Friday, December 2, 2011

England Will Be Put Through A Tough Pakistan Test

Setting The Scene
England are the currently number 1 ranked test side and during the summer when Strauss’s troops were annihilating the Indians in a whitewashed affair, many pundits were going as far as saying this was the greatest English outfit of all time. The Poms have won all of their last 6 test series whereas Pakistan have been undefeated for a streak of 6 series in a row ever since the ill fated tour and largely forgettable tour of England in the summer of 2010 under the leadership now of a 37 year old stable statesman who has performed admirably and led by example to transform the respect, fortunes and confidence of the unit in challenging circumstances after the listless problems which had emerged. In between the period of time that the two sides last locked horns, the tourists have contested in 12 tests with 8 victories and only 1 defeat, including 3 comprehensive series victories whereas fairly similarly the hosts have won 6 with only 1 narrow defeat in 12 contested, including 4 series wins and 2 drawn series against the odds. Therefore there is little doubt that both teams are on a rise and on a mission and in form with settled outfits which sets up the picture positively for an intriguing battle to commence 2012 in what could turn out to be a feisty and heated battle considering the troublesome history associated with the 2 outfits when they have toured each other’s territories in the recent past. One can expect plenty of drama in this forthcoming 3 test affair with the first and last one being held in the luxurious structure of Dubai with the one in between heading to Abu Dhabi. This sure is the most high profile test series UAE has hosted.
The series score line is most likely to read 1 something. 3-0, 2-1, 2-0 are highly unlikely on the placid tracks and it will be virtually close to impossible to go through the series without the occurrence of a draw and a dull one at that too. We can expect a closely fought series which will be an intriguing battle. The chances on a drawn series are reasonably high, but both sides have the possibility of sneaking in a 1-0 success, probably more so England. The Pakistan batting line up has now transformed into a steady and reliable one who can regularly go through the processes and maintain a sense of determination and character even against the best in the business of Morkel and Steyn. Therefore if the bowlers perform and give the Englishmen some trouble it could turn out to be a series win for the hosts. Their bowlers vs the visiting batsmen will probably be where the series will be decided, but the fielding must support the bowlers. Pakistan will be relying mainly on spin when it comes to the bowling in the form of Ajmal, Rehman and Hafeez.
Proportional Verdict

32%= 1-0 England
28%= 1-0 Pakistan
20%= 1-1 DRAW
20%= 0-0 DRAW

Last 5 test series between the two all in the 21st Century
3-1 (4) 2010 to England at home
3-0 (4) 2006 to England at home
2-0 (3) 2005 to Pakistan at home
1-1 (2) 2001 in England

1-0 (3) 2000 to England away

England's Test Record Against Pakistan Away From Home

Played 24: Won 2 Lost 4 Drawn 18

England's Test Record Against Pakistan At Home

Played 47: Won 20 Lost 9 Drawn 18

Never have they played on neutral territory before.


Misbah has never played a test or ODI against England, but has played against them at the “A” team level.
Misbah would have captained in 15 tests in a row by the end of the series. This is a record only bettered by Waqar, Miandad, Inzamam and Imran Khan.
Misbah has the highest W/L ratio by a Pakistan test captain of all time with 6.0 standing and if we merge formats he has a 12.0 standing with only 2 defeats in 31 internationals. This reference clearly reflects how well the team are performing under his leadership and how successful they have been since he has taken over with 12 series wins in 14 without any series loss.
Pakistan has been undefeated for 7 tests in a row whereas England has been undefeated for 9 tests in a row. If Pakistan goes undefeated in this series, they have gone the 2nd most test series without a series loss streak in their country’s history after the 1980s era.
Strauss needs 5 more wins to equal Michael Vaughan’s record for the most test victories as England captain. In tests as captain against Pakistan he has only lost 1 in 8 and 2 series victories in 2006 and 2010. The left handed opener has been preparing in India ahead of this tour
Strauss has led England in 10 test series with only 1 defeat against the West Indies in 2009 away in his first series as full time captain.

Both these two test playing nations had the joint highest number of test victories in 2011 with 6, however Pakistan played 2 more and had 1 defeat. Nevertheless England played 7 of their 8 on home soil.
Cook and Trott in the England top 3 were ICC test player of the year and ICC player of the year and will be playing their first test after achieving this tag in September.

Both these teams had 5 in the top 10 run getters in tests for 2011.

Both these teams had 5 in the top 10 wicket takers for tests in 2011.

In the last 5 times Pakistan have played in the UAE, there have been 4 draws.

