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Tuesday,07-December-2021

International

Jofra Archer may skip India Tests to be fit for T20 WC and Ashes

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London: England’s Jofra Archer on Day 2 of the 5th Test match between England and Australia at Kennington Oval in London on Sep 13, 2019. (Photo: Twitter/@ICC)

England pace bowler Jofra Archer has said he is willing to miss five-Test series against India in August-September so as to be fully fit for T20 World Cup and Ashes later this year.

“One thing I am determined about post-elbow operation is not to rush my comeback because my primary focus is to be playing for England in the Twenty20 World Cup and Ashes later this year,” Archer wrote in his column for Daily Mail.

“Those are my targets. If I come back before then and manage to play in the home Test series against India — then fine, so be it. If I don’t, I am quite prepared to sit out the summer.”

England play New Zealand in two Test matches beginning June 2, which Archer will surely miss. They then play India in a five-match Test series that begins on August 4, with the first Test in Nottingham, and ends on September 14 with the fifth and final Test in Manchester.

“The way I am looking at things is that I would rather miss a few weeks of a year so that I have a few more years in my career,” wrote Archer before adding that if his injury doesn’t heal this time he will not play any cricket.

“I just want to get this injury sorted once and for all and that’s why I’m not looking that far ahead or at dates for a return to action — because if I don’t get this right, I won’t play any cricket. Period.”

The T20 World Cup will be held in October-November and the Ashes series will begin from December 8.

“I am not going to do myself any good by coming back before I’m fully fit, so I will take my time…

“The bandages are off and I have spoken to the consultant since, but everything is still very fresh and I remain sore after what was a career-defining moment last Friday,” he added.

Archer played a couple of matches this month, his first since international games in March in India. He played for Sussex against Kent in County Championship and before that, he represented Sussex second XIs.

He said he needed to undergo surgery this month since rest and pain-killing injections weren’t working.

“But after playing for Sussex against Kent earlier this month, it wasn’t a difficult decision to go down the surgery route because trying to manage the injury with rest and pain-killing injections clearly wasn’t working,” he wrote.

He said he wants to play all three formats for England.

“As I stated recently in these pages, I remain committed to playing all three formats for England and to winning big series. But it has been quite a while since I bowled completely pain-free,” he added.

“My hope now is that I’m fit and as effective as the old me in the not-too-distant future so that I can play a key role in the two big events at the end of 2021.”

International

Four things we learned from Spain’s Matchday 16

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Real Madrid opened up an eight-point gap at the top of La Liga this weekend as both Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona lost at home. Here are some things we learned in Spain over the past two days.

1. The title is Real Madrid’s to lose.

Real Madrid were lucky to beat Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao in their two previous games, but they were clear winners away to Real Sociedad in San Sebastian on December 4 night, with goals from Vinicius Jr and Luka Jovic seeing them home against a disappointing rival that seemed to suffer big night nerves.

The win lifts Real Madrid 10 points above a side that only three weeks ago was top of the table, and puts them eight ahead of Sevilla who are second with a game in hand.

You could argue that for much of the season Real Madrid have not been brilliant and the goals of Vinicius and Karim Benzema have sustained them, but even if that is true, they have still been better than everyone else and the title is clearly theirs for the taking.

2. Sevilla quietly stake their claim

Sevilla’s 1-0 win at home to Villarreal may have had a dose of fortune to it as Villarreal missed several chances to take a point, but it leaves Julen Lopetegui’s men in second place and quite possibly as Real Madrid’s main title challengers, Xinhua reports.

Lopetegui deserves credit as his side is without key players Youssef En-Nesyri and Jesus Navas, robbing him of his top goalscorer and right wing-back, but he has built a team based on a solid defense, with the ‘triangle’ of Fernando, Diego Carlos and Jules Kounde the foundation that allows others such as Lucas Ocampos, Joan Jordan and Ivan Rakitic to shine.

This is a decisive week for Sevilla with a Champions League visit to RB Salzburg followed by a league game in Bilbao, but for the moment they seem to be the most creditable of Real Madrid’s rivals.

3. A reality check for Xavi

Barca rode their luck to beat Espanyol and Villarreal in Xavi Hernandez’s first two league games in charge, but the 1-0 defeat to Real Betis on December 4 provided fans with a reality check.

