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Cheteshwar Pujara’s struggles with left-arm spin after Australia heroics continue




Back in 2019 when Cheteshwar Pujara arrived in India after frustrating Aussie bowlers and playing the lead, man-of-the-series role in India’s first-ever Test series win in Australia, he got stuck against a little-known left-arm spinner Aditya Sarwate of Vidarbha in the Ranji Trophy final.

Pujara, representing Saurashtra, was dismissed for 1 and 0 after playing a total of 16 balls across two innings in that final in Nagpur.

Cut to 2021, and the story remains the same. Pujara played some gritty knocks in the last two Tests in Australia in Sydney and Brisbane, helping India draw and win the Tests respectively less than two months ago.

But on arrival from Australia, he has got stuck again against left-arm spinner Jack Leach, who has dismissed him three out of five times in the ongoing India-England series.

“With Cheteshwar, he is using his feet, stretching, everything is okay. But many times, he has been playing half-cock. When he is in doubt, he doesn’t stretch (full) against left-arm spinner. That is where he is stuck with lbw or is caught in slips,” said former India batsman Anshuman Gaekwad, who also served as India chief selector and coach, while speaking to IANS.

Leach has had him caught in slips by Ben Stokes twice and leg-before the wicket once. After his 73 in the first innings of the first Test, he has aggregated 43 across the last four innings with Leach getting him thrice and once he has fallen run out. England have ensured that they throttled his run-scoring with his strike rate in the last four innings just 34.95.

This is exactly what Vidarbha thought two years ago when they got him out twice cheaply.

Although Vidarbha skipper Faiz Fazal as well as spinner Aditya Sarwate don’t want to discuss the team strategy in detail they do say that the idea was to restrict him inside the crease.

“We all know he has got great footwork and likes to cut out the spin (by stepping out). He doesn’t like to play from the crease. So we thought of restricting his singles, not allowing him to go off-strike. We played with the field setting. Bowled straighter lines so that he doesn’t get singles and plays from crease. Aditya varied his speed well like we had planned. He bowled extremely well making sure it was not easy for Pujara to step out,” Fazal told IANS.

The Nagpur track was dry just as the ones in the last two Tests were which helped Sarwate and Leach to restrict his scoring.

“The wicket was dry. That also played a role. If he is (stuck in) crease then you get opportunity to turn the ball. Straighter one is also beneficial,” added Fazal.

Sarwate said that the idea was not to let Pujara settle and disallow him from rotating strike and have him stuck inside the crease.

“I had seen him and he likes to step out and rotate strike. My plan was to not let him step out. The idea was to bowl and hit the right areas, so that he gets stuck in his crease and isn’t able to rotate strike. When he is able to rotate strike, he settles down. So we thought we should bowl in the right areas so that he doesn’t settle,” recalled the Vidarbha left-arm spinner.

Leach himself said very little on Pujara’s dismissal except that he wants to continue doing it.

If the pitch for the fourth and final Test remains dry and powdery, Pujara could be in for a tough time again.


Six arrested from Goa for IPL betting





 Six persons, five belonging to Nagpur in Maharashtra and one Rajasthan, were arrested on Friday for allegedly running an IPL betting racket in the port town of Vasco, Goa police said.

Police have seized two laptops, mobile phones, television sets and other betting paraphernalia from the persons arrested.

“We acted on a tip-off that accused persons were accepting bets from a rented premise in the Vaddem area of Vasco,” a Goa Police spokesperson said.

The arrested persons have been booked under the relevant sections of the Public Gambling Act.

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IPL 2021: Iyer, Tripathi and bowlers help Kolkata thrash Mumbai by seven wickets




An emphatic batting performance by Venkatesh Iyer and Rahul Tripathi coupled with a comeback effort from bowlers helped Kolkata Knight Riders thrash Mumbai Indians by seven wickets at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium here on Thursday. Chasing 156, Kolkata reached the target with 29 balls to spare.

With this win, Kolkata have now registered two out of two wins in their UAE leg of the tournament and are now at fourth place in the points table with eight points from nine matches.

Kolkata were off to a flier with Venkatesh Iyer smacking Trent Boult for a six over deep square leg. He then smacked Adam Milne for a six followed by two fours in the second over. With seven boundaries hit in less than three overs, Kolkata were on a rampage, making chances of comeback difficult for Mumbai.

