The Cape Town Blitz’s Pakistan star Muhammad Nawaz scored his first T20 half-century and took a wicket as his side defeated the Tshwane Spartans by 49 runs in their Mzansi Super League opener on Friday.
There was a bit of pressure placed on the Cape Town Blitz after being sent in to bat first to kickstart the much-awaited Mzansi Super League.
International marquee player and Blitz captain Dawid Malan fell leg before for five and the top three were all out with the score on 64 with almost half the overs whittled away.
Nawaz has yet to cement himself in any of Pakistan’s squads, which is why he wasn’t a first-choice draft pick, only being brought in as a late replacement for the Blitz’s injured West Indian T20 specialist Samuel Badree.
Nawaz walked to the wicket to join 21-year-old Kyle Verreynne, a promising but inexperienced Cape Cobras keeper-batter. Both men had plenty to prove and a whole lot of pressure on them, not least because a damp start to the MSL could affect the public’s perception of the tournament.
The pair scored just three runs off the first over they faced together, bowled by the impressive Lutho Sipamla, Nawaz scoring one from three as the Blitz hit the halfway mark of their innings on 67-3.
The next over, bowled by Jeevan Mendis, saw both batters score five runs and sweep boundaries, Verreynne’s being a powerful reverse sweep.
The pair established a solid understanding as the MSL started to take hold in the imagination of spectators. Next over, Nawaz took 13 runs off Shaun von Berg’s only over, starting with a pulled four off the first ball, and followed by two smart cuts for four.
Ten more runs followed off the following over from Sipamla, including the first six in MSL history, as Nawaz slapped a gorgeous back foot pull high into the evening air, the ball sailing into the Railway Stand to the delight of the crowd.
With Verreynne’s confidence growing, the youngster pulled then cut fours off the first two balls of Rory Kleinveldt’s third over, then gave the strike to Nawaz, who paddled a pull to fine-leg – 14 runs off the over. The ever-growing crowd was full of appreciation for the ‘unknown’ international and the local kid which, ironically, has proven to be one of the great positives from T20 cricket around the world – the chance for players under the radar to grab centre stage and make a name for themselves.
A six and a four by Verreynne in the following over contributed to 13 runs off the seething Sipamla, who had started so well with the ball but was starting to bear the brunt of two T20 batters in full stride. Eight, 11, 10 and nine runs followed off the next four overs, during which both batters went to their respective 50s, Nawaz off 33 balls, Verreynne needing just 30!
In two balls shy of 10 overs, the pair had added 100 runs with a mixture of daring and dashing strokeplay, as well as sharp running between the wickets.
Nawaz fell for 59 after driving Andrew Birch hard off the back foot to long on, where Sipamla held on to the stinging shot as he prevented it from passing over his head for another six.
His 44-minute innings included seven fours and two sixes and came at a strike rate of 159.4, but it was his strokeplay and placement of his shots, as well as his confident yet calm manner that truly brought the fans off their seats in appreciation.
‘A good pitch to bat on,’ said Nawaz after the match. ‘I wanted to give myself time in the middle and then take the chances. New ball was swinging, but later on when the ball got older, it got easy.’
Nawaz also put in a good spell with the ball, taking 1-30 (econ 7.50) to secure the Player of the Match award after a terrific debut in South Africa, as well as ensuring that the MSL got off to a cracking start.
Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix