The Over – 1st and 2nd T20s

Well what with one of us having exams this week and the other getting his teeth into a new job, we haven’t had as much time for the old blog as usual, and apart from a running off a few hundred words on wicketkeeping and a few amusing photos in a couple of hours on Friday, you haven’t heard from us since Monday. In the meantime, England and Pakistan have got through the equivalent of less than a day of Test cricket, but with rather more bombastic generic DJing and rather fewer cucumber sandwiches. Here’s some thoughts on what we managed to catch of the two T20s:

Enter then the T20 specialists: England seem to have rather outgrown the habit of having players just for the crash-bang-wallop format, and only Bairstow of the present team didn’t play in the ODI series. Pakistan brought in two relative unknowns in Awais Zia and Hammad Azam. From what we’ve seen of the former, he has precisely one shot, which has a variety of names – ‘the mow’, ‘the scythe’ and ‘the hoick’ amongst others – but basically involves closing the eyes and swinging wildly in the general direction of the leg side, and which has a connection rate of approximately 20 percent. A tactic definitely born of the age of the ‘DLF Maximum’. We can’t comment a great deal on Azam – his batting was rather more successful than Zia’s yesterday, but it seems pretty strange to have him at number 8 if he isn’t going to bowl.

Ok, Ravi, we put our hands up. We promise we won’t say another bad word about you so long as you keep performing. A cultured 39 in the first match, and a quite superb over in the second that went for only 3 under pressure (and after his first two overs had gone for 20) that had Shahid Afridi flailing around like an octopus in a tumble dryer. We like your pluck.

Holy speedgun Batman! Steve Finn was chucking that bit of leather down at 94 mph yesterday! That’s some serious heat to be coming at you from about 10 feet in the air, even if he is only bowling for a couple of overs at a time. The more we see of him, the more impressive he gets.

Speaking of impressive youngsters, Jonny Bairstow is looking increasingly at home in international cricket after an up-and-down start. 82 runs without being dismissed in the T20s so far, and a cool head yesterday just when it was needed. Whilst we’re on the subject of youngsters, we’d actually like to see Jos Buttler bat for an extended period of time rather than playing that ridiculous rat-up-a-drainpipe shot which Umar Gul could spot coming before he had even started his run-up. In general, we feel England’s batsmen need to learn how to hit more sixes – the time will come when 150 is not enough in T20 cricket.

The spirit of schoolboy cricket is alive and well in the international game. On Saturday it was the age-old concept of ‘first ball grace’ which every playground Pietersen or schoolyard Sobers knows. Imagine Umar Gul’s surprise when he got up to the striker’s end to discover that what was about to be his first ball was in fact a free hit (he even double checked with the umpire by making the still-intriguingly random lasso signal). Even more in the schoolboy tradition, Gul duly missed and was bowled. We half expected the batsmen to start shouting ‘In!’ when they reached the popping crease at the end of a run…

Good Lord! We’re going to have a final game in a series with something still on the line! England haven’t been involved in one of those at all this winter with the exception of a one-off T20 against India. In fact, if you exclude England fulfilling their Allen Stanford-related contractual obligations in the absurdly tacked-on two-match T20 series in September, the last game of a series involving England hasn’t had anything riding on it since the Sri Lanka ODI series in July last year. How nice to have a close rubber for a change…

Postscript And finally, further to our last update, England Women completed a 4-0 (virtual) T20 whitewash over NZ Women with a 5 wicket victory overnight, with only the weather likely preventing a 5-0 scoreline. We’ve banged on about how well Steve Finn has been bowling in the one-day stuff lately, but his stats pale in comparison to England’s Anya Shrubsole, who finished with series figures of 10 wickets at 4.8 with an economy rate of just 3.13. Not bad.

Over.

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