Pakistan set to appoint Mickey Arthur as team director

Mickey Arthur and the PCB are close to agreeing a deal that will result in Arthur’s return to the Pakistan men’s side – but as team director and not, as previously, head coach. Talks between the two had ended three weeks ago when the PCB announced it was moving on in its search for a replacement for Saqlain Mushtaq, the outgoing Pakistan coach.
The two sides had failed to reach an agreement on how such a role could work, given Arthur has a long-term deal with Derbyshire, which he does not want to end. But last week, Najam Sethi, the interim head of the PCB, revealed that he was continuing the pursuit of Arthur. ESPNcricinfo understands that an arrangement is close to being finalised now, with Arthur potentially starting from April 1 as team director.
That designation will make for an unusual management structure – at international level at least – in which Arthur will not be with the Pakistan team on every tour but will have a handpicked group of support staff running operations. Lead among the support staff is expected to be former Pakistan fielding coach – and one-time head of their High Performance Centre – Grant Bradburn, in the role of a high-powered assistant coach. There will also be three coaches for batting, bowling and fielding, but no traditional head coach.

During the English county season, Arthur will not be hands on with the team; Pakistan tour Sri Lanka this July for instance and are scheduled to host the Asia Cup in September. But once the county season is over, Arthur is expected to be with the side at high-profile commitments such as the ODI World Cup in India in October-November this year and the Test tour of Australia later in the winter. The duration of such a contract is one of the points still being worked out but both sides believe Pakistan’s schedule is such that it allows for such an arrangement to work.

One of the more interesting appointments under Arthur is likely to be that of Rehan Ul-Haq, the general manager at the PSL franchise Islamabad United and a prominent broadcast analyst. He is expected to be, on paper, the team manager but with a brief much broader than the more traditional administrative role of managers. The role might be more akin to a chief of staff for Arthur, driving the team environment – Rehan is also one of the men credited with creating the data-driven approach at Islamabad United, two-time winners of the PSL.

Arthur was head coach of the Pakistan side between 2016 and 2019, a generally successful white-ball period that included a Champions Trophy triumph in 2017 and the transformation of their limited-overs sides. Having languished behind other Full Members after a poor showing at the 2016 T20 World Cup, Arthur helped transform a T20 side under the leadership of Sarfaraz Ahmed and took them to the number one spot in the ICC rankings. There were notable Test results as well, though the red-ball side proved harder to transform. One big, early defeat at the 2019 World Cup meant Pakistan failed narrowly to reach the last four of the event, and Arthur was replaced by Misbah-ul-Haq soon after.

More significantly, Arthur’s return will reunite him with a number of players in whose development he played a key early role in that first stint, not least the captain Babar Azam. Arthur persisted with Babar during a tough initiation into Test cricket and oversaw his white-ball rise. Others such as Sarfaraz, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Fakhar Zaman and Shadab Khan have also spoken in the past of the impact Arthur has had on their careers. Arthur had a stint with Sri Lanka after the Pakistan job and has since been with Derbyshire.

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How Andhra reached 2022-23 Ranji Trophy quarterfinals

Hanuma Vihari and his Andhra team earned one of the most dramatic knockout qualifications the Ranji Trophy has witnessed in recent memory. 

In an Elite Group B stacked with the strongest domestic competitors, Andhra made a come-from-behind run to the quarterfinals by pipping the might of Mumbai and Maharashtra. 

Incredible twist 

Heading into the last two rounds, Andhra (13 points) did not have much to target, save a few points perhaps, to maintain its fourth spot. Saurashtra was almost through to the last eight, with Mumbai and Maharashtra jostling for the second place. 

Andhra then surprised Saurashtra with a thumping 150-run win away from home in Rajkot. An iota of luck came the side’s way on the third day of that match when Hanuma Vihari sensed an opportunity after securing a 178-run first-innings lead over the home side. With an eye on the Mumbai-Delhi game, he saw a chance to reduce the 10-point deficit with the record Ranji Trophy champion. 

Andhra captain and batter Hanuma Vihari.

Andhra captain and batter Hanuma Vihari.

“We hadn’t followed the Mumbai-Delhi match. They were 20 for no loss at one point and suddenly 37/5 towards the end of lunch. I hadn’t seen the score immediately, but after seeing that position, I thought we could have a chance if we could enforce the follow-on and get seven points. But we also knew, it was a bit of a risk with just a 178-run lead. I thought it was important to secure six points which were comfortable. We weren’t completely sure, so I asked the match referee about the rule. But then they told me once you’ve informed a decision, you can’t change it,” Vihari told  Sportstar

Thankfully for his side, Vihari’s instinctive call paid off as Andhra vanquished Saurashtra in another day and a half to bag six points. 

Last round drama 

Heading into the last round, Saurashtra had secured qualification while Maharashtra (25 points) and Mumbai (23) clashed in a virtual knockout for second place. Meanwhile, Andhra (19) had a “0.01 per cent chance” to qualify, as head coach Yere Goud would later describe. 

Vihari admitted he had little hope even as Andhra finished its campaign with a comprehensive innings and 95 runs mauling of Assam within three days in Vizianagaram, while five sessions were left in the Mumbai-Maharashtra game. 

“4 outright wins in 7 games! We fought hard but, Not meant to be this year. We will come back harder and stronger next season. Proud to lead this bunch who gives their everything on the ground,” Vihari posted on social media at 1:46 pm during Day 3 of the seventh round. 

Within the next 90 minutes, it was high-end drama in Mumbai as the home side tied with Maharashtra’s first innings score of 384 after a valiant Tanush Kotian fell as the last man on 93. For only the 10th time in the history of over 5000 games, neither team had managed to take the lead in a Ranji Trophy match. Of course, Vihari had to delete his post.  

A draw the next day would mean Andhra would catapult to the second spot over Maharashtra despite them levelling on points – the BCCI’s new tie-breaker rule meant the number of bonus point wins was the first criterion. Andhra earned its first in the last round, while Maharashtra had none till that stage. 

There was delirium among the Andhra team members; most of whom had left for their respective homes after the third day’s play while the captain and a few of his teammates had stayed back in Vizag. 

“After the Assam game, I thought we had a good season, winning four matches outright in a tough group. I was happy with the effort, but somewhere you also feel disappointed that despite playing good cricket and not qualify. We were following the scores of Mumbai-Maharashtra. Once the ninth wicket fell, I had a little bit of hope. I could not believe it when they tied, but on the other hand, I was still waiting for the next day,” Vihari says. 

“Last day was pretty dramatic. Me, Ricky (Bhui), Prithvi (Raj Yarra) and Lalith (Mohan) were together in Vizag. We couldn’t sit in one place, so we went on a drive. Just driving around for six hours while looking at the score every five minutes. We were supposed to fly the previous evening, but we stayed back after the tie. The other players had left by then (laughs).” 

Mumbai and Maharashtra slipped up on the final day, Mumbai fell 58 runs short of an improbable 253-run target in 28 overs and Maharashtra failed to scalp four more wickets.  

Andhra squeezed through. Within hours, the team had to regroup and fly to face Madhya Pradesh in Indore after long layovers in Chennai and Delhi 

System and schedule 

A few murmurs were heard about the points system after the dramatic league-stage ended. Mumbai captain Ajinkya Rahane batted for five-day games. Maharashtra’s Ankeet Bawane lamented the bonus point rule. 

“I was not sure about the system until the last day (laughs), because I really didn’t have much hope before that. It keeps changing every year, doesn’t it? It is confusing. We have got to play with the rules that the BCCI have set and should respect them. I am not saying this just because it went our way, but it’s about understanding the rules and planning your season and matches accordingly. Although we won four matches, we weren’t supposed to go through. I guess we should have been complaining,” Vihari says. 

The Andhra batter, however, raises another pertinent issue. “Looking at the schedule, that’s one thing I’d complain about is the rest that we are getting between the games. Maybe the BCCI should have a look at it because it’s affecting the players and the combination. Especially for a team like Andhra, our bench strength is not adequate. We are improving. This season has been cramped, and most players would agree with it. We used to have four days break between games. If we can get back to that, it would be good because there’s a lot of travelling involved, unlike the last couple of seasons where we were stationed at a particular place.” 

Around the corner 

A lacklustre domestic season has followed Vihari after he was recently dropped from India’s Test squad. The 29-year-old said he is not fretting too much over it. 

 “I would say I’ve been batting well in the league phase. I couldn’t get a big score, got a couple of 80s. It’s been a strange season for me, I’ve got the starts but could not convert them. It has not happened to me before, but hopefully, the big one is around the corner when it matters the most in the quarterfinals or knockouts,” he says. 

“The selectors have had a conversation with me. They’ve told me if I keep getting runs, they are still looking at me, and that’s a huge motivation for me to score runs and come back to the side.” 

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Recent Match Report – England vs South Africa 2nd ODI 2022/23

South Africa 347 for 5 (Bavuma 109, Miller 58*) beat England 342 for 7 (Buttler 94*, Brook 80, Moeen 51) by five wickets

Temba Bavuma scored a defiant hundred as South Africa completed the highest successful chase in Bloemfontein and their third-highest in the format to win the series against England. Crucially, they also gained 10 World Cup Super League points and move into ninth place on the table, just outside of the automatic qualification zone, with three matches left to play.

Bavuma’s knock, his third ton in ODIs, came at a significant time in his career. His white-ball captaincy was in the spotlight after South Africa’s T20 World Cup exit, he had gone 33 international innings without a three-figure score and he is the only member of the current squad who is not part of the ongoing SA20, South Africa’s new marquee franchise competition, with his scoring rate under scrutiny. He put all that aside to set the tone for a statement win and leave England much-vaunted line-up, who had half-centuries from Harry Brook, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali (for the first time since 2017) in his wake.

But he did not do it alone. South Africa paced their chase to perfection and never let the required rate run away from them. They were 64 without loss after 10 overs, 164 for 1 at the halfway stage and needed 156 runs from their last 20, with seven wickets in hand. Even when wickets fell, their scoring rate kept up and they needed 70 runs off the last 10 overs and only 24 from the last five. David Miller‘s unbeaten 58 and Marco Jansen’s 32 took South Africa over the line with five balls to spare.

South Africa’s chase got underway with Quinton de Kock, who left the field after 15 overs in the England innings when he was hit on the right thumb off a Brook under-edge, cleared to bat. He was taken for an X-ray, which did not pick up a fracture, but he did not appear entirely comfortable. He was overshadowed by a determined Bavuma, who dominated their 77-run stand and had even scored twice as many runs as de Kock at one point in the chase. De Kock was tied down by Olly Stone, whom he eventually hit to midwicket to end his knock.

That went almost unnoticed by Bavuma, who batted with intent and scored quickly. In particular, he peppered the on side, where 70 of his total runs came. He was also the senior partner in the 97-run second-wicket partnership with Rassie van der Dussen, who was at the other end when Bavuma, struggling with cramp, drilled Adil Rashid through the covers to bring up his hundred. He celebrated in emphatic style, pointed to his name on his back and thudded his hand on his heart and the Protea badge. And then he was spent.

Bavuma scooped Sam Curran onto his own stumps three overs later to give England an opening. In the next over, van der Dussen hit Rashid straight to backward point and South Africa seemed to be in some trouble. But their depth came good.

Aiden Markram and Heinrich Klaasen scored 55 runs in 39 balls before Klaasen edged Stone and Buttler took a good catch; Markram went on to score 49 but was bowled by a Rashid googly, leaving it to Miller and Jansen to finish off. They put on 65 in 46 balls, with Miller enhancing his status as a finisher and Jansen his as an allrounder.

Earlier, South Africa made three changes to the attack that won them Friday’s series opener and left out Kagiso Rabada, Sisanda Magala and Tabraiz Shamsi for Jansen, Lungi Ngidi and Keshav Maharaj. The bowlers were on top initially, after Bavuma opted to field. Ngidi found early seam movement and made the first incision when he bowled Jason Roy with a delivery that nipped back. At the other end Wayne Parnell pinned Dawid Malan on the back pad to leave England 33 for 2 in the seventh over, and 42 or 2 after 10.

England only began to build some momentum when the change bowlers came on. Brook, who was dismissed for a duck on debut on Friday, showed his class with a high-quality 80 made up of clean-hitting and clever footwork. The highlights of his innings were his ramp off Jansen over the slips for six and the way he took on Maharaj. He scored 19 runs off the 13 balls he faced from Maharaj, including the single that brought him his fifty.

Ben Duckett was largely a spectator and holed out to Maharaj, which brought Buttler to the crease in the 17th over. The England captain played second fiddle to Brook at first, but upped the ante once Brook was out, and England had a platform. They were 161 for 4 after 30 overs, but began to raise the tempo as Moeen got to his first fifty in 64 matches in an over where he hit Anrich Nortje for 14 runs. Nortje got his own back when Moeen dragged him onto his stumps and South Africa could apply the brakes.

They gave away just 21 runs in the next five overs and were squeezing England until Buttler got hold of Ngidi. He hit 22 runs off Ngidi’s eighth over, including three sixes, while Curran played the perfect cameo with a 28-ball 17 to give England impetus at the end. In total, England scored 181 runs in their last 20 overs, including 60 in the last four but it was not enough to avert a fifth consecutive defeat in ODIs.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

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‘Historic Win’: Nooshin Al Khadeer, India U-19 women’s team head coach, gets nostalgic after fulfilling old dream

Nooshin Al Khadeer’s voice choked as she spoke to her players, moments after India clinched the inaugural U-19 Women’s T20 World Cup in Potchefstroom, South Africa, on Sunday.

For former India international, Nooshin, it was a realisation of an old dream. In 2005, as part of the Indian team, Nooshin reached the final of the Women’s World Cup, but on that occasion in Centurion, India went down to Australia.

This time, as the coach of the U-19 team, Nooshin made sure she was leaving South Africa with the trophy. And her wards fulfilled that unaccomplished dream by thrashing England by seven wickets in the final and clinching the trophy, a first for Indian women’s cricket across all disciplines and formats.

