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Oman ride on Mohammad Nadeem’s sizzling form to overcome USA

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Oman 152 for 4 (Nadeem 55*, Suraj 50*, Ali Khan 4-27) beat USA 148 (Silva 33, Fayyaz 3-23) by six wickets

Allrounder Mohammad Nadeem‘s sizzling 2019 form helped Oman to a six-wicket win over USA at United CC. Coming into the tournament on the back of half-centuries in wins over Scotland and UAE, Nadeem made another unbeaten half-century in a 97-run unbroken stand with Suraj Kumar to repel USA after Ali Khan‘s four-wicket burst.

On a very sluggish outfield and up-and-down pitch in the first innings, USA were bowled out for 148 in just 38.5 overs as a sensational fast bowling effort from Bilal Khan, Kaleemullah and Fayyaz Butt set up what should have been a straightforward chase of a below-par target. The surface had begun to flatten out in the afternoon sun, but Ali took three wickets with the new ball to leave Oman reeling at 17 for 3.

Ali then returned in the 22nd over and struck with his very first ball of a new spell to get captain Zeeshan Maqsood fiddling an edge behind to make it 55 for 4. Curiously though, Ali only bowled two more overs, meaning he bowled two short of his available quota in one of several eyebrow-raising strategic moves on the day for USA, who also left out Nosthush Kenjige from the XI just a few matches after he had claimed 5 for 27 against Lancashire.

With Ali hidden from the attack, Nadeem and Kumar rebuilt the chase and soon became impossible to dislodge. Nadeem ended on 55 not out off 120 balls while Kumar brought up his half-century on the last ball of the match, sweeping Timil Patel for four through midwicket when scores were level.

Hong Kong 223 for 3 (Rath 114*, Atkinson 35, Dutta 2-30) beat Canada 222 for 8 (Jacobs 52*, Kinchit 4-34) by seven wickets

Hong Kong captain Anshy Rath helped construct a trio of half-century stands, including 90 for the first wicket with former captain Jamie Atkinson to chase down Canada’s 222 with 16 balls to spare at Affies Park.

It was Rath’s second ton for Hong Kong in the last eight months after compiling 102 in a win over UAE at the Asia Cup Qualifier in Malaysia. In addition to the stand with Atkinson, Rath added 50 with Kinchit Shah and another 63 with Ahsan Abbasi for the third wicket.

It was a superb all-round day for Kinchit, who bowled spin with the new ball and claimed the prized scalp of Ruvindu Gunasekera with his fourth ball of the day before coming back to take a hat-trick in the final over. With captain Davy Jacobs red-hot on 52 off 53 balls, he went ice cold at the non-striker’s end watching helplessly as Kinchit nabbed Saad bin Zafar, Dilon Heyliger and Nikhil Dutta with the last three balls of the innings to ensure Canada were defending a below part total.

Namibia 120 for 7 (Frylinck 23*, Amini 3-46) beat PNG 118 (Soper 36, Frylinck 3-16, Williams 3-25, Smit 3-34) by three wickets

Jan Frylinck played a vital role in a low-scoring thriller to help the tournament hosts off to a winning start against Papua New Guinea. Frylinck snared the prized pair of Tony Ura and captain Assad Vala inside the Powerplay and from there, PNG’s innings never gained any momentum. Chad Soper stretched the innings out with 36 from No. 6 before he was last person out in the 43rd for Frylinck’s third victim.

The early part of Namibia’s chase wasn’t much better than what PNG had produced. After legspinner Charles Amini ripped though the middle-order, Christi Viljoe was runout for 8 to leave Namibia 67 for 6 chasing a target of 119.

But Frylinck followed up his wickets with an instrumental 23 not out off of 20 balls to get Namibia over the line with a whopping 19.3 overs to spare. It means they hold a sizeable early advantage with the tournament tiebreaker of net run rate.





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Eoin Morgan mishap mars England preparations as Australia await in warm-up

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An optimist, they say, views the glass as half full. A pessimist, they say, views it as half empty. And a regular supporter of England at World Cups expects the glass to explode at any moment, killing all present with fragments of glass. It is an expectation conditioned by years of grim experience.

So there wasn’t a great sense of surprise when news of Eoin Morgan‘s injury began to filter around the Ageas Bowl (or the Hampshire Bowl as the ICC, always mindful not to allow ‘ambush marketing’ would have us call it; they’ve spent the last few days putting masking tape over any tradename or logo across all World Cup venues). It was more a sense of ‘here we go again, then’.

And then the relief. News a few hours later that Morgan had sustained “a small flake fracture” provided hope that he might – should, even – be fit for England opening World Cup match. Suddenly that glass was looking half full again.

