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Ben Stokes: The Hercules Incarnate

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English all-rounder Ben Stokes

Ben Stokes’ contribution to his team can never be summed up in mere numbers; his name will be mentioned with utmost respect in English cricket. Stokes’ brilliance was evident in the second of the three Test match series against West Indies. He hit his slowest century — 176 of 356 balls in the first innings — which was the need of the hour. He hit a vital half-century in the next innings as well, which is the fastest knock by any English opener.

 Providing major breakthroughs on crucial times for his team, his bowling performance was equally impressive. Not to forget, he not only outperformed other players but also marked victory in a high-pressure game which was a prerequisite for the English team to maintain their chance of winning the tri-match series.

Stokes, surpassing Jason Holder, has become the number one all-rounder in the world, with an impressive margin of 38 points after his phenomenal performance against West Indies. The 29-year-old English cricketer ended Holder’s streak of 18 months at the top spot, the first from England since Andrew Flintoff in May 2006. His 497 points are also the highest by any Test all-rounder since Jacques Kallis’ 517 in April 2008.

Not only this, earlier this year, Stokes even ended Virat Kohli’s three-year reign of Wisden’s Leading Cricketer Of The Year when he was honoured with the title for his exceptional performance last year. He is also now the third-best Test batsman only behind Steve Smith and Virat Kohli in ICC Test ranking of batsmen.

Ben Stokes anchored the most phenomenal victory in recent times for England and has emerged as the man of the moment for his team with an all-round performance against the most competitive teams. Since 2019, he has been a leading run-scorer for his team with 1,355 runs in 16 Tests, averaging 52.11.

Indeed, he has evolved as one of the prolific players for England. His contribution to England’s run is most by any batsmen with 17.79 percent, ahead of Joe Root who scored 1,114 runs in as many Tests, with 14.86 percent of England’s run since 2019. Stokes has been equally efficacious with the ball — 36 wickets at 29.61, only behind Stuart Broad with 52 wickets.

Stokes’ greatness has many pieces of evidence and in the process, he is adding many feathers to his cap. He is in the elite club of players scored 4,000 plus Test runs and over 150 Test wickets and second fastest to mark his presence in the club, after the legendary Garfield Sobers. The club consists of giants like Jacques Kallis, Garry Sobers, Kapil Dev, Ian Botham and Daniel Vettori.

Stokes has been an intelligent cricketer in international cricket but he also proved his worth in one of the most high-profile club cricket — IPL. In 2017, he was included in the auction and bought by Rising Pune Supergiants, and soon with his much-needed knocks, which also include a century, grabbed everyone’s attention. He smashed 300 runs and with 10 wickets at crucial stages, he was considered one of the valuable players of the season. Since then he has an impressive IPL record and is still considered one of the most-watched players.

 In the World Cup 2019 final, one of the most heartpounding and cliffhanging matches ever, Stokes, the man of moment, stepped up to lead his team to the maiden title and without disappointing anyone he halted New Zealand a run before the margin victory and took the match to first ever superover in the WC final. He again came to face the super-over with the bat and scored 8 of 3 balls and led England to defendable 15 runs. Though, Kiwis made it to the exact score and lost the title by boundary count-back rule. Thus, Stokes was awarded “Man of The Match” and listed his names amongst players who won the award in the WC final.

A dream does not become reality through magic, but with determination, hard work and sweat. Stokes has it all and he is clinching remarkable feats. His style of cricket and skill of decisive efforts has been a knack for England in recent times and the manner he is playing turned out to be an inspiration for youngsters all across the globe. Stoke is one guy taking the baton of game inventors with pride and honors. Pleasure watching Stokes!

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PREMIER LEAGUE: 8 COVID CASES IN LATEST ROUND OF TESTING

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The Premier League has informed that eight people had returned positive results in its latest round of coronavirus tests conducted on players and staff last week.

In a statement, the league on Monday said that the individuals who had tested positive for Covid-19 would now self-isolate for 10 days.

“The Premier League can today confirm that between Monday 12 October and Sunday 18 October, 1,575 players and club staff were tested for Covid-19. Of these, there were eight new positive tests,” the statement read.

So far, 42 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in seven rounds of testing beginning August 31.

The league management is in a tussle as to how keep a vigil over the bio-secure protocols. Nevertheless, the authorities have mentioned that the testing will go on as long as the league lasts.

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DIJK’S INJURY BIG BLOW FOR LIVERPOOL: HENDERSON

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Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has admitted that the loss of Virgil van Dijk is a big blow for the Reds.

The Reds’ No.4 requires surgery on the knee injury he sustained during last Saturday’s Merseyside derby at Goodison Park and has stated in a post on social media that he is now focused fully on returning to fitness as soon as possible.

“Yeah, it’s a tough one. It’s a big blow for us. For him personally, obviously. But for us as a team, a massive blow,” Henderson told Liverpoolfc.com.

“I’m just gutted for him. So, it’s been a tough couple of days, I spoke to him yesterday. And yeah, it’s a difficult moment, but that’s when you need to be there for each other. I’ll be there as much as I possibly can for him, I’m sure the lads will do the same and his family certainly will, to help him through the journey he’ll go on,” he added.

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AUCKLAND FAST BOWLER BEN LISTER BECOMES FIRST COVID-19 SUBSTITUTE

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Auckland seamer Ben Lister has become the first Covid-19 replacement to be used in cricket. He was called in as replacement for batsman Mark Chapman before the start of the Plunket Shield match against Otago.

Chapman reported feeling ill on Monday and underwent a Covid-19 test with Lister being designated his replacement until the result is known.

“Ben Lister starts as Covid-19 replacement with Mark Chapman awaiting test results after feeling ill yesterday,” Auckland Cricket wrote on their Twitter handle.

The match commenced a day later as compared to the other Plunket Shield games going on, and as a result, Chapman’s replacement could be announced before the toss. The 24-year-old took one wicket in the first innings as Otago were bowled out for just 186.

“I wasn’t aware until I got here this morning that Mark Chapman had been feeling ill and had to get a Covid test. But from my perspective, it’s great that he’s not penalised for doing the right thing in what is obviously different times we face in the world,” ESPNcricinfo quoted New Zealand coach Gary Stead, who was watching the match at Eden Park’s outer oval, as saying.

“Just shows that we and cricket aren’t immune to that either, so following the right protocols is definitely the right thing to do,” he added.

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UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: A BIG CHALLENGE AMID THE PANDEMIC

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UEFA has assured that it is prepared to tackle the worst situations if Covid hits any team. As per the UEFA guidelines, a neutral venue will be chosen if there are travel restrictions in place for a host city.

The UEFA Champions League has returned. While the glory associated with the world football’s most prestigious tournament is intact and UEFA promises a complete unhindered football season with its end at Istanbul on May 29, the road to glory is not going to be easy.

The UEFA Champions League will witness 6 rounds being completed in a window of 8 weeks. A team will be required to travel to at least 3 countries in the group stages in the next two months, something which is not easy in the current pandemic times. For example, Sevilla traveled to Chelsea this week, after which they will return to Spain, then travel to Russia and France within 8 weeks.

Although all football leagues including the Champions League have worked hard to ensure that Covid is kept in check by allowing only 30% spectators, lowering player requirement per game to 13, and also allowing more substitutes, World Football has not been free from the virus.

The latest notable case has been that of Cristiano Ronaldo who has now tested positive and had to quarantine. Let’s not forget that as the Champions League has kicked off several European nations such as France, Ireland, UK and Wales have already started witnessing the second wave of infections.

But UEFA has assured that they are prepared to tackle the worst situations if Covid hits any team. As per the UEFA guidelines, a neutral venue will be chosen if there are travel restrictions in place for a host city. But the biggest flaw is that if a team faces too many infections and is unable to play before the match deadline, they will be deemed to have forfeited the game.

The restart will be a bigger challenge than when the Champions league resumed last season since the home-away game format was taken away and a neutral venue was chosen for all the remaining games.

But we can only hope and wish that the new and complete avatar of the UEFA Champions League is unhindered by the Virus and we get to witness a fair and complete tournament till May 29th next year, as the championship has delivered through decades now.

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RCB face rejuvenated Kolkata in return fixture

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Kolkata Knight Riders will be looking to maintain the momentum they generated from a morale-boosting win against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in their last outing when they face Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in their return fixture of the IPL here on Wednesday.

New Zealand fast bowler Lockie Ferguson roared into the tournament with exceptional figures of 3/15 (four overs) besides 2/2 in the Super-Over to help KKR beat SRH in their previous fixture. It was the 29-year-old’s first match of the season and he stepped at a time when their pace spearhead Pat Cummins is struggling to get wickets.

While Andre Russell (0/29 from 2 overs) turned out to be expensive partly due to the injury he sustained before the start of his final over, the others — Cummins, Varun Chakravarthy and Kuldeep Yadav — were economical.

