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Malik, Usman lead Scotland rout of 84 runs



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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Brett Hutton helps put Northants in charge



Northamptonshire 4 for 1 trail Gloucestershire 125 (Hutton 4-65) by 121 runs

Brett Hutton played a starring role as Northamptonshire dominated Gloucestershire on the opening day at Bristol.

He claimed 4 for 65 as the hosts were shot out for 125 inside 55 overs on a day in which 35 overs were lost to bad light or rain.

Fellow new ball bowler Ben Sanderson weighed in with 2 for 16, while Nathan Buck took 3 for 32 to fully justify Alex Wakely’s decision to field on a green-tinged pitch beneath heavy cloud cover.

Eight of those dismissed were caught behind the wicket on a wretched day for batting as tail-enders David Payne and Craig Miles emerged as Gloucestershire’s highest scorers.

Pressed into service as a nightwatchman, Hutton fell lbw to Payne as Northants, required to negotiate two overs at the end of the day, reached the close on 4 for 1.

A model of consistency since joining Northants from Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire-born Hutton made the most of bowler-friendly conditions, extracting movement off the pitch to rip the heart out of Gloucestershire’s top and middle-order batting.

His initial intervention came in the second over of the day, left-handed opener Miles Hammond pushing tentatively at a ball outside off stump and edging behind to Adam Rossington without scoring to set the tone for what was to follow.

Hutton returned to the attack from the Ashley Down Road End after lunch, taking three wickets in 22 balls in a devastating burst which further reduced the hosts to 68 for 8. Having negotiated best part of two hours and 78 balls, obdurate Chris Dent finally surrendered his wicket for 15, edging a length ball from Hutton to third slip.

He then accounted for Ben Charlesworth and Ryan Higgins in rapid succession, having both caught behind, the latter via a top edge, to confirm East Midlands supremacy.

Fellow Yorkshireman Sanderson was also rewarded for bowling a consistent line and length, the 29-year-old taking two wickets to further erode the top order. James Bracey was squared up in offering a catch behind, while Benny Howell could only edge a late in-swinger to Richard Levi at third slip.

Ian Cockbain’s first Championship innings of the summer lasted just five balls, pinned lbw in the crease for a duck by Buck, while Levi again demonstrated safe hands when Ben Cotton located Jack Taylor’s outside edge as Gloucestershire limped to 57 for 5 at lunch.

Ball continued to beat bat with alarming regularity and Miles decided attack was the best form of defence, the Warwickshire-bound bowler helping himself to five boundaries in staging a valuable stand of 33 for the ninth wicket with Payne.

Buck wrapped up the innings, bowling Miles for 23 and then having last man Matt Taylor caught in the slips for nine, leaving Payne unbeaten on 23.

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Afghanistan, Bangladesh look to avoid Dubai detour



Big Picture

Having already qualified for the Super Four stage, after knocking out Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan will play the last league fixture in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. The incentive is that the winner will stay in Abu Dhabi while the losing team will have to move to Dubai in less than 12 hours to face the table-toppers from Group A the next day. Both teams will be wary of the oppressive heat in the UAE and will be hoping to avoid the Dubai detour.

Bangladesh have some injury issues, so resting Shakib Al Hasan (finger injury) and Mushfiqur Rahim (rib injury) would make sense. Similarly, it would make sense for captain Mashrafe Mortaza to rest on Thursday, instead of taking on the strain of potential back-to-back games for what is essentially a dead rubber. In that case, the likes of Abu Hider, Nazmul Islam and Ariful Haque will look to gain more exposure ahead of bigger challenges.

Afghanistan will focus on a familiar template: bat steadily for much of their 50 overs and look up to their seamers to provide support to their in-form spinners.

Rahmat Shah’s 72 off 90 balls against Sri Lanka in the previous match backed up a solid start from the openers and allowed the big-hitters to go after the bowlers in the end overs. Captain Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Nabi and Najibullah Zadran, meanwhile, will look to make more substantial contributions with the bat, while Hashmatullah Shahidi, who made 37 against Sri Lanka, will hope to capitalise on such starts.

