Stevens becomes oldest Championship centurion since 1986
Northamptonshire 91 for 1 (Vasconcelos 54*) trail Kent 455 (Stevens 116*) by 364 runs
Veteran allrounder Darren Stevens starred with an unbeaten century to put Kent in the driving seat on a rain-affected second day of their LV= County Championship clash against Northamptonshire.
Stevens, who will celebrate his 45th birthday later this month, struck 116 not out – his 35th first-class hundred – and became the oldest player since 1986 to register three figures in a County Championship fixture. He shared partnerships of 74 with Harry Podmore and 63 with Miguel Cummins for the last two wickets, shepherding Kent to a first-innings total of 455 at Northampton.
Afternoon rain restricted the Northamptonshire response to just 15.2 overs, although a flamboyant undefeated 54 by Ricardo Vasconcelos enabled them to make swift inroads on the deficit, reaching 91 for 1 at the close.
“I’m really appreciative of the tail helping me out,” Stevens said. “I was an angry man when Podmore got out because I thought we were going really nicely and I’d not batted with Miguel before! So I said to him ‘do you want to face spin or seam?’ and he said ‘I’m good, man’. Finally getting to 450 was great and we’re pleased with that.
“We bowled pretty poorly but Miguel looks like he’s a bit of a handful and I think he’ll be key for us. I think that’s one of these situations where seamers are looking to tie an end up while the quicker bowlers hopefully do the damage.”
Northamptonshire’s hopes of wrapping up the visitors’ innings quickly in the morning gained a boost in the fourth over as Tom Taylor removed Matt Milnes, steering him to Alex Wakely at second slip. However, Podmore proved a capable foil for Stevens, who was largely content to keep picking up singles as his partner slammed a string of boundaries off Ben Sanderson to reach 29.
Offspinner Rob Keogh finally broke the ninth-wicket stand, tempting Podmore into a swing across the line for Adam Rossington to complete the stumping, but Kent were by no means finished.
With debutant Cummins blocking confidently and rotating the strike, Stevens inched towards his hundred, clipping Nathan Buck over square leg for six before pulling the single that raised the landmark from 120 balls. There seemed no end to the home side’s frustration when Vasconcelos, at slip, was unable to cling on to a sharp chance from Cummins, but Taylor eventually dismissed the left-hander for 24, blasting out his middle stump.
The players returned after lunch sporting black armbands and lined up on the outfield for a two-minute silence to mark the Duke of Edinburgh’s passing before Northamptonshire began their reply.
Podmore took some punishment at the hands of Vasconcelos, his first three overs going for 31 as the opener unleashed a spate of cuts and cover drives to bring up his half-century in 45 deliveries. Vasconcelos put together a brisk opening partnership of 77 with Ben Curran, the only Northamptonshire casualty so far after chopping Cummins’ third ball on to his stumps for 24.
Struggling South Australia poach Brendan Doggett among host of changes
Head coach Jason Gillespie says the new-look side will “focus on results” after four consecutive seasons at the bottom of the first-class standings
South Australia have poached the dual Sheffield Shield-winning fast bowler Brendan Doggett from Queensland among a raft of interstate additions to their squad. According to head coach Jason Gillespie, the new-look side will have a “focus on results” after four consecutive seasons at the bottom of the first-class standings and no victories at all in any competitions last season.
The recruitment of Doggett, alongside the additions of Nathan McSweeney (also from Queensland), Jake Carder (Western Australia), the Sydney Thunder’s Nathan McAndrew (New South Wales) and contract upgrades for Ryan Gibson (NSW), Samuel Kerber (Victoria) and rookie Jordan Buckingham (Victoria), marks a major departure from recent seasons in which the Redbacks tried unsuccessfully to build a home-grown team.
The failing fortunes of South Australia have been a talking point across the national system and were last year the subject of an independent review by Michael Hussey that panned a culture of mediocrity and conflicts of interest within the state’s high-performance wing.
Hussey’s review had included the following recommendations: “Identify and try to recruit the best young talent around the country (former Australia U-19 players not contracted) and engage them through Premier Cricket making them earn opportunities at the next level. Identify quality players from interstate with first-class experience to fill holes in the current list or holes that will develop in the near future. Target the best 10th to 15th players from other states.”
South Australia had already parted ways with Will Bosisto, Tom Cooper, Brad Davis, Conor McInerney, Luke Robins and Cameron Valente – all delisted – while Callum Ferguson and Chadd Sayers retired during the season after long careers with the Redbacks.
“We are extremely delighted with the additions we’ve been able to make to freshen up our squad, and we’re optimistic for an improved 2021-22 season,” Gillespie said.
“We have added considerable depth and increased our pace stocks, namely with Brendan who is a two-time Sheffield Shield champion, and we welcome each new player and look forward to the beginning of pre-season. We’ve shaped this new-look team with a focus on results, and we are confident that this rejuvenated list can take this proud state forward.”
