Babar Azam’s superb run in England’s T20 Blast refuses to stop with the Pakistan batsman adding another explosive half-century to his name in Somerset’s big win over the Essex Eagles on Wednesday.
Babar struck a 39-ball 56 at Chelmsford to help Somerset post a mammoth 225-6 in their 20 overs and his side then had no trouble in wrapping up a 114-run win with the ball.
With that innings, Babar has now become the leading run-scorer in the 2019 T20 Blast with a total of 323 runs from seven innings so far at an average of nearly 54.
Playing in his maiden stint in the English county circuit, the Pakistan right-hander has been nothing short of sensational in the seven T20 Blast appearances he has made for Somerset so far.
Babar had earlier struck a 61-ball 95 against Hampshire and a 50-ball 83 against Sussex but both his rapid displays had come in a losing cause for Somerset.
The star batsman has been camped in England since the start of May when Pakistan arrived in the country for a five-match ODI series. The 24-year-old finished as the joint top-scorer of the ODI series after registering one ton and two half centuries over the course of the four games.
He then proceeded to have a stellar individual World Cup campaign where he racked up a total of 474 runs in eight innings at an average of over 67. Babar struck one ton and three half-centuries in the process and his run tally is now the highest achieved by any Pakistan batsman in World Cup history.
Currently ranked No1 in the world in the T20 format, the Pakistan sensation’s immense popularity has already worked wonders for Somerset since his arrival. Somerset stream their T20 Blast clashes on their official website like many other county outfits in England but there were in for a shock during Babar’s first game for the county outfit.
With plenty of Pakistan fans logging on to the website to watch their favourite star in action, the website ultimately crashed due the excessive load. According to a report by ESPNcricinfo, the huge spike in rise in visitors to the official website forced Somerset digital marketing executive Ben Warren to upgrade the website server’s capacity.
Babar is well on his way to become one of the greatest batsmen produced by Pakistan and the right-hander had recently become the second fastest man after South Africa’s Hashim Amla to bring up 3,000 ODI runs.
The Pakistan star will be next in action for Somerset on Friday when they take on Hampshire in another Vitality T20 Blast clash at Southampton.
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Sri Lankan cricket was thrown into further turmoil with former pacer Rumesh Ratnayake appointed as the team’s interim coach for the upcoming Test and T20 clashes against New Zealand.
The move by the Sri Lankan board is their latest attempt to severe ties with head coach Chandika Hathurinsha whose future with the national team has been the subject of constant debate for some time now.
“Hathurusingha will not be involved in this (New Zealand) series,” Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) chairman Shammi Silva was quoted as saying by the Hindu.
“We can’t tell you details because this might end up being a legal issue,” he added.
Earlier this month, Sri Lanka Sports Minister Harin Fernando had handed an ultimatum to Hathurusingha to quit his role before the start of the Test series against New Zealand.
“If Hathurusingha does not leave, we may have to consider legal action or offer him a different job at the board,” Fernando had said at the time.
The Sri Lankan minister’s comments had come in the wake of the 2019 World Cup in England where Dimuth Karunaratne and his men finished sixth in the 10-team competition.
Hathurusingha’s contract with SLC reportedly runs until the end of 2020 (16 more months) but Fernando has repeatedly targeted the head coach for the lack of positive results with the Sri Lankan team. The minister has time and again been critical of the Sri Lankan coach’s reported monthly salary of USD 40,000 as well.
Sri Lanka’s Test series against New Zealand is slated to begin on August 14 with the first clash set to take place at Galle. The second Test will get underway at Colombo on August 22.
Upon the completion of the two-match Test series, Sri Lanka and New Zealand will lock horns in three T20 clashes as well.
Veterans Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik have been dropped from the list of Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) centrally contracted players for 2019-20.
The annual central contracts’ list was announced on Thursday by the PCB with the number of categories being reduced from five to three. Only 19 players have been contracted centrally by the PCB for the upcoming season compared to the 33 who were handed out contracts last year.
Hafeez and Malik’s omissions were the biggest talking points from the contract list with the two veterans failing to find a place in a single category. Malik had recently announced his retirement from ODI cricket following the completion of the 2019 ICC World Cup.
Malik had been handed a category A contract by the PCB for the 2018-19 season. Meanwhile, Hafeez had previously held a category B contract with the PCB. The 38-year-old all-rounder is yet to take a call on his international future.
Only three players – Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed and Yasir Shah – have been handed category A contracts this time around. Apart from the exclusions of Hafeez and Malik, there were demotions for pacer Mohammad Amir and opening batsman Fakhar Zaman.
Amir, who recently announced his retirement from Test cricket, has been demoted from category A to B alongside Test specialist Azhar Ali. Fakhar, on the other hand, has dropped down from category B to C in the latest list.
Teenage pacer Shaheen Afridi has made a big jump with the southpaw being promoted to category B after being placed in category E last year. Others to have earned promotions in the latest contract list include opener Imam-ul-Haq (C to B), Haris Soahil (C to B), Wahab Riaz (C to B) and Mohammad Abbas (C to B).
While the number of players contracted by the PCB has been reduced for the coming season, the value of the annual contracts has shot up between 25 to 40 per cent.
“We have significantly increased the financial value of the 2019-20 retainers across each category,” PCB managing director Wasim Khan said in a statement.
“This is over and above what had been agreed in the current agreement, which is due to run until 2021.
“The PCB have set high standards and targets in its strategic plan for the upcoming season. We want to attach a high value to receiving a central contract. We have complete faith and confidence that these players will set up and produce on-field performances that will help us collectively achieve our objectives and targets.”
The latest contracts are valid from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020.
PCB ANNUAL CENTRAL CONTRACTS’ LIST 2019-20
Category A: Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed and Yasir Shah.
Category B: Imam-ul-Haq, Shadab Khan, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Abbas, Asad Shafiq, Shaheen Afridi and Wahab Riaz.
Category C: Abid Ali, Hasan Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Rizwan, Shan Masood and Usman Shinwari.