Pakistan v Australia, 1st MCC Spirit of Cricket Twenty20, Edgbaston

Umar soars as Pakistan win at last

It would be improper to term Umar's assault as audacious. It was instinctive, calculated, and plain confident

Nagraj Gollapudi at Edgbaston

July 5, 2010

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Umar Akmal powered Pakistan with a boundary-laden 64, Australia v Pakistan, 1st Twenty20, Edgbaston, July 5, 2010
Umar Akmal's 64 was his third half-century in consecutive innings © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Umar Akmal

"Bring them on!" was Umar Akmal's message to all comers as he demolished every Australian bowler on the day barring Shaun Tait. Not that he will lose sleep over that. Instead it is the Australians who will ponder over their pints how Umar singlehandedly picked Pakistan out of the gutter at 47 for 4 and hauled them into a position they never left for the rest of the evening.

It would be improper to term Umar's assault as audacious. It was instinctive, calculated, and plain confident. In the last year, a period in which his talent has flourished, Umar has been praised and condemned in equal measures: if he deserved the kudos for his aggressive attitude, cricketing pundits were ready to slap him for his injudicious shot selection during certain rush-of-the-blood moments. Fair enough. But take into account the fact that Umar is just 20, an age where the kite of freedom is always soaring.

Waqar Younis and Shahid Afridi - Pakistan's coach-captain pairing - do not, rightly, want to tether Umar's flight just yet and, instead, are willing to lend him the space to understand himself rather than shovel heaps of criticism onto his shoulders. Clearly such strong backing was one big reason that motivated Umar to perform the heroics on Monday in front of a boisterous crowd of 13,000 at Edgbaston, which was coloured entirely in Pakistani green colours.

It was a critical moment when Umar walked in at the fall of three quick wickets in the two overs after the Powerplay, including that of Afridi for a first-ball duck. Pakistan needed more than an antiseptic to heal the fast-spreading wounds. Not only did Umar arrest any further damage but in the company of an equally confident Shoaib Malik, quickly ran roughshod over the hapless Aussies. Judging that the straight boundary was the shortest and the safest route, Umar dashed out of the blocks to loft Steve Smith over the sight screen into the RES Wyatt stand. He had understood that the Aussie legspinner was not getting the ball to drift through the air and there was little point waiting for the ball to arrive.

But his most spectacular moment arrived against Dirk Nannes, who was returning to his second spell, having been carted for 20 in his first two overs. Umar understood the left-armer would try and angle a fuller delivery across the off stump, one of his strong points. But he was willing to hit inside out. Nannes, nervously playing in his first international since the World Twenty20 final in the Caribbean, started with a wide. Instinctively Umar's smartness came to the fore as scooped the next delivery, predictably fuller and straighter, neatly over the keeper for a fine boundary.

His strike-rate when he struck his third consecutive fifty - and second against Australia - was an astonishing 247. He was not going to relax and neither did he allow his partners to do the same. Despite his seniority Abdur Razzaq was given clear instructions, by Umar, not to go for the big hits. With a further eight overs to go (when Shoaib Malik departed) Umar realised that Pakistan couldn't afford to get carried away. Bravery, quick thinking, creativity, and leadership - Umar displayed all those qualities in equal measure at various moments of his short stay, which was only 31 balls long. Waqar put the finger on the button when he said Umar was on his way to big things if he could continue stay open to learning.

"He is probably the most talented cricketer I've seen in the last 15-20 years," Pakistan's coach said. "You really have to stop him from certain things which he really wants to do. But that's the way he is going to learn - he is only 20 and he has got heaps of time. He is a good learner, a good listener. He is up thereā€¦he is really talented."

Michael Clarke, who witnessed Umar frustrate the Australians during the World Twenty20 semifinals, couldn't agree more. "Played well. didn't he?" Clarke said. "Where he bats in the team the ball is a little bit older, so there is no swing. He is a very clean striker of the ball. The ground is not that big and he was hitting a couple of big sixes down breeze.

"But he has played really well in the last couple of times against us," Clarke added. "Hopefully we can get a few more wickets and get him on when the ball is a bit newer." But the Australian captain wasn't giving his young opponent enough credit for his talent: Umar had come in one-down at St Lucia and imposed himself without much sweat.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

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Posted by Percy_Fender on (July 7, 2010, 15:19 GMT)

I am sure Umar Akmal, Md Aamer, Kamran and Shahid Afridi are definitely going to play in the next IPL. They have the talent and the consistency to do well for any team that they play for. There may be others also from Pakistan like Umar Gul and Abdul Razzaq. I am sure all the needless acrimony is behind us and that we are going to have some good 20/20 games without Lalit Modi.

