Dmitri #5 – Pakistan

salute

You can probably guess that the individual world player award is going to go to a non-Pakistani player given this collective award, and you would be right. Misbah-ul-Haq, Yasir Shah and Younis Khan all played really well, as did Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq (Ali making a double hundred as I write this piece), but I’ve decided to go elsewhere for that particular Dmitri. However, for an “award” founded on the influence and debate-stirring on a blog, to ignore the tourists of 2016 would be remiss. The good commenters on this blog showed plenty of excitement and happiness at the style of play, the quality of the matches and a somewhat unexpected tight contest. So for Dmitri #5 I am awarding this highly prestigious and awe-inspiring gong to the Pakistan team.

Once they get over their excitement let’s look at why. All through my cricketing life there’s been a special sort of loathing for Pakistan – they were the ones who were quite clear in calling for neutral umpires as they considered David Constant (and others) to be biased. However, we could call their umpires anything under the sun, and did, especially in 1987! They also had players who could be called abrasive – Javed Miandad, I’m looking at you – and would not take a step back, as they showed when winning here in 1987 and 1992. Then there was reverse swing, so lauded in our press now as a skill Anderson and others possess, but at the time of Pakistani mastery, was seen as cheating and ball tampering. There have always been murmurs, and louder, of corruption, match fixing et al, as well as the nonsense at the Oval in 2006. Relations between England and Pakistan have always been “difficult”. Then 2010 seemed to prove all the naysayers right. They were up to their eyes in spot fixing, and three big players were booted out. When their premier spin bowler was effectively booted from the game for chucking, it seemed as though Pakistan were dead in the water. Where was there to go? No home. No throughflow of players despite the talent, the regurgitation of the Akmals, and the presence, always of Shahid Afridi, for good or bad. Within their ranks, they had a true leader. He was just, well, old.

Under Misbah-ul-Haq Pakistan briefly reached the status of world number one in test cricket. Given the team plays no series in its home country, this is possibly the most remarkable achievement in recent times. Of course they are formidable in the United Arab Emirates, and play very well in those conditions, but they have taken some of their form outside of the cosy confines of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah to be able to top the rankings. While they are not unbeatable on their travels, as New Zealand showed, and Australia are going someway to doing so, they are capable of exciting and dashing cricket. They also have that steel in them as well. Azhar Ali has scored a triple hundred and double hundred this year, while converting from a number three batsman to an opener to fill a vulnerable position. Bookending the top order is unsung hero Asad Shafiq, a gutsy, game fighter of a batsman who has given England more trouble than they would have liked. They have another punchy keeper, Sarfraz Ahmed, who is threatening to become a front-line level batsman, capable of match turning knocks.

The bowling is a bit hither and thither. It can look good on its day, but also veer well of tangent. This applies to the seamers, who on paper look a more than useful battery of quickish bowlers, and with decent spare capacity in case of injury. The spin of Yasir Shah is lethal in suitable conditions. He is a clever bowler, not a massive turner of the ball, but constantly at you – more your Kumble than your Warne. They do seem to go through massive dry spells without wickets, perhaps allowing too many games to drift.

Which leads us to the old duo in the middle order – Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq. They cannot go on forever, and undoubtedly this will be the last time we will see them playing tests on English shores (or should I doubt that). For long spells of the test summer, Younis looked like someone had him on remote control and was playing him around like an idiot. He couldn’t keep still, got himself in dreadful positions, looked totally awful. Then, when his team needed an innings to punish England for their lax batting at The Oval, Younis came through with a double hundred. At times it wasn’t pretty, but the old stager wasn’t to be denied. Combining with Asad Shafiq, he took Pakistan to a dominant position, over 200 in front, and let Yasir Shah do the rest. Pakistan walked away with an honourable 2-2 draw and put to bed the rubbish emanating from some of the press corps about how fortunate they might have been to win at Lord’s.

Because it was at Lord’s that Pakistan made massive headlines with their play, and their celebrations. For most, the sight of Misbah doing press-ups after his hundred was a joyous one. It was a “I can still do it” moment (in my circle of mates we call this a Spacey, after his role in American Beauty), and most bought into it. When they repeated the celebration as a team at the end, in front of the Lord’s position, some wanted to make a point that it was “rubbing our noses in it”. I don’t know who could have thought, that, or why. But some did. Sport has a lot of growing up to do, and also needs to shed itself of its damn self-righteousness. Pakistan had been a joy for the four days, England contributed to a really good game of cricket, and the game was the winner. What might have been lost was the credibility of the 7-0 merchants prior to this summer’s test matches.

