Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pakistan's Year in Cricket: 2011

You've got to love the way Pakistan team plays, they will win you a match from impossible situations and all you can do is just to be amazed and they will lose from a winning position and you would still be amazed. Many raised questions over Pakistan cricket and their unpredictably after the spot fixing saga so they changed things around with the most consistent performance by a Pakistani team ever. Perhaps the only thing that unites Pakistan as a nation these days is Cricket and 2011 was the best example of it. Pakistani team performed exceptionally and for a change consistently in all formats that brought about the best year of our cricketing history. The players were rewarded due to their hard work and playing clean and to their potential but more importantly it were the supporters of Pakistani cricket team that were rewarded for sticking and supporting their team over the past few dark years. 

2010 was the worst possible year one could have imagined for Pakistani team. Nightmare Australian tour especially the Sydney test which could have been won easily, Shahid Afridi's ball biting incident, Banning of 9 players due to different reasons after the tour, Playing T20 world cup with a second string side yet making it to the semifinal and that last over by Saeed Ajmal, Spot fixing saga, Zulqarnain Haider's case, it seemed as if the troubles won't end.

But then 2011 started, First assignment was the tour of New Zealand which actually started at the end of 2010 when we lost the T20 series 2-1.This was also the last assignment before the World Cup 2011. The first Test of the 2 match series began on the 3rd of January and with that perhaps the golden run which continued throughout the year. Pakistan won the first test comprehensively and went on to win the test series 1-0 which was our first since 2006, Misbah ul Haq the Captain was able to win his first series in second attempt was also the man of the series.
They also won the 6 match ODI series 3-2 which was their first one after almost 2 years. Misbah was the standout performer with the bat, while Shahid Afridi the ODI captain stood out with the ball and also winning his first series as captain.Although Pakistan looked good in the series and had many good individual performances they were never counted as a dangerous team for the upcoming World Cup. Listening to Sanjay Manjerekar and ever so hated Ian Chappel on Cricinfo they were of the view that Pakistani team might as well crash out from the first round. For sure the enthusiasm among the general public was not as it was used to be, poor showing in the previous two editions and a terrible last year were the main reasons.

People can argue that 1992 World Cup was a better one but for sure 2011 World Cup was a more competitive and close one! The format of CWC 2011 was designed in such a way that minimized the chances of top teams to disqualify from the tournament. Pakistan started off the tournament with a convincing win over Kenya, but their first and real test was Srilanka in Srilanka and Pakistan was able to win the match and gain the momentum that carried them to a stage no one expected. The usual ups and downs were still there when Pakistan escaped the scare of Canada thanks to Shahid Afridi who had been in superb form throughout the tournament and his leading from the front performance was perhaps one of the reasons Pakistan performed well in the tournament! 

Had it not been Kamran Akmal's famous birthday gift to ross taylor Pakistan would have been the winning side against New Zealand but that was not the case as Pakistan lost their first match of the tournament. In my opinion losing the match against New Zealand was good for Pakistan in a way that it steadied the team and the fear of loss at the critical stage was no more their and riding on that feeling Pakistan won their important match against Australia which also ended the Australian winning streak that lasted over 13 years. Last group match was against was Zimbabwe which Pakistan won easily by 7 wickets. Thanks to the win against Australia and lost against New Zealand Pakistan was able to play their quarter final against West Indies. Pakistan were able to win the quarter final by 10 wickets and were the first team to reach the semi final. 

India were the team Pakistan were to face in the semi final and never in my life I've seen such passion and enthusiasm. The Semi Final match was with India and although Pakistan lost the match after a close fight, no regrets for that as we had played magnificently up till now in the tournament, no one can imagine the hype that was created. It was just sensational to say the least. You could see it on TV, you could see it on the streets, you could read it in media, you could sense it within your hearts. It was called the "Mother Of all Matches". Indian Prime Minister invited Pakistani Prime Minister to the match. People were unable to get the tickets even at high cost. Here in Pakistan there were people praying for our team all day long, Most of the school and colleges were closed. It was a local holiday in the Sindh Province and a half day all over Pakistan. Young people had painted their faces were rallying within the cities, big screens were put everywhere. In our University students had almost planned a strike due to the match and were not sitting in the examination hall. Everyone was worried about the match, most students left the hall half way through the exam and now cutting it short, Pakistan as a nation was united for once! there were no Sindhi, Punjabi, Balochi or Pathan today, everyone was a Pakistani, a Proud Pakistani! No one mind Pakistan's loss in the semi final and the team was greeted warmly when they reached Pakistan.

The team looked settled now and were on a high after the good performance in the World Cup. Their next assignment was the tour of West Indies and Pakistan were the clear favorites going into the series, and it was felt they would win a series against West Indies at last. The tour kicked of with a T20 match and not surprisingly Pakistan lost the match by 7 runs. Pakistan's performance in the T20 format of late wasn't that good. The ODI series started of with wins for Pakistan in the first three matches by 8, 7 and 3 wickets respectively. But then the usual troubles with the Pakistani team started, coach Waqar Younis and Shahid Afridi had a few differences over the selection issues and the manager Intikhab Alam didn't help the issues either by supporting the coach, which left Afridi furious as he wanted to stick with the team which had won the first three ODI's. The rift was visible in the next two matches as Pakistan played poorly and lost the last two matches by 1 run in the forth and huge margin of 10 wickets in the last match.

The test series was the part of the tour which was most anticipated as Pakistan had never won a test series in West Indies and looking at the west Indian team Pakistan had perhaps the best chance ever to set things right but that wasn't to be. Pakistan lost the first test by 40 runs failing to score 200 runs in both the innings against a modest West Indian attack, the score sheet of West Indies 226 and 152; Pakistan 160 and 178 tells the story and Pakistan instead of winning the series now had to work hard in the second test match to save the series which they safely did thanks to late first innings resistance by Tanvir Ahmed and Saeed Ajmal with the bat and in the second innings centuries by Taufeeq Umar and Misbah in the second innings. The test series was leveled 1-1 as Pakistan won by 196 runs.

