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English class set to face fiery Pakistan pace attack

The series between England and Pakistan is likely to be a cliffhanger, as both teams have a fine balance of youth and experience.

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(From L to R) English skipper Joe Root and Pakistani fast bowler Shaheen Afridi.

England will face Pakistan with an unchanged squad that let them vanquish West Indies and clinch the Wisden Trophy at Old Trafford even after losing the first Test match.

Englishmen had a fair share of magical moments against the Caribbean squad which will boost their morale when they will face Pakistan — the team having a decent record against England and the only side to score 500 plus in the Test against England in their home ground since 2016. Pakistan will be having a pace arsenal for which they are best known.

Joe Root had a tough time finding his opening pair since Alaister Cook retired from the game, but the phenomenal performance from Don Sibley and Rory Burns ended the quest for a panacea. Sibley and Burns were the second and third highest run-scorers respectively in the matches England played lately.

Root, at number 3, has a habit of consolidating singles into doubles and is widely regarded as someone who rises above all the big occasions. Though England skipper didn’t have an exceptional performance particularly against West Indies, the kind of status he has earned in International cricket for himself is enough to understand that he can never be underestimated and overlooked.

In the short span of two years, Ollie Pope, 22 is youngest in the squad and has impressed everyone with an average of 44 plus, having one century and four fifties in ten international Test matches. His poor performances in the first two test matches must have put pressure on him. As an old proverb says, “Champion keeps trying till it gets right,” Pope exactly did the same in the third Test, a do-or-diesituation for his team.

In the first inning, when England needed a stable partnership, Pope built up a strong partnership with Jose Buttler, ferrying the team from 122/4 to 258/4. Pope showed the phenomenal character of being a test player, and in the future, if he is given proper guidance and opportunities in the series against Pakistan, he will impress everyone.

Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler have enough experience in their kit which would provide enough depth to the team against Pakistan’s bowling-hardened team. Stokes, currently at the peak of his career, is earning a lot of paeans from critics across the globe. He has been magical with bat and bowl and has led his team to the victory time and again. Pakistan will certainly have to prepare a strategy to put reins on him.

Stokes is a top-notch allrounder, rated at number three Test batsman ahead of Pakistan’s Babar Azam. His century and fifty in first and second innings respectively, and wickets at crucial stages, earned him Man of The Match in the second Test against the Caribbeans. He is certainly going to give a tough time to the Pakistan bowlers if he continues with the kind of temperament he is.

 England’s tail-enders can never be underestimated either as they have the skill to put on a partnership. Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad have a fair share of experience of batting at critical junctures.

The series against Pakistan is going to be a cliffhanging show, as both the teams have a fine balance of experienced and newcomers.

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RCB PACER SIRAJ CREATES A HISTORY IN IPL

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Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) pacer Mohammad Siraj on Wednesday created history as he became the first bowler to bowl two maiden overs in an Indian Premier League (IPL) match. Siraj achieved the feat against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) here at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. KKR won the toss and opted to bat first against RCB. Siraj was seen at his best as his first two overs conceded no runs and he also ended up taking the wickets of Rahul Tripathi and Nitish Rana. KKR witnessed a horrid start as the side was reduced to 14/4 as Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Rahul Tripathi, and Tom Banton all recorded single-digit scores. KKR made two changes to their playing XI for the match against RCB as the side brought in Tom Banton and Prasidh Krishna in place of Andre Russell and Shivam Mavi. On the other hand, RCB made one change to their playing XI from the last match against Rajasthan Royals. The Virat Kohli-led side brought in Mohammad Siraj in place of Shahbaz Ahmed.

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Black Lives Matter ignored at IPL: Holder

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West Indies captain Jason Holder is disappointed that the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has been ignored at the Indian Premier League (IPL) where he is representing SunRisers Hyderabad. Holder was speaking from United Arab Emirates, the venue of IPL, after West Indian were awarded the Cricket Writers’ Club Peter Smith Award, which recognises outstanding contribution to the presentation of cricket to the public. “I personally was a bit disappointed to see how the Pakistan and Australia tours, that went on after ours, that they were not showing their solidarity afterwards. 

It’s a hard challenge and a long hard road. It’s not an overnight fix but the most important thing is we need to come together and see each other as equal human beings,” said Holder. During West Indies’ Test tour of England, which the latter won 2-1, players from both sides were seen taking a knee in a gesture of racial solidarity. “To be honest, I haven’t had one conversation up here [in IPL] around it. Sometimes it seems it has gone unnoticed, which is a sad thing. I guess it’s for us to re-highlight the importance of it,” said Holder

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Messi extends Champions League scoring record to 36 teams

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Football legend Lionel Messi scored a historic goal during his side’s 5-1 win over Ferencvaros at the Camp Nou in the ongoing Champions League. After his goal on Tuesday night, Messi now has scored goals against 36 different teams in the Champions League. Of the 41 teams the Argentinian has faced in the competition, only Rubin Kazan, Atletico Madrid, Benfica, Udinese and Inter Milan have managed to survive unscathed. 

The goal moved him three ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo and Raul Gonzalez with 33 goals each, and Karim Benzema and Zlatan Ibrahimovic with 29, according to official FC Barcelona website. The goal against a Hungarian side also meant that Messi has now netted against teams from 16 different countries, England being his greatest victim, having being on the end of 26 of his goals, while the team he has scored against most has been Arsenal, nine times, followed by AC Milan and Celtic with eight each.

 His other goals have been scored against APOEL, Ajax, Basel, BATE Borisov, Bayern, Werder Bremen, Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea, Dinamo Kyiv, Juventus, Copenhagen, Leverkusen, Liverpool, Lyon, Manchester City, Manchester United, Monchengladbach, Olympiacos, Napoli, Panathinaikos, PSG, Viktoria Plzen, PSV Eindhoven, Glasgow Rangers, Real Madrid, Roma, Shakhtar, Spartak Moscow, Slavia Prague, Sporting Lisbon, Stuttgart, Tottenham and now Ferencvaros.

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SunRisers to face Rajasthan in a do-or-die battle

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Rajasthan Royals (RR) will be looking to keep their playoff hopes alive when they face Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the 40th match of the Indian Premier League (IPL) at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Thursday. 

The Steve Smith-led Royals are placed sixth in the standings with eight points and still they have a thin chance of making to the next round. SRH, on the other hand, are a place below them on six points and thus have a four-point gap to bridge. The RR top-order failed to fire against Chennai Super Kings (CSK). 

Their ploy of demoting Jos Buttler to number five, however, worked with the England batsman finishing the match unbeaten on 70 and leading the team to victory. Ben Stokes, Sanju Samson, and Robin Uthappa need to provide a good start while the onus of converting those lies on the shoulders of Buttler and Smith. Samson’s performances have fallen off a cliff since the first two matches of the season and he would be looking to get his act together. Young Riyan Parag and Rahul Tewatia have rescued their side from tricky situations on a number of occas- sions this season and the top order will be looking to reduce the load on them.

 RR’s leading wicket-taker Jofra Archer (39 wickets form 31 games) will once again spearhead the pace charge and will seek some support from Stokes, who is yet to create an impact. The others — Tewatia, Shreyas Gopal, Ankit Rajpoot and Kartik Tyagi — were quite economi- cal with the ball against CSK. S R H , the other hand, are on the verge of losing a playoff berth and only a w i n could keep them buoyant. 

The 2016 champions rely heavily relies on its top four—Jonny Bairstow, Warner, Manish Pandey and Kane Williamson. They have remain unable to find a finisher in their middle-order. It is this factor, along with Williamson’s injury, that prompted Warner to demote himself lower down the order in their previous game against Kolkata Knight Riders. 

He ended up pushing the match into a Super Over. With all eyes on these four players, it would also be a perfect opportunity for young Abdul Samad and Vijay Shankar to deliver in case any of them fails. After losing the services of experienced Bhuvneshwar Kumar and all-rounder Mitchell Marsh, Sandeep Sharma and T Natarajan did well to fill-in the fissure but the duo needs to dish out their best at this crucial juncture. Rashid Khan, SRH leading wicket-taker with 66 scalps from 55 games, will have to once again lead the entire bowling unit besides continuing with his good show.

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How foreign players have changed the fate of their teams

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It is noteworthy that during this edition of the Indian Premier League, many teams could not properly utilise their foreign players. However, whenever these players got a chance, they exhibited exhilarating performances and transformed their teams. KKR, Kings XI Punjab, and RCB being some examples of the teams laden to the teeth with the foreign arsenal. 

The New Zealand speedster, Lockie Ferguson, has made a mark in the previous seasons of the IPL for his high speed and his bowling was a threat to the batsmen. But this time when KKR put him against Sunrisers Hyderabad, he took SRH by surprise by scalping the wickets of ace batsmen like Kane Williamson, Priyam Garg, and Manish Pandey. Similarly, Kings XI Punjab had also made a habit of losing.

 They had won only one out of the seven matches, but as soon as Chris Gayle was included in the team, the team was in luck. Playing three matches, Chris Gayle scored a half-century in one match, scored 29 runs at a strike rate above 200 in the second, and also a crucial 24-run innings in the third. This team won three matches in a row since Gayle’s arrival, despite reaching the lowest rung earlier. 

The third player is Chris Morris of RCB. A player who came into his avatar as soon as he got a chance. The all-rounder’s bowling, in particular, changed RCB’s fortunes. Morris’ tight and pressure inflicting bowling also makes it easier for others to get wickets at the other end. In this team, Yajuvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar were already bowling tight. The arrival of Morris makes it challenging for the opposition team to score big runs against RCB. Moreover, Imran Tahir’s charm has been a watch-worthy stint.

 The player who got the purple cap for scalping 26 wickets in the last season of the IPL, was left by the Chennai Super Kings to grace the bench. One can call it the stubbornness of the team management to continue losing matches but not trying Tahir. South Africa’s Imran Tahir is undoubtedly one of the best spinners right now in the elite cricketing horizon. His timely arrival could have rejuvenated the team.

 Today, if this team is at the lowest position, the main reason for this is ‘Imran Tahir on the bench’. One hopes better sense prevails and some of these match-winners get a chance to showcase their skill and class.

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Siraj, Gurkeerat guide RCB to a massive win over KKR

Chasing a small target of 85, RCB openers Padikkal and Finch provided a solid start to the
side as they put on 46 runs for the first wicket. RCB clinch second spot in the points table

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Mohammad Siraj’s three-wicket haul and Gurkeerat Singh Mann’s unbeaten 21-run knock helped Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) gain an emphatic eight-wicket victory over Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) on Wednesday here at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. With this win, RCB has gone to the second position in the points table with 14 points from 10 matches while KKR is at the fourth spot with 10 points. Chasing 85, RCB openers Devdutt Padikkal and Aaron Finch provided a solid start to the side as they put on 46 runs for the first wicket. KKR finally got the breakthrough in the seventh over as Lockie Ferguson dismissed Finch (16). In the same over, there was a mixup between Padikkal (25) and Gurkeerat Singh Mann and, as a result, the former had to lose his wicket, reducing RCB to 46/2. 

In the end, RCB skipper Virat Kohli (18*) and Gurkeerat Singh Mann (21*) ensured that the side did not suffer from any more hiccups. RCB sailed to a comfortable eightwicket win with 39 balls to spare. Earlier, spectacular bowling performance by Mohammed Siraj and Yuzvendra Chahal restricted Kolkata Knight Riders at 84/8 in the allotted twenty overs. After electing to bat first, KKR had the worst start possible as the side lost three wickets with just three runs on the board. Chris Morris bowled the first over for RCB and just gave three runs off it. Mohammed Siraj came to bowl the second over and changed the momentum of the game as he scalped Rahul Tripathi (1) and Nitish Rana (0) and his over finished as a double-wicket maiden. 

Along the course of this match, Siraj also became the first bowler to bowl two maiden overs in an IPL game. KKR was left reeling at 14-4 and it was left up to Eoin Morgan to help the side gain a respectable total. However, the KKR skipper did not find any support at the other end as Dinesh Karthik (4) and Pat Cummins (4) also disappointed with the bat. For RCB, Siraj returned with the figures of 3-8 while Chahal clinched two wickets. 

Brief Scores: Royal Challengers Bangalore 85/2 (Devdutt Padikkal 25, Gurkeerat Singh Mann 21*, Lockie Ferguson 1-17) defeat Kolkata Knight Riders 84/8 (Eoin Morgan 30, Lockie Ferguson 19, Mohammad Siraj 3-8) by eight wickets. 

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