Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wizardry of Pakistan

There was alot of joy for Ajmal as his 10-wickets in the match set things up nicely for Pakistan.

It was supposed to end today, on the 21st of January but a determined and professional side of Pakistan wrapped things up inside 3 days to win a comprehensive match against the Number 1 side in the world – England. In the past, it has been Pakistan who was on the receiving end of such a mauling at the hands of their oppositions, but it was nice to be on the right side of it, especially when apparently we've forgotten if Pakistan can ever play this well.

Today was meant to be the 5th and final day of the 1st Test between England and Pakistan, but it had ended in the last few moments of the 3rd day when Mohammad Hafeez made little matter of the 15 runs of the target set by the England team, pulling Stuart Broad to the deep-wicket boundary for a four and winning the match by scarcely believable 10 wickets.

A lot had been said and written about the Pakistan team and how this team seems to have apparently been in wedlock with controversies and scandals for some time now. But there was even more hype for this series between the two sides because of that ill-fated England tour in the summers of 2010, when three Pakistani cricketers got embroiled in a case that not only shook Pakistan but world cricket also – spot-fixing – and got consequently banned as well as imprisoned by the law of the country where they committed crime.

Apart from the Pakistan team, everyone seems to remember it like the back of their hands, refusing to let it die down and give the team a chance to start afresh. So where all have failed to do that, under the captaincy of Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan seems to be hitting all the right buttons at the exact right time. They have left the bitter memories of the past in the past, and have gelled into a team that is not of individuals and players – as it has been since Inzamam-ul-Haq retired - but a cohesive unit that thinks about Pakistan cricket.

For some time now Pakistan has been doing exceptionally well and for those who doubted the team's abilities of having done well against weaker teams have been put to bed with a piece of cricket that was a by-word of courage, skills and focus. There is little to question the fact that Saeed Ajmal's seven-fer in the first and eventually bagging ten wickets in the test match set up Pakistan's victory but we can't ignore the contributions of Umar Gul's bowling in the 2nd innings that subdued any chances of a fight back from the Number 1 team. We can't ignore that Pakistan seems to have solved its opening conundrum that has long followed them in the past, where Taufeeq Umar and Mohammad Hafeez put on a century partnership, as well as bringing up their fifties in the meantime, to create a platform for the others. We can't ignore the grit the talisman captain, Misbah-ul-Haq showed when he scored a steady fifty. We can't ignore the plucky wicket-keeper's effort to arrest the control, that too with tail-enders at the other end, and give Pakistan an enough lead to let their bowler's cut loose on the English batsmen. We can't ignore that this was a near-perfect match for the team where they held on to their chances that came their way, the captain made the rights calls and the team responded to their leader's call. Seldom has it happened that Pakistan team has looked this synchronised and this systematic.

One may argue that the English batsmen were to blame for their poor effort in two innings but that would be taking the credit away from the bowlers of Pakistan who gave their heart to bundle out, twice, a line-up of batsmen that has given nightmares to the Australian bowlers in Ashes 2010-11 and to Indian bowlers who looked out of sorts against them in their tour to England in 2011. Mind you, it wasn't exactly a bowler's paradise either in Dubai, but a good enough wicket to bat on and pile up runs. The fast bowlers of Pakistan put in their efforts to contain the English batsmen in the beginning and it bore fruits straight away with an early wicket of man who has amassed big runs in the recent past, Alastair Cook. And from there onwards, it was Pakistan all the way right uptil 17:20 (local time) when Hafeez swiveled to score the winning runs.

It was evident from the Pakistan's reaction that it ain't over as yet for them, neither for England team. The celebrations were restraint as oppose to over-the-top because they realise that they are up against the Number 1 side in the world that has a lot of ability and would definitely come back harder and tougher all over again in Abu Dhabi, starting Jan 25th. Pakistan's key is their bowling as always has been the case, but they should refrain from getting carried away and neither should they become defensive in their mindset as England would be prying on the same from their opposition which would in all certainly become the reason for Pakistan's loss and, consequently, England's victory.

However, the only glitch in the matrix for Pakistan was the use of the DRS which they don't seem to know how to use it that well. Apart from that, Pakistan's performance has been extremely clinical to the extent of reminding us Australia in their pomp.  

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