At the end of an English summer and an Ashes series that had provided so many passages to remember, Jofra Archer and Matthew Wade squared up for the last of them. Archer was striving for a final burst of wickets to seal the Test, Wade for a century to underline his re-emergence as a batsman of quality after too many years as an indifferent wicketkeeper.
Even if the Ashes were already Australia’s and the match was more or less already England’s, 24,000 spectators were transfixed one more time as Archer, for the umpteenth time, backed up his words that the touring coach Justin Langer had “another thing coming” after suggesting that Test cricket would beat the 24-year-old down with its sheer physical brutality.
Undoubtedly, Wade had enriched the occasion through his series-long dialogue when in the field, yammering away at whoever would listen and many who would not, at one point talking across Archer about their shared history at the Hobart Hurricanes and how, in the opinion of Travis Head, the fast man would be moving across Bass Strait to the Adelaide Strikers next summer. All this history, plus the sense that this was summer’s final fling, made for a wondrous contest.
“We all thought he’d slow down eventually but I can tell you that, through that spell, he certainly didn’t slow down too much, and he kept coming,” Wade said. “I was saying to Patty ‘he’s going again’. Patty was like ‘you’re right, you’ll get through’. I was like ‘yeah, we’ve been saying that for four overs now!’. He just keeps coming and coming. It’s good hard Test cricket, I was feeling comfortable with the way I was playing.
“I felt like I could deal with what he was delivering, and he obviously thought he could rip my head off or get me out. It was a good battle, there was a little bit of banter, no words really. Just good, hard Test cricket. That’s what I expected coming into an Ashes series, I’d never played an Ashes series before and the way Jofra has taken to Test cricket – I knew he was obviously a freakish talent – and when he was around the England team I knew he’d be playing this series.
“That’s what Test cricket is. Especially Ashes cricket, you’ve got to be ready for the contest. It’s a take-no-prisoners kind of environment when you walk onto the ground and when you walk off the ground, all is forgotten. You move on with your lives, hopefully he comes to Hobart and plays with me again but we’ll wait and see. That’s the way it is.”
At the height of the battle, Archer struck Wade a stinging blow on the shoulder, something the Tasmanian did his very best to shrug off. “A little bit of a bruise. I wasn’t showing him too much, I wasn’t letting him know, that would have got him going again. I don’t know how many overs he bowled in a row, it felt like a long, long time so I wasn’t showing him too much pain. I was just trying to get through it.”
The spell, all up, lasted for eight overs and ended wicketless. Wade went on to his fourth Test century, going a long way to shoring up his spot for the Gabba Test against Pakistan in November, and demonstrating how he had, at critical times, found ways to survive more effectively than the other left-handers on the tour – none of whom managed to reach three figures. Wade walked towards Australia’s viewing area to toast his century, applauded by none other than Steve Waugh, who had seen off similar bursts by Curtly Ambrose and company decades before.
“I think the new ball was obviously quite difficult for our left-handers at the top of the order, with the way Stuart [Broad] was bowling, scrambled seam as well,” Wade said. “To be honest through the middle – facing Stuart and Jofra, I was quite comfortable facing those two through the whole tour. So I can only speak on what I faced. I obviously hit the ball in slightly different areas to the guys at the top of the order. But no doubt, the guys at the top of the order would love to have scored a lot more runs.
“Round the wicket was really, really effective to our left-handers at the top of the order, But personally I felt quite comfortable against those two. I bat on an off stump guard, and feel like if they get outside my body I can leave them. If they come straight, I’ve got to hit it, otherwise I’m in trouble. But we’ve got to get better in all departments. Barring Smithy, nobody really lit it up this tour for us.”
Whether or not Wade is still playing Test cricket in two years is very much an open question, but he reckoned that Archer would pose a considerable, if somewhat different, challenge on faster and truer Australian pitches. “I think he’ll be a handful on any pitch he plays on. Traditionally Australia is a little bit easier to play the short ball especially, because of the consistency of the bounce,” he said. “You can get under balls, but in this series you saw a lot of guys ducking into balls, myself included.
“The pace of the wickets aren’t the same as what we have, and the consistency in Australia. He’ll be hard work, you’ve gotta bowl probably a touch fuller than what you can bowl sometimes over here with the slowness of the pitches and not as much bounce. But he’s going to be a handful on any pitch that he bowls on over the next couple of years, and Australia will be no different. At least with his bouncer you can trust that you can get underneath it which will be nice, instead of copping it on the body.”
Reflecting on the series, Wade defended his verbally active ways, and there were certainly few signs of animosity at the end-of-season party, as both teams mixed freely. “That’s the great thing about Ashes cricket and the way this series was played,” Wade said. “There was no abuse throughout this series – it was hard Test cricket. I know there’s been a lot of stuff reported and written, on the ground it’s just been good, hard cricket. I can only speak for myself, and for the whole team in our dressing room. Once you walk off the ground, all is forgotten.
“We don’t really need to jump in and talk about in the media. Whatever happens on the ground stays on the ground, that’s just the way Australian cricket teams play. But I can tell you now it’s been a tame series compared to other series I’ve played in.”
Tame, though, did not reflect how consuming the atmosphere of an Ashes series can be. Even Wade, who had spoken at length after his Edgbaston century about the perspective he had found since his previous stint in the national team, admitted that it was easy to get caught up.
“It’s been difficult at times. I think you get caught up at times in the whirlwind of Test cricket, and this series and everything that’s reported,” he said. “”It can grind on you pretty quick. I’m lucky to have my family over here, two kids keep you away from the game a lot and keep your mind off the game and they don’t care too much what’s going on at the ground.
“But it is important to understand that it is only a game and that everyone is doing their best, and when we walk away in 20 years there won’t be too many people talking about us.”
But they will talk, for many years, about Archer and Wade at The Oval, just like they will about Smith, Stokes, Broad, Cummins and the bewitching summer of 2019. Rightly so.
CSA chief urges fans to be patient, give ‘new generation time to settle’
Cricket South Africa (CSA) chief executive Thabang Moroe has called on fans to show patience with the South Africa team as they trail 2-0 in the Test series in India, which comes after a loss in the T20I series.
South Africa made wide-ranging changes to their cricket structure following a poor performance at the World Cup, including the removal of a traditional coach role and the appointment, instead, of a football-style team manager. With several senior players also moving on, Moroe pointed out that the transitional phase was bound to be rocky.
“It was always going to be a difficult challenge taking on the top team in the world – certainly under their own conditions – in India at a time when we have introduced a new team structure,” Moroe said in a press statement. “In the past two years we have had to bid farewell to some of the great names of international cricket such as AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn who between them played nearly 450 Test matches for the Proteas.
“You don’t replace that kind of experience overnight and we need to give a new generation time to settle.”
South Africa haven’t won a Test in India since February 2010, when they beat India by an innings in Nagpur. In most Tests since, they have not even managed to push India, and the only non-loss was in a game that was washed out. They seemed to have turned a corner in the first Test of the ongoing series, with centuries from Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock helping them to a total of more than 400 in the first innings. But in every innings since, the inexperienced top order has collapsed and left them with little to fight with. It is symptomatic of a poor year across formats for South Africa, who also lost a Test series to Sri Lanka at home before the World Cup.
“These things take time and I am confident that we will already see improvement in our next Test series when England are our visitors during the festive season,” Moroe said. “I am sure that our supporters will rally behind them on home turf. These are, in fact, exciting times for South African cricket with new names and faces coming to the fore. Our talent pipeline has produced the likes of Aiden Markram, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Zubayr Hamza over the last few years and our development systems are clearly in good shape.
“There is a huge incentive on our young players to put pressure on the incumbents. There is nothing like good competition for places that brings out the best in all.”
Moroe’s sentiments were echoed by CSA’s acting director of cricket, Corrie van Zyl.
“We need to appreciate the quality that is in this Indian side. This is an Indian team that has been together for some time now and is well accustomed to playing in their home conditions,” van Zyl said. “I strongly believe we, as the Proteas, have the players to win games and the youngsters will come right. The team are constantly trying to find ways to win. It’s not like they’re not doing a great job with it. We believe in them that they’re going to make the right decisions to do the best they can do to help us win Test matches.”
The third and final Test of the series begins in Ranchi on Saturday.
