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England prepare pace battery to test West Indies

The English bowling lineup looks quite intimidating, with the likes of Anderson, Archer, Broad and Woakes gearing up to test the visitors

Raman Bhanot



File photo of England’s Ben Stokes in action during a match between Australia and England in Birmingham, last year.

The country that introduced the world to the gentleman’s game is now well on its way to show us how to go about hosting cricket action in the Covid era!

The West Indies series in July and the Pakistan series that follows in August will be the litmus test for England that not long ago was high up on the list of nations with its population affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The successful conduct of both series may provide a roadmap to other cricket boards of how to go about the logistics of hosting forthcoming series, given the new challenges posed by the virus.

England named a final squad of 13 players for the first Test, from a pre-series shortlist of 30, after their three-day practice game ended on 3 July. Nine more players will be staying at the venue as reserves.

 Joe Root will miss the opening Test of the series as he returned to Sheffield, to be with his family at the birth of his second child. Ben Stokes will lead the side in his place and the Durham all-rounder is set to become the 81st England men’s Test captain.

Pace seems to be the name of the game, and the England bowling lineup looks quite intimidating, with the likes of James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes aiming to make the most of the English conditions along with Stokes.

The selectors have backed the batting talent of Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Joe Denly and Zak Crawley which was to be expected, given the absence of Joe Root in the top four. Though the odd eyebrow might have been raised about the omission of all-rounder Sam Curran from the 13, it has more to do with him being unwell and missing two days of action during the practice match, rather than an issue of form.

Curran has tested negative for Covid-19 and has been included in the Test reserves along with Ben Foakes, Jack Leach and Craig Overton.

Dom Bess has been given the nod in the spin department, which means the experience of Moeen Ali has been overlooked. The other seasoned campaigner, who doesn’t find a place in the squad or the reserves, is keeper bat Jonny Bairstow.

The series will also see the Interim Regulation Changes that have been approved by the ICC, being put into action.

Due to international travel restrictions, locally-based match officials from the ICC Elite Panel and the ICC International Panel will be appointed for the matches. An additional unsuccessful DRS review for each team in each innings of a match will be added, which means that the number of unsuccessful appeals available per innings for each team will go up to three in Test matches and two for the white-ball formats.

Teams will be allowed to replace players displaying symptoms of Covid-19 during the Test match. Just like it is with concussion replacements, the match referee will approve the nearest like-forlike replacement from the pool of reserve players.

Most importantly for bowlers, during the match players will not be permitted to use saliva to shine the ball. If a player does apply saliva to the ball, the umpires are allowed to initially show some leniency and allow players to get accustomed to the new rule, but subsequent instances will result in the team receiving a warning.

 After two warnings per innings if there is still repeated use of saliva on the ball, it will result in a 5-run penalty in favour of the batting side. Whenever saliva is applied to the ball and is noticed by the umpires, it will have to be cleaned off the ball before play recommences.

Just to highlight how seriously some players are preparing to play in these modified conditions, take the example of Stuart Broad.

 Broad has spoken at length to the team’s sports psychologist about how to maintain intensity levels and sustain optimum performance despite playing in empty stadiums, during England’s bio-secure Test series with West Indies.

The first Test between England and West Indies starts at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on 8 July 2020.

The writer is a sports broadcaster and cricket commentator who has worked on assignments for leading sports networks in India and abroad.

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India women’s cricket team head coach Ramesh Powar on Sunday said that the workload management of senior bowler Jhulan Goswami would be really important in the New Zealand series as the side wants her to be at her peak when the 50-over World Cup starts.

India will depart for New Zealand to lock horns with the White Ferns in one T20I and five ODIs, beginning February 9 in Napier. And then the Mithali-led side would compete in the 50-over World Cup. “Workload management of Jhulan Goswami would be important. Not just Jhulan, but everybody. When you look at the New Zealand series and World Cup games, in all it will be 14-15 games so we have planned accordingly right from the Australia series. I think the medical staff of our team is doing a fantastic job, they are looking after each and every player,” said Powar while replying to an ANI query during a virtual press conference.

“There is always a special eye on Jhulan because we want her to be at her peak when World Cup starts. We are managing as per we play games, the medical team is doing a fine job,” he added. After the game against Pakistan (March 6) in the Women’s World Cup, India will square off against New Zealand (March 10), West Indies (March 12), England (March 16), Australia (March 19), Bangladesh (March 22), and South Africa (March 27) in the group stage.

When asked whether he had communication with the dropped players (Punam Raut, Jemimah Rodrigues, Shikha Pandey), Powar said: “I think every player in the scheme of things knows where they stand and what is their present and future. I think everyone knows on this team where they stand. We do not have to communicate differently to them, they know where they stand.”

