Rizwan, meanwhile, said he felt “the same joy as if I’d done it myself” when Babar reached his hundred
Babar Azam celebrated reaching the top of the ODI rankings with a performance for the ages in the shortest format, scoring his maiden T20I hundred, and the highest score by a Pakistani in T20I cricket. His 122 not only helped his side cruise to victory, but demonstrated a side to his game many had accused him of lacking: that of an opener who could spearhead the chase; his runs came at a strike rate of over 206.
Alongside Mohammad Rizwan, he shared a 197- run opening stand to set up a victory with two overs to spare and nine wickets in hand. Rizwan remained unbeaten on 73 with a strike rate of 155.31, ensuring South Africa’s bowlers had no respite at either end.
“I was waiting for such an innings for a long time,” Babar said after the game. “I planned for it, and felt if I got a chance I would grab it. I am thankful that I was able to deliver. I stuck to my strengths and my game plan was developed around team requirements. If you need 10 an over, you definitely have to play with urgency and for that, you have to take risks.
“The partnership with Rizwan was outstanding. I give him credit for the way he played because it is really tough to play while fasting and despite that, he batted and kept wicket throughout. It takes a lot of courage and guts. The whole team takes inspiration watching him and it brings us confidence.”
Azam continues his T20I form to go along with the ODI touch that has seen him climb to the top of the rankings. He was the second-highest runscorer in the ODI leg of the series, and after becoming the number one ODI batsman, he admitted it had been a lifelong dream.
“It had always been my dream to be number one and that has been fulfilled,” said Azam. “There was lots of hard work, suffering, and sacrifice needed to get there. I have always been trying to improve my game with each passing day, learning new things and applying them. We all know cricket evolves and you have to keep up with it or risk getting left behind.”
Rizwan and Azam’s combination at the top may seem unshakable but is fairly recent. The pair only started opening earlier this year; this was the fifth T20I in which they had opened together. Rizwan said there wasn’t a secret to this success, but underscored the importance of a fast start.
“It’s a big win for us. Chasing 200-plus is always a difficult task but the way we got a start it made it easy for us,” Rizwan said. “We had a simple plan to win the powerplay and we did get more runs than they did in the first six. That momentum carried us deeper which brought us success.
“Since we started playing together, this and the one in Australia are the only two innings in which we have spent time at the crease together. Otherwise either me or him get out and we never got an opportunity to build a bigger stand. We even in between talked about making a world record and Babar was even more positive than me. When Babar scored his 100, I felt the same joy as if I’d done it myself.”
Just months ago, Pakistan’s top order was considered a significant Achilles heel leading up to the World T20. Now, it appears that gap has been conclusively plugged, without requiring either of Sharjeel Khan or Fakhar Zaman to open the batting.
Eng vs NZ 2021 – Ollie Robinson suspended from all international cricket
Seamer unavailable for second Test pending disciplinary investigation into historic tweets
As a result, Robinson is unavailable for selection for the second Test against New Zealand starting at Edgbaston on Thursday.
Announcing his suspension on Sunday, the ECB confirmed that Robinson will leave the England camp immediately and return to his county, Sussex.
Robinson issued an apology on Wednesday after admitting to posting “racist and sexist” comments on Twitter as a teenager. News of the tweets emerged shortly after Robinson walked onto the field at Lord’s in his Test debut earlier that day. It was also just after England and New Zealand players had stood on the side of the field shortly before the start of the first Test in a ‘moment of unity’ with the home players wearing T-shirts which denounced various forms of discrimination.
“He’s contributed well with the bat, his performance with the ball was excellent,” Root said. “He’s showed high levels of skill and he’s definitely got the game that can be successful in Test cricket.
“But in regards to the stuff that’s happened off the field, it’s not acceptable within our game. We all know that. He addressed the dressing room straight away. He obviously spoke to you guys and other media outlets straight away, fronted up to it. He showed a lot of remorse from that point onwards. You can see it’s very genuine from how he’s been around the group and the team.
“I couldn’t believe them [the tweets], personally. I didn’t really know how to take it on the surface. I think the most important thing is Ollie is part of this dressing room and we had to support him. We had to try and do everything that we could to give him an opportunity to learn and understand he has to do better.
“I think it’s a great lesson for everyone within our game that we can all do more. We all have to keep looking to educate ourselves, trying to better the environment for everyone, trying to be as inclusive as we can, keep making everyone feel comfortable to play what a wonderful sport we have.”
In the lead-up to the first Test, Root had said that the ‘moment of unity’ would mark the start of a year of action to improve inclusivity and diverstiy within the sport.
“It starts with us players at the top of the game,” he said on Sunday.” We set out the week with that moment of unity and we’re doing a lot of work behind the cricket that we want to make big change in the game and we want to make it more inclusive, more diverse.
“I think the most important thing is we keep trying to do everything we can to better our sport, that we keep learning and we keep finding ways of making our game as best as we can.
“We can look back about how this could have been handled better, but the fact is it shouldn’t have happened. And if we continue to keep trying to better the game right now, then in years to come this shouldn’t be an issue. This shouldn’t be something that happens within cricket. We’ve got to move forward from this, learn from this and do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The ECB promised to conduct a full invstigation once the Tweets emerged.
