Watch young Lahore Qalandars pacers bowl to Kohli and India at Sydney

Waseem Ahmed 2/01/2019
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Kohli and Haris Rauf. Image courtesy - @Anussaeed1/Twitter.

It was a day to remember for two upcoming Pakistan pacers in the form of Salman Irshad and Haris Rauf as they got an opportunity to bowl to Virat Kohli and the Indian team at Sydney.

Irshad and Rauf represent Lahore Qalandars in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) and were discovered from the Rising Stars’ program run by the franchise in 2017.

The two youngsters are currently in Australia as part of the Qalandar’s player development program and on Wednesday, they were invited to bowl to the Indian batsmen in the nets.

Kohli and India are getting ready to take on Australia in the final Test which gets underway at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday.

Both the bowlers took turns to bowl in India’s net session on Wednesday while getting the opportunity to bowl a few deliveries to Kohli too.

The Rawalpindi-born Rauf can generate some serious pace and grabbed eyeballs by clocking over 148kmh with the ball in the inaugural Abu Dhabi T20 held in October last year.

Irshad, on the other hand, is on his second visit to Australia and was a part of the Qalandars’ Rising Stars squad which took part in quadrangular series Down Under in 2017. The pacer’s impressive displays in that tournament saw him earn a stint with Australian club Hawksberry CC subsequently.

Both the bowlers were delighted to rub shoulders with Kohli at Sydney and made sure to get themselves a picture with the India skipper. With bilateral cricket relations between arch-rivals India and Pakistan still remaining at a standstill, it is heartwarming to see cricketers from both sides mingle in such manner.

Rauf and Irshad will be now hoping to make their mark in the fourth edition of the PSL which gets underway on February 14 in the UAE.

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Rahul set for India return as Kohli ponders bowling combinations for Sydney

Sudhir Gupta 2/01/2019
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KL Rahul has been included in India's 13-man squad for Sydney.

There should be changes galore for both sides when Australia and India meet in the final Test match of the series at Sydney from Thursday.

The tourists stand on the verge of a maiden Test series win Down Under following their 137-run win in Melbourne but have a final balancing act to perform in terms of selections.

Rohit Sharma, who scored a half-century in the Melbourne win, has returned to India to welcome the birth of his daughter and will play no part at Sydney. Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, is, in all probability, out of the encounter too after failing to recover in time from his side strain.

Despite his fitness woes, Ashwin has been given until the morning of the Test to recover with the off-spinner being named in the 13-man India squad for Sydney.

The surprising omission from the 13-man squad is Ishant Sharma who has been excellent for India in the series. While Ishant and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have failed to make the cut, pacer Umesh Yadav and opener KL Rahul have been included in the line-up.

As such, Rahul is expected to open the batting for India at Sydney alongside Mayank Agarwal while Hanuma Vihari drops back to the No6 spot vacated by Rohit’s departure.

However, most of skipper Virat Kohli’s selection headaches heading into Sydney surround the bowling department. With Sydney traditionally holding something for the spinners, the India skipper will be tempted to play two slower bowlers.

Ravindra Jadeja will most certainly hold on to his spot in the playing XI for India while Kohli has talked up the part-time spin of Vihari as a wicket-taking option in Sydney. Still, the tourists could introduce wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav in the playing XI to compliment Jadeja.

The question for Kohli and India is whether to field a two-man spin attack with two pacers or a three-man pace attack with just one specialist spinner.

India have a big call to take on Kuldeep Yadav.

India have a big call to take on Kuldeep Yadav.

A third option in the form of going in with five specialist bowlers exists too for the visitors but that looks to be the least likely route they will take.

Australia, on the other hand, have selection dilemmas of their own with their batsmen failing to get going in the series. Opener Aaron Finch has been woefully out of touch at the top and could drop down to a more natural spot in the lower middle-order.

Skipper Tim Paine has refrained from announcing his playing XI just yet although Marnus Labuschagne is expected to be introduced in the playing XI. All-rounder Mitchell Marsh will in all probability make way for Labuschagne’s return to the Test squad.

