Newest Review: ... Watch this space. -------------------------------- ------ -1st Test: Jan 16th-21st) - United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi -------------------... more
P is for Pakistan cheating again!
Member Name: thedevilinme
Advantages: At least we are playing
Disadvantages: They are cheating again
So, after nailing Pakistan bang to rights for match-fixing, ball tampering, taking steroids, and harboring the worlds most wanted man, the cricket team are being eased back into international action by a rather forgiving ICC, hopefully the team no longer as dodgy as their star mystery spinners bent arm. But more about him later.
The series in the Middle East for fans has been as sterile as cricket gets - no booze, gay sex and getting your tattooed boobs out on the beach here matey, great preparation for spectators for the 2022 football World Cup no doubt! Team England tickled back by picking the now openly gay Stephen Davies as reserve keeper. Stephen was immediately dropped from England when he came out as gay (although the ECB would say it was for other reasons) and so it's great to see Andy Flower invite him back, an excellent cricketer.
The three match test series and seven one-dayers in the Middle-East was a compromise to the fact the country of Pakistan is still not safe enough to play international cricket anymore and with a military coup imminent it won't be for years to come. The Arab Emirates and Dubai seemed to treat the tour as an inconvenience.
England went out to the desert and palm trees still riding the wave of whipping India 4-0 (although that meaningless now Aussie have repeated that) and the plan again all about batting big to pile up the runs by playing six specialists blades and then hope Swanny or Monty can get into them on what are slow and low squares in the desert principalities.
England's selection policy continues to be the nomenclature method with the guys all coming from Test ground counties or first division sides. Its been made quite clear by the ECB that if you want to play for England you must move to a bigger county, penalizing guys at teams like Northamptonshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire etc. In the old days The Daily Telegraph picked the team and it was very much the next cab off the rank time as England used over 100 players in the 1990s, but now it's more rigid and incestuous. Today, guys like James Taylor at Leicestershire have to leave the shires and play for a big test county, regardless of how poor that team is, or there will be no international career for them, meaning the smaller counties struggle to compete. The England selection policy is being used to create a first-class premier league in cricket that has all the good players in it, the theory being if the good players go to the under-performing big teams then the top league will be full of the big test ground teams. Graeme Swann played no better at Nott's after his move from Northamptonshire and seemed to be selected on the basis of that move only. Tremlett, Dernbach and Meaker all secured caps when they moved to Surrey, the team anchored at the bottom of division two when they did sign for Surrey.
On the match-fixing side the ECB and now the ICC have been rather naughty and tried to shift the blame onto country cricket so to evade the international; match-fixing talk during this series. Mervyn Westfield, a once promising fast bowler on Essex books, has backed this filibuster theory by pleading guilty to spot-fixing this month, bang-to-rights as he had bragged about his six grand payment from a fixer (believed to be from the then Pakistan and Essex leg- spinner Danish Kaneria) to his teammate Tony Palladino, his willingness to take the rap and not contest things suggesting a plea-bargain deal going down between the lawyers so no other names involved are dragged up, only the primary fixer due to be named on February 11th. The ECB say the county game is at more threat than the international game because of this case, which I find risible, although I'm pretty sure it does go on in Twenty20 and definitely in Pro40, due to the saturation of mercenary overseas players on ever shorter deals in England, the later tournament the ones most pros hate playing and so don't respect and so no doubt up for a few quid on the side. The ECB have opened a confidential phone line for players and people in the game to name names. I rang it up with my brilliant Alan Lamb impression to name Kim Hughes as the man who threw that test in the legendary 1981 series. Watch this space.
-1st Test: Jan 16th-21st) -
United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi
When you talk about Pakistan away the phrase 'the ring of fire usually' refers to your bottom. But in Dubai it describes the impressive floodlights that encircle the likewise multipurpose stadium. Sadly there were no fans to fill the 25,000 seats for the first test as a gaggle of Barmy Army joined the grounds man and local dignities in the plastic and concrete bowl, perhaps a sign of things to come in test match arenas in this part of the world as Twenty20 takes over. The chance of the thousands of Pakistani low paid workers in the sheikdom getting a day of work from building and cleaning the nearby skyscrapers was as minimum as their wage, the stadium miles from town. If they had managed that they wouldn't have got home as there were no public busses to the stadium and so fans marooned for three hours waiting for taxis, built 27 kilometers out of Dubai for some reason, perhaps to deter those workers to get there.
