28 May 2011

Re: Aaqib Javed

Aaqib Javed observing bowling practice in 2007
(c) Faras Ghani
Well well. Sometimes people try to challenge my non-existent knowledge of cricket trivia and so I got asked "What are Aaqib Javed's best ODI bowling figures?" Ahhhm... who? I like these questions because they are about the only way to make me look up stuff every cricket fan should know about, no matter how late he or she joined the madness. Alright here's the answer:

7/37, Wills Trophy, 25 Oct 1991, Sharjah, final between India and Pakistan.
Aaqib led his side to a furious 72-run win over the Indians.

Aaqib, a talented fast bowler who could swing it both ways, suffered from the popularity of his now-legendary competitors and could never really start a proper international career beyond ODIs, however, in that match he must have come down like a hailstorm over the Indian batsmen and completely swept them away, as they in vain attempted to chase Pakistan's 262, in which Zahid Fazal had top-scored with 98, before he had to retire hurt, albeit not due to any vicious Indian bowling, and to which Saleem Malik contributed an equally powerful 87.

Ravi Shastri and Navjot Sidhu had survived the opening bowlers, but when Aaqib came on the wickets started to tumble. Sidhu departed in his first over, and in his third he removed Ghastli, Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar via hat-trick. Brilliant, especially if you consider that he was only 19 years of (Pakistani) age at that time. Sachin went for a golden. Strangely this does not fill me with a lot of schadenfreude... I'm telling you, my friends, these Indians, they have knocked me soft already...



However, the only batsman that had made it past 50 was Sanjay Manjrekar, the Man of the Tournament; this made me chuckle a bit because the scorecard looks pretty much like what the media types are doing nowadays... Shastri being largely useless, while Sanjay provides the substance. If this pattern indeed bears any prophetic relevance you will inevitably be dead worried about Sachin's future media career, haha.

Alright. Now I know something about Aaqib Javed. Good stuff. As Pakistan's current bowling coach he is certainly working hard on compensating the loss of Asif and Aamer, good luck with that.


Cheers,
Wes

Kudos @Zeeshan Ahmed from *[ I Am Zeeshan ]* for the video link.

21 May 2011

Euro Div. 1 T20 - Drama, Baby!

Cricket Germany was so nice to tweet the fixtures (PDF) of this year's ICC European Div. 1 T20 tournament. Let me interpret the pitting for you, strip it of any frills and summarise it in one sentence: ooof.

Group A - Guernsey: Italy, Guernsey, Norway, Gibraltar, Croatia, Runner up Div 2
Group B - Jersey: Denmark, Jersey, Germany, France, Israel, Winner Div 2

Hello again!  (c) Herschel Gutman
Cricket Germany finds it's a tough group and I have to say with Denmark and Jersey we're gonna have some real Goliaths in the group and neither France nor Israel cave in easily, Israel have beaten us in the most recent encounter, too, and according to skipper Gutman they are practising hard. The winner of Div. 2 will have won it for a reason as well.

What speaks in our favour is our excellent attack; I can't help the feeling that T20's nature has begun to benefit the bowlers, not only because the batsmen are expected to hit it big more often than in the other formats, but also because there is hardly any time for them to settle in, and they permanently have get adjusted to new bowlers due to the micro spells that are common nowadays and have been used to great effect even in the 50-over game. But we also have some big hitters in the side, as well as batsmen who can adapt to the requirements and construct a mini innings if need be. I hope that both our pacers and slow bowlers will thrive in the channel conditions, and that the format itself increases our chances of beating the big teams, especially with our smart resource management.

But it's gonna be a tough piece of work. Needless to say that my nerves are about to disintegrate already, especially since T20 stresses me out more than any other format. But I'll just try and approach the tournament in the Pak way: every match we win is the most important match in the history of cricket, Germland Zindabad and Boom Boom Hurrah, and if we lose it's because the format prevents the teams from displaying their actual skill level.

Seems a great plan to me,


Cheers,
Wes

17 May 2011

Cricket Germany Confirms Existence

Don't run up the walls just yet, I've got to get something out of the way first...

On a small, embarrassing, initial side note:
Ehsan Latif had most probably not got dropped for the Kuwait match, but missed out injured. Cricket Germany spoke of numerous injuries in their Norway report, which sheds a different light on the line-up that played against Kuwait. So in all likeliness I totally misread the signs. Of course that is mere speculation, too, but it makes more sense than my original theory. Apologies Ehsan for interpreting your absence as a strategic stroke of genius :(


I'm pretty sure, however, that such mishaps can be ruled out in the future, since

Cricket Germany's Twitter account

is gonna provide us with a steady flow of information, which will hopefully also include injury updates and so on. Yes you are reading correctly, the German Cricket Federation (DCB) has dipped a toe into the lukewarm water of the social network seas and I hope this will help spread the word of world's finest little cricket team a lot faster than my lame attempts at tournament reports aimed at approx 2.5 readers. Another advantage of this important step, so I hope, will be live tweets from the matches, i.e. scores, a word on the pitch, remarkable events during the match etc. And perhaps the odd quote from a player :)  I hope for lively interaction and can only recommend you to hammer the follow button for your daily dose of Associate love. Go the Germs!


A small update on the European Div. 3 T20:
Sweden have bullied their way to Div. 2 unbeaten and according to Barry Chambers their chances of promotion to Div 1 cannot be underestimated. I'll keep an eye on them. Or two. Two very, very close eyes!!!

There was something else I was going to say, but it has slipped my mind for now. It's gonna be a hot summer!


Cheers,
Wes

11 May 2011

Germany - A Look Back, At Pakistan, And Elsewhere

Well obviously I'm not done yet.... so here's a few more words on the hottest cricket topic of the last week ^^

World Cricket League Div. 7 - Player Of The Tournament

Throughout the whole tournament I had had the feeling that our Rana-Javed Iqbal would and should be it, since he hadn't only been the number one ranked bowler in the table by wickets, average, economy rate and maidens, but he also captained the side (and on top of that earned the MOTM) in the victory against Kuwait, the latter a feat only Germany managed to achieve.

