Pakistan debutant Bilal Asif credits Mushtaq Ahmed for his resurgence

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Bilal Asif picked up 6-36 on his Test debut for Pakistan.

It was a Test debut to savour for Bilal Asif, with the Pakistan spinner wrecking Australia’s batting order thanks to a six-wicket haul in the opening Test between the two sides at Dubai.

Asif’s 6-36 saw Australia collapse from 142-0 to 202 all out in their first innings as Pakistan took a substantial 280-run lead into their second dig.

The 33-year-old off-spinner was all smiles following his debut show as he made his return to international cricket after a period of nearly three years.

“First of all, thanks to God that everything went well. I am feeling very good. I was just trying to do well and stay with my basics,” Asif stated following the end of the day’s play.

“It has been a very good debut and I will try my best to build on this and keep performing for Pakistan.”

The Sialkot-born man became only the third spinner in Pakistan history after Mohammad Nazir and Shahid Afridi to complete a five-wicket haul on debut.

It was not always rosy for the Pakistan spinner on Tuesday and he had to endure a wicketless morning session before bursting into life.

“Being a debutant, of course there is pressure. In the first session, I wasn’t feeling well because I did not bowl as well. However, my team-mateswere  very supporting and encouraging and gave me the confidence to perform,” Asif explained.

Asif burst into life in the second session of the day's play.

Asif burst into life in the second session of the day’s play.

The off-spinner made his Pakistan debut in October, 2015 in an ODI against Zimbabwe before being dropped from the squad from the squad just one month later. Asif has credited Pakistan great and current spin bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed for helping him fight his way back into the national team.

“I have been struggling for the last few years. I made my debut against Zimbabwe in 2015 and it has taken three years for me to come back. It has been a long time. I was working very hard in the National Cricket Academy (NCA) and the guys there really helped me. Now I am here, I am very happy,” Asif stated.

“See, being a professional cricketer, you have to be strong mentally. I never doubted myself. I just wanted to keep up my hard work.  Whether I got a chance or not is not something I can control. Performance and getting a chance is all down to God. My only job is only working hard. I made a lot of efforts in the two-three years after I was out of the team.

Asif has credited Mushtaq Ahmed for his resurgence.

Asif has credited Mushtaq Ahmed for his resurgence.

“I attended many camps in the NCA and I would like to thank Mushy bhai (Mushtaq Ahmed) for my performance since he has been working hard with me for the last three years. Now that I have got the reward, all the credit goes to Mushy bhai.”

While Asif shone with a six-wicket haul, leg-spinner Yasir Shah went wicketless despite bowling the most number of overs (28).

Defending Yasir’s performance, Asif said: “This is a team game. He might not have picked a wicket but he is a world-class bowler. It was my luck that I got so many wickets.

“Yes, there was pressure after not picking a wicket in the first session as a debutant. However, I kept all these things on the side and focused on my bowling and in the end God helped me.”

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Skipper Dinesh Chandimal insists axed Angelo Mathews is still Sri Lanka's best ODI batsman

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Big job ahead: Sri Lankan captain Dinesh Chandimal

Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal admits his axed predecessor Angelo Mathews remains the country’s best one-day batsman.

Mathews will sit out the five-match series against England, which gets under way in Dambulla on Wednesday, after being dropped in acrimonious circumstances by selectors.

They claimed the 31-year-old was not sufficiently fit, while head coach Chandika Hathurusingha took the curious decision of drawing attention to Mathews’ “world record” for involvement in run-outs.

Chandimal must therefore attempt to secure a first Sri Lankan win in 10 series without a player who averages a shade under 60 since the start of 2017.

Speaking on the eve of the series, Chandimal said: “We all know he is our best batsman, especially when it comes to the shorter formats.

“I hope he will identify what he needs to do to come back to the side and come back strongly. It is mainly his fitness.”

All the pre-series signs suggest Sri Lanka will do well to preserve their proud limited-overs record against the ICC’s top-ranked team.

On home soil they have won 15 of the 21 ODIs between the sides and Chandimal’s best hope of continuing in that vein appears to hinge on spinners Lakshan Sandakan and Akila Dananjaya.

“These conditions are very different to what England are used to playing in,” Chandimal said.

“The pitches here spin and it is not an easy thing to play especially for the batters. Overall comparing our boys to England, they have more experience but we have more mystery spinners in our side.

“When you are a batsman if there is a mystery spinner you have to try to go for innovative shots, then you can put the pressure back on him.”

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Former Australia coach Darren Lehmann eager to make coaching return

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Darren Lehmann is itching to make a coaching comeback.

Australia’s Darren Lehmann is keen to return to coaching following a few months out of the game.

The former Australia coach resigned from his post at the end of March following the infamous ball-tampering episode which occurred during the team’s tour of South Africa.

Captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner were both stripped off their posts and handed one-year bans from international cricket by Cricket Australia while Cameron Bancroft was banned for a period of nine months following the scandal.

The incident forced Cricket Australia to make drastic changes to the setup with Justin Langer subsequently appointed as the head coach while Tim Paine took on the Test captaincy reins.

Lehmann, who has been out of work ever since, is now looking to get back to coaching in some capacity by next year.

I’d like to coach again one day. I think I’m a good coach, my coaching record is pretty good,” Lehmann told Australian Associated Press at the launch of Fox Cricket.

“At some stage I’ll get there. A shorter commitment is probably the way to go … that’s probably what I’m looking for.

“But I’m just going to stay away from it this summer, watch the cricket and enjoy it. See what comes up next year.”

Lehmann has been in regular touch with Smith and Warner.

Lehmann has been in regular touch with Smith and Warner.

The 48-year-old has also backed Smith and Warne to bounce back from their bans while adding that he has maintained regular contact with them during the period.

“I speak to them (Smith and Warner) all the time. They’re going alright,” Lehmann added.

“They’ll come back really well. They’re good young men and they’ll come back. They’ve been training, hitting and they’re fit. Spending some time away from the game as well.

“I’d love them to be available for domestic cricket but that’s not my decision. That’s the powers above me.”

Under Lehmann’s tenure as Australia coach, the side won the 2015 ICC World Cup at home while also notching up home Ashes victories in 2013-14 and 2017-18.

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