England rolled into town in their Ferraris with their one year unbeaten record to take the crease and immediately got sand in eleven of the twelve cylinders, 75-5 at lunch. They knew the pitch would be slow, low and dusty, this their fourth straight match on it, but not prepared for the mystery spin of Ajmal who was soon causing havoc, the fast bowlers as equally accurate at the other end to compliment him. Ajmal didn't bowl his first ball in test cricket until he was 31-years-old and has clearly forced his way into the game at a higher level due to the Sub-Continent run ICC (International Cricket Council) 'bending' of the rules on the arm not being straight at the horizontal to make sure Sri-Lankan Mulitheran's action was legit, allowing 15 degrees 'flexibility, the finger spinners from their part of the world dominating thereafter and so winning test matches off the back of it all. Its politics as usual in the old empire as darker skinned administrators play the racial sensitivity card to stop the law changes being contested.
It's the 'Doosra' ball, the one that goes the other way for off-spin bowlers (and shouldn't be possible with a straight arm) that is getting test batsmen in trouble and the one where Ajmal and the like are bending the arm noticeably. If England really wants to throw a bomb in there then why not appeal for a no ball through the referral system? Is it not as clear as day to the fourth umpire on the replays that the guy is 'chucking'? Umpire Billy Bowden of New Zealand, standing in this series, has called him before for throwing but the lad was cleared by the ICC three weeks later and so pointless doing it again. Ajmal has tried to deflect what he knew was coming with this 'Teesra' nonsense, a new delivery he claims to have invented that will bamboozle England even more, clearly getting into the batsmen's heads with this guff. But he already looks a series winner, bent arm or not.
It's highly unlikely the ICC will call him for chucking after all that's gone on with Pakistan over recent years and so being Pakistani he will enjoy bending that arm some more knowing that fact, a big grin on his face right now. A bent arm for a spinner means more rip on the ball and more whip with it. But, after the betting scandals, Pakistan have no choice but to win this series and if I'm honest I would prefer if they cheat this way and let's just get this over with so everything is rosy in cricket, like pretending Tour De France cyclists are not on drugs.
The First test...
It was the traditional undercooked performance by a touring England team on the first day of a test and Pakistan very much at home in the conditions. The Barmy Army's cheers echoed around the near empty ground to try and lift the team, a somewhat moronic noise if you consider the setting and alcohol rules in the country. The ground did have a booze license on special request though, the bar strategically placed at one end of the ground - the expensive end, the fans preferring to sit in the shade at that end and pay a five-fold admittance fee for the drinking privilege... 100 drahms ($25) instead of 20 drahms ($7) in the sunny end, a little bit pathetic if we are honest, especially with beers around $10 a pint there.
England pulled it around some from 5-45 in the second half of the day but Ajmal continued the carnage and knocked us over for 192, taking 7-55, the three spin attacking earning 9 - 112. Amjal's haul would include 5 LBWs, only the sixth time in test history a bowler has done that and has the third highest percentage of LBWs from his 90 odd scalps in the history of tests now. He didn't particularly rip the ball on a pitch that wasn't turning but just got into the players minds like a Kung Fu master and England clearly short on facing Sub-Continent cricket and conditions , and haven't played a world class tweaker like this guy since Warne in 2006. Not picking Panesar alongside Swann looked a bad call before the toss and even more after day one. England could have dropped Morgan and played Prior at six, the keeper top scoring here with an unbeaten 70, stubborn Andy Flower too defensive.
England 1st innings -192
Not surprisingly Pakistan made the most of their advantage and piled them up in reply on day two, Swann having nowhere near the mystery of Ajmal, even though most of the Pakistan lads have never faced him, Hafeez, Umar and Misbaq-Ul-Haq milking the solid England bowling for good half-centuries. Billy Cooper, the Barmy Armies familiar trumpeter, sounded the retreat all day until two late wickets from Jamie Andersons reverse swing opened a crack in the door for Strauss, 288-7 at the close. But the morning on day three saw no let up as keeper Akmal, heavily involved in the 2010 match fixing claims, ground out another half-century to take Pakistan pass the 300.
Pakistan 1st Innings 338 -all-out
Misbah - Ul-Haq 52
England were now in the deep stuff and nearly150 behind, defeat in most test matches. Umar Gul is a lovely swing bowler to watch and shapes it away from the bat like the best of them, a bit of the Richard Hadlee about him, destroying England's first four here, our sixth worst innings start since the war. Ajmal chipped in with two more to break the personal record for LBWs in a match at 7, the Doosra again the demon. If you know the bowler is going to be allowed to illegally bowl a bent arm ball that goes the other way and so almost impossible to pick and the umpire isn't going to call him then that bowler becomes unplayable. As average precipitation is less than four inches a year out there then rain wouldn't be arriving either to save England in this series.
Trott managed 49 (the fourth fastest Englishman (cough!) to 2000 test runs) but once he was out it was a three day test. Swann chipped and charged to make Pakistan bat again to avoid England first innings defeat for two years and 21 tests (Joburg in 2010) before Ajmal took his tenth wicket in the match. Pakistan knocked off the 15 to win and neatly rapped up the match on the last over of the day in Dubai. When Pakistan want to play they are very special to watch and stylish cricketers all the way and this result was no surprise. England always seem to crumble like the pitches in the sub-continent.
England second innings - 160 all-out
Ajmal 3- 42 (10-97)
Second Test - Jan 25th-29th
Abu Dabi (UAE)
England learnt their lesson and doubled the spin attack for test two with the return of Monty Panesar, the wicket offering little for the seamers, slow and low with first day dusty turn, a 500 over test match possible with 5 spinners in the game.
Pakistan won the toss and looked at home on the surface and closed the day on 256-7, a good score on this pitch, captain Misbaq-ul-haq controlling things with 82*, Shafiq with 58 alongside, Monty going for five sixes, two in the last over of the day by the captain.
Day two and fog and rain swirled around the ground as the players sat in the dressing room doing Sudoku and crosswords. Ok, I'm lying, hot and sunny yet again! How boring would it be to do the weathercast there on TV?
England arrived in the mood and blasted their way back into the series, the last three wickets lasting barely ten minutes, Andersen cleaning up for 257 all-out. England are not world beaters for nothing. If the last wicket had not been caught it would have been the first test since 1948 that all 10 dismissals were LBW or bowled.
Pakistan 1st Innings 257
Strauss and Cook strode to the crease for their England 100th time together, the sixth highest coupling in English test history but Strauss out for just 11, on a poor run of scores since the summer. Cook (94) and Trott (74) set about grinding England into the game, these two loving accumulating runs and boundaries at the appropriate pace, their 140 partnership putting England on top. But once out, Ajmal was bought on and the carnage began, an increasingly graying and bored looking Pieterson out cheap again. He seems to get one big score a series for the perfunctory forty average and retain his place on that alone. Stuart Broad recovered things with a beefy 58 after Prior fell quickly to Ajmal for a spell of 4-17 as England posted a decent 327.
England Ist innings 327 all-out
Ajmal 4- 108
After some looseners from Broad and Andersen the ball was tossed to the spinners and Pakistan started to crumble like the pitch in front of a big Friday crowd, free to get in the entire Test for spectators, the traditional day off in Muslim countries. Azhar Ali anchored what there was with 68 and held the only partnership of note with Shafiq (43) with 88. But regular wickets fell to Monty, who finished with 6-62 off 40 overs. 214 was still a good score.
Pakistan 2nd innings 214 all out
So the target was 145 in a day and a half, England only once failing to make 150 or less in the last innings to win since 1908, Boycotts side in NZ chasing 149 skittled for 64 by the great Richard Hadlee in 1976. At tea it was the Wellington backlash, England 39-4 and the spinners causing havoc, a world record 26 dismissals of bowled or LBW in the match when Morgan had his leg stump pinged by Rehman. I suspect that record is due to the three appeals the bowling and batting sides have in an innings to contest the on field umpires decision and so disputed catches can no longer con the umpires and so increase the chances of the guys being out to straighter balls.
Strauss 32 runs wasn't enough and once he was gone England were gone, bowled out for their lowest score ever against Pakistan for 72. Ajmal wasn't the destroyer this time but by England chasing the other end to avoid him young Ajmal Rehman cleaned up with 6-22. Ajmal's three wickets made him the fastest ever to 100 wickets for Pakistan. England still can't play spin and as negative as ever in the Far East.
England 2nd innings 72 all-out
England lost by 72 runs and the series 2-0.
Drop KP and pick James Taylor!
Summary: Cricket for cricket's sake
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