Kuwait's Mohammad Murad, just 21 years old, runner-up in the bowling table, part of the champion side and taking four in the final, would obviously be the second contender, delivering an impressively consistent performance throughout the whole competition, and also showed his determination with the bat against us.



If you look at the figures you will see that both bowlers have taken three wickets per match on average, and if Murad hadn't had to miss out on one game perhaps their stats would look like mirrored images. In fact, the chances of such an outcome would have been pretty high:

Click the image to view the entire table

So I think that Murad got picked for the trophy because of the above mentioned soft reasons, his young age and him being a part of the side that won the tournament. 


But!!! Attention ladies and gentlemen, hold on to your seats:

Rana-Javed Iqbal was born on the 25th December. 

This is not only one of the highest religious holidays in most Western countries due to the celebration of Jesus' birth, but also the birthday of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the father and founder of the state of Pakistan, and therefore a public holiday in Pakistan as well. In that context there also needs to be mentioned that 'Javed Iqbal' is the name of the son of Sialkot poet Muhammad Iqbal, one of the most highly respected Pakistani philosophers and great minds behind Pakistan's foundation (there is even a street named after him in the German city of Heidelberg). I will spare you another load of Iqbal-worship today, but you see where I'm coming from: in terms of soft factors Rana-Javed beats Mo Murad by a flipping mile! Statistically, however, the two bowlers should have shared the honours. Or maybe I'm just a wee bit jealous of that young whippersnapper from Kuwait :P

~~~

WCL Div. 7 - Glass Ceiling For Germany?

No, I don't think so. The competition was obviously a lot tougher than in WCL Div. 8, where we saw big differences in the skill levels of the participating teams, and enjoyed an undefeated run into the final. But in my opinion we were capable of reaching WCL Div. 6 as well. Nobody knows what would have happened if Farooq had bowled his quota in the match against Nigeria, or had been been introduced against Botswana earlier. There are so many situations in life when you get the best ideas retrospectively. Hinterher ist man immer schlauer.


The Team

Our team's efforts have largely been carried by the most experienced forces in our side: Milan Fernando, Farooq Ahmed, Asif Khan and Rana-Javed Iqbal -see above- proved to be absolutely irreplaceable once again. I hope and pray these guys are still going to stay around for a while. Their departure would leave gaping holes in the German line-up, and cut deep wounds in my every German cricket supporter's heart.

Age-wise the next batch of players, Shakeel Hassan, André Leslie, Kashif Haider, Rishi Pillai, Satya Srinivas and the searing Rajeev Vohra have contributed tremendously to our efforts and will play key roles in our future successes, and I'm convinced they are going to do a stellar job for us.

The youngest generation, comprising Ehsan Latif, the second spearhead of our attack and equipped with a veteran's amount of experience already, as well as Tarun Rawat and Ashwin Prakash look promising prospects for our country, and surely some more gems are slumbering below the surface waiting to be unearthed by the German Cricket Federation soon.


The Summer Of Cricket 2011

July holds some more international challenges in store for the German teams:

From 19th to 24th the European Div. 1 T20 Championship will be played in Jersey and Guernsey. Oh god I mustn't look at our competitors: Croatia, Denmark, France, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Israel, Italy, Jersey, Norway... (big gulp of terror) plus the two highest-ranked teams from Div. 2, which takes place from 20th to 25th June in Belgium. The Div. 1 list features some of the strongest teams in Europe, and in random cricket anything can happen, so we have to be prepared for some seemingly unlikely results as well. I am utterly happy that Israel are returning to Europe for a couple of slog-outs, good luck guys, all the best. Gibraltar will be without Christian Rocca for the first time in like 300 years :(

Another important event takes place from 27th July to 2nd August: the European Div. 2 U19 Championship, which is staged in the Isle of Man. The teams competing with Germany are Belgium, Denmark, France, Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Norway, Spain. Tough tough tough. I will try and get my hands on some scorecards or whatever material is available, the future starts here!

~~~

So, thank god, there is some more continental cricket to come this year, before the German tournament schedule inevitably ends for the season... For now I would like to say thank you to the two or three people who have visited the blog during the last week, I hope you'll be popping in again in July :)


Cheers,
Wes

8 May 2011

World Cricket League Div. 7 - Kuwait, Germany Flex Muscles On Finals Day

A beautiful last match day at the end of the tournament, with wins for both my favoured sides. The bittersweet taste on the German lips has intensified even more, while Kuwait have all reasons in the world to throw a cracking party tonight!

Match Day 6
[scorecards] [points table]
[cricinfo bulletin] [ICC match report and post-match statements]


The Final: Nigeria v Kuwait
[gallery]


Hisham (batting against Germany)
I am utterly pleased to report that Kuwait have easily won the final against Nigeria and are taking the trophy home! It was a match I was following with eagle eyes, the battle of the two elephants, and while Kuwait had won the first encounter with the Africans, after losing against us they could have easily slipped against Nigeria as well.

But Kuwait showed a disciplined and focused performance. Unfortunately Sibtain and Hisham Mirza couldn't score, but Irfan Bhatti announced his return to the runs with a handy 60, and a wagging tail provided the Kuwaitis with a total they were able to defend comfortably. The prodigal young left arm fast bowler Mohammad Murad bowed out of the tournament with a fabulous 4-20, Saad Khalid and Azmatullah Nazeer took two each.

Kuwait have shared a long road with us from the beginning of WCL Div. 8 last year to the final day of WCL Div. 7, and while we were the only team to beat them, they defeated the two African sides when it counted, deservedly edged ahead of us and will surely cause a turmoil in Division 6 as well. I am wishing the desert warriors, captain Hisham and his talented team mates, all the best on their march through the divisions, and expect to hear a lot more good news from them in the near future.



