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India in Sri Lanka: Half a dozen debut hopes




 Though team coach Rahul Dravid has said that India’s limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka may not throw up many new options for the T20 World Cup, scheduled to be held in October-November, it may still prove to be a platform for some youngsters to cement their places in the India team in near future.

India’s limited-overs squad plays Sri Lanka in three ODIs and three T20 Internationals, from July 18. Here is a look at six players, who we may be seen in India colours:

Devdutt Padikkal: The left-handed opening batsman scored 737 runs at an average of 147.4 in the Vijay Hazare one-dayers. He also impressed in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 — 473 runs in 15 matches and in IPL 2021 — 195 runs in six matches. He is the favourite to take over the opening slot from Shikhar Dhawan, once the Delhi left-hander retires. Almost everyone speaks highly of his ability to score runs.

Ruturaj Gaikwad: The Maharashtra batsman has been picked for his performances in the IPL and due to the backing of former Indian team and current Chennai Super Kings skipper MS Dhoni. He scored three fifties in six IPL 2020 matches and two fifties in seven IPL 2021 matches. But his returns in Vijay Hazare One-day Trophy this year were ordinary — just 182 runs in five matches. His performance in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 competition was even poorer — 94 runs in five matches at an average of 18.8. He may get only limited chances at best, so he may have to make the best use of them.

Nitish Rana: The Delhi left-hander has been a vital part of the Kolkata Knight Riders side, even opening for them although he was brought up as a middle-order batsman. He has been in great form of late not just in IPL but also in other domestic tournaments like the Vijay Hazare One-day Trophy. Rana aggregated 398 runs in seven Vijay Hazare one-day games at an average of 66.33 to be among the top five run-getters. He made 201 runs in seven IPL 2021 games and 352 in 14 IPL 2020 games. It will be interesting to see where Dravid plays him. Since there are already too many openers, he may be batted at No. 3 or No. 4.

Krishnappa Gowtham: The off-spin bowling all-rounder from Karnataka has been a surprise and his selection, just like Gaikwad, has raised eyebrows. Gowtham hasn’t done much of note in recent domestic tournaments, including the IPL. He played just two IPL games, aggregating 42 and picking one wicket. He aggregated 31 in four Syed Mushtaq T20 games and picked four wickets. In the Vijay Hazare one-dayers, he aggregated 28 and took three wickets in two matches. The fact that he has been playing domestic cricket for a long time and has spent time at India team nets may have got him in the side.

Varun Chakravarthy: The Tamil Nadu spinner, known to bowl mystery spin, has been successful with Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and has pushed the original protagonist of ‘mystery spin’ at KKR, Sunil Narine, to the background. Chakravarthy picked 17 wickets in seven matches of IPL 2020. He also picked seven in seven games of IPL 2021. His economy has been impressive. It was 6.84 last season and 7.82 this season. But fitness remains a massive drawback for him. He was selected to tour Australia but had to pull out because of injury (labrum tear on shoulder) which he did not reveal.

Chetan Sakariya: Picked ahead of his Saurashtra statemate, the more senior and acclaimed left-arm pacer Jaydev Unadkat, Sakariya’s story is inspirational. For someone, who had to pay for his own cricket coaching by working at his uncle’s stationery shop, bagging a hefty Rs 1.2 crore IPL contract with Rajasthan Royals and then making Indian cut, all within a few months, is a big achievement. The left-armer bowled a few good spells in domestic competitions, including IPL without being extraordinary. But the fact that he is a left-armer, the need of the hour for India, may help him cement his place in India set-up.


Heather Knight shines as England Women win opening ODI vs New Zealand





 Veteran England star and captain Heather Knight slammed a 107-ball 89 and Katherine Brunt scored a quick 43 as the hosts powered to a 30-run victory in the opening One-day International against New Zealand Women at the County Ground here.

Sent in to bat on Thursday evening, England were bowled out for 241 in the 50th over, with captain Knight (89) leading the way alongside Tammy Beaumont (44) and Brunt (43).

That proved 30 runs too many for New Zealand, as Brunt (1/22) and the England attack squeezed them out of the game, eventually bowling them out for 211 in the 47th over.

England were put in to bat first by New Zealand and got off to a good start. Openers Lauren Winfield-Hill and Beaumont capitalised on the bad balls and kept the scoreboard ticking. They were going strong at 44 in the ninth over when Hannah Rowe (1/47) struck, removing Winfield-Hill on 21 via a faint nick through to the keeper.

Her wicket did little to slow down the scoring as captain Knight joined Beaumont at the crease. The duo forged a strong partnership and soon took England past the 100-run mark in the 22nd over.

Just as it looked like England were going to reach top gear, Sophie Devine (2/57) provided New Zealand with the second breakthrough, ending the half-century stand. Beaumont fell just six runs short of a fifty, struck in front of the middle stump.

Two overs later, Natalie Sciver (2) fell to the returning Lea Tahuhu (2/32). She also picked up the wicket of Amy Jones (2) in the 30th over and Jess Kerr (3/42) got Sophia Dunkley (5) in the 32nd over to reduce England to 140/5.

Despite the regular fall of wickets, Knight continued to take on the New Zealand bowlers. She paired with Brunt to push England past 220. The 88-run stand was broken by Leigh Kasperek (1/48) in the 47th over when she caught and bowled Knight for 89.

