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Misbah-ul-Haq to lead training camp in coaching-staff vacuum

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Misbah-ul-Haq is set to lead a 17-day training camp for 20 Pakistan cricketers starting next week. The pre-season camp, according to a PCB media release, has been organised with a view to an upcoming year in which most of Pakistan’s international commitments will be in the five-day format, with one eye on the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, which begins on September 12. Fourteen of the 20 Pakistan cricketers called up are centrally contracted players. Two days of fitness testing will be followed by by the conditioning camp, which runs from August 22 to September 7.

Misbah, whom the PCB release has termed the “camp commandant”, will “craft the training programme and overlook of the camp until the recruitment process has concluded. During the pre-season camp, the players will undergo fielding drills and net sessions, along with fitness and other cricketing activities.

“The camp has been set up to prepare the players for a competitive and challenging domestic and international cricket season, which is expected to begin with the prestigious Quaid-e-Azam Trophy from 12 September.”

It is not clear whether much can be read into the PCB giving Misbah the responsibility in the absence of a coaching set-up. When the PCB decided not to renew the contracts of head coach Mickey Arthur and his entire coaching staff, there was some media speculation that Misbah could be given the top job, though it is worth noting he has yet to complete the coaching badges or acquire the necessary experience the PCB is looking for in the next head coach.

It is more likely, perhaps, that Misbah’s reputation for high levels of fitness well into his 40s as a Test cricketer have resulted in the PCB hand-picking him as an ideal candidate for the job. In 2016, when Misbah was the Pakistan captain, the side underwent a rigorous training regime with the Pakistan military at an academy in Abbottabad before a tour of England. When Misbah scored a century in the first Test following that course, he famously dropped to his hands and knees and reeled off ten push-ups on the Lord’s turf, in tribute to the people who had put Pakistan through such a gruelling schedule, and as proof of his physical prowess.

Azhar Ali will join the camp after concluding his stint with Somerset, while Mohammad Amir, Imad Wasim, Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman have been exempted to allow them to complete their time with their respective counties in England.

Zakir Khan, Director of International Cricket at the PCB, said: “This conditioning camp is of great significance. The players will undergo strenuous training sessions to prepare for a demanding season, which will see Pakistan spend 30 of their 42 cricket-playing days in Test cricket.

“Misbah-ul-Haq, who has been Pakistan’s most successful captain, understands the arduous demands of the format in this day and age. With the advent of the World Test Championship, the PCB wants Pakistan to turn up with their best red-ball game when they face Sri Lanka in the two-match Test series at home.”

Players called up

Centrally contracted: Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Usman Shinwari, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah.

Non-centrally contracted: Asif Ali, Bilal Asif, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mir Hamza, Rahat Ali and Zafar Gohar.



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Shami in top ten for bowlers, Agarwal up to No. 11 among batsmen

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Mohammed Shami and Mayank Agarwal, the standout stars in India’s innings-and-130-run win over Bangladesh in the Indore Test, made massive strides up the ICC Test rankings, getting up to seventh and 11th among bowlers and batsmen respectively in the latest update.

Shami returned 3 for 27 and 4 for 31 as Bangladesh were bowled out for 150 and 213, while Agarwal scored 243 – his second double-century in just 12 Test innings – when India put up 493 for 6 declared.

His seven-wicket haul meant Shami moved up eight spots in the rankings to a career-high No. 7, three positions below Jasprit Bumrah and three spots above No. 10 R Ashwin. Shami’s current tally of 790 rating points is also the third best for an India quick ever, only behind Kapil Dev (877) and Bumrah (832).

ALSO READ: ‘Tell us your secret, we’re tired of only beating the bat’

Agarwal, meanwhile, finished just outside the top ten, which includes team-mates Virat Kohli at No. 2, Cheteshwar Pujara at No. 4, Ajinkya Rahane at No. 5 and Rohit Sharma at No. 10. The 28-year-old batsman has had a spectacular start to his Test career, totalling 858 runs in just eight games so far, his runs coming at an average of 71.50, with three centuries and three half-centuries.

From Bangladesh’s point of view, it was a disappointing start to the World Test Championship campaign, as they lost the first of two Tests inside three days. Mushfiqur Rahim, though, did well with the bat, scoring 43 and 64, which helped him move up five spots to No. 30, while Abu Jayed, the fast bowler who picked up four wickets in the Indian innings, moved to the 62nd position, a jump of 18 spots.

