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CSA awards – Anrich Nortje, Shabnim Ismail win big

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van der Dussen and Shamsi win men’s ODI player of the year and men’s T20I player of the year awards

Quicks Anrich Nortje and Shabnim Ismail were named South Africa’s men’s and women’s cricketer of the year respectively at CSA’s annual awards ceremony, which was held virtually on Monday. Nortje became the 12th player to win the newcomer of the year and men’s cricketer of the year awards in successive years.
Both players also bagged other major awards, with Nortje being named the Test cricketer of the year, South Africa fans’ player of the year and South Africa men’s players’ player of the year (sharing a tied vote with Aiden Markram). As for Ismail, she also won the women’s T20I cricketer of the year and South Africa women’s players’ player of the year awards.

Having previously scooped up the women’s premier award in 2015, Ismail joined Marizanne Kapp (2013, 2014) and Dane van Niekerk (2016, 2018, 2019) as multiple winners in the professional era.

Batter Rassie van der Dussen was named men’s ODI player of the year while left-arm wristspinner Tabraiz Shamsi, who is currently No.1 on the T20I bowling rankings, took the men’s T20I player of the year award. Lizelle Lee, meanwhile, claimed the women’s ODI player of the year award.

“Anrich and Shabnim have set the highest standards that we expect from our icon Proteas players,” Pholetsi Moseki, CSA Acting Chief Executive, said in a statement. “Anrich’s international career to date has been remarkable. In the space of a year he has gone from being named our International Newcomer of the Year to our overall Player of the Year – an incredible achievement. The pandemic has restricted him to just 10 Test matches to date in which he has taken 39 wickets, including three five-wicket hauls.

“Shabnim is the fastest bowler on the women’s international circuit, and she has been the leader of our Momentum Proteas attack for a long time now. She is the only South African to have taken 100 wickets in the T20 International format and she recently passed the significant landmark of 150 wickets in ODI cricket.

“She has played a huge role in enabling our Momentum Proteas to break into the top group of countries with a world ranking of No. 2 in the ODI format.”

Allrounder George Linde was adjudged the men’s international newcomer of the year while fellow left-arm fingerspinner Keshav Maharaj won big on the domestic front. He was named the SACA Most Valuable Player (MVP) as well as domestic players’ player of the season.
Dolphins’ Ottniel Baartman, who recently earned his maiden call-up to the South Africa Test squad, was the inaugural winner of the Makhaya Ntini Power of Cricket Award. Titans’ Markram was named the 4-day domestic series player of the year for racking up 945 runs in seven matches at an average of 94.50, in the 2020-21 season. Former Dolphins allrounder Robbie Frylinck, who had announced his retirement earlier this year, was awarded the one-day cricketer of the season title while Lions’ Sisanda Magala was recognised as the T20 challenge cricketer of the season.





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New-ball yorker, swinging in – how Wahab Riaz trapped Babar Azam for first-ball duck

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“I wanted to attack Babar from the very first ball, bringing the ball in to him using the blind spot,” the seamer reveals

Peshawar Zalmi’s two new boys Hazratullah Zazai and Abrar Ahmed may have caught the eye in a statement-making thumping of champions Karachi Kings but the win was set up by a rare bout of new-ball swing. And pace.
The example was set by captain Wahab Riaz with a searing first-over dismissal of Babar Azam before Sameen Gul picked up two in two in the third over – all three deliveries hooping big. Azam’s failure was a rare one for the Pakistan captain this season but so too was the method of Riaz’s success: a new-ball yorker, swinging in.

“In Abu Dhabi, the ball swings a lot under lights and it’s not just for me but everyone who is bowling with pace,” Riaz told ESPNcricinfo. “The first three to four overs are crucial and that is where everyone is trying to extract maximum advantage given the dew later on. Mostly, teams have been struggling against the new ball and losing a bulk of wickets early.

“With a new hard ball and pace, you will get everything if you bowl in right area. I had worked out a plan and wanted to attack Babar from the very first ball, bringing the ball in to him using the blind spot [the left-arm over angle creates]. But once the game goes on, after five overs or so, the swing is reduced and batsmen control back.”

The good work of Riaz and Gul was built upon by Ahmed, playing for Zalmi for the first time this season and in only his fourth T20 game since his debut in the PSL four seasons ago. Ahmed is a rare breed for Pakistan: a finger-spinner who can bowl the carrom ball; his 3 for 14 were the first wickets he’s taken at this level. He had caused a flutter of excitement when he emerged in the 2016-17 season for the Karachi Kings – then coach Mickey Arthur saw him potentially as an answer to Pakistan’s middle-overs bowling – but back injuries have kept him out of the game until last year.

The other new arrival, Zazai, then tore into the total, a remarkable 26-ball 63 on his PSL debut taking Zalmi to 99 in the ninth over, when he was dismissed. His fifty, off 17 balls, was the joint-fastest in the PSL. He took 21 off a Mohammad Amir over, and then 20 by himself off Aamer Yamin. The first six off the latter went outside the ground.

“When my shots started coming off early on, I thought I need to cash in as it’s my day today,” Zazai said after the game. “I liked all the sixes I hit today but the first one off Aamer Yamin was probably my favourite.”