Overall record: 22-13 to England having played 71.

Misbah's Record As Test Captain: Played 12 Won 6 Lost 1 Drawn 5

Strauss's Record As Test Captain: Played 39 Won 21 Lost 5 Drawn 13

Pakistan have 5 new faces in the top 6 from the starting 11 which faced England away at the summer of 2010 with Azhar Ali being the only player who has managed to retain his spot with his consistency and sturdy approach. Azhar has faced more deliveries than any other Pakistan test batsmen in the last two years. Since England tour 2010, Pakistan have only had 7 different batsmen in the top 6 over a period of 12 tests or 6 series which ever way you look at it.

In Younis and Misbah, Pakistan have 2 of their 5 highest Pakistan batsmen all time currently in their team with their averages which are in the top 5 of all time from Pakistan along with Miandad, Yousuf and Inzamam.

In both series which have been contested in the UAE under the captaincy of Misbah - ul - Haq the batsmen who has topped the averages or come 2nd with the willow is Azhar Ali.
England was awarded the BBC team of the year at the annual 2011 sports personality of the year ceremony on 22nd of December.
Azhar Ali made the highest score by a Pakistan batsman on their tour of England in 2010 with an unbeaten 92 in a match winning cause at the Oval. Azhar is the only Pakistan batsmen who has faced over 3000 deliveries since January 2010 and is Pakistan's highest run getter in that period of time.
England have had 6 innings victories against major test forces in the last 14 months.

Pakistan’s average first innings total in the 12 tests that Misbah has captained is 387. Previously in the 16 tests before the Faisalabad senior batsmen took over the reins the team’s average first innings total wasjust 264 including an anomaly of 765 at Karachi which was the only score ofabove 350 in those 16 test matches from 2009 onwards.

Under Misbah:
340 posted or more 11 times
Only been bowled out under 300 4 times
4 times chased down a total with 7 or more wickets in hand
4 times successfully drawn the match with 5 or more wickets in hand

declared the innings 3 times
won by an innings once

Most Runs Against England from Pakistan's side : Inzamam
Most Wickets Against England from Pakistan's side: Qadir
Most Runs against Pakistan from England's side: Gower
Most Wickets Against Pakistan From England's side: Botham
Most Catches Taken In Tests Between The Two: Miandad

How the series will be decided and unfold?

Both the line ups have in form and settled batting line ups. For Pakistan the emphasis with the bat will be on defence, survival, churning away, discipline, building partnerships, digging in deep, getting stuck in and taking the innings duration in to the 130 over mark and beyond as almost a bare minimum. Whilst they may not necessarily look to dictate terms and take the game from the scruff off the neck, they can be banked on to deliver the goods and bat Pakistan out of trouble. England’s batting line up is full of capable run getters with a watchful and resilient top 3 who like to absorb the pressure and overcome the initials bursts thrown at them with a sense of authority, a dynamic dominator in KP who will not hold back if he has the license to unleash his array of strokes, Morgan who can be innovative, but has technical flaws and is somewhat of a nervous starter, Bell who averaged over the 100 mark in 2011 with his delicate touches and compactness and Prior who can score freely and attack with power and intensity coming in at 7, someone who is labelled as the best wicket keeper batsmen going and if that was not enough a tail who can wag and smash it around like no tomorrow. I don’t see the considerably improved and reformed Pakistan batting line up disappointing or faltering especially in the UAE tracks and therefore feel the series will be determined as often is the case with Pakistan, by the bowling against the opposition touring batsmen. Pakistan’s best hope will be to either catch England below par as if they have got carried away after reaching the pinnacle or simply outclass them with their varieties and nagging control. England on the other hand, will belooking to pile up the runs and put the Pakistanis under the pressure. Misbah has had a preference to insert the opposition into bat with him winning the toss on 7 occasions and deciding to bowl first 6 times with 5 comprehensive victories and one commendable draw, he tries to bat only once or briefly 4th if and when necessary and it has been an effective strategy adopted by the strategically astute leader. Strauss will not hold back on getting the pads on and making first use of the docile tracks should he call correctly. We could see Pakistan in the field first in all 3 tests, it’s a possibility alright.
The Different Aspects - Who has the upper hand

Openers: England (Pakistan have improved nevertheless)
Middle Order: Pakistan
Late Middle Order: England
Tail: England

New Ball Bowlers: England
Old Ball Bowlers: Pakistan
Spinner(s): Pakistan

Team composition: Pakistan as Hafeez provides an additional quality bowling option

