In Focus – Six players to watch out for in the ICC WCL Division Three

  The 2017 ICC World Cricket League Division Three is set to commence in Uganda later today. The week-long 50-over tournament will feature six Associate nations, with the top two teams earning entry into the six-team 2018 Division Two tournament and getting a step closer to a shot at qualification for the 2019 World Cup. 

  The tournament will feature a round-robin stage followed by playoffs. The teams in action are hosts Uganda (5th in 2015 Division Two), Canada (6th in 2015 Division Two), Malaysia (3rd in 2014 Division Three), Singapore (4th in 2014 Division Three), United States of America (1st in 2016 Division Three) and Oman (2nd in 2016 Division Three).

  Eighteen matches will be played across three venues in Uganda. With just a few hours to go for the tournament to begin, fans of Associate cricket would undoubtedly be looking forward to what promises to be an unpredictable and keenly-contested week of one-day cricket. We look at six players – one from each of the participating nations – who will be worth keeping an eye on.

Deusdedit Muhumuza (Uganda)

  Hosts Uganda, under the aegis of their Kenyan coach Steve Tikolo, will enter the tournament riding on a rich vein of form, having remarkably subdued Kenya 4-0 in the five-match Easter Series in April. A notable performer for the Cricket Cranes, as the Ugandan side is known, in this series was 27-year-old pace-bowling all-rounder Deusdedit Muhumuza.

  Muhumuza repeatedly stifled the Kenyan batsmen with his medium pace, not to mention his valuable lower-order batting. Last September, he had fashioned his side’s two-wicket win over Kenya with a haul of 5/49. Reported for a suspect action in 2013-14, Muhumuza has since come back strong and could be a force to reckon with in familiar environs.

      Pace bowler Deusdedit Muhumuza will be looking to impress for hosts Uganda in the ICC World Cricket League Division Three (source – fairfax nz/robert charles)

Satsimranjit Dhindsa (Canada)

  India-born fast bowler Satsimranjit Dhindsa is an important cog in the Canadian bowling attack. The 26-year-old played a vital role in Canada’s Auty Cup victory last October, taking six wickets at 22.33, including 4/37 in the second game wherein Canada successfully defended 216 to win by 17 runs. Last week, Dhindsa showed his prowess on the Zimbabwean tour as well.

  He took 5/53 as Canada ran a strong Zimbabwe A outfit close, losing by only two wickets. Along with the equally promising Cecil Pervez, he forms an effective opening pair that can put batsmen to the test. Dhindsa’s abilities are not limited to the ball – he can wield the long handle as well, as he showed during a valuable knock of 32* in the opening game of the Auty Cup. 

Ahmed Faiz (Malaysia)

  Malaysian captain Ahmed Faiz is the fulcrum of his side’s middle order, and much will be expected from him in this crunch tournament. Malaysia’s opening encounter will be against Singapore, the team that bore the brunt of Faiz’s blade in the 2015-16 Stan Nagiah Cup – Faiz scored 111* in the 50-over game, and followed it with a 109* in the T20.

  Faiz tends to score heavily in the World Cricket League – in 2014, he logged 317 runs at 63.40 in the Division Five tournament, 239 at 49.33 in Division Four and another 261 at 52.20 in Division Three. The 29-year-old, who first led Malaysia at the Under-19 World Cup at home in 2008, will be raring to lead from the front once again.

Arjun Mutreja (Singapore)

  A highly talented opening batsman, 27-year-old Arjun Mutreja will be banked upon by the Singaporeans to provide a robust start at the top. Born in Rajasthan in India, Mutreja has both, the maturity to dig deep and play an anchoring innings, as well as the capacity to accelerate when required.

  A worthy example of the latter was an innings of 79 off just 45 balls against Oman in the ACC Twenty20 Cup in 2014-15, an effort that gave Singapore a significant 23-run victory. Mutreja has happy memories of the last WCL Division Three, played in 2014, in which he finished as the highest run-getter with 282. An encore would surely hold Singapore in good stead.