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Sixth-seed Rafael Nadal decimated Adrian Mannarino of France 7-6 (16-14), 6-2, 6-2 in a match that lasted for two hours and 40 minutes to enter the quarter-finals of men’s singles here at the Rod Laver Arena on Sunday.

The opening set started off on a competitive note with both the players holding their serves to take it to a tie-break. The tie-breaker turned out to be an even intense battle where both Nadal and Mannarino saved three set points each. Ultimately the 20-time grand slam champion held his nerve to win the tie-breaker 16-14 in the seventh set point of the set. Unlike the first, the second set turned out to be a completely different story with the 2009 Australian Open Champion Nadal dictating terms right from the word go by breaking Frenchman Mannarino in the very first game. The Spaniard looked unstoppable and broke his opponent again in the fifth game to take a 4-1 lead and ultimately winning the set 6-2.

In the third set as well, the 20-time grand slam champion Nadal started on a similar note by breaking Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in the opening game. In the very next game Mannarino broke back to level the score 1-1 in second set. But that break hardly affected the Spaniard as he broke his opponent in the next game and never looked back.

He broke him again in the fifth game to take a convincing 4-1 lead and bagged the third set with a similar score line of second. Rafael Nadal hit 16 aces and 42 winners enroute to his entry in last-8.

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Mix doubles team of India’s Sania Mirza and USA’s Rajeev Ram cruised into the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Sunday.

Playing at Court 3, the Indo-American pair defeated the duo of Matwe Middelkoopa from the Netherlands and Australian Ellen Perez in the second round. It took Mirza and Ram one hour and 27 minutes to defeat the Dutch-Aussie pair by 7-6(4), 6-4. The wild-card duo who had defeated the third-seeds Robert Farah-Nicole Melichar in the previous round started the match at a good pace against Mirza and Ram. But Indo-American pair gained the upper hand after taking the first set in a critical tie-breaker.

With momentum on their side, Mirza and Ram upped their ante and cruised to a straight-set win after they broke their opponents early in second. The unseeded Sania Mirza – Rajeev Ram, both former Grand Slam champions, won the first-round match 6-3, 7-6(3). Both Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna were ousted from the women’s and men’s doubles, respectively, in the opening round.

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Match between India, Chinese Taipei cancelled after positive cases in Blue Tigresses’ camp



Group A clash between India and Chinese Taipei in the ongoing AFC Women’s Asian Cup, 2022, which was scheduled to be played on Sunday evening, has been cancelled after a string of positive COVID-19 cases in the Indian camp.

“Following several positive cases of COVID-19, India failed to name the required minimum of 13 players for the Group A match against Chinese Taipei. In accordance with Article 4.1 of the ‘Special Rules Applicable to AFC Competitions during the COVID-19 pandemic’ (Special Rules), India was therefore unable to participate in the match and the full provisions of Article 4.1 will apply,” stated AFC in an official statement. “Further, the inability of India to participate in the match also triggers Article 6 of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022 regulations,” stated further.

The AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022 will continue to be played as scheduled with the Group winners, runners-up and the two best third-placed teams qualifying to the quarter-finals. The matter will now be referred to the relevant AFC Committee(s) in accordance with the applicable regulations.

It was also stated that the AFC has maintained an open line of communication with the teams and participating Member Associations throughout the competition to deal with all their concerns and enquiries in a timely manner.

The AFC Medical Team continues to work closely with the Local Organising Committee and the AIFF to prioritise the health and wellbeing of the teams, officials and stakeholders. Appropriate medical care is being provided to the infected players and the AFC wishes them a full and speedy recovery.

Chinese Taipei had gone down 0-4 to China in their opening match. As things stand, China are at the top of Group A with three points, while India and Iran are tied for the second spot with one point each.

Chinese Taipei are yet to open their account. India had played out a goalless draw against IR Iran in their opening match of the tournament.

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India shuttler PV Sindhu on Sunday won the women’s singles title at the Syed Modi International tournament.

At the Babu Banarasi Indoor Stadium, top-seed Sindhu defeated Malvika Bansod 21-13, 21-16 in the summit clash that lasted for 35 minutes. The 26-year-old Sindhu brought her A-game to the court and she won the first game quite comprehensively. From there on, Sindhu carried on with the momentum and she wrapped up the match in straight sets.

Earlier, the men’s singles final of the Syed Modi India International 2022 was declared a ‘No Match’, Badminton World Federation (BWF) confirmed on Sunday. The men’s singles final was slated to be contested between Arnaud Merkle and Lucas Claerbout.

“BWF can confirm one of the finalists tested positive for COVID-19 this morning,” stated an official statement.

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India whitewashed in SA ODI series



India suffered an ODI series whitewash of 3-0 after losing the third and final match against South Africa by four runs here at the Newlands Cricket ground on Sunday.

