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Sunday,16-January-2022

International

England’s demolition squad has Sri Lanka in its sights

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There is something about Eoin Morgan’s England, which is becoming the cynosure of all eyes, and the envy of every team competing at the ICC T20 World Cup here.

The demolition squad has already demoralised and dismissed the likes of defending champions West Indies, hammered Bangladesh and humiliated Australia, and they would be going into their fourth Group 1 ‘Super 12’ games — against Sri Lanka later on Monday — riding on the momentum of those wins and the confidence that Jos Buttler will continue to breathe fire with his strokes.

While Jason Roy starred with the bat in the win over Bangladesh, his half-century was overshadowed by an extraordinary 32-ball unbeaten 71-run knock by his opening partner Jos Buttler against Australia, whose strike rate touched 222 as he smashed five massive sixes and an equal number of boundaries to nail Aaron Finch’s side.

With Buttler in imperious form, and England’s bowling attack looking in good shape, it will take an impressive performance to stop them. But Sri Lanka, the former T20 World champions, do have the calibre — and the pedigree — to trouble the group leaders.

Wanindu Hasaranga took a hat-trick in the loss to South Africa on October 30, and has the quality to trouble England. The entire Sri Lankan outfit is also much improved from the squad that were whitewashed 3-0 by England in June this year, in a series which led to three of the Island’s top cricketers being banned for a year for breaching Covid-19 protocols.

Sri Lanka know they need a win too, with only one more game against West Indies to come, and South Africa and Australia to overhaul if they want to snatch a qualification spot for the semifinals.

Both teams are expected to be unchanged for the fixture. Sri Lanka’s combination of top-class spin and express pace has been an impressive feature so far, while England’s dominance in their three fixtures so far has allowed them to absorb the injury issues of Mark Wood.

Talking about Buttler’s exploits, Liam Livingstone said, “I’ve said it all along: he’s the best hitter of a white ball in the world, and when he gets on a roll like that (against Australia), there’s no stopping him. That was pretty much the perfect innings, a clinic of white-ball power hitting. It was a pleasure to just sit there and watch a genius at work.”

Sri Lanka coach Mahela Jayawardene too was all praise for Buttler, saying, “He’s probably one of the best players through the off side as well — he opens himself up and the hands come through. He’s a good player of spin: he has the reverse-sweep, he comes down and hits — we saw the way he controlled (Adam) Zampa (and how) he never let him settle into that line and length.”

Probable England XI: Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow, Eoin Morgan (captain), Liam Livingstone, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Tymal Mills.

Probable Sri Lanka XI: Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Perera, Charith Asalanka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Avishka Fernando, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dasun Shanaka (captain), Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Maheesh Theekshana, Lahiru Kumara.

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The Ashes, 5th Test: Australia 37-3 at stumps on Day 2, lead England by 152 runs

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Australian-Team

Australia were 37-3 in their second innings at stumps, leading England by 152 runs on the second day of the fifth and final Ashes Test, here on Saturday.

Steven Smith (17 not out) and night watchman Scott Boland (3 not out) were at the crease when play ended on Day 2 of the day-night Test.

After bowling out England for 188 in their first innings, Australia lost the wickets of David Warner (0), Usman Khawaja (11), Marnus Labuschagne (5) in the third session.

Earlier, resuming the day at 241/6, Australia added 62 more in the morning session, getting bowled out for 303 in their first innings.

Brief scores: Australia 303 & 37-3 in 19 overs (Steven Smith 17 not out, Usman Khawaja 11; Mark Wood 1/9) vs England 188 (Chris Woakes 36, Joe Root 34; Pat Cummins 4/54, Mitchell Starc 3/53) lead by 152 runs.

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Virat Kohli steps down as Test captain of India, day after losing series against South Africa

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A day after India lost the series 1-2 to South Africa with a seven-wicket defeat at Cape Town, Virat Kohli has stepped down as the Test captain.

Kohli, who first captained India at the Adelaide Test in 2014 against Australia, was appointed to the full-time role after MS Dhoni announced his retirement from the format ahead of the fourth Test at Sydney in January 2015. It also means that the Cape Town Test was the last match of Kohli as India captain.

“It’s been 7 years of hard work, toil and relentless perseverance everyday to take the team in the right direction. I’ve done the job with absolute honesty and left nothing out there. Everything has to come to a halt at some stage and for me as Test Captain of India, it’s now. There have been many ups and also some downs along the journey, but never has there been a lack of effort or lack of belief,” said Kohli in his statement posted on his social media accounts on Saturday.

Kohli stepped down from Test captaincy as the most successful skipper in the longest format of the game for India and fourth overall. Under his time as the captain, India played 68 Tests, winning 40, losing 17 and drawing 11 matches, having a win percentage of 58.82 while registering memorable wins in overseas and home conditions.