       Leg spinner Timil Patel is expected to play a pivotal role for the United States of America in the six-team tournament in Uganda (source – usacricketers.com/shiek mohamed) 

Timil Patel (United States of America)

  Yet another India-born player on this list, 33-year-old leg spinner Timil Patel could prove to be the United States’ trump card in Uganda, what with his experience of first-class cricket – he played for his native Gujarat in the Ranji Trophy till 2009 – and the boost received in the form of a Caribbean Premier League contract in March.

  Patel was instrumental in the United States’ victorious WCL Division Four campaign last October, snaring a joint-highest of 14 wickets at 15.50, including 5/22 against Oman in a league match and a tidy 3/38 against the same opponents in the final. He also impressed for ICC Americas in the West Indies’ Regional Super50 earlier this year, taking eight wickets at 23.88.    

Zeeshan Maqsood (Oman)

  29-year-old all-rounder Zeeshan Maqsood is an integral part of the Omani set-up, as he affords his team the dual benefit of a hard-hitting opening batsman as well as a crafty slow left-arm orthodox bowler. With Oman aiming to further build on their gains of the past two years, Maqsood will assume an important role in the tournament.

  Less than three weeks ago, Maqsood hit a rapid 73 to set up Oman’s 38-run win over the United Arab Emirates, a team with ODI status, in Al Amerat. Last year against the same opponents in Dubai, he took 4/14 in less than four overs as Oman won by 72 runs. His fielding is as much of an asset, as this jaw-dropping catch at the 2016 World Twenty20 testified.

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Famous Test Matches – West Indies v Pakistan, Bridgetown, 1976-77

  Pakistan’s 1976-77 tour of the Caribbean was only their second to the region, following their maiden sojourn back in 1957-58, which remains the only Test series to have featured two triple hundreds. As was the case 19 years earlier, the opening Test of the 1976-77 series was also played at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, from February 18-23, 1977.

  Going into this series, the West Indies had not played Test cricket for six months, with their last assignment being a significant 3-0 win in the five-Test series in England. Pakistan, on the other hand, had notched a comprehensive home win against New Zealand, followed by a commendable draw in Australia, in the preceding four months.

  Pakistan were led by Mushtaq Mohammad, younger brother of Hanif, who had scored an epic 337 the last time the two teams met at Bridgetown. He elected to bat after calling correctly, and his decision seemed vindicated as openers Majid Khan and Sadiq Mohammad – yet another of the Mohammad brothers – sedately put on 72.

  The West Indies had in their ranks two young fast bowlers on Test debut who would go on to have successful careers – Guyanese Colin Croft and Barbadian Joel Garner. The two were involved in the first wicket of the day, when Garner had Sadiq caught by Croft. Majid and Haroon Rasheed further added 76 for the second wicket, and at 148/1, Pakistan looked primed for a big total.

  However, Rasheed’s dismissal to off-spinner Maurice Foster led to a collapse engineered by the two debutants. Croft had Mushtaq caught behind by Deryck Murray for a duck, while Garner dealt a double blow, castling Majid for 88 and sending back Javed Miandad cheaply, out leg-before. Asif Iqbal’s wicket to Croft added to the visitors’ frustration, and they had now lost five for 85.

      Wasim Raja twice led Pakistan’s recovery, scoring 117* and 71 in the first and second innings respectively (source – brandsynario.com)

  Resuming at 269/6 on the second day, Pakistan had an undesired start, losing Imran Khan to Andy Roberts. Their hopes of bolstering the total now pinned on the left-handed Wasim Raja, who delivered with a fine century from number seven. He marshalled the tail expertly, sharing in stands of 64 with Saleem Altaf and 73 with Sarfraz Nawaz for the eighth and ninth wickets respectively.

  Raja’s unbeaten 117, including 12 fours and a six, powered Pakistan to a formidable 435. Garner bowled with purpose to collect 4/130, with Croft not too far behind with 3/85. In reply, the West Indian openers Roy Fredericks and Gordon Greenidge added 59, but both were back in the hut before stumps on the second day, the score reading 109/2.

  The pace duo of Imran and Sarfraz continued to trouble the hosts early on the third day, and at 183/5, with the key wickets of Vivian Richards and Alvin Kallicharan also taken, Pakistan clearly had the upper hand. One big hurdle however remained to be crossed – the West Indian captain Clive Lloyd, who came in at the fall of the third wicket.

