Pakistan cricket

Three reasons to support Pakistan in Sydney

Imagine never playing a home game. Touring the globe playing cricket would be a thrill for most of us but what about seven years on the road?

Pakistan has not played at home since 2009 and Australia hasn’t played there since 1998.

They look exhausted. Australia has already won the series and there seems little to play for? Aussie fans are predicting an easy win.

Three reasons to shout for Pakistan

  • Sun sets on two greats. Misbah and Younus. 42 and 39 years old. Probably their last tour to Australia and our last chance to see a memorable innings. Who remembers quality players like Javed Miandad and big Inzamam? Younus is just as good. He averages 52 from 114 Tests and has scored 33 tons. He is world class.
  • Where’s your empathy? Pakistan is plagued by conflict and bloodshed. The survival of elite cricket there is a great story. A little success might bring joy to some of the millions of peaceful families trying to survive the chaos brought by a few.
  • Flying your family from one country to another, rarely visiting home and never playing there. Earning less than one-sixth of what many Australian players earn. Look that might sound better than shoveling dirt on a hot day, but in context, that’s a tough gig. They’ve been on the road constantly since June 2016.

Get behind Pakistan.

Anyway, the Aussies need a good fight before their tour to India in March and five days cricket in Sydney is better than three, right?

Twenty Years of Hurt: Pakistan’s victory in the making

Cricket Froth’s more mature readers will remember the days when Australia toured Pakistan; a time before the 1992 ODI World Champions were forced to play their home series in an adopted country. Earlier this year Cricket Froth discussed Pakistan’s last Test series victory over Australia in the nostalgia of cricket in Pakistan. The crux of that article is recorded here:

“During the ’94 tour Pakistan won a nail biter by one wicket at Karachi with big performances from Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul-Haq and current England spin coach Mushtaq Ahmed.

In the following Test Saleem Malik scored a double tonne, which ensured a draw at Rawalpindi. Michael Slater, Damien Fleming, Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan excelled. During Pakistan’s epic 2nd innings every Australian player – except Ian Healy – had a bowl. Yes, even Mark Taylor and David Boon rolled the arm over. In fact, opening batsmen Taylor and Slater took wickets! The third Test at Lahore was also a draw. Pakistan won the series 1-0.

They had some good players. I imagine that tours there were extremely challenging, but equally rewarding. I think Australia’s last tour occurred in 1998, a 1-0 victory for Australia – Peshawar providing the scene for Mark Taylor’s 334 and a big series performance from Ijaz Ahmed and the introduction of youngster Shoaib Akhtar.

In a nostalgic and perhaps rose-tinted sense tours to Pakistan and the West Indies seemed to be the epitome of tough international Test Match cricket. It’s a massive loss that international cricket isn’t played in Pakistan and West Indies struggle from poor governance and administration, un-helped by the ICC and India’s selfish scheduling of T20 tournaments.

In Pakistan the instability and threat of violence means that cricket seems an impossible and a luxurious frivolity in comparison to the issues facing their people. I hope that cricket can return to Pakistan in the near future, because that will mean things have substantially improved.”

If Pakistan nullify Australia in Abu Dhabi they’ll score their first victory in 9 series played across 20 years against Australia. It would be momentous. But Michael Clarke’s men will resolve to prevent it. I expect a more dedicated performance from Australia’s batsmen. The toss will be critical, but not solely determinant.

Australia will need to attack at key moments and prevent Pakistan from reaching a defensible position. The hosts will take a draw. Australia’s spinners – I’m looking at you Nathan Lyon – must penetrate.

I have been a big supporter of Lyon, but his return in the 1st Test was a damning moment in his 36 Test career. Pakistan had scored 454 runs before Lyon took a wicket in the first innings. He finished with 2/148, which was 0/144 until Pakistan’s wicket keeper, Sarfraz, hit out on 109 and a tailender skied one to Rogers at point. He returned 0/72 from 18 overs in Pakistan’s declared second innings.

Pakistan’s spinners looked a million dollars. On debut Yasir Shah took 7/116 and Zulfiqar Babar, playing his 3rd Test, took 7/155 in the match. Shah looks the business, but leg spin is a tough art.

Abu Dhabi may not offer as much spin and there is a rumour Australia may drop Lyon or O’Keefe for a quicker option. “That demonstrates Australia’s confidence in their spinners [on spinning decks]” said a colleague. Mitchell Starc could become the third Mitchell in Australia’s XI (bizarre). Glenn Maxwell could be a late bolter (good player of spin) if Alex Doolan is cut. I’m not convinced of Maxwell’s ability as a top 6 Test batsmen, but Doolan needs runs to repel the criticism that he isn’t one either.

Who do you think? Post your comments here or fire away on Cricket Froth’s Facebook page.

 

A scoop of chips and the never ending summer: Pakistan v Australia and World Cup of cricket

The vital condiment of a great summer feast arrives today. An all out sensory assault begins with cricket poised to turn eyeballs into cherry red leather spheres by summer’s end. Six Tests, thousands of ODIs, the World Cup, the Sheffield Shield and the Big Bash.

Consuming the impending lavish buffet of cricket will be as satisfying as jamming down a fat scoop of chips with extra chicken salt, a fresh caught slice of Spanish mack and guzzling an ice cold West Australian pilsner. Position yourself on a hot breezy beach with a gentle wave and get laid out on the banana lounge with ABC Grandstand humming in the background. This show is about to take off.

Thousands of Australian club cricketers have been toiling away on dusty decks, flat tracks and moonscape minefields since August while State sides have been hacking away in the 50 over cup at North Sydney oval. The four semi-finalists rip in today; Tasmania v Sth Australia and Western Australia v Queensland.

But that’s only the entree. As regular readers know Cricket Froth’s main caper is Test Match cricket and this afternoon at 1600 QLD time Australia begin their two Test series v Pakistan at Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Pakistan’s momentous challenge will be overcoming the loss of Saeed Ajmal, their genius off-break marksman who averages 28 from 35 Tests. Ajmal – reported for a suspect action – leaves a gaping hole in Pakistan’s ability to defend and take 10 wickets. But an unpropitious Australia were defeated in the warm up match by slow bowling and the Aussie batsman will be forced to wade through molasses again as Pakistan’s curators work to negate Australia’s pace battery.

Brace yourself and prepare your partners, colleagues and bosses. This will be the biggest summer of cricket ever.

Graeme Smith retires, Australia on brink

Australia command proceedings in Cape Town and South Africa’s captain Graeme Smith has announced his retirement from international cricket.

Smith has had a brilliant career. He concludes having played 117 Test Matches averaging 48. He has been a solid opening bat, fearless leader and capable tactician. He has led South Africa to the top of the ICC Test Rankings. The Proteas haven’t lost a Test series since the 2008-09 southern summer.

Leadership duties may have taken their toll on Smith. He has been captain for 109 of those 117 Tests after being installed as the boss at just 22. Cape Town is his home ground and it’d be nice for him and his nation if he could craft a big score and save his side from defeat.

Australia on the brink of victory at Cape Town?

Australia can beat the number 1 side at home. Two days remain in the 3rd and final Test. Bar miracles, the hosts cannot win. Let’s face it they’re a bowler down with Dale Steyn injured. Unless Morne Morkel rips through Australia’s second innings tonight in a bout of absolute ferocious mayhem and South Africa’s batsmen tear down what would be at least 300-350 runs, then a draw is their only hope for salvation.

Australia lead by 234 runs with 10 2nd innings wickets in hand. They’ll bat aggressively tonight. Michael Clarke will go for the kill by declaring in due time for his bowlers to rip into the Proteas. They’ll have 4 or 5 sessions to survive the onslaught.

And what an onslaught it will be. During the first two sessions on day 3 Australia’s bowlers routed South Africa’s world class top order. Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson took 7 wickets with precision and persistent hostility.

Don’t touch the ball!

