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Match Analysis

Adil Rashid bosses a different role with comfort in himself and his craft

Not in the thick of the wickets, he is finding success as a key cog in England's white-ball machine

"Well done, boss."
If you reside in the United Kingdom, you will appreciate the currency we place in that last four-letter word.
It might come from a mate, a colleague, the person behind the bar at your local who's always pleased to see you or a stranger in the street after you've done them a good turn. To be called "boss" is far greater than any knighthood: a moniker bestowed upon you by the people rather than the palace for services to immediate convenience or excellence. On this occasion, it was for both.
Adil Rashid was the grateful recipient of the honour handed to him by Eoin Morgan. England's former limited-overs captain has regularly thrown the phrase in Rashid's direction, and for good reason. The legspinner was a key cog in his white-ball machine and even here, with a microphone in hand as a pundit for this T20 World Cup semi-final at the Adelaide Oval, he couldn't help but dish it out again. Deservedly so.
Rashid bowled his four overs in the semi-final victory over India for just 20 runs, one of them coming in the powerplay. The killer, however, was his last. Two balls in, flight, dip, and prodigious spin away just outside off stump cast the ball into the night sky for Phil Salt to pocket at deep point. Suryakumar Yadav, the walking highlight reel of this tournament, felled for just 14 from 10. It was the first time India's projected total dipped below 150 on ESPNcricinfo's forecaster. Though Hardik Pandya picked up the mantle of destroyer later in the innings with 63 off 33 that took India to 168, the fact that it was munched with four overs to spare by openers Jos Buttler and Alex Hales showed how vital it was to limit SKY.
It's funny to think this was only Rashid's second wicket of the tournament. The previous one was to dismiss Sri Lanka's Pathum Nissanka in England's final match of the Super 12s - another must-win game and another must-have wicket given that the batter led the line with 67 and victory was only achieved with two balls to spare. Has Rashid's lack of dismissals come as a surprise? Maybe, but he is still doing it when it matters most. No bunnies, just prime cuts - including a fine catch at short third to see off Virat Kohli.
He might have had Glenn Phillips, too, had bestie Moeen Ali not shelled the simplest catch before Phillips went on to hit him for two sixes. Alas, it's a cruel form of a cruel sport, though Rashid hasn't been bothered by what's lacking in the wicket column."For myself, I look to create chances and if wickets come, good," he mused after the match. "If they don't come, I'm containing and other people will get wickets." That's certainly how things have played out, so far. No one else in this attack has bowled their full allocation across the five games so far, and Rashid's economy rate of 6.25 is the lowest of the regulars (Moeen's is 4.5 but from just two overs).
"He may not have picked up the wickets that he usually does and certainly, from the outside, some people have said he wasn't bowling as well. But from within the group, if you come and face him in the nets, he's been bowling well and tonight he was exceptional."
Jos Buttler
The reservations around Rashid heading into the tournament were well-sourced. His annual T20I average is currently at 35.86, the highest of the eight years since he became a white-ball mainstay in 2015. The link between those figures and a chronic right shoulder issue was clear, and the way the injury inhibited his snap was seen in the way he seemed that little bit easier to sweep. And yet, within the smaller boundaries of the Adelaide Oval, he conceded just one four following a boundary-less display against Sri Lanka. South Australia has quietly been a happy hunting ground for Rashid, with 18 wickets at 13 in all T20s spread across 10 matches for both the state in the precursor to the Big Bash League, then Adelaide Strikers and now this one-off for his country.
He hasn't been doing much different. "Maybe it is a bit a little fuller, maybe it's a bit slower," was his review of the performance just gone. Which, all told, is pretty neat given those are two characteristics previously used as criticisms of Rashid, particularly in Test cricket.
Aged 34, in his 17th year as an active cricketer, two things can be true: Rashid is both closer to the end than the start and still one of England's most important cricketers. Along with the nous accrued by all that experience has been a level of comfort in himself and his craft.
It has been notable how in Moeen and Buttler he has trusted allies who, for example, can shift Rashid's field without needing to check with him. There is a familiarity bred from trust, reinforced by a refreshing lack of ego from the bowler. Both were stood closest to the action on Thursday - Moeen at first slip - when Rashid was going about his business and the communication back and forth was evident throughout. There was a fear that trust in Rashid as a difference-maker might have left the set-up with Morgan's departure. That evidently has not been the case.
"He's been brilliant for a long, long period of time," beamed Buttler. "I've kept wicket to him a lot and I have a great seat to watch him go about his business. He bowls with so much variation and has as much variety as anyone, really. I think he's been bowling really well, actually. He may not have picked up the wickets that he usually does and certainly, from the outside, some people have said he wasn't bowling as well. But from within the group, if you come and face him in the nets, he's been bowling well and tonight he was exceptional. Wicketkeeper-bowler, we have a good relationship."
It's also worth noting that some within English cricket thought Rashid's performances at this tournament would suffer with the impending Cricket Discipline Commission investigation into racism at his county, Yorkshire. Rashid is regarded as a key witness in proceedings having corroborated Azeem Rafiq's claim that former England captain Michael Vaughan said there are "too many of you lot" ahead of a county T20 match in 2009, allegations Vaughan has denied. Whether those reservations were held in bad faith or not, they have proved unfounded at best.
Having taken 11 wickets in the 2019 50-over success, Rashid is occupying a different role but offering just as much in England's quest for a second global T20 trophy against Pakistan on Sunday and the honour of holding both international white-ball trophies concurrently.
A two-time champion? Sounds good, boss.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo