Cricket Captan 2018: World Cup Wonders… well almost!

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Prior to the 2019 ODI World Cup, we participated in a ODI tri-series involving Ireland and Bangladesh. The less said about that the better! Safe to say that few people were expecting much from us come the World Cup. Had we beaten West Indies in our final game however, we would’ve qualified for the semi-finals. So fine were the margins that losing that match meant we finished third from bottom in the table!

Here’s how our World Cup played out:

Australia, lost by 6 wickets

Shahzad 56, Zazai 56, Ghani 50

Ahmadzai 2-46, Janat 1-28, Zadran 1-40

Sri Lanka, won by 7 wickets

Khan 4-41, Zadran 3-41, Nabi 2-41

Shahzad 72, Ghani 60, Zazai 41

New Zealand, lost by 20 runs

Shahzad 73, Zazai 43, Ghani 40

Janat 1-33, Nabi 1-41, Zadran 1-51

South Africa, lost by 8 wickets

Zazai 52, Khan 38*, Hassan 19

Khan 2-57, Hassan 0-24, Zadran 0-31

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England, won by 111 runs

Shahzad 132, Zazai 128, Shafaq 25

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Janat 7-50, Nabi 1-41, Khan 1-61

India, lost by 4 wickets

Shahzad 116, Stanikzai 107*, Janat 37

Janat 1-43, Hassan 1-52, Khan 1-61

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Bangladesh, tied

Stanikzai 81, Shafaq 66, Shah 30,

Janat 3-39, Khan 3-48, Hassan 2-47

Pakistan, won by 10 runs

Ghani 104, Shafaq 65, Stanikzai 55

Khan 5-54, Janat 4-30, Ahmadzai 1-80

West Indies, lost by 6 wickets

Janat 49*, Shafaq 47, Ghani 46,

Khan 3-43, Janat 2-33, M Ashraf 0-52

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Well, we did better than host nation England!

Leading run scorer: Mohammad Shahzad – 485

Best batting average: Ashgar Stanikzai – 58.50

Leading wicket taker: Karim Janat – 20

Best bowling average: Karim Janat – 16.20

Cricket Captain 2018: You Win Some You Lose Some!

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Following Test success we played Ireland again, this time in yet more limited overs matches. Having won the previous ODI series against the shamrock side by a margin of 3-0, we soon assumed an unassailable 3-0 lead in this series too, making it six wins out of six in the format against the Greens. Only after clinching the series did we let our guard down having rotated the squad, the series finishing 3-2.

In the opening encounter we posted 337-3 however an incredible maiden bowled by spinner Andy McBrine in the final over of our innings left Najibullah Zadran (98 not out) and captain Ashgar Stanikzai (99 not out) short of their centuries. This was despite compiling an unbroken partnership of 205. Ireland reached 165 without loss courtesy of Ed Joyce (108) and William Portefield (85) but crumbled to 271 all out. Twenty-one-year-old debutant spin bowler Zia ur-Rehman claimed figures of 3-63 from his full allocation of overs on debut.

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Opening batsmen Usman Ghani and Mohammad Shahzad etched their names into the record books.

In the second match, Mohammad Shahzad (223 not out) and Usman Ghani (138) compiled a gargantuan first-wicket stand of 364.

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A breakdown of Mohammad Shahzad’s monumental knock, beehive included.

Shahzad’s 223 came from just 165 deliveries and included a whopping 40 fours (160 of his runs!). The only wicket to fall came when Ghani was run out off the last ball of the innings.

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Painful reading for Irish fans!

The partnership was only eight runs short of equalling the world record for any wicket in ODI cricket set by West Indies duo Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels just three years ago. Ultimately we defeated Ireland by 146 runs.

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Not for the first time, Andy McBrine frustrated our bowlers as Ireland recovered from 58-6 to post 197.

In the third game we had Ireland in all sorts of strife at 58-6 but lower order batsman Andy McBrine, who frustrated us with a fifty in the Test, did so again before being stumped of Mohammad Nabi for 62. Leader of the attack Hamid Hassan…err, led the attack with figures of 4-37. The insatiable Mohammad Shahzad just picked up where he left off in the last match and carried the team to victory with an unbeaten 88. We won by seven wickets to seal the series.