A teary-eyed Nooshin hugged her wards and later joined them for a dance session in the dressing room to celebrate the historic win. “They even complimented me for dancing well,” an elated Nooshin told Sportstar over the phone.

In the interview, she explained what this victory means for women’s cricket in India and also had a piece of advice for young girls, who have just tasted success on a foreign shore.

How would you describe this moment?

Awesome! This is like a dream come true moment for all the people back home, who were expecting us to win. I believe things would change for women’s cricket back home, and it was very important for these girls to have one ICC trophy. I am glad and also lucky to be part of this historic side that won the inaugural edition of the U-19 World Cup.

Shafali Verma revealed how you inspired her by reminiscing about the 2005 Women’s World Cup, where India lost in the final, and told her that this side had the potential to create history by winning the title. If you could throw some light on the conversation you had with Shafali?

We were talking about something which happened 18 years back. When you are a player, you want to live your dreams and be part of the team that wins a World Cup and for me, 2005 was one such moment. Yes, this time during the tournament, memories kept flowing in because back in 2005, we played the semifinal against New Zealand at the same ground in Potchefstroom, so I still remember that dressing room. Our dressing room, this time, was different.

But when I walked into the ground, for the Sri Lanka game, there was a flashback. A lot of things came to my mind and they brought back so many memories.

Of course, being in a different role now, things have changed. I would say, I was more aggressive as a player – just like how these girls are now – but being the coach, I did not want to end up on the losing side again. I wanted to win and I just told Shafali that playing in South Africa brings back memories for me and that she could make it special by winning the title. We did have a lot of conversations like these and I believe that Shafali still has a child-like exuberance in her, who enjoys these little things, these victories and joys.

I understand that she has made it to the senior team at a very young age and maybe at that level, you need to hold on to your emotions. But I saw Shafali enjoying success with all her players around. So, those things made me realise that we could it happen have those little, little dreams through these kids.

Shafali and Richa Ghosh joined the team only before the South Africa tour. Since they were not with the group earlier – during the New Zealand series at home – how did you ensure that the current bunch of players was not overwhelmed to have them in the dressing room? How did you handle things over the last few weeks?

We just kept things very simple because I knew where they were coming from. Some of the U-19 players had seen them as role models, so it was very important to ensure that these 15 players remain strong as a unit and nobody feels like an outsider. All the support staff were on the same page that we should treat all the players equally, and it was important to give Shafali clarity in terms of her role in the tournament, and what was expected from her. I would give credit to Richa and Shafali for adapting to this culture immediately because of how important this tournament was for all of us. So, I would not take the entire credit for this success and would want to give some credit to those two kids as well because unless they took the effort, it wouldn’t have worked out so well.

So, it was important to tell everyone that ‘boss, we are looking at winning the World Cup and that is the ultimate goal’. I am glad we could achieve our target.

Historic Win: India captain Shafali Verma lifts the ICC Women’s U-19 T20 World Cup Trophy following the victory over England in the final at JB Marks Oval on January 29, 2023.

Historic Win: India captain Shafali Verma lifts the ICC Women’s U-19 T20 World Cup Trophy following the victory over England in the final at JB Marks Oval on January 29, 2023.

The real challenge for most youngsters begins now. As they get ready to chase their dreams of graduating to the senior level, how should they handle things?

I have seen a spark in these youngsters, a spark that makes us believe that they can do it. Throughout the tournament, we witnessed that spark. It was a roller-coaster journey for us after the loss against Australia in the Super Six. And for the girls, coming back stronger was important. Looking ahead, we told the girls that ‘look, no matter how many victories you are getting, we are going to remain as a unit’ and the idea was to keep things simple. We have been emphasising this and have advised them to keep their cricket simple and stay grounded.

How did you keep the girls motivated ahead of the final?

Throughout the tournament, we decided not to juggle too much and today was different. We told them to take every game as a normal fixture because the moment you start thinking that it’s a semifinal or a final, the pressure starts building up. We decided that we will treat this as one odd game that we need to win.

Players also knew that it was a huge platform and they had to perform. The entire support staff decided to keep things simple and have a good environment to ensure that the pressure does not build up. When a young player knows that thik hai, koi tension ki baat nahi hai, it helps her stay calm and composed. We did just that and it helped us.

How much of a boost will this title win be ahead of the inaugural Women’s Premier League?

This is a big platform for us to do well and for the girls to get exposure at the right time. My personal advice to them would be to take one game at a time because there will be a lot of cricket coming up.

They don’t really need to feel disheartened because ultimately they have done something which we were waiting for a long time.

What’s next for you as a coach?

I always believe in simple living and high thinking. That is my motto. I am looking forward to joining the Railways team for the Super League the moment I land in India.

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