November 25, 2010

Azhar shines in new middle order

The value of the ICC's Test rankings might be debatable but a quick glance makes one immediate impression: the world of Test cricket is two divisions in one

The value of the ICC's Test rankings might be debatable but a quick glance makes one immediate impression: the world of Test cricket is two divisions in one. Pakistan are in the second tier, an unhealthy distance adrift of Australia who prop up the top teams. That Pakistan haven't hit the bottom of the pile, however, is a wonder in itself. Even in the severest adversity, mostly self-afflicted, Pakistan have been able to pull off a surprise win or commendable draw.

The South Africa series is a case in point. Despite the loss of leading players, the one-day series was a thriller right up to the moment that Zulqarnain Haider fled to England. The deciding match was a disappointment but Pakistan's nerves were clearly frazzled by the sudden controversy. In that context, and compounded by injuries to Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Yousuf, Pakistan looked set for an absolute battering in the Test series.

Typically, expectation and reality were distant cousins. Much to everybody's surprise Pakistan batted with grit, sound technique, and occasional aggression. It was a method that hadn't been exhibited by Pakistan for quite some time. What prompted it is unclear? But a drawn series in Dubai and Abu Dhabi was a minor triumph for Pakistan cricket, although both teams were more defensive in the Test series than they needed to be.

The shining star for Pakistan was Azhar Ali, who added to the concentration and technique that he had demonstrated in England this summer with some positive strokeplay. Whereas Azhar had looked somewhat limited in England, he flourished in the United Arab Emirates. A player of solid temperament and technique has been a rare commodity in Pakistan cricket, and Azhar needs to build on this encouraging start to his Test career.

Further encouragement came in the shape of Asad Shafiq's debut half-century. Asad is composed and well organised at the crease, another throwback to the art of proper batsmanship. While Umar Akmal might be more talented than both Azhar and Asad, Pakistan's wastrel has something to learn from his junior colleagues in the way that they applied themselves. If he can do that, Younis Khan and Misbah-ul Haq--who both confirmed that they still have miles in the tank--will have the opportunity to oversee the development of a new middle-order for Pakistan.

Clearly the batsmen had it easy here but pressure can undo a batsman on the easiest of tracks--and Pakistan's batsmen were invariably under pressure. A sterner test will follow in New Zealand but it is a pleasant surprise to be discussing some postives from Pakistan's batting performances.

But just as we see some green shots among the batsmen, Pakistan's bowling is in dire trouble especially in Test cricket. New Zealand will be a fairer examination of the bowlers too but without Mohammed Aamer and Mohammed Asif Pakistan's bowling carries little guile or penetration.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on January 6, 2011, 10:17 GMT

    i never ever beileives that there are dark clouds on pakistan cricket, pakistan has lot of talent and have players for each poistion of playing eleven if this current team not play i am very hope ful for the test series against newzealand arrival of younis khan in test and ODI's make our team more strong i will apprecaite the youngster like asad shafiq and azhar ali perfomance in recent team well i say asad shafiq is player like great inzi

  • testli5504537 on December 16, 2010, 23:02 GMT

    Today at Centurian, the South African pace attack of Morne Morkel & Dale Steyn proved: why they are widely regarded as the best pacemen among all the teams. They dismantled the run scoring veteran batting line up of India and proved that Indians are only good on slow tracks. Under those conditions, if Pakistan was playing today instead of India, they would have been bundled for less than 50. It says a lot for the teams of the sub-continent, who are also known to be bullies of the slow tracks. Unless the pitch plays the same tomorrow, the high powered in form South Africa batting will will post a huge score and India will taste their first defeat of the tour. Indian pace attack can't compare to that of South Africa, and even if the conditions of today were to prevail tomorrow, South Africans used to playing on bouncy & seaming wickets will take a big lead. The ICC has to alter the rating system for the Test sides. It should be based on 50% matches to be played at home and 50% on tour.

