Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ajmal Too Strong For England In Dubai





England were woefully out of sorts in the 1st test at Dubai as Misbah ul Haq’s men outplayed the world number 1 ranked test side to win by 10 wickets inside 3 days and take an influential 1-0 lead in the series. Now, 2 dead draws will be more than enough to give Misbah ul Haq’s side the series honours which will be nothing short of a monumental achievement in Pakistan’s test history and also represent a phenomenal run of rich test form under Misbah’s captaincy which includes beating the very best in the business who went into this series full of energy and optimism for beating Pakistan and even walking over them. Pakistan was expected to compete, but the manner and margin of victory was astounding and least expected. This is the first time since 2003 that Pakistan have won 3 consecutive tests in a row when they whitewashed Bangladesh in their tour of Pakistan in 2003, the series famously known for the match winning knock played by the Sultan of Multan to save the hosts from utter embarrassment. Pakistan has won the most test matches since January 2011 and has been the best test side in the world since then. England have stressed that they are not going to panic,but some decisions need to be made and they will need to get their acts together sooner than later, otherwise this tour could turn out to be a long and miserable one for them. Ian Botham on commentary had suggested one of the reasons Pakistan have been performing so well is by sticking by the same bunch of guys and not chopping and changing too much. This is backed up with the fact that Pakistan have fielded the same 11 in all the last 3 tests that they have played and won. Just like in 2011, Pakistan have started 2012 on a winning note by beating the opposition in the whites inside 3 days by 10 wickets. 2011 went on to be a record breaking year for Pakistan Cricket. 2010 started with the SCG defeat and a shambolic year followed. Early indications are promising for Pakistan for 2012.
Test Win Number 7 for Misbah ul Haq. What stands out is the margin of all the wins under his captaincy:
- 10 wicket win inside 3 days against New Zealand
- 196 run win against the West Indies
- 7 wicket win against Zimbabwe
- 9 wicket win against Sri Lanka
- An innings win against Bangladesh -
- 7 wicket win against Bangladesh
- 10 wicket win inside 3 days against England
Only 6 out of 29 Pakistan captains have led Pakistan to more test wins, although all of them had lost significantly more:
- 8 Mushtaq Mohammad
- 10Waqar Younis
- 11 Inzamam
- 12 Wasim Akram
- 14 Javed Miandad
- 14 Imran Khan
Misbah has the highest W/L ratio by a Pakistan test captain of all time
Misbah ul Haq: Won 7 Drawn 5 Lost 1 (7.0)
Rashid Latif: Won 4 Drawn 1 Lost 1 (4.0)
Zaheer Abbas: Won 3 Drawn 10 Lost 1 (3.0)
Captaincy Record across All Formats: Played 32 Won 25 Drawn 5 Lost 2 (W/L ratio of 12.5)
Described by cricket journalist Rob Steen as one of the 5 men of the year in 2011 and for his exact quote have a read below: “Kudos for the current Pakistani resurgence, though, goes primarily to Misbah, whose calm leadership and even calmer batting have lent stability to the most storm-tossed vessel on the high seas. The contrast to his disgraced predecessor could hardly have been starker. Among the new, true allrounders - i.e. those picked across all three formats - none averaged more than his 57.20. The first 40-year-old national skipper since Imran Khan? Don't put it past him." - Rob Steen Cricinfo Mid December 2011
Saeed Ajmal was the chief destroyer of the English batting in this match, but do you know how Ajmal managed to get into the team in the first place? Misbah ul Haq recommended and pushed for his inclusion to the board and eventually when Misbah captained for a one off in 2008 he got his chance ... since then the off spinner has not looked back and dominated There is a direct link between educated... cricketers becoming outstanding captains:
Mike Brearley (who was purely in the team for his captaincy as he averaged in the low 20s)
Imran Khan
Nasser Hussain
Michael Atherton
Kumar Sangakkara
Rahul Dravid
Sourav Ganguly
Andrew Strauss
Similarly, Pakistan’s current captain has a master’s degree. You doubt an MBA at your own peril.