Barca started brightly in the Camp Nou as they have done in Xavi’s other games in charge, but once their initial burst ran out of steam, Betis were comfortable and controlled the game except for a brief spell when Ousmane Dembele came on as a second-half substitute.

Xavi’s main problem is that without Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez or Antoine Griezmann and with Ansu Fati injured, he doesn’t have the players to score the goals when they are on top, while the number of young players in his side means it is hard to keep their performances going for 90 minutes.

4. All credit to Betis

It would be unfair to focus just on Barcelona after Saturday’s game. Betis produced an assured display in defense and even without key playmaker Nabil Fekir, they were able to dominate the ball for long periods of the game and create chances against Barca on the break.

Juanmi has gone from being a fringe player to the top-scoring Spaniard in La Liga, and much of the credit has to go to coach Manuel Pellegrini. The man nicknamed ‘the engineer’ is not a coach for a quick fix, but slowly and surely he gets his teams to win games with a mix of organization and individual talent. That’s why Betis are currently third in La Liga.

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Commit more time, money to develop spin bowling skills: NZ great to players

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 Former New Zealand skipper Jeremy Coney had demanded the Black Caps commit more time, energy and money to develop their spin bowling skills in the wake of the humiliating loss to India in the second and final Test at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Monday.

India thrashed the World Test champions by 372 runs to record their biggest victory by run margin. With this win, India also bagged 12 points in the World Test Championship 2021/23 standings.

The Indian spinners had reduced New Zealand to 140/5 in their second innings at stumps on the third day and they wrapped up victory in 43 minutes on the fourth morning, bundling out New Zealand for 167 runs in 56.3 overs to record a smashing win.

India’s spin magic was not lost on the 69-year-old Coney, who played 52 Tests scoring more than 2,600 runs for the Kiwis. He urged New Zealand Cricket (NZC) to spend some time and resources to improve the Black Caps’ skills at facing and bowling spin.

Though New Zealand spinner Ajaz Patel rattled India with his 10-wicket haul in the first innings, the visiting team batters were woeful against Indian spinners managing only 62 and 167.

“I think NZ Cricket need to be braver and believe in spin bowling and commit time and money to the development of that part of the game,” Coney said on SENZ’s post-Test coverage on Tuesday.

“We need a place to go where guys can practice facing spin and having a batting coach there, or we should try send guys to India. Another option is that we have a wicket in New Zealand that turns more than the others, so we get our keepers and fielders learning on these pitches. These are full-time players, and I think we can do more.”

New Zealand earned the dubious distinction of losing the match by 372 runs, which is their biggest margin of defeat after their previous loss by 358 runs against South Africa in 2007.

New Zealand will now play a two-Test home series against Bangladesh from January 1.

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Stokes included in England’s Ashes squad of 12; Anderson rested

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All-rounder Ben Stokes has been included in England’s 12-member squad for the opening Ashes Test beginning at The Gabba on December 8, putting to rest speculation that he might not be considered for the first Test as he is returning to competitive cricket after a long time.

Stokes could, however, still be dropped from England’s playing XI as skipper Joe Root will take a call on the final XI at the toss.

Pace bowling stalwart and England’s top wicket-taker in Test history, James Anderson too is missing from the playing XI.

Anderson, an England spokesperson confirmed, isn’t carrying an injury. Rather, the decision to leave out the 39-year-old has to do with managing his workload ahead of what will be a gruelling five-Test, high-octane series.

“Jimmy is fit to play, and is not carrying an injury,” an England spokesperson said. “With five Tests in six weeks, the plan was to get him ready for the second Test in Adelaide.

“With the limited build-up we have had so far on the tour, both him and the management didn’t want to take the risk of him playing after what had happened in 2019 at Edgbaston when he broke down on the first morning.

During the 2019 Ashes, England lost Anderson to a calf injury during the opening Test in Edgbaston and had to go through the rest of the match with a bowler short. Belying his age, Anderson bounced back thereafter, playing all the home Tests against India and New Zealand this year.

A statement issued by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said on Tuesday that, “England Men have named a 12-strong squad for the first Ashes Test starting at The Gabba in Brisbane on Wednesday 8 December. The final XI will be confirmed at the toss.”

England Men’s Squad for first Ashes Test: Joe Root (c), Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Haseeb Hameed, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood.

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