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Aiden Markram hopes exposure to pressure moments at IPL will come in handy at T20 World Cup

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After spending four weeks with Punjab Kings in the UAE, Markram feels conditions are easiest for batting in Abu Dhabi, and most difficult in Sharjah

South Africa’s batters will experience the best and the worst of run-scoring conditions in the UAE at the T20 World Cup, according to Aiden Markram. After spending the last four weeks with Punjab Kings in the UAE for the IPL, Markram has decided that conditions are easiest for batting in Abu Dhabi, and most difficult in Sharjah, but still tough across the venues.

“Each ground was different. That was something I didn’t expect; I thought it would be quite generic. But each ground had its own set of challenges,” Markram said. “The pitches weren’t the easiest to bat on, but as the batter gets in he can still take the game away from the opposition. It’s tougher for newer batters coming in. Sharjah was probably the toughest batting wicket out of the three here, and Abu Dhabi was probably the nicest to bat on.”

South Africa open the Super 12 stage of the competition against Australia in Abu Dhabi before moving to Dubai to play West Indies and then to Sharjah and back to Abu Dhabi, for two games against qualifiers, and conclude the pool stage against England in Sharjah. Though South Africa are entering the tournament on the back of three successive T20I series wins, only one of those – against West Indies in June – was against opposition they will face in this event.

They have also lost to both Australia and England (twice) in T20I series in the Mark Boucher era and have historically tripped against both those teams in major tournaments. But Markram isn’t dwelling too much on all that. “We’re not bringing too much baggage into this World Cup. Everyone here is pretty free-spirited and not too fazed about being at a World Cup, in a good way. Everyone’s very calm so far,” he said.

But there are ghosts around this squad. Eight of them – nine if you include reserve Andile Phehlukwayo – were part of the 2019 50-over World Cup, where South Africa turned in their worst major tournament result and were the first team to be eliminated.

“Obviously we’ll try not to make the same mistakes that we did in 2019, but this is a different format and completely different conditions, and we’ve got a completely different side,” Markram said. “We haven’t had too many chats about that World Cup. In 2019, when conditions didn’t suit our plans, we almost didn’t have other plans to fall back on. That’s been addressed, and we’ve got a way of cricket we’d like to play against each team.

“But if conditions on the day don’t allow for that we have to be smarter and have another plan to fall back on. Having the skill set to trust in that change of plan has been important. Over the last 12 to 18 months the team have up-skilled themselves. That’s probably the biggest thing we can take from the 2019 World Cup.”

Markram is one of the best examples of that. Since the 2019 World Cup, he has shown marked improvement against spin, had his best tour of the subcontinent when South Africa toured Pakistan earlier this year, has established himself in white-ball cricket and earned his first IPL deal, which taught him about batting in a different position in the shortest format. “It was a great experience. I was in a less familiar role and it was nice to be exposed to that at a high standard of cricket, and to learn on the job,” Markram said.

“In T20 cricket, results come down to the last three overs if not the last ball. It was good to be exposed to that [at the IPL], because I’m sure games are going to go to the wire at the World Cup.”

Aiden Markram

For South Africa, Markram has batted in the top three in nine out of 13 T20I innings, for Punjab Kings, he was at No. 4 or 5 five times in six innings. He found the main challenge of batting in the middle-order to be finding the balance between building an innings and taking on a finishing role. “Guys who consistently finish games well in terms of high strike rates and the ability to find the boundary having just walked to the crease is something I’ve got a new appreciation for,” Markram said. “Because if you walk in and a team is 30 for 3, and you need to build a partnership to get to something that’s half-defendable. Neither of those roles are easy.”

Neither was the pressure of a tournament like the IPL. Punjab Kings finished sixth on the points table, after losing eight matches – three in this half of the competition. They also won three matches in this half and four of their six games were decided in the last over. “All our games were close. We would have liked to get over the line more times than we did,” Markram said, indicating that the experience would come in handy ahead of the T20 World Cup.

“In T20 cricket, at a World Cup or domestic or international series, results come down to the last three overs if not the last ball. It was good to be exposed to that, because I’m sure games are going to go to the wire at the World Cup. It’s about dealing with that pressure in the moment when two to three balls could change the whole outcome of the game.”

