Monday, November 30, 2009

Tom Friedman Thinks People Should Be Grateful When Their Countries Are Bombed And Invaded

I honestly did not want to write a post criticizing Tom Friedman -- mainly because it's too easy, and it's been done to death -- but I have a few minutes of spare time, so I thought: why the hell not?

Please read his description of U.S. conduct in the Muslim world:

Yes, after two decades in which U.S. foreign policy has been largely dedicated to rescuing Muslims or trying to help free them from tyranny — in Bosnia, Darfur, Kuwait, Somalia, Lebanon, Kurdistan, post-earthquake Pakistan, post-tsunami Indonesia, Iraq and Afghanistan — a narrative that says America is dedicated to keeping Muslims down is thriving.

Although most of the Muslims being killed today are being killed by jihadist suicide bombers in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Indonesia, you’d never know it from listening to their world. The dominant narrative there is that 9/11 was a kind of fraud: America’s unprovoked onslaught on Islam is the real story, and the Muslims are the real victims — of U.S. perfidy.

Have no doubt: we punched a fist into the Arab/Muslim world after 9/11, partly to send a message of deterrence, but primarily to destroy two tyrannical regimes — the Taliban and the Baathists — and to work with Afghans and Iraqis to build a different kind of politics. In the process, we did some stupid and bad things. But for every Abu Ghraib, our soldiers and diplomats perpetrated a million acts of kindness aimed at giving Arabs and Muslims a better chance to succeed with modernity and to elect their own leaders.

The Narrative was concocted by jihadists to obscure that.

Actually, beneath the self-serving bullshit that regularly accompanies Friedman's columns, there is a grain of truth there: governments and populations in Muslim and Arab states do not like taking responsibility for their failings, and seek to deflect blame to other people and states. This state of affairs is deplorable, and from a personal perspective, I try to do everything I can to shine a light on the incredible stupidity that results when this modus operandi is employed with the regularity that it is (think Zaid Hamid blaming Pakistan's problems on a Hindu-Zionist-American-Mickey Mouse-Donald Duck conspiracy).

The only problem is that this grain of truth is buried under opinions so stupid that it boggles the mind. In Friedman's view, when people are invaded and bombed, they should be happy about it, because the U.S. really wants to "rescue Muslims" or "free them from tyranny". Torture and indiscriminate bombing should be excused because American soldiers and diplomats "perpetrated a million acts of kindness" (evidently this was not one of the million).

I believe a state as powerful as the U.S. will end up conducting itself in fairly aggressive ways -- that's just the U of C training in me. I also believe a state will try to justify its aggression and dress it up in benevolent language to make it look like they're doing something other than pursuing their national interests (think the White Man's Burden). Up to this point, I can follow the train logically and understand it (even if I don't necessarily like it).

But where I get completely lost is the third step: when the people in charge start believing what they say. Do neocons (the Krauthammer/Kristol crowd) and liberal imperialists (the Friedman crowd) genuinely believe that the world should be grateful when the U.S. bestows upon it the privilege of being invaded? All the evidence suggests: yes, they do. And the truly scary thing about this view is how widespread it is. In the academic world, I either come across directly, or speak to fellow academics who engage with, the Washingon crowd (think tankers, inside-the-Beltway journalists etc). It's actually quite amazing the extent to which these people believe their own bullshit. They really do think the world sees them as they see themselves, and are truly flummoxed when you try to tell them that it doesn't.

Anyway, if you want to see others piling on Friedman's column, read Steve Walt and Glenn Greenwald.

Reaction To The Scahill Piece On Blackwater Part II: What It Means For Pakistan

This is the second post in a three part series on Jeremy Scahill's investigative piece on Blackwater in Pakistan. In the first post, I dealt with the extent to which we should buy Schaill's claims, seeing as how they were based exclusively on three anonymous sources. In this post, I deal with the impact of the revelations on Pakistani security and politics.

One of the most interesting aspects about the Scahill piece is how muted the reaction to it has been. Most media outlets have only reported on the publishing of the article, and not carried many opinion pieces on it. Both the U.S. and Pakistani governments have also been largely silent on the issue of Blackwater in Pakistan, with the exception of Anne Patterson issuing a routine denial of Scahill's claims. To be honest, I simply do not know what to make of this. The revelations contained in Scahill's article are serious enough to merit a significant blow-back, but for whatever reason, that simply hasn't happened (as opposed to Sy Hersh's piece on nuclear security in Pakistan).

The most obvious and glaring aspect of the story is the fact that the military-intelligence complex in Pakistan purportedly gave Blackwater its blessing to operate in the country, as far back as 2007. This is interesting for a number of reasons. First, the military has always worn the robe of ultimate guardian of the state, and has always represented itself as fiercely defending Pakistan's sovereignty against all threats. Letting private security firms from the United States plan and execute military operations isn't exactly consistent with that image.

This brings me to my second point. Unlike most secrets, this one has been well-kept. The sensitive nature of the secret leads me to strongly believe that even within the military and intelligence networks, only a few know about Blackwater's role in Pakistan. More to the point, I'm almost dead sure that no one in the civilian establishment knew about this. Military policy and decisions, especially at the operational level, are left out of their hands anyway. In other words, when Rehman Malik said that Blackwater wasn't operating in Pakistan, and that he would resign if it was discovered that he was wrong, I don't think he was being disingenuous. I think he simply didn't know.

Which, in turn, leads me to a third point. One of the most common complaints in Pakistan, from observers of all stripes, is that the Zardari government is much too close to the U.S (just as, in these critics' view, the Musharraf government was much too close to the U.S; this pattern will be the subject of a future post). The permission or acquiescence granted to a private security firm by the government, were it to be widely revealed, would simply reinforce the perception of over-coziness. But the ironic thing, in this instance, would be that the civilian leadership would catch the blame for an enterprise entirely run by the military. Not dissimilar to Kargil in 1999, civilians could well end up paying penance for the military's mistakes.

The biggest question, from a purely Political perspective (note the uppercase "P"), is: how much does this matter? The answer to that isn't actually as clear-cut as one would imagine. On the one hand, it is incredibly bizarre, to say the least, to witness a sovereign government granting permission for international forces -- international mercenary forces -- to operate on its territory. This state of affairs raises a number of important questions, both at a theoretical as well as a practical level: how long is this supposed arrangement meant to last? Who exercises ultimate control over Blackwater's conduct in Pakistan -- JSOC, the Pakistani military, or Blackwater itself? Who will be accountable if Blackwater employees murder a cab driver in cold blood, as the Scahill piece alleges happened in South America? Who will be accountable if Blackwater employees go on a murderous rampage, as occurred in Iraq in 2007? Most importantly, how decayed is the capacity of the Pakistani state if it is literally outsourcing military operations to secure itself?

On the other hand, the concept of sovereignty is fairly tricky, and does not lend itself to soundbite-sized analysis. Broadly speaking, there are two elements that we think of when we refer to a state as sovereign: external and internal. Externally, a state is sovereign when other states respect its right to conduct its affairs as it sees fit. It is all about non-interference. Internally, sovereignty refers to a state's essential monopoly on the legitimate use of force within its geographic boundaries. It is all about control.

In this case, the two components of sovereignty are in opposition. It is certainly the case that Blackwater operating in Pakistan violates its external sovereignty, for the simple reason that you have an extra-territorial (private) actor involved in important aspects of state policy. But it is also the case that they are there by invitation -- the government of Pakistan has countenanced their presence. In one important sense, then, the state has conferred upon Blackwater a certain "legitimacy" with respect to its use of force. If anything, it is actors -- such as the Taliban -- who employ force without the government sanctioning it that violates Pakistan's sovereignty to a greater extent.

My interpretation of Scahill's revelations are that this speaks more loudly to concerns about Pakistan's capacity than Pakistan's sovereignty. It is immensely disturbing that despite this war having gone on for more than half a decade, the Pakistani government is still unable to deploy instruments of the state in order to achieve anything that looks like "victory" (however murkily that may be defined). At bottom, Mosharraf Zaidi's arguments for the centrality of Pakistan's state and institutional robustness, or lack thereof, in this conflict are accurate. Blackwater wouldn't even be an issue if the military and Frontier Corps and police and ISI were very good at what they do, and on the same page when they do it. Patently, this is not the case.

All this analysis, analysis which I would like to think is nuanced, is basically moot. At the basest and most visceral level, the presence of Blackwater on Pakistani soil to plan and conduct military activity is deeply offensive to the majority of the Pakistani population, and functionally speaking, that's all that matters. It actually makes the war that much harder to fight, because it feeds into the nationalist right's narrative of this being "America's war" and Pakistan being nothing more than a client state. And the only thing more dangerous than a nationalist right that is untethered to reality is a nationalist right untethered to reality which finds supportive evidence for its positions.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Real Win Respect, But Barcelona Win Three Points

Forty one. That was the total number of fouls in the clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Camp Nou. And you know what? Barca did just fine. So often castigated for being too much beauty and not enough beast, Barca showed they can win (a) rugby matches, (b) when they're not playing especially well, (c) when the opposition takes it to them, and (d) when they play with ten men for half an hour (thanks, Busquets!).

Today's 1-0 win was strange for a number of reasons. First of all, I'm struggling to recall a game in which Barca relied on Puyol and Pique to the extent that they did. Normally, when Barca win games, it's because of the control they exert in the midfield through Xaviniesta, and the constant threat in the final third provided by the front three.

Today, both those aspects were absent. We didn't see dominance in the midfield because Pep stupidly decided to play Iniesta as a winger, leaving both Pedro and Ibra on the bench to start. This despite the fact that Xaviniesta have shown time and again that when they are side by side in the center of midfield, they are peerless. When one of them is absent, however, things can get ragged.

Moreover, the threat from the front three was nullified by an excellent (and sometimes dirty) Madrid defense and midfield. They pressured the ball from the first whistle -- Jose, you might want to take notes from this game for the next time you play Barca -- and, especially in the first half, gave Barca no room to breathe. And when Barca did find a little bit of space, Madrid simply committed tactical fouls (they committed 25 fouls in all, their entire backline other than Segio Ramos picked up a yellow, Lass picked up two in the second half alone, and even Marcelo got one for good measure).

What this meant was that Barca simply did not get going until the second half, when Real's intensity dropped off a little. Real actually threatened to score more than Barca, a strange occurrence if there ever was one. But Puyol and Pique (and Valdes, no doubt, with a crucial one-on-one save from Crystiano in the first half) would simply not allow it. Tackle after desperate tackle, lunge after last-second lunge, they were truly magnificent. Puyol, especially, showed everyone what a true leader does in big games: man up. What a performance, easily the man of the match.

It needed to be one too. Despite my well-documented hatred for Crystiano, I have to say, seeing him and Kaka together on the counter-attack had me covering my face in horror a couple of times. When Pellegrini gets his selection right (he must understand that with Kaka and Crystiano in the same team, only one of Higuain, Benzema and Raul can play, and it must be Higuain when he is fit), they are an incredibly scary team going forward. And when Busquets insanely handled to get his second yellow -- I have absolutely no idea what he was thinking -- I feared the worst.

I needn't have. On being reduced to ten men, Barca became galvanized and played as a unit. Xaviniesta dropped a little deeper, and Messi defended well into Barca's own half. It was almost heroic to see them repel attack after attack, corner after corner. When they did win the ball, they did everything they could to keep it, ensuring control in tight spaces and showing that skill will always beat strength. From the 60th minute on, it was just about counting the minutes down and keeping the one goal advantage.

A word about the goal and Ibra in general. Pretty much as soon as he stepped on to the pitch, Barca looked better. Henry was completely and utterly ineffective in his fifty-odd minute stint, again raising questions of Pep's selection. If Ibra was fit enough to play, he was fit enough to start. Why didn't he? Only Pep knows. But the bottom line is that when the substitution was made, space opened up, the passing in the final third became crisper, and Barca actually started looking like Barca. And the goal? Nothing else to say, except great run, expert finish (kudos, also, to Dani Alves for a pinpoint cross, because really, he did bugger all for the rest of the game). Ibra, a big-game bottler? Right.

