At a time when the vast majority of people have not seen others regularly, one person has overstayed his welcome over the last three months from the South African point of view. With two hundreds, two fifties, and two forties in nine innings, and a T20I average of 135.50 in 2021, Mohammad Rizwan has been ever-present, and shows no signs of having had his fill.
It was Rizwan, who scored 115* to set South Africa a target of 370 in the Rawalpindi Test, which Pakistan won by 95 runs. It was Rizwan, who blitzed his way to a first T20I hundred to set up a three-run win in the first match in Lahore. And though South Africa kept him quiet in the ODIs, today, it was Rizwan’s 74* off 50 balls that helped Pakistan to their highest successful T20I run chase.
This time, he got a little lucky upfront. He was dropped in the second over when he hadn’t yet scored, when George Linde put down a difficult return catch.
Then, he got luckier and was gifted deliveries in his scoring zone. Sisanda Magala, on debut, began by angling the ball down the leg side, where, later, South Africa captain Heinrich Klaasen noted Rizwan likes getting the ball. “He hits in a different angle to a normal power-hitter, so, for us, it’s to stay out of his hitting zone, which is quite a lot on the leg side,” Klaasen said.
Rizwan scored 58 of his 74 runs on the leg side, including both his sixes and seven of his nine fours. He took advantage of any delivery that was angled in from off stump and he did not seem to be rushed in his approach at any stage.
To start with, though, Rizwan had decided he could give himself a sighter, something he picked up after watching Fakhar Zaman score 193 in the second ODI at this ground. “It was a bit of a tricky track in the second innings. Fakhar’s ODI innings was on my mind today, on how to play on this surface by taking some time early on,” he said.
“He has been fighting hard to get back into this white-ball side. In the one-day series, he needed a few runs just to kick on and not get out after good starts. Today, he got that”
Heinrich Klaasen on Aiden Markram
His first eight balls brought just four runs before he cleared the front leg to hit another newcomer, Lizaad Williams, over long-on for four. It was another five balls before he found the rope again and continued to pace his innings to meet the situation. Rizwan stayed calm even when Babar Azam was dismissed in the powerplay, and when the required run-rate climbed to over ten an over. He left Zaman to take on Linde, before doing so himself after the halfway mark. Even when Mohammad Hafeez was stumped off Tabraiz Shamsi, and Pakistan needed 79 runs off 41 balls, Rizwan believed they were still in it. “International cricket is always about pressure,” he said. “The message was coming from the dugout to keep going and I knew that we have power-hitters in the middle order for the last overs.”
While South Africa scored just 37 runs off the last five overs. Pakistan needed 57 runs in the same period. Beuran Hendricks started that quarter of the innings with two wickets in two balls. But then, he lost his lengths completely and bowled four full-tosses in a row at the start of the 18th over for Rizwan to crack the chase. From off stump, he drove Hendricks over mid-off, midwicket and behind square to score 14 runs off the first three balls and leave the rest of the death bowlers with too much to do.
In the end, South Africa might ask themselves if Hendricks was the right choice to use so close to the end of the innings, especially as Klaasen acknowledged there were probably other candidates: “Magala and Lizaad are two probably our two best yorker bowlers.”
Magala bowled the penultimate over and Williams the final one, but Magala had an over in hand and Andile Phehlukwayo, who has been used at the death in ODIs, had two. The problem for Klaasen was not the personnel or the plans. “We just need to execute,” he said.
While there are gaps between the talk and the walk, South Africa need not be too hard on themselves. They are playing with second – and in some cases, third – choice players thanks to the IPL and injuries, and they still managed to be competitive. There are selection questions – such as why Kyle Verreynne didn’t play in this game – but there are also experiments which are slowly starting to work. Like Aiden Markram.
This is only the fourth time in his last 11 international innings that Markram has gone past 39 and he played with a freedom that has been lacking previously, particularly in the one-day series. There, Markram looked like a million dollars but found ways of getting out just as he got in. Here, he got in and made it count. He pierced the off side in front of and behind square with drives off the front and back foot, and would be disappointed that he didn’t bat through the second half of the innings.
But he has made a statement about his attempt to belong. “He has been fighting hard to get back into this white-ball side,” Klaasen said. “In the one-day series, he needed a few runs just to kick on and not get out after good starts. Today, he got that.”
Similarly, this was Klaasen’s first international score of over 17 this summer, and first since his difficult journey through Covid-19. Klaasen has been burdened with captaining the depleted T20I side in two series and so perhaps it should not be surprising that he hasn’t been able to build on his Player-of-the-Series performances against Australia last year. In this match, Klaasen showed some authority, with 50 off 24 balls, with four sixes, three of them off short balls that he sent over the leg side. Interesting angles, maybe.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
Covid-19 at IPL 2021 – Michael Hussey, and rest of Australia contingent in Maldives, set to fly home
While Hussey flies commercial via Doha, the group waiting in the Maldives will take a BCCI charter flight
Michael Hussey will be home from India on Monday, about the same time as the 38 Australian players, coaches and media land on their return from the Maldives.
Following a series of Covid-19 positive tests, Hussey was unable to join the Maldives group after the postponement of the IPL but returned a negative test on Thursday night India time. He has now been cleared to return to Australian soil on a commercial flight via Doha.
The larger Maldives contingent, including the likes of Pat Cummins, David Warner, Steven Smith and Michael Slater, will travel home to hotel quarantine in Sydney, on a BCCI charter flight that will also stopover in Perth once it reaches Australian airspace.
The return of the cricketers, coaches and media have been secured over the incoming arrival caps put in place for overseas travellers to Australia, following negotiations between Cricket Australia, the Australian Cricketers Association, and state and federal governments.
“The public will see our best Australian cricketers as almost superheroes. They’re brilliant athletes, great cricketers but they’re human beings [too],” Todd Greenberg, the ACA chief executive had said on May 5. “Some of them are fathers and husbands, and they’re under enormous amounts of stress. Some deal with it differently. This will probably be an experience they will never forget. We will help them when they come home. Some will cope with it really well, others will need support and counselling and that’s what we’ll do.
“The last 12 months around the globe, we’ve seen all professional athletes travel differently and charter flights maybe two years ago would have seen a different type of commentary than what we would see today. The reality is we’re going to try to keep them as safe as possible and if that’s available, I don’t think we should shy away from that.
“I’m not sure it will create reticence but it will ensure players do their due diligence before they sign [future] agreements,” he added, with the ACA having already advised its players to complete due diligence before signing up for T20 leagues during the pandemic.
“The world is literally changing before our eyes, particularly with Covid and on that side of the world, obviously those cases are going up exponentially. We’re enjoying our freedoms here in Australia. It is a very different place over there. If anything it sends a message to players about making sure you do your homework before making any decisions.”
A federal government pause on the return of Australians from India concluded on Saturday, with a series of repatriation flights for the first portion of some 9000 citizens beginning over the weekend.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
Recent Match Report – Kent vs Sussex Group 3 2021
Confusion over elbow injury leaves Sussex captain Ben Brown shorn of options
Kent 145 and 220 for 3 (Crawley 85, Leaning 61*) lead Sussex 256 (Quinn 5-54, Gilchrist 3-51, Stevens 3-64) by 109 runs
We had to wait for our cricket on this third evening at Hove but one suspects we will remember it. Heavy showers delayed the start of play until five o’clock, by which time only 24 overs could be bowled. What we then saw and what we did not witness will interest the supporters of both teams and concern the England hierarchy as it prepares for a very hard year of international cricket.
Chief among the delights was the batting of Zak Crawley and Jack Leaning, whose 130-run fourth-wicket partnership should help Kent avoid defeat in this match, especially if tomorrow’s weather is as poor as has been forecast. Taking the gong for best supporting actor was the Sussex off-spinner, Jack Carson, who took Crawley’s wicket and whose engaging enthusiasm for his work was plain.
But, rather like the non-activity of the dog in the night-time, the studied quiescence of Jofra Archer standing at mid-on or deep midwicket with his hands in his pockets also commanded our attention. Archer did nothing except field a few balls today. On an evening when his team-mates were pulling their tripes out to take the wickets that might secure a much-needed win for Sussex, he effectively did nothing, although it was later disclosed by the Sussex coach Ian Salisbury that Archer’s sore elbow had prevented him adding to the five overs he had bowled on Friday evening.
Initially it was astonishing that Archer did not add to the brief spell he had bowled on Friday evening, especially as this is a game in which he is supposed to proving his match fitness in advance of an absurdly busy year. More disturbingly for Sussex supporters, it appeared that Archer’s county captain, Ben Brown, wanted his spearhead to deliver the second of the day’s 24 overs and had the briefest of discussions with him after Ollie Robinson had opened the bowling from the Cromwell Road End.
At the end of the chat Brown seemed to gesticulate towards Archer and called up George Garton from the slips. Sussex coach Ian Salisbury later disclosed that Archer’s long-standing elbow injury had prevented him bowling.
“I think there was some confusion over the state of his elbow,” said Salisbury. “Ben thought he was going to bowl but his elbow’s sore and so he couldn’t bowl. Regarding any other information about his elbow, it’s the ECB’s job to answer that. If he’s sore today, he’s not going to bowl tomorrow.”
Nevertheless, two further questions remain: if Archer had a sore elbow, why did the ECB allow him to field and risk further injury? And secondly, given that Archer has bowled a mere 18 overs in this game, how can he be risked in a five-day Test until he has proved his fitness, probably by taking a full part in a four-day county match?
When asked why Archer was on the field if he was not fit, Salisbury replied that both Archer and Brown “were desperate to win games for Sussex. Ben’s disappointment stems from the fact that one of his premier bowlers wasn’t available and we’re desperate to win this game against our local rivals”.
And it would certainly be a shame if discussions regarding Archer detracted completely from what was a short and well-contested session. For nearly an hour it looked as though Crawley would make the century he had failed to collect against Yorkshire just over a week ago. But, rather as he did at Headingley, the England batsman gave it away when an attempted reverse-sweep only inside-edged a catch to the diving Aaron Thomason at short leg.
Crawley had made 85 and had wasted his second successive opportunity to make the sort of contribution for which he admits he is searching. Such an opportunity was not passed up by Leaning, who collected his second half-century of the match and batted with great assurance, albeit he had to survive a supremely confident appeal for a catch behind the wicket off Robinson, who also had his namesake dropped on 8 by Thomason at first slip.
Our day ended in glorious sunshine and we can only hope for the best tomorrow. Carson, Garton and Delray Rawlins all bowled a single spell this evening. Having bowled the first over of the session, Robinson also bowled the last. His figures encompassing two spells today read 9-1-31-0. They did not do him an atom of justice. He, at least, should be playing Test cricket before long.
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
Recent Match Report – Essex vs Derbyshire Group 1 2021
Derbyshire 146 (Guest 49, Harmer 9-80) and 97 for 1 (Guest 56*) trail Essex 412 for 3 dec by 169 runs
A career-best Simon Harmer haul dragged Derbyshire into trouble at a rain-swept Chelmsford, as the visitors threatened to disappear down the gurgler in less than two days’ play. Essex have made all the running in their bid to beat both their opponents and the elements here, and only an improved showing second time around – underpinned by a maiden first-class fifty for the impressive Brooke Guest – kept Derbyshire above water going into the final day.
With the rain sluicing down on Thursday afternoon, Tom Westley, Essex’s captain, had looked out of the window and admitted winning would be a challenge. Scoring enough runs quickly while batting first, then taking 20 wickets in short order, that was the conundrum. “But I think the scripts that Essex generate for themselves over the last few years, you never know what’s going to happen,” he added.
