Thursday, 23 February 2012

Pakistan vs England - ODI Review

My dad often says that life is never a constant; that it is a series of successes and failures. One day you win, the other day you may not. However, the key is not to panic when you fail. Rather, look back at your actions and learn from your mistakes.  It is unforgivable that a failure is not taken as an opportunity for improvement.

England’s tour of UAE has been an excellent reminder of the lesson that dad always taught me. After a 3-0 whitewash in the test series, no cricket pundit gave England a chance in the ODIs.  The odds were stacked heavily against them. England took this as an opportunity to re-assess their game and played with more resolve and determination to come out on top as the better side.

Most experts suggest that a team is the embodiment of their coach’s personality. All great men fight harder when the going gets tough and good coaches have the skill to instill in their players the confidence and willingness to win. No other team is a better example of this than England.

Ever since Mohsin Khan has taken over as Pakistan’s coach, Pakistan has tasted success. But the real test of a coach is when his soldiers are down, wounded and shattered in confidence. This is a testing time for Mohsin Khan and Misbah ul Haq. Imran Khan would probably tell you the same: A great leader is one who has the ability to stand up and fight, especially when the chips are down.

It is true that Pakistan were beaten by England in every department: batting, bowling, fielding and most importantly captaincy. But it is important to analyze every aspect of Pakistan’s defeat to learn why England did well and why Pakistan surrendered so easily.  

This week Cricketing Minds has analyzed the 4-0 whitewash of the Pakistan team against England. 

The graphs below show the total runs Pakistan and England scored and total wickets lost in different stages of the game.

England dominated the first 10 overs by scoring 203 runs for the loss of just 1 wicket in the 4 ODIs combined at 5.075 runs per over. Once known as the best in the business for picking up early wickets, Pakistan are now struggling in the fast bowling department. England on the other hand has found an excellent opening partner in Pietersen for Cook. 
During the same stage of the game, English bowlers were able to pick up 8 Pakistani wickets at a cost of 169 runs only. It matters less that 4 of these wickets came in the first ODI itself and Finn was the chief destroyer, picking up 6 of these wickets. Once again that shows how superior the English fast bowlers performed compared to their counterparts when it came to utilizing the new ball.
Surprisingly Pakistan did slightly better than England between overs 11-20 where Pakistan scored 7 less runs but more importantly lost 3 less wickets too.
This is the stage when Misbah employed his strike bowlers Afridi and Ajmal who were able to contain England and also pick up wickets. But Pakistan was unable to maintain the pressure in the next stage.
In ODIs, the most important phase of the game is the middle stage (Overs 21-35) where a game is usually decided. Unfortunately for Pakistan they lost 12 wickets during this stage of the game which had a major impact on their runrate as well. England on the other hand mastered the middle stage play with the bat by scoring over 300 runs for the loss of just 2 wickets at 5.02 RPO.

For Pakistan to win ODI games, their batsmen have to put a higher price on their wickets and place an importance of occupying the crease during these middle overs. Their only decent performance during this stage of the game came in the 3
rd ODI when they scored 68 runs for the loss of only 1 wicket.  
Because Pakistan had already made a mess of their batting by the end of the 35
th over, the following stages mattered less because by the start of the 36th over (mostly with the batting powerplay) Pakistan would be at least 4 wickets down already. [Breakdown of Pak’s scores at the end of 35th over: 130/10, 151/4, 157/5 and 153/4].
Entering the batting powerplay and last 10 overs with 4-5 wickets down restricts the batsmen to play their shots and not make the best use of the fielding restrictions. Hence, only two things can happen as a result: (i) Your batsmen play too many shots to accelerate and lose wickets as a result OR (ii) Play defensive cricket and let the run rate to drop even further which puts extra pressure to accelerate during last 10 overs.
The best way to counter this problem would be to keep at least 7-8 wickets in hand when entering the last 15 overs. Which is exactly what England did and hence they were successful throughout. [Breakdown of Eng’s scores at the end of 35th over: 169/2, 154/2, 203/1 and 158/4].

Analysis of boundaries hit

This table shows the % of runs scored in boundaries by each batsman.  It must be a shame for Umar Akmal to sit at the bottom of this table despite being known for his aggressive nature. I am not surprised to see Malik and Misbah at the bottom as well. Malik has not been able to middle the ball ever since his forceful comeback. Misbah on the other hand needs to find innovative ways to score more boundaries and rotate the strike in ODIs rather than his usual ‘tuk-tuk’. Defensive play may bring him success in Tests, but Mohali 2011 should have been a lesson for him that the ‘tuk-tuk’ strategy mostly fails in ODIs. 


Partnerships are crucial in any format of cricket. I am not sure why the Pakistan batsmen fail to acknowledge the importance of partnerships in ODIs. Pakistan’s best partnership came in the last ODI when Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq added 111 for the 2nd wicket. What is noteworthy here is that there were only 4 50+ partnerships for Pakistan during the 4 ODIs. Whereas, England had 9 50+ partnerships. 

 Analysis of Extras Conceded

Ajmal has been Pakistan’s standout bowler. But if there is some area of improvement for him then that is ‘extras’. World's No 1 ODI Bowler will not be proud of being at the top of this list.
Pakistan’s fast bowlers’ lack of ability to pick up early wickets has already been mentioned as a reason for concern. But they also need to work on their wides and no-balls, especially Wahab Riaz who conceded 5 extras in just 7 overs. 