So Barca, still unbeaten in La Liga, go top of the table with 30 points from 12 games, with Madrid two back and Sevilla a further two back. They owe that position mainly to their center backs, but also to a team spirit and ethos that simply refused to give in. Messi, especially, typified this approach, with an extraordinary work rate (and coming back after injury, no less) and control that kept Real to 38% possession. It was a great all-round team performance against a fired up Real team, who showed that last season was an aberration, and that the gap in quality between the two will be much smaller this year. Which, I suppose, is a fair return on 250 million Euros.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Live Blogging Pakistan Vs New Zealand 1st Test Day 5

11:33 p.m. I'm really angry, because we wasted a lot of good performances. It's one thing when the entire teams plays shit. But we wasted 5 really good days of cricket by four or five guys. And there's no moral victories in coming close here, because I don't see how the next two will be different. Unless we drop Really Fucking Stupid Imran and Fawad actually fulfills his potential at three. It's heart-breaking to be so close to a test victory, but that's what's so beautiful about this version: it keeps you hanging and keeps you hanging, and then cuts you out.

Anyway, that's it from me. If any of the next test's play falls on a weekend, I might liveblog it, but otherwise, this is my last week off in a while, so it's probably not happening again for a while. Hope you enjoyed it, and see you around.

11:31 p.m. And it's all over. What looked like a bump ball was in fact a return catch from Aamer to Vettori. Congrats to the Kiwis. But really, you have to say, the only outfielded us. Our batting was better (they wouldn't have crossed 250 in either innings if we caught our catches). They definitely didn't outbowl us (can you imagine them taking 20 wickets with our fielding?). But their catching was so much better than ours that it rendered our efforts useless. So well done to them.

11:30 p.m. Sigh. Streaming issues.

11:28 p.m. Three off the over and Ajmal survives the one ball Aamer let him face.

11:25 p.m. We've obviously lost this, but let me say this: Asif, Aamer, Umar and Kamran have done nothing to disgrace themselves. Yousuf got a couple starts, but didn't carry on, but at least he looked in decent touch. Gullee played ok too, as did Ajmal. Everyone else other than Really Fucking Stupid Imran did badly. And Really Fucking Stupid Imran reached new levels of suckitude; he could scarcely have done more damage to our prospects if he actually played for NZ and made a hundred for them.

11:25 p.m. Aamer drives a full ball to deep cover for two.

11:24 p.m. O'Brien finally gives way to Martin. He will be bowling to Aamer.

11:23 p.m. More streaming issues.

11:21 p.m. And Asif's gone. Regulation dismissal; a defensive shot gets an edge, and Taylor takes a simple catch at slip. Farhat would've dropped it though. Last man Ajmal in.

11:20 p.m. Aamer's single off Vettori moves us to 213-8. Asif to face Vettori. Uh oh.

11:18 p.m. How long would Asif the batsman last against Asif the bowler? Longer than Walsh the batsman would last against Walsh the bowler, but not by much, let me tell you.

11:18 p.m. Dear streaming gods: if nothing else, let me watch us lose in peace. Many thanks and best regards, Ahsan.

11:16 p.m. Ok, my computer once again acted funny, but in the meantime, Aamer got a four off Vettori. I have no idea how. 211-8.

11:15 p.m. Aamer taps it into the offside for two.

11:14 p.m. Two slips and a short leg, and Vettori goes past a defensive prod from Aamer first up.

11:13 p.m. Vettori from the other end.

11:12 p.m. Goddamn, how is O'Brien still bowling? It's been 75 friggin minutes since tea. Bhai, go take a rest.

11:11 p.m. 205-8 it is then. Still somehow surviving.

11:10 p.m. Still no feed....

11:09 p.m. Well, my computer completely froze and everything shut down. Have we lost yet?

11:01 p.m. The NZ commentators look giddy. Fuckers.

11:00 p.m. Maybe we can play for a draw? 47 runs is obviously beyond us. Where's the rain when you need it?

10:58 p.m. We should be magnanimous here. Bond has bowled superbly, and he's gone full tilt for an hour after tea (and still going). The others have chipped in when needed. They caught their catches, and won the big moments.

10:58 p.m. I'm positively depressed.

10:56 p.m. Asif in.

10:54 p.m. And now Gullee's gone, hitting O'Brien right down the throat of mid-off. Don't know what he was trying to do there. I know it's a tough task, but he should at least pretend to try. No point throwing your wicket away. Sigh. 203-8, 48 away. Last rites time.

10:53 p.m. Stream issues, but frankly I don't care anymore. I'm gutted. Our bowlers and Umar Akmal deserve better. 10 runs each from the top three would've gotten us over the line. Sadly it was not to be.

10:52 p.m. Swing and a miss from Aamer. 199-7. Gullee will face up at the other end.

10:51 p.m. Bond beats Aamer with a ripper, and they all go up. Not out says Doctrove. They think about a review, but decide against it.

10:50 p.m. Aamer gets two to square leg. Pity, this performance. Real pity. So close and yet so far etc.

10:49 p.m. Bond continues to Aamer. By the way, let it be known: you cannot win test matches abroad with 3 batsmen. Can't happen.

10:48 p.m. Ok, Hawkeye shows that it would've hit. But it's a curious process: a bowling side review is subject to projected path displays, but batting side reviews are not. WTF?

10:45 p.m. I really don't understand this review process. Why isn't the projected path subject to review? The umpire is never going to overturn his decision there. I just don't understand...I'm genuinely curious. I mean, that could've been missing leg, and that could've been high. And it's another huge wicket. This is a stupid system. In any event, we're now fucked. Game's over. Gullee in to join Aamer. Still 54 away.

10:44 p.m. Real drama. An LBW appeal is upheld by Taufel. Kamran wants a review. Looks like it might be hitting leg. And it's given.

10:43 p.m. Easy, Kamran, easy. Tries to late cut one that dips in.

10:42 p.m. Kamran drives O'Brien to cover for two. How many overs can Bond have left? If there hadn't been a wicket there, I'm sure he would've finished. But now he'll probably get some more adrenaline and get through a couple more.

10:40 p.m. What a huge wicket. I would've trusted Umar to bat with the tail and get us through. Kamran? Not so much. Still 56 away. That looks a long, long way right now.

10:38 p.m. Gone! Bond gets Umar Akmal, at a crucial time! A slowish delivery, and Umar knocks it right back to him. As simple a catch as you'll get as a bowler. Umar goes for 75, and now NZ have to be favorites. Aamer in.