“I have always believed in giving my 120 percent in everything I do, and if I can’t do that, I know it’s not the right thing to do. I have absolute clarity in my heart and I cannot be dishonest to my team. I want to thank the BCCI for giving me the opportunity to lead my country for such a long period of time and more importantly to all the teammates who bought into the vision I had for the team from day one and never gave up in any situation. You guys have made this journey so memorable and beautiful,” added Kohli.

The most notable victories from the time under Kohli will be the 2018/19 Border-Gavaskar Trophy win, where India won a Test series in Australia for the first time and leading 2-1 in England in the 2021 series apart from reaching the World Test Championship (WTC) final at Southampton in the same year. He also took the Indian team to the number one ranking in Tests apart from overseeing the development of the pace-attack reaching a world-class level and fitness being given prime importance.

“To Ravi Bhai and the support group who were the engine behind this vehicle that moved us upwards in Test Cricket consistently, you all have played a massive role in bringing this vision to life. Lastly, a big thank you to MS Dhoni who believed in me as a Captain and found me to be an able individual who could take Indian Cricket forward,” concluded the 33-year-old Kohli.

In September 2021, Kohli had announced that he would be leaving the T20I captaincy after the Men’s T20 World Cup in the UAE. He had also stepped down as the captain of IPL side Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) after the completion of the second half of the tournament in the UAE. Two months later, in December, Kohli was replaced by Rohit Sharma as the ODI captain.

It will be interesting to see who becomes the next Test captain of India. The team’s next Test assignment will be against Sri Lanka in a two-match series at home in February-March.

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SA batters taking responsibility meant they valued their wicket: Elgar

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South Africa batters taking responsibility ahead of the second match at the Wanderers meant valuing their wicket a lot more, reckons captain Dean Elgar.

After the first Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion, where South Africa couldn’t cross 200 in both innings and lost by 113 runs, the hosts came back strongly to chase 240 and 212 twice to win the three-match series against India 2-1. It was also the fifth time South Africa won a series after being 1-0 behind.

“It’s the guys taking the responsibility, that ties into the conversations I had with the team prior to the second game. Guys taking responsibility meant they valued their wicket a lot more. Soft dismissals and lapse of concentration are kinds of errors which hinder your series and ultimately got us loss in the first game. I am very, very happy that the guys responded well and responded to what’s being given to them and have to fulfil those roles, especially from a batting point of view,” said Elgar in the virtual press conference.

“It just shows the characters within out set-up and are willing to learn still. They don’t play with ego, which is a great thing for me. Being able to speak to them openly knowing that they will take on board and it will be constructive chats. Ultimately, it’s them taking a lot more responsibility, respecting their batting positions and valuing their wicket lot more,” added Elgar.

It was also the fifth time South Africa won a series after being 1-0 behind. Talking about the highs and lows in the series for the hosts, Elgar remarked, “I think there were so many lows with regards to the first game. Losing the first game of a home Test series is never ideal. I think it’s a South African trait that you always start slow and almost have to be 1-0 down to actually wake up and realise that our backs are against the wall.

“Lows will be the few little disciplined things on-field that we needed to rectify. Giving extras was something that was a massive concern for me. Luckily, that didn’t bite us on the back side. I think I will take a few days to actually sit down and break everything up to reflect and try to be better in those areas.”

But it was the bounce-back ability of South Africa which delighted Elgar.

“The guys responded beautifully to that. Highs are obviously the performances of Keegan (Petersen), Marco Jansen, KG (Kagiso Rabada), Lungi (Ngidi) at times brought his part as well. Guys like Temba showed a great lot of qualities with regards to batting, composure, calm and gave you a peace of mind knowing that he is at the crease and things are under control and will be okay.”

Amongst the gains for the Proteas was the emergence of Jansen, who picked 19 wickets in his debut Test series at an average of 16.47. Jansen, brought in for an injured Anrich Nortje, was impressive in taking the wickets of the Indian batters on a consistent rate after his figures of 1/69 in the first innings at Centurion.

Elgar was understandably happy with the all-rounder’s show in the series.

“He was always a bit of a doubtful selection with regards to if he will play in the final eleven. With the attributes he has, the strengths, his tall height and can bowl at 135 and a lot quicker than how old he is, which is huge strength for him. His bounce, presence and intimidation he has without saying a word, is a massive strength.”

The 34-year-old Elgar signed off by predicting Jansen to be a big asset for South Africa in future.

“I see him going in only one direction and that is up. Hopefully, he understands and respects what he has achieved throughout this Test series because his career has come along in a massive nature. He was brilliant for us, first Test series against India can be daunting for a guy. He tends to operate in a little bit more of mature manner.

“He’s only 21 years old but the way he conducts himself on the field, speaks and communicates with me is one of someone who’s played quite a few Tests and has been around for quite a few years, which is another great attribute to have as a young player. He is also a great team man and always ready to have a laugh with the guys. I don’t think he takes himself seriously, which is a tick in the right box and would like to think that he has a bright future for South Africa.”

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