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Axcelis Technologies Inc (ACLS) Q2 2020 Earnings Call Transcript | The Motley Fool

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Axcelis Technologies Inc (NASDAQ:ACLS)
Q2 2020 Earnings Call
Aug 5, 2020, 8:30 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Axcelis Technologies call to discuss the Company’s results for the second quarter 2020. My name is Kevin, and I’ll be your coordinator for today. (Operator Instructions) I would now like to turn the presentation over to your host for today’s call, Mary Puma, President and CEO of Axcelis Technologies. Please proceed, ma’am.

Mary G. PumaPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Kevin. With me today is Kevin Brewer, Executive Vice President and CFO; and Doug Lawson, Executive Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Strategy. We are all participating in this call remotely. So, I’d like to apologize in advance for any technical difficulties. If you have not seen a copy of our press release issued last night, it is available on our website. Playback service will also be available on our website as described in our press release.

Please note that comments made today about our expectations for future revenues, profits and other results are forward-looking statements under the SEC’s Safe Harbor provision. Forward-looking statements are based on management’s current expectations and are subject to the risks inherent in our business. These risks are described in detail in our Form 10-K annual report and other SEC filings, which we urge you to review. Our actual results may differ materially from our current expectations. We do not assume any obligation to update these forward-looking statements.

Good morning, and thank you for joining us. We have successfully completed our second quarter, while continuing to operate in the COVID-19 environment. We hope you and your families are healthy, especially as the virus has aggressively spread in many different regions of the world. At Axcelis, we are carefully managing the situation. Although we are dealing daily with this constantly changing environment, we remain laser focused on the strategic objectives outlined at our Investor Day last September.

During the second quarter, we realized two key milestones along the path to capturing market leadership in ion implantation and achieving our long-term business models. This involves shipping two new Purion product evaluations: our second Purion Dragon eval to a large memory customer for a DRAM application and the first Purion XEmax eval to a large image sensor customer. In the second half of 2020, Axcelis expects to ship additional evaluation systems of both Purion extensions and Purion-based products to customers for new applications. These evaluation systems will increase our footprint and enable our long-term business objectives.

While during a time like this, it can be difficult to deliver short-term commitments and stay focused on the future, the dedication and determination of our employees has made this possible. Maintaining their health and safety continues to be our top priority. So once again, I would like to personally give a heartfelt thank you to our extraordinary employees in the factory, in global field locations, and those at home in the US and around the world, who are working diligently to meet our customer commitments. I also want to thank our suppliers and customers for their support, as we strive to meet the continuing high level of customer interest in our Purion products.

Our second quarter financial performance was very strong. Revenue for the second quarter was $123 million with earnings per share of $0.39, gross margins of 42.2% and a cash balance of $197 million at quarter end. Our aftermarket business, or what we refer to as CS&I, contributed significantly to our revenue and gross margin in the quarter, exceeding our expectations.

During the second quarter, memory accounted for 35% of our shipments: 16% DRAM and 19% NAND. The remaining 65% of shipments went to mature foundry logic customers. The geographic mix of our systems shipments in the second quarter was China 59%, Korea 36% and Taiwan 5%. This mix highlights the strength of the mature foundry logic market in both China and Korea. China shipments will likely remain strong in the third quarter.

While 2021 is expected to be a very strong year for the semiconductor equipment industry as the memory market recovers, uncertainty relative to the second half of 2020 still exists. The impact of COVID-19 continues to create supply chain, installation and other logistics challenges. The current geopolitical climate has impacted the plans of some customers, with the stability of the global economy also contributing uncertainty into the mix. Despite all of this, the market demand for semiconductors overall continues to be very strong. Last quarter, we did not provide guidance due to this uncertainty. This quarter we will, but we caution that visibility remains limited. For the third quarter, we expect revenue of approximately $110 million with gross margins of approximately 42.5%, operating income in the range of $10.5 million to $11.5 million, and earnings per share of approximately $0.24.

Axcelis had a very strong first half due to robust customer demand and our ability to successfully mitigate pandemic-related issues in the supply chain and factory. This will allow us to ship systems on time and to accommodate customer requests for earlier deliveries. While our Q3 guidance is down slightly as a result of our first strong half performance, through the first three quarters of 2020, we expect year-over-year revenue to be up 50% (Phonetic).

While the COVID-19 pandemic has generated uncertainty and presented new challenges in 2020, it is important to understand that the semiconductor industry is critical in today’s world and remains fundamentally strong. Investment in both technology and capacity will accelerate as we enter 2021. We expect to see individual customers and market segments continue to respond differently to COVID-19 challenges. Semiconductor products required for working from home are currently in high demand. This includes products for PCs, video streaming and communications. At the same time, demand for products related to automotive and aviation, for example, have slowed.

Our knowledge and expertise in ion implantation allows us to work closely with our customers across all of these market segments, regardless of their particular market dynamics, to provide them with the best ion implant solutions for their emerging manufacturing challenges. As a result of these relationships, we have developed new Purion products that provide both Axcelis and our customers a significant competitive advantage. This has been critical to developing our large and diverse customer base.

Last September, we introduced four new Purion products: two were in the high current segment, which represents greater than 50% of the ion implant TAM; and two are in the high energy segment, representing approximately 30% of the TAM. The two new products in the high current segment are the Purion Dragon for advanced logic and memory applications and the Purion H200 for advanced power device applications. These new products, combined with the latest versions of the Purion H base (Phonetic) product, are the key to our growth in high current, the largest segment of the ion implant market. The two new high energy products are the Purion XE silicon carbide for advanced silicon carbide power devices and the Purion XEmax (Technical Issues) image sensors. These new products, combined with the popular Purion VXE, will extend Axcelis’ market and technology leadership in the growing high energy market.

To date, three of the four new products have already shipped to customers, and we expect shipment of the fourth, the Purion H200, during the third quarter. We also plan to place more evaluations of the new Purion product extensions and the base Purion product in the second half of this year, as we set the table to achieve our $650 million target business model.

Now, I’d like to turn it over to Kevin to discuss our financials and some operational details. Kevin?

Kevin J. BrewerExecutive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Mary. Good morning. Before I discuss our very strong second quarter performance, I’ll provide an update on Axcelis’ management of the pandemic. At this point, all areas of our business and supply chain are operating well as a result of the extraordinary effort of our employees and suppliers and continuing customer demand for our products.

The health and well-being of our employees remain the top priority. We are doing our best to create a safe work environment for everyone at Axcelis. For those who must work in our factory, we continue to enforce safeguards like physical distancing and required use of face mask. Everyone who can work from home is working from home and will continue to do so for now. Field-based teams are supporting our customers, while following both government and customer required safety protocols. We have added further flexibility for installation teams using skilled third-party support and creative virtual solutions.

