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If a slot in the XI isn’t empty, then you just wait for your chance – Shahbaz Nadeem

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The ball is dangled up, above the batsman’s eyeline. He leaves his crease, almost involuntarily, to try and reach it. He ends up getting nowhere near it.

The ball does two devious things. It drifts in first, and that causes the batsman to open up, again almost involuntarily. Then it spins far more than the batsman expects, and he’s left groping for it as it rips past his outside edge.

T Bavuma st Saha b Nadeem 32.

It’s a classic left-arm spinner’s dismissal, and it’s quite a way to get your first wicket in Test cricket. For Shahbaz Nadeem, it also happened to be his 425th in first-class cricket.

Nadeem has been playing first-class cricket since December 2004. Every other member of this India XI made their first-class debut after him. It’s quite a story: he began playing for Jharkhand at 15, and was nearly twice as old when he made his Test debut.

He has learned plenty in the intervening years. He began as a purveyor of flat and quickish left-arm spin, and gradually evolved into the kind of bowler he’s now become.

“When I began, I was really young, and our team was mostly built around fast bowling,” he said at the end of the third day’s play. “We didn’t really have spinners. Basically, we would mostly play on green wickets, and when I used to bowl fast on green wickets the ball used to skid onto the bat quickly.

“So I realised that if I have to play on green wickets, I’ll have to start flighting the ball, and I’ll have to change my bowling so that I can get whatever little purchase I can off the pitch, which I won’t get with a flatter trajectory. The changes began there, after 2-3 years, and I began learning flight variations in order to get wickets even on those pitches. You can say that it helped me to not get helpful wickets at that early stage.”

It was an interesting exercise to watch Nadeem bowl in tandem with Ravindra Jadeja, who is among the quickest spinners in world cricket.

It isn’t that Jadeja doesn’t vary his pace or trajectory. There was an over, for instance, where he bowled two flighted deliveries wide of off stump that Temba Bavuma drove towards the two fielders in the covers. Jadeja followed this with a quicker, flatter one on a similar length that gave Bavuma no time to get forward to. It ripped off the pitch with extra bounce and beat the outside edge by a big margin.

Nadeem’s variations are a little subtler, and there is a bit of Rangana Herath about him, in the sense that he looks to create different angles by varying his release points and wrist positions, while still trying to get most of his deliveries to end up within the line of the stumps.

That wicket-to-wicket line kept the right-hand batsmen on a tight leash: in the first innings, they faced 42 balls from him but only managed two scoring shots. Before he was stumped off that hypnotically flighted ball, Bavuma had faced seven balls from Nadem and scored no runs.

There is obvious quality in Nadeem’s bowling, but he’s still only fourth-choice among India’s Test spinners, behind Jadeja, R Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav, whose troublesome shoulder paved the way for his inclusion here in Ranchi. Nadeem is realistic about where he stands, but he knows he’ll be in and around the squad if he maintains his levels of performance.

“This was the motivation, the chance I got here,” Nadeem said. “The motivation came from knowing that I might get a chance if something happened to someone. Whichever spinners we have, they’re all doing well. As a cricketer, you have to realise that the slot you’re fighting for, it has to be empty in the first place. If it isn’t empty, you just wait for your chance.”

The wait has lasted many years, some of which have brought bucketloads of first-class wickets. There were 51 Ranji Trophy wickets in the 2015-16 season, and 56 the season after that. To many watching from outside, it can seem like a difficult wait, but first-class cricketers enjoy first-class cricket for its own sake too. Even when he’s away playing for, say, India A, Nadeem says Jharkhand, his first-class team, always remains on his mind.

“We enjoy [playing first-class cricket] a lot,” Nadeem said. “Playing for Jharkhand is a motivation too, because whoever my team-mates are at Jharkhand, I’ve known them for a long time, some of them for close to 15 years. I’ve played with some of them since childhood, at junior level, so it’s always fun when I play for Jharkhand, and it’s a different sort of feeling.

“Wherever I might be playing, if there’s a Jharkhand match, my heart says I need to go play that match too, because apart from the match, there’s friendships and laughter as well.”

If he keeps bowling the way he did on Monday, Nadeem might have to make room in his life for an entirely new set of friendships.