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent



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Recent Match Report – South Z (BD) vs Cent Z (BD) Final 2021/22

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Bowlers, Al-Amin shine as Central beat South by six wickets after bowling them out for 163

Central Zone 164 for four (Al-Amin 53 not out, Mizanur 39, Ahmed 3 for 32) beat South Zone 163 all out (Pinak 35) by six wickets

Central Zone completed a domestic double after they beat South Zone by six wickets in the BCL One-Day final held at the Sylhet International Stadium on Saturday. Central Zone took 42.3 overs to chase down 164 in the low-scoring tournament.

Asked to bat first, South Zone were bowled out for 163 runs in 48.5 overs. They gave away a good start as they slipped to 99 for four after Anamul Haque and Pinak Ghosh added 51 for the opening stand. Nahidul Islam’s 31 took them past the 150-mark.

In reply, Soumya and Mizanur Rahman helped Central Zone get off to a brisk start. The duo added 65 for the opening stand in 12.1 overs. Al-Amin Hossain followed it up with an unbeaten 53, adding 88 runs for the unbroken fifth-wicket stand with Mosaddek, who remained unbeaten on 33.

Captain Mosaddek was later adjudged the Player-of-the-Match and the Player-of-the-Series for scoring 148 runs and taking six wickets in the tournament. Imrul Kayes was the only batter to score more than 150 runs in the competition while Soumya was one of the four bowlers to take seven wickets.

Earlier this month, Central Zone had won the BCL first-class competition after they beat South Zone by four wickets in a tense final day.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84



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Sans big names, Sri Lanka eye crucial Super League points against Zimbabwe

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Sri Lanka could be pushed out of the top eight in the table to qualify directly for the next World Cup, while Zimbabwe are dead last



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Recent Match Report – Sixers vs Thunder 49th Match 2021/22

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Josh Philippe and Daniel Hughes scored half-centuries as Sixers made up for a slow start

Sydney Sixers 5 for 197 (Hughes 66, Philippe 57, Henriques 47*) beat Sydney Thunder 9 for 137 (Green 50*, O’Keefe 4-18) by 60 runs

Veteran spinner Steve O’Keefe has enjoyed a triumphant BBL comeback while star batter Josh Philippe returned to form as Sydney Sixers scored a thumping 60-run win over Sydney Thunder.

The result at the SCG on Saturday moved Sixers into second place on the ladder on net run rate above Thunder, who have played one more game and suffered back-to-back losses.

Sixers made 5 for 197 with Philippe (57 off 35 balls), Daniel Hughes (66 off 48) and captain Moises Henriques kept (47 not out off 27) lifting the tempo massively after their side scored a competition low of just eight from their opening four-over powerplay.

Thunder tallied 28 more in the powerplay than Sixers, but 37-year-old O’Keefe, back after missing two matches with a hand injury, triggered a massive collapse. He took two wickets in both his first and third overs as the Thunder lost 7 for 38 before a ninth-wicket stand of 56 salvaged some pride. Captain Chris Green scored his first BBL half-century, with the visitors finishing on 9 for 137.

Alex Hales got the Thunder off to a rapid start, taking three fours off Sean Abbott in the second over. But O’Keefe bowled Hales with his first delivery and had Alex Ross caught behind three balls later to alter the momentum.

O’Keefe struck twice more when he had the dangerous Daniel Sams caught at long-on and Oliver Davies stumped. Thunder slumped to 5 for 61 in the 10th over and 8 for 80 in the 13th.

Earlier Sixers took 28 balls to notch their first boundary but made the most of their chances. Coming off a lean run of three ducks in four innings, Philippe was dropped on 9 and made Thunder pay.

Returning to his strong early season form, Philippe smashed five fours and two sixes, pulling off some well executed ramp shots and big leg-side hits.

Australian T20 and ODI representative Philippe and Hughes picked up the pace, adding 82 in just under 10 overs. Hughes, who scored just two runs off his first 11 balls, brought up a record fifth half-century in Sydney Smash matches, a fixture in which he has scored more runs than any other player.

Hughes and Henriques kept the pressure on the Thunder’s bowlers, putting on 77 in seven overs.

Thunder were guilty of sloppy fielding and pacemen Mohammed Hasnain and Sams were left visibly agitated with the former exchanging words with Henriques — when Sixers captain seemed to cheekily suggest the Pakistan quick was throwing.

Sams and fellow paceman Nathan McAndrew each took two wickets but Hasnain, who was playing his last match before returning home, was clearly Thunder’s most economical bowler.



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