Playoff for rank 3: Botswana v Germany


Outstanding captain's knock by Asif Khan
Dear god, that was our most laborious victory of the whole cup! But our winless streak against Botswana has ended! Furthermore we finally won a toss; not that it mattered, because we were batting first again anyway ;)

Tarun Rawat replaced Kashif Haider for this match, no Ashwin Prakash though, which left me grumbling for a bit.  Tarun did not embarrass himself and added the third-highest score to the German total. Interestingly Farooq Ahmed opened the batting today and what shall I say, the poor bloke shouldn't have read my blog.... this whole Boom Boom business obviously got to him a little and after a short, noisy rampage he departed for 21. Pitifully Milan and André couldn't contribute a lot today, but since the 8th of May is also known as "Day of the Indian Batsman" in large parts of the world, captain Asif Khan and Rishi "the legend" Pillai took over, and the rest of the innings is history: after exactly 100 balls Asif Khan celebrated a century as precisely timed and elaborately constructed as a Swiss clockwork, eight fours and two sixes had been enriched with a lot of fine running and interdigitated impressively with Rishi's wonderful 67 off 69, and after Shakeel Hassan had finished the innings for Germany, Botswana faced the challenge to exceed a whopping 269 runs by at least one run in order to beat us for the third time in a row.


But now raise the curtain for the big Rana-Javed & Ehsan show!!

"No... wait a minute... not just yet... no, no... not yet... oops... 14 wides in ten overs... Botswana 64-0... hello? Could we have some typical early German inroads please? Oh I understand, Botswana are trying to pull off another BOT v NOR today, and we are destined to look on as they are attempting to reach the target for the loss of two wickets. Sigh."

At that point I honestly thought the autobahn had got even flatter, deader and unbowlsier than in the first innings... can an artificial wicket get flat and dead actually? While I was still trying to adjust my confused brain to the new situation of our precious opening pair remaining wicketless for many, Rajeev Vohra came on steaming out of his ears and nostrils, lowered his horned forehead and drilled his angry antlers into Botswana's Sehwag, Faisal Rana (33). One down, nine to go. Vohra again the man to apply the important cut. My appreciation for him increases with each over he bowls; you realise this when you impatiently demand his re-introduction into the attack.

Rana-Javed Iqbal, best bowler of WCL Div. 7
18-176, avg 9.77, econ 3.27, SR 17.8
But Botswana showed us their shark teeth and kept galloping onward without even turning a hair. Asking rate? What asking rate? It took until run no. 125 and the interference of the incredible Farooq Ahmed, until the next wicket tumbled, the dangerous wicket-keeper Sequeira (24) had to walk back to the dugout. However, the second opener Noor Ahmad had put his tent up at the crease and invited his family for a little picnic, there was nothing our attackers could do against his stubborn resistance. The new batsman Motlanka however didn't feel like having a sandwich and Shakeel Hassan claimed his wicket after just 4 runs. Botswana were 130-3 after the 27th over, there were plenty of runs to score yet, and everyone settled around Noor's tent for an increasingly extended family dinner.

Except for Rana-Javed. At 180-3 he removed Noor and his tribe with brute force, and an emotional tear rolled down my face, since I had been imploring him desperately not to leave this match with empty hands. He sooooo deserved to take wickets in his last Div. 7 appearance, just think of all the hard yards he had done for Germany in this tournament! Him taking out Botswana's top-scorer (74), when I had already started to sort of give up any hopes of stopping them, proved that sometimes reality has a strange, beautiful sense of poesy about it.

Still, Botswana had six wickets left and less than 100 runs to get, Noor's departure however lit up my mind and I started to believe that from here on we could still turn the match around if we held on to it now, and Shakeel had tasted blood. He took the next two batsmen out in quick succession, and at 183-6 our chances had increased dramatically. Although Botswana's lower middle order and tail were determined to torment the German supporters some more, Germany wanted it badly, you could smell it in the air (even over here hehe), Rana-Javed Iqbal sent the Botswana skipper Akrum Chand on his way for a 3-ball duck, the second beautiful wicket for our selfless workhorse from Sialkot, and after Farooq, the mighty mighty Farooq, who bowled at a sensational economy rate of 3.11 in this runfest today, had removed the last recognised batsman, Rajeev Vohra pocketed the remaining two wickets to end Botswana's and my agony.



Playoff for rank 5: Norway v Japan
[gallery not up yet]