In some ways, England are quite well covered should Morgan suffer injury. The team, generally, know their roles inside-out, Jos Buttler has shown himself to be an astute captain and James Vince looks in decent form with the bat. Morgan’s withdrawal wouldn’t necessarily prove a fatal blow.

But so important is Morgan to this team – so talismanic his presence, so unblinkingly positive his leadership and such good form is he in with the bat (he is averaging 94.50 at a strike-rate of 105.73 in his last 16 ODIs) – that his absence would surely weaken this side that has been created, in many ways, in his image. Nobody has played more ODIs for England (the opening match of the tournament should be his 200th) or scored more runs. He is probably as close to irreplaceable as anyone in the squad.

While the England management insist Morgan will make a “full recovery” and be available for their opening match, against South Africa at the Kia Oval (it’s hard to resist teasing the ICC just a little) on May 30, there must be some doubt as to his fragility. While he should be fine while batting – protective equipment is excellent these days – there may be more concern about how he would fare in the field if he sustained another blow to the same area. He generally fields in the ring so is likely to encounter plenty of balls hit with great power.

ALSO READ: Eoin Morgan sustains ‘flake fracture’ in fielding incident

Did the use of the words “small” and “flake” in the ECB media release suggest they were protesting a little too much? Maybe only to those of us who have watched England in recent World Cups – and not so recent, really – and seen them beaten like a snare drum. But this is a different England and maybe we shouldn’t allow bad memories to dim our enthusiasm.

England would have been put in a tricky position had the x-ray showed a full break. While that might have put Morgan out of action for anywhere between three and five weeks, they would have been loath to call a new player into the squad. Under tournament regulations, a replaced player cannot subsequently be recalled and England might well have been prepared to carry Morgan for the first half-dozen or so group games in the hope he could make an impact in the final half of the event. There will be great relief in the camp that they have not been forced into such a dilemma.

Morgan is not the only injury concern. Adil Rashid also misses Saturday’s match with a view to managing his long-standing shoulder problem. He is not thought to be in doubt for the South Africa game, though it does provide a reminder of how many of these players are going to have to be nursed through the tournament. It is hard to imagine Mark Wood or Chris Woakes playing every game, either. Perhaps partly for that reason, England will utilise 12 players on Saturday to ensure the bowlers’ workload is limited. These warm-up games do not carry List A or ODI status and can involve up to 15 players a side.

Rashid’s absence provides an early opportunity for Liam Dawson to slip back into England duty. It is not ideal that Dawson has not featured in the England side this year but he has, at least, been in excellent form for Hampshire. He has played for England in all formats and is, by all accounts, a down-to-earth character. Indeed, in his press conference on Friday, he reacted to questions about his late call-up with all the apparent enthusiasm of a man taking delivery of a new filter for his Hoover-unbranded vacuum cleaner. For journalists hungry for a soundbite it wasn’t ideal, but such an equable temperament may prove invaluable for England over the next few frenetic weeks.

It remains a shame that Dawson – and his Hampshire colleague, Vince – should be forced to miss Saturday’s Royal London Cup final against Somerset at Lord’s. The domestic Lord’s final used to be one of the showcase events of the season; now it is not – arguably, anyway – even the biggest match of the day. Both games will be broadcast by Sky with the England game available on Sky Mix, which means it is free-to-air for some customers.

How such a clash of events has been allowed to happen remains unclear. The cynical might suggest the ECB are looking to undermine and overshadow their own 50-over competition ahead of its downgrading next year. The cynical are often right.



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Recent Match Report – Afghanistan vs Pakistan Innings 2019

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Afghanistan 263 for 7 (Shahidi 74, Wahab 3-46) beat Pakistan 262 all out (Babar 112, Nabi 3-46) by three wickets

The positives in defeat Pakistan appeared so intent of drawing – following the series against England – have all but fizzled out in an embarrassing performance in Bristol, with Afghanistan wrapping up a comfortable three-wicket win against their neighbours.

Bowled out for 262 in the first warm-up game of the World Cup, after the captain Sarfaraz Ahmed decided to bat, they came up against a sizzling Hazratullah Zazai, who scorched Pakistan with a 28-ball 49 in the first Powerplay. From that point on, the asking rate was always in control, and in Hashmatullah Shahidi, Afghanistan had a batsman with the temperament to see his side through, finishing unbeaten on 74, completely unperturbed by a strike rate of 72.

It really is hard to overstate how much mental damage this would do to Pakistan. This may not be an official ODI, but in many ways is more important than the 10 they’ve lost on the trot. Against England, whatever happened, they could come away believing the hosts were of course on another level – which they are. Against Australia in the UAE, they were resting half their side. Against Afghanistan, a week before their World Cup starts, no explanation is likely to wash.

