On The Front Foot: No doubt about it – Pakistan is a country for old men


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The Independent Online

It may be no consolation to England whatever that they have just been beaten by a bunch of old men.The Pakistan side who inflicted a 10-wicket defeat on the No1 Test team in the world were the second oldest to have taken the field for their country.

With an average age of 30 years and 318 days, they are eclipsed only by the team who drew against West Indies inDecember 1980/January 1981, whose average was 31 years and 44 days. By the time Pakistan played their next Test almost a year later, four of their players over 30 were not in the side. That fate is unlikely to befall this team, who contained seven players who have passed their 30th birthday, the oldest being the captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, 37 years and 234 days when the match started. The youngest player was Asad Shafiq at 25 years and 284 days. Consider that when Pakistan played England at Edgbaston in 2010 they took the field with a side whose average age was little more than 25, among their top 50 youngest teams. Incidentally, Saeed Ajmal, the man of the moment, will be 34 years and 103 days when the Second Test begins on Wednesday. He did not make his debut until he was 31 years and 263 days, pretty senior by Pakistani standards when it is considered that Hasan Raza made his debut at 14 years and 278 days. But it makes Ajmal only the ninth oldest debutant for his country. The seventh oldest, Aizaz Cheema (31 years, 361 days) also played inthe match.

Broadcast wisdom of ages

Talking of age, Test Match Special have brought their most venerable team of commentators to this series. The august tones of Henry Blofeld (72 years and 116 days at the start of the First Test), Christopher Martin-Jenkins (66 years, 262 days), and Jonathan Agnew (51 years, 287 days) will be heard throughout this series. They know their stuff, of course, and any fears that TMS would ever dumb down can be discarded. But they will soon resemble a High Court bench. You now the type of thing: "Lady Gaga, who on earth is that?"; "What, prithee, is this Twenty20 to which you refer?" It left no room in the squad for the top-notch, eloquent, knowledgeable and no-frills commentary of Simon Mann, still the baby of the team since he is only 47, though he made his debut in 1996. He will be in the UAE only for the one-day internationals.

Century looms for openers

When Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook go out to bat together in the Second Test they will become the fourth pair to open the batting for their country 100 times. They are easily England's most frequent first-wicket pairing but are behind Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge for West Indies (148 innings), Marvan Atapattu and Sanath Jayasuriya for Sri Lanka (118) and Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer of Australia (113).

The feeling is that Strauss, despite obvious credit in the bank, may need to up his game to play the minimum 25 Test matches required to break the West Indian pair's record. He and Cook are now almost 1,000 runs ahead of the next most prolific England opening pair, Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe (4,163 runs compared to 3,249) but their average partnership of 42.29 is somewhat under their forebears' astonishing 87.81.

Jones keeps faith with PNG

Geraint Jones, an Ashes hero, will resume his international career in Dubai next month. Astonishingly, Jones is to play for Papua New Guinea, the land of his birth, in the World Twenty20 qualifying competition. Jones, who won 34 Test caps for England as a wicketkeeper and played a key role in the 2005 victory against Australia, left PNG as a baby with his family and was brought up in Australia before departing for England in his 20s. Kent, the ECB and the ICCall gave Jones their blessing for his change of nations.