EXPECTED PLAYING XIs

Australia: Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Travis Head, Shaun Marsh, Aaron Finch, Marnus Labuschagne, Tim Paine (captain & wk), Nathan Lyon, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood.

India: Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav/Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah.

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Abbas, Markram and other players to watch out for in Newlands Test

Waseem Ahmed 2/01/2019
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Mohammad Abbas is set to return from injury.

South Africa and Pakistan will welcome 2019 with the second Test of the three-match series which gets underway at Cape Town on Thursday.

The hosts lead 1-0 after a six-wicket win at Centurion and will be looking to clinch the series at Newlands while Pakistan have it all to do if they are to keep their hopes alive.

There will be plenty of players from both sides who will be under the spotlight at Cape Town for different reasons.

Here, we look at the three players from each side to watch out for in the second Test.

SOUTH AFRICA

Vernon Philander

Duanne Olivier’s 11-wicket display at Centurion meant the Proteas barely missed their star seamer Philander who was ruled out with a fractured thumb. Now back to full fitness, Philander should waltz into the playing XI in what is his home ground.

The 33-year-old’s record at Newlands is exceptional with the seamer picking up 49 wickets in nine previous Tests at the venue at an average of just 16.55. With his ability to move the ball both ways at will, Pakistan’s batsmen better watch out.

Philander is back at his favourite stomping ground.

Philander is back at his favourite stomping ground.

Aiden Markram

The young South African opener has already been earmarked as a future skipper after his bright start to life in international cricket. The right-hander showed his class in the infamous series win against Australia last year where he registered two centuries.

Since then, his form has tailed off badly with poor displays on the tour of Sri Lanka. He was off-colour in the series opener at Centurion, dismissed by Hasan Ali in both innings for scores of 12 and 0. The pressure will be on the 24-year-old to deliver the goods at Newlands.

Markram is struggling at the moment.

Markram is struggling at the moment.

Faf du Plessis

Another South African batsman struggling for form currently is skipper Faf du Plessis. The 34-year-old veteran bagged a pair in the Centurion win with Pakistan teenager Shaheen Afridi getting his number in both innings.

The Proteas captain has been a consistent performer with the bat over the years and will be desperate to get back to some semblance of form at Newlands.

Du Plessis will be itching to get back into form.

Du Plessis will be itching to get back into form.

PAKISTAN

Azhar Ali

The Pakistan veteran is the most experienced batsman at the disposal of the tourists but he failed to show that in a dismal outing at Centurion. While he did score 36 in the first innings, he perished for a duck in the second while attempting an ill-judged pull shot off Olivier.

The 33-year-old was one of the senior batsmen to reportedly cop an earful from coach Mickey Arthur and the pressure will be on him to bring all his years of experience to the fore at Newlands.

Azhar Ali disappointed at Centurion.

Azhar Ali disappointed at Centurion.

Mohammad Abbas

Newlands has always been a seamer’s paradise as Philander’s excellent record at the venue shows. In Abbas, Pakistan have a seamer who can more than match the excellent Philander and the 29-year-old will be the biggest threat for the opposition batsmen in what is his maiden outing in South Africa.

Now back to fitness after recovering from his shoulder injury, Abbas will relish the conditions on offer in South Africa and look to continue his sensational red-ball form so far.

Abbas could be too hot to handle on the Newlands pitch.

Abbas could be too hot to handle on the Newlands pitch.

Sarfraz Ahmed

Being in Ahmed’s shoes is an unenviable position as it gets. The Pakistan skipper’s Test captaincy has been under fire for some time and his own form with the bat hasn’t helped matters.

Just like his South African counterpart Du Plessis, the wicketkeeper-batsman bagged a pair in Newlands. With reports trickling in of a strain in his relationship with Arthur, Sarfraz is under more pressure than ever to deliver and how he goes at Newlands could very well decide his long-term Test captaincy hopes.

Sarfraz is under more pressure than ever.

Sarfraz is under more pressure than ever.

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