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October 1, 2009

Champions Trophy

An opportunity missed in the middle

Kamran Abbasi


Mohammad Asif's return gives Pakistan the option of playing an extra pace bowler © Getty Images
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Pakistan blew a golden opportunity to knock Australia out of this year's ICC Champions Trophy. Ricky Ponting's team is the one you don't want to meet in the final, a more important factor for me than the sentiment of battling India again.

As much as Pakistan beat India in the middle overs, with a wonderful partnership between Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Yousuf, it was the same middle overs that cost Pakistan this encounter. Younis Khan, in particular, broke the momentum of the innings, and Yousuf and Misbah-ul-Haq did not do enough to restore it. It was a deceptively difficult batting track but those unfocused middle overs meant Pakistan's impressive bowling attack was given just too much to do.

For me, the jury's still out on Yousuf, despite the volume of support he has received in previous blogs. Cricket lends itself to statistics but numbers alone are often deceptive. A successful batsman isn't simply one that records the highest volume of runs or achieves the best average, but somebody who makes the difference between defeat and victory, especially when the going gets tough. Yousuf, for all his excellence, has not been that batsman on enough occasions for Pakistan. Once he has, he can be rightly acknowledged alongside Javed Miandad and Inzamam-ul-Haq. The next two years will establish his position in the hall of fame.

Now Pakistan prepare for a semi-final against New Zealand, a pleasing outcome considering their outstanding record against the Kiwis in major tournaments. Pakistan will be confident that they have sufficient force to overwhelm New Zealand, although the toss could play a decisive factor and again favour the side bowling first.

It's hard to allow for such a lottery but Mohammad Asif's return gives Pakistan the option of playing an extra pace bowler. Asif started gingerly but reminded us why his star rose so quickly. Yes, his double-wicket over was a throwback to his first stab at international cricket. But his ability to combine a high delivery arm with a penetrating line and length make him the bowler he is and more than compensate for his low 80s pace. He misfired more than he usually would but the metronome was in sufficient evidence to encourage his captain and supporters.

The semi-final will offer a further opportunity to judge the health of Pakistan's middle order, especially if Pakistan bat first. If they do so, they might want to consider using their last batting Powerplay before the final five overs. Pakistan's strategy has long been built on an assualt in the final ten overs. Why not take the final Powerplay from the 40th over or even the 35th?

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Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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Posted by Faisal Wahab on (October 7, 2009, 19:17 GMT)

Pakistan lost the semi final against NZ due to team selection & some other reasons listed below: 1. Mohammad Asif should have played instead of Rana Naveed. Asif had a good match ag. the aussies, and he could have provided the good support to Mohammad Aamir. 2. Umar Gul should have bowled his overs from 35th onwards not after the 45th. The last match ag. the aussies proved that he was not having good rythm in the death overs. 3. Umar Akmal Lbw decision went against us. We required quick runs. A target of 265 was competitive on this pitch. 4. Winning the toss & batting was a brave decision of Younis Khan, my view is that all the matches played on this wicket before the semi final, team batting second won, except for one match in which india beat the West indies, so younis should have opted for fielding, becos his bowling deptt is much stronger than his batting one. Bowling under lights is very tough when target is between 4.00 & 4.50 per over.

Posted by srivathsan on (October 3, 2009, 8:27 GMT)

I agree with you on yusuf. But misbah is also equally dispensable. I feel pakistan deliberately let australia off the hook.How can you explain the scoreline when they could have easily got got atleast 60 runs more ? perhaps they wanted to avoid india getting qualified not because they did not want to but because of reaction back home in case they lose the match against india. But the reality is ,given the form, pakistan would have certainly beat india even if it played finals. Now the momentum is there & bowling has clicked very well & a little bit discipline in the fielding, pakistan will win the trophy.I WISH THE TEAM ALL THE BEST. YOUNIS KHAN HAS DONE VERY WELL & SHOULD AVOID MISTAKES COMMITTED AGAINST AUSTRALIA.

