Multan Mayhem

A look at the first two days of the second Pakistan v England test, which is taking place in Multan.

Greetings from the frozen wastes of Norfolk. It is currently four degrees outside with a significant wind chill, and that represents the least bad it has been in the last 48 hours. The second test of the Pakistan v England series is currently taking place in Multan, and may even finish tomorrow, while I would bet money against there being a day five.

THE PRELIMINARIES

England decided to persist with Pope as keeper and number three even though Foakes was available. Mark Wood came into the side to strengthen the bowling. For Pakistan there was a debut for leg spinner Abrar Ahmed and a recall for Faheem Ashraf. Ben Stokes won the toss and chose to bat first. This was soon seen to be a correct call as there was already evidence of turn on day one.

DAY ONE

Ben Duckett made a fluent 63 and Ollie Pope 60, and there were some other useful contributions down the order. The story of the innings however was the debutant Abrar Ahmed, who took the first seven wickets to fall with his leg spin. This puts him second on the all time list to Alf Valentine who took the first eight wickets to fall in his debut match. The other leg spinner, Zahid Mahmood broke the sequence, and in the end claimed the last three wickets. England were all out for 281 from 51.4 overs, and some were condemning the team’s new, much more aggressive approach. However my own reckoning was that England of a year or so ago would not have batted much if any longer on this pitch and would have scored many fewer runs. Also of course, first innings efforts should really be assessed only after both teams have batted – and that would apply with a vengeance this time round.

Pakistan batted well in the remaining overs of day one, reaching 107-2. Babar Azam was especially impressive, while James Anderson, the man who just keeps on bowlin’, claimed the first wicket to fall to seam bowling in the match and Jack Leach extended the tally of wickets taking by bespectacled spinners to eight. With Pakistan looking well placed the would be writers of ‘bazball obituaries’ were having themselves a field day in spite of England’s record since Stokes assumed the captaincy full time being won seven, lost one.

DAY TWO

Pakistan seemed to start day two as they had finished day one, scoring well, but then Babar Azam fell for 75 to make is 145-3. Mohammad Rizwan took his place in the middle and the game tilted on its axis. It took Rizwan 25 balls to get off the mark, and even with two fours he managed in total 10 off 43 balls, and Pakistan went into a tailspin. Leach picked up his second, third and fourth wickets of the innings,, Root bagged two in an over with his part time off spin and Wood took two wickets along the way. It was only a lusty last wicket stand between Faheem Ashraf and Abrar Ahmed that got Pakistan past 200. They were all out 202, and England had a 79 run lead on first innings, precisely the same advantage they enjoyed in Rawalpindi, but one that looked a lot more significant on this surface.

England lost two early wickets, Crawley running himself out and Jacks promoted to number three in order that Pope could have more of a rest from his keeping. Root also failed by his own high standards, but Duckett played superbly once again, scoring 79. His dismissal, bowled by one from Abrar Ahmed that shot through low, was an ominous sign for Pakistan – they had needed him out, but they did not need to see a ball doing that with England already over 220 runs to the good. Pope was run out cheaply to make it 155-5, but skipper Stokes stayed with Brook until the light brought an early end to proceedings. By then England were 202-5, 281 runs ahead, with Brook 74* and Stokes 16*. Abrar Ahmed had taken his tally of wickets on debut to 10, but the two run outs meant that he could not equal the record performance by a debutant (16 wickets, achieved twice, by Bob Massie of Australia in 1972 and Narendra Hirwani of India in 1989). The alacrity with which Pakistan headed for the pavilion when the umpires decided the light was no longer good enough was telling as to their state of mind just two days into this match. The events of this second day’s play, rather like the events post Stokes’ declaration at Rawalpindi, left the naysayers looking more than a little foolish. It is dollars to doughnuts that at some point tomorrow or Monday the series score will be 2-0 to England.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Just before the photographs, I shared an old post in a twitter discussion this morning and it was well received. Now for my usual sign off…

Rawalpindi Runfest

A look at goings on in Rawalpindi where Pakistan are playing England in a test match that has already seen seven centuries and the first test wickets by a bowler with first two initials WG since 1890.

The Pakistan vs England test series, the first between these two teams to take place in Pakistan in 17 years (for most of that time Pakistan were restricted to playing “home” series at neutral venues such as the United Arab Emirates because of security concerns) got underway on Thursday morning (earlyish Pakistan time, very early – though “ridiculous o’clock” rather than “ludicrous o’clock” as would be the case for a series in Australia). This post looks at the first three days action.

ENGLAND MANAGE TO NAME A TEAM

There had been fears that the start of this match would be delayed due to illness in the England camp, but although they had to make some last minute changes England were able to come up with 11 fit players. In batting order the final XI was Crawley, Duckett, +Pope, Root, Brook, *Stokes, Livingstone, Jacks, Robinson, Leach, Anderson. Foakes being unavailable meant Pope keeping wicket, and the team looked colossally strong in batting but limited in bowling (while some of the bowlers concerned are excellent practitioners of their art an attack with three specialists – Anderson, Leach and Robinson, and back up options Stokes, Jacks and Livingston is no one’s definition of a stellar bowling unit, with Stokes the nearest thing to a properly fast bowler in the ranks). There was less drama around the Pakistan selections, though their bowling attack was a very inexperienced one. Fortunately for England Stokes won the toss and chose to bat first (IMO a decision to field first would have raised legitimate questions about whether Stokes had been doing deals with dodgy bookies so terrible would it have been).

DAY ONE: THE RUNS FLOW

A barely believable opening day saw England post a new record for the opening day of a test match of 506-4, and that with fading light in the evening restricting play to 79 overs. The previous record of 494 by Australia versus South Africa had stood since 1910. Crawley, Duckett, Pope and Brook all registered centuries on this amazing opening day, and all went at over a run a ball. In amongst the carnage Joe Root just for once failed with the bat. Pakistan bowled poorly, and England’s batters took no prisoners – every loose ball was remorselessly punished.

DAY TWO: PAKISTAN FIGHT BACK

It is not often that a team who score 657 batting first could be disappointed with their efforts, but England were in that position. On one of the flattest pitches ever seen and against an experienced attack they lost their last six wickets in less than a full session, though their blistering scoring rate made up for the lack of time that they batted for. The innings lasted exactly 101 overs, with Brook scoring England’s quickest ever test 150 (at 80 balls his 100 was third on the England list behind Gilbert Jessop and Jonathan Bairstow, while Crawley had taken 86 balls, the same number as Botham at Old in 1981). Zahid Mahmood had the remarkable figures of 33-1-235-4!

By the time fading light forced a second successive early closure of a day’s play Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s openers, were still together and the score was 181-0.

DAY THREE – LATE WICKETS SPARE ENGLAND’S BLUSHES

Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq each completed tons for Pakistan, making this the first test match in which all four openers had scored first innings centuries. Babar Azam also reached three figures, and at 413-3 Pakistan looked well capable of taking a first innings lead. The breaking of Pakistan’s open stand featured a bit of cricket history – debutant Will Jacks became the first person with first two initials WG to claim a test scalp since the original “WG” dismissed Aussie wicket keeper Jack Blackham at Lord’s in 1890. This also meant that it took approximately 19 and a half years less as a test cricketer to claim a scalp on Pakistan soil than Anderson, whose own first scalp in that country came later in the day.

Late in the day England got things to happen, and by the time the light forced a third straight early finish to a day’s play Pakistan were 499-7, still 158 in arrears. Jacks has three of the wickets (remarkable given that at the start of the 2022 English season he had a grand total of three first class wickets), Leach two and Anderson and Robinson one a piece. England will be looking to polish of Pakistan’s tail early tomorrow, and score quick enough in their second innings to have a bowl at Pakistan before the close of tomorrow. Pakistan will be looking to thwart England for as long as possible – for them a draw will now be the summit of their ambitions for this match, while England retain some hope of winning. Incidentally with seven centuries already racked up it is worth noting that the record for any test match is eight and the FC record is nine, in an absurd game between Bombay and Maharashtra in the late 1940s which the former won by 354 runs – Bombay 651-9d and 714-8d, Maharashtra 407 and 604.