Posted by Q72941 on (July 7, 2010, 3:43 GMT)

Any time a good prospect appear on the horizon we all could feel the touch of class right from the beginning.

I have been following Umar and Amir right from their 1st class cricket and man I was so enticed by both of their talent right from the start. The boys are special as anyone would attest just like in case of SRT, Sehwag, Watson, KP, Akram, Waqar, Warne, Steyn, etc. You could see them setting themselves apart from very good crowd.

It gives me immense pleasure to witness the great making of the young talents. Operating like the manner they did against Aussies was a wonderful treat.

Wishing them the best so they can entertain us to the top level in International or Whatever format of Cricket. All the best guys, Keep it coming.

Posted by   on (July 6, 2010, 15:25 GMT)

He is the best player pakistan could ever have ..... go fly umair ....

Posted by   on (July 6, 2010, 14:59 GMT)

He's got something about him which Imran instilled in the team which became a pack of legends. It was the calculated counter attacking, unafraid way of blistering the opposition. Umar Akmal has the right leader to nurture this on field arrogance.

Posted by   on (July 6, 2010, 14:33 GMT)

Clarke as any Australian did not accept that Umar didn't play a great innings. I don't know why these Aussie cricketers never accept they lost to a better team or the guy who destroyed their bowling attack.. They always say yea..boundaries are small, hit into the wind and the wind carried over the boundary. yeah.. true then why didn't u r batsmen not do the same..were the length of the boundaries changed when u ppl came in to bat? LET ME KNOW MICHAEL

Posted by Trapper439 on (July 6, 2010, 14:24 GMT)

Can I just point out that the only reason people are commenting on how Clarke "wasn't giving his young opponent enough credit for his talent" is because the author said that (for reasons unknown of his own) in the article. All Clarke said was that Umar bats down the order and that conditions were favourable for batting. Guess what? Clarke also bats down the order, and sometimes does so in conditions favourable for batting. Clarke wasn't being "sore in defeat", he was just telling it like he saw it. This is yet another case of an Aussie captain saying one thing and opposing fans hearing something entirely different. It reminds me of the way Ponting always says after a defeat something along the lines of "Full credit to them, they played really well and we didn't play as well as we could have" and then always gets absolutely mauled by the media for his supposed ill-grace in the face of defeat. Don't believe everything you read.

Posted by factoryard on (July 6, 2010, 13:55 GMT)

The last T20 outing between the aussies pakistan at the world cup, there were hardly anything to critisize even though I did constructively critisize Afridis captaincy. This time around I like it when he called on, his best bowler for the day, Amir to bowl the 15 over not giving the aussies any chance to get going. Afridi wasn't worried about the death overs like he did in the world cup. Fast learning skipper. The only worry I have with this team is the concentration of Butt, how can he not learn to depend on his batting partner when necessary.

Posted by msport on (July 6, 2010, 13:47 GMT)

what is clarke doing in the team?nor he bowls nor he bats.Even if he bats in 20-20 he just waste balls n the team is gonna loose.kick him out ACA.Sad 2 see Michael Hussey under de captaincy of such poor t20 player the pressure is alwyz on his head.

Posted by REXYCP123 on (July 6, 2010, 13:09 GMT)

HI GUYS I AM AN INDIAN YOU HAVE AN GREAT TALENT IN UR TEAM PLS PLS DONT WASTE THAT TALENT LIKE YOU PEOPLE DID TO IMRAN NAZIR SAVE HIM AND UMAR TEACH THE LESSON FOR CLARKE HE IS SAME AS ALL AUSSIE CAPTAIN DOESN'T PRAISE A TALENT CLARKE U R THE WASTE IN THAT AUSSIE T20 LINEUP GIVE THE CAPTANCY TO WHITE AND BRING IN AN ALLROUNDER THIS TEAM CAN BE GREAT AUSSIE TEAM LIKE THEY USED TO .....THEY ARE LOSING B'CAUSE OF CLARKE ............ USELESS CRICKETER I HAVE SEEN IN AUSSIE TEAM

Posted by   on (July 6, 2010, 12:58 GMT)

@ dsig3 will u like to see how many t20 or ODI tait has played, infact check the bowling stats for whole of the australian team, and no one might have pass even 20 ODI's except johnson. Try to prasie the world who perform, perhaps that is why John Howard is still yelling about his nomination and putting the blame of subcontinent for his non selection, australian i can see your era in cricket is gone, infact just try to protect the ASHES now, and i don't even think of getting in to quater finals of WC, depending how badly you are losing the games.

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