Friday, December 16, 2011

Pakistan versus England- A Series About Credibility

Fate often works in mysterious ways, and so it has been in the cricket World in relation to England and Pakistan. In the wake of the sad events, that drove a real chasm between  the two in England in 2010, the aftermath has seen the two become inextricably linked in so many manners


Manners, that have seen the English rise to the summit of the game, and Pakistan remain unbeaten throughout that same period. A game style embracing old style traditional cricket has been the basis of England's success, and then Pakistan has mimicked the same style with similar success. Then both have attracted labels in this period of glory. The moniker of 'fast track bullies' has been attached to England, and in regards to Pakistan, well most have just brushed them off as being 'bullies'. Citing them merely as beating up on the weak Teams to gain their current standing of respect with little or no pedigree shown against the very best.

Whether you see these tags as justified or just another typical case of tall poppy syndrome directed at both through jealous minds. You have to again applaud the lovely part that Fate has played between the two. As we wait with baited breath for a series between the two early in 2012, that will prove or disprove everything that is known and indeed unknown about the two Teams



So let us run the rule over both the Teams.


Pakistan

My Squad



The series is going to be played in the UAE, where it is likely to be a series involving attritional Test Cricket in batting friend conditions. Keeping this in mind, Pakistan already has a very accomplished and complete bowling attack with both pace and swing well stocked. Though they might need to reinforce their batting, that has performed very admirably against the weaker Teams, but against England's vaunted attack it will pose a real challenge for them. So my Squad would be as follows:


Batsmen: 


Misbah ul Huq (C), Taufeeq Umar, Mohammad Harfeez, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Asad Shafique, Umar Akmal, Usman Salahuddin

Wicket Keepers:



Adnan Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed

Pace Bowlers:



Umar Gul, Junaid Khan, Aizaz Cheema, Sadaf Hussain


Spinners:


Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Yasir Shah


Pakistans Strengths and Weaknesses


In watching Pakistan string together over a year of very impressive results, you would have to be 'blind Freddy' not to see the sincere strength in their bowling. The key characteristic of its might is its completeness in both pace and spin, and adding to the threat is the eclectic nature of the bowlers in both.


Just looking at their spin corps, that will excel on the dry and dusty UAE pitches. starting with Saeed Ajmal, you have in my mind undoubtedly the best spinner in World Cricket at present, and possessing arguably the most lethal ball in the game in his doosra.
This video shows him making a very good player of spin in Shivnarine Chanderpaul look very silly with his 'doosra'. 


WOWZER!- What a delivery!


Adding to his threat is the perfect partner for him in the left handed varieties of Abdur Rehman, and then the very refined off spin from Mohammad Harfeez. Both not too dusty either, when you look at their figures

Abdur Rehman: 2011 record, 32 wickets, average 25.90, economy rate 2.26 runs per over


Mohammad Harfeez: 2011 record: 15 wickets, average 23.60, economy rate 2.28 runs per over



Both combining real wicket taking threat with tight run saving bowling


The spin will be the highlight act of the attack, but do not be foolish enough to under estimate the pedigree of their pace bowlers. Headed by the big hearted Umar Gul, who has gained so much respect by leading the attack after the sad demise of both Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir.  His results of taking 29 wickets with an average of 25.41, while bowling in unforgiving conditions for a paceman shows his abilities.


In the left arm pace and superlative swing of Junaid Khan, the name of Mohammad Amir has been quickly forgotten with his pace, and masterful swing. Throw in the big hearted and strong as an ox Aizaz Cheema, and you see an attack that is reminiscent of its spin corp in having a lovely balance


The bowling, I have little doubt will give England's very accomplished batting line up a real shake up. Making the main question for Pakistan is whether its batting can withstand England's equally excellent bowling attack?


I am torn over whether over I have complete belief in the pedigree of its batting against real quality bowling. Which England will represent in abundance, and then throw in their exceptional fielding, and they strangle the life out of most batting line ups with their relentless onslaught of sincere pressure.

Just look at the real mess they made of India's vaunted batting line up recently

Assisting Pakistan in this quest is the likelihood of batting friendly conditions that will likely blunt England's pace battery.

The openers of Taufeeq and Mohammad Harfeez will hold the key for Pakistan in the series. In the respect that they need to shield the very decent middle order by taking the shine off the new ball, and giving good starts. Which of late they have given the Team starts of over 50 in 3 of their last 7 innings. Showing promise, but put in perspective by the weakness of both Sri Lanka's and Bangladesh's attacks. In the 4 Tests at the start of the year against New Zealand, and then the West Indies, they failed to post one opening partnership of over 50.

So the jury is out on them.

If they do have a good series, the results on the rest of the batting will be profound. For it will allow them to face the threatening spin of Graeme Swann with the likelihood of defensive fields, which duly eliminates a lot of ways he can dismiss them.



Subtle changes need to be made to the batting line up for this series. In respect to more attacking might being added to its line up of resoluteness. This in the view, that England with its tight bowling and A grade fielding will dry up the scoring rate in the sincerest manner putting extreme pressure on the batting.

Umar Akmal, after his exile from the Test team needs to be inserted at 5 in the line up to provide that attack player to excel with the stone wallers.

Also, the batting weak Adman Akmal in the Keepers role needs to be replaced by the more batting savvy Sarfraz Ahmed



If the batting can support the excellent bowling attack, then Pakistan has a very good chance in this series


Key Man: Younis Khan


The man known as YK is one of the best batsmen in World cricket. In 2011 he has averaged 87.50 with 2 centuries and 4 50's, and in this upcoming series if he bats as he can. It could be the decisive in making the batting perform at a level to support the expected excellence of its bowling. Duly giving Pakistan a great chance in this series.


England


Squad:


Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Chris Tremlett, Steven Finn, Ravi Bopara, Monty Panesar, Steven Davies


Class, Class, and more class in this squad. Then the name of Ravi Bopara is seen...........

Can anyone please explain to me why he is in the Squad, when there are so many better options like James Hildreth, James Taylor, Samit Patel, and even the very under appreciated all round talents of Chris Woakes.

Load of old Codswallop- I say!@#*#@$!



The Strengths and Weaknesses of England


The biggest question mark for England going into this series is their ability to adapt to the conditions adequately enough to win.


This is a question mark on both its batting and bowling in Asian conditions. The main query against the batting is their performance against spin. Which, when you look at past performances of the current English batsmen in Asia that thery is pretty much put to bed.



Andrew Strauss: 14 innings, average 41.00 (career average 41.98), and 3 centuries


Alistair Cook: 18 innings, average 57.75 (career average 49.72), and 4 centuries


Ian Bell: 25 innings, average 44.13 (career average 49.28), and 2 centuries


Kevin Pietersen: 25 innings, average 40.95 (career average 50.48), and 2 centuries


Jonathan Trott: 4 innings and an average of 34

Hardly figures that back up the belief that Englands batsmen will struggle in Asia, and then they do not include Eoin Morgan, who with his dancing feet, and unorthodox mannerisms will well and truly rankle most spinners. Then the excellent Matt Prior at 7, who has averaged 64.87 with 3 centuries in 2011, and the host of all rounders that follow him. Making England bat down to 10 in its line up!


This inspires hope, but then a little twirler by the name of Saeed Ajmal, and the rest of the excellent Pakistan attack sows the seeds of doubt. If Ajmal dominates as he can, and bamboozles the English with his lethal 'doosra', then the English batsmen might be in for an arduous tour. In the respect that the rest of the Pakistan attack will become all the more threatening by the pressure applied by Ajmal

Away from the batting, the bowling unit has yet to prove itself in Asian conditions. Unfairly labelled with the moniker of 'fast track bullies' of late, and until they perform in Asia that tag will remain.

Indeed this will decide the series, and a huge factor in success of failure for the English attack will be their two bowling spearheads in James Anderson and Graeme Swann. I have never been a fan of Anderson, but of late I will grant that he has improved a great deal with him showing in Australia that he isn't merely a bowler that only excels in England. Whether he can replicate this in Asian conditions is a huge query as his past performances there show

James Anderson: In Asia, 5 Tests, 12 wickets, average 45.41

In his defence, he last played in Asia in 2008, and since then he has improved in so many manners.

The off spinner Swann is another query because of his absence of a 'doosra', and without this against Pakistan's batsmen who have forgotten more about spin bowlers, than most others know. It will be a huge challenge for him to be a factor in the series. Also going against him is with the batting friendly confines that eliminates the conditions that England's pace battery thrive in. He might be faced with bowling against batsmen that are on top, rather than the usual benefit of him being supported in the wake of a blitz from the quicks.

I have a feeling that Swann might find the going tough, and though he won't get mauled, he will not represent the same wicket taking threat

The doubts on the two spearheads means more pressure will come on the rest of the English attack. Speaking of the likes of Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett. All of who have the class, and calibre to excel in all types of conditions

Meaning, that with the depth apparent in the English bowling stocks, that even if two of their main cylinders do not fire. There are plenty of others to take the starring role.

Key Man: Kevin Pietersen

In looking at this series, it makes me revert back to the mystique, and hold that Shane Warne had over batsmen. To a lesser extent, Saeed Ajmal has that similar air about him. So as in 05, when Pietersen showed the rest of the English batsmen that Warne can be mastered, I think he will be crucial in cooling Ajmals jets too in this series. Then with it, paving the way for the rest of the batting to dominate

Prediction

I am sold on Pakistan being a very decent side, and a Team that will give England real head aches in this series.

Whether or not they can take that a step further, and seriously threaten England with defeat, I very much doubt. In the view, that England is a very complete side full of sincerely classy players, that all have such belief in their pedigree, and also their team mates

So, I think tough tight games, but England to win 2/1

1 comment:

  1. This is a significant series for both. Pak needs to find out how they fare against the #1 Test team. England should look at it a preview for playing India in India.

    As you know too well bowlers win matches. It appears that Pak bowling in familiar conditions can fare better against English batters who are likely to struggle in alien conditions. That holds good for the Pak batting (in alien territory) against England bowling in familiar conditions.

    So India will be watching this series very keenly!

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