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Sunday, July 25, 2010

How Pakistan scraped home in T2: an eyewitness account

Pakistan 258 & 7/180 (50.4 ov, Imran Farhat 67, Azhar Ali 51, B Hilfenhaus 3/39, D Bollinger 3/51) def Australia 88 and 349 by 3 wickets. T2 D3 at Headingley, Leeds. Series tied 1 all.

A friend of mine (a Yorkshire and England supporter) was at Headingley for the last day of the Test. Here's his report:

Just back from Headingley after a 2 1/2 round trip to watch an hour's worth of cricket..... decent cricket, mind you, and well worth the trip.

Hilfenhaus and Bollinger were on fire and, whilst Mitchell Johnson bowled well in his one-and-a-bit overs, if I'd have been Ponting, I'd have kept Bollinger on until the result was known. There would have been plenty of time to have a rest in the changing rooms this afternoon, whatever the result. The Aussies didn't give up and placed an attacking field with three slips, gully, point, short midwicket, mid-on, mid off..... only the fine leg was outside the "circle".

Bollinger had two decent lbw appeals turned down, a catch to point that could have carried (advantage batsman) and a slip catch where everyone in the East Stand heard the snick but the umpire didn't.

Had any of those gone for for the Baggy Greens, the outcome might have been more interesting - and when was the last time a team scoring 88 runs first went on to win a Test match?!

I can assure you that Pakistan were hanging on for grim death at the end and the relief amongst the players and the scant but partisan crown was plain for all to see.

The Aussies can feel proud following today's performance but what a shame the batsmen let them down so badly on day one.

So there were are.......for me Bollinger looks a class act - where's he been all this time - whilst Hilfenhaus looked solid and bowled well, too. Ponting, as ever, the master-captain. I would not write off Australia for the Ashes just yet.


Cricinfo Bulletin

Fox Sports Report with link to video highlights.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Nailbiting finish should be unlikely as Pakistan need 40 with 7 wickets in hand to win T2

Pakistan 258 & 3/140 (37 ov, Imran Farhat 67) need another 40 runs to beat Australia 88 and 349 (95.3 ov, S Smith 77, M Clarke 77, R Ponting 66, Mohammad Aamer 4/86): T2 D3 at Headingley, Leeds.

A fascinating day of Test cricket, with some limited over passages of play. What made it especially fascinating was that it was Pakistan, not Australia, who won most of the skirmishes. Victory is now within their reach: to grasp it they need to score 40 more runs without losing 7 wickets.

Ricky Ponting added only five to his overnight total and his departure for 66/116b (7x4) put Australia even further in strife at 3/144. While Michael Clarke looked sound neither Mike Hussey nor Marcus North lasted long against Mohammad Aamer, who again bowled beautifully. The vice-captain and Tim Paine wiped off the deficit and began to stir Australian fantasies, but at 217 Clarke was out for a commendable though in the circumstances - because a substantial century was needed from him - disappointing 77/143b (7x4). Tim Paine looked solid in making 33/84b (5x4) but he holed out to a short ball from Danish Kaniera when a fifty looked likely.

7/246 was palpably inadequate but fortunately Steve Smith chanced his arm and eye and led the lower order (tail is too patronising a term for them after their performances in this series) to 349 all out, leaving Pakistan to make 180.

Smith's 77/100b (9x4, 2x6) was an adaptation of his T20 style to Test cricket; He
didn't play and miss much but chose his balls to hit and hit them hard. Spectacular, and it brought Australia back into the match, maybe not to favouritism but certainly to competitiveness.

When they began the chase the Australian bowlers bowled with a good measure of fire but again lacked accuracy. Yet it was Shane Watson's dropping of Imran Farhat at first slip - the sort of thing often associated with Pakistan in a tight situation - which took some of the wind out of Australia's sails. Salman Butt fell to Ben Hilfenhaus but Farhat and Azhar Ali added 110 for the second wicket Doug Bollinger bowled Farhat and had Umar Amin caught behind for a duck.

1/137 to 3/140 in most other Pakistan Test innings would presage disaster, but when the total is only 180 and the Australian attack has toiled honestly but without a sharp edge I can't see how that could (or will) happen.


Cricinfo Bulletin (with clumsy headline "Pakistan close in on rare Aussie victory")

Fox Sports Report with link to video highlights,

Friday, July 23, 2010

Watson's bowling (again) & Ponting's batting keep Australia in match: T2D2

Australia 88 & 2/136 (41 ov, R Ponting 61*) trail Pakistan 258 (64.5 ov, S Watson 6/34) by 34 runs with 8 2nd innings wickets in hand. T2 D2 at Headingley, Leeds

Without Shane Watson's bowling Australia might have struggled to win the First Test and, after his 11-3-33-6 on D2, would be chasing a huge, as opposed to substantial Pakistan lead.

Even so Pakistan are still on top. They will remain so unless Ricky Ponting can build on his 61*/103 b (6x4) and, with support from his teammates, give Australia a lead of over 200. The match could still be over in three days.