KKR captain Eoin Morgan would also be worried about Russell’s form with the bat. The Caribbean all-rounder, also KKR’s leading run-scorer with 1,434 runs from 66 games, has failed to create the impact he usually makes in the batting order. It will also be interesting to see whether Morgan brings Sunil Narine back in the playing XI as the spinner has now been cleared of suspect action. With 127 wickets in 116 games, Narine is the top wicket taker for KKR.

On the other hand, RCB’s opener Devdutt Padikkal, Aaron Finch, AB de Villiers and captain Virat Kohli have all managed to find form with the bat. Kohli, who was struggling in the initial few games of the season, has led his team from the front, while de Villiers has done what he is best known for.

Against Rajasthan Royals (RR) in their last contest, de Villiers single-handedly blew away the opponents as he smashed 55 of just 22 deliveries. Moreover, the last time the two sides faced each other, de Villiers hammered 73 off 33 balls.

Chris Morris wreaked havoc in the RR line-up with a four-wicket haul and he is a handy option down the order for RCB with the bat. Morris will once again lead the pace attack alongwith Isuru Udana.

COMPARATIVE ANALYSISKKR VS RCBKOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS

Strength:

• Opener Shubhman Gill is in good form

• Eoin Morgan is consistent

Weakness:

• Pat Cummins has proved to be an expensive bowler

ROYAL CHELLENGERS

BANGALORE

Strength:

• Devdutt Padikkal’s magic

• AB de Villers and his 360 degree performances

Weakness:

• Aaron Finch is not in good touch.

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DHAWAN’S CENTURY GOES IN VAIN AS KXIP VANQUISHES DELHI

Chasing 165, KXIP got off to a bad start as the side lost skipper K.L. Rahul (15) in the third over of the innings. But Pooran and Maxwell brought the team back in the game. With this win, KXIP has gone to the fifth position in the points table.

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Nicholas Pooran and Glenn Maxwell played knocks of 53 and 32 respectively as Kings XI Punjab defeated Delhi Capitals by five wickets on Tuesday here at the Dubai International Stadium.

With this win, KXIP has gone to the fifth position in the points table with 8 points from 10 matches while Delhi Capitals is still at the top of the table with 14 points from 10 matches. Chasing 165, KXIP got off to a bad start as the side lost skipper KL Rahul (15) in the third over of the innings. Spinner Axar Patel provided the much-needed breakthrough to Delhi Capitals.

Chris Gayle and Mayank Agarwal tried to retrieve the innings for KXIP as the duo put on 35 runs for the second wicket. However, Ravichandran Ashwin staged Delhi’s comeback in the sixth over of the innings as both Gayle (29) and Agarwal (5) lost their wickets, reducing KXIP to 56/3.

In a spot of bother, Nicholas Pooran and Glenn Maxwell got together at the crease to retrieve the innings for KXIP. Both batsmen stitched together a partnership of 69 runs, which saw Pooran bringing up his half-century.

However, with Punjab just 40 runs away from the target, Delhi Capitals’ got the breakthrough of Pooran (53) as he was sent back to the pavilion by Kagiso Rabada. With just 18 runs required, KXIP was given another blow by Rabada as he dismissed the set batsman Maxwell (32) in the 16th over.

In the end, Deepak Hooda (15*) and James Neesham (10*) ensured KXIP does not suffer from any more hiccups and the duo took the side over the line by five wickets with six balls to spare.

Earlier, Shikhar Dhawan’s unbeaten knock of 106 runs guided Delhi Capitals to 164/5 in the allotted twenty overs against KXIP. The left-handed Dhawan also became the first cricketer to score back to back centuries in IPL.

Opting to bat first, Delhi Capitals got off to a good start as openers Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan scored 13 runs in the first over. However, KXIP made a comeback as Jimmy Neesham dismissed Shaw (7) in the fourth over.

Dhawan kept on smashing boundaries at regular intervals, however, batsmen at the other end found the going tough. Murugan Ashwin then provided the second breakthrough as he dismissed Iyer (14) in the ninth over, reducing Delhi to 73/2.

In the end, Mohammed Shami dismissed Marcus Stoinis (9) and Shimron Hetmyer (10) in the 18th and 20th over respectively, and as a result, Delhi Capitals was restricted to under the 165-run mark.

Brief Scores: Kings XI Punjab 167/5 (Nicholas Pooran 53, Glenn Maxwell 32, Kagiso Rabada 2-27) defeat Delhi Capitals 164/5 (Shikhar Dhawan 106*, Shreyas Iyer 14, Mohammad Shami 2-28) by five wickets.

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