10:37 p.m. A single to deep cover. Umar back on strike.

10:36 p.m. Bond continuing to Kamran. How am I supposed to act polite while typing furiously and watching this finish? Something has to give. I think it will be the "politeness" bit.

10:35 p.m. Anyway, it's a maiden from O'Brien. Still 57 needed.

10:34 p.m. Well, the guest the W and I were expecting is now here. This will be very tricky, she's a relative of the W's.

10:33 p.m. A slight lull here, after that flurry immediately after tea. Don't mind that. Just steady now.

10:32 p.m. Umar still looks solid as a rock. This has been an Inziesque innings, it really has.

10:31 p.m. Safely played to slip, trying to guide it down to third man. Just seven more to get to that target of 50. Come on guys.

10:30 p.m. Play and miss outside off. One more ball this over. Steady, Kamran. Steady.

10:30 p.m. A sharp rising delivery, but Kamran lets it go.

10:29 p.m. Drifting into Umar's pads. Works the single to midwicket. 57 more. The NZ guys doing everything they can to jinx us, but there's nothing we can do about that.

10:28 p.m. Bond continuing. I say he has three overs, including this one, left in him. That's 17 balls guys. No wickets off those 17.

10:26 p.m. Uff, after setting off for a two, the brothers decide it's only one to fine leg. Nice, clear calling from big brother there. Anyway, we're 193-5. 58 more.

10:25 p.m. Incidentally, we're below that 60 target I laid out: it's now at 59. Alright guys, nine more. Get to 50.

10:23 p.m. Bang. Umar smacks O'Brien right back to him, he tries to catch it, dislocates his finger, and it goes for two down the ground. The physio tries to snap it back in, but it's on his bowling hand. I wonder if he'll continue. Looks like he is.

10:22 p.m. And now a single. Good over, with five singles coming off it. Keeping Bond out is so crucial.

10:21 p.m. Some drama here, as Umar misses a pull down the leg side, and the NZ fielders go up for a caught behind. Doctrove says no, and they mull referring it. Decide against it, and wisely so, because he was nowhere near it.

10:20 p.m. Kamran works it to third man for one. Four singles in this over. Tick, tock. 62 more.

10:19 p.m. Another single to Umar, as he taps it to mid on and sprints down. Great running.

10:18 p.m. A single to deep square. As the commentators mention, Bond is keeping it really full looking for reverse. He's obviously going for wickets, but it does mean it's easier to score. And now another single for Kamran. Steady now. Steady.

10:17 p.m. Bond to continue to Umar.

10:17 p.m. Great cricket. An inswinging yorker from O'Brien, but Kamran digs it out.

10:16 p.m. Another boundary through the cordon, though this time it's deliberate. Smart cricket without a third man there. 66 more.

10:15 p.m. A single to square leg for Umar. Kamran on strike.

10:14 p.m. And now O'Brien beats Umar outside off. Nervous times here, that's for sure.

10:13 p.m. Ah, Kamran, chill. He lofts Bond for four over mid off, but that was really dangerous. It really wasn't drivable length. 71 more. Remember, we need to get to 60.

10:12 p.m. Vettori drops a sweeper back, and Kamran drives him again for two. We've reached that mini target: 75 more. So now let's get it to 60.

10:12 p.m. Well, fourth time's the charm. Kamran finally gets a drive through the covers. Four more. 77 more.

10:11 p.m. Kamran finally connects, but not well, and straight to the fielder. Just survive this guy's spell, kids. You do that, and we have a chance.

10:11 p.m. And again, this time with Kamran trying to be more expansive outside off. Chill, Kamran. Chill.

10:10 p.m. Oyhee. Bond beats Kamran outside off, with one that just holds its line. Great bowling from Bond.

10:08 p.m. Three from the over then. 81 needed. Like I said, get it to 75. We'll take it from there.

10:08 p.m. Slower ball from O'Brien, but Umar just caught himself before launching it. No run.

10:07 p.m. Another confident stroke, but this time it evades mid-off. He gets three for his troubles.

10:05 p.m. Solidly and confidently forward from Kamran. No run though.

10:04 p.m. After a long discussion between McMillan and Richardson on who -- Vettori or Martin -- should bowl from the other end, it is, of course, O'Brien.

10:03 p.m. Kamran gets a single to midwicket, miscuing a drive. Some reverse there for Bond. This could get reaaallll interesting. And that's the over. 84 more. Baby steps guys. Let's get this to 75 required.

10:02 p.m. You've got to love test cricket. You really do. All three results still possible. It all hinges on one partnership. Right here.

10:02 p.m. A yorker is tapped to mid-on for a quick single. My heart is starting to beat a helluva lot faster.

10:02 p.m. Nothing silly now, Umar.

10:00 p.m. Safely driven for no run to mid off.

10:00 p.m. Bond to open the attack. Umar to face. Key battle here.

9:59 p.m. You've got to give Ten Sports credit, with believing the whole "pro wrestling is a 'sport' worth showing to an adult audience on an international sports network" thing. I mean, talk about having the courage of your convictions.

9:39 p.m. On replay, it's clear that Judas could have helped himself in a way that Yousuf couldn't have. Yousuf's was much harder to play, and it was at his throat. With Judas, it was closer to his nose, making it easier to leave. But he tried to rise with it, and then caught half way between prodding it down, and leaving it. Anyway, that's tea then. Under normal circumstances, I would have said the session was evenly shared (more than a hundred runs, two specialist batsmen gone), but because we had such a shit start, you have to give it slightly to NZ. It's now up to the Akmal brothers, in what promises to be an extremely tight finish. See you in 20 minutes.

9:38 p.m. Haha what a shot. Man, Kamran's got balls of steel. First ball is driven through the covers for four. Just get to tea, kids.

9:36 p.m. Gone! A carbon copy of the Yousuf dismissal, but this time it's O'Brien to Judas. A short, rising delivery, gets Judas' glove, and he's gone for 32. As with Yousuf, it was a decent innings but he needed to do more. NZ firmly back in front now, 161-5. Kamran in, to join baby bro.

9:33 p.m. Rubbish from Vettori, bowling short and wide outside off from over the wicket. Since it's a predominantly legside field, you just have to get it past the inner ring for it to be a boundary. And Umar's good enough to do so. 161-4. 90 more.

9:31 p.m. And now a two to midwicket from Judas. 94 more. 10 minutes to tea. If these guys -- touch wood -- can get to tea, it would have been our session.

9:29 p.m. Am I correct when I say Bond has only bowled five overs in this session?

9:28 p.m. Ufff. Heart in throat stuff here. Umar nicks O'Brien, it goes at a catchable height, but there's no one at third slip, going between the slip and the gully. He might be getting a touch tired here, Umar. Mentally more than anything else. He's been out there in the middle for about 75% of this test, methinks.

9:27 p.m. Judas with an emphatic reply, dancing down and smacking Vettori for six over long on. The target is now under a hundred: 97 more.

9:27 p.m. Ooooh. Judas almost chops Vettori on. He really looped that one, Vettori. Great bowling.

9:25 p.m. That's the over, negotiated safely enough. 147-4.

9:23 p.m. 104 more.

9:22 p.m. Well, if there was a "streaky fours through the cordon to third man" event at the Olympics, Judas would win gold easily. There's another. Brings up the 50 partnership.

9:21 p.m. Poor Waqar. He wants to run away from this discussion on Dilmah's mint tea faster than Usain Bolt.

9:20 p.m. Vettori replaces Elliot. Well, here's a sign Vettori is worried: he's now coming over the wicket into the rough against Umar. Anyway, we've moved on to 143-4.

9:19 p.m. Goddamnitt. Streaming issues again. Please stand by.

9:16 p.m. Judas gets another streaky four, through the gully region off O'Brien. Another good over for us, with five coming off it. 141-4. 110 more.

9:14 p.m. Just get to tea, kids. Get to tea, and we'll reassess.

9:12 p.m. O'Brien replaces the hardworking Martin.

9:11 p.m. Four more byes. Don't expect McCullum to be especially nice to Elliot after this match, one way or the other. Shocking delivery down the leg side. 136-4, 115 more.

9:10 p.m. Elliot to continue. Umar gets a single, bringing Judas on to strike. Tick, tock.

9:07 p.m. That's Judas' best shot of the match. Drives a decent ball from Martin ramrod straight, and it goes for four. 131-4. Keep it steady, guys. Keep it steady.

9:07 p.m. Off-topic comment: 300 is the strangest movie of all time when the sound is muted.

9:06 p.m. Judas edges it down to third man, all along the ground. Four more. We'll take 'em any way they come, as they say.

9:04 p.m. Martin continuing. He's bowled a good spell here, Martin. Other than Bond, he's easily been NZ's best bowler in this test.

9:02 p.m. Drama here. Judas gets a single, and next ball is sliding down the leg side. McCullum has trouble gathering it, hurts his finger, and what's more, it goes for four byes. All things considered, that's a good over for us. Six from it. 123-4.

9:01 p.m. Fuck. Judas hits it straight back to Elliot, and a chance goes down. Always difficult in your follow through, but you have to take those (unless you're Pakistani). Wow. What a chance to put the game to bed.

9:00 p.m. Elliot joins a long line of NZ dibbly dobbly medium pacers -- including Lathan, Astle, Larsen and god knows who else. Umar works him for one through the off side.

8:59 a.m. Quiet over from Martin to Judas. Elliot (?) into the attack. Nothing stupid now, Umar.

8:55 p.m. With that last boundary, Malik became the third batsmen in this innings to cross 4. Kudos.

8:53 p.m. Four to Malik with a sweep. "Bit of a mow" says Martin Crowe. 7 from the over though. Vettori -- again, I don't want to jinx anything -- has looked strangely ineffective in this test. His field placings have been very curious, to say the least. But, as an ode to the jinxing gods, let me say he's the best left arm spinner in the world and a truly awesome all-round cricketer. Genius. Best ever. Legend.

8:52 p.m. Umar paddles Vettori for two down to fine leg, and then gets a single to long off. 112-4.

8:50 p.m. Jeez. The best I can say about Judas' batting right now is that somehow, some way, he is still there. But he really is trying to not be.

8:48 p.m. 108-4 by the way. If these guys get to tea, I'll be a touch more relaxed. Of course, asking Judas to last an hour outside Asia is really asking too much.

8:46 p.m. As Umar reaches his fifty, the commentators try their best to jinx him by talking about a hundred in each innings of a debut. Nice going guys. Really transparent.

8:42 p.m. And that's drinks. NZ's hour, simply by virtue of picking up Yousuf. We're scoring a little bit more briskly, but at the rate at which we're losing wickets, it may not matter. 105-4.

8:40 p.m. Ian Smith, please shut up. Almost jinxes Umar. That was Rameez-esque from Smitty.

8:38 p.m. Aha. Umar pushes Martin off the back foot through point for four. What a guy. He's moved on to 48, the only guy other than Yousuf to make more than 4.

8:37 p.m. Steady over from Vettori, bowling a maiden to Judas. We stay at 100-4.

8:34 p.m. Nice shot from Umar, working it off his hips for two. Hundred up.

8:32 p.m. Umar would do well to keep Malik away from the strike against the quick bowling.

8:31 p.m. And another. Three off, and it's 98-4.

8:30 p.m. Anyway, Vettori continuing to Umar and Malik. Couple singles in the over so far.

8:28 p.m. I feel really bad for Umar, who's having to literally carry us in his first bloody test. Normally when young guys break into the team, they're allowed to work themselves into test cricket, and the older guys pick up the slack. Normally.

8:27 p.m. And now cut in half by Martin. I mean, it's good bowling to be sure. But Malik is just nowhere at the moment. Him and Farhat have been completely useless. At least Khurram got a runout, and Fawad made a 30 odd in the first innings.

8:26 p.m. Let Ian Smith tell it: "Looks all at sea, Shoaib Malik." Yup. Don't know what shot he was playing there. Can you play a cut without moving either of your feet to a ball three feet wide of off stump? If yes, that was a cut.

8:25 p.m. 95-4. Come on guys. Steady now.

8:23 p.m. Gone! Martin gets Yousuf with a ripper! HUGE wicket! A short ball at the throat, Yousuf couldn't get out of the way, it touches his glove through to the keeper. What a blow that is, just as the partnership was gathering some momentum. It was worth 71, and Yousuf made 40-odd. Nice little innings, but frankly, we needed more. Judas in.

8:22 p.m. Very nice from Umar, just tapping it to mid on and taking off. Excellent running. More positive now than he was before lunch, that's for sure.

8:22 p.m. Simon Doull on Martin: "He's got to put it in." What?

8:21 p.m. Double change then. Martin replaces O'Brien.

8:21 p.m. 94-3.

8:19 p.m. Well, thank goodness my stream came back before that shot. Umar just smacks Vettori over midwicket for six, down on one knee at all. Next ball is nicely late cut for two. Followed by a single down the ground. Full range of shots displayed here.

8:18 p.m. Ok, it's 85-3. Vettori is into the attack. This stream unreliability issue really needs to fix itself.

8:15 p.m. Arrrghh. My stream is having all sorts of issues now. This is very pissing off. Hold on.

8:13 p.m. Dear Umar Akmal: You are very good. But please put away your pull shot on this pitch. At least while Bond is bowling. Many thanks and best regards, Ahsan.

8:12 p.m. Ok, something clearly happened in that over, because we're suddenly 80-3. Whatever it was, kudos.

8:10 p.m. Stream acting up again. WTF.

8:08 p.m. We can turn my earlier point about offense-defense on its head. I mentioned that if we play too conservatively, we risk giving Vettori the luxury of bringing attacking fielders from every which way. Conversely, if we up the tempo even slightly, it makes our chances of getting at least a draw that much greater. 72-3 then, with both guys looking a touch more settled (touch wood).

8:07 p.m. And next ball tries to slash him behind point. Good fielding. Yousuf tells him to chill.

8:07 p.m. Bang. Umar just picks Bond over his head for four off a full ball. Four more.

8:06 p.m. Martin Crowe makes a good point about treating this chase as a spell-by-spell thing. See off Bond, and see what happens.

8:05 p.m. The thing that's really impressed me about Umar in this innings -- Lord, let this not be a jinx -- is that he has shown he can play a different type of innings. Very heady player. Most young guys can play one way; it takes experience for the versatility to creep into your game. Not with this guy. He's 19 going on 30.

8:02 p.m. This partnership has moved on to 43. Need about a 150 more from these two. Seriously, anything less, and we've lost.

8:01 p.m. 66-3 in 31 overs then.

7:59 p.m. Hold on, my stream just died. Both of em. Gimme a couple.

7:57 p.m. And now one staying low from Bond to Yousuf. Scary times for Pakistan here.

7:57 p.m. Replays showed that just dropped short of third slip. Still dangerous, obviously.

7:56 p.m. Streaky from Umar, as he looks to drive O'Brien through the covers, gets an edge, and it flies through the cordon for four. Third slip got a hand to it. Phew. 63-3.

7:55 p.m. Beauty. Nothing you can do about those. Umar beaten all ends up by one that just leaves him. Well bowled O'Brien. Him and Martin have done much better in this innings than the first.

7:54 p.m. Careful, careful. Don't want a run-out here, kids.

7:53 p.m. Nice shot. Umar works O'Brien through mid-on, without getting all of it. Goes for four, and that's his first boundary.

7:52 p.m. Two off Bond's over. 55-3.

7:51 p.m. First runs after lunch, a single to Yousuf to mid on, and a single to deep cover to Umar.

7:49 p.m. So two maiden to start. I'll say this: if we keep playing at this pace for another half an hour or 45 minutes, we can kiss winning this game goodbye. This is important because the threat of us being able to win is crucial in being able to avoid a loss -- the moment Vettori senses that we can no longer win, he's going to bring in attacking fielders, and make it really hard for us to survive. We need to keep them honest here.

7:48 p.m. Nah nah Umar. Bad shot. Tries to hit one through the off-side when it wasn't there. Nearly gives Waqar a heart attack.

7:47 p.m. An ambitious appeal for LBW, as Umar tries to flick a full one through the leg side, and gets hit on the pad. Sliding down the leg-side, no problems. NZ have started well though after lunch. Nothing loose.

7:46 p.m. Keeps low, but Umar is up to it, keeping his eyes on it till the last moment.

7:45 p.m. Great bowling from Bond, really mixing it up in that over. Maiden over right after lunch then. O'Brien will bowl from the other end, to Umar.

7:43 p.m. Solidly forward from Yousuf. Great contest, this.

7:42 p.m. Uff. A pacy bouncer, aimed at Yousuf's body. He does well to sway out of the way, right after lunch.

7:42 p.m. Safe enough, just hit into the off side.

7:41 p.m. Alright, here we go. Bond to Yousuf.

7:39 p.m. And we're back. Pakistan need 198 in 65 overs. NZ need 7 wickets in 65 overs. Umar and Yousuf at the crease, with a slow-but-steady partnership of 29.

7:03 p.m. Solid enough from Umar. We end up at 53-3, with 198 more needed. NZ's session by far, though Umar and Yousuf look solid. They'll have to build again post-lunch, and frankly, I think they'll be happy with a draw from here. See you in 40 minutes.

7:01 p.m. Umar flicks Vettori for two through midwicket. The field is now up.

7:00 p.m. Solid as a rock from Yousuf. He's really tightened up after that initial flurry. Last over before lunch then.

6:57 p.m. Ooh. Umar drives Martin hard to mid-off, a slight fumble, sets off, and Vettori goes at the stumps. I think he would've been home had it hit, but there's no need for that three minutes before lunch.

6:55 p.m. Dear Mohd Yousuf: Please don't go back to a full ball from Vettori. You will be LBW soon. Thanks and best regards, Ahsan. 50-3 by the way.

6:54 p.m. Three singles off three balls in this over. That's what that field placing will do to you.

6:53 p.m. The NZ commentators are tearing their hair out at the fact that Vettori has five guys on the boundary to both Yousuf and Umar. Again, completely understandable.

6:51 p.m. Beautifully played by Yousuf. There's four guys in the off-side ring, and he gets it through with a languid cover drive off one that wasn't even that full. What a guy. First boundary in a long, long time. 47-3.

6:51 p.m. Umar finally gets to double figures, by working a Martin no-ball behind square for one. Took him about an hour I think.

6:49 p.m. Nice shape for Martin, who's bowled well.

6:47 p.m. Exhale. Yousuf gets beaten by Vettori. The world's best left arm spinner bowling to the world's worst player of left-arm spin is not a battle I'm especially enamored with.

6:46 p.m. Yousuf paddles Vettori for two. The NZ commentators are pissed off that he has both mid on and mid off back. I would be too.

6:44 p.m. Umar looks very solid and compact in defense. It's good to see a young Pakistani batsman just be able to shut up shop for a while. Anyway, Vettori in to the attack.

6:41 p.m. Bond's figures, by the way, are 8-3-11-2. Wonder if he'll come back for a sharp burst just before lunch. Vettori still hasn't bowled by the way; in fact, these two (O'Brien and Martin) have been plugging away for quite a while now.

6:40 p.m. Safe. Gets a single to mid off to finish the over.

6:39 p.m. Uh oh. Change of bat for Umar. Let's hope this isn't Saeed Anwar circa 1999.

6:38 p.m. The first non-defensive shot from Umar in a while, but good fielding in the covers means it's no run. Frustrating.

6:36 p.m. Another maiden. 38-3.

6:35 p.m. I wonder if these guys have given up hope of winning this game, and instead are content on drawing it. I'm just trying to figure out what's going on here.

6:29 p.m. Oooh. O'Brien bowling well, beating Umar outside. I fear we're getting stuck here. I'm not saying try and play aggressively, but these guys aren't even really looking for singles, which is allowing their bowlers to get 5 or 6 balls an over at one guy. A single is both an offensive weapon (it gets you runs) and defensive weapon (makes it harder for the bowler to get a wicket). Amongst Pakistani batsmen of this era, only Younis understand that truth, and he's not here. Miandad was probably the best exponent of that logic in days gone by.

6:25 p.m. Aargh, half volley from Martin to Yousuf is wasted. Dot to mid off. We've crawled to 36-3 in 17 overs.

6:19 p.m. NZ keeping things very tight here. Not only have the boundaries dried up, but singles and twos are also pretty much off the table. A holding period here. Can we get through it?

6:17 p.m. Dangerous, dangerous. Umar looks to drive, and gets it through the gully region. Just a single. 34-3.

6:14 p.m. Someone get Martin Crowe a sock. He's talking about Umar Akmal in gushing tones, and if carries on this way, Waqar is going to need to go the bathroom to clean up.

6:12 p.m. Oooh. O'Brien gets one to stay low at Umar. I tell you what, if we get to 251, it would have been some achievement on this pitch, given how crap our batting is.

6:07 p.m. And now Umar edges Bond, but it falls short. Goddamn, Bond can bowl. He can really, really bowl. Him and Yousuf are tied for the "of all the people who went to the ICL, we deprived the world of international cricket the most by being deemed ineligible to play for our national teams by the draconian BCCI" award. Anyway, it's drinks.

6:07 p.m. Bond zeroing in on Yousuf's pads here, and Yousuf keep trying to work him through the legside. He misses one, and he's a goner.

6:05 p.m. And Umar off the mark, with a push through the covers for one.

6:04 p.m. 28-3. Shambolic batting, really.

6:02 p.m. After a "he really wasn't playing a shot but pretended to, and so isn't LBW" LBW shout, Yousuf flicks O'Brien for four behind square leg.

6:00 p.m. Wicket maiden for Bond. 24-3. And this is before Vettori has had his shot at Yousuf, perhaps the worst player in the world of left arm spin. Good times.

5:58 p.m. The next one goes flying over Umar's shoulder. What a bouncer. Bond cranking it up here.

5:58 p.m. Solidly behind it first up.

5:56 p.m. Gone! Bond cramps Fawad coming over the wicket, gets him jumping, and it loops up to a strangely-positioned guy -- best description is silly-mid wicket. 24-3, and it's yet another Pakistani collapse. Man, we miss Younis. We really, really miss Younis. Anyway, Umar Akmal in.

5:54 p.m. Oooooh. Fawad tries to cut the next one, edges it, but gets to first slip just on the bounce. I have to say, I have abandoned all hope of winning this game. I foresee a 100-all out type innings here.

5:52 p.m. Beats Fawad outside off. Close. Very close. Doesn't need to be playing that, Fawad.

5:50 p.m O'Brien replaces Martin, whose last over went for 14.

5:49 p.m. Ooh. Some pace and bite there. Safe enough though from Yousuf, and we're 23-2.

5:49 p.m. Bond to Yousuf. Key battle here.

5:48 p.m. Fawad works Bond through square for a single. Just keep it ticking, kid.

5:47 p.m. Ooooh. Fawad gets caught there, halfway between a defensive shot and a push. It holds up on the pitch, and so almost carries back to Bond for another caught and bold. Heart stopping moment there.

5:45 p.m. Calm down Yousuf. Martin drops it short, Yousuf uncharacteristically tries to hook it, it gets an edge, and it flies down to fine leg for six. It's runs, but it's risky. He has to bat us until we get to 200 at least. Come on Yousuf. Play an Inzi innings here. Calm and cool and efficient.

5:44 p.m. And now through the covers. Just lent into that. God, I hope he doesn't get carried away here. We need to win this in 75-80 overs, not 60 overs. I hope Yousuf knows that.

5:43 p.m. A figure you might be interested in: the difference between Yousuf's overall average and his second innings average is minus 14. Younis', by the way, is minus 3. Take from that what you will.

5:42 p.m. Aha. Yousuf interrupts the inane banter amongst Ian Smith and Simon Doull with a delightful drive down the ground for four. Just tapped that through the line.

5:38 p.m. The final tally for Farhat: less than 30 runs in two innings, 4 dropped catches, and one wasted referral. Thanks, Mohammad Ilyas! You're the best.

5:37 p.m. Fawad plays Bond through midwicket for two. This is the partnership kids. Unless they put at least a hundred on, we're fucked.

5:35 p.m. Hahaha. Another one. Martin comes round the wicket, Farhat nicks it, it goes to second slip, and another excellent catch in the cordon. That's been the difference: they get edges, and it's a wicket. We get edges, and it really is a lottery. Anyway, when I said I expected 35 runs from the sextet of Khurram, Farhat, Malik, Gullee, Asif, and Ajmal, I might've overshot by about 20. We're 6-2, and in all sorts of trouble. Yousuf in.

5:34 p.m. I hate how everyone -- including Waqar -- is lumping the "top three" together in some sort of shit batting basket. Really Fucking Stupid Imran and Khurram are bad players. Fawad is a good player who got an unplayable delivery -- really the only one in our first innings. There's a distinction there.

5:33 p.m. And off the mark straight away, tucking it behind square for one.

5:32 p.m. Pheewff, I'm still getting over that catch. That was awesome. Anyway, Really Fucking Stupid Imran just got off the mark with a single. Fawad to face up to Martin.

5:29 p.m. Gone! What a catch! Khurram nicks the next one from Bond, it goes really low and really quick to McCullum, who gets it falling to his right. That would have never gotten to slip. Most keepers wouldn't have even sniffed that. Outstanding stuff from NZ, whose fielding and catching has put us to shame in this test. Well, they've got their breakthrough. 4-1, with Fawad in.

5:28 p.m. First runs. Bond gets the outside half of Khurram's bat, who to his credit, played it with soft hands. Goes all along the ground through the cordon for four.

5:27 p.m. God, Khurram looks terrible on the back foot. Ugh.

5:23 p.m. Poor old Waqar really holding up the fort here. The NZ commentators are trying to diagnose what happened in that third innings -- they're blaming poor shot selection and a lack of mental toughness. "Pakistan bowling really fucking well" is, apparently, not a sound enough reason. Until Waqar pointed it out to them, that is. Anyway, another maiden. 0-0 after four.

5:20 p.m. And another maiden. I don't really mind this, to be honest. If we see Bond's first spell off without too much damage, I'll be more confident. The ball's not really moving much from his end. Let's see.

5:16 p.m. Good over, two gone. Still not off the mark, Pakistan.

5:15 p.m. Oooh. Martin gets one to rise, and Really Fucking Stupid Imran had no idea. It could have ballooned anywhere, but it fell safely to the short leg region.

5:13 p.m. Hahahaha. A lazy waft outside off first up. God, he's really fucking stupid.

5:12 p.m. Martin to bowl to Really Fucking Stupid Imran at the other end.

5:12 p.m. Three or fewer I meant.

5:11 p.m. Safe enough, with a bunch of leaves outside off. Here's my prediction for the day: if we restrict Bond to fewer than three wickets, we will win.

5:09 p.m. A bit of awkward backfoot defensive shot first up, followed by a leave outside off for the second. Khurram, it is safe to say, needs to work on his technique. He looks seriously cramped every time he tries to play defensively on the back-foot, and moreover, tends to do so with an angled bat. I really, really hope he's not our opener on the OZ tour.

5:07 p.m. Alright, we're about ready to get underway here. Win or lose, you've got to love our pace bowlers. Nine wickets between them for not many. Anyway, here we go. Khurram and Really Fucking Stupid Imran to open. Bond to start.

5:00 p.m. Gone! Elliot gloves Gullee down the leg side to Akmal, who pouches it safely. So that's it then. A nice quick clean-up job the morning. Pakistan will need 251 runs to win their first test in something like a gazillion years. There's five guys that will be key: Fawad, Yousuf, Umar, Kamran and Aamer. I'm expecting no more than 35 runs between the other six.

4:58 p.m, NZ's lead has crept up to 250, by the way. Important little milestone there.

4:57 p.m. "Just one of those guys that...cannot bat," says McMillan. Gets off the mark though. Damnitt.

4:56 p.m. Alright, here we go. Elliot pushes Gullee into the leg side off his hips, looking for two, but they get only one. Martin to face. "Oh dear," says Craig McMillan.

4:54 p.m. Oh for fuck's sake. Elliot steals a single off the last ball of Asif's over, by just tapping it to mid-on and setting off. Come on guys. Is it really a mystery what he's going to do there? Come up a yard or two.

4:53 p.m. Asif beats Elliot all ends up, with one that jags back. Ridiculous movement.

4:50 p.m. Just reward for Gullee there. He's bowled really well this whole test without too much reward. Anyway, Martin in -- who incidentally who has batted against us six times and has six ducks. He has an overall average of lower than three. I'm going to go out on a limb and say Elliot is going to look to farm the strike here.

4:49 p.m. Confirmation that it's out. Nine down. NZ's lead at 247.

4:47 p.m. Haha, got 'em! Gullee follows three short balls with a full, fast one, and it hits him on the ankle in front of middle. Plumb in front, Taufel gives it, and O'Brien asks for a review, more from desperation than anything else. That's out. It has to be.

4:46 p.m. Gullee smacks O'Brien in the grill with another bouncer. And follows it up with two more. Don't lose the plot here, Gullee. Tailenders look pretty ungainly against short bowling but don't often get out to it. Keep it full, and you'll get him.

4:43 p.m. The important thing in the immediate term is to not get too impatient if we don't get wickets immediately. Just because they're eight down doesn't mean they're going to fold straight away, and expecting so will have damaging consequences. Just keep bowling in the right areas, don't tinker with the field too much, and try to keep the pressure on. Don't panic. I have a feeling I'm going to be repeating the "don't panic" line a few times today.

4:41 p.m. Bloody hell. Now he gets it to jag back in, and O'Brien leaves it, thinking it will leave him. Beautiful bowling.

4:39 p.m. Goddamnitt. Elliot nicks Asif, but it doesn't carry to Kamran. Well, better that than it carrying to Farhat for him to drop it.

4:38 p.m. Anything above 275 and we can forget it. Just letting you know right now.

4:36 p.m. Hahaha. Gullee bowls a short one that passes harmlessly by O'Brien (the tailender), and somebody yells "Ah ah ah ah...PACE boy PACE". Jokers.

4:33 p.m. Well, well, well. What have we here? It appears that this is going to be one of those brilliant fifth days of a test -- where all three results are possible, nobody knows anything, and people's nails are going to be chewed like Wrigleys. What an advertisement for test cricket. The situation, as it stands, is that NZ are 245 ahead with two wickets remaining. Elliot and O'Brien are batting against Asif and Gullee.

Hello and welcome to Rs.5's coverage of the fifth and final day of the first test between Pakistan and New Zealand. As always, all times are local (i.e. Chicago).