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India favourites to win T20 series vs England




The Indian team’s remarkable win against England in the recent Test series makes them the strong favourites to win the five-match T20 battle as well. The Indian side comprises many of the players who have done extremely well against England in the longer format and that too at the newly laid pitch of the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.

The Indian players are mentally in a very positive frame of mind and have now experienced the pitches in Ahmedabad. Their victory has been a big booster and this itself should make them feel comfortable and confident. England have brought in their specialist limited overs players, and many of them will encounter the difficult conditions in Ahmedabad for the first time.

In both Test matches in Ahmedabad, the wicket was not a typical Indian one. The ball spun sharply and there was awkward bounce as well. This will make batting difficult, especially in the T20 format. One feels that the initial matches will be low scoring affairs. Spin will play a major part, as batsmen will have problems playing across the line or stepping out to play their shots.

The Ahmedabad wicket will be the venue for the T20 World Cup final this year and both India and England will use these five T20 matches as an opportunity to get their core players accustomed to the conditions.

England have won a record seven series in a row coming into this series. India are not far behind, having not lost in any of their last seven series and with five continuous series wins under their belt. India’s last two victories were both overseas and that too against Australia and New Zealand.

The IPL, furthermore, being a T20 tournament has been a major factor for India to unearth many new exciting youngsters. The Indian cupboard is full of players, each one as talented and skilled to replace one another.

India’s problem would be to finalise the best in-form eleven players to take the field during the World Cup. This may be a comfortable and wonderful problem at hand, but could be tricky as well.

The series against England is an ideal opportunity for India to induct the young players who have shown their potential, mental toughness and confidence, not only in Australia but also in the recently concluded series against England.

Finger spinners will play a major part on the Ahmedabad track and India will need to play both Axar Patel and Washington Sundar, not only because they are in the midst of a purple patch, but also because they would be difficult to hit. The super form of Rishabh Pant has solved many problems as regards the depth of the Indian batting, and along with Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, K.L. Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, and Suryakumar Yadav, the top six look very formidable.

The good news for India is that Hardik Pandya is fit to bowl. He is a very important piece in the Indian line-up, as apart from his big hitting capabilities as a batsman, his bowling brings in the third pace bowling option. India need to also nurse Shardul Thakur as he has shown that he has the capability and potential to develop into a useful lower order batter apart from his bowling acumen. He needs to be given a chance because of the way he performed for India in Australia.

The return of Bhuvneshwar Kumar is wonderful for India and along with Jasprit Bhumrah and Mohammed Shami they would make a lethal combination.

The T20 is a format that gives every team a glimpse of hope of victory. Predicting a win is very difficult, as teams need to play aggressive and bold and in doing so many have fallen into despair. This is what makes the game exciting for the millions of viewers.

England, the limited overs world champions and at present the number one T20 side in the world, will definitely fancy their chances of taking revenge on India for their Test series defeat.

Eoin Morgan, their captain, has played enough of IPL cricket in India. He is an astute leader and with Ben Stokes by his side along with the likes of Jos Buttler, the new sensation Dawid Malan, Jason Roy, Moeen Ali, and Jonny Bairstow, he has just the players to cause India to worry.

One would have loved to see 110,000 spectators cheering and rooting for India at the Narendra Modi Motera stadium, how electrifying it would have been. But due to Covid-related restrictions that is not possible now. However, it will be a fitting venue where one hopes and prays India play the final of the T20 World Cup. The crowd support itself should be enough to put any opponent into a tizzy.


U-19 CWC: Haseebullah Khan’s century gives Pakistan a flying start




Pakistan got off to a flying start in the Under-19 ICC Cricket World Cup, as wicketkeeper-batter Haseebullah Khan smashed a century to help them crush Zimbabwe by 115 runs in a Group C match at the Diego Martin Sporting Complex here on Tuesday (IST).

Flaunting their batting strength, Pakistan put on 315/9, thanks to a Haseebullah 135 (155 balls, 10 fours, 4 sixes). Zimbabwe fell more than a century short in the chase despite an 83-run eighth-wicket partnership between Brian Bennett and Tendekai Mataranyika.

‘Player of the match’ Haseebullah also earned the distinction of posting the highest score of the U-19 World Cup so far. Haseebullah and Irfan Khan combined for a mammoth 192-run third-wicket partnership before the latter was forced to go for 81 from 77 balls after being caught by David Bennett off the bowling of Mcgini Dube.

