The sight of Bangladesh players walking down from their chartered aircraft at the Allama Iqbal Airport in Lahore, late on Wednesday evening, was an assuring sign for cricket lovers from both countries. Not too long ago, the tour was nearly called off after the BCB stuck to their position of only playing T20Is, while Pakistan sent a fresh proposal of only Tests.
But it all changed dramatically when, over the course of a meeting in Dubai last week in the presence of ICC chairman Shashank Manohar, the two parties reached a deal. Bangladesh are on the first of three legs of touring Pakistan over the next three months, this time to only play the T20Is.
Bangladesh will be without Mushfiqur Rahim, who opted out of the tour due to his family’s concerns, while five members of the coaching staff have also been excluded from the travelling party. It has unquestionably made Bangladesh a lesser side, with added responsibility on Tamim Iqbal and captain Mahmudullah. Bangladesh have an experienced pace attack to call upon, but lack a genuine spinner. The batting line-up has form, but needs careful organising and reshuffling.
Bangladesh performed admirably in the T20Is in India in November, where only a sensational Deepak Chahar spell stood between them and a famous series win. The same cannot be said about Pakistan, however. They have lost eight of their last ten T20Is, including a series defeat to Sri Lanka at home in October last year.
In the need to improve their record, the coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq has included some newcomers like Amad Butt, Ahsan Ali and Haris Rauf, as well as veterans Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik to beef up the batting line-up.
Pakistan LLLLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Sixteen wickets at a strike-rate of exactly ten, economy rate of 6.89 and 11.56 bowling average in the BBL has not only landed Haris Rauf a place in the Pakistan T20I side, but his tape-ball to BBL story has made fans quite excited to see him bowl at home.
Mohammad Naim’s 81 against India in Bangladesh’s last T20I made heads turn, and he followed it up with an impressive BPL campaign for Rangpur Rangers. Naim, too, is a virtual unknown in Bangladesh cricket, but fans have noticed the youngster’s unassuming strokeplay.
Pakistan are going with a whole host of changes from the side that last played a T20I. Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik and Shaheen Afridi are likely to return while Ahsan Ali and Haris Rauf are set to be handed T20I debuts. Three places would obviously open up in the absence of Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Amir and Haris Sohail who don’t feature in the squad.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Ahsan Ali, 2 Babar Azam, 3 Mohammad Hafeez, 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Iftikhar Ahmed, 6 Imad Wasim, 7 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 8 Shadab Khan, 9 Haris Rauf, 10 Shaheen Afridi 11 Mohammad Hasnain
Bangladesh’s team management will have a tough time replacing Mushfiqur Rahim, and maneuvering the five openers within the line-up. Coach Russell Domingo said a few days ago that many of them may have to bat out of position, although the bowling line-up is likely to be similar to the one that faced India in November.
Bangladesh (possible): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Mohammad Naim, 3 Afif Hossain, 4 Liton Das (wk), 5 Mahmudullah (capt), 6 Soumya Sarkar, 7 Mahedi Hasan, 8 Aminul Islam, 9 Shafiul Islam, 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Al-Amin Hossain
Pitch and conditions
The brownish wicket is projected to be a belter, giving the chasing side enough of an advantage to go after even a 200-plus total. The weather forecast seems perfect, with a high of 17 degrees.
Stats and trivia
This will be only be the second T20 tp be played during the day at the Gaddafi Stadium in the last six years.
Only Tamim Iqbal and Mahmudullah have played in Pakistan from this current Bangladesh side.
Mohammad Hafeez, who has made a comeback into the Pakistan T20I side, is 92 runs short of 2000 T20I runs, while Shadab Khan is four scalps away from 50 T20I wickets.
Jofra Archer and England must work together to manage workload – Dale Steyn
While acknowledging that Archer would endure the “odd injury here or there,” Steyn said effective man management, based on good communication between both parties, was crucial in ensuring the England spearhead remained fit.
“The most important thing is that people want to see him on the park, you’ve got to keep him on the park and they’ve got to work out how to do that,” Steyn said. “Everyone is different so they have got to work out something for him. He is fresh, he is new into the system so it’s going to take the odd injury here or there to work it out but they’ll get there.”
Archer, who bowled more than any other England bowler in 2019 but only played one match on England’s tour to South Africa, has been ruled out for at least three months with a stress fracture to his right elbow and Steyn is among many who want to see him back as soon as possible, despite joking that England should “bowl him into the ground so he doesn’t play”.
“It boils down to man management and having good conversations with him and seeing where he is at and what he wants to do,” Steyn said. “He is still learning and bowling enough that he is getting his body strong,” Steyn said.
Despite the significance of the injury, Steyn – who thought Archer was “phenomenal” when he first saw him bowling for Sussex under the guidance of South African-born then county coach Mark Davis – believes he has all the ingredients for a long career because of his style, particularly the effortless appearance of his run-up.
“Fast bowling is extremely difficult, it’s not an easy thing to do and he makes it look so easy,” Steyn said. “He almost like waddles in a little bit, he doesn’t storm in and he bowls it extreme pace. And then he’s got good skill, he is able to change it up a little bit.
“That’s what fascinates me. If you watch Mitch Johnson or Starc, they really run in to generate a lot of pace. Archer makes it look so much easier. For a batter that’s probably the most difficult thing in the world. You don’t know what’s going to come.”
Asked how he managed to remain injury free for the first decade of his own career, before a spate of problems during the last three years, Steyn put it down to his on-field relationship with Graeme Smith.
“I had a great captain. He bowled me when he felt we needed a wicket and I was able to deliver,” Steyn said. “When we got a wicket or if the spinner got a handy wicket, like Paul Harris would bowl his backside off and get a wicket and if he wanted one more over, Graeme would say, ‘No, Dale’s bowling,’ so I was able to bowl to the new batters.
“I had a great captain and I had other guys that were around me that were really able to get the best out of me for a really lengthy period of time.”
Joe Root, England’s Test captain, has denied suggestions that Archer had been overbowled since making his international debut ahead of the 2019 World Cup but conceded England would need to look at using him more efficiently on his return.
Archer played four out of five Ashes Tests, bowling 44 overs on debut at Lord’s, and then 42 in one innings at Mount Maunganui on England’s New Zealand tour in November. Having taken the third five-wicket haul of his fledgling Test career in the series opener against South Africa, he missed the following two matches with elbow soreness and was ruled out of the fourth Test on match-day when he suffered pain during the warm-up.
Dale Steyn to reassess his future after T20 World Cup
Dale Steyn is likely to call time on his international career after this year’s T20 World Cup but remains committed to making himself available for South Africa in white-ball cricket until then.
Steyn, who retired from Tests in August last year and has not played for the national team in 11 months, will make his return with the upcoming T20I series against England, where he hopes to stake a claim for the T20 World Cup.
Asked if he would consider prolonging his limited-overs’ run until the 2021 edition of the competition, Steyn was hesitant, once he realised the competitions run in successive years.
“Is there another T20 World Cup? Next year? Wow, that’s short-lived. So if we win it, we only win for a year,” Steyn said in East London. “This one would be a nice one to go to and then finish off and reassess after the end of this year and then I will kind of figure out what I want to do.”
For now, the only thing Steyn wants to do is get on the park after missing out on South Africa’s last T20I series, against India last September when the selectors deemed him unfit despite his own declaration of readiness. “I love playing cricket. I wake up every day and I can’t see myself doing anything else right now. I am just putting my hand up and saying I’m available, pick me, don’t pick me and then we’ll see how it goes to the World Cup.
“As long as that drive is there to still play at the highest level, and get batters out and fox them and outsmart them and all that kind of stuff, if I can do that, I am going to continue to do that. And then once I can’t do that anymore, well once I decide that I don’t want to do it anymore, then I’ll be done.”
Recent evidence, in the Mzansi Super League and the Big Bash League, suggests that Steyn still has what it takes to get the better of some of the world’s best batsmen. He was the third-highest wicket-taker in the MSL where he counted AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar and Alex Hales among his 15 victims and took five wickets at 16.20 in the BBL. Notably, Steyn did not get all his wickets with pace alone and was playing with cutters and slower balls, especially in the MSL.
“I decided to play a braver brand of cricket,” Steyn said. “I tried one or two different things that I wouldn’t necessarily do and I thought I would use that as a nice time to experiment and it worked out quite nicely. With Test cricket, it’s very important that you are bowling at high speed but T20 cricket is a great way to be versatile. If you want to bowl 145kph, guys need to know that it’s there, a 90-plus-miles-an-hour bouncer, yorker, whatever it is but you can also change it up and then it makes that 90-mile-an-hour bouncer so much more effective. If you are just constantly doing the same thing, good batters can adjust.”
It’s that kind of wisdom, gained through experience, which Steyn hopes to pass on to a young South Africa pack in the next few weeks. In Kagiso Rabada’s absence, Steyn will bowl alongside Lungi Ngidi, who has also been working on pace off the ball, Andile Phehlukwayo and Sisanda Magala, who are death-bowling specialists and Beuran Hendricks, who adds variation to the attack with his left-arm seam.
South Africa are looking at all of them as potential World Cup participants and Steyn, while still seeing himself as a strike bowler, wants to be their mentor. “I want to kind of orchestrate that bowling line-up a little bit. I want to be able to guide them,” he said. “I want to stand at mid-off and really say, ‘look what are you thinking, what ball are you going to bowl’ and hopefully they can learn and get better every game while I’m there. My job is to make sure guys are making the right decisions on the field. That’s what I want to achieve out of this.”
Those are the words of a man whose mind is on legacy, which suggests that Steyn has already switched perspective. He is no longer a player interested in only his own performances or the team’s success; he is now a player with the end in sight, interested in ensuring there is longevity in the system he is part of. It may even suggest Steyn sees a future in coaching, although he acknowledged he would need to learn the ropes first.
“If I wanted to do anything in the coaching world, I would probably need to upskill myself,” he said. “It’s very easy to say take a player, a world-class player out of the system of playing and just push him into a coaching role but coaching is a whole other thing. It’s a skill. I’ll probably have to take a little bit of time to spend some time with people that can teach me how to coach.”
But that doesn’t mean Steyn is ready to dive into a post-playing career as a coach just yet. While he didn’t “want to tell you right now,” what he may have up his sleeve post the T20 World Cup, he dropped a hint that it has nothing to do with cricket at all. “A good friend of mine has started a business and he really specialises in players that are retired athletes and we’ve had some great conversations about other players he has had in the football world and what they are doing and where they are going. It’s exciting, some of the things that are lined up. And it doesn’t have anything to do with commentary or coaching which is quite nice.”
Kane Wiliamson lauds team’s ‘cricket smarts’ after series win
No Trent Boult. No Lockie Ferguson. No Matt Henry. New Zealand’s second line of fast men – Adam Milne and Seth Rance are also recovering from injuries. To add to their troubles, Scott Kuggeleijn and Mitchell Santner were unavailable for the second ODI due to illness. Tim Southee, too, was sick at Eden Park, but still soldiered on to finish his ten overs and claim the prize scalp of India captain Virat Kohli.
New Zealand were so depleted during the second game that they needed their assistant coach Luke Ronchi to fill in as a substitute on the field. They’d also called up local lad R Majitha as a reserve player.
Despite being struck down by multiple injuries and illness, New Zealand found a way to beat India 3-0 and hand them their first bilateral ODI series whitewash in 30 years. This, after losing the preceding T20I series 5-0 from winning positions.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, who had sat out the first two games in the ODI series because of injury, was particularly pleased with how the likes of Hamish Bennett and Kyle Jamieson stepped up in the absence of the seniors.
Bennett, who had been central to Wellington Firebirds clinching the 20-over Super Smash title earlier in the domestic season, changed up his pace and lengths smartly at Bay Oval. He also unveiled his knuckle ball at the death as his four strikes, including that of centurion KL Rahul, pinned India down to 296 for 7.
New Zealand captain talks about the takeaways from the ODI series win
Jamieson, who had sparkled both with bat and ball on debut at Eden Park, his home ground, followed it with a fine spell with the new ball at Bay Oval, where he castled Mayank Agarwal with a beauty.
“As you know on some of these surfaces with some short boundaries, the job of the bowlers is so important,” Williamson said at the post-match press conference. “They also operated nicely in partnerships and we were able to hold our nerve in key moments. Today, was a great example of [it]. Once again we were put under pressure by India, but we were able to have a really good death phase, which helped us keep India to about a par total. A lot of positives in different areas, so it’s an opportunity to build on this series and keep moving forward as an ODI side.
“An outstanding start from Kyle. Obviously, he has been around the squad for a little period of time. To get the opportunity to bowl with the new ball today and bowl really nicely in the first [second] ODI […] he’s an exciting prospect. Coming in with that height does bring a point of difference – a great attacking weapon.”
New Zealand’s batting had cracked under pressure in the T20I series – and they lost in two Super Over finishes – but they responded better in the ODIs. On Tuesday, Henry Nicholls and Martin Guptill forged a rapid 106-run opening stand, with both batsmen passing fifties. However, the hosts lost 4 for 61 after the opening stand ended and gave India a sniff.
Tom Latham, one of the stars of the first match, and Colin de Grandhomme, though, shut Kohli and co. down with a calculated, unbeaten 80-run partnership off 46 balls. While de Grandhomme was largely circumspect against the experienced Indian bowlers, he lined up Shardul Thakur’s length balls and slower variations, taking him for 33 off nine balls at a strike rate of 366.66.
“I can’t say one thing, but I think throughout the series the most pleasant thing could be the cricket smarts and the composure the guys had,” Williamson said.
Gary Stead, who had taken a break and handed over the reins to bowling coach Shane Jurgensen for the ODIs, came in for heavy criticism over the past few days. But, Williamson opted not to read too much into his absence, and reiterated that the coach had taken his pre-planned leave.
“Yeah, we both have each others’ numbers (laughs). We talk to each other,” Williamson said. He’s [Stead’s] obviously thrilled with the performance and progression of the team and that’s always the focus – for the side to keep developing and improving. And that’s the message we have been speaking about for a long period of time .”
New Zealand are set to not only welcome back Stead for the two-match Test series, but also Ferguson and Boult. Ferguson had returned to action in the ongoing 50-over Ford Trophy for Auckland on Sunday. The bowler went wicketless but got through his ten overs, while Boult has been bowling in the New Zealand nets in the lead-up to the Test series, which begins with the first game at the Basin Reserve from February 21.
“Expecting all of those guys to be fit for the first Test and they’re all tracking nicely,” Williamson said. “So, yeah, it’s an exciting opportunity, like I say, against one of the best sides in the world.”
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