Essex’s scriptwriters have truly been red hot in recent seasons, and no player has had his name in lights more often than Harmer. Nine Derbyshire batsmen were dazzled by his star wattage, as the plot for this match took a familiar turn; only Dan Lawrence’s dismissal of Billy Godleman on the second evening prevented a shot at all ten. “We try our best to create a bit of theatre around the bat,” Harmer said afterwards.
After being railroaded by Lawrence and Westley with the bat, Derbyshire were then mown down by the county game’s premier spinner coming the other way. So hapless was Derbyshire’s capitulation, the sight of an ACME anvil landing on one of the openers on the way out from the dressing room after they were invited to follow on would not have caused much of a stir.
As it was, after Luis Reece dragged a drive on to his stumps in the third over – an act of self-destruction worthy of the Warner Bros studio – Guest and Godleman batted competently enough to see Derbyshire through to the close one down, maintaining their chances of escaping with a draw should the weather cut into proceedings once again on the final day.
“We haven’t won too many games this season, so the biggest thing for us is to get this game over the line,” Harmer said. “It’s pointless taking nine wickets if it ends in a draw. Hopefully we can put it together tomorrow.
“As long as the weather plays its part – there’s some rain around and we can’t control that. As it showed tonight, when there was a bit of moisture on the surface it didn’t grip as much, so we’re going to have our work cut out for us. I think we’re going to have periods of play when we just need to make sure we get the ball in the right area. Nine wickets, nine balls, it can happen pretty quickly at Chelmsford.”
Derbyshire’s best hope of surviving appeared to be by staying off the pitch, but after morning rain brought about an early lunch, play got underway at 1.10pm. Having been required to bowl spin under the floodlights on the second evening, Essex gave the seamers a perfunctory burst; Guest and the nightwatchman, Alex Hughes, knocked the ball around calmly enough and the thought occurred that Derbyshire might only need to bat well for a session to make the game relatively safe.
But that was before factoring in the local spin kingpin. Harmer was introduced after six overs, two wickets to his name already, and he wheeled away through the afternoon to round up seven more; this was the fifth time he had taken eight or more in an innings for Essex, and his eventual figures of 9 for 80 were the 13th-best for the county, and second-best at Chelmsford. Four of the six best innings analyses on the ground have been wrought by Harmer’s dinner plate hands.
Hughes, the allrounder playing his first game of the season, showed as much nous as any of Derbyshire’s batsmen in trying to neutralise Harmer. He employed the sweep to good effect, and lasted for the best part of an hour before being lured out of his crease for Adam Wheater to effect a juggling stumping. That brought Derbyshire’s most-experienced batter to the crease, though Wayne Madsen was quickly in Harmer’s sights.
He might have fallen third ball, sweeping in the air out towards deep square leg where Paul Walter couldn’t cling on to a running, diving chance. A skittish innings came to a close the ball after he had lofted Harmer for a second six, done in the flight to turn a simple catch to leg slip; Madsen slumped on his bat handle, and Derbyshire were soon to be completely unmoored.
Despite the possibility of rain around – and play was again interrupted by a sharp shower shortly after Derbyshire began their second innings – none of the visiting batsmen bar Guest showed the intent to batten down the hatches for a lengthy stay at the crease. Matt Critchley, eighth on the run-scorers’ list going into this round, slapped his sixth ball back to the bowler to complete a 23rd Harmer five-for in Essex colours, and Harvey Hosein went two overs later as Ryan ten Doeschate snapped up a sharp chance at short leg straight off the face of the bat.
Never mind the precipitatin’, Harmer was prestidigitatin’. Guest was next to go, for what was at the time a career-best 49, as the ball looped up off the front pad to be taken by ten Doeschate – a hint of glove enough for Ian Blackwell to raise his finger, never mind Guest’s crestfallen demeanour. Billy Stanlake never looked likely to last long, and although Dustin Melton hit Harmer out of the ground during a brief bout of tail-end tonking, a stinging return catch completed his haul. Derbyshire had lost six wickets in six consecutive Harmer overs, and the credits appeared ready to roll.
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick
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