Posted by Billybob on (October 3, 2009, 3:45 GMT)

Pakistan vs Australia final If Pakistan bats first they will post a modest total but this time there will be no late inning charge from the Paki bowlers and Australia will win comfortably but 4 wickets. If Australia bats first expect a 300 plus total and Pakistan bowled out for around 200 in the 43rd over. Lets see how close my prediction gets.

Posted by awais on (October 3, 2009, 0:07 GMT)

i'm just simply delighted india are knocked out

Posted by Imran Khan on (October 2, 2009, 23:50 GMT)

I really feel they are wasting the talent of Umar Akmal by playing him so late, why dont play him one down, what is Younis Khan and Misbah doing in the middle wasting crucial overs, scoring 20 out of 60 balls thats so crazy. Look at India how they developed player like Tendulkar and Sehwag by letting them open even though both of them were not regular openers, come on Younis Khan grow up, be bold.

Posted by Imran Khan on (October 2, 2009, 23:49 GMT)

I really feel they are wasting the talent of Umar Akmal by playing him so late, why dont play him one down, what is Younis Khan and Misbah doing in the middle wasting crucial overs, scoring 20 out of 60 balls thats so crazy. Look at India how they developed player like Tendulkar and Sehwag by letting them open even though both of them were not regular openers, come on Younis Khan grow up, be bold.

Posted by rizwan on (October 2, 2009, 15:41 GMT)

For a brief passage of time i could feel the pakistan team of old when two w's would turn matches up side down through their sheer skill.but again a few stupid acts as is the bane of modern pakistan players made the difference in yhe end, i mean how could akmal throw with his gloves on. As far as criticism of yousuf is concerned i mean it seriously defies logic.younis khan scoring 15 of 50 balls is ok but yosuf scoring 40 odd runs of 60 balls is bad--what an assesment.If there was to be a criticism of pak batting it should be the way we are making a waste of umar akmal. hope common sense prevails on younis khan.

Posted by Miten on (October 2, 2009, 15:14 GMT)

Allow me to vent about some of the comments you have received on team selection and Afridi. It's true what I heard once about cricket in Asia that everyone has an opinion about which players to pick and which ones to drop. Everyone talks about Afridi and how much of a match winner he is. He is performing finally after not doing so for over 10 years! If he were Australian he would have been dropped after the the first few games for sure. It's unacceptable for a batting all-rounder (although he convenientlto put his strike rate before his team. How many times has he gotten out in the first over he has faced? A cricketing brain commands initial control until some measure of the bowler and pitch has been gained. He has been an irresponsible cricketer who never commanded a space in the team. Now that he is finally performing - whats the big deal in that? Yousuf should stick to test cricket only. The one day game requires adaptability and atheltic ability and Yousuf has neither of those.

Posted by Dr K Shah on (October 2, 2009, 14:55 GMT)

Pakistan has erred by letting Australia off the hook.I absolutely disagree with your views on Yousuf.It is Misbah who should be dropped and not Yousuf.It looks like Australia Pakistan final .

Posted by Zeeshan Ahmed on (October 2, 2009, 12:31 GMT)

For me I think Miandad is the best in Pakistan but Yousuf is near to him. I think after Miandad, Haq is no. 2 and then he is no. 3. Yousuf always has proved him. If someone say that he is not aggresive in one day than I can say that how his striking rate in one day is better than Haq. I think all three batsmen are like a jewels in batting.

Miandad played very difficult cricket in which he faced bowlers like Hadlee, Lillee, Marshall, Ambrose, Wills and many others. Hadlee played 11 test against him and took his wicket four times only. Marshall 3 times in 11 test, Ambrose 3 in 8 test, Lillee 4 in 14, Botham 3 times in 13 test, Walsh 3 in 11 test. Garner 1 in 4.

I think these are leading bowlers in test cricket but they all failed to get the wicket of Miandad at a better ratio.

Beside this fact, his batting average always more than 50 with three highest scores 280, 271 and 260 proving his concetration.

I think he is one of the best batsman that cricket ever produced.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. @KamranAbbasi

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