Not exactly a ringing endoresement for test cricket in the lower ranks. They'll need more than a test championship to enliven this type of series if sides are going to run up 469 and 501 respectively across three and a half days, and then play out the draw. But then, both sides also let opportunities slip that might have given them a positive result. New Zealand were 7/282 following a short collapse after Williamson (114) was dismissed, but were rescued by Watling (103) and Boult. Likewise, after Mominul Haque (181) was out his side was 6/301, but Sohag Gazi (101*) pushed them into the lead. A collapse from either side would have forced a result, but although Gazi's 6/77 included a hat-trick, it was too little, too late.
A word then, on Shakib Al Hasan instead. He had a relatively anonymous match, but he passed 2000 runs, after already going past 100 wickets, making him the fastest, in matches, to achieve an all-round feat that only 25 players had achieved before him, most (if not all) of them greats of the game. He wasn't the youngest, mostly because he plays so few tests, though only Kapil Dev, Shastri and Botham beat him to the post; and as already noted, none were faster, and it wasn't close. Shakib's 31 games beat the net best - Trevor Goddard - by five games. An average of 36 with the bat and 33 with the ball under-states his value. He is a spinner who rarely gets a fourth or fifth day pitch, and a batsman who rarely comes in with a foundation to build on. That has undoubtedly helped him get the opportunities he needs, but he is, in the American parlance, putting up hall-of-fame numbers, and he deserves more recognition.
There was so much to enjoy in this match. Mohammad Irfan and Junaid Khan's opening burst, Hashim Amla's untroubled class, and Saaed Ajmal and Zulfiqar Babar's skillful spin in the first innings. The depth of contributons on one side put Pakistan on the front foot as 249 was onyl enough if Pakistan collapsed. Surprisingly, they did not, with Khurram Manzoor and Shan Masood providing an elusive big opening stand, allowing Misbah-ul-Haq to stretch the lead out t almost 200. Pakistan went to work again in the second innings with similar results, albeit with de Villiers providing the resistance. Three quick wickets were largely irrelevant in a chase of 40, and Pakistan prove again, both their remarkable ability to blow hot and cold from match to match, and their strength in the UAE.
South Africa have the class to regroup, but even with Kallis - who had a miserable match - and Duminy they lack bowlers in the heat and on the unforgiving pitches. Pakistan didn't really grind out the runs, but they looked much mor comfortable when Steyn and Philander were through their opening spell, and it is a long haul to a second new ball if those opening break-throughs don't occur. Mostly though, they need more runs from what is a very long batting lineup, but an oddly fragile one. They've not reached number one without being resilient though, and the second test ought to be an equally intriguing contest.
A weakened Afghan side was still far too good for a Kenyan side reeling from three successive maulings in the T20 and WCL games that preceded this one. Kenya did reasoably well at first, from a shaky start (8/84) the tail put together enough to get to 162, and Ragheb Aga (5/46) - a player around whom they will rebuild for may years - reduced Afghanistan to 6/63. Amongst the wreckage thoough, was Rahmat Shah, having not batted in his previous 6 games for Afghanistan he went full-Bannerman, making 144 of 234 all out; a lead more than sufficient to see Afghanistan coast home from then on, rolling Kenya for 140 and running down the 69 required inside 15 overs.
The final will be played in early December, with Afghanistan perhaps slight favourites, given relative home advantage, their superior rating, and the chance they can bring Hamid Hassan along, the class bowler of either side. Recent matches for both sides haven't been at full strength though - a sign of how far above some of their fellow associates they are - so the ratings are not reliable guides. It ought to be a very good game, pitch permitting.
Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.
Idle Summers 20th October, 2013 23:58:38 [#]