A century from Babar Azam helped Somerset to a dominant win over Hampshire and boosted their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals of the T20 Blast.
The in-form Pakistan batsman hit an unbeaten 102 off just 55 balls in Hampshire’s impressive total of 202-4, bringing up his ton with a six off the final ball of the innings. In eight games for Somerset, Babar has hit three fifties and a ton.
Hampshire never looked like getting anywhere close to that total, Craig Overton and Jerome Taylor taking two wickets apiece to reduce the hosts to 69 for six when rain brought an early end to play.
That gave Somerset a 63-run victory on Duckworth-Lewis and lifted them up to fifth place in the South Group.
Sussex opened up a two-point lead over Kent at the top of the table with a four-wicket victory over Middlesex, who were without Eoin Morgan.
Middlesex posted 127-6 from their 20 overs, Ollie Robinson taking four for 15, and Sussex reached their target comfortably with more than three overs remaining to maintain their unbeaten record.
Rain also interfered at The Oval, where Gloucestershire defeated Surrey by nine runs on DLS.
The visitors got through their 20 overs, posting a total of 165 for eight. Surrey were then set a target of 104 from 12 overs but were always behind the curve.
Sam Curran, who had taken two wickets, put in a fine late charge, hitting 51 off 35 balls, including two sixes in the final over, but it was not enough.
Nottinghamshire climbed to second in the North Group with a 28-run victory over Birmingham Bears, again on DLS.
Luke Wood took three wickets as Birmingham were restricted to just 119 for nine from their 20 overs.
Joe Clarke hit 47 not out from 32 balls to put Nottinghamshire well in control at 86 for two when the rain came.
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A high-level security delegation from the Sri Lanka Cricket Board paid a visit to Pakistan’s National Stadium in Karachi on Wednesday.
It’s the first step in a process that could see the Sri Lanka Test team return to the country.
Ten years ago, six Pakistani policemen and two civilians were killed in a gun attack on a convoy of coaches carrying the Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore.
The delegation will draw up a report and the Sri Lankan Cricket Board will decide whether the team will tour Pakistan in October.
Later in the year, Cricket Australia and the England and Wales Cricket Board are scheduled to visit Pakistan to begin discussions on prospective tours in 2021 and 2022.
After the Pakistan management held a review of the team’s performance at the 2019 World Cup and looked to chart a new path, it emerged that coach Mickey Arthur had asked for an extension in his contract.
The first thing that the Pakistan Cricket Board did was show Arthur the door, along with the almost the entire support staff. While some members of the team, and captain Sarfraz Ahmed, will deservedly face the music following disappointing performances across formats, Arthur would have been lucky to escape penalty.
While the triumph at the 2017 Champions Trophy deserves every bit of applause, it is balanced out by shock ‘home’ Test series defeats to Sri Lanka and New Zealand and the abject performance at the Asia Cup in 2018. The absence of a second spinner on UAE pitches during the 2017 Test series defeat to Sri Lanka and abundance of fast bowlers during the Asia Cup defied logic. Arthur had as much say in the composition of the team as Sarfraz.
But we are not here to play the blame game. The results are there for all to see – Pakistan slipped to seventh in Tests and sixth in ODIs, with top rank in T20s the one big plus. It’s the way forward that needs focus.
Whether the wicketkeeper batsman remains skipper across formats remains to be seen. Even if Sarfraz doesn’t and a new skipper(s) takes charge, the person replacing Arthur will have a critical role to play.
What Pakistan need right now is a John Wright type of coach who does not waver on fitness or technical standards, but knows how to work in the background. Whether the next coach comes from outside Pakistan or within, easing the players into their roles and letting the captain take charge of the team should be the priority and diktat; there were regular demands from Pakistan for Sarfraz to ‘own’ the team more.
Some blunders were committed during the past few seasons – pacer Wahab Riaz being sidelined for an extended period only to be brought in right before the World Cup or the extraordinarily long rope given to a faltering Mohammad Amir just two prominent ones. Also, largely the same bunch of players went around the merry-go-round of selection.
Whoever takes over as head coach needs to actually look at the entire top talent pool playing in Pakistan – that might include watching first-class and List A games – and then help the captain build the Test and ODI team. And the captain has to make the final call, be it right or wrong.
Arthur oversaw a major improvement in the fitness standards of the team, along with the rise to the top of T20 rankings and the Champions Trophy triumph. But performances in Test cricket and in their UAE home have dipped alarmingly. Maybe a bit more luck with the net run rate at the World Cup would have ensured Pakistan’s qualification to the semi-finals and papered over previous heartaches. But Pakistan have decided to take a new leadership approach and this time, they should let the captain run the show.