For the fourth match we rested Shahzad and Hassan and paid the price. We were going steady at 80-0 (Ahmadi 44, Ghani 39) but could only double our run tally for the loss of all ten wickets. Beanpole Boyd Rankin claimed 5-30 to bundle us out for just 160. Despite some serious nerves, Ireland got home with four wickets in hand. Eighteen-year-old debutant wicketkeeper Ikram Ali Khil snaffled the first two Irish wickets in style but it wasn’t enough.

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Noor Ali Zadran returned to form in style but also in vain.

In the final match, we generously invited Ireland to bat first and they posted 266-5 from their fifty overs. After scores of 28, 11 and 8, Noor Ali Zadran returned to form in spectacular style with a knock of 159 but was run out near the end as we fell five runs short. Only opener Javed Ahmadi (42) offered anything else with the bat, the next highest score being only 12.

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Confirmation of the 3-2 series win.

Unfortunately the theme of one side dominating over a period of matches remained when we headed into the T20I series. Ireland won the first two matches to make it four wins on the spin against us in all formats before, as Ireland did in the ODIs, we won the dead rubber.

Such was Ireland’s onslaught in the opening exchanges of the first match (38-0 from 3 overs) that we adapted our tactics by bringing on spin during the powerplay. Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi both struck in their first overs but Ireland still totalled an imposing 184-9.

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Hazratullah Zazai came into the side at the top of the order and duly took his excellent domestic form onto the international stage.

Despite Hazratullah Zazai’s 73 from only 49 balls and despite losing only three wickets to Ireland’s nine, we succumbed by 28 runs.

In the second match we fell fifteen runs short when chasing 163. Dave Rankin (38) was dropped, including early on, twice by Mohammad Shahzad who was not wearing the gloves but stood at slip.

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The highest partnerships for each of our first three wickets in T20I cricket have all been recorded during my tenure.

In the final game, we gained an important consolation victory to end the bad streak. Shahzad (102 from 73) and Zazai (58 from 45) batted the entire twenty overs without being dismissed. 163-0 was not a massive score though but we kept Ireland down as they fell 24 runs short. Slow-left-armer Sharafuddin Ashraf claimed outstanding analysis of 3-12 from four overs and there was a welcome return to form for Rashid Khan.

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Coming in off the back of strong domestic showings, leg-spin sensation Rashid Khan returned to the side and returned to form.

Khan claimed two wickets in each match to finish the series with six wickets at 16.50.

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Mohammad Shahzad’s insatiable appetite for runs just doesn’t quench. Whatever the format, wherever the location, whoever the opposition… runs, runs, runs!

It was disappointing to concede ranking points in the T20I format but it’s been a fabulous year for our side. We look forward to next season with much anticipation and are confident of putting in a good showing at the 2019 ODI World Cup in England. Look out for the squad announcement nearer the time.

Saying Nay to Nepotism

Pakistan opening batsman Imam-ul-Haq has become the second fastest player to accumulate 1000 ODI runs and he’s done so at an average above 60!

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/wi/content/records/283174.html

http://m.espncricinfo.com/pakistan/content/player/568276.html

Imam is the nephew of Pakistan Chief Selector Inzamam-ul-Haq, so unoriginal and cynical sceptics had a field day when he was first called up for national duty! Of course Imam shouldn’t be selected because he’s Inzamam’s nephew but nor should he not be selected because so. I remember Darren Lehman talking nonsense about stepping out of the room if his son came up in conversation during Australian selection meetings. There’s just no logic to such a notion. You don’t make any selection without applying it to the whole of the team.

It’s a big ask for Imam to maintain such a great start but hopefully we’ll see more batsman re-writing the record books and averaging sixty plus, even if it’ll lead to groans about modern surfaces!

Imam will look to transfer his encouraging ODI performances to the Test arena, where’s he’s done okay but not yet set the world alight.

Oz go Backwards to go Forwards… or Sideways… or Backwards Again?!

Australia have gone all retro-England on us with their latest ODI squad selection. Potential but inconsistent T20 performers Chris Lynn, D’arcy Short and Ben McDermott have all been ditched to make way for the likes of less explosive but more reliable players such as Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja. Though Marsh has done well in the IPL, you can’t help but think that Australia have pushed the panic button… and kept pressing! The selectors can’t seem to make their mind up about Peter Handscomb and one innings from him in the Big Bash seems to have confused them even further. All this fuels pressure on their bowling attack to limit opposition to totals that were the norm five years ago but not today.

Could it all click for Oz at this summer’s World Cup or will their fall continue?

Please don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel…

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCE7Dc2rxjmHdT09xofaoAXg

Zazai to Fly!

