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Malik, Usman lead Scotland rout of 84 runs

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Pakistan 166 for 6 (Malik 49*, Fakhar 33, Leask 3-31) beat Scotland 82 (MacLeod 25, Faheem 3-5) by 84 runs

Another T20I masterclass from Pakistan veteran Shoaib Malik propelled Pakistan towards a series win against Scotland, thumping the hosts by 84 runs in the second T20I at the Grange. Under overcast conditions with a light drizzle threatening to interrupt the game for most of the match, Shoaib exploded – much like the first game – in the last few overs, smashing five sixes as he blitzed 49 off 22 to help Pakistan surge to 166.

Unlike Tuesday, Scotland were never quite in the hunt for this one, losing George Munsey off the third ball, and never quite managing any momentum that might suggest a real contest could be on the cards. They were untidy with their running, rushed with their strokeplay and generally uncomfortable in the face of a sensational Pakistan in the field. It was a much improved bowling performance from the visitors, spearheaded by Usman Khan, who came in for Mohammad Amir, and registered figures of 2-0-4-2. Scotland began to fall away rather dramatically towards the end, with no less than three players run out as Kyle Coetzer’s men were bundled out for 82.

There was some drama before the start, with Cricket Scotland officials and the television production team locked in an argument over using a fresh pitch for this game. The TV crew were concerned their cameras couldn’t be in line with the bowler at one end of the pitch, the result being a slightly askew broadcast angle from the Pavilion End. It’s the sort of drama people associate, sometimes patronisingly, with cricket on the Associate landscape.

But Scotland wouldn’t have wanted the haphazardness to extend to their on-field performance. Pakistan got off to a flying start again, though Scotland were unfortunate not to have Fakhar Zaman out in the first over. Chris Sole extracted both an outside and an inside edge in the first six deliveries, the former put down in the slips, the latter narrowly missing the stumps. Both went for four. Sole had bowled an excellent first over, and conceded 12 runs.

Shehzad and Zaman put on 60 for the first wicket, but Scotland, just as they had done in the first game, struck back in the middle overs. The runs were restricted right up until the last two overs, with batsmen unable to kick on from starts in the face of tight, disciplined bowling from Scotland’s bowlers, particularly Mark Watt and Michael Leask.

But Shoaib Malik came to Pakistan’s rescue once more, with a whirlwind last two overs, scoring 32 off Pakistan’s 34 runs as they turned a slightly below-par score into an imposing one of 166. He was put down at the end of the 19th over on the long off boundary, a simple catch that Leask failed to hold on to. Just as Tuesday, the drops cost Scotland dear in the field as Shoaib went on to score 14 in the final over, leaving Scotland to ponder how to improve their fielding against a quality opposition like the one they faced today.

The pitch looked no worse than the one used on Tuesday, where 200 seemed about par. But the change of pitch today meant the long-on/ midwicket boundary from one side of the ground was rather large, and shots that would have comfortably carried over the ropes on Tuesday were being caught 10m inside the boundary on the field. That restricted Pakistan to the relatively modest 166, and made it arguably a more searching chase than the previous one might have been.

However, at no stage of the Scottish innings did their batsmen begin to establish any sort of relationship with the boundary rope. Pakistan circled around them in the infield, and the pitch looked a fair bit faster when the Pakistan bowlers were operating on it. Usman isn’t a regular starter for Pakistan, but when in form, almost always seems to make a match-winning difference. He hurried on to the batsmen, and as the rain began to get slightly heavier, the Scottish mood began to match the Edinburgh weather. They could do little more than shuffle around for ones and twos and get the odd boundary, but it was never nearly enough to challenge the ever-rising asking rate.

It was unfortunate to see the home side losing their heads towards the end, with a couple of unnecessary run-outs easing Pakistan’s way to an inevitable win they didn’t need any help with. Calum MacLeod was the man at the other end for all three of Scotland’s run-outs, but you’d be hard-pressed to blame him for any of them, what with the Pakistan fielders prowling, looking to save every run as the asking rate bounded out of sight. Faheem Ashraf came back to polish off the last two wickets, giving his figures a shiny new look by the end, having taken three wickets for five runs.

By the end, Pakistan’s dominance was so absolute, it was easy to forget the strides Scotland have made over the past few years. It would be harsh to focus on the manner of the defeat, and more prudent to reflect on the professionalism with which Pakistan have moved on from a Test series against England to a T20I series in Edinburgh, never letting their focus waver, and fielding a full-strength team when several others might have chosen to rest players. It was apt respect to pay to a side that has very much earned it over the last week.



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‘Reverse swan’ Root praises England for sticking to attacking mindset

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Joe Root said that he had batted like a “reverse swan” – visibly frantic but internally calm – after his brilliant second-innings hundred had helped carry England into a position of authority on the third day at Pallekele.

Root made 124 from 146 balls, with ten fours and two sixes, as England reached 324 for 9 before rain brought about an early finish. It was his 15th Test century, and one of his best yet, as it helped to build a lead of 278 – a priceless advantage going into the fourth innings on a spinning deck.

“To start I felt a bit all over the place, a bit hectic,” Root told Sky Sports. “I was like a reverse swan – I felt quite calm underneath but the legs were flapping on the outside.

“It was just about trying to get the bowlers to bowl in the areas you want to, take a few risks early, and get used to how the surface is playing.

“Once I’d got to about 20-odd, and got a few boundaries away, I felt I was picking the lengths in terms of sweeping. It made things a lot easier, and I was able to start working out a really good method on that surface.”

Root’s methods were a continuation of England’s unconventional approach to Asian conditions – having been guilty of dying wondering on their more recent visits to the subcontinent, most notably during their 4-0 defeat in India two years ago, they have resolved on this trip to keep the runs coming instead of waiting for the unplayable ball to send them on the way.

“Those are the guys’ natural games,” he said. “You’ve got to play to your advantage, and we’ve certainly done that throughout this tour with the bat.”

“The guys have not been shy of experimenting. They’ve been trying to develop themselves and with that it gives the team a better opportunity to score on a wide range of circumstances. Even when we lost wickets in a cluster, we still managed to score at 4.5/5 an over at times. It felt at no point were we under real big amounts of pressure, we were exerting it back on to them.”

Root admitted that calculated risks had been one aspect of England’s play, but said that there had been moments when run-scoring was a obvious option that stone-walled defence.

“You try to play it on the line,” he said. “a left-arm spinner bowling outside off stump, you might want to sweep. It’s free shot, it’s not going to hit the stumps or get you lbw, so it might be a better option than playing from the straight.

“Similarly for the offspinners, you want to mess around with the lines and which areas are best for them to bowl at. You play little individual games, you and your partner at the other end, and the best thing about it was that we kept the board going at a really good rate, which was credit to the guys to come out and play that way.

“We’re not going to get it right all the time but we’ve given ourselves a chance in this game,” he said. “And if we bowl well on this surface we’ll hopefully create at least ten chances.”

Root paid particular tribute to Rory Burns, who made his first Test half-century at the top of the order, and set the tone for England’s approach in spite of the early loss of the nightwatchman, Jack Leach.

“Losing Leach early, we had a bit of a deficit so there was the temptation to go into our shells, but the guys played with freedom, good courage, but with respect to some good balls out there as well.

“Burns came out to bat with calmness, in control of what he’s trying to do, he was unflappable if you like. When you watch him bat, he has everything there to go on and have a really good Test career.”

The overnight rain threatens to add an extra layer of intrigue to Sri Lanka’s run-chase, as and when it gets underway at the fall of England’s final wicket.

“It’ll be interesting to see how the pitch plays with this amount of rain tonight,” said Root. “If it tacks it up and makes it spin a bit more, or holds it together a bit better. The most important thing is that we recognise what it’s going to be like and adapt very quickly.

“We may have over-attacked with some of the fields in the first innings, we saw it spin and got a bit giddy, myself in particular, but it might just be that we have to hold a bit longer, be a bit more patient and hit the stumps more often.”



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Stephen Fleming helps lure Dwayne Bravo to Melbourne Stars

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Dwayne Bravo has moved across Melbourne, switching the Renegades for the Stars, ahead of the 2018-19 Big Bash with Stephen Fleming’s presence as coach a major lure for the allrounder who has committed to the entire tournament.

Bravo, who recently announced his retirement from international cricket, completes the Stars’ overseas names for the forthcoming season, joining the legspin duo of Matt Parkinson and Sandeep Lamichhane who will share a spot.

Bravo has formed a strong relationship with Fleming through their time with Chennai Super Kings, the current IPL champions.

“I’ve worked with Dwayne for a number of years in the IPL and have always thought he’d be a great addition to the Stars dressing room,” Fleming said. “He’s obviously got his flamboyant side, which is great entertainment for the crowd and can really lift the energy on-field, but it’s his attacking style with both the bat and ball that can turn a game.

“We have a lot of brilliant young players coming through at the Stars and balancing that we’re bringing in one of the most experienced T20 players in the world.”

