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Fast bowlers could be this IPL’s dark horses

Despite conditions favouring spinners due to high temperature and dry pitches, likes of Rabada, Bumrah and Steyn will have high expectations from their fans and franchises

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The most dynamic and vibrant battle between bat and bowl is all set to kick off with the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on 19 September in UAE. The best of cricket will finally take to the field, though the absence of spectators will certainly have a hitch on the game.

Despite conditions favouring spinners due to high temperature and dry pitches, likes of Ben Stokes, Jasprit Bumrah, Kagiso Rabada, Pat Cummins, Dale Steyn, Deepak Chahar and Trent Boult will have high expectations from their fans as well as respective franchises.

As the opening match is scheduled a night ahead, the defending champions Mumbai Indians seem to have one of the most lethal squads of fast bowlers combining Boult with Jasprit Bumrah, regarded as the most prolific pacer in world cricket and had the best season last year as he fetched 19 wickets. Also,bowlers like Mitchel McClenaghan and Hardik Pandya have experience and energy to boost the team’s chances.

Chennai Super Kings, with Deepak Chahar in their squad, will surely expect to give nightmares to mighty MI in the first match of this season. Chahar was amongst the top-notch bowlers of IPL 2019, and was shy of four wickets from winning the purple cap. He is expected to get decent support from Shardul Thakur who has been leading the attack for CSK, including Bravo and Shane Watson. CSK will try its best to restrict the opposing team at the low scores.

The runner up of last season, Delhi Capitals, has come a long way from settling at the bottom of the table to be- ing the top contenders, but it would have never been possible without the likes of Ishant Sharma, Kagiso Rabada, Mohit Sharma, Harshal Patel, and debutant Lalit Yadav. The team will heavily depend on Sharma, who has enough experience to be counted. Patel’s last year’s performance in the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament draws eyes towards him as he clinched 19 wickets and scored more than 350 runs.

Bhubneshwar Kumar along with Sandeep Sharma, Khaleel Ahmad, and Siddharth Kaul will have a huge responsibility to rise above all and take the team to the end of the game. Kumar has been phenomenal for the team with his stunning Yorkers and economy but recently he has struggled a lot for his fitness and with his consistency. This season could be a game-changer for Bhubneshwar, as T20 World Cups are scheduled next year and if he performs well his prospect in the team could be considered.

The KKR’s franchise is riding on high notes with its vic- tory in the Caribbean Premier League but its poor consistency in the last three seasons of IPL will keep things on serious notes in the dugout.

Bowlers like Pat Cummins, Andre Russel, and Lockie Fergusen will have to bring their character in the ground. From providing breakthroughs to the team to be the guiding force for the talented and promising youngsters like Prasidh Krishna, Sandeep Warrier, and Sivam Manvi.

Russel and Pat Cummins, being foreigners and having enough game played will be key for the team, and the franchise will expect them to frequently adapt to the new environment in the UAE.

Kings X1 Punjab is the most underperformed team of the IPL, as they always looked good on paper but unfortunately, they failed to perform on the ground which led to their exclusion. Mohammad Shami will be leading the attack for the team with Sheldon Cortell, who can contribute with bat and ball both, James Neesham, Ravi Bishnoi, and Murugan Ashwin whose mystery is yet unsolved.

Might Ben Stokes along with Jofra Archer and Varun Aaron will lead the attack for Rajasthan Royals in the leadership of Steve Smith. The team’s pace bowling attack looks fierce with more pacers like Jayadev Unadkat, Mayank Markande, Oshane Thomas, Andrew Tye.

The team looks impressive with the set of bowlers they have in their kit but without a team effort and consistent effort from each player, it won’t matter a lot.

Inconsistent, no luck, and team crumbles in a pressure game, three terms to define the overall career of Royal Challengers Bangalore. The team is studded with star players in every department and at times they outperform their opposition in every department but as they reach close to finals or trophy they collapse like a pack of cards.

Bowlers like Chris Morris, Umesh Yadav, Dale Steyn, Md. Siraj will raise hopes for skippers and if they perform with consistency and as per the requirement they hold the capability to knock off any world-class batsmen in the world. These bowlers have pulled off games for the team and proved their worth but the team is yet to take a victory lap and hopefully, this could be the end of the drought for the franchise.

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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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