Among the other Indians who did well in Indore, Ravindra Jadeja advanced to be joint-35th among batsmen (with Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne) after scoring an unbeaten 60, while there were one-spot gains for Shami’s fast-bowling mates Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav, up to No. 20 and No. 22 respectively.

The Indore win meant that India carried forward their perfect start to the World Test Championship, currently on a maximum of 300 points from six Tests, with New Zealand Sri Lanka, who have both played just two games so far, way behind on 60 points apiece. The second and final Test of the series will be played under lights in Kolkata from November 22.



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Recent Match Report – New Zealand A vs England Tour Match 2019

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New Zealand A 302 for 6 dec and 169 for 8 (Phillips 36, Archer 3-34, Curran 3-42) drew with England 405 (Buttler 110, Pope 88, Denly 68, Kuggeleijn 3-46)

England had to settle for a draw in Whangarei as a stubborn ninth-wicket partnership provided an example of some of the challenges likely to confront them in the Test series against New Zealand.

At just after 3pm, with New Zealand A eight wickets down and around 35 overs left in the match, England will have fancied their chances of securing a victory that looked most unlikely at the start of play. But some admirable defiance from William Somerville and Ajaz Patel saw the hosts survive for another 22.4 overs and secure a hard-fought draw. When they came together, the lead was just 26; by the time England settled for some early handshakes, the lead was 66 and time was running out.

These matches aren’t really about the result, of course. They are about preparation for the Test series. And in that context, England will be pretty pleased with their workout against good quality opposition and in conditions which challenge them.

This is what they wanted. While they may have been encouraged by the ease with which they breezed through a West Indies President’s XI at the Three Ws Oval in Barbados in January – that President’s XI side were, ridiculous though it sounds, 200 for 19 at one stage – the worth of such experiences was betrayed when the Test series started and they encountered a far more motivated Test side which simply blew them away. The lesson, it seems, were that first-class warm-up matches provide far more intense and valuable preparation.

So England will, up to a point, have relished the fight. And while there may have been moments when the bowlers quietly cursed the flat pitch and a kookaburra ball that refused to yield to their attempts to make it swing, the management know that it is only by improving in such circumstances that England can look to the away Ashes series in two years with any degree of confidence. And that, it is becoming more clear by the day, is England’s new priority.

What did we learn here? Well, it is clear already that England, in such conditions, are heavily reliant upon Jofra Archer. He looked a threat – both in wicket-taking and physical terms – in each one of his three spells in the second innings. Despite the suspicion that he is still holding back just a little before the Tests, he was bowling with impressive pace and consistency by the end of the game. Joe Root was, no doubt, quite right not to push him into longer spells in such an encounter.

Archer apart, however, England struggled to find a wicket-taking edge once the ball had lost a bit of its hardness and shine. Stuart Broad, who appeared to be striving for rhythm in the first-innings, looked far more fluent in the second but, without much help from seam or swing, was generally forced into a holding role. Jack Leach, too, struggled to offer much threat, though he did concede under 2.50 an over for the second time in the match. Ben Stokes might, if pressed, have performed the role of fast-bowling back-up to Archer but it is well accepted that he will have more important days ahead of him. There wasn’t a huge amount of point going for broke here.

Sam Curran‘s performance will have secured his position in the team for the first Test. While his first wicket, that of Glenn Phillips, was more than a little fortunate – the batsmen simply edged one down the leg-side – he later had Jimmy Neesham, driving somewhat lavishly, caught behind by one that left him slightly and bowled Scott Kuggeleijn with a well-directed yorker.

Just as pertinently, Curran also had Tom Blundell dropped at leg slip by Root, as he experimented with the short ball and leg side field. Curran knows he can’t simply run in, hit the seam and gain movement as he does in England and while he will probably always lack a bit of pace, he did show a willingness to “find a way,” as Darren Gough put it, to challenge batsmen in such conditions. Whether it’s with his bouncer, his willingness to go around the wicket, or his swing, he is a little less one dimensional as a bowler than is sometimes suggested. It was interesting to note, however, that Chris Woakes appeared to be hitting the gloves extra hard in training. He won’t be going without a fight.

Some other concerns may linger, though. In an ideal world, England would have wanted their openers, as well as Root and Stokes, to spend a bit longer at the crease. And in an ideal world, Root would have clung on to both the chances offered to him in New Zealand A’s first innings. The first, at leg slip off Curran, looked tough; the second, at conventional slip off Archer, less so. And yes, there will be just a bit of concern that they were unable to part two tail-enders – neither Somerville or Patel have ever scored a first-class half-century – once they had decided to simply block for the draw.