The win took Zalmi to joint-second with the Lahore Qalandars, with some fresh impetus with Ahmed and Zazai in the squad now.



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WTC final, Ind vs NZ: Ajinkya Rahane

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India vice-captain not feeling the pressure over his batting stats in England or India’s Test record in Southampton

India vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane has said ahead of the WTC final that he’s not fazed by the criticism around his batting returns. Rahane is India’s highest scorer in this WTC cycle, with 1095 runs at 43.80, and has had the unwavering support of the team management.
As recently as February this year, captain Virat Kohli said that Rahane, alongside Cheteshwar Pujara, was India’s “most important batter” in response to questions about his form and place in the team. In his last 18 innings, Rahane has made one hundred and one fifty, but he said that he’s not living in the past ahead of the WTC final.

“It feels special [to be the leading run-scorer]. I’m happy to take criticism. I feel because of the criticism, I’m here,” Rahane said. “I always want to give my best, whether people criticise me or not. For me what is important is to give my best for my team, my country and contribute, each and every time. Be it as a batter or as a fielder. I don’t really think about criticism. If people criticise me, that’s their thing and that’s their job. I cannot control these things. I always focus on the controllables, putting my best foot forward and following my process. And the result follows.”

Rahane has been one of India’s leading overseas batters during his decade-long career, but England remains the country where he’s had least success; in ten Tests in England, Rahane averages 29.26 with four fifties and a hundred. However, three of those fifties have come during two Tests in Southampton, where the final will be held.

“I like to be in the present,” Rahane said. “I’ve been at this venue many times now, played for Hampshire also. Yes I know the conditions but what is important is to be in the moment, be in the present and adjust to the conditions on that particular day. Being the highest run-scorer doesn’t matter now. Whatever happened, that was past.”



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Inaugural World Test Championship final between India and New Zealand

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India and New Zealand will contest for the title in Southampton beginning June 18. ESPNcricinfo tells you why it’s important

At the end of a two-year cycle that began in July 2019, India and New Zealand will contest the final of the inaugural edition of the World Test Championship (WTC) in Southampton from June 18. ESPNcricinfo tells you why it’s important.

Is the WTC the equivalent of a World Cup final?
In a sense, it is. Although the International Cricket Council has awarded a trophy annually to the top team through a rankings system since 2002, a championship final hadn’t been held so far. Now, a grand finale helps to decide the winner on the field, instead of points awarded through complex algorithms. This final, essentially, is like a knockout bout. Teams won’t have a second chance, unlike in multiple-Test series.

How different is it to, say, a 50-over or a T20 World Cup final?
Unlike the other two versions, which are completed on the same day, the Test final will be played over five days, possibly a sixth day if time is lost due to the elements.

What are they playing for, apart from the title of World Test Champions?
The winner takes home US$ 1.6 million, while the runner-up receives US$ 800,000. In case of a draw – if there is no definite result – both teams will be declared joint winners. And there’s also a mace – approximately 90cm long, gold-and-silver-plated – for the winners.

How were the finalists determined?
Each of the nine participating teams were to play a total of six bilateral series – three at home and three away – with the top two sides (with most points) qualifying for the final. However, the pandemic threw cricket schedules off the rails, because of which the ICC brought in a ruling that the finalists would be decided on the basis of the percentage of points earned from those they contested for.

Was it a close call?
India, England, Australia and New Zealand were in contention. A series loss to New Zealand in February 2020 left India needing to win both their series against Australia (away) and England (at home) to qualify. New Zealand needed to win each of their four home Tests in their summer season of 2020-21 to qualify. As it turned out, both India and New Zealand managed to achieve this feat, thereby knocking out England and Australia.

What are some of the key contests to look out for?
It will be a contest between two contrasting captains, both hungry to win a world event. The fire of Virat Kohli (India) up against the calmness of Kane Williamson (New Zealand) – also two of the world’s best batters. Both players have so far been on opposite sides of two knockout games at world events: the ICC Under-19 World Cup in 2008 (Kohli won) and the 2019 World Cup semi-final (Williamson). They will now square off in the grand finale of a world event for the first time.
The contest between Trent Boult, the New Zealand fast bowler, and Rohit Sharma, India’s opening batter, should be fascinating. Both players have done plenty of plotting and planning together as team-mates in the Mumbai Indians franchise in the IPL, and won that tournament together last September. Now, possibly Sharma could face the first ball from Boult in a World Championship final.

The other key contest is between Kyle Jamieson and Kohli, who until two months ago were team-mates at the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL.

Which team is better prepared for this event?
New Zealand have the edge in terms of preparation, having just beaten England 1-0 in a two-Test series. India, in comparison, have had two weeks of quarantine at home before reaching the UK, where they’ve had managed isolation before resuming training. They’ve prepared themselves by playing a three-day intra-squad practice match.

Will crowds be allowed in Southampton?
As many as 4000 fans will be allowed to attend the final, in compliance with the UK’s Covid-19 protocols. As such, crowds have slowly been allowed back at sporting events in England. The recently concluded two-Test series between England and New Zealand had spectators in attendance at 50% capacity.

Finally, the weather. What’s the forecast?
No surprise that there’s a rain forecast for each day of the match. It is likely to disrupt proceedings, which is why there’s a reserve day scheduled.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo



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