Pitch and conditions: Pakistan (no brainer)

Preparation: Pakistan

Captaincy: Equal - experienced, diplomatic , stable and statistically successful, but more will be expected from Strauss

Team bonding: Equal - harmony, unity and direction

Coach: England

Fielding: England

Statistics: Pakistan considering Pakistan's record against them in Asian conditions

May The Best Team Win

Ball tampering accusations, pitch dancing pirouettes, captain– umpire direct finger pointing along with loud mouthy exchanges, Oval gate, spot fixing revelations, pre-match throat grabbing, unacceptable chairmanship with baseless claims – it surely will be a minor triumph for the sport in itself to see this series go through without catching the wrong the side of the headlines. Both captains, in Strauss and Misbah are no nonsense, educated, diplomatic, fully serious,thoroughly professional, trouble free and respectable personalities so will definitely do their utmost best to ensure things do not go out of bounds and the cricket can do the talking and nothing else.

Where The Result Will Happen?
We are most likely to get a result in Dubai, particularly in the 1st test as Pakistan managed to beat the Sri Lankans here in the latter half of October inside 4 days and even the year before against South Africa the test match was alive going into day 5 unlike in Abu Dhabi where just 27 wickets fell in both the test matches held at the ground. The team that may go on to down the other will always have the upper hand and it will be difficult for the trailing side to get back in the series unless they perform inspirationally or the winners of the 1st test begin to take the foot off the gass. Therefore if there will be a result, it will happen in Duabi and probably in the 1st of the 3 tests.

Starting Line Up
For the visitors they are unlikely to go in with 5 front line bowlers and seemed to be satisfied with their 4 man attack. For the hosts, the top 5 pick for themselves and the continuity and stability in selection over the last 14 months has been one of their major contributors towards their resurgence as a test unit. The dilemma starts at 6 with many fans and commentators pushing for the inclusion of the highly exciting and attractive Umar Akmal from more of a tactical perspective as the line up has been accused of being a tad one dimensional and there is too much “sameness” if you like, however Asad Shafiq who recently made his maiden test century in Chittagong has been performing better and therefore merits a place in the side even though he is more of a conventional middle order batsmen. Shafiq has every right to be retained as far as I’m concerned which will most likely be the reality. Pakistan will be happy to negotiate and accept security and rightly so with them being the underdogs and therefore the ability to hang in there for longer innings will be crucial where Shafiq has the upper hand. In regards to the bowling attack, it should be interesting if Misbah and Mohsin decide to continue with their effective theme of 2 specialist spinners which I feel they should do as they complement each other well. Gul will inevitably make the final 11 as the spearhead of the attack. The 2nd seamer is debateable with 3 candidates fighting for the spot in the form of Cheema, Junaid and Wahab, but a left arm angle will provide that cutting edge with all those left hander England possess. Junaid surprised one and all against the Lankans, however he is just returning from injury and it may be a risk too far to send him in the deep water immediately. Wahab has got the necessary clearance and claimed a match winning 5 for on his debut at the Oval against England in August 2010. However, this will lead to another problem potentially because both are the same type, hit the deck hard at the start and reverse as the ball fades, both can be inconsistent. Neither are really out and out conventional swing bowlers with the new ball. In closing, Cheema has emerged promisingly as a genuine wicket taker and worthy Trier, but his effectiveness may be limited and it may turn out to be one-way traffic for England’s left handers with Gul also sending them across the left handers. Misbah and Mohsin should take the added variety into account which I’m sure they will do and make the bold changes as the series progresses if the initial bowling attack does not live up to its hope. It may be pointless alluding to this bit, but there are some out there who want it, Pakistan needn’t worry about a 5th bowling option, Adnan’s batting is decent, but not exceptional and they already have Hafeez who can turn his arm over for several overs in a day as the extra bowler. Additionally, the depth in batting is provided by Wahab and when contrasting with the strong England lower order, the situation may not look too promising for the hosts, with both Wahab and Rehman in the first choice 11 it may even up the balance.

My Line Up

Mohammad Hafeez

Taufeeq Umar

Azhar Ali
Younis Khan

Misbah ul Haq (C)
Asad Shafiq
Adnan Akmal (WK)
Abdur Rehman
Wahab Riaz or Junaid
Umar Gul
Saeed Ajmal

Predictions Of Other KP Writers

Imy: 1-0 ( either way BUT heart says Pakistan)
Tabrez Ali: 0-0
Danish Nawab: 0-0
Maaz: 1-1
Zain: 1 -1
Babar: 1-0 Pakistan

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