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Sheffield Shield round-up: Great catching puts NSW in control

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A round-up from the second day of the latest Sheffield Shield matches



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CWI suspends Test opener John Campbell for illegal bowling action

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Cricket West Indies has suspended Jamiaca offspinners John Campbell (a part-time bowler who opened the batting for West Indies in all three formats last year) and Pete Salmon from bowling in domestic West Indies matches with immediate effect, for illegal bowling actions. CWI confirmed that opinion reports from independent assessors at Loughborough University found that the actions of the two bowlers exceeded the permissible limit of 15 degrees.

Campbell and Salmon will remain suspended until their actions are found legal either by an opinion report from Loughborough University or by an independent analysis from an accredited testing centre, in accordance with the board’s regulations for dealing with suspect bowling actions.

The duo will undergo remedial work supervised by Jamaica and they can apply for a reassessment after modifying their actions.

Cambell was reported for a suspect bowling action during the first round match against Trinidad & Tobago early last month. He took figures of 1 from 54 in his 19 overs in the match.

Salmon’s action was reported on his first-class debut, the fourth-round match between Jamaica and Guyana earlier this month in Guyana. Salmon’s figures were very impressive: he finished with a match haul of 8 for 110, which won him the Player-of-the-Match award in his team’s narrow win of seven runs.



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Recent Match Report – Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe Only Test 2020

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Lunch Zimbabwe 114 for 5 (Raza 33*, Nayeem 3-44) and 265 trail Bangladesh 560 for 6 dec (Rahim 203*, Mominul 132) by 181 runs

Bangladesh’s march to victory continued with a couple of vital wickets on the fourth morning in Mirpur. It was the spinners that struck first, with Taijul Islam opening a route into the middle order with a wicket in the sixth over of the morning before Nayeem Hasan struck the big blow, removing Brendan Taylor in his first over of the day. After a brief rally, the run-out of Craig Ervine further sunk Zimbabwe and they went to lunch at 114 for 5, still 181 runs shy of making Bangladesh bat again.

With men crowding the bat and pressure from the off, Islam didn’t take long to get the better of Kevin Kasuza. Coming around the stumps, and making liberal use of the arm ball, he suckered the right-hand batsman into playing inside an orthodox delivery that gripped on the surface, taking the shoulder of the bat and landing in the lap of Mohammad Mithun at second slip.

Taylor appeared much more at ease against the left-arm spinner, stepping out to loft him cleanly over the long-off boundary, but it was similar positivity that got him into trouble against Nayeem. Taylor missed a reverse sweep to the offspinner’s second delivery of the day, and then perished attempting an aggressive regulation sweep shortly afterwards. Aiming for the midwicket boundary, Taylor instead watched in dismay as a looping top-edge was easily caught by Islam, running in from deep backward square.

Despite the dismissals, the Zimbabwe batsmen kept playing their shots. Sikandar Raza whipped Nayeem through square leg with a one-handed sweep early in his innings, while Ervine was even more proactive. Having cruised into the 20s with a pair of boundaries on either side of the pitch in Nayeem’s third over of the morning, he stepped out to hit the same bowler over long-on and repeatedly demonstrated that he wasn’t afraid to use his feet to the slower bowlers.

At the other end, Raza paddled Islam to the fine-leg boundary, and then raised the fifty stand by powering him well over long-on for his first six, the runs having flowed at close to five an over. Ervine, meanwhile, was into the 40s at virtually a run a ball but Nayeem kept probing, and might have removed Zimbabwe’s captain had Liton Das been able to complete a stumping opportunity 15 minutes before the lunch interval. Drawn out of his crease, Ervine was beaten by the turn and bounce, but so was Das, the ball rearing up to hit him on the shoulder.

The error wasn’t a costly one. Moments before lunch, Raza tapped Islam towards point and the batting pair chanced a quick single. But Mominul Haque was onto the ball in a flash, hurling in a direct hit to catch Ervine short of his ground: the first time Ervine has been run out in this format.

With a light drizzle starting to fall, Raza survived until lunch alongside Timycen Maruma, but three wickets in the session significantly advanced Bangladesh’s cause.



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