Not having played an international game in over a year, and having been kicking around the squad through the course of the ODIs without quite getting into the XI, Doug Bracewell was chuffed he finally had an opportunity to impress. That it was with the bat that he made an impact, was especially sweet.
Although something of a consistent scorer of lower-order runs in domestic cricket – he has two first-class hundreds and 17 fifties to his name – Bracewell had thus far been only a sporadic run-scorer during his intermittent stints with the national team. Before Friday, his best limited-overs score had been 30.
His outstanding 44 off 26 balls, though, has now announced that Bracewell has a hitherto unseen dimension to his game at the top level. Having arrived at the crease at 55 for 5, it is possible New Zealand would have been blown away in Auckland were it not for Bracewell’s hitting, which fetched him five sixes and the game’s top score.
He was involved in a 47-run stand with Ross Taylor, before debutant Scott Kuggeleijn joined him for a 41-run partnership.
“It’s really good for my confidence, to be honest,” Bracewell said after the game. “I haven’t shown my abilities at the international level, which has been frustrating, and at times I’ve put myself under pressure and tried a bit too hard. It hasn’t worked out. I went back to basics, and got an opportunity to bat a bit of time today. Batting with Ross, who is an experienced player, helped as well. It was nice to get a few shots away.”
Having been left out of the XI for the three ODIs, it seemed as if Bracewell would have to wait for the forthcoming India and Bangladesh tours for a match, after he was initially left out of the T20I squad. An injury to James Neesham, though, allowed him to enter the squad as a replacement. He has now made a strong case for being picked more regularly, having also taken 1 for 19 with the ball.
“I didn’t get a chance in the one-dayers, but that’s international cricket. I tried not to put myself under too much pressure, and went out and enjoyed it. I was pretty stoked to contribute with the bat and with the ball. I was pretty happy just to get back in the mix with the team. It is frustrating when you’re not being picked. But you’re there to do a job when needed.”
Captain Tim Southee lauded the fight Bracewell showed, in a match in which New Zealand had to fight back more than once.
“For Doug to come out and put up a performance like that with someone who is on debut in this format – Scott Kuggeleijn – it just shows you the character of the guys and the never-die attitude,” Southee said. “Doug’s got a bit of experience at this level, but it’s not easy to come out when you’ve sat out a few games and play the way he did – play his natural way.”
‘Plan of controlling run rate worked’ – Amir
Mohammad Amir may have taken time to put plans into action, but South Africa found themselves in a straitjacket once he began to execute them. Having gone wicketless despite being the tightest of the Pakistan bowlers in a pair of sessions where South Africa scored close to four runs per over, the left-arm fast bowler found his rewards after tea.
For his part, Amir said the riches he and his fellow bowlers found after tea had to do with sticking to the plans more effectively than they had done on a surface that offers more to the batsmen than the previous two did.
“When the batsman is settled in, he can get the runs. It’s very difficult to control the run rate but as I said, if you stick with the plans, you can get rewards,” he said. “You have to bowl as a combination. It’s a bowling unit so we have to back each other up. I think (Mohammad) Abbas and I were doing that because that was the plan to control the run rate. That’s why we were successful.”
Numbers show Amir was most effective just short of a good length. Of the 27 balls, he conceded nine runs; it was also the length that brought him both wickets. In addition, the South African batsmen were in control for just 70.3% of the deliveries Amir bowled at that length, the least comfortable they were at any length for any bowler all innings.
Amir said there wasn’t a special plan for any batsmen, but added that Aiden Markram had played exceptionally well and required the greatest effort to bring back under control.
“I was bowling with the same plan. He was a good batsman playing very good shots. We were bowling with the plan, we had to bowl on middle and off. We don’t want to give him runs and we did it.”
Pakistan’s bowling fightback aside, the mood after the high of the final session would be slightly sullied by losing two early wickets in an awkward seven overs before stumps. Most worryingly, it was the man in form, Shan Masood, and the man supposed to be the leader of the batting attack, Azhar Ali, who succumbed before play, leading Amir to believe the game was very much in the balance.
“It’s a 50/50 call [on who won the day],” he said. “It’s Test cricket and you can’t predict anything before the match ends. We have to bat well and if we don’t lose a wicket in the first session (on Saturday) we have a good chance. We are teammates and we have to back up each other. It’s cricket and anything can happen. Sometimes I didn’t bowl well and sometimes you struggle with the batting. It’s all about momentum.”