Although this game is not utterly dead yet, that is more by accident than by design, and a pitch on which bowlers are as helpless as they have been these three days is a poor one for test cricket. My own feeling is that a draw remains the likeliest outcome, with the Pakistan win and the tie the two rank outsiders and an England win maybe 25%.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Today’s photographs are all work photographs. The auctions in which these items feature can be viewed here and here.

Now on to the second sale (takes place on Dec 14th):

All Time XIs – The Letter A

Assembling an XI all of whose surnames begin with A. Also some photographs.

I am revisiting the theme of All Time XIs. This time I am focussing on teams that can be composed with players whose surnames all begin with the same letter. I begin at the beginning with the letter A.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Bobby Abel – Surrey and England. The diminutive opener scored 74 first class centuries with a best of 357* v Somerset at Taunton. He was the first England batter to carry his bat through a completed test innings, scoring 132* on that occasion. He was also a fine fielder.
  2. Saeed Anwar – Pakistan. A superb left handed stroke maker, an excellent counterpart to Abel at the top of the order.
  3. Babar Azam – Pakistan. One of the best all format batters in the world at the moment.
  4. Zaheer Abbas – Gloucestershire and Pakistan. The only Asian to have scored 100+ FC hundreds, a roll of honour that includes scores of 274 and 240 vs England in test matches and eight instances of a century in each innings of an FC match, including four where one of the centuries was a double.
  5. Mohammad Azharruddin – India. A wristy middle order batter who did enough before his career ended in scandalous circumstances (match fixing and other dealings with dodgy bookies) to earn his place in this XI. He announced himself with centuries in each of his first three test matches, and at his peak dominated attacks all around the world.
  6. *Shakib Al-Hasan – Bangladesh. Has an amazing all round record and has achieved it without ever having what could be described as a stellar supporting cast around him
  7. +Leslie Ames – Kent and England. The only recognized keeper to have scored 100FC hundreds. Also holds the record for career stumpings in FC cricket (418). Won the Lawrence Trophy for the fastest hundred of the season twice in its first three seasons. Three of the four instances of the ‘wicket keepers double’ – 1,000 runs and 100 dismissals in FC cricket in a single season – were achieved by him.
  8. Wasim Akram – Lancashire and Pakistan. Among left arm fast bowlers who bat only Alan Davidson of Australia, who played many fewer matches, boasts a test record to rival him.
  9. R Ashwin – India. The best off spinner of the current era, and a handy lower order batter. It is a fair bet that England’s exhilarating run chase at Edgbaston would have been harder work had India picked him rather than Thakur for the number eight slot in their team.
  10. Curtly Ambrose – Northamptonshire and West Indies. The list of bowlers with over 400 test wickets at under 21 a piece currently stands at one: Curtly Elconn Lynwall Ambrose. He rocked the WACA in Perth in 1998 by claiming seven Australian wickets for one run in a spell of 33 balls. Australia having reached 100 only one wicket down were all out for 118. At Trinidad in 1994 England need 194 in the last innings to win, with an awkward hour and a bit to survive in murky light on the penultimate day as their first task. By the end of that short session England were 40-8, and although bad batting played its part, so to did an immaculate spell of bowling by Ambrose.
  11. James Anderson – Lancashire and England. More test wickets than any other pace bowler, and nor is there any obvious sign of his powers waning as his 40th birthday approaches.

