Fawad graceful in word and deed
Victoria 5 for 199 (Quiney 49, Handscomb 43) beat Tasmania 197 (Cowan 60, Fawad 4-38, Hastings 3-24) by five wickets
Fawad Ahmed dealt as deftly and gracefully with the barbs flung his way by Doug Walters and David Campese as only a few hours earlier he had unpicked Tasmania's batting, to send Victoria on their way to a five-wicket victory in the domestic limited overs competition at a windswept Bankstown Oval.
Speaking publicly for the first time since Walters and Campese harshly questioned his decision not to wear the alcohol sponsor's logo on his Australian team shirt, Fawad said he had been gratified by the support he received from the Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland, and the national team. He also said he bore no ill will towards Walters and Campese, who subsequently apologised for Twitter comments that included the words "tell him to go home".
"I know they [Walters and Campese] are both legends and I still respect them," Fawad said. "This is a free country, everyone has their own opinion and they can say anything. I didn't agree with their opinion, that's a different thing, but I will respect them, and in this country everyone has a right to free speech. They can say what they want to say, and on that occasion I think it is something new for a country like Australia.
"We are not a big population the Muslims, about 1.8%, so it was a different kind of thing, and CA was amazing, they really helped and supported me. This is an amazing country, if you are performing well in any field of life you will get a chance and people will definitely support you."
Support was precisely what Fawad needed after his first over of the domestic season was hoisted for 20 runs, starting with an amiable full toss that Ed Cowan swung high over the midwicket fence. Adjusting to a strong wind, Fawad also delivered a pair of wides, leaving his new captain Matthew Wade with a furrowed brow as the Tigers advanced to a strong position with Cowan and George Bailey in occupation.
Regaining his composure, Fawad's next two overs went for only five runs. He was then held in reserve, and brought back into the attack by Wade in the 39th over with the Tigers still well placed at 4 for 163. He struck immediately, coaxing Jon Wells to drive to short cover, and flighted the ball enough to gain another two wickets from skied shots in subsequent overs that ensured Tasmania would not reach 200. John Hastings was similarly effective at the other end, while Jon Holland's slow left-arm spin made a welcome return following the shoulder injury that curtailed him last summer.
Best of all, however, was a Fawad googly that flummoxed his fellow Australian slow bowler Xavier Doherty, who had his off stump knocked back as he tried to flick to leg. The excitement of Fawad's teammates at each wicket was reciprocated by the bowler, his final 7.2 overs reaping four wickets for just 18 runs. "Throughout the game it was difficult because the wind was really quick," Fawad said. "Bowling against the wind with a pretty small boundary was tough for me, but the guys supported me and it was pretty good.
"It was a tough start, I took it a bit lazy, but bounced back nicely - the guys really supported me, especially the captain, and that was a turning point for me, supporting me and boosting my morale. After that I concentrated on the legspin and the line and length. There was spin but it was pretty slow, so I just tried to bowl into the stumps, not to turn the ball much because you needed dot balls and some maidens."
Cowan's sturdy contribution was not enough to lift the Tigers to a total that overly bothered Victoria's batsmen, despite a pitch that remained sluggish and low throughout. Bansktown's quota of seven matches in the competition will not be promoting particularly technicolor cricket, and after two defeats in as many matches, the Tigers must find a way to better use the prevailing conditions.
Certainly Fawad will not mind bowling a few more overs on strips as slow and dry as this, though there are other advantages to a legspinner should the surface offer up greater offerings of bounce and pace.
"It's great to see a legspinner in domestic cricket with control and ability to turn the ball," Cowan said. "As Stuart MacGill did for NSW in one day domestic cricket, legspinners are gold dust, because they can clean up a tail and take wickets through the middle overs. So it is really exciting to see a high quality legspinner here and hopefully pushing for consistent international honours."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here