The remaining four England wickets fell for 13 runs as the hosts were bowled out for 241.

New Zealand were in trouble early in the chase as Sciver (2/10) accounted for Suzie Bates (1) and Lauren Down (5) inside the opening 10 overs.

The pressure continued to mount as Kate Cross (2/37) had Maddy Green (19) caught at slip in the 13th over to reduce New Zealand to 31/3. The duo of Amy Satterthwaite (79*) and captain Sophie Devine (34) rebuilt the innings in a 78-run stand but just as they were getting back into the game, Cross struck again, removing the Kiwi skipper for 34 in the 29th over.

Wickets fell at regular intervals from there as New Zealand slipped to 143/8, with Sophie Ecclestone (2/39) on a hat-trick at one point after removing Katey Martin (9) and Brooke Halliday (0).

Brief scores: England Women 241 in 49.3 overs (T Beaumont 44, H Knight 89, K Brunt 43; J Kerr 3/42, S Devine 2/57) beat New Zealand Women 211 in 46.3 overs (A Satterthwaite 79 not out, S Devine 34; N Sciver 2/10, K Cross 2/37, S Ecclestone 2/39) by 30 runs.

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Pakistan all set to host New Zealand after 18 years





History will be made when the Tom Latham-led New Zealand take on Babar Azam’s Pakistan in the first of the three ODIs at the Pindi Cricket Stadium later on Friday. The occasion will see the visitors play their first match on Pakistan soil since 2003.

This will be the fourth time the two sides will meet at the Pindi Cricket Stadium in an ODI with Pakistan enjoying a 3-0 advantage. Prior to this match, Pakistan and New Zealand have met 19 times in an ODI in Pakistan between 1976 and 2003 with Pakistan winning 16 times.

Pakistan and New Zealand last met in an international 50-over competition during the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 when Azam’s century anchored his side to a six-wicket win at Birmingham.

This series provides an opportunity to sixth-ranked Pakistan to climb a spot in the ICC Rankings. If the hosts beat the tourists by a 3-0 scoreline, they will jump to fifth position. However, any other result will see both sides retain their pre-series rankings.

New Zealand, the top-ranked ODI team in the ICC Rankings and the finalists of the 2019 World Cup, come into this series with a 3-0 sweep over Bangladesh in the three-match ODI series at home in March and will be eager to extend their winning streak.

Pakistan’s last outing in the format at this venue was in October-November 2020, when they defeated Zimbabwe 2-1, while in their last ODI series, they defeated South Africa 2-1.

The series will not be part of the ICC World Cup Super League as both the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and New Zealand Cricket (NZC) have mutually agreed to swap the status of this series with the one taking place in the 2022/23 season. This means the ODI series in the 2022/23 season will count towards the World Cup 2023 qualification while the series commencing later on Friday will be a bilateral fixture in which team and player ranking points will be up for grabs.

Pakistan captain Babar Azam, in his pre-series media conference, said, “Our entire camp is very excited to play New Zealand at home. We have practiced hard for this series and I am sure we will take full advantage of our home conditions.

“We have a balanced squad and I remain optimistic about our chances in what promises to be an exciting series. I am sure fans at the stadium and millions watching us on screens will enjoy these matches.”

New Zealand captain Tom Latham said, “We know it is special for Pakistan to have cricket in their country and we are excited to be here. Pakistan are a quality side and they have some talented white-ball players in their line-up.

“We have desired fire-power in our ranks to win this series and I am sure our batters and bowlers will rise to the occasion and make this historic series memorable for us.”

The second and third matches will be played on September 19 and 21 at the same venue after which the two sides will travel to Lahore for five T20Is between September 25 to October 3.

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India did not respect Test cricket: Paul Newman





 Former England cricketer Paul Newman has slammed Indian cricketers, BCCI and the IPL following the cancellation of Manchester Test due to Covid-19 fears in the visiting camp.

He went on to say that “India did not respect this series and they did not respect Test cricket either in flouting Covid guidelines ahead of the fourth Test”. India’s assistant physio Yogesh Parmar tested positive for Covid-19 on the eve of the series-decider sending tremors down the Indian dressing room and ultimately leading to the cancellation of the match.

“There is no way the series decider would have been called off on the morning of the first day had the majority of India’s players not been flying to Dubai for the resumption of the richest tournament in cricket.

“No India player with an IPL contract wanted to risk playing in this Test, then testing positive and being forced to stay in England for another 10 days, so missing the restart of the tournament in the UAE on September 19,” former seamer Newman, who has played 135 first-class matches and 177 List A games, wrote in his column for the Daily Mail.

“India did not respect this series in pulling out yesterday and they did not respect Test cricket either in flouting Covid guidelines ahead of the fourth Test.”

He also blamed Team India chief coach Ravi Shastri’s book launch event ahead of the fourth Test in London.

“This whole outbreak in their camp could well have been started by the presence of Shastri along with captain Virat Kohli and several players and staff at a book launch at a London hotel attended by more than 150 people two days before the Oval Test.

“It was a breach of protocols that privately angered those at the ECB who have done so much to keep the show on the road in the last 18 months, not least with three Tests at Old Trafford last year that salvaged millions of pounds of revenue for the game. What a way for Lancashire to be rewarded for all they did then,” he wrote.

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