We remain focused on our $550 million and $650 million target models and continue to make sizable investments in evaluation tools and new products. Cost out initiatives and growing percentage of revenue from these new products are driving gross margin improvement.

Although the current environment has created challenges, the actions we have taken have allowed us to successfully navigate through this pandemic so far.

Now turning to second quarter results, 2Q revenue finished at $123 million, well above consensus, compared the $119 million in Q1. Q2 system sales were $76.8 million compared to $82.3 million in Q1. Q2 CS&I revenue finished at $46.2 million compared to $36.7 million in Q1. CS&I was exceptionally strong this quarter with spares and consumables running higher than expected, driven by fab utilization and customers likely maintaining a higher level of spares to minimize supply chain disruptions. We also shipped several used tools in the quarter, which comprised approximately $7 million of our total CS&I revenues. We do not expect used tool shipments to report at that level. As a result, Q3 CS&I revenue should be in the $36 million range. Q2 sales to our top 10 customers account for 83.6% of total sales compared to 85.9% in Q1. Three customers were at 10% or above.

Q2 system bookings were $56.2 million, compared to $115.1 million in Q1, with a Q2 book to bill ratio of 0.73 versus 1.37 in Q1. Backlog in Q2 including deferred revenue finished at $102.6 million compared to $127 million in Q1. As noted in some of our prior calls, bookings and backlog can fluctuate quite a bit quarter to quarter due to customer-specific ordering practices. For example, some of our largest customers often book and bill within the same quarter.

Q2 combined SG&A and R&D spending was $35.5 million or 28% — 28.9% of revenue, driven by higher evaluation tools and COVID related expenses, compared to $31.8 million or 26.8% in Q1. SG&A in the quarter was $19.5 million, with R&D of $16 million. We expect operating expenses to run at approximately $36 million per quarter for the rest of the year to support numerous evaluation systems and additional costs associated with the pandemic.

Q2 gross margin was 42.2% compared to 38.3% in Q1. Q2 gross margin was driven by strong CS&I contribution, product mix and ongoing cost-out efforts. Q3 gross margin is expected to be approximately 42.5%, with full year gross margin now above 41%. We are forecasting pandemic-related expense of approximately $1.8 million in Q3, spread across the P&L.

Operating profit in Q2 finished at $16.4 million compared to $13.7 million in Q1. Q2 net income was $13.3 million or $0.39 per share and above consensus, compared to $11.2 million or $0.33 per share in Q1.

Inventory ended at $149.2 million compared to $136.1 million in Q1 due to the timing of shipments and additional inventory to support the evaluation tools. Q2 inventory turns excluding evaluation tools finished at 2.1 compared to 2.2 in Q1. Q2 accounts payable were $30.3 million compared to $26.1 million in Q1. Q2 receivables were $64.9 million compared to $64.2 million in Q1.

Q2 cash finished at $197 million compared to $181.4 million in Q1. Cash from operations in the quarter was $16.9 million. Our stock repurchase program remains on hold as we continue to maintain a conservative cash strategy. We’ll invest in areas of the business that will drive customer satisfaction and growth in revenue and gross margin. In late May, we filed a Form S-3 registration covering a future offering of common stock or other securities. In addition, last week, we established a new $40 million line of credit. These two financing vehicles offer additional flexibility for our cash strategy.

Axcelis entered 2020 with solid momentum. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we’ll continue to make the necessary investments in our products and the infrastructure required for our $550 million and $650 million target models. As Mary and I have both said, we remain laser focused on achieving these models. Our customers continue to have high expectations for our Purion products, which we intend to achieve.

As pandemic continues, I hope that all of you and your families stay well. Thank you, and I’ll now turn the call back to Mary for the closing comments.

Mary G. PumaPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Kevin. During this difficult time, we are fortunate to work in the semiconductor industry. Our technology is critical to support people’s ability to work safely, stay informed and be entertained. We are also at the beginning of an extended growth cycle, driven by the new communications capability of 5G technology. The 5G infrastructure build is under way and will accelerate into 2021. New 5G capable phones that will be introduced this fall will lead to a strong memory cycle in 2021. Following this, and beginning in 2022, there will be another cycle of industrial IoT applications, even bigger than the last, which will drive strong growth in the mature process technology segment.

One thing that emerges very clearly from this pandemic is that communication requirements and the technology to support them are more critical than ever and that Axcelis is extremely well positioned for strong growth tied to the upcoming 5G-driven cycle. We are pleased with our strong second quarter financial performance and excited by recent and upcoming evaluation shipments of both new Purion product extensions and enhanced Purion-based products that will keep Axcelis on track to achieve our target business models.

Axcelis has a competitive Purion product line, a broad and diverse customer base, a strong balance sheet, and a dedicated team of employees. These are the strengths that will carry us through these uncertain times and ultimately drive growth and market leadership in ion implantation.

With that, I’d like to open it up for questions. Kevin?

Questions and Answers:

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from Craig Ellis with B.Riley.

Craig EllisB.Riley — Analyst

Thanks for taking the question, and congratulations on the very strong execution in the second quarter. I wanted to start with a clarification. Kevin, I’m sorry if I missed it, but did you call out the number of evaluation tools, if any, in the second quarter? And what is incorporated in your view for third quarter evaluation tools and gross margin?

Kevin J. BrewerExecutive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. So we didn’t call out the specific numbers. But in terms of moving forward, Craig, there is a significant ramp-up in evaluation tools coming at us that we plan to place throughout Q3 and Q4, and there are outstanding tools right now at the end of Q2. But we did not close anything within the quarter that we normally announce.

Craig EllisB.Riley — Analyst

Got it.

Mary G. PumaPresident and Chief Executive Officer

And Craig, this is Mary. Craig, we have three outstanding evaluations right now. Two are for mature process technology applications for image sensors specifically, and one is at a memory customer for getting qualified for a DRAM application.

Craig EllisB.Riley — Analyst

Got it. And then, a follow-up to you Mary. First, in the near term, can you just help us with what you see as you look at the market for the second half of the year? Not looking for specific guidance for the fourth quarter, but just your color on puts and takes as you’re looking at things as you enter the back half of the year.

Mary G. PumaPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Well, so, as we discussed, our revenues over the first three quarters of 2020 were pretty strong. And if you look at them and average them out, they average about $117 million per quarter, which is a very good run rate for Axcelis. As I mentioned, this is about a 50% increase three quarters this year versus last year. At this point, we really don’t have enough visibility to determine if this is going to continue for the rest of the year. But what we can say, we’ve already just talked about it, is that customer interest in our Purion products remains high. I mentioned that there’s strong demo activity. Kevin just talked about how we’re very excited that we’re going to have a significant number of evals going out in the second half of the year. We have a very broad customer base. So, we’re hoping that there will be some puts and takes in some of the segments that perhaps are weak. Some of that may be offset by what’s going on in some of the segments where there’s a little bit of a stronger demand. So again, our visibility at this point is not really good, but we feel very good about achieving our long-term business model. We think our market positioning is good. We know that our execution has really been excellent, and we’re pretty excited about how the whole Purion rollout is taking place.

Craig EllisB.Riley — Analyst

Excellent execution, indeed. The follow-up to those comments and some of the prepared remarks is with regards to next year. From the secular commentary you had, Mary, I think with memory capacity next year and industrial IoT wave in calendar ’22, does that mean the Company is really looking at mix shift toward memory and then back toward mature foundry in ’21 and ’22? Or is it just much too early to call out or to have a view on how the segment mix dynamics might play out on the systems side over the next few years?

Mary G. PumaPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Well, it’s a little bit more difficult. But let me go back to what we consider to be, I’ll call it, a more normal mix for Axcelis when both mature process technology is strong and memory is strong. We typically have a 50-50 systems mix. At the beginning of this year, we talked about memory, probably for the full year, encompassing or being about 35% of our systems mix. So, we knew that we were starting to see some recovery for memory, but really remain focused on the fact that in 2021, that memory business will in fact come back and be stronger. And I think it’s our expectation, again, that we’ll see a more balanced mix. So, I’m not giving that as a forecast. I’m just trying to give you some parameters that you can think about as both of the segments really are hitting on all cylinders.

Craig EllisB.Riley — Analyst

Got it. Very helpful. Good luck team.

Kevin J. BrewerExecutive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thanks Craig.

Mary G. PumaPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks Craig.

Operator

Your next question comes from Patrick Ho with Stifel.

Patrick HoStifel — Analyst

Thank you very much, and congrats on a nice quarter. Maybe for Mary or Kevin, in terms of the aftermarket business, you actually had a very strong quarter. And I know there are different pieces within that business. So, what I wanted to look at was the services portion and see how you’ve adjusted to the current pandemic environment and your ability to continue to support the customers. Obviously, the revenue base tells me that you’re doing a good job on that. What are some of the actions you’ve taken to ensure that your customers continue to get not only the spare parts and upgrades, but also the services that are needed?

Kevin J. BrewerExecutive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. So, Patrick, it’s Kevin. So, we’ve definitely seen an uptick in the spares and consumables business. And I’m sure, a chunk of that right now is customers making sure they have parts on the shelves and mitigating any possible supply chain disruption that the virus may cause. But in particular, what we’ve done in the business and really has been across the board for all of our systems and CS&I business’ supply chain, very early on, we — like a lot of our peers, I think it was definitely a struggle with supply chain. But very early on, we got ahead of it with — where we had dual source capability, we quickly added additional capability. We got advanced buys out with critical components, and probably most importantly, we got into our MRP system and adjusted our lead time offsets, so we could pull material more quickly. So, I guess what I’m saying is, we got in line early because everybody is kind of (Indecipherable) and trying to get material delivered. We coordinated with all of our suppliers on logistics because logistics is going to hang up a lot of people. And I’m not going to say it wasn’t a struggle for us, but we got alternate carriers in a hurry. We got away from — we used do bulk shipments, but we quickly got away from that because we knew that wasn’t going to happen quickly. So I would say the biggest thing is on the supply chain.

Then, our manufacturing process has remained strong throughout this virus. We’ve done a great job in the facility, keeping people healthy to date. And we focus on that daily. We have daily COVID meetings. So, I think it’s just been a lot of planning, Patrick, and increasing capacity or capability where we saw maybe some choke point coming up.

Patrick HoStifel — Analyst

Great, that’s helpful. Maybe as my follow-up question for Mary in terms of the customer mix. Trailing edge foundry continues to be a high portion of it with China being a key region. Have you seen any puts and takes, given the geopolitical situation? Have you seen customers potentially taking tools somewhat earlier than you expected? Or is their timing still pretty much where you expected them to take tools?

Mary G. PumaPresident and Chief Executive Officer

I think, for the most part, timing is where we expected them to take tools. That said, we just talked about the fact that, given some of the pandemic-related issues, not trade-related issues, we have had instances where — because of logistics concerns, we’ve certainly had — we had the capability and have pulled some tools in to the first and second quarter to just ensure that we would get the tools to the customers when they wanted them. So, we don’t really see any kind of geopolitical implications in China because of this. The area — China remains very, very strong. It’s a large percentage of Axcelis’ revenues. On average, we’d typically say 30%. Based on what we know today, it will likely be a higher percentage of our revenues for the full year. And the mature process technology segment does continue to be very strong. And even though usually our systems activity in China typically comes from the global semiconductor companies, but it’s really the domestic customers right now, in combination with some of the multinationals that are actually doing quite a bit of investment.

Patrick HoStifel — Analyst

Great. Thank you very much.

Kevin J. BrewerExecutive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thanks Patrick.

Mary G. PumaPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks Patrick.

Operator

Our next question comes from Christian Schwab with Craig-Hallum.

Tyler BurmeisterCraig-Hallum Capital Group LLC — Analyst

Hi, this is Tyler on for Chris, and thanks for letting us ask a couple of questions. First question.

Kevin J. BrewerExecutive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Hi, Tyler.

Tyler BurmeisterCraig-Hallum Capital Group LLC — Analyst

Hey, guys. First question on gross margins. I was wondering if you could give a little more color. Your guidance for Q3 for 42.5% is already the midpoint of your $550 million target. You expect revenue to be down sequentially. You expect spares to be down sequentially. You commented on a number of eval tools coming in Q3 in second half. So I just wonder if you could just comment on the puts and takes in the strong gross margin guidance.

Kevin J. BrewerExecutive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. So to your point, our target model for $550 million has 42% to 43%. And I think what you’re hitting at is that we’re guiding that range right now. The things that really drive the margin from quarter to quarter is the mix of CS&I. The mix within a product — as we all know from our IR presentation, a high energy mix drives stronger margins, although we continue to work at the high current product line and medium current, and you can kind of see the trends that we’ve been improving the gross margins on both of those product lines. Cost out continues, and we’re taking advantage of cost out efforts that they we’ve been working for a number of years now. And we still have numerous projects under way. I think we’ve mentioned this before, the product extensions tend to carry higher margins with them. There is more of a premium pricing because, I guess, it’s a little bit more of a specialty tool. But we’re seeing a larger mix of these products, the product extensions right now, which is helping the margins. So those are all things that are moving us to that. What I will point out, the growth in the $550 million model is going to come from the system side of the business predominantly. We still expect CS&I to grow. Every time we put a new tool out there, there is revenue that comes back with spare parts and service and things. But the systems is going to drive the growth to $550 million and $650 million. And we know that systems aren’t as accretive as CS&I. So, we’re going to be growing the business with the not so accretive side of the two pieces of the equation. So, that’s what tempers the 42% to 43% of $550 million because we know a big chunk of that revenue is going to be systems. We know a big chunk of that revenue is going to come from high current in terms of systems. And right now, those are lower gross margins or standard (Phonetic) margin, but we continue to work on that. So 42% to 43% is where we think we’ll be at $550 million. And we’ll have some quarters that — where they are ahead of time. But I think on a full year basis of that revenue model, that’s where we can expect it to see. And then, on the $650 million model, we jump up another 1 to 2 points on the gross margins.

Tyler BurmeisterCraig-Hallum Capital Group LLC — Analyst

That’s great, very helpful. Thank you. Second question, then a large competitor (Technical Issues). So, I guess, I was wondering if your guidance may be a little bit conservative, just given the current environment and some uncertainty there. Or is it just a difference of end market, your exposure to mature foundry versus more leading edge, or the high spares in the quarter? Any commentary on that would be great.

Mary G. PumaPresident and Chief Executive Officer

I think at this point, our guidance is our guidance, Tyler. We took a hard look at it. We gave our best estimate based on a number of things in terms of what’s going on in the market, challenges from COVID, talking to our customers. So at this point in time, that’s basically what we’re — where we are at this at this point.

Tyler BurmeisterCraig-Hallum Capital Group LLC — Analyst

Fair enough. Understood. That’s all from me guys. Thanks.

Kevin J. BrewerExecutive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from Tom Diffely with D.A. Davidson.

Tom DiffelyD.A. Davidson — Analyst

Yeah, good morning. First question…

Kevin J. BrewerExecutive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Hi, Tom.

Tom DiffelyD.A. Davidson — Analyst

Hello. Kevin, I was wondering when you look at the bookings, soft bookings in the quarter, do you chalk that up to just kind of normal lumpiness in your business? Or has there been kind of a COVID-driven impact with less face-to-face meetings that have made it more difficult to close a booking?

Kevin J. BrewerExecutive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yes. I don’t think there has been any impact on the sales execution side of the business. I think even though face-to-face has been the preferred method of meeting, we still have country managers in each of the regions, so — and so they have been able to meet with (Phonetic) customers. So it’s probably more at the executive team level where the meetings have to come (Phonetic) back. But certainly, the country managers have been in the meeting. And we’re using, where we can, video meetings to the extent possible. I think you hit it. There’s always lumpiness quarter to quarter. There’s no doubt that the numbers suggest things slowed down a little bit. But as I pointed out, we do have customers with different ordering practices. And frankly, we have one very large customer who always issues a PO and pick shipment in the same quarter, and sometimes those are within weeks or days of occurrence (Phonetic). So, that can move it around. So it’s hard — it’s always hard on our book-to-bill numbers to really see what’s going on. I think more importantly, the backlog number is still up over $100 million, which is pretty strong for us. Even though it’s down a little bit from last quarter, it’s still over $100 million in this quarter.

Tom DiffelyD.A. Davidson — Analyst

Okay. So when you look at the business activity that your customers kind of talk to you about before they place the hard orders, the activity that you see for the year is what you expected? (Speech Overlap)

Kevin J. BrewerExecutive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Well, actually, we — I think our quoting activity is a lot stronger in the first half than we expected. So, I think as Mary said, we’ve tried to accommodate customers and pull them where we could because the biggest fear everybody is having is, they’re not going to get the tools. And certainly, a lot of companies struggled in this environment. So, we are fortunate that we were able to accommodate customers who wanted to see an earlier delivery. And our supply chain now is still holding up. And as I said, our factories — both supply chain and the factory have done a phenomenal job executing. So — yeah, so, I think if anything, I’d say, was probably a little stronger than where we thought it was going to be in the first half was probably the (Indecipherable) logic, when I say that. But that’s just the fact of the matter. That’s how it was.

Tom DiffelyD.A. Davidson — Analyst

Okay.

Mary G. PumaPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. If you’re looking for any areas where perhaps there was a little bit of softness, I think you’re trying to get at what’s potentially moved around. We have had some softness and seen some customers delay their investment, particularly in the mature process technology area related to automotive and certain industrial kinds of products. And I don’t think that that’s a surprise to anybody. I’m sure our peers and competitors are seeing the same things.

Tom DiffelyD.A. Davidson — Analyst

Great. And then Mary, maybe as a follow-up. Is there any update to Japan? I know you had a system order last quarter. Just wondering how that’s going and how you look at the Japanese market as a new leg of growth for you?

Mary G. PumaPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Things continue to go well. We did ship that first Purion system to Japan in the third quarter, and it’s a Purion XE for a power device application. So, that was very exciting, and that was a result of our couple of year distribution agreement with SCREEN, which has now ended. But it was a great experience. They really introduced us to the Japanese market. We got to know the key Japanese customers, learned details on the Japanese implant market. And one of the big takeaways is that because of the complexity of the tool and the sales process, the Japanese customers actually want to buy directly from Axcelis. So we had a small team in place. We have added resources to that team, including hiring a country manager. So we’re building our own infrastructure in Japan to support the customers there. And the market opportunity is actually very exciting. We’ve talked about how the Japanese market, on average, is about 15% of the total available market for implant, so about $150 million. So it’s a very lucrative opportunity for us. And we feel really good about the seeds that we’re planting to be able to take advantage of that opportunity.

Tom DiffelyD.A. Davidson — Analyst

Great. Thanks for your time this morning.

Kevin J. BrewerExecutive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

Mary G. PumaPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from Charles Shi with Needham.

Charles ShiNeedham — Analyst

Hi, thank you for taking my question. First off, congratulations on the very good result for June quarter. So, I have a question regarding the end market mix. It looks to me that for the first quarter, you had a very strong quarter for memory. Second quarter, it looks like the system revenue may be down a little bit and with the mix shifting to mature foundry logic nodes a little bit strong. And in the third quarter, you’re expecting China continues to be strong, which I assume a majority of that will be matured nodes. And my question is, it looks to me there is memory — your memory system sales seem to be sequentially going down through the year. But I think I heard you think that the memory sales for the full year is probably holding up at, at least 35%. If I heard it wrong, please correct me. But if that’s the case, it looks to me you’re expecting some sort of a memory rebound in the fourth quarter. And just want to make sure whether I’m thinking about this correct.

