Pakistan had never beaten India at a World Cup
Plus plenty of Bangaldesh batting and Charith Asalanka
INDIA V PAKISTAN
The India Pakistan match started with confusion. Both teams had decided on different gestures for the BLM movement, and it seems like they hadn't quite communicated when they would do it.
The entire scene was so bizarre, around this game is the kind of hyper-nationalism that makes the entire thing near intolerable. And yet here was Rohit Sharma and Babar Azam trying to decide on the knee or the heart before the game that makes some of their fans spill out bile.
Saif @isaifpatelThese are some of the comments on Mohammed Shami’s Instagram account. The hyper-nationalist Indian cricket fans have unleashed worst form of communal abuse on Shami for India’s loss against Pakistan. Not surprised at all because this is what India is famous for. #IndvsPak https://t.co/KCsSzAr5y3
This entire game made me feel that India is seeing this more and more like just another big match, not the occasion that players once felt. Part of that is probably because India plays so many big games thanks to social media, and India has been so successful. That isn't quite the same for Pakistan, but even they have become the number one Test nation and beat India at the Champion's Trophy.
But regardless of that, there was always the weird statistical anomaly in which Pakistan had never beaten India at a World Cup.
Pakistan had some pretty big advantages in this game, like the fact India doesn't face much of Shaheen Afridi.
Through the IPL, the Indian batters get to face all the best bowlers in the world a fair bit, which is a huge advantage before a World Cup. But with no Pakistani players in the IPL, they haven't faced Shaheen Afridi, who is the world's best first over wicket-taker. He was pretty hand after that as well. He's just an incredible bowler. But even with his early wickets, it is important to note that Pakistan had never beaten India at a World Cup, so his early wickets may not matter.
At one point Rishabh Pant was hitting sixes one-handed. Two of them in a row. India was still well behind the rate they needed at that point, but that was a big over, India still had some heavy hitters to come, and Virat was at the crease. Even though Pakistan was on top, Pakistan had never beaten India at a World Cup.
This was an oddly balanced Pakistan team. They had six frontline bowline options, which consisted of a top-quality seam attack, but a bunch of spinners of three of the four different flavours. And even more amazingly, they can all bat to varying levels. That's a huge advantage for Pakistan. And India really struggled to get these spinners away, and they completely controlled the middle of India's innings. It was a positive sign even if Pakistan had never beaten India at a World Cup.
And Virat Kohli is a big deal. He's the anchor's anchor. Once he's settled in white-ball cricket, dislodging him is not easy. And while he can be slow up top, and slower in the middle, he properly gets going at the end.
All the fab four, and probably Babar as well, can be a bit slow early in their T20 innings. But if they are set, they can all score very quick at the death. It makes sense; they are the best technical batters in the world. And that is what Virat was holding on for. A couple of 15 run overs at the death, maybe one even bigger, with his smart running annoying Pakistan between the boundaries. He never quite got off the leash, but Pakistan had never beaten India at a World Cup.
On the last ball of Shaheen's 19th over, he had to bowl an extra ball when there was a no ball on what was supposed to be the last delivery. On the re-bowl, Shaheen beat the bat, India ran anyway to keep Hardik Pandya on strike, Rizwan had a shot at the striker's end and missed, Shaheen got the ball and then piffed the ball at the non-striker's end, he missed, India scored one run, and then his throw went past long off - who was probably not expecting any of this to happen - to turn one run into five byes. If that was all too much to read, Pakistan gifted four - or even five - runs, giving India 151, which is the sort of thing that happens because Pakistan had never beaten India at a World Cup.
Mohammad Rizwan started opening for Pakistan last year.
Everyone wants to open in T20. But for him, he's really not that handy in any other position. He's like an ok slow number four if you have no better option. But really, he either opens or probably shouldn't play. And since then he's averaged almost 90 when opening for Pakistan. That won't last, obviously, not just because Pakistan had never beaten India at a World Cup.
The seventh over of Pakistan's chase went for three runs, the eight was six. Both of India's spinners were looking to put the clamps on.
Varun Chakravarthy was almost unplayable in the UAE leg of the IPL. And a bit like Indians hadn't seen Shaheen much, Pakistan hadn't faced Chakravarthy. And Ravi Jadeja was going up against two right-handers. If India were going to have a chance to win, it was this period. But when the dew came in, India's spinners slipped, Jadeja bowled a half-tracker that Babar smashed. Pakistan scored 28 runs from the following three overs. This didn't just ruin India's chance of winning with their spin. They also scored so fast that India's one remaining weapon - Jasprit Bumrah - was neutered. It was clear that Pakistan would win the game, if not for the fact that Pakistan had never beaten India at a World Cup.
Pakistan needed 7.6 runs per over in tin their chase, and Babar Azam's career strike rate is 7.68. That means all he had to do was be Babar Azam for as a long as possible. And being that since the start of 2018 he averages 51.
There are times he is too slow in T20, not this time. This time it was paced perfectly alongside Rizwan.
Oh, fun fact, you may not remember that the 2016 tournament was not called a World Cup. Back then we were still calling it a World T20. The name change was made because World T20 sounded like a conference no one would attend. So had Pakistan won in any of the previous tournaments, at that time, it was not actually a World Cup. At the end of the game, Dhoni was out on the field talking to Pakistan players. It was very nice, and at this point, it was no longer true that Pakistan had never beaten India at a World Cup.
Bangladesh don't tour well for T20s.
This is a list of all the teams in this tournament who have played ten home and away T20s in the last five years and I'm showing you how much better they are at home than away.
You will see that Pakistan is the worst, but that's only because they have a 2.6 win-loss ratio at home. They're still good when they travel, just not the same. Bangladesh at home have a 1.6 ratio, away they win .466. They win one for every two losses on the road.