Zimbabwe continued the fight-back, led by right-arm seamer Alex Falao, who took the wicket of Haseebullah on his way to 58/5 as Pakistan ended with 315/9. Zimbabwe had already produced a score higher than this against Papua New Guinea in their opening game of Group C but faltered in this chase.

Matthew Welch and Steven Saul combined at the top of the order to put on 34 for the first wicket. The next six wickets fell for 77 runs before a timely partnership of 83 runs between Bennett and Mataranyika gave Zimbabwe a glimmer of hope.

But with Bennett’s dismissal they were left needing 121 runs with only 58 balls remaining, Mataranyika followed his partner back to the hutch two balls later before the final wicket of Mcgini Dube fell to hand Pakistan a convincing 115-run victory.

Brief scores: Pakistan 315/9 in 50 overs (Haseebullah Khan 135, Irfan Khan 75; Alex Falao 5/58) beat Zimbabwe 200 in 42.4 overs (Brian Bennett 83; Awais Ali 6/56) by 115 runs.

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Australia’s No.1-ranked T20I woman batter Mooney out of Ashes with broken jaw




The Australian women’s cricket team suffered a huge setback on Tuesday after their world No.1-ranked T20I batter Beth Mooney was ruled on the eve of the Ashes with a broken jaw.

The 28-year-old Mooney suffered the injury during Australia’s team training. Australia and England are scheduled to play the opening match of the multi-format Ashes when they clash in the first of the three T20Is on January 20 at Sydney.

The T20Is will be followed by a one-off Test and a three match ODI series.

Mooney was hit by a ball under the grill of her helmet during training and will undergo immediate surgery, according to Cricket Australia.

The injury all but rules Mooney out of the series, and the left-hander is also in doubt for the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup beginning in March in New Zealand.

Mooney has been a mainstay of Australia’s top order across the formats, boasting the top individual ranking in T20I cricket and two centuries in both international limited-overs formats.

A replacement for Mooney is yet to be named, though Australia have backup with the Australia ‘A’ side joining the Ashes squad for series preparation.

While Rachael Haynes seems a likely option to step into Mooney’s spot, it also opens the door for a number of other ‘A’ team members such as Elyse Villani, Georgia Redmayne, Grace Harris and young gun Phoebe Litchfield.

Mooney’s injury is not Australia’s only issue, with Ellyse Perry’s arrival in Adelaide delayed due to a COVID-19 scare. Molly Strano and Katie Mack, two players in the Australia ‘A’ squad, will also miss action after testing positive for COVID-19.

Australia squad for the Ashes: Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Hannah Darlington, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Meg Lanning (captain), Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Tayla Vlaeminck.

Australia A squad: Georgia Redmayne (captain), Maitlan Brown, Erin Burns, Stella Campbell, Nicole Faltum, Tess Flintoff, Heather Graham, Grace Harris, Phoebe Litchfield, Katie Mack, Courtney Sippel, Molly Strano, Elyse Villani, Georgia Voll, Amanda-Jade Wellington.

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‘To my superhero,’ Siraj’s heartfelt message to Virat Kohli




India pace bowler Mohammed Siraj has called Virat Kohli his “superhero” after the latter stepped down as the Test skipper following the 1-2 series loss to the Dean Elgar-led South Africa.

Siraj was a part of the opening Test against the Proteas at Centurion, grabbing three wickets as India defeated the home team by 113 runs. He had issues with his hamstring on the opening day of the second Test at Johannesburg, which India lost by seven wickets.

Ahead of the third Test, Kohli said that the pacer was “not match-fit” and excluded him from the playing XI. “Siraj is recovering from the niggle he had from the last game I don’t think he is match fit to take the field (for the third Test),” Kohli had said.

Siraj is also Kohli’s teammate at the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore.

On Tuesday, the 27-year-old Siraj posted a heartfelt message on Instagram days after Kohli relinquished his Test captaincy.

“To my superhero, I cannot be thankful enough for the support and the encouragement that I got from you. You have always been my great brother. Thank you for trusting me and believing in me for all these years. For seeing the great at my worst. You will always be my captain King Kohli @virat.kohli,” wrote Siraj.

Kohli will now play purely as a batter in the three-match ODI series beginning at Paarl on January 19.

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