Cricinfo Bulletin

Fox Sports Report with link to video highlights.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Australia batting folds as Pakistan bowlers exploit conditions: T2 D1

Pakistan 3/148 (39 ov) lead Australia 88 (33.1 ov) by 60 runs on first innings: T2/ D1 Headingley, Leeds

If you'd predicted before play started that one team would, after the first day's play in T2, have a lead of 60 with seven first innings wickets in hand almost everyone would have thought you were very wide of the mark (and the form guide), but that if it, or anything like it, did happen it would be Australia, not the supposedly dysfunctional Pakistan, in that position. Wrong.

The atmosphere was, as for the first few days at Lord's, conducive to swing bowling. The Pakistan bowlers exploited it well brilliantly. Simon Katich didn't reprise his Lord's anchorman role, nor did anyone else step into his shoes after he was first out at 20, what turned out to be the highest partnership of an Australian batting meltdown .

Mohammad Aamer 11-4 - 20 -3, Mohammad Amin 10.1 - 1- 30 -3 and Umar Gul 9-3-16-2 used the conditions most effectively ( and even part-timer Umar Amin chipped in with 1/7 from 2 overs) Their accuracy and movement troubled all the Australians, who looked collectively and individually out of sorts (and form).

There's no avoiding the unpalatable fact that the captain, vice-captain, Mr Cricket and the senior pro (Katich) were all out before lunch after contributing 19 between them.

6/73 at lunch was poor enough yet Mohammad Aamer snuffed out any hope of an Australian revival with the first two balls after the interval when he bowled Steve Smith and Mitchell Johnson (and wasn't far off claiming a hat trick with his third)

Pakistan didn't fall apart with the bat either, though the Australian bowling, apart from Shane Watson's two late wickets, lacked the accuracy and nip to keep them under pressure. While Pakistan has a reputation for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory it'll require a turnabout like the one six months ago at Sydney for Australia to win from here.


Cricinfo Bulletin

Fox Sports Report with link to video highlights.

Update 22 July (before start of D2 play)

Many commentators have made much of the fact that Ricky Ponting won the toss and chose to bat instead of putting Pakistan in. I haven't because, as far as I can tell from watching the highlights on Foxtel (confession: I went to bed soon after the Pakistan innings began), there wasn't much change in the conditions between the two innings, There may have been a liilte more sunshine but the fundamental truth is that the Pakistan bowlers bowled more accurately than did the Australians and reaped the rewards.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Australia North Pakistan south in T#1

Australia 253 and 334 beat Pakistan 148 and 289 (91.1 ov, Salman Butt 92, M North 6-55, S Smith 3-51) by 150 runs: T#1/2 D4 at Lord's Australia lead series 1-0.

A glance at the scorecard suggests a comfortable win for Australia, the Cricinfo Bulletin
described it as "massive", but I thought it was closer than either of those assessments.

Pakistan, led by Salman Butt's doughty 92/173b (15x4) and supported by solid performances from the top seven, with the exception of the captain whose crossbat swipe saw him well caught on the boundary for 2/4b, fought hard. Australia's front line bowlers didn't sweep all before them. After Ben Hilfenhaus removed Azhar Ali (whose ability I'd privately questioned) for a gutsy 42/87b (4x4) Tim Paine's stumping of Butt off Marcus North's first ball of the innings tipped the psychological balance in Australia's favour though Pakistan - or most of the team - didn't throw in the towel.

North, whose bowling role in the team has fluctuated between Hobson's choice spinner and occasional part-timer, became the unlikely destroyer with 6/55 from 18.1 overs (1m). His name will be added, along with Shane Watson's, to the Lord's honour board. That Shane Warne hasn't qualified shows the limitations (absurdity?) of judging players by performances at one ground. (North is now the third occasional/ part-time bowler in this team to take 6 wickets in a Test innings.)

Steve Smith, who'd taken the only wicket on D3, bowled a tidy spell. He doesn't spin the ball as much as Warnie but should keep improving. His 3/51 will probably have more long term benefits for Australian Test cricket though it was North who provided the generous margin of victory and perhaps (though this is drawing a long bow) even the victory itself.

A word about Ricky Ponting. Another poor match with the bat at Lord's (see comment above) but a good - very good - decision to opt to bowl North ahead of Smith.


Cricinfo Bulletin

Fox Sports report with link to video highlights.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pakistan batting keeps them in with a chance after Aust tail wags T1 D3

Pakistan 148 & 1/114 (37 ov, Salman Butt 58*) need 326 more runs to beat Australia 253 & 334 ( S Katich 83, B Hilfenhaus 56*,Umar Gul 4-61) T#1/2 D3 at Lord's.

Australia should win, but will they? A better second innings was founded on yet another underpinning by Simon Katich 83/174b (14x4) and the unexpected bonus of a maiden Test 50 (and highest first class score) by Ben Hilfenhaus 56*/84b (6x4, 1x6). Tim Paine compiled 47/85b (3x4) , while each of the other middle and lower order batters - Mitchell Johnson , Marcus North, Steve Smith and Doug Bollinger- reached double figures.

The sun came out so it's fair to say that conditions favoured batting, and it wasn't only Australia who benefited.

The Pakistan second innings batting to date has made their 440 - now 326 - target look not so much impossible (as history suggests) as unlikely. Salman Butt 58*/118b (9x4)is looking good (as he usually does) and solidly determined (as he often does). The first session on D4 will be very interesting. If the outcome of the match isn't pretty clear by lunch then Australia will be in trouble. Which isn't to say that they'll lose (only that I may have to stay up and watch more play).


Cricinfo Bulletin

Fox Sports report with link to video highlights.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Watson's bowling (not batting) gives Australia edge T2D2

Australia 253 (S Katich 80, M Hussey 56*, Mohammad Aamer 4/72) and 4/100 (29.3 ov, S Katich 49*) lead Pakistan 148 (40.5 ov, Salman Butt 63, S Watson 5/40) by 205 runs with 6 second inns wkts left: T#1/2 D2 at Lord's.

Shane Warne observed, a tad ruefully, from the TV commentary box that he'd never taken more than 4 wickets in an innings in a Lord's Test. He did give due credit to Shane Watson, nowadays billed as an opening bat who bowls a bit, for (my words) throwing away the script and demolishing the Pakistan middle order with 5/40 from 7.5 overs.

Only some stern resistance from Salman Butt 63/94b (12x4) and a characteristic T20 style 31/15b (4x4, 2x6) from captain Shahid Afridi (playing his first Test for 4 years) took Pakistan to 148 after Australia's last pair had taken the teams total to 253.

105 looked a very good lead in the situation, but the first two days been played in quintessentially English conditions, an irony which some of the players on each side would appreciate. Of course quintessentially English conditions aren't always present even in that country's high mid summer so if the sun really comes out, who knows what might happen. Not everyone would agree with the Fox Sports report headline "Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul keep Pakistan in Test with late wickets" but IMO it's not too far fetched.

Let's hope for a full day's play. If that happens the match could well be decided today.


Cricinfo Bulletin

Fox Sports report with link to video highlights.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pakistan gain edge as Tuesday Test starts

Australia 9/229 (70 ov, S Katich 80) v Pakistan, T1/2 D1 at Lord's

Security considerations have determined that Pakistan are the nominal home team for this two match series which began on Tuesday (is this the first time that a Test match - at least one involving Australia - has begun on that day of the week?)

To my surprise, the Pakistan bowlers generally bowled as if they'd played most of their cricket in England, so well did they use the conditions at Lord's after Shahid Afridi won the toss and
(as they say nowadays) "chose to field" .

Mohammad Aameer (18-2-66-3) and Mohammad Asif (17-5-53-3) kept Australia in check for much of the short day. The former took the crucial early wickets of Shane Watson and an out of sorts (by his standards) looking Ricky Ponting, while the latter broke the only substantial partnership on the stroke of tea when he had Michael Clarke lbw for a measured 47/77b (8x4). He followed up soon after the interval when he had Simon Katich caught behind for a characteristically gritty 80/138 (9x4) and then bowled Marcus North for a duck.

2/171 thus became 5/174, and it didn't improve as Umar Gul put Tim Paine out of his misery and Danish Kaneria removed Steven Smith and Mitchell Johnson, from both of whom good things with the bat had been expected, cheaply. Mike Hussey is hanging in there for 39*/75b (5x4, 1x6) but from this position even 250 would look a good score.

If the conditions continue to be bowler-friendly Australia may not be as perilously positioned as they appear to be at the moment. If the rain forecast for each of the next few days materialises then a draw can't be ruled out, either.


Cricinfo Bulletin.

Fox Sports report with link to video highlights.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Australia break duck at fourth attempt

Australia 5/290 (50 ov M Clarke 99*, R Ponting 92) def England 212 (42.4 ov, M Yardy 57, R Harris 5/32) by 78 runs; ODI#4/5 at The Oval, London: England lead series 3-1.

A return to form by Ricky Ponting 92/93b (10x4) and another good if unlucky knock from Michael Clarke who finished on 99*/106b (7x4) gave Australia what the Sky commentators rated a par score.

These experts were soon eating their opinions as England rarely looked like winning. Ryan Harris, after an indifferent match 3 only needed 8.4 overs to rip the guts out the England batting with 5/32: his third 5-for in his hitherto brief ODI career. Doug Bollinger and Shaun Tait supported him well, while Steven Smith and James Hopes (again) were relatively expensive. Smith did bowl Luke Wright with an impressive looking ball, albeit one which the commentators - with the benefit of Hawkeye, replays etc - correctly pointed did not spin a la Shane Warne.

After their narrow loss in match Australia looked as if they were beginning to match England. They are still, despite Ponting's presence, collectively well below standard of the Australian ODI sides of a decade, or even a few years, ago.

On the other hand England look good. They have won the series fair and square, their key players have generally performed well while the lesser lights, eg Michael Yardy in this game, have also chipped in. Can they make it 4-0? I'm not game to venture an opinion..


Fox Sports report with link to video highlights.