16, 2019

The ICC and the 2019 World Cup organising committee remain confident that the tournament's biggest match, to be played between India and Pakistan on June 16 in Manchester, will go ahead despite the volatile situation between the two countries in the wake of a terrorist attack in Kashmir last week.

I'll be shocked if the match is cancelled.

With the World Cup starting in exactly 100 days, there are have been scattered voices that want India to boycott the group match against Pakistan. The fixture itself remains the biggest game of the tournament: nearly half a million applications for tickets poured in as soon as the ICC opened its ballot. Even the World Cup final, to be played on July 14 at Lord's, paled in comparison with about a quarter of a million applications.

India lost big in the Champions Trophy final. They have a score to settle. Pakistan has never beaten India in a World Cup match. They want to change that miserable history. The two teams will be fighting hard in front of a global audience of over one billion people. This means serious cash. It would be staggeringly stupid to boycott this match.


2019 World Cup

Can't disagree with this forecast:

Sachin Tendulkar believes India are "the favourites" to win the 2019 World Cup. Tendulkar's comments came two days after his former India team-mate Rahul Dravid, too, backed Virat Kohli's men to win a third World Cup for India.

Yup. India has the best batting line up in the world at the moment. Recently, their overall bowling has been uncharacteristically potent as well. I expect to see these four teams in the semi-finals: India, Australia, England, and New Zealand.

Pakistan can't win because they don't have the batting firepower and their bowling unit is weak. The South Africans are not bad but they have a habit of, er, dying before the finals.


T20I no. 734

South Africa scored an absolutely massive 29 runs in their last over which was crucial in making Pakistan crumble.

Babar Azam, the most valuable Pakistani batsman, scored 90 runs off 58 balls. That should be sufficient in a T20I chase of 189 runs. Unfortunately, the rest of the team combined scored 85 runs off 62 balls. That's how to lose a match and the series. With one game left, it's likely that the talented Azam will be the highest scorer in this series while his mediocre teammates lose every single match.


One of the greatest

This paragraph made me smile:

[...] if you asked a Pakistani batsman of a certain vintage to draw a boogieman, the picture would be of a 6"5 beanpole with the occasional snarl, mean as heck with runs, hanging around that off stump like a pesky fly around rotting food, his inches drawing out bounce and his fingers and wrist movement off the surface. Glenn McGrath to you and I.

McGrath was magnificent against almost everyone. The guy had the most spectacular retirement in cricket history: coming back from injury to win his third consecutive World Cup -- he was also the Man of the Tournament.


A new record

The third match might not end in a win for Shah but the series will be remembered for his 14 wickets in the second Test and for this incredible record:

On the fourth morning of the final Test in Abu Dhabi against New Zealand, Yasir Shah did not merely break an 82-year-old record, he smashed it.

By dismissing William Somerville roughly half an hour into the morning, he picked up his 200th Test wicket in just his 33rd Test. That breaks the record for the fastest to 200 Test wickets, so long held by another legspinner, Clarrie Grimmett who reached the mark in his 36th Test.

Yasir Shah is averaging six wickets a Test. That's absolutely phenomenal.


Preparing for the third Test

Craig McMillan, the New Zealand batting coach, has urged his batsmen to come up with "precise and clear" plans against Yasir Shah ahead of the third Test against Pakistan, which begins on December 3 in Abu Dhabi. Yasir's match figures of 14 for 184 in Dubai were instrumental in Pakistan levelling the series after they lost a pulsating first Test by four runs.

The first innings for the Kiwi batting will be vital. The Paki scoring rate was incredibly slow in the second Test but the first innings Kiwi collapse was so swift that it allowed the opposition plenty of the time to go for a brutal win.

"From a batting point of view you just have to be so precise and clear with your batting plan, especially against Yasir Shah who was outstanding," McMillan said. "He's going to test you early on, he's going to test that defence, so your defence has to be so tight, has to be so spot on, because if you make a mistake it's pretty vital over here.


The Yasir Shah show continues

The last time someone had better match figures than Yasir Shah was 17 years ago.

14-184 - Yasir Shah's match figures in the Dubai Test. These are the second-best by a Pakistani, a shade behind Imran Khan's 14 for 116 against Sri Lanka in Lahore in 1982. Yasir's haul is also the best in UAE, eclipsing Rangana Herath's 11 for 136 in Abu Dhabi last year.

2001 - The last time a bowler finished with a better match haul than Yasir's 14 for 184. Harbhajan Singh's 15 for 217 against Australia in Chennai bowled India to a magnificent series win.

New Zealand did fight hard in the second innings but a 327-run deficit against the glorious Shah was too much to overcome. After the comical collapse of the Pakistani batting in the first Test, this is a very serious thrashing. The Kiwis will have to play out of their skins in the last match to not lose this series.


The Yasir Shah Show

Yesterday, I thought that the declaration at 418 runs was too early. Going for a big, psychological 500 runs would have been better. Today showed that it didn't matter as New Zealand imploded from 50/0 to 90 all out. Yasir Shah just became the first bowler to take 10 wickets in one day of Test cricket in this century. He broke or equalled quite a few other records as well. They should have given him the Man of the Match award as he walked off the field.

New Zealand will have a tiny chance if they, somehow, manage to bat the entire fourth day. Otherwise, it's going to be an innings defeat.


Australian Cricket

Shane Warne, an Australian legend, is not amused by the current culture:

"Can I cut to the chase here? They need to find the best captain, find who's going to be the best captain for each form of the game and say 'guys, run with me'," Warne said while commentating for Fox Cricket during the first ODI against South Africa in Perth, where Australia suffered a heavy defeat. "Forget all the words, forget all the verbal diarrhoea and all that sort of stuff. That's all rubbish, seriously, it makes you vomit."

