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International

1st Test: Afghanistan reduced to 49/6 at tea

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Afghanistan were left staring at an innings defeat after being reduced to 49/6 at tea on the second day of the first Test against Zimbabwe at the Shaikh Zayed Stadium. Zimbabwe continued to exploit the seam-friendly conditions as fast bowlers Blessing Muzarabani and Victory Nyauchi took two and three wickets, respectively.

Opener Ibrahim Zadran remained not out in 23 off 56 balls while his team mates fell around him. The only partnership of the innings before tea that crossed over into a two-digits was a 26-run stand between Zadran and Aghanistan captain Asghar Afghan.

Earlier, Sean Williams became the third Zimbabwean Test captain to score a century in Asia after Tatenda Taibu and Craig Ervine. Williams scored 105 off 174 balls, his third century in Test cricket, as his team put up 250 runs in reply to Afghanistan’s 131 all out in the first innings.

Afghanistan spinner Amir Hamza, meanwhile took six wickets as Zimbabwe ended their innings with a lead of 119 runs.

Brief score: Afghanistan 131 & 49/6 (Ibrahim Zadran 26 batting; Blessing Muzarabani 2/7, Victor Nyauchi 3/14) vs Zimbabwe 250 all out (Sean Williams 105, Regis Chakabva 44; Amir Hamza 6/75)

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International

Sri Lanka middle order big worry for coach Mickey Arthur

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Sri Lanka cricket coach Mickey Arthur is worried about the lack of depth in the middle order as his team gears up to take on England in six white-ball matches, beginning with a T20 International in Cardiff on June 23.

The three-match ODI series will commence on June 29 and conclude on July 4.

“In Bangladesh, we got caught a little bit through the middle overs and that’s one area where we’ve focused hard on in our practice and preparation (in England). It’s about the intensity required through that middle period. Our strike rotation and intensity at the crease are really areas that we’ve worked on in this training block,” said Arthur, who has been with the team since February 2020.

Sri Lanka had lost the ODI series against Bangladesh 2-1 in May with all the matches being played at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium.

Arthur feels that one of the major reasons for the middle-order not clicking is shortage of players for the No. 4, 5, 6 slots, with far too many batsmen vying for top-order slots.

“We’ve reclassified guys’ roles. We’ve got a lot of players who can bat Nos. 1, 2 and 3, but we didn’t have many guys who could bat 4, 5 and 6. We’ve consolidated that here in our training session (in England). One of two players has had to change the roles that we’ve had before. We can’t be top-heavy and have no one who can bat in the middle and finish for us,” Arthur told cricinfo.com.

“We’ve knuckled down on the roles of each guy and set the scenarios up in the nets to replicate that. I’ve got a clear plan on who’s going to drop into the middle. If you look at Kusal (Perera), Avishka (Fernando) and Danushka (Gunathilaka) at 1, 2 and 3, that’s pretty good. We need to drill down and get 4, 5 and 6 batting comfortably within their roles as well, so that those middle overs — when we need to rotate strike — we’ve actually practiced it and the people we’ve sent into those positions can handle it.”

“We’ve got to settle down on a batting order as soon as we can. We can’t be jumping around having players bat in so many positions because that just creates confusion. Each position is so different.”

Sri Lanka cricket coach Mickey Arthur is worried about the lack of depth in the middle order as his team gears up to take on England in six white-ball matches, beginning with a T20 International in Cardiff on June 23.

The three-match ODI series will commence on June 29 and conclude on July 4.

“In Bangladesh, we got caught a little bit through the middle overs and that’s one area where we’ve focused hard on in our practice and preparation (in England). It’s about the intensity required through that middle period. Our strike rotation and intensity at the crease are really areas that we’ve worked on in this training block,” said Arthur, who has been with the team since February 2020.

Sri Lanka had lost the ODI series against Bangladesh 2-1 in May with all the matches being played at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium.

Arthur feels that one of the major reasons for the middle-order not clicking is shortage of players for the No. 4, 5, 6 slots, with far too many batsmen vying for top-order slots.

“We’ve reclassified guys’ roles. We’ve got a lot of players who can bat Nos. 1, 2 and 3, but we didn’t have many guys who could bat 4, 5 and 6. We’ve consolidated that here in our training session (in England). One of two players has had to change the roles that we’ve had before. We can’t be top-heavy and have no one who can bat in the middle and finish for us,” Arthur told cricinfo.com.

“We’ve knuckled down on the roles of each guy and set the scenarios up in the nets to replicate that. I’ve got a clear plan on who’s going to drop into the middle. If you look at Kusal (Perera), Avishka (Fernando) and Danushka (Gunathilaka) at 1, 2 and 3, that’s pretty good. We need to drill down and get 4, 5 and 6 batting comfortably within their roles as well, so that those middle overs — when we need to rotate strike — we’ve actually practiced it and the people we’ve sent into those positions can handle it.”

“We’ve got to settle down on a batting order as soon as we can. We can’t be jumping around having players bat in so many positions because that just creates confusion. Each position is so different.”

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Good competition to bowl to Shafali: England spinner Sophie Ecclestone

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England left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone feels that bowling to India’s prolific run-getter Shafali Verma is an interesting challenge as one “never knows what’s going to happen”.

Replying to England women’s first innings total of 396/9 declared, Shafali’s 96 in the first innings and an unbeaten 55 in the second innings have been the talking point in the home team’s dressing room.

The young batter could decide whether India save the match or go on to lose the one-off Test here.

“It’s always interesting when me and Shafali match up in whatever format of the game it is. When it comes to T20, I think she’s really highly rated so it’s really interesting to bowl at her,” said Sophie, who took four first-innings wickets, after the third day’s play.

“You just never know what’s going to happen with her (Shafali), you never know if you’re going to get whacked over the top or she’s going to miss one, so it’s really interesting to bowl to her and it’s quite a good competition for me,” the 22-year-old spinner, who is the No. 1-ranked T20I bowler in the world, told cricinfo.com.

Sophie said that when she is bowling to Shafali, the only thing going on in her mind is to bowl “my best ball” and “win the battle”.

“I think just bowl my best ball and vary my pace so when I come into a Test match it’s like trying to bowl my best ball for longer but when Shafali’s batting I think it’s try and use my arm ball a few times and vary my pace, so just change it up a little bit.

“When Shafali’s batting I always want to win the battle, definitely I don’t want her getting one up on me. I always look forward to the competition of playing against her so yeah, I’m always trying to get her out first before she hits me for any sixes.”

Shafali’s wicket has so far eluded Sophie in the Test, as the Indian was caught by Anya Shrubsole off the bowling of medium pacer Kathryn Cross in the first innings.

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Aussie players will find it hard to justify going back to IPL: Aaron Finch

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Australia’s white-ball skipper Aaron Finch has expressed his “surprise” at so many players pulling out of the tours of the West Indies and Bangladesh and said that “they would find it hard to justify going back and playing the second half of the Indian Premier League (IPL)”.

Seven Australian cricket stars, including Pat Cummins, Steve Smith and David Warner, pulled out of their national team’s upcoming limited-overs tours of the two countries as Cricket Australia (CA) recently announced an 18-member squad.

Cummins, Glenn Maxwell, Warner, Smith, Marcus Stoinis, Jhye Richardson and Kane Richardson have confirmed their withdrawal from the upcoming tours following which CA head selector Trevor Hohns said that he was “naturally disappointed not to have all players available for the Australian team”.

While resting Warner and Cummins was part of CA’s strategy and Smith is nursing an elbow injury, the withdrawal of others has not gone down well with Finch.

“This is only my personal opinion, I think they would find it hard to justify going back and playing that second half of the IPL purely based on the workload coming up with a T20 World Cup then a huge home summer,” Finch told former wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist on SEN WA.

The suspended IPL will likely be completed between September 18 and October 10 in Abu Dhabi, while the T20 World Cup is scheduled between October 18 and November 15.

“It’s a tough situation everyone has been put in but personally I’d find it hard to do that knowing how challenging it is mentally and on your family.”

“Pat Cummins and David Warner, that was a long-term plan for them that they weren’t going to go on this tour from the outset. Having a big summer last year followed by IPL with a T20 World Cup and a view to the Ashes, guys who are playing three formats of the game, it can be so brutal on them travelling and playing in bubbles.

“I was a little bit surprised (with the others). I’ve chatted to them all. A little bit surprised but also understandable. I know from my own point of view having gone to the UK then all the way through the home summer, I know towards the end of that year I was absolutely cooked mentally. Almost when the season finished it’s a great relief so I can understand, but wish they were there,” opined Finch.

The Australian team will leave for West Indies on June 28 to play five T20Is and three ODIs. They will ten head to Bangladesh for five T20Is between August 2 and 10.

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