This XI has a heavy scoring top five, a genuine all rounder at six, an all time great keeper batter at seven and a quite awesome quartet of bowlers, two of whom can certainly also bat. While the bowling attack is missing a leg spin option it is by any standards both powerful and varied, with left arm pace (Akram), two of the greatest right arm fast mediums of all time, who are different in methods to boot (Ambrose, relying on his immense height and unrelenting accuracy, and Anderson with his mastery of swing and seam). This trio is backed up by a pair of contrasting spinners (Ashwin, off spin, and Al-Hasan, left arm orthodox spin). The biggest decision is likely to which of Anderson or Ambrose gets to share the new ball with Akram.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Mike Atherton was close to claiming an opening slot and Dennis Amiss even closer, but I feel credit should be given to Abel for the fact that most of his runs were scored in the 19th century when pitches were often treacherous, and in the case of Amiss also feel that his decision to join a rebel tour of apartheid South Africa counts against him. Two top order batters who could bowl seam up both entered my thoughts: Mohinder Amarnath and Tom Abell. Russel Arnold of Sri Lanka came close. Among the quicks I could not accommodate were Kyle Abbott (Hampshire and South Africa) and Mohammad Abbas (Hampshire and Pakistan). Sri Lankan strokemaker Charith Asalanka may merit a place in few years time. Tommy Andrews, an Aussie middle order batter and ace close fielder of yesteryear was another who could not force his way into the middle order. West Indian left hander Keith Arthurton needed a bit more substance to go with his style to claim a place. Finally, although anyone capable of scoring 167 on the kind of pitches that existed in 1777 as James Aylward of Hambledon did must have been a very fine player, but I felt that there was just too little evidence to justify such a selection.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Babar Azam’s Command Performance

A look at two contrasting T20s, one featuring Babar Azam and one featuring Virat Kohli, a mathematical teaser and a lot of photographs.

There was much wailing and gnashing of Indian teeth this morning as the new ODI batting rankings came out with Babar Azam promoted to no1, pushing Virat Kohli down to no2. Both were in T20 action today, Babar for Pakistan against South Africa and Virat for Royal Challengers Bangalore against Sunrisers Hyderabad. This post tells the story of the international match and where we are at so far in the IPL game.

RUNS GALORE AT JO’BURG

Johannesburg is no stranger to high scoring matches (just ask Ricky Ponting, who once failed to defend 434 in an ODI there!) but even so South Africa would have expected a tally of 203 from their 20 overs to be chased down with quite such ridiculous ease. Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan opened the batting together and for a long time it looked like they were leading their side to a ten wicket win. Babar Azam took just 49 balls to reach his 100, and Rizwan also topped 50 quite comfortably. So unfortunately for him did Beuran Hendricks with the ball – 4-0-55-0. Eventually Babar Azam fell to the fourth ball iof the 18th over to make it 197-1, his own share 122 off 59 balls. Fakhar Zaman came in to bat and clouted the last two balls of the 18th over for fours to settle the issue with nine wickets and two whole overs unused.

RCB V SRH

Kohli was named to no one’s surprise as captain and opening batter in the Royal Challengers Bangalore XI to face Sunrisers Hyderabad. Such is Kohli’s power in certain circles that an innings of 33 off 29 balls, in reality an awful performance in a T20, was described by at least one commentator as “An excellent cameo.” Only Maxwell, who came close to living up to his moniker of “The Big Show” with 59 not out off 41 balls, did anything significant with the bat and RCB were held to 149-8 from their 20 overs, a total that seems modest. Rashid Khan as so often in any game of which is part was well to the fore with the ball, finishing with 2-18 from his four overs, and outstanding effort in this form of cricket. Although Saha fell for just one in the reply David Warner and Manish Pandey seem to be in little trouble, with SRH now 32-1 off four overs and looking set for a comfortable win.

A MATHEMATICAL TEASER

This is today’s offering from brilliant.org, slightly modified as their setting gave multiple choice options for the answer, which opened up a hack that I availed myself of. Can you solve this in the intended way and work out the answer? My hack, and an authentic solution will appear in my next post. Click here for more.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off, with Warner and Pandey still going nicely, and Bairstow waiting to come in next…

PS as I publish, SRH are 75-1 in the tenth, well on course to chase down the modest target they have been set.

Pakistan In Control In The Test Match

A look at developments in the test match, some mathematics and plenty of photographs

INTRODUCTION

The series opener between England and Pakistan is now into its third day of play. This post looks at developments in that match so far.

THE PAKISTAN INNINGS

A weather hit opening day ended with Pakistan two down, Babar Azam already past 50 and Shan Masood not far short. England bowled well on the second morning but did not get full benefit for their efforts in that department as they were badly let down by Jos Buttler who had an absolute nightmare behind the stumps. Post lunch England bowled poorly, and Masood cashed in, being well supported by Shadab Khan. Masood eventually reached 156 before his resistance was ended. Pakistan tallied 326 in total for their innings, a score that looks very good on this pitch.

