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Recent Match Report – Durban Heat vs Cape Town Blitz, Mzansi Super League, 9th Match

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Cape Town Blitz 174 for 6 (Ackerman 43, Asif Ali 43, Phehlukwayo 2-34) beat Durban Heat 164 for 7 (Lubbe 83, Steyn 2-23, Mahlokwana 2-26) by 10 runs

Before we get to what happened on the field in Durban, let’s take a moment to appreciate that something actually happened. After two washouts, at least two tornados and heavy rain for much of the last two-and-a-half weeks, Kingsmead was dry and cricket was played. The Heat weren’t able to give their home crowd a victory but provided ample entertainment, as they fell 11 runs short of a competitive target of 175.

Ackerman shows the Heat what they missed

Marques Ackerman was named the Kwa-Zulu Natal Cricket Union’s player of the year in May after his first summer in Durban in 2018-19. Still, he was not picked up by his home team, the Durban Heat, in the MSL draft, and he showed them what they are missing out on. Ackerman was the joint top-scorer in the Blitz innings, with 43 off 34 balls. The shot of his innings was a slog-sweep off his Dolphins team-mate Keshav Maharaj that went for six.

Bowl it wide

The Heat’s plan to limit the Blitz’s big-hitters was to bowl wide of off stump but it didn’t always work. They bowled nine wides in the innings, seven to Asif Ali, including three from Andile Phehlukwayo in his third over. Kyle Abbott controlled his line a little better, especially at the death. He only bowled one wide and his last two overs cost just 12 runs, to ensure the Blitz were kept under 175.

Chances gone begging

Wihan Lubbe‘s 83 held the Heat’s chase together but not without some luck. He sent the ball aerial several times and evaded Liam Livingstone twice. When he was on 25, Lubbe’s miscued pull off Sisanda Magala teased Livingstone at midwicket but landed safely, costing just one run, and then when he was on 44, Lubbe lashed out at Anrich Nortje and sent his shot to deep midwicket, where Livingstone ran to his left and stuck out one arm but couldn’t get his fingers to it and the shot went for four. Lubbe made his chances count and went on to add 39 more runs to his total and put Heat in a position to push for victory. Livingstone’s day didn’t get any better when he dropped Ravi Bopara in the final over, at deep point.

Right-arm, Left-arm

Ambidextrous Gregory Mahlokwana may be the find of the Blitz’s campaign and he showed off both his offspin and left-arm spin in Durban. Best of all, he was rewarded in both disciplines when he had Sarel Erwee caught at extra cover off an arm ball delivered with the right arm and switched to left-arm spin which he used to bowl Dane Vilas. Mahlokwana delivered it quicker, Vilas moved outside his leg stump to make room, and his middle stump was pegged back.

Steyn’s alive

Dale Steyn is still available to play for South Africa in white-ball cricket and is making a strong claim to be considered for next year’s T20 World Cup. He is the joint leading wicket-taker in the tournament so far with six sticks at 19.33 and stepped up when most needed in this match. Steyn accounted for the early wicket of Alex Hales, caught at mid-on for a duck, and the late breakthrough of Lubbe, who pulled to short fine leg, and finished with figures of 2 for 23 in his four overs. Steyn set up the win before Sisanda Magala defended 20 off the final over to put Blitz on top of the points’ table.

De Kock’s poker face

Phehlukwayo’s finishing skills made him the man who could take the Heat home, even though they needed 34 runs off the last three overs. They scored just six in the first five balls of the 18th over when Phehlulwayo tried to push for a second run off the last ball and was tricked into thinking he would get there. As Phehlukwayo ran towards the striker’s end, Quinton de Kock put on a blank look, pretending the ball was not coming to him. Phehlukwayo didn’t run his bat in, thinking he was home safe, when the ball arrived and de Kock broke the stumps to send him on his way.



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Playing again would ‘almost be like a debut’ – Fawad Alam

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It has been over ten years since he played the last of his three Test matches, and nearly five years since he played any international cricket, but Fawad Alam hasn’t been sitting twiddling his thumbs all this while.

Year after year, he’s continued to press for national selection with remarkable performances on the domestic circuit, particularly in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Pakistan’s premier first-class competition. No player has scored more runs in the tournament than Fawad’s 3105, which have been achieved at an average of 56.45. There have been near misses; he was called up to a training camp ahead of the tour of England in 2018 and named in a couple of squads without getting a start. But off the back of a double century in the QeA and a dismal outing for the Test side in Australia, this time feels different.

And for Fawad, it feels like a second debut. “I said the other day it will almost feel like a debut, and that’s true because it’s been such a long time since I last played,” Fawad told reporters in Karachi. “Whether I get a game or not depends on the management and selection committee. I’m just happy I was able to make it in the final 15. Where they feel I can deliver, they’ll give me a chance and I’m confident I’ll perform. The way the conditions and wickets shape up will determine whether I get a chance or not, obviously.”

He waved away concerns that the pressure of playing at home – particularly in his hometown of Karachi, where the second Test will be played – would become too overwhelming. “When a player is playing a club match or a domestic game, there’s still pressure on you. The pressure of performance always remains with you so it’s not like it’s a new psychological thing. That will be there but my job is to overcome it and try to deliver.

“I should try and enjoy the opportunity I’ve been given right now and think positively. If I allow negative thoughts to cloud my mind my focus will be adversely affected. My aim is to make the most of this opportunity and try to perform to the best level I can.”

It would have been easy for Fawad to feel down on his luck and wallow in self-pity; indeed, much of the nation seemed to be doing that on his behalf. For all the runs he compiled, for the scarcely believable consistency on offer from the left-hander on the domestic circuit, multiple management and selection regimes would overlook him for the national side. They may well have had their reasons, but when players with significantly inferior records were called up and given repeated runs in the side even as Fawad sat out, there were suspicions there was something less honest than cricketing strategy behind Fawad’s continued exile.

Fawad, though, did not allow himself that negativity, believing it would be detrimental to his game. “If you surround yourself with people who tell you you have been badly treated and fill your mind with negative stuff, then you may feel that sense of injustice. But that’s not what my friends and family were like; they motivated me to perform year after year after year. They kept me going and urged me to continue knocking at selectors’ doors. My father always said I must not be upset, to act like a fighter and continue to fight for my place in the side.”

The straight bat he uses to such good effect in domestic games across the country was in evidence at the press conference, too, where Fawad was eager to ward off any controversy. He was questioned about Inzamam having reportedly jibed about “seeing better players than Fawad” and having compared him to Mark Ramprakash, who, despite a glittering career in the county game, couldn’t quite nail a place in the England side for long enough. Fawad, though, wouldn’t be drawn on Inzamam’s comments, and called it a “matter of honour” to be compared to a “great” like Ramprakash.

“It’s a matter of honour for me to have my name tied to Mark Ramprakash. He’s just a great player and done so much for his country. The number of runs I’ve scored is puny compared to how many he’s scored. He’s scored over one hundred centuries [114] and I’m nowhere close to that either. I’m just here to perform to my best and prove doubters wrong.

“As for Inzi bhai, he is a legend of ours; I’m nowhere near him. I’m not worthy of snapping back at Inzamam in anyway, and that is not the way I was brought up. I was taught to respect my elders, and Inzi bhai is entitled to his own viewpoint. I don’t feel it is appropriate to respond to him because I have too much respect for him.”

You don’t plug away thanklessly on the domestic circuit in Pakistan without being somewhat daftly in love with the game, and that is what Fawad wished to speak of most of all. The excitement in his voice was most evident when speaking about Sri Lanka visiting to finally break the Test drought inflicted on the country since the terror attack on this week’s visitors, and his commitment to ensuring this would be a positive, memorable series.

“It’s a very good thing to see Test cricket back in Pakistan after such a long time. It’s a good omen for Pakistan cricket, and for the entire country. We all need to make the event successful. Because how this goes will be relayed by the Sri Lankans to countries around the world so the better this goes, the more advantages it confers to Pakistan. I think the message is everyone should come here. The people have supported all the teams that came previously and had a good time. The fact that Test cricket is returning after such a long time means all true cricket lovers will want to get down to the stadium and support their team as well as Test cricket.”

In those moments, Fawad Alam was a fan once more. If indeed he does get the fourth Test cap that he’s waited a decade for on Wednesday, he will need to switch back to being the ruthless accumulator we have become used to seeing on grounds across Pakistan. Except this time it won’t be Central Punjab or Northern Districts he’s looking to grind into submission, but a Sri Lankan cricket team looking to exorcise demons of its own in Pakistan.



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Recent Match Report – India vs West Indies 2nd T20I 2019

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West Indies choose to bowl v India

Kieron Pollard called correctly at the toss in Thiruvananthapuram to give his side a shot at chasing down a total with possible dew to contend with when India bowl in the night. The visitors made one change to the XI that lost the first game, bringing in Nicholas Pooran to replace Denesh Ramdin.

Expecting some turn from a surface “drier” than the usual Trivandrum one, India stuck with their spinners, making no change to their XI. It meant disappointment for the capacity crowd who were hoping their local player Sanju Samson might make his international comeback.

India 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 KL Rahul, 3 Virat Kohli (capt.), 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Shivam Dube, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Washington Sundar, 9 Deepak Chahar, 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal

West Indies 1 Lendl Simmons, 2 Evin Lewis, 3 Brandon King, 4 Shimron Hetmyer, 5 Nicholas Pooran (wk), 6 Kieron Pollard (capt.), 7 Jason Holder, 8 Khary Pierre, 9 Kesrick Williams, 10 Sheldon Cottrell, 11 Hayden Walsh



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Suranga Lakmal out of Sri Lanka’s tour of Pakistan with dengue

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On the day Sri Lanka were leaving for Pakistan to play a two-Test series, they revealed that Suranga Lakmal was down with dengue fever and will not be travelling with the team. His spot has been taken by Asitha Fernando, who has spent the last few months playing for Sri Lanka’s Under-23 and Emerging teams.

Lakmal has long been the team’s best fast bowler in Test cricket, especially away from home and played an important role in their 2-0 victory in 2017, keeping one end tight while the spinners attacked from the other. Lakmal bowled 58.3 overs across two Tests in the UAE, picking up six wickets and maintaining an economy rate of 2.22.

Fernando has not played any international cricket since making his debut in 2017. He was picked for an ODI against Zimbabwe and ended the day with figures of 0 for 22 in two overs. He has been in better form recently, picking up six wickets from four T20 matches for Sri Lanka’s Under-23 side in the South Asian Games in Nepal. With that tournament still on-going, he is expected to join the senior side in Pakistan only after the first Test, which begins on December 11.

Sri Lanka do have fast bowling cover in Lahiru Kumara, who can become one of the best in the world according to Sri Lanka’s consultant head coach Mickey Arthur, Vishwa Fernando, who was part of history in South Africa and Kasun Rajitha.



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