Lets not talk about the controversies and move on to the next tour, which was of Ireland and Pakistan were to play two ODI's against the dangerous Irish team and that too in tricky situations. Misbah was now named the captain of the short format as well. Pakistan had retained the test squad that participated in the West Indies series due to time shortage. The first ODI was reduced to 36 over match due to rain and Pakistan won that easily with 7 wickets to spare. The second ODI was the most challenging one in which Pakistan had to chase a competitive total of 239 and at one stage were in a spot of bother at 80/3 after 20 overs. But thanks to Umar Akmal who scored a quick fire 60 and steered Pakistan home. 

Later in the year Pakistan visited Zimbabwe for a complete tour after 9 years and were to play 1 test, 3 ODI and 2 T20's. Not surprisingly, Pakistan selected a relatively inexperienced team for this tour. This decision seemed to have backfired in the only test match of the tour when Zimbabwe scored a total of 412 in the first innings against a baby Pakistan bowling attack and at one stage when Pakistan finished their first innings at the score of 466 it was looking that the test match was moving towards a draw which would have been a shame for Pakistani team but thanks to a brilliant bowling display by Muhammad Hafeez Zimbabwe were bundled out for 141 in the second Innings and Pakistan chased down the easy target with the loss of 3 wickets.

The ODI's and T20's were where Zimbabwe had a real chance to nail Pakistan down but never in any of the matches did they looked like winning, their fielding was poor and Pakistan surprisingly fielded above their potential. The team was relatively new still but Pakistan clean sweep the one day international series 3-0 by 5 runs, 10 wickets, and 28 runs respectively. Muhammad Hafeez was in top form durning the ODI series with both the bat and ball and was named Man of the Series. T20 was still Pakistan's even though Zimbabwe put up a good fight in the second match but Pakistan never really had much trouble wrapping up the tour and clean sweeping. Muhammad Hafeez won the man of Series award here as well. This was Waqar Younis's last series with the team as he had already announced he won't carry on after the tour.

Pakistan's biggest challenge of the year was the series against Srilanka in the United Arab Emirates. The series comprised of 3 Test, 5 ODI and a solitary T20. Pakistan were ranked below Srilanka in all the three formats but the results were complete opposite. Pakistan dominated throughout the five days of the first cricket test between the two teams, had it not been the drop catches Pakistan would have won easily. Srilanka who won the toss and elected to bat first in the second test were bundled out for 239. Pakistan's reply was again a strong one as they were able to score 403 runs and taking a lead of 164 runs with Azhar Ali scoring his first international hundred and were able to bowl out Srilanka for 257 runs in their second innings.. Saeed Ajmal was declared man of the match with 68-5 in the 2nd innings! The third Cricket test was a dull draw but Pakistan really had to work very hard to earn it and the unusual rain at Sharjah Cricket ground also helped as Pakistan earned a draw batting out ouvh 50 add overs and scoring just 80+ runs. 

Pakistani Cricket team delighted their fans with a complete dominant Performance in the ODI and T20 series and winning by 4-1 and 1-0 respectively, thanks to Shahid Afridi who won the Sharjah ODI single handedly for Pakistan scoring 75 (65) and taking 5/35. Srilanka had lost lost the 1st ODI by 8 wickets but came back to win the 2nd ODI. After that it was Pakistan all along the  way and gave Srilanka no opening what so ever. The next three matches were won by 21, 26 runs and 3 wickets respectively. Srilanka were ranked World number 2 in the T20 format but once again thanks to Shahid Afridi' sensible batting Pakistan won a close encounter by 5 wickets with just 3 balls to spare and thawed a dominant performance on Srilanka.

Pakistan were to fly directly to Bangladesh after the Srilankan series. The series started with the T20 match. Pakistan won the toss and batted first ended up scoring just 135/9 in 20 overs. That because the nature of the p[itch which was turning square right from the first over in which spin was introduced. This was exactly the pattern that was followed during the short format leg of the tour. Pakistan went on to win the T20 match with a huge margin of 50 runs thanks to the spin quarter. This went on to the ODI series as well where spinners completely dominated the proceedings and Pakistani spinners being more experienced kept the upper hand, the only challenge Bangladesh could give was in the last ODI where they bowled out Pakistan for 177 and were 60+ for 1 at one stage but Pakistan who played 5 spinners in the match managed to sneak through the middle order and won. The series win results were as follows 5 wickets, 76 runs, 58 runs.

There was never really a doubt that Pakistan will win both the test matches easily because Bangladesh were playing really poor cricket especially their top order had no clue to to manage and stay at the wicket. Pakistan took full advantage of the vulnerability of the top order and good spinning conditions and clean sweep easily. In the first test BD were bundled out for just 135 on day 1, thanks to Younis Khan's double ton Pakistan ranked up a mammoth total of 594 and after that there wasn't much chance for Bangladesh to come back and Pakistan won the match easily by an Innings and 184 runs. The only hurdle for Pakistan in the second test match was the weather and Pakistan was finally able to defeat it on the final moments of day 5 to make the result 2-0 and ending the year on a winning note just as it started. Fittingly Mishah-ul-Haq hit the last ball of the year for a huge six.

Best Test Team:

Best ODI Team:

Highest Runs Test:

Highest Runs ODI:

Highest Wickets Test:

Highest Wickets ODI:

Partnership Test:

Partnership ODI:

Catches Test:

Catches ODI:

Highest Total Test:

Highest Total ODI:


  1. kamal ...wat a year for pakistan cricket :)

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