Plays of the day June 24, 2008

Why Shoaib Malik shouldn't open


A ride for two: Zain Abbas and Younis Khan are stretchered off © AFP
 

Why Shoaib Malik shouldn't open
The last time he opened Pakistan's innings was in Gwalior, against India on November 15, 2007. Salman Butt took first strike then and was out lbw second ball to RP Singh for a sifar (zero). Seven months later, Malik walked out once again with Butt. Malik's partner lasted three balls this time, out edging Afzaal Haider - for a sifar. The captain might want to give up opening aspirations for the sake of a young teammate.

Left-armed compliment
Pakistan's troubles against left-arm spinners are well-documented. From Vinoo Mankad to Ray Bright to Maninder Singh to Phil Edmonds to Nick Cook to Ashley Giles to Mohammad Rafique to Monty Panesar, Pakistan have always seemed to bat for the cause of the most unglamorous variety of spinners.

With that in mind, Hong Kong went with a smart strategy: packing their side with left-arm spinners, much like the Bangladesh side of not so long ago. Nadeem Ahmed, Najeeb Amar and Munir Dar gave away 120 runs in 27 overs, and Nadeem accounted for the wickets of Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Misbah-ul-Haq and Shahid Afridi.

Dodgy decision of the day
Nadeem, playing his second ODI, had everything going for him and looked good for a five-for when he finished his seventh over, his figures at the stage reading 7-1-33-4. But he was taken off at the end of the 28th over with Pakistan's score at 158 for 6, and brought back in the 43rd over. Sohail Tanvir and Fawad Alam had settled in by then, and got stuck into Nadeem in his ninth over, which went for 12 runs. Nadeem didn't get to bowl his 10th. Had he taken a fifth wicket, he would have become the first Hong Kong bowler to do so; in any case his 9-1-51-4 were the best bowling figures for Hong Kong.

Baptism by fire
This was the first international match - and the second first-class match - for Hong Kong's Irfan Ahmed, 18. And he got in the way of a Rawalpindi Mail intent to get off the blocks. Iftikhar Anjum got his first ball of the match to nip in sharply, beat Irfan's defenses, and end his innings in exactly one delivery. The bat had come down at an angle, and Anjum made sure Irfan would have enough time to ponder over the backswing.

Stretcher for two
In the 28th over of Hong Kong's innings, Zain Abbas tried to crack Shahid Afridi through the covers and caught a helmetless Younis Khan smack on the head. The ball rebounded and went into the covers. Zain, himself cramping and batting with a runner, had taken down a player.

A stretcher was called for - it wasn't clear whether for Zain or Younis - and Umar Gul, fielding at the boundary, hitched himself a ride to the centre. Both Younis and Zain decided to go off, and shared the ride out. Younis, though, came back after a few overs to bowl, and managed to take a wicket too.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo