England vs Pakistan: 3rd Test Day Two

Predicting sporting contests is a fool’s game much of the time, though it remains fun to do.  The very essence of sport is that the unexpected happens, otherwise there’d be no point watching or participating.  Nevertheless, the degree of certainty so many had that England would prevail in this match before the start was rather peculiar, apparently based on the undoubted hiding that England dished out at Old Trafford.  When Pakistan put England into bat, it was called defensive, when England were bowled out on day one, it meant that England would do the same to the tourists on day two.  It is as though Pakistan’s victory at Lords never happened, as though they were merely cannon fodder for an all conquering home side to swat aside.  Some even predicted a 7-0 Test summer, as though Pakistan were no more of a threat than Sri Lanka.

England are not out of this game by any means, the late wicket of the excellent Azhar Ali made the day slightly less dreadful than it would have otherwise been, and with Pakistan still 40 runs behind the possibility of early wickets in the morning with a still fairly new ball remains.  But England desperately need those early wickets for if they don’t get them they are in serious trouble, even if Pakistan are the ones having to bat last.  All things being equal, by the time England are batting again, there should be a little more help for the spinners, and one of the notable things about Moeen Ali’s bowling today was that while it wasn’t hugely effective, he was getting bounce occasionally, and bounce is a considerable danger when utilised by an outstanding spin bowler.

It had all started so well, Mohammed Hafeez slapping a wide long hop straight to Gary Ballance at point, but after that it was all Pakistan.  Sami Aslam impressed mightily in only his third Test match – and startlingly, he hasn’t played a first class match since December.  He looked every inch the Test opener; compact, technically sound and perhaps as important as anything else, he left the ball superbly.  England didn’t look like getting him out, so his partner did it for them, running him out with a dreadful call, albeit Sami could have backed up a little more.

Should Pakistan bat well tomorrow, England have another potential problem, for Anderson has received two warnings for running on the pitch and another will see him banned for the rest of the innings.  Anderson himself didn’t behave terribly well, and subsequently said that he’d apologised to both umpires.  Whether that is enough to distract the match referee remains to be seen.

The not out batsman overnight is Younis Khan, and it is hard to decide whether it is amusing or painful to watch his batting travails at present.  He looks hideously out of form and is fighting with himself every ball he faces.  His batting technique is all over the place, jumping in the air constantly, weight distribution somewhere around the inverse of what it should be – yet he is still there.  To see such an elegant player battling this way is both impressive and worrying given his age.  As ever, when a player gets older he is given little time to simply be out of form.

One other small point:  the 90 overs were completed today.  That it is worthy of comment should in itself highlight the problem.

By the close of play tomorrow England could be in serious trouble, if they aren’t batting soon after lunch it will be a difficult match to win; if they aren’t batting by tea they are in dire straits.  Tomorrow is a big day for both teams, but Test cricket can and does turn on a session.  England will need the morning to be one of those.

Day Three Comments Below



2015 Test Century Watch #21 – Azhar Ali

Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali runs as rain falls during the third one-day international (ODI) match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on June 13, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Ishara S. KODIKARA        (Photo credit should read Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/GettyImages)
 AFP PHOTO/Ishara S. KODIKARA (Photo credit should read Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/GettyImages)

Azhar Ali – 226 v Bangladesh at Mirpur

Mohammad Hafeez’s Pakistani record against Bangladesh lasted a week. I had a hunch this man might get close when he rested overnight on 120-odd and so it proved. An old fashioned test batsman making a really high score to set his team on the right path. It’s time for some stats.

This is the 15th highest score in tests by a Pakistani batsman and the 39th test double century. It is Azhar’s first test double, as he passed his previous best score of 157 made against England and Sri Lanka in 2012. This is his 8th test ton, half of which have come against Sri Lanka. He took his average from 41 to over 44 in this innings, and also passed 3000 runs in test matches. His previous best against Bangladesh was the 83 he made in Khulna in the previous test.

I have done the Pakistan and Bangladesh stats to death already, so let’s look at the number 226. Have you seen one, Dmitri? Given there have been just 8 scores of 226 in test history, the answer is likely to be no, and so it is. There have been recent 226s in this country – Kevin Pietersen made one against the West Indies at Headingley back in 2007, while Jonathan Trott also made this score against Bangladesh at Lord’s in 2010. Azhar’s is the second in Bangladesh – Neil McKenzie made 226 at Chittagong in his record stand with Graeme Smith back in 2008. Bridgetown has seen two scores of 226, and both by Barbadians – Sir Garfield Sobers made one in 1960 v England, while Gordon Greenidge made his score against Australia in 1991 (when, if memory serves, they were thinking of dropping him for poor form). Brian Lara is the third West Indian to make 226, completing his effort in Adelaide against Australia (of course), while our history slot looks at the first 226, made in 1931 by someone who specialised in large innings.

The first score of 226 was made by Don Bradman, and it wasn’t his usual foe (England) he made it against. This was made at Brisbane against South Africa, and his individual score was higher than both South African innings in this game (170 and 117). Bradman made 200 on the first day, and Australia made 450 in the first innings, but this test still managed to go SIX days (yeah, yeah, two of them were rained off) in a timeless match. Interesting that South Africa had a Morkel in their team….

226 is the 136th= highest score in test cricket. Still the holy grail of 229 has not been scored in the history of tests (it must go soon, surely….). 228 still has been scored just the once (Herschelle Gibbs), while 227 has three instances, 225 has three, 224 has six, 223 has nine, 222 has five, 221 has five and 220 has three. Must be something about 223 and 226!

Azhar Ali’s 100 came up in 212 balls with 10×4, and his 200 came up in 406 balls with 19×4 and 1×6. His total innings lasted 428 balls with 20×4 and 2×6.