ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

Pakistan v Zimbabwe, Group A, World Cup 2011, Pallekele

'Slave to rhythm' Gul tunes in to top form

Umar Gul is the most unassuming bowling spearhead Pakistan have had for years, possibly ever, so much so that it is easy to not think of him as the leader of the attack at all

Osman Samiuddin in Pallekele

March 14, 2011

Comments: 61 | Text size: A | A

Umar Gul trapped Regis Chakabva lbw, Pakistan v Zimbabwe, World Cup, Pallekele, March 14, 2011
Armed with the new ball, Umar Gul kept it short of a length and cut it both ways to trouble Zimbabwe © Associated Press

Given the disasters of 2003 and 2007, simply making it to the business end of the World Cup ought to be seen as an achievement; more so with the knowledge that a Pakistan team of any era and time would have been as capable of not qualifying from this group as of getting through. A comfortable win over a weak Zimbabwe side has at least that much to recommend it.

That it was built on a spell from Umar Gul makes it all the more pleasing. Gul is the most unassuming bowling spearhead Pakistan have had for years, possibly ever, so much so that it is easy to not think of him as the leader of the attack at all. He doesn't even always open the bowling, a curious position for a fast-bowling spearhead to be in, as Mitchell Johnson knows. He didn't even come to the press conference after the game, as players of the match are meant to. Yet his role in how far Pakistan goes now will be vital.

The signs from the last two games are healthy. Gul is, as Waqar Younis has noted in the past, a slave to rhythm. If his run-up is right and his action in sync, he brings such force to his bowling that he becomes difficult to get away and keep out. Very visibly when the going is good you can see the momentum build up in his run-up, so that he fully hurls into his action.

The pace, as it was today and against New Zealand last week, is then consistently high, a real whiz to it, touching the early 90s (mph) and settled in the late 80s. As a batsman, getting on the front foot is rarely a smart option, and the ball seems to hit bat especially hard.

There has been wholeness about him over these two games. Today he cut the new ball this way and that, from just back of a length. The other day against New Zealand he chose to go fuller and swung it in and out. And whenever he has gone short he has cramped batsmen and made them uneasy. He bowled superbly in the batting Powerplay against New Zealand and was exemplary as first change. He was excellent with the new ball today.

Waqar said later it was an "extraordinary" spell which perhaps overdid it, but he was right in that he deserved more than just three wickets. Over the two games in Pallekele, he has deserved more than the six wickets he has taken and after an iffy evening out against Sri Lanka, Pakistan could not want him in any better shape.

"When we talk about Umar Gul, there are a couple of things," Waqar said. "Whenever he is hurt, he comes back a real good bowler. We have seen it in the past as well, not just here. Whenever people start talking about his rhythm or talk about dropping him, he bounces back. He's that kind of character. Against Sri Lanka, he bowled well at times and poorly at times and that hurt him. He worked tremendously hard in the nets since then and especially when he bowled out in the middle, mornings or afternoons of matches, that makes a big difference."

There is much more still to be done before Pakistan can call this a successful tournament, for starters a game against Australia with greater consequences than are at first apparent. But Pakistan looked more with it throughout this game than they have done for vast stretches of the last two.

Each catch Kamran Akmal holds on to is a little victory in itself and he was tidy enough. If Ahmed Shehzad's recklessness isn't showing signs of disappearing, then the good, common sense of Asad Shafiq's World Cup debut made up for it. Wahab Riaz had a decent day and his burden is likely to increase. And Waqar doesn't seem to be a man to get carried away either with a good win or, as we saw last week, a big, bad loss.

"It is pleasing that we have qualified, but the kind of team we had, it was expected we would get to the quarter-finals," he said. "To say that we have achieved a lot here because we didn't qualify the last two times would be wrong, because only once you get to the quarter-finals does the real game start, the game of nerves, the pressure game."

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 61 
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Posted by Dummy4 on (March 17, 2011, 1:01 GMT)

@Itsallaboutcricket, If Pak loses to OZ.. they go 4th and play against B1, South Africa.. not India.