This blog appreciated the series, loved its competitiveness, including an excellent win from behind at Edgbaston by England, and had real empathy for the team’s characters and characteristics. So to Misbah and his team, thanks for a cracking series, and for the entertainment you gave us.

Dmitri #6 will be the International Player award. Coming soon.

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14 thoughts on “Dmitri #5 – Pakistan

  1. Andy December 28, 2016 / 7:19 pm

    Couldn’t agree more and I loved the series although I do think it said more about our inconsistency as much as anything.

    If Australia bet them comprehensively it could mean a hard winter ahead of us next year!

    Like

  2. Grenville December 28, 2016 / 8:04 pm

    I love Pakistan and always have. That is mostly because they were the antithesis of Gooch (and England) when I was growing up.

    Like

  3. man in a barrel December 28, 2016 / 10:06 pm

    Wasn’t it “Cooky” who decided that the press – ups were an insult directed against him? He really is an odious shit.

    Like

    • Alec December 29, 2016 / 1:46 pm

      He just said he didn’t like to see it; more in the sense that nobody likes to see the opposition celebrate victory

      Like

    • d'Arthez December 29, 2016 / 2:36 pm

      Yeah, pissing on the pitch is so much classier for everyone involved.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Sri Grins December 29, 2016 / 6:50 am

    Nice one. They have done well in England & now are doing decently in Oz. Good bowling & batting though they showed that they are still prone to sudden collapses in NZ & Oz & UAE. But,the performances away in Eng & Oz should help their players to do better in future tours.

    Pak has always been mercurial but with Azhar & Shafiq & Yasir, they appear mentally tougher which is good . I am not including Misbah & Younis in this list though they are as tough since, I am not sure how long in the future they can rage against age & continue. Azhar obviously wants them to continue.\

    Like

  5. pktroll (@pktroll) December 29, 2016 / 8:34 am

    Usually a whole heap of fun to watch and this current side is a continuation of that. Still too schizophrenic with the bat and this is hardly their most vintage pace attack but they can still turn it on often enough.

    Like

  6. SimonH December 29, 2016 / 10:49 am

    I’ve emailed some Glossary suggestions – please let me know if you haven’t received them.

    Like

  7. man in a barrel December 29, 2016 / 11:51 am

    Looking back at the cricinfo coverage of that series, I realised that Pakistan were fined for a slow over rate at the Oval. It is enough to fuel paranoia when you consider Cooky’s form in this department. I also read an article by the admirable George Dobell after the third Test where he wrote, if you can believe it, that Cook was just finding his feet as a captain.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. d'Arthez December 29, 2016 / 11:53 am

    Pakistan fully deserved this Dmitri. They have been one of the few bright spots in international cricket on the field, given the difficulties they face.

    England – Pakistan was probably the best Test series of the year.

    Like

  9. SimonH December 29, 2016 / 4:10 pm

    Grinding day’s play in PE with SA winkling out five SL batsmen on what’s become a fairly docile pitch. SL (with one exception) fought hard but suffered from batsmen who got in not going on.

    The one exception was Chandimal. He tried to launch the spinner over the top and was badly dropped at mid-off by Stephen Cook. Ten minutes later he tried it again and was caught at mid-on. I’m a big fan of him – but that was some brainless batting.

    A quick breakthrough with the second new ball tomorrow and it could all be over sharpish. However if Mathews and De Silva can get through that, it could become quite gripping.

    Like

    • d'Arthez December 29, 2016 / 7:48 pm

      The pitch has really flattened out. Sri Lanka are likely to make the highest fourth innings score on the ground (currently 273, in a game South Africa lost against New Zealand half a century ago). Kaushal Silva was the one batsman who got a really good one. The other wickets were more or less gifted. South Africa did not bowl badly at all, and kept the runrate under 3. A case where one or two mistakes were induced by playing on the patience of the batsmen.

      248 runs or 5 wickets would be a tricky equation against some teams. Good thing for the hosts is that the Sri Lanka tail is really not that competent. One breakthrough, and they get to bowl at Herath, and a second breakthrough means that they get to bowl at three bowlers who all average less than 10 with the bat.

      Like

  10. d'Arthez December 30, 2016 / 6:41 am

    Pakistan, somehow managed to slide to an innings defeat, after posting 443/9d. Despite rain taking away a lot of time from the game. Mercurial as ever ..

    Like

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