South Australia contract list: Wes Agar, Alex Carey, Jake Carder, Brendan Doggett, Daniel Drew, Ryan Gibson, David Grant, Travis Head, Henry Hunt, Samuel Kerber, Jake Lehmann, Nathan McAndrew, Nathan McSweeney, Joe Mennie, Harry Nielsen, Tim Oakley, Lloyd Pope, Kane Richardson, Liam Scott, Jake Weatherald, Nick Winter, Daniel Worrall
Rookie contracts: Jordan Buckingham, Bailey Capel, Kyle Brazell, Corey Kelly, Thomas Kelly
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
Cricketers around the world express solidarity with Palestine after civilian casualties rise
As the death toll in Gaza following Israeli air strikes escalated, cricketers around the world made their voices heard
Cricketers from around the world have expressed support and solidarity with the people of Palestine, with the death toll from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza rising sharply over the past few days. Several of the dead are civilians, including at least 13 children.
The violence began on Monday when the Israeli military entered the Al Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, in the final days of Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims.
Several members of the Pakistan cricket team, led by captain Babar Azam posted messages on Twitter, with a running theme of prayers for the Palestinian people, imploring the world to “stand up for humanity”. Shan Masood, Azhar Ali and Shadab Khan were among the other Pakistanis who expressed solidarity.
— Babar Azam (@babarazam258) May 11, 2021
The messages of goodwill weren’t limited to Pakistani cricketers. Afghanistan legspinner Rashid Khan called it “no crime more heinous than the killing of a child”. Hashim Amla, in a lengthy Instagram post, drew comparisons to Nelson Mandela’s struggle against apartheid, reminding people of Mandela’s unstinting support for the people of Palestine throughout his life. Mandela had said South Africa’s struggle was “incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”.
Tabraiz Shamsi, Daren Sammy and Kagiso Rabada also posted messages on Twitter praying for Palestine, while former India all-rounder Irfan Pathan said one “only needed to be human” to support their cause. George Linde condemned the “terrible scenes” while England bowler Saqib Mahmood asked people not to turn a blind eye, using the hashtag #FreePalestine.
This isn’t the first time cricket has found itself caught up in the issue. In 2014, at the height of an Israeli military operation in Gaza, England allrounder Moeen Ali wore wristbands with slogans reading #FreePalestine and #SaveGaza during a Test match between England and India. The ICC match referee David Boon decided it was a breach of the ICC regulation forbidding cricketers from sending out political messages and asked Moeen to remove the wristbands.
Qais Ahmad signs Kent deal for T20 Blast, two County Championship games
Last season’s beaten quarter-finalists lean towards spin-heavy strategy for Blast
Qais Ahmad, the Afghanistan legspinner, has signed for Kent for the whole of T20 Blast and two County Championship fixtures, adding to the burgeoning list of teams he has represented around the world in short-form cricket.
Ahmad, 20, was due to join Gloucestershire as an overseas player last summer but had his contract cancelled on account of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, this will be his first stint in county cricket.
He is also due to play for Welsh Fire in the inaugural season of the Hundred, after he was retained ahead of February’s re-draft. As a result, he will stay in the UK after the conclusion of the Blast’s group stage, and is likely to be available for the knockout stages.
The club also signed Mohammad Amir for the second half of the competition last month, while Heino Kuhn is registered as an overseas player after the expiration of Kolpak status. Counties are allowed to register three overseas players simultaneously, but can field a maximum of two in a match.
Ahmad is the fifth Afghanistan player to sign a deal for this year’s Blast, after Rashid Khan (Sussex), Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Middlesex), Mohammad Nabi (Northamptonshire) and Naveen-ul-Haq (Leicestershire). He would not have qualified for a governing body endorsement for his visa but for a change in the ECB’s requirements two years ago.
Kent were beaten quarter-finalists in last year’s Blast, and the signing of Ahmad hints at a change in strategy for the 2021 season. They generally fielded a solitary frontline spinner in Imran Qayyum last summer, alongside Joe Denly’s part-time legbreaks, but may now opt for a spin-heavy side this season.
Ahmad is also due to be available for Kent’s final two games of the initial group stage of the Championship, against Lancashire at Old Trafford and Sussex at Beckenham. If selected, they would be his first first-class games since he made his Test debut against Bangladesh in September 2019, and he would become the first Afghanistan player to appear in the Championship.
“I’m excited to play in the Vitality Blast and I’m really looking forward to being a Kent Spitfire,” he said. “Having played alongside Daniel Bell-Drummond at Colombo Kings, I have heard good things about Kent and I will give it my all.”
Paul Downton, the club’s director of cricket, said: “Qais Ahmad is an exciting talent who has shown his ability in top quality leagues all over the world. I am confident that his enthusiasm for the game will make him a firm favourite with our members and supporters as we look to welcome crowds back to watching live cricket again.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
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