Scotland call up uncapped Adrian Neill, Chris Greaves for Oman tour
Scotland men have named the uncapped Adrian Neill and Chris Greaves in their 14-member squad for their first ever tour of Oman, where they will feature in a T20I quadrangular series, from February 13 to 17, that also involves Netherlands and Ireland, followed by a 50-over series against the hosts. Fast-bowling allrounder Ruaidhri Smith, who had an impressive T20 season with Glamorgan, also returns to the national fold.
For what will be Scotland’s first international assignment since the T20I tri-series in Netherlands in June, which also included Ireland, allrounder Dylan Budge and the quick-bowling trio of Chris Sole, Brad Wheal and Stuart Whittingham are the prominent exclusions.
Speaking about the make-up of the squad, acting head coach Toby Bailey said: “We are delighted that Adrian Neill has developed so much in the last year with the help of Gloucestershire and Owen Dawkins who will also join the coaching staff for the tour. Adrian now has the engine and skills to match his 6-foot-8 frame to be a real menace at international level.
“We also wanted to introduce the legspin skill set of Chris Greaves and it will be exciting to see this other dimension added to our spin unit. Chris impressed at the end of the Tilney T20 series and in La Manga. He also adds strength to the batting line up down the order and has recently been training with Pakistan in South Africa, learning from Yasir Shah and Shadab Khan.
“We are also excited to see Ruaidhri Smith back in the squad after a successful T20 campaign with Glamorgan, including a 4-6 against Middlesex. He will not only add strength to our seam attack but also to the batting and fielding unit. Ruaidhri also impressed in La Manga and it will be great to see him back in a Scotland shirt.
“We are looking forward to the challenge of continuing the success of last year, and the quadrangular tournament and one day series against Oman represent an ideal opportunity to do this.”
The quadrangular series will be played on February 13, 15 and 17, before the three-match series gets underway.
Scotland squad: Kyle Coetzer (capt), Richie Berrington, Matthew Cross, Alasdair Evans, Chris Greaves, Michael Leask, Calum MacLeod, George Munsey, Adrian Neill, Safyaan Sharif, Ruaidhri Smith, Hamza Tahir, Craig Wallace, Mark Watt
IN: Ruaidhri Smith, Adrian Neill and Chris Greaves
OUT: Dylan Budge, Chris Sole, Brad Wheal and Stuart Whittingham
Jury in Alex Hepburn rape trial discharged after failing to reach verdict | Cricket
The jury in the trial of Alex Hepburn, the former Worcestershire cricketer who was accused of raping a sleeping woman, has been discharged after failing to reach a verdict.
The case at Worcester Crown Court was adjourned on Friday afternoon, the fifth day of the trial, after the 12-person jury failed to reach a majority verdict following more than nine hours of deliberation.
Hepburn, 23, now faces the prospect of a retrial after pleading not guilty to two counts of rape, following his initial arrest in April 2017.
In the course of the trial it was claimed that the alleged victim, who cannot be named, had awoken during the attack, having initially assumed Hepburn to be Joe Clarke, his Worcestershire team-mate, with whom she had had consensual sex earlier in the night.
Hepburn, who was born in Western Australia and moved to England in 2013 to pursue his cricket career, told the court that he had previously arranged to sleep in his friend’s room, and did not see the woman until he was in bed beside her.
The case brought to light what was described in court as a “sexual conquest game” on the social media app WhatsApp, involving a number of Worcestershire’s players, including Hepburn and Clarke.
Miranda Moore QC, for the prosecution, alleged that Hepburn had been “fired up” by his desire to win the competition, having posted the rules of the game to the WhatsApp group five days before the alleged attack.
Hepburn, giving evidence, had claimed the WhatsApp group was “meant to be nothing more than immature chat between a group of friends”, adding that he was embarrassed that his family had had to see the comments that he had made.
The Crown Prosecution Service will now discuss the prospect of a retrial with the lawyers and the judge, Jim Tindal, with a decision due in 14 days’ time.
It is also understood that the ECB, the PCA and Worcestershire CCC are paying close attention to the case, with the behaviour of the club’s players likely to come under scrutiny from the Cricket Discipline Commission, irrespective of the verdict.
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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