Warne is referring to the bizarre use of buzzwords in Australian cricket:

A 38-word Player Pact was unveiled, and on the eve of the Perth ODI, photos revealed words such as "patience", "pressure" and "elite honesty" emblazoned in the Australian dressing room. "Elite honesty," in particular, came under a lot of scrutiny on social media.

Let's see how badly they'll lose in the World Cup next year when they defend their title.


T20I no. 708

Pakistan scored the most in their last six games in the UAE by setting New Zealand 167 runs to win. The Kiwis had a nervous start but were at an acceptable 96/3 at 12.2 overs. Then, Pakistan showed why they're famous for their bowling.

After Williamson lost his wicket, these are the scores of the players who got out: 26, 2, 0, 0, 7, 1, 1. In fact, poor Williamson scored more runs than the rest of his team combined. He scored 60; the entire team was out for 119. They had to play scoring shots because the run rate was creeping up but they simply couldn't handle the bowling.

This sets up the ODI series really well. New Zealand has a lot of batting firepower while, now, Pakistan has a strong bowling unit and an improving batting lineup.


Potent bowling wins series

Pakistan sets a new T20I record:

A masterful chase from Pakistan helped them secure their 11th straight series win - and 11th consecutive win in a T20I chase. They might have taken it to the last over - to the final two deliveries - but make no mistake, Pakistan were in charge of it almost every step of the way.

New Zealand needed to put big runs on the board. They had a fantastic start but the middle order couldn't capitalize thanks to the spin bowling from Pakistan. The Kiwis scored 153/7; something close to 170 runs would definitely have challenged Pakistan.


It's a fight!

The game went to the end:

It isn't often that a series against Australia is termed an appetiser, but it has taken just one T20I against New Zealand to understand why this tour will be the main course of Pakistan's home season. They may have swarmed over Australia in the Tests and T20I series, but the little brothers in that trans-Tasman relationship look unlikely to be pushed over easily.

Pakistan still managed to sneak home, but it wasn't until the last ball that the outcome was secure, with 18-year old Shaheen Afridi keeping his composure to defend 17 off the final over. New Zealand fell two short, with Imad Wasim's big hits towards the end and Mohammad Hafeez's rescue act - 45 off 36 - after the openers fell cheaply proving to be the difference.

Strange, they didn't mention the extras. Pakistan gave away 3. New Zealand ... 5. 

Anyway, the spectators definitely got their money's worth.


Australia vs. Pakistan

Today, Australia started their innings with a bang when Carey scored an awesome 20 runs in the first over. It showed what they're capable of but then, again, they crumbled. What must be worrying for the administration is that the players don't last the entire 20 overs.

It is highly unusual for Australia to go winless in an entire tour and that too against Pakistan. For the Aussies, their best and most memorable performance was a tough draw in the first Test. Their T20I performances were so stunningly bad that their top scorer in the series is a bowler.

Let's see if the Kiwis can do better ...


The Titan delivers

Virat Kohli is the best Indian batsmen in the game today. His record stands pretty well against one of the greatest batsmen in history:

Given that they are arguably the two most iconic modern-day ODI batsmen, it was quite fitting that Kohli emulated Tendulkar in reaching the 10,000-run mark in style: Tendulkar had reached his landmark by scoring 139 against Australia in Indore in 2001; Kohli went past the landmark with an unbeaten 157 against West Indies in Visakhapatnam on Wednesday. They are the only batsmen to reach this landmark with centuries. With Kohli smashing Tendulkar's record of fastest to 10,000 ODI runs in terms of innings, it is a good time to compare Kohli's current stats with Tendulkar's, at the time the latter reached the landmark.

The Little Master was ahead during his time:

During the period after he started opening the batting, Tendulkar scored a hundred every 6.86 innings when batting in the top four, compared to other top-four batsmen who scored one every 24.7 innings. That means Tendulkar was around 3.6 times better than the others batting in the top four during that period. For Kohli, that ratio is about 3.11, which shows clearly that scoring hundreds has become a lot easier now than in the first half of Tendulkar's era. These ratios indicate just how remarkable both batsmen have been in their rates of scoring hundreds, but Tendulkar was at an even higher level compared to his peers, than Kohli has been in the current era.

True.

Kohli will turn 30 next month. The World Cup is next year. Kohli's Indians are definitely serious contenders for the trophy.


The Aussies fold

Cricinfo:

Abu Dhabi really was nothing like Dubai. Over in the nation's most global city, Australia batted out 140 overs in blazing sunshine to thwart Pakistan's hopes of a win. Here in the capital under clouds and a slight drizzle, it took Mohammad Abbas and his teammates barely 50 overs to scythe through an Australian side that looked as feeble as the worst pessimist had feared a fortnight ago.

Australia scored an incredible 362/8 in the last innings to save the first Test. They were all out for a combined 309 runs in two innings in the second Test! Khawaja being injured didn't help but even he couldn't have changed the final outcome. Abbas was the chief destroyer. He should be getting his ODI debut soon.


Aussies tumble

The Australians are having trouble scoring in the first innings:

Since the first Test of the series in Durban, Australia's first-innings tallies have been 351 in 110.4 overs, 243 in 71.3 in Port Elizabeth, 255 in 69.5 in Cape Town, 221 in 70 in Johannesburg, 202 in 83.3 in Dubai, and now 145 in 50.4 in Abu Dhabi.

After their stunning, record-breaking second innings a few days ago, this 145 all out is so bizarre. The Pakistanis slowly managed almost the same number of runs with a loss of only two wickets. If Asad and Babar click tomorrow and take the lead to 500 runs, then, again, Australia will have to fight like mad to save the Test. A draw is even more unlikely since the Aussies will have to survive for two days.