Sadly Japan couldn't win their last match either, Div. 7 is simply a level too high for them still, although they showed a very spirited effort in chasing Norway's 225. They got bogged down by the Norwegian bowlers, but Patrick Giles-Jones made an admirable 68*, and I think there is hope for Japan's future. On the Norwegian side a certain Shahid A. (yes, that guy) made 37 and took three wickets, while to my indignation Ehetsham-ul-Haq had been dropped for the match!!! Can you believe it! Since both Norway and Japan got relegated to Div. 8 they will have a chance to pit their strengths against each other again, with our old mates from Vanuatu and Zambia, if I remember correctly. Good luck, friends!

~~~

That's all from me for today, perhaps I'll add some more general retrospective thoughts and a little outlook into the future later. Germany's victory against Botswana will have them ruing their narrow defeat against the hosts in the group stage even more, and I imagine that the odd player will bite his own backside in grumpiness, and the question of what could have been will be floating around in our minds like a grey cloud for a fair while. But we have shown what sort of wood we are made of, "Don't mess with the Germs" is the message we have sent out to our fellow participants! So we can take a lot of positives from this competition and I hope the German camp will travel home equally satisfied.


Cheers,
Wes

7 May 2011

World Cricket League Div. 7 - Germany Not Crying In The Rain


Match Day 5
[scorecards] [points table]
[cricinfo bulletin] [ICC match report and post-match statements]

Germany v Norway
[gallery] [really nice Cricket Europe gallery]
[great match report by Cricket Germany]

Satyaaaaa!!! Top-scorer, 3 catches,
2 runouts: my personal MOTM No. 2
Oh dear oh dear. We lost the toss once again, and I came to the conclusion that the guys are just too bloody honest for any sort of gamble. Great was the delight to see Asif Khan back in the fold, but Norway's bowlers made the best of the conditions and had us reeling at 102/5 in the 29th over. Schockschwerenot! This was the first time that I couldn't sleep ahead of a German match and the scorecard seemed to prove my stomach's efforts to become the next psychic octopus right. A few guys got into double figures, but only Satya Srinivas' powerful 52, which gave me a few facesplitting grins, lifted the total to a somewhat defendable level. Defendable if you play against Gibraltar at Guernsey that is... 184 all out after 46.4 meant that in case of a defeat we needed to prevent Norway from reaching their target in approx. less than 40 overs (thanks DV for the calculations) to stay on top of them via NRR. Bowling them out would of course be the preferable modus operandi.

And then it started to rain...

And days later we saw the D/L target written out on the scorecard:

Norway need 140 from 28.4 overs.

Gahhh. A comfortable total if you keep wickets in hand and hit out towards the death overs. So wickets wickets wickets was the motto and I hoped our attack leaders could make their usual early inroads. Ehsan Latif was back for Ashwin, and I so wished he would finish the tournament on a personal high. My faith in Rana-Javed Iqbal exceeds any measurable dimensions now anyway. However, the little man in my head was driving me insane with his "Wet ball wet ball, nanana nana!" chants.

Rana conceded a single run in his first over and that was enough for the Norwegians to chuck the first wicket right into Ehsan's greedy throat. HRRRUMPH! Skipper Damien Shortis, who had only just made 91 the other day, gifted keeper Satya Srinivas with his first catch of the day. Rana leaked a few at the other end but Ehsan, despite going for a few as well, did not bowl a single wide in the whole match [please pass out NOW], and kept taking them out. The second wicket fell in the third over, lbw by Ehsan, and both openers had gone, Norway 15-2. Rana was replaced by Rajeev Vohra, who kept it really tight. I loved how he put pressure on the batsmen and got rewarded with wicket No. 3, caught by Asif Khan, so probably nicked through to the slips, 21-3.

But please, no optimism, we are English. Almost. And the guy who had just strode out to bat was... Shahid A.

Ehsan took the MOTM honours for his pretty 4-26!
Shahid Ahmed, to be precise. What a nuisance. Rajeev Vohra, in collaboration with Satya, removed Shahid's partner Shahbaz Butt at 40-4, only to have Shahid gang up with my personal dangerman and dread of dreads Ehetsham-ul-Haq (the guy actually deserves his own tag on this blog, so, there it is) and these two stuck like glue to the crease, but also didn't get bogged down, and instead kept the run rate in check really nicely. Fingernails, hairtips and random, protruding objects in the closer surrounding were chewed off in a series of nervous breakdowns. These two offenders put an agonising 42 on the board, before Ehetsham, being an ul-Haq and therefore perhaps not a race horse between the wickets, got run out by Farooq Ahmed and Satya! Satya was having a cracker of a day, which continued when he and André Leslie also ran out Wasim Gill, who had replaced Ehetsham. Norway 91-6, I began to sniff morning air, as we say over here! But six down means there are still some capable bats at the crease and with just 49 runs to get at around 5/ov and the powerplay left anything was still possible for the Viking legation, but the two runouts in quick succession seemed to suggest that they were starting to lose their heads, completely unnecessarily.

And the Germans had sunk their teeth into the Norsemen's flesh. Shakeel Hassan, bowling like the absolute meister bowler he is, eventually hit the stumps of Shahid Ahmed, and from there on wickets kept falling regularily. A nice mix of attack options ensured that the tail would give me the odd scare without starting to wag. Ehsan, the good Ehsan, grabbed four altogether; Shakeel took his well-deserved second wicket, and although I so wanted Rana-Javed Iqbal to take a wicket as well it wasn't meant to be. Sorry for my current religious comparison fit, but Rana reminds me of Moses, who had successfully lead the people of Israel to the Holy Land, without being allowed to enter it himself. ARGH! Life can be so cruel. So yeah, Rana is the Moses of cricket, and he parted the sea for his team mates again today, literally if you will. I am absolutely sure about that.

PS. I can offer you another fascinating theory about why Norway surrendered to Ehsan: the last time he played against them, at the Euro Div. 2 in 2010, he took four as well, so their nerves were a shambles already when they only saw him running in. Har har. I would furthermore like to mention that also Satya, gutsily knocking the bowlers around just like today, had played a vital role in this match :)

Asif Khan says:

"It's mixed feeling for me today, we had two games that we lost by two wickets and this game we won but it was very close - on the whole though we're still delighted that we're a part of Division 7. Our batting didn't click so well today but Satya proved his worth under pressure and I think to have got them out for under 140 on this wicket is a real achievement."

Oh god I love defending so much. We are so bloody good at that. When we are defending I always have a sense of basic trust in the team, like a child has in his surrounding. During the relatively short time I've been following Germany I've seen our bowlers pull off the craziest and freakiest mindf***s. It doesn't matter if the other team sends us in... we will defend anything, against anyone, against Rudi, rain and D/L. That stupid little slip against Botswana in the middle overs has cost us the promotion though, and I could smash something in, because getting neither promoted nor relegated means in the first place that Germany won't be playing any WCL till 2013. NOOOOOOOOOOO :(

I need to figure out the next dates on the European schedule, but it might be a while as well. Hopefully the experienced guys are keen to keep going, I want to see these blokes for another round of Germany v Botswana (by which I mean the next WCL Div. 7, not the shit and giggles match tomorrow, which we must win of course, just to restore some pride, and hopefully our young guns will get a decent ride out, they absolutely deserve it, albeit not at the cost of dropping Ehsan of course). Oh yeah Botswana....


Botswana v Nigeria

Godogod Botswana. I am sure they had envisioned a way more glorious end to their WCL campaign on home soil. Bundled out by the Nigerians for 123 (!!!) and additionally hurt by D/L they didn't stand the ghost of a chance and had basically lost the race for the second promotion spot after the first innings. Congratulations Nigeria on the promotion, you thoroughly deserve ascension! Oh and guess what, Nigeria captain Endurance Ofem had "expected more from them" (no joke, but a good running gag nevertheless). But getting 0 points for a miserable batting performance is better than suffering the fate of the Japanese...


Japan v Kuwait
[no gallery]

Japan, so far win- and pointless, did not get to bowl or bat a single over against Kuwait. The match was abandoned without a ball bowled, and Japan finish the group stage of the tournament with one point from a game they didn't play. The humiliation must be exorbitant. You can only feel for this brave little island team. I am lost for words. On the other hand Kuwait's ascension fills me with delight, and it looks like I'm gonna follow them now with one eye at least, good luck at the WCL Div. 6, Hisham and Co.!