At one point shortly after lunch yesterday du Plessis blocked one away near his feet. He politely picked up the ball and threw it back to the bowler. A half dozen Australian fielders frantically swooped delivering a chorus of tirades.

“Don’t you dare touch the f****** ball” was the gist. For 30+ years Australian Test teams do not permit opposition batsmen to touch their ball. Some might call this unreasonable or unbecoming of gentlemen, but it is deeply psychological and Test cricket is psychological warfare. Arguably their ball policy contributes to an arsenal of weapons, which are strategically deployed to grind opponents into dust.

A toilet break

Until last night I have never ever seen a batsmen leave the field of play on an unscheduled break, let alone in the middle of an over, to go to the toilet. I didn’t think it was permitted, especially 15min into play after a 40min lunch break. Faf du Plessis crabbed off and left everyone standing about the middle hands-on-hips for 5mins. The stump mics were quickly turned down by the broadcaster when du Plessis returned to another spray (no pun intended) which Supersport commentator Mike Haysman described as “colourful”.

Bowled out

The sharp needling continued. A short time later Mitchell Johnson snicked out AB de Villiers. JP Duminy didn’t last long, but Philander batted well with du Plessis.

Nathan Lyon had a right to be aggrieved twice when Brad Haddin missed stumping du Plessis and Alex Doolan failed to take a catch at bat pad 2 balls later. The canny du Plessis-Philander partnership amassed 95. The Proteas did not evade the follow on target of 294, but they did successfully exceed the limit within which Michael Clarke would have enforced it. I think that was around 220. South Africa were eventually bowled out for 287.

Conclusions

Australia will go for the win. Of that there can be no doubt. Michael Clarke is an aggressive captain and they’re desperate for success after a mostly tumultuous 2012 and 13. If South Africa can drill into the Aussie top order early this evening it will deepen interest in all three outcomes. Australia has proved it can collapse like a straw house in Cyclone Yasi. For this reason I expect stoic batting at first and then a canter for quick runs and a wave from the pavilion.

Graeme Smith will begin his last innings at some point today. For cricket’s sake I hope he is able to manufacture a memorable finale.

Welcome to Cape Town: best ground in the world?

Newlands at Cape Town is a firm candidate for the best ground in world cricket. On Saturday it hosts one of the most anticipated Test matches in a decade. Aside from the rife speculation about the teams, I am utterly engrossed in this monumental contest and cannot wait to see if the Aussies can bounce back from being razed by South Africa.

I’ll probably harm my own performance in club cricket by staying up very late watching every ball. But any self respecting cricket nut cannot miss this. The series is level at 1-1 and South Africa clench the ascendency. They battered Australia at Port Elizabeth.

South Africa’s batting was supreme whereas Australia’s middle order didn’t turn up. They fell to pieces in the 4th innings chase of 449. At 1/150 they were a slight chance, but the loss of 9 wickets for 68 runs brought them to their knees. South Africa beheaded them with ruthless conviction. The Proteas executed them a bowler short too. Wayne Parnell tore a muscle and was unable to bowl. On a feather bed wicket suited more to patient batting than blast-em-to-pieces fast bowling, Australia’s brittle order was shredded by Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and part-time spinners.

Openers Warner and Rogers made 173 of the 2nd innings 216. That’s frightening. Rolled for 216 coupled with a first innings failure of 246, it’s clear the batting needs to improve. But, so does the bowling.

Ryan Harris looked absolutely knackered and Johnson was unable to kill people on the slow wicket. Nathan Lyon bowled a thousand overs and without a fourth seamer the Aussies had to “unleash” David Warner’s lollipops.

Tampered ball?

David Warner has suggested that South Africa inappropriately handled the ball. More specifically he referred to the way wicket-keeper AB deVilliers “wiped” the rough side of the ball with his gloves. The implication is that the Proteas deliberately scuffed up the rough side of the Kookaburra to induce more swing. South African officials rubbished Warner’s claims. Coach Russell Domingo stated that Warner’s “disappointing” remarks had “added an extra 10 per cent motivation to the [South African] guys”.