Mary G. PumaPresident and Chief Executive Officer

So I think the first part of what you said is true, in terms of the mix and the memory mix shifting a little bit over the last few quarters. So I’m looking here — memory was about — for our shipments, memory in the fourth quarter was about 39%. First — which was up from 14%. First quarter, 52%. Third quarter, 35%. And then, we don’t forecast. We really don’t provide a forecast by segment moving into the third and fourth quarter. So we have not implied anything really about the memory market, I think, than to say, we really don’t have a lot of visibility at this point in time. We do expect memory to pick back up, particularly in the 2021 time frame. So I think you’ll have to connect the dots on your own. But again, we have not given any explicit guidance about that.

Charles ShiNeedham — Analyst

Okay, understood. So my follow-up question, the second question on that is around gross margin. So, it looks to me that for the third quarter, the CS&I revenue on absolute dollar basis looks — will go down a little bit. That means, the systems, as a part of the total revenue, will go up. Yet, you’re guiding a very strong gross margin, implying — sort of implying to me that system gross margin will have a meaningful improvement for the third quarter. I wonder what’s driving that and how much of that is from — maybe you are expecting some of the eval occurs in the third quarter, which essentially carry higher margin, for example, the Purion XEmax, those relatively newer products or higher percentage of the product extension.

Kevin J. BrewerExecutive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. So it’s the product mix driving the margins in the third quarter and the cost out efforts that we continue to work through the system. And we’ve got — on any given week, any given month, there’s new cost out initiatives that are kicking in and parts coming in at lower cost or the factory through different Kaizens lowering labor costs. So your point is well taken. We have — we’re basically saying, we’re not going to have this real accretive CS&I as the majority of the revenue in Q3. So systems must be coming up, and they are. And like I said, it’s the mix, it’s the cost out that’s driving it.

Charles ShiNeedham — Analyst

Okay, thank you very much. That’s all my questions, and congratulations again.

Kevin J. BrewerExecutive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

Mary G. PumaPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Our next question comes from Mark Miller with The Benchmark Company.

Mark MillerThe Benchmark Company — Analyst

Congrats on your results. I had a question, Taiwanese sales were very light this quarter from the previous quarter. So, what’s going on there?

Mary G. PumaPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Again, it’s just a function of what the customers buy from us in any geography and the timing of their investments. So it’s — we have not lost any business there. It’s just an investment timing issues.

Mark MillerThe Benchmark Company — Analyst

Okay. How would you characterize recent quoting activity? Is it picking up? You were counting on 5G. And we are hearing from other people, 5G starting to pick up in their business. Are you seeing anything you can correlate with 5G? And what was the overall quoting level during the quarter?

Mary G. PumaPresident and Chief Executive Officer

We don’t typically talk about quoting level other than to say that, in the first quarter, it was very high. We don’t — I mean, we can’t base any forward-looking kinds of revenues on that quoting activity. I think basically, at this point in time, we — it’s fair to say that we’re quoting on most of the major projects that are out there that you know about that our customers are pursuing.

Mark MillerThe Benchmark Company — Analyst

And the inventory rise in the June quarter from the prior quarter, is that because of the expected higher system sales?

Kevin J. BrewerExecutive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. There is a little bit of buildup in the WIP and finished goods because of the timing of some of the shipments for Q3. So, the inventory was still there at the end of the quarter. And then, Mark, we have — we are building up on eval systems. As I mentioned, there’s going to be a pretty sizable ramp-up in the number of evals that we’re putting out over the next few quarters. And those — until those evals are recognized, they stay in inventory. So we have three out there that Mary mentioned right now. But there’s numerous more going.

Mark MillerThe Benchmark Company — Analyst

Thank you.

Kevin J. BrewerExecutive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. Thank you.

Mary G. PumaPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks Mark.

Operator

You do not have any further questions at this time. (Operator Instructions) This concludes the Q&A portion of the call. I will now turn the call back over to Mary Puma, who will make a few closing remarks.

Mary G. PumaPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Kevin. I’d like to thank everyone for joining us today. We hope to talk with you virtually at several upcoming investor events. We will be participating in the Needham Virtual SemiCap and EDA Investor Conference next week. And we expect to conduct several virtual NDRs during the quarter as well. We thank you for your continued support, and please stay healthy.

Operator

(Operator Closing Remarks)

Duration: 46 minutes

Call participants:

Mary G. PumaPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Kevin J. BrewerExecutive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Craig EllisB.Riley — Analyst

Patrick HoStifel — Analyst

Tyler BurmeisterCraig-Hallum Capital Group LLC — Analyst

Tom DiffelyD.A. Davidson — Analyst

Charles ShiNeedham — Analyst

Mark MillerThe Benchmark Company — Analyst

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Fashion Briefing: Fashion’s emerging founder-investors are mega-influencers – Glossy

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Fashion Briefing: Fashion’s emerging founder-investors are mega-influencers – Glossy

Fashion’s OG Instagrammers are building empires and, at the same time, growing their influence beyond the industry.

After being schooled for years on the workings of the fashion industry, mega-influencers including Danielle Bernstein (2.7 million Instagram followers) and Rocky Barnes (2.5 million Instagram followers) are graduating to careers less reliant on brands. To take it to the next level, they’re leveraging their prowess and communities, driving deals with effective business partners, and evolving their focus, based on the industry’s direction and their own passions. The emerging results, for both Bernstein and Barnes, are personally-backed brands and investment portfolios set to expand based on early successes.

“The plan is to grow, in a big way,” said Bernstein. “I’m a serial entrepreneur, so I’ll always want to introduce new businesses and categories to my brand. And I’m angel investing and joining the board of advisors for so many companies. That’s the future of the creator economy: harnessing and creating community around your existing followers and then figuring out how to monetize that.”

In 2019, upon inking a licensing deal with New York-based clothing company Onia, Bernstein launched the Shop We Wore What e-commerce site, populated with her expanding We Wore What fashion collection. The collection has been at the center of much recent controversy, due to allegedly including copycat designs. According to Bernstein, she turns to vintage pieces, editorials and travel for inspiration. Bernstein’s also become an investor and advisor for hair supplement company Wellbel and CBD brand Highline Wellness. In May, she became active on Patreon, offering exclusive video content to paying members of her community.