Recent Match Report – Barbados Tridents vs Guyana Amazon Warriors, Caribbean Premier League, Final
Barbados Tridents 171 for 6 (Carter 50*, Charles 39, Tahir 1-24) beat Guyana Amazon Warriors 144 for 9 (King 43, Reifer 4-24, Nurse 2-17, Gurney 2-24) by 27 runs
When the New England Patriots defeated the New York Giants 38-35 to end the 2007 NFL regular season, they became the first American Football team to go undefeated since the league expanded to a 16-game format. But the game exposed vulnerabilities that gave the Giants a blueprint to beat the Patriots in their rematch in Super Bowl XLII 17-14.
Last Sunday, Guyana Amazon Warriors defeated Barbados Tridents to take their CPL record unbeaten streak to 11 matches by posting 218 for 3 behind Brandon King’s record century. What was lost in the shuffle of that match was that the Tridents actually made a serious fist of the chase, ending on 188 with Jonathan Carter top-scoring to make 49 off 26, as some vulnerabilities started to appear.
Bucking the T20 trend of teams opting to chase, Tridents’ success through much of CPL 2019 has been in defending totals. Given a chance to bat first in the CPL Final at Brian Lara Academy, Carter produced a stirring roundhouse kidney punch that stopped Amazon Warriors dead in their tracks. Unable to dance around the ring, Amazon Warriors’ chase was floored by a collective effort from Jason Holder’s bowling unit, as the Tridents produced a stunning upset to claim their second CPL title, and first since 2014, by knocking off the Warriors to thwart their undefeated title bid and a fifth CPL final loss.
Having to go without their second-leading scorer JP Duminy, who sat out with a hamstring injury picked up in Thursday’s win over Trinbago Knight Riders, Tridents got off to a solid start in the first ten overs to reach 76 for 3. But after Shai Hope fell in the 12th over, the chase went haywire with Shakib Al Hasan involved in a pair of runouts.
The first came four balls after Hope’s wicket as Holder flicked to deep midwicket. Shakib hared down three strides ahead of Holder for the first run and was already a quarter of the way back for a second before Holder had turned at the non-striker’s end. Keemo Paul had covered the ground well to field and relay to Nicholas Pooran over the striker’s stumps as Holder came back reluctantly in response to Shakib and wound up being out by a foot.
Shakib created an identical situation with Carter two overs later after the latter drove out to extra cover. Once again, Shakib was three steps ahead and started coming back for a second run, but Carter was slow getting out of the crease after striking the ball and wasn’t interested in the second, but made his decision too late for Shakib. This time Paul’s throw dragged Pooran well away from the stumps but Shakib had given up and the keeper’s throw from five yards away was true, leaving the score 109 for 6 with 31 balls left.
Upset the Apple Cart(er)
Against the Knight Riders on Thursday, Ashley Nurse and Raymon Reifer plundered 43 off the last two overs to salvage a floundering innings and get up past 160 on a traditionally low-scoring ground. On this occasion, it was Nurse and Carter who resurrected the Tridents in the waning overs.
Carter took the lead with a trio of fabulous straight drives for six before and another over midwicket. The bulk of that came in the 19th over off Paul, who leaked 17 in the frame as momentum swung sharply toward Tridents. Nurse then took his swipes at Romario Shepherd in the 20th with a six and four to start the final over before Carter struck a two to bring up a 26-ball half-century as Tridents ended with 63 off the last 31 balls to post a total that looked like it was well above par based on past evidence.
USA 3, rest of CPL 2
Coming into the final, Shoaib Malik had only been dismissed four times in 11 innings. Two of those came at the hands of Knight Riders fast bowler Ali Khan and Tridents legspinner Hayden Walsh Jr., the only two Americans playing in the tournament. Walsh Jr. added Shoaib for a second time on Saturday night to cap his season with a tournament-best 22 wickets in just nine matches.
After Raymon Reifer had set back Amazon Warriors in the Powerplay with the wickets of Chandrapaul Hemraj and Shimron Hetmyer, Shoaib came to the middle but was not his usual fluent self. After reaching 4 off 10 balls, he got a half-tracker from Walsh Jr. that should have gone for six but failed to get the elevation, a microcosm of his lack of rhythm on the night as he picked out Reifer at deep midwicket. It put Walsh Jr. on the path to ensure an American would raise the CPL trophy for the second year in a row after Khan with Knight Riders in 2018.
The Warriors were still in with a chance of overhauling the target as long as the tournament’s leading scorer was at the crease. Brandon King was looking sharp but struggled for support at the other end, causing him to lose patience. On the last ball of the 11th over, King charged impetuously at Nurse and turned a full ball into a yorker, playing over the top as it slid past leg stump for a simple stumping by Hope.
Another half-tracker claimed another big scalp for the second time in the chase as Pooran toe-slapped a long hop from Nurse to Alex Hales at long-on. Harry Gurney and Reifer then continued to whittle through the middle order until 41 were required off 12 balls. Paul holed out to long-on off Gurney in the 19th and with 33 needed off the last over, Reifer mathematically clinched it by having Chris Green slashing an edge behind, giving him the best bowling figures ever in a CPL Final.
With their backs against the wall playing a de-facto elimination match in the penultimate game of the regular season against St. Lucia Zouks, Tridents stormed back to life and by the end, snuffing out Amazon Warriors’ fairy-tale season with a Cinderella finish of their own.
Match Preview – Barbados Tridents vs Guyana Amazon Warriors, Caribbean Premier League 2019, Final
When most of us think of CPL star power on the domestic player front, the first names that roll off the tongue are of Andre Russell, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Darren Sammy, Sunil Narine and the like. But this year’s tournament has suggested that a change of guard maybe on the cards, with none of those big names taking part in the final, to be played between perennial bridesmaids Guyana Amazon Warriors and a resurgent Barbados Tridents.
In past years, the Amazon Warriors have fallen short after building their team around overseas stars like Rashid Khan, Martin Guptill and Chris Lynn. Most of their additions during draft time in 2019 may have flown under the radar, but coach Johan Botha has cultivated incredible chemistry to produce the most remarkable winning streak in CPL history, currently standing at 11 matches.
Yes, the Amazon Warriors have their share of established talent. Captain Shoaib Malik has provided metronomic consistency in the middle order with 313 runs at an average of 78.25. Imran Tahir‘s manic sprints have shown few signs of slowing down with each wicket celebration, leading the team with 15 scalps. Chris Green has been miserly and incisive with his new-ball offspin. Nicholas Pooran, Sherfane Rutherford and Shimron Hetmyer have provided the muscle and flair to give them the late kick when needed.
But their improbable record is equally due to the contributions from a number of unheralded and often underappreciated players. Brandon King was taken in the ninth round of the 2019 draft in the traditional US$ 15,000 slot but he is the tournament’s leading scorer with 453 runs. Romario Shepherd was taken a round later in the US$ 10,000 position but has needled opposition batsmen with 12 wickets to stem momentum in the middle overs. Chandrapaul Hemraj lasted until round 13 in a US$ 5,000 slot, yet has been a handy foil for King at the top of the order and has also chipped in with key overs of left-arm spin in the powerplay, like the 3 for 15 to plough through the defending champions Trinbago Knight Riders.
The Tridents’ record has a few more blemishes, but their formula to reach the final has not been much different. Johnson Charles, discarded by West Indies in 2016, has powered their starts with a team-leading 376 runs. In the same vein as Malik, Tridents captain Jason Holder has been a source of inspiration not just with his 14 wickets, third-highest in the tournament, but for shrewd bowling changes and some special fielding, especially at long-on and long-off in the slog overs.
Though the management misfired with their first overall selection at the draft in the form of Alex Hales, who has yet to score a fifty, coach Phil Simmons has made wise decisions in his choice of replacement players after the draft. Shakib Al Hasan‘s nuggety knocks and tidy spells have been a late-season bonus. JP Duminy has been a reassuring presence in the middle order and fired the tournament’s fastest fifty against the Knight Riders. Harry Gurney‘s variations have thrown big-hitters out of sync at the death.
The Tridents’ bargain shopping has trumped the Amazon Warriors’ by some distance too. Raymon Reifer, who iced the semi-final against the Knight Riders by trapping Seekkuge Prasanna for his tenth wicket of the season, was taken in round 14 for US$ 5000. The Tridents mined a diamond in the final round with their US$ 3000 ICC Americas pick, taking USA’s Hayden Walsh Jr., who is not only the tournament’s leading wicket-taker with 21 in eight matches, but has been the event’s most electric fielder. Just ask Pollard, who fell victim to a momentum-shifting run-out by Walsh Jr. on Thursday night.
Saturday night might not be as raucous an occasion at the Brian Lara Academy without the host franchise involved. But there’s no doubt it will be a memorable one as the Amazon Warriors pursue perfection while the Tridents try to pull off an upset.
Guyana Amazon Warriors WWWWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Barbados Tridents WLWWL
In the spotlight
Coming into CPL 2019, 24-year-old Brandon King had just one fifty and 267 runs in 14 career T20 innings. But he has four 50-plus scores in his last seven matches. He broke Russell’s record on Sunday for the highest score in CPL history, bashing an unbeaten 132 off 72 balls with 11 fours and ten sixes. It was an innings that brought coach Botha to tears, but the tournament’s most improved batsman was restrained in his celebrations, an indication that he may have bigger plans in store for the final.
Hayden Walsh Jr. entered the season as the back-up legspinner to Sandeep Lamichhane, the same role he served when the pair was together in 2018 at St Kitts & Nevis Patriots. But when Lamichhane left after the sixth match for national duty with Nepal, Walsh Jr. got an opportunity to come back into the line-up and exploded with a five-wicket haul against the Knight Riders. Walsh Jr. now has a CPL-best 21 in eight matches, has never taken fewer than two wickets in any game, and is a spark plug at backward point.
The only reason the Amazon Warriors may change the line-up that beat the Tridents in the qualifier is if they feel they need another variation bowler at the death. Ben Laughlin is a candidate if so, but if it ain’t broke, they are unlikely to fix it.
Guyana Amazon Warriors (probable XI): 1 Brandon King, 2 Chandrapaul Hemraj, 3 Shimron Hetmyer, 4 Shoaib Malik (capt), 5 Nicholas Pooran (wk), 6 Sherfane Rutherford, 7 Keemo Paul, 8 Chris Green, 9 Romario Shepherd, 10 Odean Smith, 11 Imran Tahir
The Tridents leadership will be sweating over Duminy’s fitness after he had to retire hurt with what appeared to be a hamstring injury during his innings on Thursday against the Knight Riders. If he can’t go, the most likely alternative is Justin Greaves, who scored a half-century earlier this season when Hales left temporarily for the T20 Vitality Blast final.
Barbados Tridents (probable XI): 1 Alex Hales, 2 Johnson Charles, 3 Shakib Al Hasan, 4 Shai Hope (wk), 5 JP Duminy/Justin Greaves, 6 Jonathan Carter, 7 Jason Holder (capt), 8 Raymon Reifer, 9 Ashley Nurse, 10 Hayden Walsh Jr., 11 Harry Gurney
Pitch and conditions
The Tridents fielders looked like they were on ice skates at times in the outfield, which had excessive dew after Thursday’s qualifier playoff was pushed back to 8.15pm local time due to transportation problems the Tridents experienced making the drive south from Port-of-Spain to Tarouba. But the final is scheduled for a 5pm start, making the dew less of a factor. The Brian Lara Academy pitch has regularly been challenging for batsmen, and scoring more than 150 batting first hasn’t been easy.
Stats and trivia
The Tridents’ only CPL title came in 2014, when they beat the Amazon Warriors in the final in St Kitts by eight runs (DLS method). Current Amazon Warriors captain Malik was Man of the Match in the final for the Tridents, scoring an unbeaten 55 off 42 balls. That loss by the Amazon Warriors was the second of four runner-up finishes, including last year.
The tournament’s leading wicket-taker has been a part of the champion squad on three occasions: Krishmar Santokie (16) for Jamaica Tallawahs in 2013, Dwayne Bravo (28) for Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel in 2015, and Fawad Ahmed (22) for the Knight Riders in 2018. Only once has the tournament’s leading scorer played for the champion team: Colin Munro (567 runs) in 2018 for the Knight Riders.
“If you start thinking about going into a bigger game then you add extra pressure on you. Since we have so many youngsters, my message is still the same. When you come to the ground, whatever responsibilities you get, just try to handle them not thinking about how this is a final because then your brain is only working towards a trophy.”
Shoaib Malik on the pressure to end undefeated
“The beauty of our performances so far in this tournament is we’ve held on in close games. We also lost some close games but the majority of our games we held our nerve and been able to come out on top.”
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