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Adil Rashid the street magician still up to his old tricks
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Adil Rashid the street magician still up to his old tricks

This T20 World Cup is the seventh time in the past eight global tournaments that England’s men have reached the semi-finals. There was turbulence en route – not uncommon on the inter-island flights in the Caribbean – but along with the two trophies won, it is a reminder of how far their white-ball cricket has come these past nine years.

Among the constants in this period of uplift has been Adil Rashid, who on Sunday was once again toying with opponents like a street magician. Granted it was the USA trying – and failing – to read Rashid’s sleight of hand. But regardless of the opponent, those four boundary-devoid overs of two for 13 were still a master craftsman at work.

Things had started rustily for the Yorkshireman, his outings against Scotland and Australia in Barbados pockmarked by too many loose deliveries and perhaps showing why allowing him to play two games in six weeks before leaving the UK was an oversight in England’s planning. For all his recent white-ball specialism, Rashid still needs overs.

Since then, however, he has purred once again to the tune of eight wickets in 18 overs at an economy of just over five, with the lines tighter and his googly very much on point. As a leg-spinner who flights the ball, unlike some of the more modern protagonists who drive it into the pitch, he has been harnessing the drift from the cross-winds too.

Among those in awe is Liam Livingstone, who as a Swiss Army knife spinner – leggie to the right-handers, offie to the lefties – gets to pick Rashid’s brains and similarly those of Moeen Ali. Both are closer to the end than the start – Rashid is 36, Moeen now 37 – and Rob Key, the team director, has already indicated the pair’s knowledge and expertise must be retained in some capacity when the day eventually comes.

“Rash has been exceptional for 10 years,” Livingstone said, as England waited on events in the second Super Eight group to discover which semi-final they will play (India in Guyana on Thursday). “He is getting better and better. We are incredibly lucky to have someone like him who is ultra consistent, takes wickets and doesn’t go for any runs.

“I have the best of both worlds. I have one of the best off-spinners England’s had and one of the best leg-spinners as well. It’s pretty perfect. Adil is always talking to me, telling me different things to try; what he thinks, and what to do. Moeen is the same. I feel really blessed I’ve got both of them to help make me a better bowler.”

Livingstone’s own campaign has been reflective of a bits and pieces role in the side. He has faced 33 balls but has one massive regret. Having dragged England to 25 needed off the last 18 balls against South Africa by cracking 33 off 17, only to hole out in the clutch moment. “I felt that was my time in the tournament,” he said.

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As well as being stationed as a hitter down the order, as opposed to the top four in domestic T20, the 30-year-old also never quite knows if his bowling will be used and, if so, how much and when. He bought the wicket of Rovman Powell in a single over that cost 20 runs against West Indies, then did not turn his arm over in the South Africa game. On Sunday, he was Rashid’s wingman, sending down four overs, one for 24.

Livingstone said: “I don’t feel like I have the most glamorous role in this team to be honest. It’s different from what I’m used to for most of my career. It’s been a mental thing these past few weeks, making sure I’m mentally right on it whenever needed.

“But I feel like I struck the ball pretty well against South Africa and bowled pretty well [against USA]. So I guess they’re the last two performances with bat and ball. Who knows, hopefully I’m not needed in the next two games and we can win a World Cup. Sometimes it is better in tournament cricket to sneak up and nick it at the end.”

Source: theguardian.com