August 3, 2010

Pakistan in England 2010

Pakistan and the art of ineptitude

Andy Zaltzman

James Anderson: top class and toothless by turns © Getty Images

The evidence of the last two Pakistan Tests would seem to suggest, incontrovertibly, that England will win this winter’s Ashes by at least 10 matches to nil. Pakistan beat Australia; England beat Pakistan; that is a two-win per Test difference between England and Australia.

Of course, cricket does not always pan out as statistics suggest it should, and trying to divine what might happen in the forthcoming Ashes from this summer’s two series involving Pakistan is a task as futile as trying to predict whether a champion boxer will win his next fight based on how many wasps he swats at a picnic.

England played a good, decisive match, but scored the bulk of their important runs in each innings against some fairly dismal back-up bowling, and were aided by fielding that was borderline appalling (and that borderline was not between appalling and acceptable, but between appalling and catastrophic). Strauss’ team bowled well and caught magnificently, but against a batting line-up that looked as confident in their technique against swing bowling as their ability to play Beethoven’s piano sonatas on an ironing board.

On current form, Pakistan’s batsmen, a poorly conceived salad of proven adequates and total novices, will do well to match in this entire four-Test series, the 708 runs they scored in one innings at The Oval in 1987. They looked vulnerable on paper at the start of their tour, and that assessment now looks like eye-gougingly blind optimism. Obviously, these are not useless batsmen, but they are flawed and inexperienced, and their collective confidence is now more shattered than a stunt motorcyclist’s porcelain piggy bank.

Statistically, it is hard to overstate quite how completely, historically inept, Pakistan were. Following on from almost snatching defeat from three-quarters of the way down the oesophagus of victory at Leeds, their top order put on a 19th-century display, the worst combined match performance by a top five against England since 1907.

Pakistan were six wickets down for 47 and 41 in their two innings, thus becoming only the ninth team in Test history to lose its first six wickets for less than 50 in both innings of a match, and the first since England sank like an impatient Titanic to one of its most humiliating ever defeats in Christchurch in 1983-84. Then, Hadlee, Boock, Cairns and Chatfield double-scuttled a decent-looking England top seven of Fowler, Tavare, Gower, Lamb, Gatting, Randall and Botham, whose performance in that Test was so bad that the Queen was rumoured to be on the point of abdicating.

Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer, constantly threatening again, must go to sleep every night dreaming of bowling at their own batsmen. In fact, a leak from within the Pakistan camp has revealed that Aamer has a tour bowling average of 3.5 against his team-mates in the nets, even when using the net as a boundary.

Umar Akmal, after a stellar entry onto the world cricket stage, has had a particularly disappointing summer. His debut series in New Zealand less than a year ago included innings of 75 off 174 balls and 77 off 144, so he clearly is capable of not batting as if he has to simultaneously catch an extremely imminent train, file an overdue tax return, pop back home to check whether he left the refrigerator door open, and avoid turning into a pumpkin if he bats for longer than 15 minutes.

It is hard to imagine a worse match performance than that by Umar’s brother Kamran, a spectacular array of wicketkeeping howlers neatly interlocked with a pair of noughts with the bat, comprising perhaps the worst individual performance in any medium since novelty children’s entertainer Mr Chicken’s dismal effort at playing King Lear, which consisted of a three-hour chicken impression in which he persistently called all of his daughters "Eggie".

It was almost as if the cricketing gods allowed Kamran a couple of excellent catches to dismiss Strauss and Pietersen (who continues to look every inch a man who doesn’t play much cricket any more), solely in order to dash the beleaguered gloveman on the rocks of destiny by making him shell a simple edge by Collingwood. They then further punished him, as his brother’s wasted referral led to Kamran being unable to refer his own obviously-missing-the-stumps lbw dismissal. If Kamran’s Test career had been a racehorse, his owner would by now surely have done the decent thing.

Clearly, there is not just room for improvement for Pakistan’s batsmen; there is a luxury eight-bedroom house for improvement. But they are having to cope not only with the difficulty of unfamiliar conditions – and, as England and Australia have themselves shown this summer, few teams play swing bowling well even with experience – but also with an impolite schedule that is allowing them no time to rebuild their broken techniques and confidence between Tests.

It has led to a bizarre role reversal, in which England are sticking with an unchanged squad, while their visitors have packed off a failing player to county cricket, and summoned up an ageing old star from the county game. How times have changed.

James Anderson was at his intermittently fluidly brilliant best once he started pitching the ball up. He has been promising for seven and a half years now, his occasional top-class outbreaks offset by periods of toothlessness. The winter will show whether he now has the resourcefulness of his England swing predecessor Hoggard, who was less naturally dangerous but developed a range of crafts that made him a successful bowler around the world. The Lancastrian now averages 27 at home and 43 away, whereas Hoggard’s equivalent figures were 30 and 30.

Anderson has never taken 20 wickets in a series before. If Pakistan continue to bat as they did at Trent Bridge, he could bowl underarm for the rest of the series and still be confident of taking another 15 wickets.

On to Edgbaston on Friday, with Pakistan’s one and only trump card, their seam attack, about to go into its fourth back-to-back Test, weighed down by the knowledge that, even if they bowl with their now customary excellence, their fielders and batsmen have an almost unstoppable range of options for contriving to lose games anyway.

For any Confectionery Stall readers in the Edinburgh area wishing to see me doing my “day job”, my new show at the Edinburgh Fringe − Andy Zaltzman Swears To Tell The Truth, Half The Truth, And Everything But The Truth − begins on Friday 6th August, at The Stand on York Place, daily at 4.20pm, until 29th August (except 16th, when I have a day off to think about cricket).