~~~

Outlook: tomorrow the final and the playoffs take place, which will not influence the outcome of the tournament, but determine the final ranking in the table. Kuwait and Nigeria, both promoted, will fight for the No. 1 spot, Germany and Botswana, retaining their WCL Div. 7 status, play for rank 3, and the two relegated teams Norway and Japan will try to avoid carrying the red lantern.


Ooooof.

Cheers,
Wes

5 May 2011

World Cricket League Div. 7 - Germany Settle Old Scores


Match Day 4
[scorecards] [points table]
[cricinfo bulletin] [ICC match report and post match statements]

Germany v Kuwait
(For the other two matches please scroll down)

Captain, MOTM, smarty pants: Rana-Javed Iqbal
"I enjoyed captaining the side today and the boys just seemed to really listen to me."

"On a personal note, I think my bowling is well suited to the conditions here in Botswana and we use the same type of matting in Germany which I knew was going to work in my favour. I'm really pleased to win man of the match but it's an even better feeling to win the game."


-Rana-Javed Iqbal, leading wicket-taker of the tournament by a mile: 16 for 106 from 4 matches, avg 6.68, at 2.76/ov

~~~

Today I died. I'm still dead, I'm talking to you from the realm of the lifeless. Perhaps by tomorrow or so my spirits will have returned. I hope you don't mind my anaemic complexion and empty stare. I promise not to burst into remote-controlled, hollow Sachiiiiin Sachiiiin groans. Alright, so let's have a look at operation "Revenge of the Lederhosen":


5-25 for Rana-Javed Iqbal
(Ranus Magnus Africanus)
Unfortunately I couldn't follow the first innings, but checking the score my jaw dropped in shock: Asif Khan wasn't playing. I hope for the love of god that he's just caught a stomach bug, but I fear he is injured. "Thomas" Khalid Butt replaced him.

The second change in the line-up concerned an issue I had been thinking about as well: our dear Ehsan Latif got dropped for offspinner Ashwin Prakash. We remember that the last time Ehsan faced the Kuwaiti batsmen he suffered a terrible trauma, so although I was utterly sad not to spot his name in the line-up I was curious to see how Ashwin would be doing. My heart skipped a beat upon the discovery that Rana-Javed Iqbal, the German hero of the tournament, had been appointed to captain for this match. I do generally bandwagon bowling captains heavily, so Rana the brain man assumed a popesque aura on my inner monitor. If you know what I mean. Ahh.

It seems to be an unwritten law in this tournament to bowl first if you can, and since we lost another toss, Kuwait put us in. Milan Fernando (59) did not get run out today and subsequently scored most of the runs for Germany. André Leslie and the good Shakeel Hassan chipped in as well, but not much support came from the rest. Just like in the Div. 8 final it wasn't Mo Murad or any other fast bowling kid who grabbed a bucket of wickets, but the wickets were spread almost evenly among the bowlers, so I think Hisham Mirza's permanent juggle of resources saw us twitch around and so we got bowled out for 188. We have defended smaller totals before, but never in my whole life I would have dreamt of a victory against the Kuwaiti batting machines.


Enter captain Iqbal.

Farooq has a happy: Rana (No. 7) has just removed Saud Qamar
He immediately continued from where he had left the day before, and opened the innings in tandem with Shakeel Hassan. Oh you most glorious of wicket reapers, you who just needs to stick his hand out, and into whose palm the wickets will fall like the sweetest ripe grapes fall from the vine. Irfan Bhatti, the granite pillar at the top of the Kuwaiti batting order, left for a duck. Abid Mushtaq followed him on his heels for one. Shortly after, the second metaphorical rock got removed in form of the fearsome Saud Qamar, and Kuwait were 21-3 courtesy of Rana-Javed Iqbal.

I quietly celebrated these colossal partial victories, but refused to get excited. Because 1) the terrifying Sibtain Raza was at the crease, 2) concrete wall Hisham Mirza was at the crease, and 3) the first change bowlers came on. And oh yes Sibtain dropped his anchor and didn't even think of leaving. But Iqbal played with his bowling options so cleverly and mixed them up so wisely that I erupted in spontaneous declarations of total agreement every now and then. This smart juggle never really released the pressure from the batsmen, and when Sibtain departed in the 25th over for 56, bowled Kashif Haider (YES!) caught Rishi Pillai, I thought we were back in it. Mirza however would still have been able to get them home, if his partner just nurdled around a bit, because the asking rate was oscillating around 4.odd. But when the fifth wicket fell due to the perfectly timed introduction of Farooq Ahmed the gates swung open. Farooq also removed skipper Mirza a few overs later, Kuwait were 128-6 and the smell of tail was lingering in the air.

A smiley Sibtain Raza enjoys his 50
Just the right time for Rana's second spell: another two batsmen disappeared into his bottomless pit of death, and at 8-132 I was convinced that from here nothing can go wrong anymore. Boom Boom Farooq had enough overs left, Kashif exerted great control on the ball, and then there was still.... Ashwin Prakash. Any German supporter probably suffered a shock of medium-large dimensions when Shakeel had to pull out of his last over (I hope it's nothing serious!!!). Ashwin finished the over for him with two tidy deliveries, but was never considered for activity again. Instead the skipper had the more experienced Rajeev Vohra and of course Rishi Pillai fill the remaining overs, who bowled well enough for the role assigned to them. I feel bad for Ashwin though and would like to witness his talent, of which was spoken so highly, as soon as possible. He's had a couple of nice cameos now I am curious to watch him over the longer distance.

But back to the match... Kuwait had 56 runs to get with two wickets in hand, none of them with any batting credentials, Farooq was bowling his four letters off, but young Mohammad Murad successfully hogged the strike and lived on nurdles, nudges and the occasional boundary; but slowly, almost unnoticeably, the asking rate kept climbing and reached 6 at some point, which can put a lot of pressure on two tailenders. However, Murad was obviously attempting at some "Mo-Aamer-v-NZ" heroics and had my nerves in tatters so much that random muscles in my body began to twitch uncontrolled. Unlike me, Boom Boom Farooq held his nerve and DANG Murad's partner fell prey to a certainly gorgeous caught and bowled. I suspect that they had left the powerplay until the end, because the wicket fell in the 46th over, after both seemed fairly settled. Murad however was clinging on for dear life and they sneaked closer and closer towards the target, but Farooq and Kashif Haider, the latter returning for the death when Iqbal was bowled out, tightened the screws unbelievably and finally Murad lost his nerve and surrendered to Kashif, who, so I felt, had taken one of the most important wickets of his career in this moment.

Kashif erupts in joy after taking the last wicket
Words cannot describe the relief, my nerves were dangling in loose bundles and I couldn't move or breathe or control my facial expressions. Bloody hell Germs!!! This match, this victory has to be attributed to the probably tidiest and most disciplined bowling performance I have ever seen of the Germans.

I don't want to hear anything about Kuwait having got sloppy due to their superior position in the table. The fight of the tailenders illustrates impressively that Kuwait did not want to give in and fall victim to a side that had just narrowly lost two matches against two medium-strong teams. I also won't speculate that Iqbal's bowling brain perhaps gave us the edge in this thriller. Everything just fell into place and for the first time our team's admirable efforts were rewarded accordingly.

Unfortunately this hard-fought victory won't change anything about the fact that we've lost the race for ascension, but our position in the fight against relegation is a lot stronger now with two wins under the belt. Which takes us to the other two of today's games...


Nigeria v Japan

It is so sad to see Japan get mauled over and over again. I really feel for these poor blokes that have travelled so far and don't seem to stand the ghost of a chance against any of their competitors. Today it was up to Nigeria to knock the stuffing out of them and they did so by 90 runs. Ah well. :(


Botswana v Norway
[no gallery up yet]

These two sides would guarantee a really interesting match. A Norwegian victory could have kept the door to promotion open for us. Norway put a decent total on the board, 272 (captain Damien Shortis 91) certainly gave them the opportunity to inflict defeat upon the hosting side. Sounds like a good plan, but you need the bowlers to back it up. Norway didn't have them. Botswana approached the chase very cautiously, paying most of their attention to keeping wickets in hand, and their careful course of action paid off in the end, they only lost two wickets and arrived at the target 20 balls early, with opener Faisal Rana hammering a whopping 158 off 143 balls. Amazing.

~~~

Outlook: after another day off tomorrow we are playing our last group match on Saturday against our fellow Europeans from Norway. It's gonna be a tough match I can tell you. Today's victory has put us in the position that even if we lose against them we can still stay on top of them via NRR and secure a spot in the next Div. 7. Kuwait have only Japan left to play and with all due respect I don't think they will lose. So the second thriller will take place between the two African sides Nigeria and Botswana, who, both equipped with 6 points, will fight for the second promotion spot. The losing team will remain in Div. 7 along with either us or Norway. Should Japan win against Kuwait by like 500 or so runs, the table will be wide open again, with all four of us, Botswana, Nigeria, Kuwait and Germany back in the race for spots in Div. 6. Well, one may dream ;)


For now I need to rest my sorry nerves...

Cheers,
Wes

4 May 2011

World Cricket League Div. 7 - Germany v Rudi Koertzen et al

Germany's captain Asif Khan was battling at two fronts today: Botswana and Rudi Koertzen :P
Note that Akrum Chand is holding the German pennant, which we bestow upon all our opponents. Makes for a nice scalp, doesn't it. Grrr.

Match Day 3
[scorecards] [points table]
[cricinfo bulletin] [ICC report and post match statements]

Botswana v Germany
[gallery] [alternative gallery on Cricket Europe]
[André Leslie blog: day off and match day 3] [match report by Cricket Germany]

That's it. I'm quitting it. I can't take it anymore. My nerves are shot. I have no sweat anymore, no tears, no voice, no stomach (I think it has rotated itself to death).

BOOM BOOM. That's four. My MOTM Farooq Ahmed
Batting: Botswana opted to field first. Both our openers got removed for a combined 1 run, Fernando got run out for a duck. The middle order steered the ship into safe waters, magnificent knocks from Asif Khan (65), Farooq Ahmed (69) and Rishi Pillai (47 off 49), plus some quick runs from the tail. Total: 229, from 47 ov. (reduced match again). Absolutely defendable with our attack.