It needed an off-cutter from Jasprit Bumrah which got Gill (13) to chop onto his stumps, ending the opening partnership at 40. Gill’s dismissal caused Iyer and Rahul Tripathi to tread cautiously. But after the completion of power-play at 63/1, Iyer danced down the pitch to hit Krunal Pandya for a clean six over deep mid-wicket. Rahul Chahar was taken for eleven in his opening over as Iyer and Tripathi took a boundary each off him.

Tripathi smacked a six over long-on before sweeping between long-on and deep mid-wicket for a boundary off Krunal. Tripathi, put down on 43 by Chahar, reached his half-century with a leading edge on scoop going over third man for six. He followed it up with a boundary slogged through mid-wicket off Bumrah.

Iyer, after reaching his fifty in 25 balls, saw his blitzkrieg end at 55 with his stumps disturbed by a slower delivery from Bumrah. Tripathi was undeterred by Iyer’s dismissal and continued to whack Chahar, slog-sweeping over deep mid-wicket followed by an edge which Kishan tried to stop but touched the rope with his leg.

Though Eoin Morgan (7) fell cheaply to become Bumrah’s third scalp of the match, Tripathi and Nitish Rana knocked off the remaining runs, with the latter reverse scoring the winning boundary by sweeping Chahar to seal a famous win.

Earlier, after being put to bat first, Mumbai got off to a flying start with the opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock putting 78 runs for the first wicket. But once Sharma fell on 33, the runs started to dry up for Mumbai.

After 75/1 in ten overs, Kolkata kept picking up wickets at regular intervals. Krishna, after conceding 16 in his opening over, came back to dismiss Suryakumar Yadav (5) edging behind to keeper Dinesh Karthik. De Kock went slow in middle overs but managed to reach his half-century in 37 balls. But the pressure of going big forced de Kock (55) to hoick a slower ball off Krishna straight to mid-wicket.

Ishan Kishan (14) pulled Andre Russell for a six over fine leg. But in a bid to go big, Kishan again went for the pull off Ferguson, only for top-edge to be caught by Russell running from long-on.

Kieron Pollard smacked Krishna for a pull over deep mid-wicket before bottom edge on another pull ran through fine leg in the 18th over which went for 18 runs, including a no-ball and two wides. Pollard’s attempt to apply finishing touches ended in a run-out by a throw from Morgan at cover in Ferguson’s final over.

One brought two for Kolkata as Krunal Pandya (12) mistimed to long-on. Ferguson’s final over went for just six runs as Kolkata conceded 75 runs for five wickets in the last ten overs, ensuring that Mumbai were kept to a score of 155.

Brief scores: Mumbai Indians 155/6 in 20 overs (Quinton de Kock 55, Rohit Sharma 33, Lockie Ferguson 2/27, Prasidh Krishna 2/43) lost to Kolkata Knight Riders 159/3 in 15.1 overs (Rahul Tripathi 74 not out, Venkatesh Iyer 55, Jasprit Bumrah 3/43) by seven wickets.

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RCB skipper Kohli finishes quarantine, joins team for first practice session





 Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) skipper Virat Kohli joined his team-mates for the first practice session here in Dubai early on Saturday morning after spending six days in quarantine on his return from England.

Kohli and pace bowler Mohammed Siraj had reached the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the second leg of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on September 12 on a charter flight from London arranged by the franchise. The duo had gone into six days of mandatory quarantine following their arrival.

RCB posted a three-minute video on Saturday morning and tweeted, “Bold Diaries: Virat Kohli joins the RCB team after quarantine — There were smiles, hugs and laughter in the RCB camp as captain Virat Kohli, Mohammed Siraj and some of our foreign players had their first hit in the nets. #PlayBold #WeAreChallengers #IPL2021.”

The video showed Kohli and several teammates, who completed their quarantine on Saturday, entering the training ground with their kit bags for an early-morning session and being greeted by fellow cricketers and the coaching staff, including South African stalwart AB de Viliers.

Kohli was later seen playing a few lofted cover drives.

Siraj said in the video that, “All the batsmen look in great form. It’s a good thing for the team that (Glenn Maxwell), Virat bhai and AB (de Villiers) sir are all in good form.”

RCB’s director of cricket operations, New Zealand’s Mike Hesson, said that, “It’s always good to be face to face rather than discussing strategy (with the skipper) from a distance. It (six days of quarantine) gave him (Virat) a chance to freshen up. Now working on ensuring we are all on the same page.”

On Siraj, Hesson said, “He has got more and more confident over the last two seasons. Obviously, he has done well for India (in the Test series against England). He is aware of what he wants to do and therefore he shows more confidence.”

RCB will play their opening match of the second leg in Dubai against Kolkata Knight Riders on September 20.

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