Zimbabwe may have squandered their best chance to hit Pakistan hard, losing the first game mainly because of lapses in the field
Harare threw up a fun T20I contest in the first game, though both Zimbabwe and Pakistan were far from pleased with how things unfolded. Zimbabwe captain Sean Williams termed his side’s performance in the field “inexcusable” after they shelled no fewer than five catches, including an opportunity to send Mohammad Rizwan packing early; Rizwan went on to carry his bat and score 82 of Pakistan’s 149 runs. Babar Azam was similarly displeased, admitting the batsmen didn’t perform well enough, and that Pakistan’s 11-run victory was “not a convincing win”. Both sides promised to bounce back, an opportunity they will have in the second game, which is set to take place at the same venue on Friday.
Zimbabwe may wonder if they have already squandered a big chance to give their higher-profile opposition a bloody nose; if Pakistan are quite as poor at any point across the remaining games, that will be a serious concern for the visitors. Both Azam and Rizwan spoke of the adjustment it took from the higher-bouncing pitches in the Highveld in South Africa to the less lively ones at the Harare Sports Club. Now that that adjustment has been made, presumably, Pakistan should be more attuned to the conditions and perhaps less troubled by some of the factors they deemed unknown on Wednesday.
The hosts, however, would know that it was only a lack of experience that prevented them from taking a 1-0 lead in the series. They simply don’t play enough international cricket; they have only played three T20Is – all against Afghanistan – between the last time these two sides played an international series last year and now. Pakistan have been their most familiar big-name opponent of late, and matching them nearly every step of the way in the first match should have given Zimbabwe confidence that they could be competitive.
Last five completed matches, most recent first
In the spotlight
Blessing Muzarabani continues to be Zimbabwe’s spearhead with the ball and arguably their most important player. He was, once more, comfortably the best fast bowler for his side in the first game, and resumed a running battle with Azam that has seen the lanky fast bowler finish on top more often than not. Of the last five times the Pakistan captain has been dismissed against Zimbabwe across formats, Muzarabani has been the bowler on four occasions. Even if the pitch isn’t quite as springy as the one at the SuperSport Park and at the Wanderers might have beenMuzaranabi is able to extract enough extra bounce to keep batsman on their toes in more ways than one.
Pakistan’s middle order continues to be a pressing concern, with every combination the visitors have tried on tour blowing up in their faces. Rizwan mentioned after the previous game how he almost had a pact with Azam regarding how one of them needed to stay there till the end, and while that speaks of the confidence in their own abilities, it also shines a light on how little they appear to trust the batsmen lower down. Haider Ali remains woefully out of form, while Danish Aziz has struggled on tour, too. Mohammad Hafeez, perhaps more surprisingly, is also yet to hit his stride, which means Pakistan remain vulnerable at later stages of their innings. With games running out before the T20 World Cup later in the year, there are numerous spots up for grabs, but if only there were the personnel to grab them.
Brendan Taylor missed the last game with a gastrointestinal infection but should be fit to return in the second game. That might mean a direct swap with Regis Chakabva, who struggled behind the stumps.
Zimbabwe (possible): 1 Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, 2 Wesley Madhevere, 3 Tadiwanashe Marumani, 4 Brendan Taylor (wk), 5 Craig Ervine, 6 Ryan Burl, 7 Sean Williams (capt), 8 Luke Jongwe, 9 Wellington Masakadza, 10 Blessing Muzarabani, 11 Richard Ngarava
Pakistan rested Shaheen Afridi and Hasan Ali in the previous game, and just about got away with that. And the question of whether they trust themselves to back their secondary bowlers – as much as what they can a misfiring middle order – remains.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 3 Fakhar Zaman, 4 Sharjeel Khan/Danish Aziz, 5 Mohammad Hafeez, 6 Mohammad Nawaz, 7 Faheem Ashraf, 8 Hasan Ali, 9 Mohammad Hasnain, 10 Haris Rauf, 11 Usman Qadir
Pitch and conditions
The weather should be clear once more, and similar conditions are to be expected as in the first game. The sides would be playing on a fresh pitch, though.
