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‘We now bat better outside the UAE than in the UAE’ – Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur

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Born in Johannesburg, schooled at Westville Boys’ High, and fluent in Afrikaans, Mickey Arthur is as South African as they come. But Arthur hasn’t been here for five years, having last visited for a family funeral, and his intentions for this homecoming are clear: “I’ll make no secret of it, I’d love to come back here with a Pakistan team that is very talented, and win,” Arthur said after Pakistan arrived for three Tests, five ODIs and three T20Is.

Arthur’s first Christmas in the country of his birth for half a decade won’t involve much of the usual festive celebrations, and he insisted he “does not do” holidays. “Cricket is 24/7 for me,” Arthur added . “This is hard work. In fact, I’m working even harder here. But it is great to come back into an environment that I’m so familiar with.”

Arthur has brought a Test squad that is rebuilding around the experienced core of captain Sarfraz Ahmed, Azhar Ali, Mohammad Amir and Yasir Shah, and Arthur reckons they have a “good chance” of securing a first ever Test series win in the country.

“We’ve come here with a very exciting young team. It’s a team that’s starting to gel well together. We’ve played unbelievable white-ball cricket. Our 50-over team is on the up, our T20 team has been exceptional, but we sit trying to build up a Test team. It’s a young Test team at the moment, but a very exciting Test team. We really think we have a good chance out here.”

The last time Pakistan toured, playing three Tests in 2013, AB de Villiers scored two hundreds and was Player of the Series. There is a very different look to South Africa’s current squad, and Arthur suggested that while South Africa’s batting is still good without de Villiers, Pakistan’s bowling is better than it was five years ago.

“They’re a good batting line-up, they are, but we’re a very good bowling line-up. So we do feel we can make some inroads there, for sure. Our bowling attack is incredibly skillful in all conditions. The one thing we do know is that we’ve got a bowling attack that can take 20 wickets comfortably. Our challenge is getting ourselves to 350, 400. If we can get runs on the board, we know that we can get 20 wickets and we can bowl in all conditions.”

The visiting batsmen will be aiming to move ahead of the inconsistencies that saw them twice score more than 300 and twice being rolled for under 200 in the recent 2-1 loss to New Zealand. “I hate that word ‘inconsistency’ because we’re trying everything to try and make us more and more consistent,” said Arthur.

Indeed, the Pakistan coach is realistic about the challenge facing his batsmen, but also laid out a statement of intent for the current batting crop. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that the South African bowling attack is exceptionally good. We know that that’s going to be a real challenge.

“I’ll make a statement now, that our young batting group now bat better outside the UAE than they do in the UAE. There’s some very talented young batsmen there. They don’t stand on leg stump anymore. Our batsmen get to off stump, they cover the bounce, they cover the pace and they cover the swing. And they play very well in these conditions.”

As for the lower order, which folded so spectacularly to hand New Zealand a win and the early advantage in the series in the first Test in Abu Dhabi, Arthur joked: “They’re going to get a lot of hard nets.”

For Sarfraz, the key ingredient for his batsmen to prosper on South African tracks will be to play “positive cricket”, a mantra that he broke down thus: “You have to show intent. Positive is not just to play your shots all around the world, just like Fakhar Zaman. Only Fakhar Zaman can play like Fakhar Zaman, and we tell him to play his own game. But the other players also have to show intent and play positive cricket. You have to, to win series outside your country.”

After a warm-up against an Invitation XI, Pakistan’s tour will start with a historic Boxing Day Test match at Centurion – the first time that the annual fixture has moved inland from the coast since readmission. It’s a ground Arthur knows well, having played 17 times there during his domestic career with Griqualand West and Free State teams, but the character of the Centurion pitch has changed dramatically since his playing days.

“It’s changed totally,” Arthur agreed . “I was watching the Test match last year, and it looked like you were playing in the UAE. The surface was completely bare. I’m not sure what’s going on over there. If it does turn, then happy days. I’m not sure it will, but I watched the [Mzansi Super League] T20 game the other night, and the square did look a lot better. We just hope for good wickets. If there’s a bit of grass, then happy days as well, because we’ve got the bowlers to expose that.”

Before the first ball is bowled at Centurion, Arthur will no doubt catch up with friends and family in South Africa, and for him, South Africa is a “lekker plek om te kom speel (a great place to come and play),” but he doubled down on his intentions here. There will be, he says, “no holiday. I’ll enjoy only if we win.”



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Klinger dismissed after umpires miscount seven-ball over

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Normally a batsman would be grateful for an extra ball in a T20 match, but not this time. A miscalculation from the on-field umpires led to Michael Klinger being dismissed in controversial circumstances in the BBL match against Sydney Sixers at Perth Stadium.

Facing Ben Dwarshuis in the second over of Perth Scorchers’ chase, Klinger fell to the seventh legal delivery of the over when he upper cut a short ball to third man where Steve O’Keefe held a low catch.

The catch went to the third umpire to confirm it was a clean take, meaning there was an extended stoppage in play, and by then the potential of it being a seven-ball over had been spotted by the host broadcaster, but the Laws stated that the dismissal had to stand. A quick tally up of the previous six deliveries confirmed there hadn’t been any no-balls or wides missed.

Law 17.5.2 reads: “If the umpire miscounts the number of valid balls, the over as counted by the umpire shall stand.”