But the key will be the three spinners – Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Nabi. Bangladesh had a hard time against Rashid in the three T20Is in June this year. Can they find a way past him in the UAE?

It might be a dead rubber, but both teams will be keen to build momentum and confidence going in to the business end of the tournament.

Form guide

Afghanistan: WWLWW (last five completed games, most recent first)
Bangladesh: WWLWL

In the spotlight

Mohammad Mithun made a confident 63 against Sri Lanka and helped Mushfiqur push the total beyond 250. Mithun has plenty of domestic and A team experience, but can he be consistent in international cricket and secure his middle-order position?

Rahmat Shah, who top scored with 72 against Sri Lanka, has played the Dhaka Premier League, and will be a familiar opponent for most of the Bangladesh players.

Team news

If Afghanistan look to rotate their squad, wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad and seamers Aftab Alam and Guladin Naib might get a break. Munir Ahmed Kakar, Samiullah Shenwari, Sayed Shirzad and Wafadar are options to replace them.

Afghanistan (probable): 1 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 2 Ihsanullah, 3 Rahmat Shah, 4 Asghar Afghan (capt), 5 Hashmatullah Shahidi, 6 Mohammad Nabi, 7 Najibullah Zadran, 8 Gulbadin Naib, 9 Rashid Khan, 10 Aftab Alam, 11 Mujeeb Ur Rahman

Nazmul Hossain Shanto could open for Bangladesh in place of the injured Tamim Iqbal while Mominul Haque, Abu Hider, Nazmul Islam and Ariful Haque could get some game-time in place of the seniors.

Bangladesh (probable): 1 Liton Das 2 Nazmul Hossain Shanto, 3 Shakib Al Hasan, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 5 Mahmudullah, 6 Mosaddek Hossain, 7 Mohammad Mithun, 8 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), 9 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 10 Rubel Hossain, 11 Mustafizur Rahman

Pitch and conditions

Dew was either not present in Abu Dhabi, or had no effect judging from the evidence of Afghanistan spinners’ total dominance over Sri Lanka.

Stats and Trivia

  • Mashrafe Mortaza is four wickets away from becoming the first Bangladeshi bowler to 250 ODI wickets. Overall, he will be the 17th fast bowler to the milestone.

  • Bangladesh have won three out of the five ODIs against Afghanistan.

  • Rahmat Shah is one match away from 50 ODIs. He will become the sixth Afghanistan player to the landmark after Mohammad Nabi, Mohammad Shahzad, Samiullah Shenwari, Dawlat Zadran and Asghar Afghan.


    “It is great to get off to a good start but what’s more important is that middle period; if you lose wickets in that period, then it really does hurt.”
    Bangladesh coach Steve Rhodes

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Troublesome ankle could sideline Vernon Philander until November



Vernon Philander has begun bowling rehabilitation this week as he recovers from an ankle injury that could sideline him until at least November.

Philander has struggled with his ankle since twisting it against India in late 2015 and while the latest recurrence of the niggle will not affect his Test-playing ability, it may impact his chances of making a case for World Cup selection.

If fit, Philander would have been picked alongside Dale Steyn for the upcoming ODIs against Zimbabwe but he will miss out. Philander also cannot be considered for the white-ball trip to Australia in October-November but may have an opportunity to return during the T20 tournament that is due to be played from early November to mid-December. However, it’s likely Philander will only make a comeback on Boxing Day, when South Africa host Pakistan.

Philander last played for South Africa in the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle in mid-July, where the injury flared up. He did not play the second Test in Colombo and has not played any county cricket or in any T20 leagues since as he concentrates on recovery. Surgery is an option, but that would require a longer recovery time and CSA’s medical team are opting for a more conservative approach.

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