Stats and trivia
- Sean Williams needs a further 64 runs to become just the second Zimbabwean to reach 1000 T20I runs, with Hamilton Masakadza well clear at the top with 1662.
- Mohammad Rizwan‘s lead at the top of the T20I run charts this year already stands at 108 runs – he has 426 to the second-placed Martin Guptill’s 318. Rizwan also averages 106.50 with the bat in T20I cricket this calendar year.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000
Recent Match Report – Middlesex vs Hampshire Group 2 2021
Handscomb’s woeful form continues with first-ball duck after late-afternoon start
Middlesex 90 for 4 (Abbott 3-21) vs Hampshire
When the Lord’s media centre was still in its infancy, those working within were served tea and coffee in the most magnificent mugs – unbelievably tall, well insulated with a perfectly balanced handle and, best of all, decorated with a sketch of the building in celebration of its love-it-or-hate-it design.
Those mugs were solid too, with evidence suggesting they could survive numerous moves across the world (you were allowed to take just one as a souvenir, right?) until the inevitable happened.
After a long wait to begin their match, Middlesex started solidly enough against Hampshire, too. Play didn’t begin until 4.15pm after two false starts when the covers were removed and players began to warm up, only to be forced back inside the Pavilion when the rain returned.
Jack Davies, playing just his second first-class match and his first of the season after replacing fellow left-hander Max Holden in the hosts’ line-up, and Sam Robson saw their side into the 18th over as they worked their way to 33 without loss.
That was in the face of some class bowling from Keith Barker and Mohammad Abbas, who conceded just 16 from the first 10 overs without getting the rewards they were really after when Hampshire won the toss.
It was Kyle Abbott who cashed in instead with three quick wickets to shatter Middlesex, leaving them 90 for 4 at the close and the not-out Nick Gubbins and John Simpson with a serious mending task.
Abbott replaced Abbas from the Nursery End in the 14th over and, while Robson helped himself to a couple of boundaries in Abbott’s second, one of those was in fact very nearly a breakthrough for Hampshire when Robson sent the ball airborne towards point and rocketing through the hands of a leaping Tom Alsop.
It would have been spectacular had Alsop managed to pull it down, and perhaps it was a breakthrough of sorts because, a short time later, Abbott made good on the threat he had posed, drawing Robson forward on an off-stump line and finding an edge which went straight to Liam Dawson at second slip.
Brad Wheal also bowled well – he beat Gubbins’ outside edge three times in one over – and removed Davies after a composed 24, edging towards the slips, where Dawson took another catch.
In the next over, Abbott had Peter Handscomb out first ball with a gem that angled in slightly and clipped the top of off-stump. That continued a wretched season so far for Handscomb, the Middlesex captain who now has just 31 runs from six innings, including three ducks.
But Abbott’s next wicket was even more of a beauty with the perfect line, length and speed beating everything as Robbie White pressed forward only to hear the sound of his off-stump being knocked out of the ground.
Abbott, now an overseas player for Hampshire after the end of the Kolpak era, missed all of last season’s Bob Willis trophy due to travel restrictions between the UK and his native South Africa.
“I’ve been fighting myself a bit – the body’s just getting used to these long spells again and long days in the field, which we’ve had over the last few weeks,” Abbott said.
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo
Jofra Archer ‘happy to go back in the bubble’ after confirming Test fitness bid is on track
Fiery outing for Sussex shows progress in recovery from elbow and finger injuries
Jofra Archer demonstrated that his return to fitness is firmly on track following a fiery performance for Sussex on the opening day of their LV= County Championship clash with Kent at Hove, and confirmed he would be ready to step back into the England bubble if selected for the two-Test series against New Zealand, at Lord’s and Edgbaston next month.
Archer claimed 2 for 29 in 13 well-grooved overs, with both of his scalps coming in his opening four-over spell, including his England team-mate Zak Crawley, who was caught behind for 7. Kent were rolled aside for 145 inside 55 overs, with Archer’s fellow England prospect, Ollie Robinson, also starring with 3 for 29 in 18 overs.
It was Archer’s first Championship appearance for Sussex since September 2018, and potentially his last of the season too, given that the county has no fixture in next week’s round of games – the last that England’s Test players will be able to play ahead of the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s, beginning on June 2.