In addition, Bernstein heads up We Gave What, a charitable arm of her company. In 2019, she launched tech company Moe Assist with a project management tool for influencers, though its social accounts have been inactive for two-plus months. When asked for comment, a spokesperson said Moe Assist is in a new fundraising stage and “should have news to share shortly.”

Barnes, meanwhile, partnered with Reunited Clothing to come out with her apparel company, The Bright Side, in December. And she recently became a first-time investor-advisor, for 6-month-old SMS shopping platform Qatch. She announced the partnership in an Instagram post on Monday.

“I feel like a grown-up,” she told me, before confirming that she’s interested in investing in more companies. “Diversifying my business has been a really big [focus] for me. I interact with so many different brands and companies on a daily basis. Using my market knowledge in ways that can help other people is fulfilling and exciting for me. And I especially love when I can be involved with a company from the beginning.”

Building on their content creator role in fashion is a natural progression, both said. And it plays into many industry shifts: On its way out is fashion’s DTC era, largely fueled by Harvard Business School and Wharton graduates using a plug-and-play, marketing-heavy business model to launch brands. More consumers are prioritizing quality, differentiated products, making industry experience and style expertise greater virtues among insiders. At the same time, consumers are increasingly taking shopping cues from relatable, platform-native celebrities, moving on from authoritative editors and more closed-off celebrities.

The school of collaborations
The collaborator-to-founder shift isn’t the newest thing. Other longtime influencers that have made the pivot include Arielle Charnas, with Something Navy; Aimee Song, with Song of Style; Rumi Neely, with Are You Am I; the list goes on. Most often, the names behind these brands don’t have formal design and business training — for her part, Bernstein said she “went to FIT for two years, but didn’t study design and production.” But, for years, they’ve worked hand-in-hand with companies to bring their visions to life. And along the way, they’ve come to know what resonates best with their vast communities, from marketing to merchandising to product.

“My most successful collaborations have led to the largest share of my business,” said Bernstein.

Bernstein’s partnership with Onia came out of her swimwear collaboration with its Onia brand, in May 2019. On the collab’s launch day, it drove $2 million in sales, and an included style was the brand’s best-selling swimsuit of the summer. Also in 2019, Bernstein collaborated with Joe’s Jeans on multiple denim collections. The launch day of the first, in March 2019, marked Joe Jeans’ best sales day to date, said Jennifer Hawkins, the brand’s svp of marketing and innovation on a Glossy Podcast in October.

Both served as learning opportunities for Bernstein, who said — as with all of her collaborations — she took full advantage: “It was never just [uploading] a post, and then I went away,” she said. “I always wanted to know how the performance was, in terms of sales, and asked questions: ‘Can you share the analytics?’ ‘What did you see on your end?’ ‘What worked and what didn’t work?’”

She added, “They provided a ton of data, in terms of what I could sell and what the market was missing.”

Likewise, she said, she always followed and shared with partner brands the Instagram Insights and Google Analytics numbers around her corresponding posts. Doing so gave all parties a 360-degree view of a collaboration’s success.

“I’ve learned what works for brands so they get the largest return on their investment,” she said.

For example, she’s learned to lean on her audience’s tastes, versus rely on her own, by allowing them to offer feedback throughout the design process through Instagram. That’s included the selection of fabrics and colors and the fit sessions with models. She only spotlights her favorite styles and what she wears in her own social posts, as a play for authenticity.

According to Bernstein, the collaborations with brands allowing her to play an advisor role — by guiding them on influencer partnerships, marketing and messaging — are always more successful. And they often turn into longer-term investment or advising partnerships.

Bernstein chose to work with Onia on the We Wore What collection based on its prioritization of quality and fit, and ability to keep to affordable retail prices. Currently, prices on the We Wore What site range from $20, for a scrunchie, to $228, for a vegan leather jumpsuit.

Barnes was also ready to go out on her own after finding the right partners. Her Reunited Clothing partnership came after working with the company to create her Express product collaboration, in early 2019. On its first-quarter 2019 earnings call, interim CEO Matthew C. Moullering said the company had seen “a strong start to [the] collection both in-stores and online and [believed] it [was] helping to introduce the brand to a new audience.”

“Having your own brand is terrifying,” Barnes said. “But I like that I’m in control and not so dependent on doing the day-to-day posts promoting other companies.”

But, she added, “One of the huge benefits of working with all these different brands on all these different projects is that we’re constantly getting introduced to new people and seeing who we like working with.”

Barnes’ internal team consists of her husband, who’s the “business brains” of the company, she said, and an assistant.

Like Bernstein, Barnes stressed the need for outside support in the production process: “I love such quirky, crazy things, but I also understand what is realistic for a buyer and a normal girl buying clothes,” she said. “The experience of taking ideas and making them work for a bigger group of people was my learning curve going into a business. It’s important to have a good, diverse team around you who can make your idea something that’s marketable.”

For its part, We Wore What has seen “200x growth in the last year,” as it’s expanded to new categories, Bernstein said. Its ready-to-wear, swimwear, resort wear, and activewear are now sold in “dozens and dozens of retailers around the world,” many of which offer style exclusives; they include Revolve, Bloomingdale’s and Intermix.

“Launching my own brand was putting the proof in the pudding for the power of influencers, when it comes to selling product,” she said.

As with her Joe’s and Onia collaborations, Bernstein sees a rush-to-buy with We Wore What product drops. “The first 10 minutes is when we see the biggest portion of our sales for the entire collection,” she said.

To build buzz, Shop We Wore What’s Instagram account (213,000 followers) features in its Stories the line sheets of the soon-to-launch styles, allowing customers to thoughtfully plan their buy. Doing so has led to lower return rates, Bernstein said. The company’s marketing mix also includes text messages and emails, VIP discounts and user-generated content.

Bernstein has a staff of four people, which include a chief operating officer and a brand coordinator. She said she prioritizes establishing partners with skills and expertise she doesn’t have, so she can learn from them along the way. Ideally, she’d have learned about tech packs, fittings and production logistics in school, but she’s training as she goes.

Moving forward, Bernstein said she plans to extend the size range of We What What styles, which are currently available in sizes XS-XXL, and launch collections with collaborators to sell exclusively on her brand’s DTC site. In addition, she aims to eventually open “experimental” physical retail, starting with pop-ups.

As for her investment-advisor portfolio, she’s currently in talks with companies centered on the concepts of “being able to sell your closet and even rent your closet.”

As for Barnes’ Bright Side, she said it will hit “a bunch of new retailers this year.”