  • testli5504537 on December 13, 2010, 9:29 GMT

    Pakistan Team should be If Butt/Asif/Amir/Kamran is not available in WC

    1 Hafeez 2 Ahmad shahzad 3 Razzaq 4 younas khan 5 Asad shafiq 6 Umar Akmal (Only for W/c) 7 Malik 8 Shahid Afridi (Cap) 9 Umar Gul 10 Shoab Akhtar 11 Wahab riaz 12 Shoail Tanvir 13 Raza Hassan/ ssaeed ajmal 15 Fawad Alam (For Feilding) 16 Imran nazir/ Shazib Hasan

    Because all you need in WC is :- 1 Very Strong Batting Line 2 All Rouinders(Hafeez, Afridi, Razzaq, Malik) 3 Good Feilders(Hafeez, Afridi, Fawad, Malik,Umar, Asad) 4 Power Hitters (Razzaq, Afridi, Umar Akmal, Shazib Hasan, Imran nazir) 5 Team Player 6 Variation in bowling (Fast-Shoaib Akhtar, Contrrolled- Tanveer & Tanvir,, Death Bowler-Gul, Good Spinner- Afridi, Ajmal, Hafeex, Raza Hasan and Malik and more importantly partnership Breaker-Razzaq)

    Please Players like Mohd Yousf, Misbah, Azhar, Umar Amin, Tafuq, Farhat should not be included

  • testli5504537 on December 13, 2010, 3:38 GMT

    hi every one. pakistan did well against south africa but the bollowing was weak with out mohammed amir and asif my one day / t20 team

    imran nazir mohammed hafeez younis khan or shoib malik asad shafiq umar akmal kamran akmal shahid afridi abdur razzaq umar gul wahab raiz or amir sohail tanveer or asif

    test team

    taufeeq umar mohammed hafeez azhar ali mohammed yousof younis khan asad shafiq kamran or umar akmal wk abdul razzaq or afridi umar gul or asif wahab raiz or amir hasan raza or saeed adjmal

    people you need a good all rounder at number 7

  • testli5504537 on December 7, 2010, 19:02 GMT

    Doc, you saw all bowling attacks in a space of few days. Any comments on their ranking, esp where does Pak stands? ('Cause ultimately it's the bowlers who put you in higher ranks)

  • testli5504537 on December 4, 2010, 13:07 GMT

    one day team The most desrtutive one day team in the world will be : Imran Nazir Shahzaib Hassan Ahmad Shehzad Asad Shafiq Umar Akmal Afridi Razzaq M.Amir ( if not cleared than Umar Gu Ab. Rehman Shoaib Akhtar M. Asif ( if not cleared than Wahab Riaz)

  • testli5504537 on December 4, 2010, 2:32 GMT

    my test team will be my one day and t20 team will be

    taufeeq umar / salman butt mohammed hafeez mohammed hafeez imran nazir azhar ali kamran akmal wk younis khan umar akmal mohammed yousof shoib malik misbah ul haq Captain shahid afridi umar akmal wk abdur razzaq afridi / razzaq / malik younis khan wahab riaz / mohammed asif umar gul umar gul / mohammed amair wahab riaz / amir saeed adjmal shoib akhtar / asif

    i belive you need a all rounder in test at number 7 and u dont need a spinner in odi and t20 as you got three good spinning allrounders u rather play a extra batsman and younis or yousof could play at 3 in odi and imran nazir is a must u need attacking openers in the 1st powerplay.

  • testli5504537 on December 1, 2010, 13:18 GMT

    The series in the UAE ended on a positive note for pakistan cricket. Firstly, Misbah, passed the first test of performing under pressure, and captaincy did not affect his batting. How good a captain is he, only time can tell, and how well the team performs... The debutants and the recall of Taufiq Umar and Hafeez, steadied the rocking ship of Pakistan cricket. Rehman bowled fairly well under the conditions. The early wicket denied on a benign pitch, did not help his cause. Nothing special about Sami, but he too was undone by bad decisions. Asad Shafiq batted well for his debut innings. The policy of playing Just four bowlers is not good for the future of our cricket. An additional batsman, in the past did not help the cause, and our team made headlines when they scored over three hundred runs in an innings. Five bowlers is what the team needs. We need to have bowlers who can bowl a side out twice in a match, on any wicket, if the emphasis is on winning and not on drawing test matches.

  • testli5504537 on November 29, 2010, 9:28 GMT

    It is all about developing a bunch of players around Younis-Misbah-Yousaf-Afridi-Razzaq-Kamran. Lets hope Amir is back, then we have every chance to win the world cup in 2011.

  • testli5504537 on November 29, 2010, 6:49 GMT

    i Can't understand why people are taking Fawad Alam name in the team. Even he don't have good technique, he can't hit the ball when required. and one match we lost just bcoz of him in south africa series. i think now selectors should think about him and don't take his and Kaneria name in the team. Kaneria who always give 200 runs and take 5 wkts wats the use of bowler like him????

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