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Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar part of massive coup for Sydney grade club Blacktown

Western Sydney is a long way from Lahore and Rawalpindi but on Thursday night Blacktown played host to two of the cities' finest cricket products - former Pakistan speed demons Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar.

In one of the biggest coups in Sydney grade cricket this season, Blacktown snared the services of former Pakistan great Akram, the master of reverse swing, and Akhtar, the man dubbed the Rawalpindi Express after delivering the fastest ball recorded in international cricket.

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But the duo are not putting the spikes back on, much to the relief of first-grade batsmen. Instead, they are putting the players through their paces at training.

"It's a fantastic thing for us," said Blacktown president Steven Foster, whose club has a heavy contingent of players from subcontinental background on their list. "By getting someone with a high profile like Wasim, it gives the whole district a lift."

The club can thank local restaurateur and major sponsor Kamil Khan for organising the session. The Pakistan-born Khan is a lifelong friend of Akhtar, is also close with Akram and is brother-in-law with another former champion Waqar Younis, now the Pakistan coach. Akram is in town on commentary duties for the Australia-India one-day series while Akhtar is en route to Melbourne for knee surgery.

Their effort to land two of the most feared bowlers in modern cricket has not gone unnoticed from above either.


"Cricket NSW are very happy," Foster said. "They rang me up and said it was a really big thing to get someone of their stature to a grade cricket training session."

And to top it off, both men did not accept a cent for their services.

Gayle sweeps Twittersphere

Chris Gayle did not win many admirers among cricket authorities during the Big Bash League but there can be no doubt of his pulling power with fans in the Twittersphere.

The explosive batsman's record 12-ball half-century earlier this week was the biggest moment of the BBL on Twitter, according to stats compiled by the social media network's PR agency Howorth, in front of Sydney Thunder's last ball victory over Melbourne Stars and the first Melbourne Derby which drew 80,883 fans.

Gayle was also the most mentioned player in the preliminary rounds of the BBL, followed by former the Stars' England recruit Kevin Pietersen and, somewhat surprisingly, Hobart's George Bailey.

In another shock, Gayle's controversial "don't blush baby" interview with Channel Ten's Mel McLaughlin - arguably the biggest talking point of the tournament if not the summer - did not rate in the top five moments, which was judged solely on tweets posted during games.

De Moore delivers at SCG

It was akin to coming in after Steve Smith at the top of his game - following the brilliant Gideon Haigh to the lectern. Sydney psychiatrist Greg De Moore completed the task with distinction, however, at the SCG on Wednesday night when he delivered the second annual Jack Marsh History Lecture. De Moore's topic was the subject of his book, Tom Wills, and he told the absorbing tale of the mid-19th century cricketer's role in pioneering Australian rules football, and in shaping the Aboriginal team that toured England in 1868. SCG trustees Rod McGeoch, Richard Colless and Maurice Newman, Labor statesman John Faulkner and Dame Marie Bashir were among those in the Noble dining room for the lecture. The bar has been set high for the third instalment.

Warriors take to the field

Out on the SCG playing arena itself there are two internationals to come - Saturday's ODI and then a Twenty20 against India the following Sunday. There's another event coming up there worth some attention, too. More than 500 players, umpires and officials will take part in the Primary Club of Australia's Marathon Cricket fundraiser on February 3 and 4. One highlight should be the appearance of the Maasai Warriors, who will play charity games against the likes of Adam Goodes, Jude Bolton, Phil Waugh, George Gregan, Andrew Mehrtens and Wendell Sailor.

Indians get taste of the heat

On a scorching Sydney day there were few better places to be on Thursday than on the lawn at Admiralty House where the pre-game reception for the inaugural Governor-General's XI match was held. The touring Indian team were quickly brought back to reality, though, having to leave the lunch early to train in the heat. They will take on a GG's XI team featuring Southern Stars Jess Jonassen and Holly Ferling at Drummoyne Oval on Friday.