Sunday, February 27, 2011

WorldCup Match Reviews (Part 2)


The WorldCup had life breathed in it today; courtesy a scintillating and nerve-wrecking game between the two subcontinental cricket giants, Sri lanka and Pakistan. The game can deservingly be labeled as the 'match-of-the-tournament', at least so far as it had got everything that makes up a classic ODI encounter - speedy starts, interesting middle overs, moments of sheer brilliance and a close finish.

Pakistan: 277/7 (50 overs) ---  Misbah-ul-Haq 83*, Younis Khan 72 --- Rangna Herath 2-46
Sri Lanka: 266/9 (50 overs) --- Chamara Silva 57, Kumara Sangakara 49 --- Shahid Afridi 4-36

Match Rating: ********** 

Shot of the Match: Hafeez's down-on-one-knee six off Kulasekra. It was an exquisite, wristy shot as Hafeez trusted the strength of Kulasekra - inswingers, and played it superbly just in front of the square leg region and into the stands. It was high and handsome, literally.

Delivery of the Match: The match was delicately poised as the two star-performers for the Lankans, Sanga and Mahela, were trying to snatch the advantage. In comes Akhter, limping and sweating, after a short respite from his opening spell. No one gives a thought to him, after all, he is well past his prime. But what he came up with is an absolute beauty of an off-cutter to send Mahela packing. It wasn't at all slow as it snaked in through Mahela's defenses and pegged back the middle stump. Suddenly, the Rawalpindi Express of '99 steamed across the Premadasa.

Catch of the Match: There was a lot of great ground fielding on display today, coupled with a few botched up fielding attempts and catches but a spectacular catch was missing. However, comparatively speaking, Umar Akmal's pouching at long-on to dismiss Kulasekara was the most difficult catch of the match. He had to run backwards with the bowl and grab it past his head, meanwhile, evading the boundary skirting.

Runout of the Match: There was only a single runout in the game and it was utter comedy. Hafeez played a sweep shot straight to Herath at fine leg and had no idea that Kamran Akmal was charging in to his end for a single. He didn't move as Herath threw to Sanga and Sanga in turn threw a wayward throw over the head of the bowler, Murlitharan. Kamran was moving towards the pavilion as Hafeez had a wild idea that he could make it to the other end before the bails were dislodged there, but had to give up the hope as Jaywardene had the presence of mind to flick an easy throw at the bowler's end, effectively putting an end to the drama. 

Innings of the Match: Misbah-ul-Haq has come to this WorldCup with a purpose, knowing that this might be the only WorldCup he plays for his country an he gave a glimpse of his stacks of experience and sense of purpose in his tranquil-until-the-end innings of 83* from 91 deliveries as he, along with Younis Khan placed Pakistan's innings right on track. He milked singles and doubles until the very end when a barrage of boundaries saw Pakistan to a competitive total after a poor batting powerplay. It is a pity that a guy like him is yet to notch up an ODI hundred.
Bowling Spell of the Match: Once again Shahid Afridi steals the show with a masterful and doubtlessly match-winning spell of 4-36 from his quota of overs which choked the runs as well as gave crucial breakthroughs. His lengths and lines were superb throughout the spell as he stunned the packed house at the Premadasa and the Sri Lankan team on four crucial junctures in the game.

Partnership of the Match: Not many contenders here as the 108-run 4th wicket stand between Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq comes out as a winner. The old heads of the Pakistani camp came together to steer Pakistan's swaying ship out of troubled waters with innovation, deftness and audacity. The two saw Pakistan through the crucial middle overs with no further damage, meanwhile, keeping the scoreboard ticking with the minimum of risk at just under a run-a-ball.

Disappointment of the Match: The abysmal fielding performance put up by Pakistan near the end. Despite being above average in most of the match, Pakistan fieldsmen dropped their nerve as the game bacame a bit tense. Kamran Akmal gave Kumara Sangakara two lives in the shape of missed stumpings, Abdur Rehman dropped a sitter of a catch which shook Chamara Silva out of his slumber as he threatened to take the game away from the Green Shirts, Ahmad Shahzad made a mess of a relay throw to Umar Akmal and not to mention the many missed runout chances. Pakistan really has to up their fielding standards for crunch games as sometimes a messed-up catch is all that draws the margin between victory and defeat. 

Though after the Match: What good is the UDRS without a Snicko and a Hot-Spot camera? 

The Match in Photos: 

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Game of Group A?

Pakistan and Sri Lanka are a pair of less celebrated rivals in the game of cricket but when the two come out onto the field, there is a certain electrification to the atmosphere that is unique only to a Pakistan vs. Sri Lanka game.

Many label Saturday’s encounter as the ‘The Game of Group A’, partly because of the fact that these teams are very accustomed to each other and the conditions and are on level terms in the recent past; of the 16 ODIs played between these two since 2006, each side have won 8.

Pakistan can be labeled as Sri Lanka’s true nemesis in terms of destroying their ‘unorthodox factor’; they are the ones that give the least wickets to their most successful bowler, Murlitharan, they are the ones that often take Malinga to the cleaners, they are the ones who, first, pulled the cloak of obscurity off the mystery-man Mendis, in short Pakistan thrives against the unorthodoxy of the Lankans but falls to their quotidian.

Of the 120 times the two faced since 1975, Pakistan won 70 of the encounters and Sri Lanka remained successful in 46 of them (1 was tie and 3 were No Result) and of the 6 times they met at the WorldCup, Pakistan stood victorious in all of them. However stats mean little when you are playing in front of your fervent home crowd and the noisy support can be something that has the potential to really extract the best out of you.

Meanwhile, R Premadasa, the intimidating stadium in the South is ready to be a battlefield; witness to the clash of the two subcontinental titans. Blood will not be spilled but the ferocity, alone, will be enough to keep your heart hammering against your chest. Sri Lanka is gearing up to it, Pakistan is bubbling with excitement and one can only hope that the game is worth the hype. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

WorldCup Match Reviews


The beautiful Mahinda Rajpaksa stadium was the starting point of Pakistan's 2011 WC journey with a match against the lowly Kenya and barring a few hiccups early-on it came out as a one-sided affair.

Pakistan: 317/7 (50 overs) --- Umar Akmal 71, Misbah-ul-Haq 65 --- TM Odoyo 3-41
Kenya: 112/10 (33.1 overs) --- CO Obuya 47, SR Waters 17 --- Shahid Afridi 5-16

Match Rating: ********** 

Shot of the Match: Misbah-ul-Haq's towering, straight six off Tikolo to open up his account. It really was something special because the boundaries at the MRICS are fairly big, with the distance down to the straight boundary a shade above 90 meters.

Catch of the Match: Without doubt, Seren Waters' blinder at midwicket. Hafeez was trying to break the shackles after a sluggish start and in doing so clipped a freebie off his pads to the leg-side only slightly aerially but it was enough for the electric Waters to get a hand on as he dived to his left. He juggled the take when he made contact with the ground but in the end was successful in clinging on to it.

Runout of the Match: Umar Akmal's effort to send Waters packing just as he was beginning to settle. It was all about anticipation as Waters had stolen a slightly similar single the previous over but this time around as he dabbed to the short mid-on region, the speedy Umar was up to the challenge and flashed across to grab the ball and hit the stumps with a neat under-arm as Waters struggled yards from the popping crease.

Innings of the Match: Umar Akmal's blistering 71-off-52 as he took the Kenyan bowlers to the cleaners, especially in the Powerplay overs as, largely through his contributions, Pakistan plundered 70 runs from it. Negating the difficulties he faced early on in finding the boundaries, he looked much like the Umar Akmal we know, flamboyant, graceful and innovative.

Bowling Spell of the Match: Not many contenders here as Shahid Afridi steals the accolades with his masterful spell of 5-16 from 8 overs which cut through the Kenyan resistance like warm knife through butter. A bamboozling array of quicker ones, googlies and sliders proved too much for the fragile Kenyan batting lineup to take. These were also the best bowling figures for a captain in WorldCup matches.

Partnership of the Match: The 118-run stand between Misbah and Umar was by far the biggest spike on the partnerships' graph for the game. Add to it the fact that it came at a more-then-healthy 8.96 rpo and you don't need to look any further for partnership of the match. It really was the propulsion that Pakistan required to get past 300 after the stuttering start to their innings. This partnership was also the biggest 5th-wicket stand for Pakistan at WorldCups.

Disappointment of the Match: The sheer amount of extras; 46 of them with a record number of wides (36). I think the Kenyan bowlers really have to really work on their discipline; there were a lot of instances when the bowler sprayed down the legside for 5-wides, even the only hattrick bowl of the match!

Though after the Match: Why the hell did Afghanistan didn't qualify if the likes of Kenya did?

The Match in Photos:

WorldCup Match Reviews will only cover matches involving Pakistan apart from the Quarters, Semis and the Finale. 
Images (c) GettyImages and AFP. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Road to the WorldCup (Part 3)

Another Bright Prospect for Pakistan??

Pakistan Cricket is known throughout the World for churning out raw talent onto grand stages and getting the best out of it. May it be the swashbuckling Inzi of '92 or the canny little Mohammad Aamer of '09. 
Pakistan, especially, has a way of producing talented fast bowlers that no other country can parallel; the streets. With a minimal of effort, the nation gets the finest and speediest of mavericks that set any and every stage ablaze when they are on song.
A rising star among this newest crop of fast bowlers, consisting of  the likes of the tainted-yet-talented Aamer and the belligerent Wahab, is the Matra (A town in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) born left arm seamer Junaid Khan. He had been on the selector's radar for quiet some time with his impressive performances in First Class games. He claimed 167 scalps in the 35 matches he played with the his first class side, Abbotabad. That puts it to almost 4.7 wickets a match which is at par with Aamer's average of 4.3 (from 20 games). Well there is no way of comparing the 'reflection' of Wasim Akram [sic; commentators and cricket pundits] with a young guy who has yet to make his mark on the international stage but what I am trying to point out is that this guy here is of an aggressive mentality and would definitely be of great asset to our side's new ball attack amidst the absence of M. Aamer.
The selectors got this point, albeit a bit late, when they announced that Junaid was to replace the unfit (& useless) Sohail Tanvir just as the WC clock struck 11. It came as a surprise to all - here is this unheard-of cricketer who gets a chance to debut on the glittering stage of the cricket extravaganza with no prior practice apart from a bunch of domestic games. His selection news spread as wildfire among the online and 'offline' cricketing circles of Pakistan. His bowling videos got madly sought after. His Cricinfo profile got 2k+ likes in a week (more than that of Abdul Razzaq, Shoaib Akhter and Younis Khan!!). He has got the cricket lovers in Pakistan crazy...but what for?
Well the closest I can get to answer this question is that the cricket lovers in Pakistan are desperately looking for a fast bowler to fill the gaping void left by the sudden departure of Aamer. He had such an uplifting levity to his character and such boyish charm that people loved watching the lad have a go at the best in business (Clarke, Ponting, Tendulkar and likes). He had also been such a talented, precocious player that at the tender age of 17, he looked a Wasim Akram reincarnate on the field. And thus his loss had left an average cricket-follower in Pakistan dumbfounded. In comes, Junaid Khan. Who? A left arm pacer. Talent? Full to the brim. Pace? Excellent. Atleast I got a feeling of déjà vu when I came to hear about him. To me he is to be and has to be capable of delivering Aamer-esque performances. And I bet that many Pakistan cricket followers won't differ with me here.

So now just analyze this talk of the town a bit...
But first lets have a look at him bowling in the recently concluded Faysal Bank T20 Cup 2010.

Action: Well as far as one can analyze from the videos an images...(after noticing the fact that his action is 99% like Wayne Parnell's; Click to Enlarge)

    • His elbow is prone to hyper-extension, much like Shoaib Akhter, which can be a problem because umpires and opposition batsmen can report him for chucking (albeit erroneously). But let me tell you people that it may look weird but it isn't chucking at all because chucking occurs when the elbow is bent when delivering the cricket ball but in Junaid's case it is just extended beyond its natural stopping point and not bent. To support my fact here, I have quoted Wiki...
In a recent report by scientists commissioned by the ICC under the watch of the former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding, it was shown that Pakistani bowler Shoaib Akhtar and Indian bowler R. P. Singh were seen to extend their elbow joints by a negative angle with respect to the upper arm. This phenomenon, also known as hyperextension, can give the illusion of throwing. However, in the report it was seen that R. P. Singh maintained this negative angle throughout his delivery stride, while Akhtar sometimes bowled a quicker delivery by flexing this hyperextension. The actions are not considered to be chucking as they are exacerbated by a congenital condition. The prevailing judgement is that as long as the hyperextension does not exceed 15 degrees while bowling it is permitted. - Wikipedia  
    • His front knee gets bent in delivery stride, much like Wayne Parnell, which reduces the height he delivers the ball from and can curtail his effectiveness in extracting bounce.
    • Run-up is good and hurried.
    • He has a slightly side-on action with a quick turning and bending of the trunk which can put some stress on his back.
    • His right hands stops obscuring the ball a bit too early. This would bestow upon the batsmen precious time to read him beforehand.
    • Furthermore his right arm just stays bent during the delivery stride and doesn't complete a good circle which can greatly affect his pace because the revolution of the non-bowling arm can create a moment about the pelvic region that can speed up his bowling arm.
Pace: Well I predict it to be between 135-145 kph.
Movement: Well as far as I can see he can move the ball away from the right handers and get it in for the left handers, much like Aamer. But if he gets a bit closer to the wicket then he can have the added benefit of getting the ball into the right handers as well.

Well, thankfully, there is not a lot to worry about  here because he will have legendary players like Waqar, Shoaib and Aaqib around to help him. All that remains in question is that will he live up to the monstrous expectations from him?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Road to WorldCup (Part 2)

6 Reasons to Watch it...

  1. The WorldCup is in Asia after nearly 15 years and WC matches in the subcontinent are known to be high-scoring and thrilling, thanks to the dead plasticine pitches we have here. Add to it the fervor and enthusiasm that Asian supporters bring with them in the stadiums and you have a recipe for a dazzling WorldCup.
  2. The batting Powerplay. Yes it is the talk of the town because it is the first time that these restrictions would be applied in WC matches. So always remember to hold on to your seat, folks, whenever a batting Powerplay is underway because this is the point when, more often than not, the outcome of the match is decided. And yes, sometimes you will get a whole lot more than you deserve for your money and time.
  3. The home teams are in superb nick. Sri Lanka have thrashed the Aussies down under, Pakistan have taken series against England and South Africa down to the wire (before winning an away series in New Zealand), Bangladesh is resurgent with a clean sweep of New Zealand and India, the highest ranked Asian side, is in after an exhilarating tour of South Africa. So people in the subcontinent, are you ready to take up fervent support for your side?
  4. There is a lot of new, promising talent on show, talent that might have proved its mettle elsewhere but is yet to make its mark on the grandest stage of them all. Will the prodigy Umar Akmal make this WorldCup memorable for him and Pakistan? Will the bulky John Hastings do for Australia what Nathan Bracken did in 2007? Will the agile and ever-ready Martin Guptill continue his purple patch and light this WorldCup with his excellent strokeplay? Will the calmness and equanimity of Hashim Amla take South Africa to their first ever world cup finals? Will the talented Virat Kohli wash away the mark of unprofessionalism stamped upon him by his critics? Will the inscrutable (for most) Ajantha Mendis conjure his previous magic? Will the revitalizing Shakib Al-Hassan do what Bangladeshis have only dreamt of achieving? Will the masterful Coventry be able kick start the snoozing Zimbabweans? Will Darren Sammy utilize his all-round prowess to wave the West-Indian flag at its former, glorious position? All will become evident in this WorldCup.
  5. At the same time many stars are at the twilight of their careers and this WorldCup might be the last stage they set on fire with their performances. Will the maverick Shoaib Akhter convert his long-standing dream of winning the WorldCup to reality? Will the surreptitious Mutiah Murlitharan have his last laugh in Sri Lankan colors after sealing the team's victory at Mumbai? Will the master-blaster Sachin Tendulkar torment bowlers right through to the final for one last time? Will the canny, bespectacled Daniel Vettori take his meek and struggling side right through to the Golden Cup? Will the pacy Brett Lee dazzle with his unplayable 160 kph screamers right till the curtain falls on Eden Gardens? Will the sage of South Africa, Kallis, engineer a remarkable, long-in-wait WorldCup victory with his calm demeanor and bucket-loads of experience? Follow this WorldCup to find out.
  6. On a less serious note, just to see the sides in their new kits. A person gets bored with monotonousness and a change is always welcomed. :)

Road to the WorldCup (Part 1)

The Schedule & Format

This World Cup has been subject to widespread criticism from the cricketing circles due to its length. It spans for 45 days with only groups, quarters, semis, and the final (no super Stages). But then again periods of respite are good for the players as they can overcome their niggles and set along afresh for the next match(es).

I personally believe that the World Cup has to have a pre-tournament knockout round for the minnows, the best should survive as spectators find nothing interesting in one sided matches featuring the lesser, uncompetitive teams. A fact to mention here is that each group has a healthy dose of the minnows; three in each - this unnecessarily lengthens the tournament and does nothing else.

ICC has returned to its 2003 WC policy of two big groups with four qualifiers from each. it is good because barring any hiccups, the top teams are almost guaranteed progression to the next stage.

Groups seem pretty even when you first look at them but it is not the case when you peer into the depths. Group A is by far the more easier because the top four teams in this group are number 1 (Australia), 3 (Sri Lanka), 6 (Pakistan) and 7 (New Zealand) on the ICC ODI Ratings. While in Group B the top four teams are number 2 (India), 4 (South Africa), 5 (England) and 8 (Bangladesh), add to it a topping of number 9 (West Indies) who are not minnows in any sort of way and number 10 (Ireland) who have shown in the 2007 WC what they are capable of. So you can see that it is difficult tor predict the fourth qualifier from Group B, it can be Bangladesh, West Indies or even Ireland! But in the case of Group A, negating any upsets, the front-runners are clear.

Now lets have a peek at the schedule for the World Cup 2011...


As you see, each team will play six matches in the initial, group stages. The top four teams from each group will advance to the quarters - playing for the the two semifinal berths. The two teams standing victorious in the semifinal clashes will march on into the Final at the Eden Gardens on April 2nd.
The above images are screen-shots from Cricinfo's website and are their property. I just edited them.