Analysis of Maidens bowled

This table shows the percentage of maidens bowled by the Pakistani and English bowlers during the 4 ODIs. The top four slots are occupied by the English bowlers. This shows that despite favorable conditions the Pakistani bowlers were unable to choke the English batsmen by drying up the runs. The strategy of containing opposition batsmen and drying up the flow of runs was successful against Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh last year. However, against quality batsmen such as Cook, Pietersen and Trott this strategy was clearly difficult to implement. Hence, Pakistan needs to think of other strategies to pick up wickets. 

Other interesting stats

Pakistan averaged 20.48 runs per wicket and 27.6 balls per wicket which is extremely poor and reflects inconsistency and the fact that the batsmen were unable to build partnerships. England should be commended for their efforts with the ball throughout the 4 ODIs.
Pakistan can take pride in dropping fewer catches than England. Umar Akmal dropped Cook off Afridi in the 2nd ODI and Azhar Ali dropped Pietersen in the 3rd ODI. Both of them went on to score match winning centuries. Umar Akmal also missed a stumping chance of Bopara in the 1st ODI who went on to build a century partnership with captain Cook.
England dropped 5 catches: Patel dropped Afridi in the 1st ODI. Broad couldn’t hold on to a tough chance offered again by Afridi in 2nd ODI. Kieswetter did an Akmal when he dropped Umar Akmal in 3rd ODI. Cook and Pietersen were guilty of dropping Rahman and Misbah in the last ODI. 


Pakistan failed to perform with the bat, ball and most importantly with the mind. Perhaps, Misbah can learn from Jayawardne who is being appreciated and rewarded for his aggressive captaincy and field settings despite having weaker bowling resources.
Here is something for your food for thought: It were these same English batsmen who struggled on the same surface against the same bowlers a few days ago when the field was up. So what changed during these few days?
The answer to that question in my opinion is “defensive captaincy”. Feel free to share your opinion with us and the answer to the above food for thought question.

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Not much for the stats, but an old school fan who believes in strategies more than numbers. Numbers have their role to play but, ultimately, there are too many real time random variables for one to characterize a trend or a conclusion.

Moreover, I don't think its defensive captaincy. Its more to do with the failure of top order batting. Normally, you would expect Younis to anchor in with Misbah and take Pakistan home. That has been the story during the series victory over Srilanka. Pakistan's batting lineup needs more experience, simply put. Top - middle order is failing too many times. Cricket is a team sport. All parts of the team, if perform at a decent level, can win you matches. Just like a human body, if one arm fails to function, half of your daily activities you cannot perform.

The second biggest problem is how many batsmen Pakistan should play. They keep flirting with the batting line up in hope to have the right combination of batsmen and bowlers. I remember, in mid 2000s, India faced a similar issue against Pakistan where they did not know whether to go with 4 or 5 bowlers because the batting kept on collapsing. Ultimately, they learnt and learned well, they stuck with 4 bowlers "trusting" their batting. When you choose players, have faith in them.

Finally, the last problem I see is the wicketkeeper. First ODI, Akmal drops Cook. Second ODI, Akmal drops Cook and Bopara. I don't want to blame Akmal because keeping is not what he signed up for but I blame the selectors for not having a full time keeper. Knowing that a lot more is expected of keepers, but one has to remember the basic ingredients of winning - A keeper should know how to keep first whereas his batting comes as a bonus.

As for Misbah's captaincy, if I have to be critical to fulfill my dislike for him, I'd say he is defensive with his thoughts about the batting lineup. He keeps on trying to squeeze in more batters whereas he should make sure the seniors live up to their performance. Note that Misbah is the most experienced batter in the current lineup (minus Afridi since he is a bowling all rounder and Malik because his place in the team is not certain). As far as his batting is concerned, he has lived up to his abilities and beyond as a batsman averaging more than 46 in both Tests and ODIs.

As for his so-called defensive decision making, here is an example. In the first T20, for example, when Bopara stuck in and was feeling comfortable at 30+, Misbah went to his two prime bowlers: Gul and Ajmal. Knowing that if he chooses to bowl them at that particular stage, the last over would have to be bowled by a less experienced bowlers i.e. Junaid Khan. Junaid Khan had went for more than 15 runs thanks to Bopara in his 2nd over. Here, Misbah clearly attacked back. He "trusted" Gul with the ball and Gul struck 3 times! The last over went to Junaid Khan with 15 or so required. Junaid Khan also ensured Pakistan win by 8. There were many examples in Test Matches where Misbah attacked. You cannot ever win Test Cricket as a defensive captain. And England is no joke of an opposition either. For defensive captains, draw or loss is the likely scenario. But Misbah, although said its better to draw than to loose, has attacked when he sniffed a chance in the test series. So all the criticism of his defensive batting style and nature is exaggerated to a point of choking the man himself.

There is nothing wrong with the man or his ability to lead and bat. Why can't the public see this as a failure of the batting unit? When players like Asad, Hafeez, Akmal and Azhar get starts and throw it away, what can the captain or the coach do? In this blog, I quote the following:
1) What is noteworthy here is that there were only 4 50+ partnerships for Pakistan during the 4 ODIs. Whereas, England had 9 50+ partnerships.
2)This shows that despite favorable conditions the Pakistani bowlers were unable to choke the English batsmen by drying up the runs.

Point #2 is very important. Why, on the same pitches, Pakistani bowlers seemed toothless against the very batsmen that they choked? The answer lies in England ranking as the #1 test side. Time and time again, they have adapted. Remember the world cup in India where England came back after a horrid start? In this situation, credit must be given to England, mostly, since they adapted really well to what the best Pakistani bowlers could offer.

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This could be more effective if they use this strategy

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