But, after a low-key outing for Sussex’s second XI against Surrey last week, he assuaged many concerns about his recovery from both a long-term elbow injury, and an operation to remove a shard of glass from the middle finger of his right hand.
“It’s great to play again with the [Sussex] lads who I’ve played with nearly all of my career,” Archer told the ECB Reporters’ Network afterwards.
“My fitness is fine, I thought I bowled okay. I played in the second team last week and it’s good to get some confidence and I felt fine. I bowled in short spells for protection in case we had a long day but it was overcast, which helped a bit. There was a bit of management, but it all worked out.
“With the [elbow] injury I have tried not to get too frustrated,” he added. “If I’m fit, I guess I will play in the Test series and I feel alright. Ideally, I would ideally have another game next week but we’re off and then we play Northamptonshire. I don’t know what the plan is but I’d be happy to play again before the Test series. I’d be happy to go into the bubble again.”
Archer is sure to be joined in the bubble by Crawley, who made a career-best 267 against Pakistan in last season’s England campaign, but he’s looking forward to heading to Lord’s with the bragging rights after getting the better of their short-lived duel.
“I bowl to Zak Crawley in the [England] nets and I have done that quite a bit,” Archer said. “Obviously, you’re never out in the nets so it was good to get him out here, with umpires.”
It remains to be seen whether Robinson, too, has done enough to earn a Test debut, but after claiming 28 wickets at 13.35 – and with England indicating that they will offer chances to some new faces – the signs are so far promising.
“Hopefully Ollie Robinson will get his [England] chance this summer,” Archer said. “We all know what he can do, he’s a talented bowler and his stats prove that.”
Glenn Phillips and Daryl Mitchell offered their first New Zealand central contracts
Left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel, though, was omitted from the 20-man list
Glenn Phillips and Daryl Mitchell have been offered their first New Zealand central contracts, for the 2021-22 season. However, Ajaz Patel, who won his first deal last year, has been omitted from the 20-member list.
Phillips had dislodged Ross Taylor to become a permanent member of the T20I side, slotting into the middle order and also pitching in with his quickish offbreaks. He even reeled off New Zealand’s fastest T20I century, off 46 balls, against West Indies, at the Bay Oval in November last year. In all, Phillips played 14 T20Is last summer, hitting 366 runs at an average of 40.66 and strike rate of just under 185.
As for Mitchell, he stepped in for Colin de Grandhomme, who had been sidelined from the entire home summer with injury, and played key roles across formats. He struck his maiden Test and ODI centuries in addition to contributing with the ball.
“I’d like to congratulate all the players offered agreements for the coming season and in particular newcomers Daryl and Glenn,” New Zealand selector Gavin Larsen said in a media release. “Receiving your first national contract is a great moment in any player’s career and both thoroughly deserve their elevation.
“There’s no question Daryl and Glenn took their games to another level over the summer and have added to the growing depth of talent we now enjoy.”
Patel, the left-arm fingerspinner, had missed the start of the last season with a calf injury and although he subsequently made a comeback in domestic cricket, New Zealand opted against rushing him back into Test action on pitches that largely favoured seamers.
Patel, though, is back in the Test squad for the upcoming tour of England, and Larsen indicated that he was “very much” part of the side’s plans in overseas conditions. He is part of a strong spin attack that will also include two other left-arm fingerspinners – Mitchell Santner and the uncapped Rachin Ravindra.
“After such a successful summer in which we used a variety of players across the three formats, there was always going to be a squeeze on for positions and, unfortunately, Ajaz has been a victim of that success,” Larsen said.
“He missed the start of the Test season with his calf injury and was unable to make it back into the side during a summer in which seam and swing dominated. However, we are well aware of Ajaz’s value as a frontline spinner, particularly in overseas conditions and he’s therefore still very much in our thinking going forward.”
Under the terms of NZC’s agreement with the NZCPA (the players’ union), the 20 men offered deals have until May 22 to accept or decline the contracts.
NZ contracts list for 2021-22: Tom Blundell, TrentBoult, Devon Conway, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor,Neil Wagner, Kane Williamson, Will Young
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