A4 versus B1 and B4 versus A1.

Posted by Finn on (March 16, 2011, 22:40 GMT)

He's a solid bowler and I can't believe how relativley young he still is, he seems to have been around for years!

Posted by Sajid on (March 16, 2011, 19:25 GMT)

@ Aina : Group A is still wide open, and NRR will matter a lot in Group A too. If Pak & NZ ends up with the same 8 points, NZ will get to Number 3 and Pak has to play Ind in Quarter Final in India & 1996 will be revised.

Pak still has possibility to end up on any position.Beat Aus n go 1st. Lose to Aus n go 4th. If it rains btwn Aus & Pak then pak ends up 3rd. So the real decider is the next 3 days. Playing BD or WI in QF will be great !!

Posted by Anishka on (March 16, 2011, 17:06 GMT)

Aina you are so wrong... Pakistan and Australia will share the 1st and 3rd spot depending on who wins and Sri Lanka and New Zealand will share 2nd and 4th depending on that game.... Quarters will be Australia vs Bangladesh, Sri Lanka vs West Indies, Pakistan vs India and New Zealand vs South Africa... thats my prediction :)

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 16, 2011, 8:25 GMT)

@cricmypassion: If pak beats aus they will be 1st or 2nd. If nz beats sl they will be 2nd based on runrate and if lanka beats nz (quite possible) than we will be 1st. The point is, if we beat Aus we will be 1st or 2nd come what may.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 16, 2011, 7:37 GMT)

@Zahed Khan: The rain threat was still there. The D/L par score tends to increase if wickets fall, and wickets do fall when a weak lineup like Pakistan's attempts slogging. As it is, Pakistan remained comfortably ahead of the D/L par score throughout an admittedly slow-paced innings. If rain had intruded after 20 overs, the match would have been decided on the D/L par score. Correct me if I'm wrong. Afridi was sensible enough to give up the slogging notion when it failed once. In fact, he tried it BECAUSE of the threat of rain before 20 overs. He was sensible enough to send Asad instead of another slogger after getting out. Whatsmore, NRR holds far less importance in group A than it does in group B; certainly not enough to risk losing a match thanks to rain.

Posted by Jawwad on (March 15, 2011, 22:04 GMT)

It's good for Pakistan to lose to Australia and get a game against South Africa in Pramaseda, Columbo. Pak has already played it's few matches at the avenue and which suits a good spin attack. With that in mind, playing S. Africa in conditions alien to them with 3 spinners will definately put them in trouble. Also, if we are to advance any further, we need to beat a quality team. Then, why not South Africa? Say what?

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 15, 2011, 20:14 GMT)

An extra bowler against Australia Might not be such a bad idea after all, Shehzad shouls be rested for the Australia Game Kamran Akmal And Hafeez should open

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 15, 2011, 15:31 GMT)

Umar Gul isn't a fast-medium bowler anymore, I saw him hit 144-145 (90MPH) consistently, and also bowl a 148kph delivery, which is generally considered as a Fast ball. He has to now be called a FAST BOWLER.

Posted by a on (March 15, 2011, 15:28 GMT)

@ Zahed Khan. You are right pak took 35 overs. But what's the point jeopardizing a chase when you're top order is already struggling to find form before big games. I'm glade Hafeez found his way by not playing street cricket. There was no need to make stupid mistake (like Ahmed Shahzad did). It gave really good MATCH practice to Hafeez, Asad and Younis. Stupid & bias Afridi shouldn't come as pinch hitter. Razzak is the man for this role.

It's a fact Akmal brothers are not going anywhere. Lets put it this way. Neither Afdiri not Waqar/Intakhab has guts to throw them out of window because they are bigger fish in the game and had great influence. So drop Ahmed becs enough is enough. Open with Hafeez and K.Akmal and have Asad at No3. Younis's legs start shivering when he comes at No 3 so try Asad at 3. Asad is solid which is what you need at No 3 even is case any of the your opener fall cheaply. This will also give more stability to bating line.

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Osman SamiuddinClose
Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.

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