Matches (14)
USA vs BAN (1)
WI vs SA (1)
County DIV1 (5)
County DIV2 (4)
ENG v PAK (1)
IPL (2)

Rashid Khan: 'Ten balls in a row is a chance for three hat-tricks'

Afghanistan legspinner unfazed at Trent Bridge's runs, or burden of being first draft pick

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Rashid Khan, the No. 1 pick at the original Hundred draft in 2019, says that his faith in his own ability will allow him to overcome Trent Bridge's recent reputation as a bowler's graveyard, as he prepares to lead Trent Rockets' attack in their opening fixture against Southern Brave on Saturday.
Khan, who was recently confirmed as Afghanistan's captain for the forthcoming T20 World Cup, warmed up for his Hundred stint with two Vitality Blast outings for Sussex last week - alongside a potential opponent on Saturday, Jofra Archer - having emerged from ten days in quarantine following his arrival from Lahore Qalanders' PSL campaign.
And on Saturday, he will take on a Southern Brave batting line-up featuring a number of in-form batters including James Vince, who followed his maiden ODI century against Pakistan with two match-winning innings in a single day for Hampshire in their Blast double-header last week, and New Zealand's Devon Conway, who has followed up remarkable start to his international career with a strong run of form in the Blast as Somerset's anchor (the Brave are missing Quinton de Kock for the opening games due to South Africa's series in Ireland).
Rashid, however, is unfazed by his status as the tournament's most in-demand signing, nor by a Trent Bridge pitch that served up a total of 433 runs in Pakistan's thrilling victory in last week's first T20I, and where, in the past five years, England have twice broken the record for the highest innings in ODI history - most recently their total of 481 for 6 against Australia in 2018.
"As a spinner, if you have those things in your mind, that the wicket is flat, the boundary short, I think it doesn't help you," Khan said. "What helps is that you bring your own skills and your own experience to the game, rather than to think about those things, which is not in our control.
"As a bowler, you cannot get 75-80-metre boundaries at every ground. But still, if you bowl a bad ball, even if it's a 100-metre boundary, they are going to hit you for six, you're going to concede runs. So it will be a definitely a challenge. I will need consistency in how I bowl, and that will be tested. But as long as I have that positive mindset for the game, I can deliver.
"Whatever it is, as long as I'm hitting the right area, and backing up my skills and my talent, I think I can deliver for the team. Your best delivery is your best delivery for any batsman around the world. That's why it has written on the wicket [on the TV analysis], 'good length'. As long as you're hitting that area, that gives you the maximum right result."
In a T20 career that has now spanned 267 matches, Khan's career economy rate of 6.28 is a testament to the impact of his misleadingly simple methods - a bustling stump-to-stump approach, brisk pace through the air, and a natural command of line and length, all backed up by a wicked googly that is scarcely distinguishable from his legbreak.
And with all teams having to get to grips with the possibilities and pitfalls of the Hundred's new playing conditions, in particular the opportunity for a bowler to deliver two consecutive sets of five balls (and potentially 20 out of 25 all told) Rashid recognises that his ability to becalm the batters in his sights makes him one of those players for whom the alterations could have been tailor-made.
"I'm super excited about bowling ten balls in a row," he said. "It kind of gives you an opportunity to take ten wickets straight away, and three hat-tricks. That's an advantage we have, but you can also be hit for ten sixes as well, or give 50 runs away in just ten balls.
"It mostly depends on the conditions, and the situation of the game as well, but if a batsman is struggling against any bowler then, definitely, the opposition captain will want to have those ten balls by that bowler to keep the pressure on.
"In this format, I think the more you look to put the pressure on the batsman, that's the time they give you the wicket, rather than trying to attack to get his wicket. As long as you're putting the pressure on by bowling the dot balls, that gives you the wickets as well."
Above all, however, Khan is looking forward to playing his cricket in front of packed crowds once again, after a year of behind-closed-doors fixtures due to Covid-19. And, having witnessed the success of the IPL's tamasha, the off-field glamour and excitement that has accompanied the on-field action, he is excited about the glitz surrounding the Hundred, and its potential to hook in a new audience in English cricket.
"If you want to have a successful competition, then definitely, it's 60-70% the fans that make it successful," he said. "If you look at the last one-and-a-half years, we don't have fans in the stadium, it doesn't look the same game. The fans make it more bright and entertaining, and if they give their love to this form of the game as well, it will be on top of the world. As players, we can only give 100% in the centre, and bring our skills into the game.
"To me, it looks like a massive competition, for everyone around the world, not only here in England," he added. "It will definitely take lots of attention and motivate lots of youngsters as well, and that's the main reason behind this game, to motivate the youngsters and to bring their mindset for this game."
Khan, of course, is no stranger to such role-model status, having risen to become Afghanistan's most famous sportsman since making his international debut in 2015. And having taken that burden of expectation in his stride, he's comfortable with his prominent status going into the Hundred.
"It was a huge, proud moment for me and for my country, to be someone from Afghanistan and to be the first pick in this competition," he said. "I'm so lucky, and I think what I have done in the last five-and-a-half years made it possible.
"I'm looking forward to prove that. I just need to keep it simple for myself, bring my skills into the game, enjoy the game, keep smiling and keep doing well for the team."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket