Monday, 27 June 2011

Azhar the man for Kent, England v Sri Lanka brief preview

Where would Kent's Twenty20 season be without their Pakistan connection? If it's not Wahab Riaz winning them games then it's Azhar Mahmood. Azhar has hit a rich vein of form, it seems, with bat in hand. Put this together with his intelligent bowling and you have a veteran contributing far more than he should need to for this Kent side. Once again Denly and Key are looking like men holding their cricket bat the wrong way up. Van Jaarsveld is not hitting previous heights and Kent are suffering. Just now they are doing enough to stay in with a sniff. If this brings the crowds to Canterbury over the next week or two then the powers that be will be pleased enough - though not as happy as they'd be with a home tie in a quarter-final, under lights and on TV.
As I said Azhar Mahmood has been the main man in any Kent success this past ten days or so. He really must have been some performer in his youth. I feel that, had Kent got hold of him ten years earlier in his career, then his considerable contribution at Surrey might have been bettered - no superstars at Kent, just hardworking County pros in need of some inspiration. The last decade might have had more than a Twenty20 win in it had Azhar been the overseas man. It might be the twilight of his career, but he has endeared himself to the Kent supporters.

England begin the ODI series with Sri Lanka tomorrow at The Oval. The only thing that needs to be said ahead of it is that Sanath Jayasuriya will be playing his final game for Sri Lanka. I remember well the day that he announced himself to the World in 1996 in the World Cup quarter-final against England. During that tournament, and on instruction from Ranatunga, he revolutionised the role of the opening batsman in ODI cricket. Many have tried to imitate, but only Gilchrist could genuinely be said to have bettered him (Sehwag comes pretty close too) in the role of "pinch-hitter." I hope to be able to catch a bit of Jayasuriya's final innings and I wouldn't be upset if it was a masterclass.

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