Chasing 288 to avoid a series whitewash against Proteas the visitors did not get an ideal start losing captain KL Rahul in the fifth over for 9 caught by Janneman Malan of Lungi Ngidi’s bowling with only 18 runs on the board. Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli then stitched a partnership as India went past the 50-run mark in the tenth over. The duo soon notched up a fifty run stand scoring runs at a brisk pace. Dhawan went on to score his 35th ODI fifty and his second of the series.

The rub of the green also went India’s way as Kohli’s outside edge went away from the first slip fielder and the team reached the triple-figure mark in the 19th over. India lost the wicket against the run of play of Dhawan as a leading-edge went up in the air and keeper Quinton de Kock made no mistake to take the catch of Andile Phehlukwayo’s bowling.

In the same over Rishabh Pant got out to a golden duck leaving India in a spot of bother at 118 for 3. The loss of two wickets in quick succession did not deter Kohli as he went on to score his 64th ODI half-century.

Kohli along with Shreyas Iyer took India’s total beyond the 150-run mark. Kohli-Shreyas partnership did not last long as Kohli was dismissed for 65 of a leading edge caught in the off-side by Bavuma of Keshav Maharaj’s bowling. Suryakumar Yadav joined Shreyas in the middle as the wicket-keeper as the duo kept the scoreboard moving. But Proteas once again got the breakthrough as Shreyas was out caught of a short pitch ball by Phehlukwayo of Sisanda Magala’s bowling.

India reached the 200-run mark in the 38th over. But India’s woes continued as Suryakumar too was dismissed caught in the mid off by Bavuma of Dwaine Pretorius’ bowling. Deepak Chahar tried to fight a lone battle but he lost another partner in Jayant Yadav dismissed by Lungi Ngidi caught by Bavuma in mid-off by Bavuma.

Boundaries and sixes from Chahar helped India go past 250-run mark in the 45th over. Chahar notched up his second ODI half-century of 31 balls taking India closer to victory from precarious situation. With only 10 runs needed off 18 balls India, unfortunately, lost Chahar who was caught by Pretorius of Ngidi’s bowling. With seven required of 9 balls India lost Bumrah for 12 of Phehlukwayo’s bowling caught by Bavuma. With six runs needed of the last over Pretorius dismissed Yuzvendra Chahal for 2 as India were bowled out for 283 falling short by 4 runs.

Earlier in the day, Rahul won the toss and opted to bowl first and the visitors got off to a great start with comeback man Deepak Chahar picking up the wicket of opener Janneman Malan in the third over of the match caught behind by wicket-keeper Pant for only 1.

Quinton carried on where he left in the previous match scoring runs at a brisk pace for the Proteas. But in the sixth over hosts lost the wicket of their captain Temba Bavuma for just 8 as Indian captain KL Rahul sent him back to the pavilion with a direct hit reducing the hosts to 34 for 2.

With the fall of two early wickets, the Proteas needed a partnership and Aiden Markram alongwith de Kock took the team’s total to 53 for 2 in the first powerplay of 10 overs. Chahar was given an extended spell as he continued to bowl his seventh over and Rahul’s decision paid off as Chahar got the wicket of Markram for 15 caught in the deep by substitute fielder Ruturaj Gaikwad leaving Proteas tottering at 70 for 3.

Rassie van der Dussen joined de Kock in the middle and got a life at his individual score of 12 as wicket-keeper Pant dropped his catch in the 16th over of the match of Jayant Yadav’s bowling. Despite losing partners at the other end de Kock did not look too perturbed as he notched up his half-century of 59 deliveries.

Proteas reached the triple figure mark in the 20th over. Dussen and de Kock struck fifty partnership to bring some stability in the South African innings. Opener de Kock started to take on Indian bowlers hitting Yuzvendra Chahal and Prasidh Krishna for boundaries and reaching close to his triple figure mark. Dussen-de Kock pair struck a century partnership for the fourth wicket as Proteas scored 170 runs in 30 overs.

Quinton went on to score his 17th ODI ton his sixth against India in 17 innings equaling the record of AB de Villiers and Ricky Ponting of most ODI centuries against India behind Sri Lanka’s Sanath Jayasuriya who has seven tons to his name. Dussen’s run of form continued as he went on to score his 10th ODI fifty. The hosts went past the 200-run mark in the 35th over as de Kock and Dussen toyed away with the Indian bowling attack.

Rahul introduced Jasprit Bumrah into the attack and the pacer broke the 144-run partnership dismissing centurion de Kock for 124 of 130 balls caught near the boundary line by Dhawan to give India the much-needed breakthrough.

In the next over Chahal got the prized scalp of Dussen for 52 of 59 deliveries caught in the deep to a brilliant running catch by Shreyas. With two wickets in quick succession the Indian bowlers bowled some economical overs as the Proteas scored 228 runs in 40 overs. The pressure crept in and the South Africans lost the wicket of Phehlukwayo to a run out by Shreyas.

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