RELATED LINKS

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

RSS Feeds: Andy Zaltzman

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by waterbuffalo on (August 20, 2010, 7:55 GMT)

How inept does Pakistan look now Zaltzman? you need a wicky and a bowler to bail you out, but of course, I do not see an article on how inept the top order of England are, what's good for the goose is good for the gander, mate.

Posted by Dush Kumar on (August 13, 2010, 13:50 GMT)

Andy please come to the Adelaide Fringe in 2011!

Posted by Sayantan on (August 12, 2010, 19:23 GMT)

With India's dismal bowling line-up and Pakistan's equally dismal top order batting. Two new teams - one with India's batting line-up + Pakistan's bowlers and the other with the remaining combination should be created. The first team should top the ICC rankings (disputed or not) for both Tests and ODIs and the other should be relegated to World Cricket League Division 5 to make their way back up to qualify for the World cup.

Posted by Simon on (August 12, 2010, 17:22 GMT)

With the recent retirement of players like James Kirtley and Robin Martin-Jenkins what is your best eleven England nearly weres and should have beens?

Posted by Taimur Khan on (August 10, 2010, 12:13 GMT)

Read some of the other comments and could not resist a rejoinder. Some are discussing regional bias. Probably. But all biases are removed if domestic performance is used as the primary selection tool for new players especially. We have new batsmen who have score 400 runs in the domestic season, leaving out players who have scored 1400. Same with bowlers. Top wicket takers ignored for favorites. Our under 19 lot won & came 2nd in the last two world cups. How many lads have been allowed to come thru? Ejaz butt is an all in one package, doubling as Chairman, Chief Executive, Chief Selector & now that he is a fixture on ALL tours, Non Playing Captain. His performance in all areas has been as memorable as the nose crunching fiasco against Wes Hall. We are winning in 2020 because bowlers play a bigger role due to run chase exigencies and because batsmen's techniques dont get exposed. In tests we are 4 bowlers against 7 batsmen & fielders from our team plus 11 from the other! Plus Butt!

Posted by TAIMUR KHAN on (August 10, 2010, 10:41 GMT)

Great Article! Historically, Pakistan was always a bowling side, even during glory days of Zed, Majid & Javed, we won through Imran, Qadir, Wasim & Waqar. Check the stats. Rarely crossed 250 except on dead pitches and collapsed often. Ask Imran..we play domestic on dead pitches..no pace, swing or seam. Thats why bowlers r good, coz they need to be to take wickets on home pitches. So don't expect miracles in batting. Feilding too, since techniques are made in youth cricket and diving on our hard unwatered grounds will break your bones. We also take favorites (rather than deserving players) on tours with no expectation of playing so dont expect miracles from gul's replacement. Younis is missing due to politics. Yasir has technical flaws driving (read swing victom) and has had little practice. Better to stick to younsters who have steadily improved but bring yousaf in. Man with the iron gloves should bat only. Umer it swings in England! Butt (your guess which one) batted first. Why?

Posted by JazKokabura on (August 10, 2010, 5:50 GMT)

Andy, Excellent Article. Humor, Wittiness, Intelligence, in-depth analysis. Perfect Mix.

Pakistan should what Indian team team has done, keeping old guards Dravid, sachin Laxman and nurturing young talent around, now once Sachin, laxman, dravid will retire Raina, yuvraj, pujara can take over. Pakistan team has immence talent, need of the hour is to nurture them while they are young. Young haider has shown in the second test that he is a good prospect for the future.

Posted by saad on (August 8, 2010, 20:48 GMT)

Its high time for Pakistan to start ignoring, even forgetting cricket as a sport.While the whole world plays and cherishes football,we have made cricket the alpha and omega of our sports.its time we started paying attention to other sports, especially football. who knows we could be possessing talent in this game as good as anyone in the world. Sorry, most of the world does not care about cricket, let alone know anything about it !

Posted by Tanveer Ahmad on (August 8, 2010, 8:25 GMT)

First, I do no consider this pakistani team as inexperienced except Azhar Ali and Umar Amin, rest all are pretty experienced and have played a lot of cricket at international level. What Ijaz Ahmad as a coach is doing? I think he is waiting for a batting coach as he is only fielding coach (wow).

Second, look at management of PCB and its decisions and how much feasible. Some months back, they banned Yousaf and Younas and fined a lot of other players and almost all players are now playing in the same team. shame for decision making authorities. and when Yousaf accepted PCB claims and got retired from cricket. Now PCB asked him to go and play for team. Why just selected retired one, why not selected other choice i.e. Younas.

Third, Why ICC not shows any concern about such decisions which only destroy cricket. (we say Same in Zimbabwe Cricket some years back and almost same is replicating here in Pakistan).

Posted by Md. Shahidul Islam on (August 7, 2010, 18:14 GMT)

Pakistan needs Jabed Miandad as bating coach. Waqar is perfectly Ok as bowling coach

Comments have now been closed for this article

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Zaltzman
Andy Zaltzman was born in obscurity in 1974. He has been a sporadically-acclaimed stand-up comedian since 1999, and has appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4. He is currently one half of TimesOnline's hit satirical podcast The Bugle, alongside John Oliver. Zaltzman's love of cricket outshone his aptitude for the game by a humiliating margin. He once scored 6 in 75 minutes in an Under-15 match, and failed to hit a six between the ages of 9 and 23. He would have been ideally suited to Tests, had not a congenital defect left him unable to play the game to anything above genuine village standard. He writes the Confectionery Stall blog on Cricinfo.

All articles by this writer