Team Changes

For me Shane Watson must replace Shaun Marsh and bat at 6. Marsh has 6 ducks in 11 innings. Four from years ago, but a pair at Port Elizabeth. Alex Doolan stays because Australia must procure a proper number 3. Ryan Harris misses out for James Pattinson. Harris is brilliant, but needs a rest and Pattinson can become a superstar. He is that good.

The hosts need to replace Parnell and might go back to Ryan McClaren who was concussed by Johnson in the first Test. They might also go for Kyle Abbot who destroyed Pakistan last year in his only Test.

Newlands the greatest

I elevate Newlands as the most spectacular ground in world cricket because of its sheer beauty. To watch a Test there is a dream of mine. I have experienced Australian grounds. I’ve seen Tests at Lords, Kensington Oval and Queen’s Park in Barbados and Trinidad. Newlands would eclipse them all. Tabletop Mountain provides a stunning canvass and classic stands lead to grassy hills shaded by huge trees. Don’t miss the stunning scenery or the sparkling cricket.

Chasing status: The Pursuit at Port Elizabeth

As I write South Africa have finally declared at St George’s Park. Their lead is 447. Australia’s task is mammoth. The Aussies have never scored more than 406 in the fourth innings of a Test match.

The Australian top order failed in their first innings. The bottom 3 scored more runs than 3 of the top 4. If that trend is repeated then South Africa will defeat them and level the series 1 each. The Aussies need a a record breaking performance to win. If weather doesn’t disrupt this chase then surely a draw is off the table. 165 overs remain. Australia either score the runs or South Africa will bowl them out.

The hosts will be desperate for success. Their bowlers will send down missiles either side of lunch with the new rock, but the wicket is tame and the Proteas’ fourth seamer Wayne Parnell looks unfit to bowl. If Chris Rogers and David Warner get through then there are runs to harvest in the sunshine. Michael Holding compared the pitch to the Recreation Ground in Antigua, a feather bed run paradise. Both sides are a chance so it’ll be a great finish whatever the result.

THE CAT! Did anyone see the cat yesterday? It ran on the pitch, tore through the area between fine leg and 3rd man, leapt about in a rage of wicked joy and took off over the fence. I’ve seen dogs and a pig (alas), but never a cat at the cricket. I suppose there have been a few decent birds in the crowd…

How good is AB de Villiers!

Abraham Benjamin de Villiers is the best batsmen in world cricket. AB has reached at least 50 in his last 12 Test matches. The guy is an enigma, averaging just shy of 52 from 90 Tests. And he’s a wicket keeper and only 30 years old.

The accomplished right hander finished unbeaten – again – overnight. His 51 not contributes nearly a quarter of South Africa’s 5/214 at stumps. An intriguing battle with Nathan Lyon framed the start of his innings. He couldn’t score a run, testament to a well set field and tight bowling. AB navigated the tense exchange. If he bats for another session or two the Proteas will post a solid total. On this feather bed deck I reckon they need about 350 to squeeze the Aussies.

Australia’s batting can be brittle. ABC Grandstand’s Jim Maxwell indicated it’s about time they suffered a collapse that even Brad Haddin and the tail can’t escape. I think he’s right.

The pitch requires graft from batsmen and toil from bowlers. Discipline and patience the keys for batsman. Persistence and execution of sage plans by bowlers and fielding captains the ingredients for wickets. It’s not the sort of surface for blasting out batters with jaw shattering pace, but don’t rule this out. The bowlers on show are the best.

All eyes will be on Vernon Philander when the Saffers bowl. It was like when McGrath stood on the ball and rolled his ankle before the 2nd Test at Edgbaston in 2005. Philander strained a ham string. Distraught with panic the Proteas replaced him with Rory Klienvelt on the team sheet, only for big Vernon to express to his captain he was fine. The change was reversed. If this Test is anything like Birmingham 2005 then I shall need a defibrillator on hand.

@Cricket_Froth