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Azhar Ali rues the one that got away: ‘Unfortunately, the session that mattered most we lost’

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Azhar Ali rues the one that got away: 'Unfortunately, the

Pakistan captain Azhar Ali reflected on the disappointment of “losing the one session in the series that really mattered” following Pakistan’s 1-0 series defeat against England. With the third Test ending in a rain-affected draw, England clinched the series courtesy of the hosts’ dramatic victory in the first Test at Old Trafford. It was a game Pakistan dominated for much of the first three days, but a 139-run sixth wicket partnership between then-out-of-form Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes led England to a stunning three-wicket win.

“The first Test match cost us, of course,” Azhar said. “If we’d won that match, we’d be sitting here as series winners. But there are plenty of positives, even though of course we made mistakes. Unfortunately, the session that mattered most all series we lost. Sometimes that can disrupt a dressing room, and people can start pointing fingers at each other. But we stayed together as a group and tried to move forward. That’s a good sign for us.”

While the final result came down to particularly fine margins, one evident point of difference between the two sides was the balance of the starting eleven. While England had abundant lower-order allrounders that ensured they were never either a batsman or a bowler light – even in Ben Stokes’ absence – Pakistan appeared split between playing a bowling allrounder in Shadab Khan or the left-handed batsman Fawad Alam.

ALSO READ: Not for the first time, Azhar Ali finds a quietly dignified way through a sticky situation

They went for Shadab in the first Test, where he ended up impressing more with the bat than the ball, before switching to Alam for the remainder of the series, who struggled to get going. Azhar said, however, Shadab was hard done by to be dropped, and hinted at a promotion up the order for wicketkeeper batsman Mohammad Rizwan.

“Balance is created in the side by medium pace allrounders,” he said. “We have Faheem Ashraf with us, and he’s working really hard to break into the side. The way Rizwan batted and kept is a huge plus. Even the way Shadab played that first Test, it was very difficult to leave him out, his performance did not merit being dropped.

“But the conditions necessitated it. Rizwan’s form gives us confidence we can consider him a proper batsman and push him up to number six. Shadab has shown he’s good enough to bat at number seven. We have to find someone at eight if the conditions are good for seam bowling, so the role we’re looking for is a lower-order seam bowler.”

It was a series that promised much for Pakistan’s youthful side, with particular intrigue surrounding how tearaway teenage pace bowler Naseem Shah would perform on his first tour of England. Just before the Covid-19 pandemic shut down all cricket, he whet the appetite, giving a glimpse of the fearsome ability he possesses by becoming the youngest player to take a Test match hat-trick in a game against Bangladesh in Rawalpindi. Things didn’t go quite as swimmingly for him in England – he managed just three wickets – but the deliveries that Ollie Pope and Joe Root fell victim to made clear how high the ceiling was for him.

“We all know Naseem Shah’s talent,” Azhar said. “The way he got top players like Joe Root out and how he bowled was encouraging. Yes, he’s inexperienced, but he’s been with us for a few series and he’s learning. He’s got pace. We all hoped, obviously, he’d get more wickets but it’s cricket. Sometimes that doesn’t go for you.

“Even Babar, who everyone had high expectations of, batted very well, I thought. The conditions were hostile for batting, but the authority with which he played few other batsmen did. He’s a world-class player, and he always dominates other bowling line-ups. All you need is one mistake to get out, and there are a few things you can always look at when you don’t win the series. Of course, Babar will know if you get to 60, you should score a hundred. He knows that. But it’s cricket, and that happens. His consistency is an example for all of us.”

Until the first-innings hundred in the third Test, the series involved significant personal strife for the relatively inexperienced captain himself. Aside from a concerning loss of form – particularly away from home – Azhar copped heavy criticism for some of his tactics on that fourth day at Old Trafford, where he was deemed to have been too passive as Buttler and Woakes charged England to victory. Azhar insisted, however, the thought of stepping down never entered his mind, his thoughts firmly on the series ahead.

“During the series, the contest itself is all I was focused on. There were tough times when we lost the first Test, and I was blamed for it a fair bit. But I was always focusing on how we could turn the series around. Our team management got us quickly back on track, even though we were all hurting after the first Test.

“We feel sad but what’s done is done. We can learn from the experience. The disappointment will remain because we came not just to draw the series but to win. We missed our opportunity. Credit goes to England too for performing well under pressure. We’ll try and learn from that mistake and grab the opportunity when it comes next time.”

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Recent Match Report – Kent vs Glamorgan Group 3 2021

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Matt Quinn claimed the third Glamorgan wicket to fall but only 6.2 overs were possible

Glamorgan 64 for 3 trail Kent 307 by 243 runs

Glamorgan moved to 64 for 3 against Kent on day three of their LV= Insurance County Championship match at Canterbury, trailing by 243 at stumps after just 6.2 overs were possible due to a waterlogged outfield and then bad light.

Matt Quinn took the only wicket to fall, removing Joe Cooke for 10, leaving him with figures of 2 for 10. Billy Root and Kiran Carlson were the not out batsmen, on 26 and nought respectively.

Play was delayed until 5.19 pm after heavy overnight rain left several areas of the outfield unplayable, with umpire James Middlebrook’s shoes making an audible squelch as he strolled towards the pavilion to deliver the bad news following one of six pitch inspections.

When the action did finally get underway, with around 50 diehard fans still in the ground, Glamorgan resumed on 55 for 2 in reply to Kent’s 307 all out. Just five runs had been added when Quinn knocked back Cooke’s off stump in the 25th over, the batsman failing add to his overnight score.

Root initially looked more comfortable, driving Stevens for four through long-off but then surviving an appeal for caught behind off next delivery.

With the light deteriorating the players went off after just 24 minutes and with increasingly heavy rain falling, play was abandoned for the day. A bleak forecast for Sunday means the Group C game is almost certain to end in a draw.

David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/story/1263852.html?ex_cid=OTC-RSS

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Recent Match Report – Lancashire vs Northants Group 3 2021

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Recent Match Report - Lancashire vs Northants Group 3 2021
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Only 11 overs possible at wet Wantage Road, with Keaton Jennings the batter to fall

Lancashire 75 for 1 vs Northamptonshire

Gareth Berg made the only breakthrough for Northamptonshire as just 11 overs were possible on another rain-affected day of this LV= County Championship tie with Lancashire at Wantage Road.

The evergreen seamer found plenty of bounce and movement and claimed his 20th wicket of the season when he enticed Keaton Jennings to drive loosely at a ball outside off stump and edge through to wicketkeeper Adam Rossington, who took a comfortable catch.

With Jennings departing for 27, Alex Davies was joined by Luke Wells and the pair faced a testing spell from Berg and Ben Sanderson, fresh from their 19-wicket demolition of Sussex two weeks ago. They maintained pressure, beating the bat regularly and making it difficult to score.

Davies did manage to break the shackles briefly by cutting a rare wide one from Sanderson for four and later driving him through midwicket for another boundary. By the time play was called off Lancashire had advanced to 75 for 1 after 28.1 overs.

The start of play was delayed until 2.30pm due to a wet outfield after the whole of the second day was lost to heavy rain. Jennings and Davies were resuming on 59 without loss, their fourth 50 opening stand of the season.

After further interruptions due to showers, the umpires called stumps shortly after 4pm following further rain and hail which turned the outfield white as the players left the field.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/story/1263849.html?ex_cid=OTC-RSS

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WATCH: Chris Cooke comically bumps into stumps during a County Championship match against Kent

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In the ongoing Group 3 match between Kent and Glamorgan of County Championship 2021 at St Lawrence Ground in Canterbury, a funny incident involving Glamorgan wicketkeeper captain Chris Cooke captured everyone’s attention.

It all happened in the 28th over of Kent’s first innings bowled by Australian pacer Michael Neser. The fast-bowler bowled a short of a good length delivery around the middle and leg stump which was tapped by Sam Billings down to fine leg for a single.

The fielder collected the ball and threw it towards the strikers’ end. Cooke, who was standing behind the wickets, quickly came near the stumps to collect the red leather. The throw was a bit off target and while catching the ball, the wicketkeeper ended up crashing over the stumps before falling onto the ground. As soon as Cooke fell, his teammates couldn’t control their emotions and burst out in laughter.

Here is the video:

Darren Stevens rescues Kent with a sensational ton

After winning the toss, Glamorgan asked Kent to bat first and bundled them out for 307 runs. 45-year-old Darren Stevens was the main highlight in Kent’s innings. The senior lad went on to score 190 from 145 deliveries rescuing his team, which was struggling for 128/8 at one stage.

Stevens formed a 166-run partnership for the 9th wicket with tailender Miguel Cummins, who contributed with just 1 run. It became the highest first-class partnerships in which one player scored more than 90% of the runs.

Stevens smashed 15 fours and as many sixes to score 150 runs by just boundaries out of his total 190 runs knock.

In reply, Glamorgan have made 55/2 in 19.4 overs before the wet outfield stopped play. Stevens, who shined with the bat, proved his mettle in the bowling as well. The all-rounder dismissed Australian batting sensation Marnus Labuschagne for just 11 runs.

WATCH: Chris Cooke comically bumps into stumps during a County Championship match against Kent

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