Pakistan looked out of sorts almost from the first delivery. The partnership between Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq at the top only lasted because of Afghanistan’s generosity in the field, the pair were reprieved at least four times – three dropped catches and a stumping. When Hamid Hassan finally struck, it heralded a regular supply of wickets to the bowling side, with only Babar Azam putting up any sort of resistance that Mickey Arthur and his men will look back at fondly.

Mohammad Nabi got rid of Zaman and Haris Sohail in the same over with beautifully flighted offspin, suggesting this tournament may not just be about how fast any team’s quick bowlers are. Aware this was a cracker of a pitch for batting, even the quicks took the pace of the ball, denying Pakistan the ability to use the pace and score behind the wicket, and no batsman other than Babar was able to rotate the strike successfully.

The lower order’s failure to kick on in the final 15 overs only highlighted the importance of Asif Ali to the side, and cast under severe scrutiny the logic of leaving him out of the preliminary squad in April. Today, his unavailability owing to the death of his daughter meant Pakistan struggled to find a man able to fill his shoes, with the next-best alternative Imad Wasim never really hitting his straps. In the end, even Babar Azam holed out after reaching a hundred, and in the frantic scramble for a big finish, Pakistan forgot the golden rule of ODI cricket: bat out the overs. They were dismissed for 262 in a game they had specifically chosen to bat first in to showcase the aggression they possessed in that department.

Afghanistan immediately seized momentum after Hazratullah Zazai took Shaheen Afridi to task, scorching five boundaries off one over from the teenager, and summarily dismissing him when he approached the batsman to coyly attempt a sledge. Even when his more celebrated partner, Mohammad Shahzad, retired hurt because of what looked like a cramp, Zazai continued to take the Pakistan quicks to task, focusing his attention on Wahab Riaz soon after; that particular over would yield 18.

It was Shadab Khan, not introduced till after the Powerplay that he would depart, lofting the spinner’s first ball to cow corner, where Shoaib Malik took a smart catch. They might have crumbled at that point, but this isn’t the Afghanistan side that used to be grateful merely to be allowed to compete; they’re here to win. Rehmat Shah and Samiullah Shenwari kept Shahidi company, but the last three-quarters of the innings was all about the left-hander. He has previous against Pakistan; he struck an unbeaten 97 against them at the Asia Cup, and here, too, Pakistan found no way of going through his defences.

He understood the value of his wicket, and never panicked even when the balls began to close in on the runs required. The odd boundary always relieved the pressure, and when, three overs from the close,m Wahab Riaz came in to send the jitters through them and their fans, it was only Shahidi who kept Afghanistan from crumbling in the face of his sustained brilliance. Rashid Khan at the other end rode his luck and put Shahidi on strike with one run left, and appropriately, Shahidi was on hand to ease the ball to third man.

With minimum fuss, Pakistan had been put away. Afghanistan can look ahead to a World Cup that brims with promise, while the soul-searching in Pakistan’s dressing room will intensify before the first competitive ball is even bowled.



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Michael Burgess signs two-year contract with Warwickshire

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Warwickshire have confirmed the signing of Michael Burgess from Sussex. The 24-year-old wicketkeeper has signed a two-year contract and will move to his new county on loan from June 1.

As revealed by ESPNcricinfo earlier this week, new Warwickshire director of sport, Paul Farbrace, had identified Burgess as a potential recruit amid concern about the strength of the Edgbaston playing staff.

Burgess averaged 30.61 in the Championship in 2018, and played every game as Sussex reached the semi-finals of the Vitality Blast. He might be viewed as the long-term replacement for Tim Ambrose, who also joined Warwickshire from Sussex in 2006.

“In addition to being an excellent, young gloveman, Michael is a hard-hitting batsman who has experienced domestic cricket on the biggest stage, having played for Sussex in last year’s Vitality Blast Finals Day,” Farbrace said.

“He boasts a very impressive strike rate in the T20 game and his ability to clear the ropes could be game-changing. He is a great addition to bolster our middle order going into this year’s Vitality Blast.

“Whilst we still have one of the best wicketkeepers in the country in Tim Ambrose, we believe that Michael can make an immediate impact in the white-ball game and, aged only 24, we have every confidence that he can enjoy a long and very successful career as a Bear.”

Burgess had enjoyed a couple of good seasons on the south coast, having impressed on trial after being released by Leicestershire.

“It’s a huge opportunity for me to become a Bear and to come to Edgbaston to play at one of the world’s great grounds,” Burgess said.

“There’s so much history behind this club, but it’s also tasted a lot of success in the last few years by winning every major trophy. The Warwickshire cricket management team were very clear with me about their ambitions to build a squad that can compete for more silverware and I’m very excited to have committed until at least the end of 2021.

“I would like to thank everyone at Sussex, including, the players, coaches and members for their great support over the last couple of years and I wish them all the very best for the future.”



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