Monday, January 10, 2011

Pakistan Springing Back to Life

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In a result that prompted both relief and surprise, Pakistan sprang to life and defeated New Zealand. For those who thought test cricket was done after the Ashes and the India-SA series, Pakistan and New Zealand are still playing. I only caught a few glimpses of the game and could not recognize half the Pakistani players.

New coach John Wright was the reason that I even decided to watch the game. Would he restore NZ immediately, like he did with India in 2001? Obviously he couldn't. Pakistani batting led by Misbah-ul-Haq seems to have discovered a spine that didn't exist in Australia and England before. What seemed to be a team completely dependent on bowling miracles (yes, I use the word miracle deliberately), showed that their test match batting skills are not completely finished.

What it now seems (having not watched the games in the UAE) is that Pakistanis actually put up a fight instead of the popular belief that dead pitches produced the stalemate. South Africa seemed to have run into a determined captain and a Pakistani team with all the qualities that a Pakistani team has. Passion, pride and courage. I know that I am extrapolating big time, but what's the harm.

Whether it's New Zealand or any other team, winning test matches isn't easy. It needs days worth of sustained effort. Effervescent performances do not win test matches. They are good enough for T20 and ODIs perhaps, but a team has to play every session with diligence to win test matches. I didn't think Pakistani batsmen had that. But this match where they put on 367 in 122 overs proves otherwise.

The bowlers obviously won the game for Pakistan by dismissing NZ for 110 in their second innings. There is no question about that. But the story here in my mind is the batting discipline exhibited by Pakistan to take the first innings lead after New Zealand put up a reasonable total.

This is good news for world cricket. I continue to believe that Pakistan and West Indies need to be healthy for world cricket to be healthy. They are the only two teams that are exciting to watch, regardless of ranking. This is mainly due to their fabulous fast bowling and exciting stroke players.

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