Moving beyond fashion
Up next for Shop We Wore What is a new product category that will hit before the holiday season. Considering her passion for home furnishings and decor — based on her @homeworewhat Instagram account (7,500 followers) and recent press coverage of her new SoHo loft — it’s a safe bet that a home-related category is in the cards.

Likewise, Barnes hinted at a future Bright Side home collection, following her recent, two-year home remodel, which she’s getting set to debut on social media.

Lifestyle brands are the clear goal.

“I would love to be a combination of Rachel Zoe and Martha Stewart, just having my hands in everything and creating this really beautiful lifestyle where you can entertain and be fashionable,” Barnes said. “That’s kind of the dream.”

She added, “Fashion is where my heart has always been, but I’m growing as a person and there’s so much more in my life right now: my family, my home — and I’m getting older, so beauty [and skin care] makes sense now. Sharing all of that with everyone seems so natural; it would be weird if I only did fashion.”

As for future investments, though Quatch fits perfectly into Barnes’ world, with its fashion-tech focus, she said she’s open to investing in any company where she sees opportunity.

What’s more, she has no plans to retire from social media, though she has yet to tackle TikTok.

“People’s need for content has only increased, so I’m posting and creating content more than ever,” Barnes said. “But I’ve learned to become more of a hard-ass with brands. The companies that are willing to work with me and [facilitate] the most like authentic relationship possible are the ones I move forward with.” Reunited can attest.

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South African bowler Tabraiz Shamsi: Amateur magician; professional tweaker-trickster

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Harry Potter fans would know this as the Room of Requirement; muggle cricketers dub it backend operations. Tabraiz Shamsi is an amateur magician. He is also a professional worrier of why some googlies don’t turn as much as he’d want, in cricket.

For the Proteas chinaman bowler, the room of requirement from where he could pull out any game data, used to be the dependable ‘P Dawgg’, former South Africa analyst Prasanna Agoram combining his ken and nous and fast processing laptop. Prasanna enviably would be privy to the trial (and error) runs of Magician Shamsi’s classical Tourniquet coin-drops with the cricket ball. Which was the unglamorous, quirk-in-progress of his left-arm leg spin.

At the stroke of 1 a.m, oftener than not, Shamsi would come looking for what he called ‘shit balls’, in what Prasanna reckoned were otherwise impressive, less-than-run-a-ball bowling spells. This was that one specific delivery that went for a six to sully Shamsi’s 4-0-22-3 T20 match figures. It was the bugs, not the features, that the 29-year-old would cussedly fixate on.

“I’d never point out that he’s missing his length or the back foot was collapsing, at 12.30 in the night. Because Shamo, you see, would then take me to the nets at 1 a.m! He’s capable of calling the manager and telling him at that hour that I have to practice NOW. You had to be careful about what you told him at 1 a.m,” Prasanna laughs, underlining ungrudging admiration for the Proteas spinner’s dedication.

A series of self-recriminations in staccato would follow the ‘Bhai, can you please put on the shit-ball that went for a six.’ “He’d curse himself watching replays: ‘no good, not international class, garbage ball.’ If you try telling him it is ‘well-played’ from Jos Butler and not exactly a poor ball, he’d be hard on himself and say, ‘This is nonsense from Shamo’,” Prasanna recalls of his exacting standards.

For, the South African World No 1 spinner – who lends mystery to the Saffer bowling attack if not entirely upstaging their thunderbolt battery of pacers – knows that all sleights of hand, can come with uncontrollable twists of fate. Both in magic, and cricket.

A young boy of 15 at Paarl who tried to bowl quick like Wasim Akram and Chaminda Vaas, had wound up as a left arm leg spin all-sorts, after years of compulsive fine-tuning. And taken failures and omissions into his run-up’s five-strides.

***
Born in Johannesburg, Shamsi wanted to be a super quick in the land of bolting pacers. His progress though didn’t follow the regular route of being identified early for First teams at schools and playing age-groups. Also, he was told he wasn’t quick enough.

Speaking to the podcast ‘Pavilion conversations with C.S’ recently, Shamsi recalls his earliest break at age 15, bowling alone in the school nets, with the cricket coach’s office nearby. The coach would stop by and ask him what he was upto. “I said, ‘Sir, the U15 trials are coming up. I want to make the Paarl team wanna progress’. He told me – you are not gonna make it. But even there I thought he realised the type of character I am. That was just his way to push me even harder. He said ‘Don’t waste your time practicing coz you won’t get selected. And i was even more driven,” he told the host Mr. Chiwanza.

Shamsi would end up with most wickets that tournament, make the B team (“Still not A”), followed by U17 and U19s for the local side. “I didn’t get selected for SA U19s or invited to camps. My past was little different. In fact I got my opportunity at semi-pro cricket because one player got selected for U19s and went to the World Cup. A spot opened up because of him. I just knew that was my chance I had to make it work. And fortunately I performed. When he came back from the World Cup, he couldn’t get into the team,” Shamsi recalled.

It was around 2015-6 after he had zeroed in on Chinaman as his chosen bag of assorted tricks in franchise, provincial cricket, that he first sought out Prasanna, while closely following senior leggie and his ‘bruv’ Imran Tahir. Prasanna promised to compile a list of outstanding T20 spinners of that year for comparison, when Shamsi asked him: ‘Why just T20? I want to play all formats.’

Prasanna promised to revert after two days on Friday, and on Monday, he had a message from the hotel lobby at 10.30 am that Shamsi was waiting. “Normally, cricketers will turn up at 11.30, if the analyst time is 10.30. This guy made me abandon my breakfast and was ready with a list of questions. I’d prepared a presentation earlier on bowlers like Warne, Ajmal and Herath and how they bowled on unhelpful tracks, what lengths to bowl at what stage, and offered to email it to him. He tells me: “No. I’ll write it down in my own words. I don’t want shortcuts.”

Shamsi would sit and plan for every batsman – his notes diary in tow, even on matchdays when he wasn’t in Playing XI. And once he would spill the beans on why brainwaves struck him at 1 a.m – his preferred time to brainstorm with the analyst. “He once told me he eats my brain at that hour, so that he gets dreams of how to get a Kohli or Sharma out, so he can wake up next day he can execute the training plans.”

Once he came angsty about his googlies not spinning as much as Kuldeep Yadav or Brad Hogg. “When he said it’s not spinning, I told him Shamo’ you didn’t bowl any googly. That’s it. He hit the nets and bowled 1000 googlies non-stop and then said, he’s now hitting the groove.”

