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T20 World Cup – Safyaan Sharif

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The Scotland fast bowler on training alongside Ajmal, picking Hardik’s brain, bowling to Williamson, and more

Scotland’s players had to pinch themselves when their Super 12s fixture list was confirmed but for Safyaan Sharif, their final game against Pakistan in Sharjah on Sunday carries particular significance.

Sharif, Scotland’s fastest bowler and their leading wicket-taker since the start of the Super 12s stage, was born in Huddersfield to a Pakistani father and a British-Pakistani mother before moving north of the border at the age of seven. He credits much of his development as a player to two winters training at National Gymkhana Cricket Club in Faisalabad as a teenager, shortly after leaving school, and is relishing the prospect of playing against a country with which he has close ties.

“I went when I was 18, firstly to train for six months,” he tells ESPNcricinfo. “I came back for the Scottish season and then went back again for another four or five months. My dad funded it for me and I have family back home, so it was easy accommodation-wise. It helped me a lot, to develop my skill and especially my mental toughness as well.

“I trained at the same club as Saeed Ajmal. I didn’t know who he was at the time and I can still remember the first time I batted against him. I came forward to my first ball and he bowled me through the gate. Next ball, I came forward again – he bowled his doosra, and he bowled me again. I was just like, ‘bloody hell, who is this guy?’

“It’s going to be exciting. I’ve got a Pakistani background and my family is Pakistani so it’s definitely one I’ve been looking forward to. You don’t get these opportunities all the time so we’ll be picking their brains after the game. I’d like to speak to Shaheen [Shah Afridi] and Haris Rauf, who are obviously world-class fast bowlers, and maybe Asif Ali – who is also from Faisalabad – about power-hitting.”

The ability to rub shoulders with the world’s best players has been a huge benefit for Scotland – and Namibia, the other associate nation to reach the Super 12s – throughout this tournament, as evidenced by their interactions in the India dressing room after their defeat in Dubai on Friday night. Sharif, who has been carded at No. 9 in this World Cup but is a useful lower-order hitter, took the opportunity to seek out Hardik Pandya for some advice.

“It was great to talk to him: he’s one of the best, hardest-hitting batters in the world. He was talking about the fact that guys know not to bowl full at him because he always sets himself to go big at the end, using the crease and going deep in it. He said that because he has those strengths – and teams know about it – he has to develop other strengths, so if guys bowl wide of him, he’ll practise those shots to have them in the bank.

“It was good to learn from him tactically and about his mindset. We need to make the most of it. These guys are world-class players who have played in ICC events for so long. It’s a morale boost, talking to them and trying to learn what they do differently to us. It gives us things that we can take back home and work on.”

Sharif’s personal highlight of the World Cup to date was his performance against New Zealand, taking two wickets in an over in Scotland’s tight defeat – including the big fish, Kane Williamson, whose scoring he stifled with a clever field returning a wide gully, preventing his trademark guide down to deep third.

“Williamson is obviously a top-quality player but we knew that was his release shot,” he explains. “If you look to bowl on off stump, he’ll run you down to third man. We were like, ‘right, we need to stop that – especially when he comes in because he likes to take his time’. It wasn’t the best ball that got him [a leg-side strangle] but it managed to do the trick.”

Ahead of their final game, he has his eyes on two more prized scalps. “It would be good to pick up either Babar Azam or Mohammad Rizwan. If you look through their order they’ve got class throughout – Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez are experienced players and Asif Ali is doing pretty well at the moment – but they’ve been the key to Pakistan’s success.

“To get either of those two out would be a massive achievement: they don’t give their wickets away easily. If we can get the two openers out early, I think Pakistan will be under a bit of pressure because they’ve been scoring most of their runs in the tournament. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98



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Travis Head determined not to let latest chance pass him by

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The left hander got the nod for Australia’s final batting position ahead of the Ashes



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Aus vs Eng, Men’s Ashes, 2021-22

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The order of the Tests will not change after a late bid by the WA government for a swap

The fifth Ashes Test will be relocated away from Perth after Cricket Australia confirmed it could not be held in Western Australia due to border restrictions in place.

There will also be no change in order of the Test matches – on Sunday the WA sports minister Tony Buti made a last-ditch bid for Perth to switch with Adelaide for the second Test – with the replacement venue to be confirmed in the coming days. Hobart is the narrow favourite behind having a second match at the MCG.

It could be that there will now be two day-night matches in the series given that broadcasters will have lost the primetime-friendly west coast slot which allows Test cricket to broadcast in the evening in other major cities.

A few weeks ago WA Cricket had been bullish about its chances of staging the Test with chief executive Christina Matthews putting it as a “97%” chance, but that receded quickly in recent days with the WA government insisting on 14 days quarantine for anyone associated with putting on the Test from outside the state including key broadcast personnel along with players’ families.

