x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Rankin serves notice of aspirations for England cricket

The Ireland bowler takes two wickets after his batting effort yesterday, and is on the radar given that he will tour Bangladesh with their second-string Lions side.

Boyd Rankin followed his batting effort from yesterday with two wickets.
Boyd Rankin followed his batting effort from yesterday with two wickets.

DUBAI // An Irishman playing a match in the desert for a disparate side of Pashto, Afrikaans and Hindi speakers did his best to impress an England team which he hopes to play for in the future.

Such is the way in the modern world of cricket.

Boyd Rankin's other life working on the family cattle farm in Ireland has been sent firmly to the background by his emergence as a pace bowler of substance in recent times.

He is clearly on England's radar, given that he will tour Bangladesh with their second string Lions side once he has finished playing for the ICC Combined XI here in the UAE.

His time with this experimental composite side, made up of the best players from the non-Test nations, has not been wasted, either.

He made his highest first-class score (43) with the bat on day one, then combined with Hamid Hassan, the Afghan seamer, to rattle England's vaunted batting line-up at the Global Cricket Academy yesterday.

"Hopefully I have done myself a few favours in terms of showing England what I can do," said Rankin, who dismissed Ian Bell, his colleague at English county side Warwickshire, and Kevin Pietersen.

"Overall I was satisfied. It was a flat track out there and it was surprising how many wickets have fallen over the last couple of days, and I was pleased to get a couple."

England made the bold decision to close their first innings 96 runs in arrears.

It was evidence of what Andrew Strauss, the captain, had said about treating these matches as more than just glorified practice sessions.

England want to get into the winning habit early, ahead of the three-Test series against Pakistan, but they will have their work cut out to do so today.

The Combined XI will start play with a lead of 196 with five wickets in hand, and England will have to try to dislodge the pesky figure of Mohammed Shahzad, the intrepid Afghan wicketkeeper, early in the piece.

Shahzad followed up his breezy first innings 51 with four catches yesterday, but it is his general demeanour which has most caught the eye.

He may stand at just a tick over 5ft tall, but Shahzad is only too keen to pick on players far bigger than he is.

He has not been afraid to crane his neck and chirp at England's gangling fast bowlers Stuart Broad and Steven Finn, and he even went for a walk to talk to Pietersen while batting in the evening session.

Bearing in mind he is not confident enough in his language skills to conduct post-play interviews without a translator, it all seems a little incongruous.

"I can't really talk in English, but if they abuse me or say something to me, I like to give it back to them," Shahzad said.

"I'm the sort of person who likes challenges and get bored if there is no chatter. I like to chat and I like it if they chat to me and I laugh at them if they say something to me.

"It motivates me. They keep slagging me off and I keep slagging them off."