ENGLAND’S RESPONSE

England were soon 12-3 in reply, with both openers and Stokes out cheaply. Root batted a long time but did not score many, and Buttler was just able to survive to the close after Root’s dismissal. At the end of day 2 England were 92-4, with Pope who had looked a class above anyone else in the order approaching a 50. This morning Pakistan bowled superbly and England did well to get through the opening session for the loss of only one wicket – Pope got an absolute beauty. Woakes was hit by a bouncer but resisted through to lunch in company with Buttler. Early in the afternoon session Buttler has been bowled by leg spinner Yasir Shah for 38 to make it 159-6. Bess will be next man in. Taking into account Buttler’s errors with the gauntlets a generously inclined assessor would now say that he is only in a double-figure rather than a triple-figure deficit for the match. Stokes’ unfitness for bowling means that England have little batting left – Woakes is more bowler than batter (though his record in England specifically is excellent), Bess can handle a bat, but against an attack equipped with serious pace and quality wrist spin (more difficult to handle than finger spin) little can be hoped for, much less expected, from Broad, Archer and Anderson. This Pakistan team look to be made of sterner stuff than the West Indies – Masood’s ton was his third in as many tests, while Azam’s innings was a magnificent performance, and his record suggests that he deserves to be bracketed with Kohli, Smith and Williamson and placed ahead of the current version of Root as a batter. The pace bowling, with a left arm quick in Shaheen Afridi, a right arm quick in the person of 17 year old Naseem Shah,  and an excellent exemplar of the steady medium-fast bowler in Mohammad Abbas looks superb. Yasir Shah with his leg spin and the second leg spinner Shadab Khan whose bowling has not yet been called on are likely to play an ever increasing role as the match goes on, and Yasir Shah has already accounted for a couple of wickets, Root yesterday as Pakistan’s keeper demonstrated that it is perfectly possible to make dismissals off a spin bowler on this pitch and Buttler today, bowled through the gate, once again failing to navigate his personal ‘Bermuda triangle’ which is located between 21 and 50. Ben Foakes has a first class batting average of 38 (having played just over 100 matches at that level – a very impressive record for someone for whom batting is the second string of the bow) and is also the best pure keeper in the country, and various young keepers are beginning to establish themselves at county level and would also be more deserving of the test gauntlets than Buttler, though my own feeling is that Foakes deserves an extended run as England’s acknowledged no1 test keeper before a youngster is blooded. Yasir Shah has nabbed a third wicket, that of Bess, while I was writing this. Archer has been sent in at no9, ahead of Broad and Anderson, and England need something major from Woakes backed by the tail – with the pitch already helping the bowlers quite a bit anything approaching a major deficit will be insuperable, and at the moment that is exactly what England will be facing.

A SOLUTION AND A NEW PROBLEM

I offered this problem from brilliant up in my previous post:

No multi-choice here (this is much too easy for that), but a bonus challenge: part 1) if there was a third square of the same size but divided into 49 smaller squares shaded in similar fashion which would have the largest shaded area, and part 2)what is the general rule relating the number of squares into which the big square is divided and the proportion of it that ends up shaded?

The first shape contains nine squares of which five are shaded, while the second contains 25 squares of which 13 are shaded. 5/9 = 0.55…, while 13/25 = 0.52, so the first shape has a greater shaded area. The 7X7 square would have an even smaller proportion of its area shaded – 25/49 = 0.51. The general rule is that the greater the number of squares the shape is divided into the closer the shaded area approaches to half the total area, while always remaining just above that limit.

Here is another problem from brilliant:

Venn Rectangles

Yasir Shah has just collected his fourth wicket, that of Woakes to make it 170-8, and England are definitely in the mire.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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I gave these tomato plants a thorough watering this morning, mindful of the fact that extreme heat was forecast for later in the day (and has eventuated).

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This is a comma butterfly with its wings closed – opened out is orange and black,

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