“We acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of the WA Government, relevant agencies and Perth Stadium over recent months,” Nick Hockley, the Cricket Australia chief executive, said.

“We are very disappointed that we are unable to stage the fifth men’s Ashes Test at Perth Stadium. We did everything we could in partnership with the WA Government and WA Cricket to make it work under the current border and health arrangements, but unfortunately this was not possible.

“We are particularly disappointed for Western Australian cricket fans who were so looking forward to seeing the first ever Ashes Test at the new stadium.”

There was never any chance of the late suggestion of a Test swap being possible and it was quickly shut down by the South Australian Cricket Association on Monday shortly before the CA announcement.

Hobart remains a slight favourite to be the replacement venue ahead of Melbourne, with Cricket Tasmania chief executive Dominic Baker adamant the Tim Paine saga shouldn’t have an impact on any decision.

Tasmania, which has not staged a Test since 2016, had been due to host the one-off Test between Australia and Afghanistan last month

Both the NSW government and Cricket ACT have also stated their desire to host the match, at the SCG and Manuka Oval respectively, if required

Queensland sports minister Stirling Hinchliffe on Monday threw the Gabba forward as an option to hold a second Test this summer.

“We’d love to be able to see more content here at the Gabba,” Hinchcliffe said. “We’d obviously want to continue talking to Cricket Australia about making sure that we provide the best facilities for the great content.

“Nick Hockley and I speak regularly and it’d be wonderful to play a part in making sure that the Ashes is the best series possible. We’ve got to see what the terms and what the arrangements will be and the circumstances. [We’re] happy to have that conversation.”

WA is slated to host one other international this summer, with an ODI involving New Zealand on January 30. That series-opener would also likely be subject to biosecurity arrangements.

It comes after the WACA was due to host the women’s Test between India and Australia in October before it was moved to Queensland. A one-off Test between Afghanistan and Australia was postponed last year due to Covid-19.



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Recent Match Report – India vs New Zealand 2nd Test 2021/22

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The 372-run margin of victory is India’s biggest in terms of runs, and also New Zealand’s biggest loss

India 325 (Agarwal 150, Axar 52, Ajaz 10-119) and 276 for 7 dec (Agarwal 62, Ajaz 4-106) beat New Zealand 62 (Ashwin 4-8, Siraj 3-19) and 167 (Mitchell 60, Nicholls 44, Ashwin 4-34, Jayant 4-49) by 372 runs

Jayant Yadav struck thrice in the first half hour of the fourth morning and four times in nine legal deliveries to finish with career-best figures of 4 for 49, as India wrapped up their biggest win in terms of runs – 372 – and also handed New Zealand their biggest loss. The result sealed the series 1-0 for the hosts.
Overnight batters Henry Nicholls and Rachin Ravindra played out the first 20 minutes against Jayant and R Ashwin, with both bowlers beating the outside edge nearly every over. Jayant was more wayward of the two and was punished for fours by Ravindra whenever he pitched short outside off. Ravindra collected two fours in the third over of the morning and two more four overs later.

Between the first two of those fours, Ravindra also survived a very close lbw shout when Jayant struck him in front of middle stump, but umpire Nitin Menon adjudged it not out. India didn’t review despite the close shout and ball-tracking later showed it was clipping off for umpire’s call, which wouldn’t have overturned the decision anyway had India reviewed.

Jayant ensured India didn’t have to wait long for the breakthrough though. As soon as Ravindra swept him for back-to-back fours past backward square leg, Jayant drew his outside edge for a catch at second slip to start the march towards victory.

In his next over, he drew sharp turn from outside off to trap Kyle Jamieson lbw for a duck. Two balls later, he rattled the stumps when Tim Southee danced down to miss a big heave also for a duck, and three balls later, in his next over, Jayant bagged his fourth by getting Will Somerville caught at the second short-leg fielder who had just been brought in.

3:20

WATCH - India cruise to record 372-win victory as Ashwin removes Nicholls

WATCH – India cruise to record 372-win victory as Ashwin removes Nicholls

Ashwin then wrapped up victory in the next over with his 300th Test wicket at home and also his 50th this year. Nicholls had blocked plenty of deliveries from Ashwin the previous evening and this morning around the off stump carefully by pressing forward regularly, but as soon as he stepped out of the crease to attack, Ashwin’s flight and turn went past the swinging bat and Wriddhiman Saha completed a quick stumping to dismiss the batter for 44.

Ashwin finished with 8 for 42 in the match and spinners lapped up 33 of the 36 wickets that fell to bowlers, apart from Tom Blundell’s run out on the third evening.

Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo



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