Bowling: Rana-Javed Iqbal and Ehsan Latif started with a wicket each in their first overs, Ehsan even began with a wicket maiden (at that point I decided that I had seen it all and could die in peace). First change Rishi Pillai, who hadn't even got the ball thrown at him in the previous match, took a wicket in his first over as well. Things were looking fab at 28/3. Then the bowlers totally lost the plot. Leaking wides galore, getting hammered (especially the spinners) and the bowling figures made my eyes bleed.

Finally Rana The Incredible and Shakeel Hassan came together for a great tandem, built up some pressure and took two wickets between them, and they even managed to push the asking rate to 6 at one point. When they were bowled out, Farooq Ahmed continued their great work, the dangerman Modise, Botswana's top-scorer, had been run out by Rajeev Vohra, and Farooq took another wicket, so the hosts were 7 down with 76 runs to get, and the skipper partnered Farooq with Kashif Haider and Ehsan. While Kashif managed to reduce his previously voluminous economy rate, Ehsan leaked too many runs to keep up the pressure that Farooq applied with some insanely tight bowling. When Vohra returned into the attack and took the 8th wicket -the lower middle order batsman Omar Ali, who had kept the innings together for Botswana in the latter stages- it was too late and the tailenders knocked the remaining runs off rather easily.

One could state that the match followed a similar pattern as that against Nigeria, but this time I had the feeling we had enough runs on the board, and we played some really powerful and competitive cricket, but the bowlers with some really erratic spraying in the middle overs fluffed it at some point. With 44 extras we nearly cracked Kuwait's record of 48; against Japan it didn't matter but today it cost us a must-win match. We'll have to see now how it goes on from here. Kuwait will be the next hard nut to bust, which leaves Norway as another must-win game, we need to avoid relegation at all cost. I imagine there's enormous tension in the German camp right now in view of this situation, I hope the boys will keep their nerves and play another strong match against Kuwait tomorrow. I'm still totally pumped because of the displays of Ranus Magnus Africanus and Boom Boom Ahmed, and it'll take a while until my nerves settle down again. Man!

PS. Go the Germs!!!!!

Kuwait v Nigeria
[no gallery up yet]

WHOAHHHHHHHHHHHH. Is this the same Nigerian team against which we struggled on Monday? Bowled out for 153 and then hammered into the ground by the Kuwaitis within 25 overs! This Kuwait steamroller is unstoppable. Sean Philips was again the stand-out batsman for Nigeria by a mile, hardly any support came from the others. Saad Khalid, "yet another" Kuwaiti fast bowling kid, grabbed five wickets during Nigeria's demolition. Kuwait raced home for the cost of just one wicket, and the undestroyable batting machine Irfan Bhatti, as well as Saud Qamar (I had already started to miss him hehe) ran away with the victory in hand. In my opinion Kuwait have wrapped up their promotion now. What a mighty freaking team.


Japan v Norway

Norway beat Japan, I must admit expectedly, by 53 runs. The Norwegians accumulated a nice total of 244 and bowled the Asians out for 191. Norwegian stalwart Ehetsham-ul-Haq and wicket keeper Ifthikar Suhael scored most of the Norwegian runs, Shahbaz Butt took 4 wickets.

~~~

The table: Kuwait are resting regally at the top with three wins out of three, looked up to by Botswana and Nigeria with two wins each. The European teams follow on the ranks 4 and 5, with Germany sitting on top of Norway due to a better net run rate. Japan are carrying the red lantern with no wins yet.


Will add more stuff when it's out, wish us luck for tomorrow,

Cheers,
Wes

2 May 2011

World Cricket League Div. 7 - Murky Monday


Match Day 2
[scorecards] [points table]
[cricinfo bulletin] [ICC day 2 report]

Germany v Nigeria
[gallery not up yet] [André Leslie blog match day 1/2] [great emotional report by Cricket Germany]

Dammit. Nigeria opted to field first and it was a good decision for them. Only Milan Fernando's fabulous 82 sticks out on the German scorecard. The middle order collapsed spectacularly, before the tailenders added another handful of runs to take the total to 166, coincidentally exactly the same target that Norway had set the day before and could not defend against the Nigerians either. After our opening bowlers took three wickets and had me hope for a typical German scenario -make only just enough runs for our excellent attack to defend- the ball got older and for the first time we were facing the expected problems on these wickets, they suit the pacers and our spinners (the experienced Shakeel Hassan came in for Ashwin Prakash) couldn't take any wickets. When Nigeria only still needed 70-odd runs, André Leslie came on and removed skipper Ofem first ball. But the drought continued from there, Ehsan Latif upon his return took another quick wicket, but the main man Sean Philips had dug himself into his crease, and Nigeria chased the target down rather comfortably.

It lies in the obscure why Rishi Pillai didn't get the ball thrown at him and Rajeev Vohra came on so late that his wicket didn't effect the outcome of the match anymore; and why Iqbal, who has taken nine wickets in two matches now, wasn't brought back earlier. I will have to look into the match reports to find out about that. I'm pretty sure of what Endurance Ofem will be thinking now... "I had expected more of the Germans" ha ha! Well it was a slip and we need to correct the mistake in the next matches. The table is still open, and our bowlers worked hard as usual, but it's not getting easier from here and our batsmen, especially the middle order, will need to contribute more.


Kuwait skipper Hisham Mirza takes no prisoners,
brings up his 50 against Norway
Kuwait v Norway
[gallery]

Surprise, surprise. Norway, who lost against Nigeria on day one, made 246 against Kuwait's strong attack. Alas, they failed to take wickets, and the Kuwaiti batsmen, obviously avid readers of this blog, started to show their strength again, losing only three wickets during the chase. The fine knocks from Ehetsham ul-Haq (69) and Muhammad Shahbaz Butt (72*) as well as a mindboggling 48(!!!) Kuwaiti extras enabled the Norwegians to put a score on the board they should have been able to defend more easily than the day before, but Kuwait know better which way to hold a bat. Irfan Bhatti (64), a household name to my readers, keeper Sibtain Raza (77*) and skipper Hisham Mirza (64*) shared the duties amongst themselves almost equally and made the chase a walk in the park. What an amazing team the Kuwaitis are. Well done. The desert warriors are firmly and deservedly sitting on the throne at the top of the table. I expect them not to drop the trophy anymore from here, this second big victory will sow fear and terror in any future opponent. PS. Mo Murad 6-39.


Botswana v Japan
[gallery]

The shocker of the day. Japan got bowled out for 86, and that included 15 extras. Botswana strolled to victory with 121 balls to spare. Just look at the scorecard for the details, I'm not discussing this any further.