Player Ratings In The Last 3 Tests

Taufeeq Umar 9/10: The latter stages of the Sri Lankan test series turned out to be pretty disappointing for him after that marathon double ton in Abu Dhabi which was the 2nd highest by a Pakistani opener after the little master’s Bridgetown epic in the 1950s, but Taufeeq bounced back hard in Bangladesh with a noteworthy score at Chittagong and Dhaka to end 2011 as Pakistan’s leading test run scorer with over 800 runs at average just above 45. Taufeeq was expected to be batsmen who will struggle against England with his technical deficiencies against spin and his unhealthy habit of being trapped LBW frequently when planting down the front pad early, but with his guts and persistence some felt he will be able to get through and he did by being one of the 4 half centurions in Pakistan’s innings which gave them an invaluable lead of 146. Taufeeq was looking solid throughout and drove fluently when the opportunities was there, but received a close to unplayable delivery from Broad which he had no answer to as it shaped in from around the wicket and straightened to disturb the top of the off stump bail.

Mohammad Hafeez 8/10: scored a century in Chittagong with his pleasing to the eye timing and placement all around the wagon wheel,unfortunately he had a poor test match at Dhaka and failed to make any constructive impact there, but much to his credit he came back hard in the first test of the series at the DSC where he claimed the wicket of ICC test cricketer of the year and the first wicket of the test series, coming into the attack in just the 6th over before going on to register a crafty 88 and knock off the required runs in the 4th innings unharmed as Pakistan cruised to victory.

Azhar Ali 6/10: missed out in Chittagong where he was caught behind looking to drive a full and wide delivery, but registered a resilient half century in Dhaka and played a crucial accelerating hand in the 4th innings chase in the fading light with limited time where he expressed him, was willing to gamble and looked assertive in his strokes to ensure Pakistan got over the line. He missed out at the DSC where he was caught behind fishing at a delivery outside the off stump to nick off after just 8 deliveries. We have been used to better from him, but I’m sure he’ll come back hard and bounce back. Azhar has featured in 9 wins, 5 draws and 5 losses in the 19 consecutive test matches he has represented Pakistan.

Younis 7/10: scored a double century in Chittagong and an unbeaten one too, he fell one short of getting to the 50 mark in Dhaka where he edged behind to a sharp turning delivery in the early minutes of day 4, but ensured he got the team over the line with Misbah batting 2nd time around.
Younis only managed 37 in a total of 338 at the DSC in the first test against the Poms before getting trapped in front to the part timer Jonathan Trott who got one to nip back sharply off the seam. However, after 11 tests since Younis has resumed his career Pakistan are yet to lose with 6 victories.

Misbah ul Haq 7/10: also missed out in Chittagong when he was trapped in front for 20, but made a 70 odd in the first innings in Dhaka with some sublime strokes down the ground against the pacers and swept to the fence authoritatively, either reversed or dealt with in orthodox fashion against the spinners before getting an edge to slip which was taken as he attempted to sweep extravagantly towards mid wicket. The unstoppable stopper, irremovable barrier, electric fence and successful national captain concluded 2011 with a humungous 2nd ball mighty six over long off against the slow left arm orthodox spin of Sunny to end 2011 as Pakistan’s 2nd joint leading run scorer with fellow middle order batsmen in Younis Khan. Misbah started 2012 just as he finished 2011 by notching up a patient, disciplined, preserving, resilient, determined, resolute half century which means that he has now got 50+ scores against ALL test playing nations raging from Australia right down to Bangladesh as he delivered the goods in his first test against England in the Gulf. Misbah has now featured in 10 test wins for Pakistan and 10 defeats in 32 tests and as a captain he has 7 wins in 13 tests with only 1 narrow defeat and had been undefeated for 8 tests in a row, winning 6 of them. Misbah is eyeing a 4th consecutive test series win for Pakistan now with Pakistan 1-0 up in the series against England after seizing the initiative and putting England on the trailing button in Dubai in emphatic fashion. Misbah needs 4 more international wins for 100 wins as Pakistan player overall across all 3 formats combined in less than 150 internationals which is a reflection of the calm influence his presence has in the side.

Shafiq 8/10: scored his maiden test century in Pakistan’s run feast in Chittagong and made a 40 odd in the next innings he got. As often has been the case in the 16 months he has been in the side he was dismissed out side the off stump whilst looking to hang the bat out there as Anderson’s outswinger gobbled him up in the first over with the 2nd new ball. Nevertheless as always he brings confidence and reliability in the field with his top notch catching credentials and athleticism in general which was evident in the 2 catches he held on to as England were rolled over in no time in the 3rd innings as Misbah ul Haq’s side tasted an overwhelming result.