The Stars finished bottom in last year’s BBL – with just two victories in 10 matches – and are putting a large stock in legspin to help turn their fortunes around, but will also hope for a significant impact from Bravo’s death-bowling skills and middle-order striking.

“I’ve worked with Stephen Fleming before, he’s a great coach and I’m sure we can do great things together at the Stars,” Bravo said.

This season’s tournament has expanded to include a full slate of home-and-away matches with the competition beginning on December 19 and finishing on February 17.



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Gold Coast’s debut something ‘a bit different’ for T20I

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Big Picture

Why are Australia and South Africa playing a one-off T20 international? On the Gold Coast? Because Cricket Australia are seeking to add this long-trumpeted “growth area” for Australian sport to its list of regular and reliable markets. While numerous other sports – be it AFL, A-League soccer or rugby league – have had assorted misadventures trying to situate clubs in an area known for a large but transient population, CA’s approach is driven more by the concept of capitalising on holiday-makers with individual matches rather than setting up an entire team. This fixture is to be followed up by the Big Bash League in December.

“The Gold Coast is an unusual market when you think about it,” the head of the BBL, Kim McConnie, said earlier this year. “It’s the sixth-largest city in Australia and at that time of the year [in December], it is a very different market; the influx they have of tourism means the landscape changes pretty significantly. A lot of those tourists are from Sydney and Melbourne, so when we looked at it we thought ‘let’s do something a bit different and bring another team there as well’.”

All these largely commercial considerations leave the teams of Aaron Finch and Faf du Plessis pitted against one another for a single contest that appears to be unbalanced by one major factor. While South Africa still have their full bowling attack to call upon, Australia are without Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon due to their concurrent preparation for the Test series against India.

Form guide

Australia LLLWL
South Africa WWLLW

In the spotlight

Having broken all manner of records with his tee-off double century for Western Australia in the domestic limited overs tournament, D’Arcy Short struggled in the UAE against Pakistan, and by the final match found himself demoted to the lower end of the middle order. More familiar climes should see a return to opening alongside Aaron Finch, a position from which Short has the chance to get himself established at the crease and then show the sort of ball-striking skill that had spectators ducking for cover at Hurstville Oval.

A spectator so far on this tour, Tabraiz Shamsi should get the opportunity to probe for Australia’s well-known weaknesses against spin in T20. His combustible on-field personality should also make for some intriguing exchanges with an Australian team wary of provocation by opponents given their highly publicised identity crisis and cultural review in the wake of Newlands.

Team news

With Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins in Test match preparation mode, the bowling line-up will change significantly. Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa duel for the spin spot, while Jason Behrendorff competes for a pace spot with AJ Tye, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Billy Stanlake.

Australia (probable) 1 Aaron Finch (capt), 2 D’Arcy Short, 3 Chris Lynn, 4 Ben McDermott, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Alex Carey (wk), 7 Marcus Stoinis, 8 Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9 Adam Zampa, 10 AJ Tye, 11 Billy Stanlake

In the absence of JP Duminy, South Africa have some batting order shuffling to do, which may see David Miller promoted as he was for the ODI series.

South Africa (probable) 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Reeza Hendricks, 3 Faf du Plessis (capt), 4 David Miller, 5 Heinrich Klassen 6 Aiden Markram, 7 Dwaine Pretorius, 8 Andile Phehlukwayo, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Lungi Ngidi, 11 Tabraiz Shamsi

Pitch and conditions

The Gold Coast Stadium curator Kerry Betihavas has made it clear he is trying to prepare a surface as brimful of runs as possible, eyeing off the possibility of 200-plus scores for the ground’s international debut. Possible evening thunderstorms are forecast.

Stats and Trivia

  • Gold Coast Stadium becomes the fifth international venue in Queensland, after the Exhibition Ground and the Gabba in Brisbane, Cazaly’s Stadium in Cairns and Tony Ireland Stadium in Townsville

  • Australia have won 11 of 17 T20I meetings with South Africa, including the two most recent matches in 2016

Quotes

“A team win would be nice, that is priority No. 1, but if I can contribute a few runs that would be a bonus. The boys are training hard, working hard in the nets, hitting them well, and in the change rooms all the boys have a smile on their face. We hope we can turn it around, get a couple of results and get some momentum.”
Chris Lynn

“Football [has] a situation where it’s playing for your clubs and then there’s an international tournament. In my opinion that’s a good place for T20 cricket to be in, because you shouldn’t be trying to compete with the leagues because they are so strong at the moment.”
Faf du Plessis gives his views on where T20Is sit



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