But nothing had prepared Prasanna for Shamsi’s mic-drop in the pink ball Test against Australia where the Chinaman was fancied as it’s tougher to spot the wrist in the Adelaidian twilight. Shamsi was instructed to block for 20 balls and support Faf as Proteas were hanging on at 210-9. Shamsi would announce he would score a 50 – against Pat Cummins, Hazlewood and Starc. Finally he was unbeaten on 18. “He came back and blustered ‘If someone had suported me, I’d have hit that 50’.”

***

This constant state of ‘upbeat’ – talking up his own abilities to score a 50 coming at No 11 against Cummins & Starc – might well be the sort of swag and sizzle that the staid South African teams need at ICC tournaments. For a large part of the last 30 years, the Proteas have entered tournaments with burdensome tags of ‘talented’ and ‘favourites’ and come up short. The tasteless mocking glee of choke-jokes has run its course, and being light-weights might well prove liberating.

For all their botched run chases in 50 overs, South Africa can stake claim to the historic highest run-rally to 438. And the innings-interval remark of Jacques Kallis, the most expensive bowler in Australia’s 434, who had quipped “Guys, I think we’ve done a good job. They’re 15 runs short.”

Shamsi likes his boisterous one-liners too. And his showboating and noisy over-the-top pantomime aggression.

After starring in a T20 win against Ireland earlier, he would tell South African journalist Telford Vice, “In my young age, I started as a seamer but was told I’m not quick enough to be a fast bowler so became a spinner. Grew up watching Andre Nel, Dayle Steyn, Allan Donald, that’s where aggression comes from.”

He knows it’s a double-edged sword and a bowler can be packed off, but it can disrupt batters too. “Whatever it takes to win. I’m in charge of making our presence felt on the ground and ensure the team never backs down from opponents,” he added.

Shamsi recently responded to Darren Sammy’s tweet on who would win the T20 World: “Come on skipper, you know the answer to this already…. South Africa of course.” Scroll down the thread, and some mocker mangles his grammar: “are you comedy me”. A good laugh was had by all. Pressure punctured.

“He’ll say things like ‘I’ll single-handedly win this,” Prasanna says, “Whether it happens or not, it gives confidence to people close to you – your team.”

***

Shamsi’s made it to the top of rankings, taking 49 wickets from 42 T20Is, at a strike-rate of 14.8 and averaging 6.6. There’s been a bucketful of wickets in franchise cricket and The Hundred. He’s 31 and has bidden his time to make it to the national team, and another 4 years into the Playing XI. The Wicket then, is an ocassion to celebrate, he reckons.

“I’m a human being and not a robot and want to make long-lasting happy memories that will live with me forever long after my career is done and that is the reason behind my celebrations,” he wrote in a social media post once. “My celebrations mean no disrespect to the opponents. They help me enjoy myself, switch on and off during the game to release some pressure, and put some smiles on people’s faces too.”

There’s the “Shoe” that got going in the West Indies, where within seconds of a wicket, he’d shrug his ankle open from the left shoe and pretend to speak on a landline receiver. Then there’s the bus driver-celebration with Carlos Braithwaite and something about a birdie’s chirp. A flying kiss to the wife and a mock punch to a fielder like a streets hip hopper. Though the untold back-stories raise anticipation of what he’ll whip up next.

Prasanna says there can be new hairdos before every game, sometimes “thrice a week”, and that magic tricks and celebrations are practiced as diligently as the googlies and top-spinners. “Not only will he say, ‘Tomorrow I’ll get Ben Stokes out.’ He’ll also ask you to watch the celebration.”

Amongst his most famous on-field triumph-trumpetings after snaring a batter is pulling a wand out of a hankey – a magician’s staple. But never in cricket, where magic’s glossary is slathered on the slow bowlers and their guiles.

T20 commentators love his name, lending it a South American football match caller’s vroom: “Shaaa-mzzziii”. But it’s the celebrations that can befuddle the most trained of raconteurs. When Shamsi got Wihan Lubbe in the Mzansi Super League, the commentator would build up to the expected celebration. “Is the shoe coming off? No. Look at that…it’s magic,” he would chortle. Cricket was momentarily put to the side, before he resumed confused: “That was a legspinner…… Beg your pardon… Offspinner… That did the trick..” Shamsi’s delivery had jagged away from the leftie and the post-celebration left the commentator’s mind in knots.

Appearing on the Dan Nicholl Show in SA, Shamsi had pulled one of those ‘I can guess the card pulled out of the deck after being shuffled’ tricks. It was ace of spades.

Magic had been his fallback option till age 16, he’d say. “So if cricket doesn’t work out… I ll practice magic for 10 years… But naa… It’s gonna work out.. I’ll bamboozle you all,” he would say, charming the audience.

At the start of the magic gig, Shamsi had handed a sealed envelope to the host. “Sealed with Proteas saliva” Nicholl had joked with whispered reverence. The distracting envelope had briefly become the centrepiece, and Shamsi would explain later:
“You satisfied you made me stop shuffling when u wanted me to? Funny thing is…You thought you were in charge of the trick… Telling me when to stop. Even though it’s your show, I’m running this party… I was controlling you and I actually made you stop at a specific point. …And to prove that I had written down something in this envelope before starting the trick..” It read Ace of Spades.

Shamsi’s assortment of Chinaman, is a bit like that: planned spontaneity. Allan Donald in a video while introducing him to RCB few seasons ago, said: “Left arm, tweaks it this way, tweaks it that way, then tweaks it the other way.” Offering attacking options in the middle overs, with his ability to turn ball both ways, and variations of top spinner, the side spinner and googly, makes him effective against both lefties and righties. The constant explosion of activity – before, right after when appealing (he once did a spot of bhangra jumps, then sat down altogether while pleading a decision) and when celebrating, is in fact the sealed envelope distraction.

Yet, bad days are not unfamiliar to Shamsi, and his role can be flexible like the magician’s wand, like in the West Indies, to keep things quiet, contain against the big power hitters. “There’s two ways to skin a cat… Not really fussed about not getting wickets in WI. That was a different role,” he told the media later.

Sometimes the magic is in not believing the flimflam and sleight. Like rankings. “I don’t lose sleep over being No 1. Obviously it’s a nice feeling to be on top. But I’ve said it before and I truly mean it. I don’t even think I’m the best bowler in our team. We have some great bowlers in the unit. Rankings don’t mean anything if a batsman gets hold of you. I don’t even know how those rankings work honestly.”

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Five great Twenty20 World Cup upsets

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Five great Twenty20 World Cup upsets



















Five great Twenty20 World Cup upsets | SuperSport – Africa’s source of sports video, fixtures, results and news






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