He missed Rishabh Pant’s record by five balls but powered Kerala to their first-ever win over Mumbai in any format
Kerala’s Mohammed Azharuddeen smashed the second-fastest century in the Syed Mushtaq Ali, India’s domestic T20 tournament, as he reached the landmark in 37 balls against a Mumbai attack led by Dhawal Kulkarni. He missed Rishabh Pant‘s record by five balls but it was still the joint-third-fastest T20 century by an Indian. It was also the first hundred by a Kerala batsman in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and sealed their highest-ever chase in the tournament as they beat Mumbai for the first time in any format.
Kerala were chasing 197 after 40s from Yashasvi Jaiswal and Aditya Tare and handy cameos from Suryakumar Yadav and Shivam Dube. Azharuddeen started the innings with Robin Uthappa, who was sedate only in comparison, and the two put on 129 runs in 9.3 overs before Uthappa a 23-ball 33. Soon after, Azharuddeen got to his century off left-arm spinner Atharva Ankolekar. Pant’s record of 32 balls though was never really under threat.
Azharuddeen slowed down after being on 89 in 31 balls, scoring 1, 1, 0 and 1 to get to 92 in 35 balls before a six off Mulani – his eighth – and a two took him to the landmark. He remained unbeaten on 137 off 54 balls, with nine fours and 11 sixes, as Kerala cantered to victory by eight wickets in 15.5 overs.
Azharuddeen, the 26-year-old, got off the mark off the third ball of the innings – his first – with a boundary off Kulkarni, and took a special liking to Tushar Deshpande, the other new-ball bowler. In the second over of the innings, bowled by Deshpande, Azharuddeen hit one six and two fours as 20 runs were scored. Deshpande went off the attack but returned in the sixth, and Azharuddeen hit him for two fours and two sixes as the over went for 23, taking his score to 65 at the end of the powerplay.
The most noteworthy aspect of Azharuddeen’s innings was his pull shots, but he did play more than a few pleasing drives too, and found his runs off Ankolekar and Shams Mulani primarily in the V, even as he slapped the experienced Kulkarni over his head for two sixes, both off the back foot.
The record for the quickest T20 century is in the name of Chris Gayle – he got to the mark off just 30 balls when he hit 175 not out off 66 balls for the Royal Challengers Bangalore against the Pune Warriors India in IPL 2013. Then comes Pant’s effort. Rohit Sharma’s 35-ball ton against Sri Lanka in a T20I ranks second among Indians, while Azharuddeen has pulled level with Yusuf Pathan, who hit a 37-ball century for the Rajasthan Royals against the Mumbai Indians in IPL 2010.
Azharuddeen has never featured in the IPL before, but this century is a timely step in that direction, given the IPL 2021 auction is scheduled for February.
Ban vs WI, 2020-21 – Kraigg Brathwaite and Co ready with ‘specific plans’ to counter Bangladesh spinners
The stand-in Test captain says they reviewed their 2018 defeat to find out where they could improve
Brathwaite’s own miserable form in that series – just 22 runs in the two Tests – was one of the reasons why the visitors capitulated so easily. With the home side having their full complement of spinners available this time too, and West Indies having an even more inexperienced side, there will be even more responsibility on Brathwaite. He hasn’t had the best of times recently too, having made just 55 runs in two Tests in New Zealand Tests last month.
Brathwaite wants to lead by example and set a foundation as a batsman, the key to which, he said, would be balance at the crease.
“I want to lead from the front,” Brathwaite said. “It is my job as an opening batsman to get runs and build a foundation for the team. I don’t see the guys here as second string. I think they can perform and do well at the international level. I know they are looking for the opportunity.
“For me, being balanced at the crease is the key whether I am playing spin and pace. It was decent in England, there was improvement in New Zealand as well. I want to just stick to my plans. Keep it simple. I don’t want to think about too many things. I know my plans. Put God first, and believe in yourself.”
Apart from being their most experienced Test cricketer on tour, Brathwaite also has the maximum sub-continent experience with 15 Tests. Among the already depleted batting unit, Jermaine Blackwood and John Campbell combine only six Tests in this region, while the rest of the batsmen are either uncapped or have never played Tests in the sub-continent.
“We reviewed after the last series and found out where we could have improved,” Brathwaite said. “We have specific plans that we will carry out. We look forward to the challenge. You have to find ways to overcome challenges in international cricket. Their spinners did well last time. We have to execute and believe in ourselves. Trust our preparations.”
Brathwaite believes that strike rotation and a solid defence will be key for their batsman. He said that he can rely on his opening partner Campbell to bat according to the conditions, while maintaining his own batting pace intact.
“I think the rotation of strike will be key. John [Campbell] is a very good player. When we went to India to play Afghanistan, he got a fifty in the first innings. He didn’t change his approach in the second innings as well. I will encourage him to be himself and to trust his gameplan. His defence is solid; down here you will have to defend more balls than you get the opportunity to attack.
“Once he trusts his defence, rotate when he could, he will do well. He got a score in his last Test innings in New Zealand, so he must have that belief. I know that he has the ability. Once he plays his natural game, I know John can be a fantastic opener for the West Indies.”
Brathwaite said that winning in Bangladesh is still possible for his side, but they have to be patient. “When you are leading a team, you want to win. My role here is to lead from the front, both as a captain and with the bat. It will be great to get the win. We have to start hour by hour, we can’t think too far ahead. Once we take it step by step, the end result will take care of itself.”