But here is the weird thing about their away record, they're actually a much better batting side when they travel. Being that they lose and have a reputation for being pretty good at home, you may not expect this to be the case. New Zealand have a far bigger differential between their home and away batting. But theirs makes sense, they are incredible at home, and terrible away.
But Bangladesh lose away from home, while being nearly a run an over quicker with their scoring, and even averaging more when on the road. It's really quite remarkable. Now, the truth is that teams don't play much T20Is and when they do it's rarely between full strength XIs.
Yet it makes you think about Bangladesh's batting, because it is slow, and being that they are the only team slower at home than away by a major margin, you have to wonder how this has all occurred.
And when you look at home and away combined, the only teams worse than Bangladesh at this tournament for batting are Oman and Sri Lanka.
Bangladesh really struggle to bat. You could see it when they lost to Scotland, and even when they beat Oman. Their top-order chews up balls at a remarkable rate, and they don't seem to develop late order hitters.
But playing cricket in Bangladesh is simply not like other places. You could argue New Zealand is another place like that. But playing in New Zealand teaches you many of the skills you need for T20. And this tournament was supposed to be played in Australia or India, depending on how you look at it. And they're both fairly quick scoring venues. Bangladesh is slow as hell.
But, this is the funny bit. The only two places anything like Bangladesh in terms of Asian conditions where no one can score or stay in, are Oman, which is where Bangladesh is playing right now. And UAE, which is the two places hosting the tournament.
And that isn't their only advantage for this tournament, while many of the teams have been faffing about in warm-up matches, Bangladesh have had three warm-ups.Even losing to Scotland was a nice wake up. If they're ever going to go well, this would seem the time.
But there was a time when it looked like they were getting better in T20, a few years ago the Bangladesh Premier League was being tracked about in T20 circles as a surprisingly good competition. Money was coming in, players were skipping the Big Bash to compete. Hell, ABDV was there with a bunch of the best West Indians.
Not all the owners were incredible, but a few were very modern thinking and it felt like a league going somewhere. The BCB took over the league, It's too soon to know really what effect this might have had. But the free market was moving Bangladesh cricket into a new era. The BCB shifted it back, or at least sideways.
Not to mention they started mentioning bizarre quotas, like telling everyone to pick leg spinners. It didn't seem like they really understood what was needed. They just wanted to be in charge and thought their ideas were better than a collection of people who had invested their money. Maybe they were right, but regardless of who has been in charge, the same problem persists: Bangladesh batters don't make runs in T20.
This is the top 200 run-scorers in all T20 cricket over the last five years from highest to lowest strike rate. The Bangladesh batters are in green.
I mean, I thought they would be low, but this is comically bad. There is another problem with this of course, just how few of the Bangladeshi players are on the list in the first place. And that's because they're all seen as slow coaches.
And the best way of looking at this is from something that the cricket geek wrote years ago about working out types of batters. Top left is the strike rotators, usually middle order players. Bottom right is the boundary hitters, death or power play specialists usually. Bottom left is the guns, who hit boundaries while not facing many dots. And then top right is the slow batters. Not even anchors really, just slow.
The green dots are Bangladesh players, they don't hit boundaries, they don't rotate strike, they just chew up scenery like Nicolas Cage in a straight to video film.
And the BPL is such a slow scoring league, that is where most of these players are. In the last five years, they've had four tournaments, only one is over 8 runs an over.
Of the major tournaments, there have been 29 series, eight of those are under eight an over. And three of those are BPL years. PSL can be slow, even CPL, but BPL is almost always slow. Which is the difference.
So we know the BPL is a slow league, and that internationally the pitches are still slow to score on. And so of course Bangladesh batters are slow. But this little thing is a collection of batters in the BPL over the years who have scored more than 400 runs in the league. The red dots are overseas players, and the green is Bangladesh players.
My thought was that perhaps Bangladesh players figures were depressed a little by their local pitches, which is what the international numbers showed before. Now I think that growing up on these kinds of wickets right across Bangladesh stops players from learning to play shots freely. Something that green tops in England and New Zealand were often accused of back in the day.
And of course they don't tour well, they're playing a version of T20 that virtually no one else does. And those conditions have created one of the game's first great all rounders in Shakib Al Hasan, and given us the unicorn of Mustafizur Rahman, but it's also produced just a bunch of blokes who do not score fast.
But in what already looks like an incredibly low scoring tournament, in fact, right at the moment it's an incredibly low scoring tournament. And so was the IPL that was here, and so were the World Cup qualifiers here. None of this means Bangladesh is going to win this tournament, or even get close. But it might mean that outside of them hosting another event, they might not get conditions that suit them like this for a long time.
This looks like it will be the low scoring World Cup, and Bangladesh is the low scoring team. So losing to Sri Lanka was a terrible way to start round two.
I am not an expert in Charith Asalanka. Before today in my notes I had little more than he captained Sri Lanka U19s, was a lefty and I had one note saying "can play spin". But when he defeated Bangladesh I thought I better at least have a look at his record so far.
And he's very young, and like many Sri Lankans hasn't played much T20. There was nothing that remarkable about him in the Lankan Premier League, and his career strike rate is 125 despite playing a lot of lower-level cricket.
It's pretty clear that today was his best innings in professional T20, and by a distance. It was his highest score in all T20.
And it was also very nearly one of his fastest.
To be able to pull this out in a game where your team has slipped behind in a World Cup is an extraordinary effort. Clearly a lot of his selection was based on his talent level, and not on his conventional stats. But even so, they were probably hoping for a few innings where he did well against the spinners, and chipped in to bigger totals. This was something that they probably hoped for further down the road.
It's just another thing that has come good for the unbeaten Sri Lankan team.