Somerset have signed Pakistan batsman Babar Azam for this season’s Vitality Blast.
The 24-year-old, who is currently number one in the International Cricket Council Twenty20 batting rankings, will be available for all 14 South Group games and a possible quarter-final.
Azam struck a century in Pakistan’s win over Leicestershire on Wednesday night and has scored 1,182 runs at an average of 53.72 in 29 T20s for his country.
He said: “I am looking forward to the new challenge that playing T20 cricket in England will bring.
“I have heard good things about Somerset from Azhar Ali and I want to play a part in the club winning matches.
“I know that Somerset get good support and I hope that I can give them something to cheer about this year.”
Andy Hurry, Somerset’s director of cricket, said: “To be able to sign a player of the calibre of Babar Azam is tremendously exciting. He is a proven performer at the very highest level and that is highlighted by the fact that he is the top rated international T20 batsman in the world.”
Dhoni first smashed a quick 44 before completing two split-second stumpings and finishing the match with a sharp catch as CSK rose to the top of the table and all but secured their spot in Qualifier 1.
The 37-year-old played despite struggling with a bad back and illness. After the match, Dhoni said he is keeping it simple when it comes to batting.
“Watch the ball, hit the ball. [Once] you’ve spent time, you know the variations. By the 20th over you’re almost ready and you swing at everything,” Dhoni explained.
Veteran leg-spinner Imran Tahir had a brilliant day on a raging turner at Chepauk, finishing with 4-12. Dhoni said the number of dismissals meant the lively leggie got multiple chances to go on his elaborate celebratory runs.
“It’s great fun to watch Tahir celebrate,” Dhoni said. “Me and (Shane) Watson have said we won’t follow him. What’s the point when we’re not 100 per cent (fit). He anyway comes back to us so that time we tell him ‘well bowled’.”
Delhi skipper Shreyas Iyer said getting bowled out for 99 chasing 179 was a reality check before the playoffs.
“The way we played was not expected. It’s a good reality check. Everybody will be on their toes in the next game,” Iyer said.
Former Pakistan ace spinner Saeed Ajmal said the selectors have erred in not picking left-arm pacer Mohammad Amir for the 2019 World Cup and added the Men in Green need his experience at the showpiece event.
Ajmal – whose Saeed Ajmal International Cricket Academy played the Kings’ Cricket Academy at King’s School Al Barsha in Dubai on Friday – said the selectors should have shown faith in the abilities of the left-armer who bowled a match-winning spell in the 2017 Champions Trophy final against India.
Amir was not selected after an alarming dip in form following that Champions Trophy final, going wicketless in nine out of 14 ODIs since.
“You need experienced players in a World Cup. Mohammad Amir should have been in the team,” Ajmal told Sport360 on Friday.
“Pakistan should have announced the same 15-member squad for the England series that would have played the World Cup. Now they have two extra players (for the England ODI series). It’s a bit of a mix and match.
“My thinking is that Amir is an experienced player. He won us the Champions Trophy final. He should have played.”
Why Mohammad Amir has not been included in the initial World Cup Squad - his bowling stats in ODIs since the Champions Trophy Final:— Saj Sadiq (@Saj_PakPassion) April 18, 2019
A wicket every 20 overs#CWC19
Ajmal said Amir is valuable because he swings the ball, which can be a great asset in English conditions.
“The conditions in England suit fast bowlers. Amir is the one Pakistan bowler who swings the ball both ways. Experience is experience. A player can’t perform all the time. Even the biggest players go through a bad patch,” he added.
The other player that Ajmal felt should have been an automatic selection is power hitter Asif Ali, who like Amir will feature in the five match ODI series against England that starts on May 8 but isn’t a part of the World Cup squad. For the record, teams can change their teams until May 23 without seeking the ICC’s permission.
“The team that has been picked looks OK in batting. One player they should have taken is Asif Ali. Pakistan need a pinch hitter who can hit 15 runs an over. (Top order batsman) Abid Ali is a decent player, but the fact is the team needs a pinch hitter,” the 41-year-old added.
Pakistan selected left-arm spinner Imad Wasim despite him not passing the fitness test. His knee injury has been an impediment for some time but the selectors saw merit in his spin bowling with the new and old ball. And Ajmal agreed with his selection.
“Yes, Imad didn’t pass the fitness test. But we need an experienced spinner. And he bowls with new and old ball. He can hit a few shots as well,” Ajmal concluded.