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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 25 June 2024

Wait over, Shahbaz Ahmed’s turn now to take on the best

Bengal left-arm spinner all-rounder has produced several impact-making performances with both bat and ball

Sayak Banerjee Calcutta Published 10.10.22, 03:25 AM
Shahbaz Ahmed during his debut game in Ranchi on Sunday.

Shahbaz Ahmed during his debut game in Ranchi on Sunday. PTI picture

As soon as ball-tracking showed the ball would crash onto Janneman Malan’s middle-and-off stump, Shahbaz Ahmed’s joy knew no bounds. And why wouldn’t it be so? Making his international debut in the second India-South Africa ODI in Ranchi on Sunday, that was Shahbaz’s maiden scalp at the highest level.

A consistent performer since his first-class debut in the 2018-19 season, the Bengal left-arm spinner all-rounder has produced several impact-making performances with both bat and ball, which helped him in bagging an IPL contract with Royal Challengers Bangalore. The 27-year-old got selected for India A as well, but this was the occasion Shahbaz had been waiting for.

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He did find a place in the Indian squad that had toured Zimbabwe for three ODIs back in August in place of an injured Washington Sundar. But he could not make the final XI then, taking the field only as a substitute in one of those games.

The occasion finally arrived at the JSCA International Stadium on Sunday when Shahbaz received his debut cap from skipper Shikhar Dhawan.

The game was just into its fourth over when Dhawan brought the left-armer into the attack. And Shahbaz (10- 0-54-1) ensured he was accurate right from the onset.

On a dry wicket, he stuck to his strength, which is bowling the stump-to-stump line and getting the odd one to turn just a little bit away. He kept following that process and it bore fruit in the form of Malan’s wicket in the fifth ball of his fourth over.

Shahbaz had suddenly slipped in one that turned a bit away from Malan. The Proteas opener, expecting it to come straight towards him, completely missed the line and the ball hit his back leg.

The DRS confirmed Shahbaz his first-ever wicket in international cricket, and it certainly was a deserving one for his accuracy. He gave little away inside the Powerplay, conceding just two boundaries in his first six overs.

“For someone on debut, it’s not easy to bowl during the Powerplay. But whatever the scenario is, Shahbaz stays unfazed, whether he’s bowling or batting.

“No matter what, he’ll stick to his game. Precisely, Shahbaz doesn’t really have an off day,” former Bengal head coach Arun Lal, during whose tenure Shahbaz improved his skills, stated.

Shahbaz didn’t get the opportunity to showcase his batting abilities in Sunday’s game. But if he features in the final ODI in New Delhi on Tuesday, one can definitely expect an even better performance. “He’ll be more confident now,” current Bengal head coach Laxmi Ratan Shukla said.

NZ outplay Bangladesh

Christchurch: Kane Williamson and Devon Conway’s 85- run stand helped steer New Zealand to an eight-wicket win over Bangladesh in the T20 tri-series on Sunday.

Conway struck 70 not out off 51 balls, while Williamson made 30 off 29 balls as New Zealand chased down Bangladesh’s 137/8 with 13 balls to spare.

Brief scores: Bangladesh 137/8 in 20 ovs. NZ 142/2 in 17.5 ovs. NZ won by 8 wickets

Written with inputs from AP/PTI

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