Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fawad Ahmed stars in Australia A win

AUSTRALIA A 226 (Henriques 71, Maxwell 61, Jarvis 4-54) and 156 (Doolan 52, Maddinson 42, Chigumbura 4-26) def ZIMBABWE XI 142 (Waller 25, Ahmed 4-54, Cummins 3-19) and 160 (Masakadza 69, Ahmed 4-23, Hazlewood 3-32) by 80 runs at Country Club, Harare.

Ashes aspirant Fawad Ahmed has begun to live up to his lofty expectations of selection for the national team, claiming eight wickets as Australia A comfortably won the opening match of its tour of southern Africa.

The now-Victorian leg-spinner claimed eight wickets - four in each innings - as Australia A won its three-day match against a Zimbabwe XI by 80 runs. He was Australia's most expensive bowler in the first innings, with 4-54 off 11.5 overs, but the most economical in the second with 4-23 from 11 overs.

Australia A coach Troy Cooley said the 31-year-old had been stoic after difficult June-July tour of Britain, in which recent Test debutant Ashton Agar joined the Australian squad ahead of him, and had received some reward in this match.

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"Fawad bowled some really good spells. Once he adjusted and found the right pace for this pitch he got into a rhythm. He was tested on a number of occasions with some lusty hitting - the pitch was a little bit slow. Once he got his rhythm though he definitely showed he could land the ball, and got eight wickets for the game. It's fantastic for him and sets him up nicely for the rest of the tour of South Africa," Cooley said.

"He was feeling the cold over there (in Northern Ireland and England) and definitely found it a bit tough to get used to those conditions, but he showed his true grit. He got stuck in, didn't take a backward step, and given another couple of innings I reckon he would have found a way to work it out over there. And over here he's doing the same.

"He wouldn't have been 100 per cent happy with the way he bowled but he's well on the way to getting himself ready. It's a long tour here. We've got another two four-dayers and then the one-dayers, so I'm looking forward to him keeping improving along the way."

The coach also defended David Warner's performance in his first match since his suspension for punching England's Joe Root during a night out in last month's Champions Trophy. He made only 18 runs for the match - seven in the first innings, 11 in the second - but Cooley said he "couldn't be more happy" about the left-hander's demeanour since he arrived from England in Harare on Wednesday, the day before the match.

"He's taken it in his stride beautifully . . . you wouldn't have know he hadn't been around the team for ages," Cooley said of Warner's temporary release from the Ashes squad to get match practice while he is out of the Test team.

"In his first dig he was probably a bit disappointed to get out. In his second dig he dug in and probably batted for an hour out there and was a bit unlucky . . . pulling a ball but hit it too well and hit it straight to fine-leg. He was showing some good signs in the middle in that hour, and I think that will set him up well for that next game.

"Obviously coming out of English conditions into African conditions and (only) having a day to settle in (it was tough), but once he got settled I think he showed his class . . . he looked in good nick."

Cooley admitted he was not rapt with the batting performance, despite pitch conditions favouring the fast-bowlers. He said Tasmania's Alex Doolan, who scored 35 from 80 deliveries in the first innings and top-scored with 52 from 104 in the second, was clearly its best batsman in the match.

"It was definitely seaming around, and was a little bit tacky and slow. It was pretty tough. You rarely found yourself 'in', you really had to work hard - some might say that was a good thing," he said. "He (Doolan) looked the most comfortable of our batsmen over here . . . by far our most consistent in this game," he said.

Recent Test debutants Moises Henriques and Glenn Maxwell each scored a half-century in the first innings.

Despite Ahmed's eight-wicket haul Cooley insisted Australia A's most impressive bowler was Pat Cummins. The precocious but injury-plagued paceman claimed 3-19 off 11 overs in the first innings and 1-24 off eight in the second, and was well supported by fellow New South Welshman Josh Hazlewood who took six wickets for the match.

"For him to take another step I think was fantastic. He bowled really well for a bloke who hasn't played a lot of cricket for well over a year . . . we can look forward to him playing a little bit more cricket on this tour," he said.

"He had some good pace and he bowled some really good outswing in good conditions. He was the pick of our bowlers."

Australia A's second match, a four-dayer against South Africa A, will begin on Wednesday in Pretoria.

Batsman Shaun Marsh was unavailable for the Zimbabwe match due to a viral infection but is expected to be available for the next match, along with the other three squad members not selected in Harare: Mitch Marsh, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Chadd Sayers.

Warner will play in the match but is expected to rejoin the Ashes squad after that, in time for the third Test in Manchester starting on August 1.


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