  Lloyd found a willing ally in Murray, and the duo put the Pakistani attack to the sword with a much-needed restabilization job. Lloyd dominated the sixth-wicket stand of 151, unleashing his full range of strokes to lead his team’s fightback. Murray fell to Imran for a composed 52, but Lloyd was not done yet, and added another 70 for the seventh wicket with Garner, who cracked a breezy 43.

  The West Indian innings terminated at 421 with nine men out, as Vanburn Holder was absent hurt. Lloyd finished with a captain’s knock of 157, bedecked with 22 fours and three sixes. With only 14 runs separating the teams, the proceedings of the second innings would be critical to the outcome of the match. Stumps were taken on the third day with Pakistan at 18/0, leading by 32.

       West Indian captain Clive Lloyd rescued his team in the first innings with a commanding knock of 157 (source – gettyimages)

  The fourth day featured plenty of ebbs and flows that promised to set up an exciting fight to the finish. Croft (4/47) removed the Pakistani openers before they caused much damage, but at 102/2, the visitors could scarcely have imagined the mayhem to follow. Roberts (3/66) opened the floodgates by bowling Rasheed, and later added Mushtaq’s scalp to his tally.

  At the other end, Croft’s sustained pace got the better of Iqbal and Miandad, and the Pakistani innings was now in tatters at 113/6, the last four wickets having fallen for just 11 runs. Garner joined the party with two wickets of his own, and the match seemed West Indies’ to lose as Pakistan crashed to 158/9 in the second session, ahead by no more than 172.

  As it happened, Raja proved to be the home team’s bane again. The West Indian fielders, especially the wicketkeeper Murray, did not help themselves with a shoddy display. Raja was dropped four times, and he went on to score 71, the majority of those runs coming in a sensational tenth-wicket stand worth 133 with wicketkeeper Wasim Bari (68).

  This partnership was then the second-highest for the last wicket, and it changed the complexion of this already riveting Test. Murray was guilty of conceding 29 byes, largely contributing to the total of 68 extras, which created a new Test record at that time. The entire match would feature as many as 173 extras, which still stands as the Test record.

  The eventual target for the West Indies was a stiff 306, and matters were further complicated when Greenidge was out to Sarfraz with the score at 12. The hosts began the final day at 41/1, with all four results possible. Fredericks and Richards turned the tide towards their side, as their partnership blossomed to 130 in the opening session, making Pakistan uneasy.

      Colin Croft returned match figures of 7/132 on Test debut. He would go on to take 8/29 in the first innings of the next Test (source – gettyimages)

  Sarfraz did the star turn for the visitors, accounting for both, Fredericks (52) and Richards (92), who were trying to go on the offensive in their quest to make a victory bid. The middle order was severely dented by the pace trio of Sarfraz and Imran, as the West Indian score slipped from 142/1 to 185/5. It was soon becoming an increasingly tough battle of survival for the hosts.

  As if this was not enough, Altaf, the third frontline paceman, brought Pakistan closer to victory by grabbing the wickets of Kallicharan, Garner and Murray within the space of 11 runs. When the eighth wicket fell at 217, the mandatory 20 overs were yet to begin. Roberts and Holder, who was fit to bat now, defied by adding 20 runs in 45 minutes before the latter was cleaned up by Imran.

  Croft came out to join Roberts, with Pakistan one strike away from a crucial lead in the five-Test series. However, the two fast bowlers hung in as the overs went by, ensuring that the final nail in the coffin was not hammered. The West Indies had a narrow escape, ending at 251/9 amid great tension. Roberts consumed 95 minutes for his nine, returning to the pavillion as a saviour.

  Croft (7/132) and Sarfraz (7/204) both finished with seven wickets apiece in the match. This last-gasp draw was perhaps a fitting finish to what had been an absorbing Test match, filled with many a twist in the plot due to noteworthy rescue acts in all four innings. The West Indies took the series 2-1, after winning the deciding final Test at Kingston by 140 runs.

Match Scorecard