ELIZABETH BOTCHERBY: Marchant de Lange shone with the ball for Trent Rockets during a temporary secondment to The Hundred, putting pressure on Wahab Riaz to make his debut. And of course he did
Such is the talent in the Trent rockets bowling that can be hard to stand out. Their list is something to envy.
Rashid Khan needs little introduction. The little Afghan spinner entered that game with eight wickets in his first four outings in yellow Rockets, dominating The Hundred just as he has dominated every white ball competition he has turned to.
At Samit Patel, the Rockets have arguably the best white-ball domestic all-rounder of his generation, not only an explosive batsman but also a crafty left-arm spinner with 266 wickets and a career saving of 7.27.
Matt Carter of Nottinghamshire is his junior by a decade, a tall, right-arm spinner whose height gives him an unusual advantage over many beaters.
Lancashire’s Luke Wood has established himself as his team’s first set specialist, playing the first five balls in his five appearances so far and being used sparingly elsewhere. Skipper Lewis Gregory, Steven Mullaney and D’Arcy Short are also talented bowling options.
However, tonight’s game against Welsh fire in Sophia Gardens, there would never have been only one man: Wahab Riaz.
The Pakistani veteran endured a frustrating wait to make his debut. He arrived in the country in early July to be told his work permit was invalid, forcing him to return to Pakistan, get a new visa and start square one with the quarantine process. In his absence, Marchant de Lange excelled, winning a five for his first game against Southern Brave and ending his four-game stint with eight wickets and a saving of 1.38. He joined the team as a temporary fix, but wasted no time in establishing himself as their first-choice crimper.
However, Riaz’s arrival triggered his departure and de Lange returned to Somerset. Now Riaz is no slouch with the ball. The Death Specialist has taken 334 wickets in 280 career T20 appearances, 34 of those coming in Pakistani green, and has a saving of less than 8.5 in every franchise league he’s been in. Even in his “worst” league – the T20 Blast – his record stands at 32 appearances, 41 wickets and a savings of 8.25.
And while De Lange left an important pair of shoes to fill, both physically and metaphorically, Riaz – to anyone’s surprise – turned out to be up to the task.
Introduced in the attack to kick off the power play’s third set, the 36-year-old wasted no time scoring his first wicket, rejecting Tom Banton (caught Khan) a ball after the Somerset man had punished a bad delivery for four.
His second five was a bit smoother, giving 11 points, including the game’s top six, as Leus du Plooy and Glenn Phillips drove into town on the rusty speedster. At this point, for those who are persuaded of the Trent Rockets – and in particular, new fans who probably hadn’t seen the Pakistani International Bowl before this game – the decision to replace Lange with Riaz probably didn’t seem so. good.
However, by the end of the Welsh Fire 100 Bullets, the membership of the Nottinghamshire branch of the Wahab Riaz appreciation society will have grown exponentially.
Saving his last 10 deliveries for 91-100 bullets, Riaz took Jimmy Neesham off with a perfect thumb, scared off the Plooy while trying to complete a downright outrageous three, watched Qais Ahmed pick thin-legged Dawid Malan and knocked down Luke Fletcher to complete the innings – his first in yellow Trent Rockets – with the numbers 4 for 30. It’s not a bad attempt to replicate de Lange’s debut at five for.
BRILLIANT DE RIAZ! 💥#WelshFire only manage 11 races on the last 10 balls while Wahab excels
Wahab pills each of the 10 and takes 3️⃣ wickets, including Neesham with a superb yorker 🎳#TrentRockets need 1️⃣4️⃣0️⃣
– Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) August 6, 2021
However, the beauty of the bowling alley of Riaz’s death in South Wales was less in the number of wickets he had notched, but more in the way he handled batsmen like puppets on a string. His recipe of choice mixed length balls and yorkers (the latter coming in, medium, legged, and wide varieties), each landing on a six pence exactly where he intended to place it. What about the four he conceded on the 98th ball, you ask? A fortuitous inside edge to beat the goalie, completely out of the bowler’s control.
To say that Riaz was the missing piece of the Trent Rockets puzzle would do not only de Lange a huge disservice, but their entire bowling unit as well. Instead, it’s more like the icing on the cake of an already excellent and well-rounded setup, expertly curated by Captain Gregory. His bowling of death is the piece de resistance for a team who, after their six-wicket win over Welsh Fire, are looking to make a top-three spot.
The only concern for the Rockets is being able to keep their finisher healthy? He was already feeling his back after 20 bullets in Sophia Gardens, but I hope that was just the aftermath of two weeks of isolation in a sedentary hotel.
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