Gul lasers Aussies
Geoff Boycott described T20 as a game of luck - and it might be the luckiest of cricket's formats - but Pakistan, Australia, and England would beg to differ. Australia and England have both applied a new approach to their T20 thinking that has delivered success in recent months.
Australia have opted for a pace blitz, turning a batsman's thrash into a test of reflexes, while England have added aggression and top-order blasters to their cricket. Pakistan, meanwhile, have enjoyed continuous success by relying on their wicket-taking bowlers to pull them out of any situation. These are not strokes of fortune, they are deliberate strategies.
Pakistan's escape from Australian dominance is a welcome start to a crucial summer. Ecstatic, packed crowds at Edgbaston demonstrated the potential of England as a temporary home venue for Pakistan cricket. Even pindrop silence at every Aussie triumph--though Pakistan fans might learn some generosity from their English hosts--and a couple of dodgy umpiring decisions were a reminder of home comforts.
Australia had both matches within their grasp but the difference between this Pakistan and the one that relinquished its T20 crown in the Caribbean was simply one man. Umar Gul has become the supreme T20 bowler, his effectiveness enhanced the shorter the cricket contest.
What is it that elevates Gul in T20 cricket? Yes he has pace, though less than Shaun Tait and several others. Yes he can reverse swing the ball late, though he isn't alone in mastering this once mysterious art. The difference between Gul and other pacemen is his unerring discipline and accuracy in a four-over spell. Yorker after laser-guided yorker, Gul loads the percentages in his favour crippling any run chase. This isn't luck, it is pure skill.
The conundrum for Pakistan is that outside T20 cricket he struggles to find the right game plan or the discipline to stick to it, confused by choice. And perhaps that is the secret of Gul in T20 cricket? Simplicity is king. He knows exactly what to do every ball. Introduce uncertainty and Gul becomes mortal. Interestingly, he now has a captain, the manic enthusiast Shahid Afridi, who will also keep it simple.
Gul's laser finished Australia in the T20 series, but the real Test of Gul's development will be at Lord's next week. For now, Pakistan fans will savour a rare whitewash of Australia. It might only be two T20 matches but after the last year of hell for Pakistan cricket, believe me, we'll take it.
Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/KamranAbbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here