After play on Wednesday, Robinson said: “On the biggest day of my career so far, I am embarrassed by the racist and sexist tweets that I posted over eight years ago, which have today become public. I want to make it clear that I’m not racist and I’m not sexist.
“I deeply regret my actions, and I am ashamed of making such remarks. I would like to unreservedly apologise to anyone I have offended, my teammates and the game as a whole in what has been a day of action and awareness in combatting discrimination from our sport.”
Recent Match Report – Sussex vs Yorkshire Group 3 2021
Frantic, unscripted, triumphant, despondent day as hosts seal innings win at Headingley
Yorkshire 558 (Malan 199, Ballance 77, Duke 54, Atkins 5-98) beat Sussex 313 (Brown 127, Ibrahim 55) and 215 (Orr 67, Thomason 52, Bess 4-51, Willey 3-26) by an innings and 30 runs
Another Sunday evening and another group of players lounge on the outfield of a Test Match ground drinking beer and chatting. But this time the players are wearing the white rose on their caps and their mood is utterly transformed from the gloom that cloaked them just a week ago.
When Yorkshire won the County Championship in 2014 and 2015 they did so because they possessed a quite outstanding team. But they also found ways to win games, to prise victories from unpromising situations even when they were not playing particularly well. On May 2 there was one such triumph here when Northamptonshire were beaten by one run; now Steve Patterson and his players have another to go with that; and their supporters, who were watching their first cricket for nearly 21 months, will begin to wonder if this could also be a summer in which they will hear songs of triumph.
Yorkshire’s fielders now crowded round Henry Crocombe as victory became probable. Two short legs and a leg slip clearly revealed Willey’s line of attack but knowing something is going to happen is not the same as dealing with it when it does. Crocombe’s desperate attempt to avoid a magnificent bouncer merely gloved a catch to wicketkeeper Harry Duke.
There were 16.2 overs to be bowled when Brown was joined by Jamie Atkins, who until just over a month ago also had no idea what it was like to play first-class cricket. Sussex had lost five wickets for seven runs in 32 balls but Atkins held out with Brown and batting became negotiable, easier if never easy. Sussex supporters following the game on the live stream may have begun to wonder if an improbable draw can be clawed from what once seemed inevitable defeat yet had seemed even earlier a probable stalemate.
Bess, whose permanently grubby flannels and permanently tousled mien make him looks like one of The Bash Street Kids out of The Beano, had taken four wickets and Willey three. Surely their work was done. But then Brown glanced one thin down the leg side, Bess dived to his right from leg slip but spilled the catch and damaged a finger on his bowling hand. Gradually a Yorkshire victory that had appeared out of a high-clouded Headingley sky seemed to be slipping away.
There were six overs to be bowled when Patterson, who also took the final wicket in the one-run victory over Northamptonshire in May, took the ball and came in to bowl from the Emerald Stand End. He straightened his fourth ball to Brown who groped at it and there was a thin snick. Duke caught the ball and Patterson appealed for a caught behind, not realising that the noise was the ball clipping the off stump. The Yorkshire captain, normally the most phlegmatic of chaps, a man of sensible eating and wise investments, clenched his fists and roared his triumph. There was uproar on the field and even in the stands. Two hours later chants of “Yawksher, Yawksher, Yawksher” could be heard coming from The Headingley Taps where many pints toasted the win.
And they are singing still in the pubs around Headingley…
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
Recent Match Report – New Zealand vs England 1st Test 2021
“It was about using it as an opportunity to be a bit more disciplined as a batting group”
Instead, he was content to his see his young side – the top seven in this match, without the likes of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, was the youngest England has ever fielded in a home Test – spend some time at the crease after a modest first-innings effort.
“Having played on that wicket for a few days, we knew it wasn’t going to be as straightforward as it looked,” Root said. “If you look at the run rate throughout the game, it was hard to score above three an over even when the pitch was at its absolute best.
“We wanted to lay ourselves a foundation but, once we got through the initial phase, it just didn’t feel like there was a realistic opportunity for us to win the game. So it was about using it as an opportunity to be a bit more disciplined as a batting group. At times in the first innings we showed a little bit of ill discipline. This was a chance to put that right and take a bit of confidence going into the rest of the series.
“The last two times we’ve played in New Zealand we’ve been hammered in the first game and pretty much out the series. But going to Edgbaston, this series is very much alive. We’ve got a chance to win it and we can take confidence from some very good individual performances in this game.”
Root expressed particular satisfaction in the performance of Sibley, who came into this match having not made a double-figure score in his six most recent Test innings.
“He showed great resilience and character out there,” Root said. “He really did trust his defence and show that he has the mental capacity for Test cricket. Sometimes you learn a lot about players in those situations.
“On a surface like that, where the ball was going up and down, when guys respond in that manner, it tells you a lot about them. I’m really pleased for him and it will give him a lot of confidence.”
But Root did admit that the side’s young middle-order batters were going to have to “learn very quickly” after a first-innings performance which saw five of them contribute just 24-runs between them.
“I think there were a number of dismissals that weren’t good enough for Test cricket in the first innings,” he said. “We are better than that as a side. They’re going to have to learn very quickly in this environment. But you know they have the right attitude and the right temperament. When they have made mistakes in the past, they have responded well.
“Today was an opportunity to show that we can be a little bit more resilient and harder to get out. The guys fronted up and I think they did it very well.”
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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