But England will, overall, have been delighted to have reduced New Zealand A to 129 for 8 at one stage. And they will, overall, have been delighted to bat for 117.5 overs in their innings and pass 400. And they will have been encouraged that, after a poor miss in the first innings, Dom Sibley held on to three catches including one sharp chance in the cordon.

But most of all, they will have been delighted by the form of Jos Buttler who, after a disappointing Ashes, compiled a mature century and then claimed a couple of impressive catches – not least the one to dismiss Phillips – with the gloves.

To put Buttler’s innings in context, this was just the second first-class century he has scored since June 2015 (the most recent was in the Trent Bridge Test of August 2018) and his first overseas. It was also just the sixth first-class century of a career that has brought nine ODI centuries. Afterwards he credited a break from the game and a couple of sessions working with former Somerset teammate Marcus Trescothick as contributory factors.

“It was a tough summer,” he said afterwards. “Great fun but a huge challenge which took a lot out of most of us. So it was good to have some time away from the game and get refreshed. I’ve had four or five weeks off and that has been invaluable. It’s allowed us to refresh, have time away and get excited to come back.

“I’m absolutely aware of my record as regards scoring first-class centuries. It’s something I’ve been very light on, really. I know this was a warm-up match but it’s nice to spend time in the middle and get to three figures.

“I went down to Somerset to work with Marcus Trescothick, who is someone I know really well. I got a lot out of it. It gave some building blocks – more around my set-up, really, trying to be in the right place at the right time when the ball is released – to coming here and feeling in good touch.”

A similar surface is expected in Mount Maunganui and England’s bowlers may well still struggle to make inroads. But if their batsmen can occupy the crease for 120 overs or more and their fielders hold their chances, they will give themselves a chance of a first victory here since 2008.



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Recent Match Report – South Australia vs Western Australia, Australian Domestic One-Day Competition, 18th Match

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Western Australia 252 (Green 86, W Agar 5-40) beat South Australia 246 (Ferguson 127, Coulter-Nile 5-48) by seven runs

Callum Ferguson nearly pulled off a miracle, Nathan Coulter-Nile reminded the Australian selectors of his worth, Cameron Green continued his stunning form, and Ashton Agar was left bloodied by his brother Wes as Western Australia won a nail-biter against South Australia in a thrilling game in Adelaide to qualify for the Marsh Cup final.

Chasing 252 to win, Ferguson almost pulled off the impossible for the Redbacks, dragging his side back from 7 for 126, to get within seven runs of victory with a stunning 127 from 125 balls. South Australia were 9 for 190 when Ferguson was joined by Daniel Worrall and he farmed the strike bowling expertly to make his 12th List A century and reduced the equation to 23 from 12. He then smashed two sixes and a four off Jhye Richardson to cut it to 7 from 7, before Richardson trapped him with a brilliant yorker to put Western Australia into the final.

Coulter-Nile had run through South Australia’s top order taking his second List A five-wicket haul and had 5 for 18 at one stage as he ripped through Jake Weatherald, Jake Lehmann and Alex Carey with express pace in the powerplay. He returned after a steadying partnership between Ferguson and Cam Valente to take out two more in quick succession and remind the Australian selectors he is still a high-class white-ball bowler.

The selectors would have also kept a close eye on Green, who made his highest List A score of 86 from just 78 balls to steer Western Australia from a perilous position of 5 for 73 to post 252. Following on from his stunning performance against Queensland in the Shield, Green again showed his maturity and his class controlling the second half of the innings. He shared an 85-run stand with Hilton Cartwright who contributed 43, and a 54-run partnership with Richardson. He fell trying to clear the rope for the fourth time.

Among the chaos, the most bizarre storyline of the day belonged to the Agar brothers Ashton and Wes playing on opposing teams. Wes Agar got early bragging rights over his brother, clean bowling him for 5 as part of his brilliant five-wicket haul. He claimed 5 for 40 in 10 overs to continue his excellent start to the summer in both formats.

More dramatically, however, while batting late in the chase Wes flat-batted a ball towards Ashton at mid-on where he got his feet in a tangle and the ball appeared swerve as he slipped and it hit him flush between the eyes. He had blood streaming down his face as his younger brother rushed to his side. Ashton was able to walk off the field unassisted but did not field for the last 10 overs of the match.

Western Australia have now qualified for the final. South Australia’s hopes are all but dashed. The Redbacks now need to win their last match against Victoria on Tuesday by a large margin and hope Queensland are beaten by a big margin by Tasmania.



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