Veteran Pakistan all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez has been signed for Middlesex on a short-term deal that will see him play three Vitality T20 Blast clashes for the outfit.
Hafeez has been roped in by the Lord’s-based county outfit as a short-term replacement for South African ace AB de Villiers who has taken a brief break from the tournament.
The former Proteas batsman is expected to return for Middlesex’s penultimate league stage clash against Hampshire which is slated to take place on August 29.
Hafeez has only recently completed his stint in the Global T20 Canada with the Edmonton Royals and the Pakistan man is expected to join up with Middlesex ahead of their clash against Essex on Wednesday. He will also be available for the subsequent clashes against Hampshire and Sussex before de Villiers returns to take his place in the squad.
The 38-year-old all-rounder has played 55 Tests, 218 ODIs and 89 T20s for Pakistan over the course of his career and was a part of the side which finished fifth in the 2019 World Cup recently in England.
The experienced veteran was recently excluded from the new central contracts handed out by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) along with Shoaib Malik. While he hung up his Test cricket boots last year, Hafeez is yet to announce his retirement from the limited-overs formats and remains available for selection.
Hafeez will join his compatriot Babar Azam in England for the T20 Blast with the 24-year-old batsman currently leading the run-scoring charts in the competition with 434 runs in nine innings for Somerset at an average of 62.
After comprehensively dominating the T20 clashes which they swept by 3-0, India will be looking to add the ODI series as well to their kitty when they take the field against the West Indies in the third and final match in Trinidad on Wednesday.
It was at the same venue where India emerged victorious in the second ODI to take an unassailable 1-0 lead in the three-match series after the first match at Guyana was washed out.
Potential Gayle swansong
With Chris Gayle not being picked for the Test series to come against India, Wednesday’s clash could potentially be his international swansong. The 39-year-old was originally due to retire after the completion of the 2019 World Cup but expressed his desire to return for one more series against India.
The veteran has been granted his wish and he seized his chance to full effect by overtaking Brian Lara in the second ODI to become the highest run-scorer for West Indies in the format.
It was also the 300th ODI appearance for the Jamaican who is now the most-capped player in Windies history, and he will be hoping to go out with a bang in Trinidad if it is indeed to be the final curtain call for his international career.
The explosive southpaw hasn’t exactly set the series on fire so far with just 15 runs in two innings and the hosts will hope he can produce one of his trademark big-hitting spectacles on Wednesday.
Inconsistencies costing Windies dear
It has been a sorry state of affairs for the hosts in the limited-overs clashes against India with the players being plagued by inconsistency. It is a young squad at the disposal of Jason Holder, bar a few exceptions like Gayle, and the lack of experience has reflected in their play.
Only Evin Lewis, and to an extent Nicholas Pooran, showed any resistance with the bat in the second ODI and the story was very much the same in the preceding T20 series. While Pooran has failed to convert any of his several starts in the T20s and ODIs, Shimron Hetmyer’s contributions have been virtually non-existent in both series.
With Gayle also misfiring in the two ODIs, it is clear to see why the hosts have struggled.
The Caribbean side have now not won an ODI series since all the way back in 2014 and they will be desperate to avoid another loss.
Iyer answers call but question mark remains on Pant
With India’s selectors ringing the changes after the World Cup semi-final exit, the tour was a chance for several players on the fringes to stake their claim for a permanent place in the squad.
The biggest question mark was over the middle-order spots and one-half of that seems to have been answered with Shreyas Iyer’s encouraging display in the second ODI. The right-hander struck a fine 68-ball 71 in what was his first opportunity on the tour and looks to have bought himself some more time in the team.
The displays of Rishabh Pant, on the other hand, have been less than encouraging with the wicketkeeper/batsman’s limited-overs woes continuing. Bar one unbeaten knock of 65 in the third T20, the left-hander has misfired on most occasions with his decision-making in particular being suspect.
The youngster has been given umpteen chances now in the ODI format and he will have to start applying himself better before the selectors are forced to turn to someone else to fill MS Dhoni’s boots.
West Indies: Evin Lewis, Chris Gayle, Shai Hope (wk), Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer, Roston Chase, Jason Holder (c), Carlos Brathwaite, Kemar Roach, Sheldon Cottrell, Oshane Thomas
India: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (c), Rishabh Pant (wk), Shreyas Iyer, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Khaleel Ahmed
Ashes hostilities will resume once again when England and Australia meet in the second Test of the five-match series at Lord’s on Wednesday.
It is the visitors who drew first blood in the series by breaching England’s fortress at Edgbaston by a mammoth 251 runs and the onus will be on the hosts to come up with a response at the ‘home of cricket’.
With the stakes as high as ever at Lord’s for both teams, the fate of the second Ashes Test could be decided by the minutest of margins. As the two old foes prepare to battle once again, we look at the three key battles that could be decisive at Lord’s.
Chris Woakes v David Warner
The worrying aspect for England from their Edgbaston defeat is the fact that Australia opener David Warner has not even got going yet. The left-hander aggregated just 10 runs in two innings on his return to Test cricket after more than a year, but his ability to deliver on the big occasion has never been in doubt.
Warner was in fabulous form for Australia in the World Cup where he finished as the tournament’s second highest run-scorer and scored a crucial half-century against England at Lord’s in the round-robin clash.
The explosive left-hander, however, will need to be wary of Chris Woakes with the new-ball with the England all-rounder turning into a completely different beast whenever he turns up at Lord’s.
Woakes averages 9.75 with the ball at Lord’s, including 24 wickets in just four Tests, and he was in sensational form against Ireland at the same venue last month. Warner loves a challenge or two and he will relish this pivotal battle with the England man on his favourite stomping ground.
Joe Root v Nathan Lyon
Another England man who loves playing at Lord’s is skipper Joe Root, who has previously registered three tons and five half-centuries at the venue including an unbeaten 200 against Sri Lanka five years ago.
Root managed to strike a fifty in the first Ashes Test but the right-hander will be disappointed not to have converted it into a big score – a worrisome habit – unlike Australia stalwart Steve Smith.
With the hosts looking vulnerable with the bat currently, Root’s wicket will be the most wanted one from an Aussie perspective and they will bank on their spin ace Nathan Lyon to get the better of the England skipper.
Lyon brought up 350 Test dismissals for himself in the win at Edgbaston with a match haul of nine wickets and was particularly sensational in the second innings where he picked up 6-49.
With Justin Langer predicting the Lord’s surface to be a dry and rough one, expect Lyon’s off-spin threat to only increase as the match progresses and give England plenty of headaches.
Jofra Archer v Steve Smith
It is the battle that is on everyone’s lips ever since Jofra Archer was named In England’s 12-man squad for the second Ashes Test.
England would have ideally liked to have given the Barbados-born pacer more time to regain his fitness post his World Cup exertions but an injury to James Anderson, as well as Smith’s menacing form with the bat, means that Archer will arguably be the first name in the XI on Wednesday.
The hosts will already be sick of the sight of Smith despite it being just one Test into his international return, with the Australia batsman extending his Ashes ton tally to 10 thanks to two centuries at Edgbaston.
The outcome of the first Test could have been so much different if Smith had not performed a rescue act, not once, but twice. His average against England in the last 10 Tests is now nearly 140 while his average in the format is only behind the great Don Bradman.
England’s bowlers looked utterly helpless as Smith went about his business at Birmingham and they have now turned to Archer for some desperate inspiration. The express quick will definitely be a different challenge compared to what Smith has faced so far on the tour with his ability to generate some sharp bounce and raw pace.
How this battle goes could arguably be the biggest factor in the match.