Cricket Australia issued a statement confirming there was no way to overturn the dismissal, but send they would address the error in their post-match review.

A CA spokesperson said: “It appears there was a miscount of balls in the over, and the seventh ball was allowed by umpires. As the ball was bowled it is deemed live and consequently the decision stands. The incident will be followed up in Cricket Australia’s general match review process and feedback will of course be taken on board.”



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‘Rishabh Pant very much part of our World Cup plans’ – MSK Prasad

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Rishabh Pant is “very much” part of India’s World Cup plans and his absence from the ODI squad currently taking on Australia is because he needed rest, according to MSK Prasad, the chairman of selectors.

“Rishabh Pant played three T20Is and four Test matches in Australia and that had an impact on his body,” Prasad told PTI. “He needed complete rest for two weeks and then we will take a call on how many matches he will play against England Lions. Let me put it straight, he is very much in our World Cup plans. He is a champion player in the making and even he is not fully aware the kind of potential he has.”

The England Lions team will tour India for five one-dayers and two unofficial Tests in January-February, and, as per Prasad, Pant is likely to feature in some of the one-dayers. Prasad also felt his selection committee was vindicated after picking Pant for the Test series in England in August, given his run with the bat and his glove work since then.

“Ravi (Shastri) and Virat (Kohli) had advised him to put his head down and respect the match situation, and he did exactly that,” Prasad said, referring to the 21-year-old’s century in the fourth Test in Sydney. “He proved that he can switch gears seamlessly. When we picked him for Tests, experts were sceptical about his keeping but 11 catches in a Test, record dismissals in Australia series proves that selection committee is vindicated.”

The latest young player Prasad’s panel has picked is Punjab’s Shubman Gill, who will join the team for their limited-overs tour of New Zealand. Prasad said that Gill had been picked as a reserve opener.

“Shubman is comfortable both opening the innings as well as playing in the middle-order. For the New Zealand series, we are looking at him as the reserve opener behind Shikhar (Dhawan) and Rohit (Sharma),” Prasad said. “I won’t comment if he will make it to World Cup but he was phenomenal as an opener for India A in New Zealand.

“We have discussed with Rahul (Dravid, the A-team coach) that Shubman is ready for international cricket. The best part is the clutch of A tours which has made all these players battle ready for the biggest challenge. Look at Hanuma Vihari and Mayank Agarwal… they don’t look intimidated when thrown into the deep end of the pool.”

Prasad’s panel had rested Jasprit Bumrah from the home Test series against West Indies that preceded the Australia tour, and he held that if Bumrah had played that series, the bowler wouldn’t have managed to play all four Tests in Australia, where he played a leading role in securing a series win for India.

“Trust me, had Jasprit played those two Tests against West Indies, he wouldn’t have played all four Tests against Australia,” Prasad said. “The support staff has really monitored him well. He is now fitter and stronger, and with [bowling coach] Bharat Arun continuously working with him, he has improved as a bowler.

“But a lot of credit should go to Jasprit because Arun gave him a plan but it was up to him to make the effort to implement the plan. He has really worked hard. When we first picked him, so many were sceptical whether it was prudent to pick a white-ball specialist but at the end of the year, we can all see the results.”



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Mustafizur’s three-run last over helps Rajshahi defend 135

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Rajshahi Kings 135 for 8 (Zakir 42*, Farhad 2-17) beat Rangpur Riders 130 for 6 (Rossouw 44*, Rabbi 2-22) by five runs

How the game played out

Mustafizur Rahman’s superb death-overs bowling hauled Rajshahi Kings to an unlikely five-run win over Rangpur Riders, who had seemed to be cruising until the 19th over of their 136-run chase. Mustafizur tied down Farhad Reza for three balls, before Rilee Rossouw scampered through for a bye off the fifth ball.

Rossouw, however, couldn’t force the game into a Super Over, as Mustafizur delivered a superb full ball that was squirted into the in-field for a single. Rossouw was unbeaten on 44 off 46 balls with three fours.

Earlier, the faltering Kings were boosted by a 54-run fourth-wicket stand between Mohammad Hafeez and Zakir Hasan, who top-scored with an unbeaten 36-ball 42, that kept the Kings on track till the 14th over. But they lost their way thereafter, making only 39 runs in the last five.

Turning points

  • Mashrafe slowing the Kings down by removing Soumya Sarkar in the sixth over, caught at long-on. Soumya had made an aggressive start, hitting two fours and a six in his 13-ball 18.

  • Ravi Bopara’s direct hit that ran out Mohammad Hafeez in the 14th over, after he and Zakir had helped the Kings recover with a 54-run stand following the three early wickets.

  • Mustafizur Rahman conceding only three runs in the last over, when Riders needed nine. He bowled three dot balls to Farhad Reza who, despite having a set Rossouw at the other end, kept swinging and missing.

Star of the day

Mustafizur kept his reputation as one of the best slog-over bowlers in the world, conceding just seven runs in two overs when the Kings needed to defend 22 runs off the last three overs.

The big miss

Rossouw would rue taking a single off the first ball of the last over, as Reza spent the next three swinging and missing.

Where the teams stand

The defending champions Riders have lost their third game in five outings, while Rajshahi have picked up their second win in four games.



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