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Tuesday,07-December-2021

International

Steve Smith has started batting in nets, will be ready for T20 World Cup: George Bailey

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Steve-Smith

Australia’s chairman of selectors George Bailey believes that star batsman Steve Smith will be fit in time for the ICC T20 World Cup later this year.

Smith, who is recovering from a left elbow injury suffered earlier this year during the Indian Premier League (IPL), has started batting in the nets at the New South Wales training ground. He was named in Australia’s World Cup squad released on Thursday, after missing the recent tours of West Indies and Bangladesh because of injury.

“He’s building up nicely. The latest update I had from him is he’s facing up over 100 balls in a session pretty comfortably. That’s about a quarter of what he’d like to be facing for a Test match so he’s got a little bit of building up to go there,” Bailey told reporters in a video call.

“There would obviously be a number where the risk would outweigh the benefit. We’ve got to place a little bit of trust in Steve as someone who knows his body and knows exactly what he needs to be able to perform at a level that’s required,” Bailey added.

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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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