Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Some Summer Games…

The World Cup has been and gone, Wimbledon went like a flash and the 150th Anniversary Open Championship went past with no last day pyrotechnics.  All of which leaves us with two sporting events (bearing in mind the Commonwealth Games will be held in October) left before we can contemplate the beginning of the domestic Football season (and after that winter).  Firstly, there’s Athletics version of the European Championship’s, which is held this year in Barcelona and started yesterday.  After that though will be the four test series between England & Pakistan, which begins tomorrow.

Normally I'd be excited about the prospect of another test series coming around.  However an element of excitement has been sucked out by the Test’s only appearing on terrestrial television via highlights on Channel 5.  The majority of the laziz faire attitude to this series though comes from the fact that, like the West Indies, the current Pakistan team is not really the same as the great  Pakistan side’s of yesteryear.  The all conquering side of 1992, who arrived as World Cup winners the previous winter, who contained the twin spearheads of Waquar Younis and Wasim Akram, coupled to the leg-spin of Mushtaq Ahmed. In 1996 this was supplemented by the stellar batting talents of Aamer Sohail, Saeed Anwar, Ijaz Ahmed and Inzamam Ul-Haq, as Pakistan won convincingly 2-0.

Four years ago, Pakistan subsided to a crushing 3-0 series loss (could have been 4-0 but for their no-show on the fourth afternoon).  Since then they have lost Inzamam and Afridi to retirement and Youssuf to fights with the Pakistani Cricket board.  Pakistan could easily resemble a car crash waiting to happen.  Except they inexplicably won the second test last week at Headingly against Australia, in Salman Butt’s first match as Pakistan captain.  Alongside Butt, the players to watch are Kamran Akmal, their explosive batsman/wicketkeeper and paceman Umar Gul (above, celebrating scoring the winning runs at Headingley against Australia on Saturday).  Their new ball pairing of Asif & Aamer have been much hyped, especially after their display’s against Australia.  Pakistan still posess the guile and spin of Danish Kaneria, who still resides in the second division of test spinners, behind contemporaries Warne, Muralitharan & Kumble.  Despite this, Kaneria is this squad’s leading wicket taker, and most prolific wicket taker among Pakistan’s spinners.

England though will start as favourites.  They have home advantage, and have had two notable test results in the past year, they regained the Ashes a year ago and also drew the away series in South Africa.  However they were so so against Bangladesh with two series wins which have been comfortable rather than crushing.  There is a vacancy in the England middle order, with Bell being injured.  Pieterson is still to find his form, while England are still auditioning for pacemen to supplement James Anderson.  With Pakistan having drawn a test series against Australia, and England due to tour Australia just before the World Cup, this will be an intriguing series.

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