~~~

A day off is scheduled for tomorrow and on Wednesday Germany will continue with a must-win game against the hosts Botswana, while Japan will face Norway and Kuwait lock horns with the the No. 2 in the table, Nigeria, a match that makes me want to grab some popcorn and just enjoy the show hehe.


Cheers,
Wes

1 May 2011

World Cricket League Div. 7 - Germany, Kuwait Stun Opposition

World Cricket League Division 7 2011 - the captains (from left to right):
Masaomi Kobayashi (Japan), Hisham Mirza (Kuwait), Akrum Chand (Botswana), Asif Khan (Germany), Damien Shortis (Norway), Endurance Ofem (Nigeria)
~~~

Wow here we go. The German cricket team is playing again and I feel as sick excited as during the first German match I've ever followed. As much as I like Australia, New Zealand and all the others, if your home side is playing your nerves and stomach go absolutely bonkers.

The tournament takes places in the beautiful African country of Botswana, and our opponents are Kuwait, alongside who we got promoted from World Cricket League Division 8, Norway, Japan, Nigeria and the hosting side. I can't say a lot about the other teams, but we have beaten Norway the last three times we played against them, and we still have a bone to pick with the Kuwaitis, who stopped our undefeated run in the final of Div. 8!

There won't be any groups this time, all six teams play each other in the round robin group stage, and the two leaders of the table will get promoted to Div. 6 and play the final against each other. Ranks 3 and 4 retain their place in Div. 7, while the teams 5 and 6 get relegated to Div. 8. Our first goal is of course promotion, but we should just make the best of every match and see where it takes us.

The selectors have largely stuck to the squad from WCL Div. 8, but the return of allrounder Rajeev Vohra, who bowls some handy medium pace, and the addition of the promising young offspinner Ashwin Prakash should strengthen the side further.


Here is some material for you to sink your teeth in, if you like:

Official ICC WCL Div 7 guide with team profiles and so on (PDF)
Interview with the German skipper Asif Khan
Statements from the captains of all participating sides
The André Leslie blog, Part I (the German opening batsman resumes his blogging activities from WCL Div. 8)
A long preview (in English) on the website of Cricket Germany
My posts on WCL Div. 8



Match Day 1
[scorecards] [points table] [cricinfo bulletin]
[cricket europe report and post match statements]


Punjab Power! Rana-Javed Iqbal: 6-25
Germany v Japan

Hurrah! The first dark horse is out of the way! Germany won convincingly, bowled Japan out in under 50 overs for 146, and chased the total down for the loss of just one wicket, with nearly 20 overs to spare. Phewwww! I am very happy to see both openers, Milan Fernando (47) and André Leslie (59*), come close to 50, and captain Khan finished the innings safely on 27*. On the Japanese side Patrick Giles-Jones, tipped as player to watch in the above mentioned ICC guide to the tournament, played a very lone hand (56*) and tried to help Japan to some kind of recovery, after they had been 12/5 at the beginning.

But back to Germany: bowling-wise medium-pacer Rana-Javed Iqbal took the biscuit with sensational figures of 6-25 from his ten overs, assisted by left-arm quick Ehsan Latif, who added 2-18 to Germany's wicket tally; but the spinners Ashwin Prakash and legreaper Kashif Haider were in the wickets as well. There is the old problem again with the freebies, which our bowlers still have to work on. But apart from that the opening match couldn't have gone any better for us.


Botswana v Kuwait
[gallery]

Our dear friends from Kuwait versus the hosts. Perhaps the word "massacre" describes best what's happened in this match that got reduced to 45 overs per side. Botswana got bundled out for 119 in the space of 40.3 overs, and Kuwait, while coming close to getting bowled out as well(!), chased the total down within 18.4 overs(!!!). What the??? I am shocked, and wondering what might await us in the matches against these two. The young left-arm quick Mohammad Murad is the leading wickettaker for Kuwait once again, while skipper Mirza's run-a-ball half-century carried the Kuwaitis to victory. Kuwait seem to continue their stunningly good form from Div. 8 seamlessly and the way it's shaping up they will be the team to beat again, if they stop throwing their wickets away. But it's early doors and I'm not gonna stick my neck out here, anything can happen.


Nigeria v Norway
[gallery]

Ahh man Norway lost. They are our fellow European representatives and of course I wish them well. But Nigeria posed a too strong opposition for them. Obviously the match got shortened to 43 overs each and Norway had lost all their wickets after the 42nd. Their target of 166 was no problem for the strong Nigerians, they won by 5 wickets with 28 balls left, but it looked an even contest most of the time. But what can you do if your opponent features six players whose last names start with "O"? ;)

~~~

Germany play against Nigeria tomorrow, it's another litmus test that will show how well we can handle unknown opposition. I'm hoping for another victory of course and wish the boys good luck. The Nigerian captain did not speak too respectfully of Norway after today's match (see Cricket Europe report linked above), and I hope we can teach him not to underestimate any opponent!

I'm gonna add further material, such as galleries, blogs etc, to this post, as soon as they pop up :)

Cheers,
Wes