One of the reasons that I’m looking forward to seeing a couple of Afghanistan matches at Headingley come this year’s ODI World Cup is… Hazratullah Zazai!

I’ve detailed the destructive opening batsman’s abilities previously…

https://sillypointcricket.com/2018/10/14/if-theres-one-to-watch/

He’s started the Bangladesh Premier League in some style by smacking 78 from just 41 deliveries for Dhaka Dynamites against Rajshahi Kings.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8653/scorecard/1169380/dhaka-dynamites-vs-rajshahi-kings-2nd-match-bangladesh-premier-league-2018-19

Meanwhile Sri Lanka’s Thisara Perera walloped 140 from only 74 balls but still ended up on the losing side against New Zealand today. In Colin Munro and Jimmy Neesham, New Zealand have some destructive hitters of their own.

Trans-Tasman, Australia’s Marcus Stoinis is producing the goods for Melbourne Stars in this season’s Big Bash.

All around the world there’s some big hitting talent that will be congregating in England this summer. Could we see some record-breaking performances come the World Cup?

Please don’t forget to check out my YoutTube channel…

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCE7Dc2rxjmHdT09xofaoAXg

A Story of Sir Alastair, Keaton and Rory

If England win this summer’s Ashes or/and World Cup, then we could have a host of new MBEs!

The chances of Keaton Jennings playing in the World Cup are slim. The chances of Rory Burns doing so are… even slimmer!

The likelihood of the pair playing in the Ashes and possibly earning knighthoods will be defined on the Test tour of West Indies. No disrespect to the current Caribbean collective but if you offered an opening batsman an away destination to cement their place in their own team then West Indies would currently be high on most player’s list.

Jennings was previously dropped on the eve of a home series against West Indies. He’ll hope not to be dropped post a Caribbean encounter this time. He played spin well in Sri Lanka and was razor sharp in the field but questions of his ability against pace linger. Based on the evidence and scars inflicted by South Africa, answering those questions against Australia won’t be easy!

Burns performed well in the second Test in Sri Lanka after a disappointing debut. He failed in the final Test however and his aesthetics aren’t to everybody’s pleasure. If he leaves the door even slightly ajar and some young gun plunders runs on the county scene or even Surrey teammate Jason Roy produces a run gluttonous World Cup then Burns will follow another Surrey man, his opening partner Mark Stoneman, back to the county game and with little chance of a Jennings style recall.

Should KJ and RB perform well in West Indies, help England regain the Ashes, go on to score a few thousand Test runs and even captain England (They’ve got experience) then maybe they could yet join Alastair Cook by having a new prefix!

Something in the Genes!

They’re not bad these Curran brothers are they?

I don’t actually think that most diehard cricket fans were surprised at how Surrey’s Sam Curran has taken to Test cricket. He’s an absolute star, capable of batting at six (Maybe higher) and opening the bowling for his country. His left-arm variety will be essential to England’s attack and compensates for any perceived lack of pace. I previously said that he is the axis around which England should build their team but given England’s abundance of all-round talent, just to be a cog will suffice. He’s already made his buck courtesy of the IPL (He’s been snapped up by Kings XI Punjab) but hopefully he’ll keep his feet on the ground and stay engaged with the longest form of the game as well as the pyjama affairs.

Brother Tom struggled for wickets in the 2017-18 Ashes series in Australia but displayed chutzpah with both bat and ball. He performed well in white-ball (ODI/T20I) cricket and it’s a shame that injuries limited his England outings in 2018. He’s been on absolute fire for Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash this winter, already claiming a hat-trick of three-wicket hauls and scoring a swashbuckling half-century. I still think he’s capable of being a viable Test option for England at least in home conditions. He and Sam clearly have attitude which I like. It’s not ugly but there’s a little bit of ‘In your face!’ and that’s healthy against some competitors.

Then there’s brother Ben. It would be easy to get discouraged by being a little behind his brothers or for him to be the butt of jokes but BC has won a contract with Northamptonshire on the back of an encouraging showing late last season. That included signing off with a match-winning 83 not out against Sussex in the County Championship and he’ll be keen to kick on this term for a side that have lost Ben Duckett to Nottinghamshire. How far BC can go remains to be seen. There’s no disgrace in having a solid county career without international recognition but whilst Sam and Tom might look destined for greatness, remember how compatriot Steven Finn as well as India’s Irfan Pathan sadly fell away. In the case of Ben, we might yet see a Mike Hussey style post thirty Test debut followed by thousands of runs!