Adnan 9/10: Adnan did not really get a chance to bat properly in Chittagong when Misbah ul Haq decided enough was enough with a lead of over 400, but made a half century, his first one at test level in Dhaka to provide the bowlers with a lead of 132 in a test match which they went on to win relatively comprehensively. Adnan played a vital role in Pakistan’s 10 wicket triumph over the world number 1 ranked test side at the Dubai Sports City when he compiled a crucial 60 odd. Adnan came into bat when the England bowlers had their tail up, were applying the pressure and really bending their backs as they smelled blood to reduce the Pakistani deficit to a minimal and manageable one, but he hung in there and toughed it out to overcome the 2nd new ball. The following morning Pakistan had a lead of 96 with 3 wickets in hand and Adnan was left with the tail. Studio experts such as Butcher and Willis were backing England to restrict the lead to 110-120 maximum, but Adnan spent valuable time at the middle and stretched the Pakistani lead to 146. His presence and stay at the crease resulted in frustration for the English batsmen who would have been looking forward to getting back in the pavilion and just focussing on batting better 2nd time around. His innings must have disturbed their mindset. Adnan held on to 7 catches behind the stumps and hardly put a foot wrong with the gloves.

Abdur Rehman 8/10: Underappreciated, underrated. Rehman was the leading wicket taker in Pakistan’s tour of Bangladesh with 11 scalps in 2tests as his slow arm spin troubled the Bangladeshis on the slow and wickets. His presence enables Ajmal to attack more and also pushes him to strive forthat extra mile knowing that he has another performing and dependable spinner in the team. Rehman produced some peaches with his left arm spinners in the 1st test at the DSC, particularly referring to the dismissal of Swann in the first innings which turned marginally to beat the bat and disturb the stumps.

Umar Gul 7/10: Gul collected 7 wickets in 2 tests in Bangladesh, but during the 3rd innings of the 2nd test the pacer claimed 2 wickets in successive deliveries in a short burst on day 4 just before tea as he removed Tamim with a bouncer and had Nafees LBW first up with one pitched up. In the first innings he produced an unplayable bouncer to Nafees in the same test which totally stunned him and denied him what would have been a well deserved 3 figure score. Although Gul went wicket less in the first innings at the DSC and was ineffective in his 2nd spell, his first 4 overs were rather tidy and he didn’t give much away. In the 3rd innings at the DSC the experienced seamer was on the money to strangle Cook and Strauss down the leg side, catch KP in a trap bowling short and provide the breakthrough of Trott just before he got to 50.

Aizaz Cheema 7/10: Cheema was extremely impressive in Dhaka where he troubled the Bangladeshis with swing and seam in overcast conditions and went on to pick up 6 in the match and 10 in the series with his fast medium pacers. Cheema strangled Trott down the leg side at the DSC and although he didn’t get any 2nd time around he looked threatening particularly to Strauss when sending down some probing lengths drawing the left hander into the stroke. With 21 wickets in 5 tests and a handful of more in LOIs Cheema has been a superb find as a late bloomer in the Pakistan ranks.

Saeed Ajmal 8/10: The 2011 New Road overseas star performer ended 2011 as the leading wicket taker in tests and got to exactly 50 scalpsafter picking up 9 in Bangladesh where he bowled well in patches, but wasn’t ruthless as he could have been, but fair play to the Bangladeshis who picked him reasonably well and also didn’t allow him to settle. Where do we start at the DSC? Ajmal was all over England like a rash to claim a match winning 10 for as the England batsmen were bowled out under 200 not once, but twice on a surface which aided batsmen. The hype he had generated was well justified as he spun webs around the English batsmen who were clueless and answerless to his variations in trajectories, lengths, flight, pace, angle, revs and turn. Saeed was named in the ESPN cricinfo team of the year for both ODIs and tests in 2011 and was the only one to feature in both teams which was a testimony to his performances and consistency for Pakistan in a magical 2011 where he bagged 89 international scalps for the green shirts. He started 2012 just where he finished 2011 and showed why he is regarded as the most threatening and best spinner in the world at the moment, in fact the best bowler in the world at the moment. Saeed has not only won fans like no tomorrow with his talent and game changing bowling displays, but with his comical interviews and million dollar smile. England will need to negotiate with him considerably better to stand any chance in this series as they didn’t see that one coming. Ajmal dominated and ripped England out and it wouldn’t surprise anyone whatsoever to see him going on to be MOTS here and also the leading series wicket taker. Saeed was simply in a different league to everyone else.

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