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84
Clive Lloyd to West Indies team in Bangladesh
Former captain scripts open letter to the team in Bangladesh, urging the inexperienced players to believe in themselves
In 1966, 22-year-old Guyanese youngster Clive Lloyd made his international debut in the first Test of the India tour, played in what was then Bombay. Lloyd, the tall and bespectacled left-hander, was told he was playing the match less than an hour before the start due to the finger injury to Seymour Nurse.
Lloyd scored 82 and an unbeaten 78 to help the visitors take the series lead. West Indies won the three-match Test series 2-0 with Lloyd finishing among the top five run-makers. Lloyd utilised that fortuitous break to grow into a solid batsman and one of the most successful and dominant captains in cricket.
Now, at 76, Lloyd wants to use the story of his debut to motivate the inexperienced West Indies squads in Bangladesh. Several of West Indies’ first-team players in both the Test and white-ball teams opted out of the Bangladesh tour which comprises three ODIs followed by two Tests.
In a heartfelt letter addressed to the contingent, Lloyd told the players that although they might feel they have “thrown in the deep” in what will be a “daunting” assignment, it is not “insurmountable.” The letter was distributed to the West Indies players at the behest of Cricket West Indies president Ricky Skerritt.
Following is Lloyd’s letter in full.
I thought that I would send you this message as I’m aware that you’re embarking on a Tour which you probably weren’t prepared for and perhaps you feel like you’ve been thrown in the deep end and that people expect you to stand and deliver. What you should understand is that you have a chance of cementing a permanent place in the West Indies Team and not merely filling a gap. You have been chosen on merit. This is your destiny. It is your opportunity to fulfill it. This is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate your talents and skills to the world and prove to all and sundry that you’re not second-class cricketers. You can step up to the plate.
In 1966 I was not selected in the original Test Team. Fortuitously, Seymour Nurse got injured and 45 minutes before the 1st Test I was informed that I was playing and I played 35 straight Test Matches because I performed well. We won the series. You see I recognized there was an opportunity to demonstrate my talent and capabilities and I seized it with both hands. Moreover, playing for the West Indies is one of the highest honors a citizen of the region can achieve. I believed it then and I believe it now.
You have found yourselves in exactly the same position; therefore, the world is your oyster. This is your opportunity to prove yourself worthy of your selection and you should be proud to wear that West Indies blazer and cap. You are representing one of the best cricketing nations which possesses an enviable record of which we are very proud. Remember, we’re a nation of just over five million people.
Our records include: 29 Test matches without losing. 11 straight wins. For 17 years straight we never lost a test match.
This is just a snapshot of our exploits and achievements in the past. It took hard work, commitment and a sense of purpose to realise them. Above all I would advise that you pay close attention to your levels of fitness and seek at all times whether as a batsman or a bowler to refine your techniques and skills. My team did it and I am confident you can too.
You now have the opportunity to improve our Test match rating and instill some pride again in the standard of our Cricket. This is not just my expectation but that also of the entire Caribbean region. Your victory would be theirs also.
Your trip to Bangladesh might look daunting but this task is not insurmountable. It is the ideal opportunity. With your determination, professionalism, youth and tenacity you can begin the dawn of a new era under the (Test) captaincy of the very astute Kraigg Brathwaite. Again, what I am saying to you is not idle speculation. It is based on my own experience. When I took over the West Indies cricket team we had lost more than twenty Test matches on a trot and there was a clear need for rebuilding and a re-purposing of the team. I also had a number of untried players, as many of you might be. But my team did not flinch from the challenge and we eventually emerged on top. I am confident you can begin the necessary rebuilding of the West Indies team. We did it because we believed in ourselves. You can too. Self belief is the first step to success.
I would like you to remember this adage: ‘in order to gain altitude, you must have the right attitude’. A positive mental attitude will see you through many tight situations which I’m sure you will encounter during this Tour.
Lastly, success comes before work only in the dictionary. I wish you the best of luck. Please remember most people are judged by the obstacles they overcome.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo
Ghana in line to host cricket tournament at 2023 Africa Games
ICC give blessing to sport’s expansion into multi-sport games, with Olympics also on agenda
Cricket could be included at the 2023 Africa Games as the ICC increasingly looks to multi-sport events as a way to grow the game.
ESPNcricinfo understands the ICC Africa office have been in discussions with the local organising committee in Ghana with a view to including cricket at the event. A delegation, including officials from the ICC, the Ghana Cricket Association and the Ghana Ministry of Sports, has visited the proposed venues to ensure the requisite facilities could be provided.
The feedback is understood to have been overwhelmingly positive, though cricket’s inclusion has not been confirmed at this stage.
Whether it comes to fruition or not, the move underlines the ICC’s apparently new-found desire to embrace multi-sports games. The inclusion of women’s cricket has already been confirmed for the Commonwealth Games of 2022, while there is increasing momentum for a return to The Olympics. The new ECB chair, Ian Watmore, is understood to be a keen advocate of such a move and will shortly be placed in charge of an ICC sub-committee with a remit to explore the possibilities. Cricket’s inclusion as early as 2028, when the Olympics return to Los Angeles, remains possible.
There has long been a hunger among ICC Associate members to include cricket in the Olympics, in particular. It would, they argue, lead to greater exposure for the sport in their individual nations and open up new avenues of public funding. But there has been resistance from some full member nations who have expressed concern that the amount of time required for the Olympics would eat into the time available for bilateral series and various national T20 tournaments.
Increasingly, however, there has been an understanding at the ICC that multi-sport games would provide cricket with both a shop-window for potential new supporters and increase competition and commercial opportunities for its members. With the ECB, who believe it would provide impetus for the growth of the women’s game in particular, now broadly behind the idea, some of the impediments towards progress have been removed.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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