Hampshire 319 (Holland 64, Northeast 63, Abbott 58) and 204 for 2 (Northeast 99*, Holland 90*) lead Middlesex 79 (Abbas 6-11) by 444 runs
Around an hour into the second morning of this match, Middlesex’s bowlers were preparing to put their feet up in the dressing room in recognition of a hard job well done. Then came the Mohammad Abbas-inspired madness, a sickening sense of preconceptions being upended, and the desperate scramble for batting gear. Abbas sized up the pitch on his home debut, claimed a hat-trick inside seven balls, and had a five-for before the end of his third over, as Hampshire brutally seized control.
Middlesex started and ended the day in the field, the one major difference being that they were now in hock to the tune of almost 450 runs after Hampshire declined to enforce the follow-on. Sam Northeast and Ian Holland added a double-century partnership in untroubled fashion, both walking off in the 90s at the close, as the home attack took their chance to recharge. Abbas might look more like an accountant than a strike bowler, but you don’t have to have the instincts of either to know which team the sums favour from here.
Strike bowler he surely is though, and the Pakistan seamer demolished any notion that this could be a close contest within the space of 5.5 pre-lunch overs, as Middlesex tumbled to 14 for 5 in response to Hampshire’s 319. Abbas finished his day’s work with hypnotic figures of 11-6-11-6, as Middlesex were eventually rounded up 79; only three batsmen managed double-figures, with Nathan Sowter’s 24 not out from No. 9 the highest score of the innings.
Ramadan started this week, and although Abbas is not currently fasting, he said that his “great day” had been influenced by the Islamic holiday. “I took two wickets and before I bowled for my third wicket I realised Ramadan is going on and that is lucky for us, and Friday is a day that is lucky for me,” he said.
“I have played here before when I was with Pakistan and the pitch had something in it for me, and I bowled on point in the right areas.
Hampshire’s new overseas signing, currently out of favour with Pakistan’s selectors, has shown on more than one occasion previously that it pays not to underestimate his shuffling gait and 78mph stylings. A two-season stint with Leicestershire in 2018 and ’19 yielded 79 wickets at 20.67 and, while a shoulder injury might have hampered his effectiveness at Test level, he emphatically restated his qualities as a county operator.
Abbas ran through the Middlesex top order with five wickets in 13 balls. The subtlety of his methods was borne out by the fact each wicket-taking delivery pitched in roughly the same area but confounded the batsmen in a variety of ways.
Max Holden was the first to go, jumping from the crease to narrow the angles in his favour, only to steer an edge to third slip. Nick Gubbins, another left-hander, was pinned by one that came back at him (although there was a suspicion it might have pitched outside leg); then, with the first ball of Abbas’ next over, Stevie Eskinazi was sucked in by length and spat out by seam movement – a feathered outside edge giving the bowler his moment.
He wasn’t done there, either, as Middlesex’s tricky hour before lunch became a match-defining collapse. Robbie White and Martin Andersson were both trapped in front of their stumps by in-duckers – White playing forward, Andersson hanging back – to complete a five-for that had scorers and Twitter statisticians consulting their databases. For the record, Abbas’ efforts fell just shy of Ryan Patel’s five in 11 balls at Guildford in 2018, while Jacques Kallis claimed a Test five-for in 12 deliveries against Bangladesh in 2002.
Abbas had all six wickets to fall when Sam Robson went shortly after lunch – edging to slip as the bowler shortened his length in response to Robson’s deliberate efforts to get forward – before Kyle Abbott, who had claimed a 17-wicket match haul on his previous first-class appearance at the Ageas Bowl, finally got in on the action, as Toby Roland-Jones chopped a drive into his stumps.
Sowter and John Simpson managed to double the score, meaning this was ultimately only Middlesex’s lowest total since being dismissed for 75 at Hove two summers ago, before Brad Wheal cleaned up the innings with three cheap wickets.
Ambushed by Abbas, Middlesex were left feeling abashed – and with Hampshire deciding to bat again on a lead of 240, they had plenty of time to reflect on their shortcomings. Roland-Jones and Ethan Bamber struck early to give Middlesex a glimmer at 2 for 2, but the third-wicket pairing of Northeast and Holland steadied Hampshire before pressing on resolutely, both passing 50 for the second time in the match to consolidate a position that was nigh on impregnable.
The quality of Middlesex’s attack had seemingly kept the home batsmen in check on day one but, in a harbinger of what was to come, more foot-slogging was required on the second morning to finish off Hampshire’s first innings. Roland-Jones, Bamber and Steven Finn posed plenty of questions – though none came close to the sort of unanswerable spell provided by Abbas – and they were made to work right until the end, Finn finishing with 4 for 96, as Abbott’s nuggety half-century took Hampshire past 300 for a third bonus point.
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick
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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