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When England won the toss and batted again they wouldn’t have envisioned what would transpire over the next 99.4 overs. England themselves started poorly. They had lost both Jason Roy and Joe Root before even getting off the mark. Jonny Bairstow who has been in supreme form this series once again was the saviour. He along with captain Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler got England to 96/4 but again the visitors were still firmly on top.

Sam Billings who has already scored a hundred in this series first stitched a significant partnership of 114 to get England out of the woods. Billings once again was brilliant and scored 57 before he was dismissed by Adam Zampa. Bairstow though kicked on and completed a brilliant hundred (112). Chris Woakes scored a quickfire fifty to guide England to a competitive 302/7. For Australia though Adam Zampa was among wickets again with 3/51. He has been brilliant with the ball all through the series and has also been able to keep the runs in check.

Australia’s innings did not get to a great start either. The found themselves 73/5 in just 17 overs and with half of their side gone the game was firmly in the grasp of the hosts. Glenn Maxwell and Alex Carey then counterattacked with a stunning assault on the English bowlers. Both of them completed brilliant hundreds. Maxwell who has been in great nick through this series once again was fantastic. He scored his runs at a high strike rate and kept the bowlers under pressure throughout. Carey was brilliant as well and when the pair was separated after an enormous partnership of 213, the game was all but over for England.

Even though there was a bit of drama at the end, Australia completed the win with 2 balls to spare. Australia will be thrilled to have won the series and they have been brilliant in this format over the last year or so. They would particularly be happy with the performances of the middle order. Almost the entire series was won by the middle and lower order as the top order did not contribute much in this series.

For England though this series has been a difficult one. They are probably the only team to have played a lot of international cricket over the last few months and frankly were not at their best in this series. The other good thing about the series were the pitches. These weren’t the roads we normally see in the ODIs in England. The bowlers had a fair chance in all the games and we can see that in the scores across the 3 games.

The Australian bowling was excellent and Zampa in particular. The consistency shown by Glenn Maxwell is another positive for Australia in this series. This series was brilliant and Australia surely were the better team and should have won the series 3-0, if not for their horrendous collapse in the second ODI.

When England won the toss and batted first no one could have predicted the roller coaster of a game they would witness over the next 98.4 overs. England’s start was anything from smooth as Mitchell Starc and Hazlewood tied the English openers into a knot. Both Bairstow and Roy struggled to get away. England found themselves in trouble when Roy was run-out for 21. Joe Root and Eoin Morgan battled hard against some brilliant bowling and great fielding of the visitors. The scoring was tough but they hung around.

When the partnership was broken though, England batting collapsed. They found themselves at 149/8 from a healthy 90/2. Adam Zampa was at it again with a fantastic 3/36. Josh Hazlewood was miserly once again with a spell of 1/27 in 10 overs. A late order partnership between Adil Rashid and Tom Curran got England to a fighting 231/9.

While England lower order fought well, 232 wasn’t a target Australia would have been worried about. Even though Australia started poorly themselves losing 2 wickets early, the partnership between captain Aaron Finch and Marnus Labuschagne meant that Australia were cruising at 144/2 in 30 overs. At that stage of the game, there wouldn’t have been too many people who would have given the hosts any chance. England though kept plugging and as soon as they broke the partnership, Australia collapsed losing 8 wickets for 63 runs.

For England Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer were the heroes with 3 wickets each. Sam Curran picked up 3 as well and Tom Curran was miserly giving away just 28 in his 10 overs. This win should give the hosts huge confidence as there were down and out at one stage.

For Australia though this would be yet another heartbreaking loss as their batting once again collapsed from a winning position. It is not often a team restricts England under 250 after the latter bats first after winning the toss. Australia would know that they have blown a great opportunity to go 2-0 up. With this win though England would have gotten a lots of confidence and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they don’t go on to win the series from here.

Afghanistan are the newbies of Test cricket. They were given Test status along with Ireland just over a year ago but the strides they have made so far has been amazing. They had a horror start against India who are the best side in the world but the team under Rashid Khan have showed that they are quick learners. They beat Ireland in their only second game and now they have taken a giant leap by beating Bangladesh away from home.

This is a huge achievement considering how difficult Bangladesh has been for touring sides over the years. Captain Rashid Khan led from the front with an amazing display of bowling taking 11 wickets in the game. The batting was held together by Asghar Afghan who scored fifties in both innings. The batters showed lots of application contrary to their display against India where they looked lost. The batting had purpose and on a wicket aiding spin they showed great skill and temperament.

The same cannot be said of the host batters. Bangladesh showed no application or patience on a wicket which required a loads of them. The Bangladesh batters seemed in a hurry against an attack which was tailor made for the condition on offer. The pitch was probably godsend for Afghanistan as they have world class spinners in their ranks. The visitors made full use of thr conditions and bowled Bangladesh out in the both the innings to seal a comfortable 224 run victory in the end.

The result looked little difficult to achieve, not because of the Bangladesh batters but because of the weather which almost threatened to wash out the final day but thankfully for Afghanistan they got enough overs to achieve another historic win. They have now 2 wins in 3 Tests which is a great achievement for a budding Test nation. They will for sure face tougher challenges in the future but again they have shown an ability to adapt and learn. This win also was a great send off for the iconic Mohammad Nabi who decided to hang his boots in this format.

For Bangladesh though this is a huge step down. They had a good hold on the home Tests for the last few years and by this defeat their vulnerability in familiar conditions showed as well. The strategy of going for a spin track with all spinners in their XI, fully knowing that the opposition has world class spinners was a poor one. Their batters who have lots of experience in this format once again showed lack of discipline and will to fight it out when things got tough. The Bangladesh camp will want to take a hard look at themselves as this is not the first time their batters have thrown it away when things aren’t going their way.

For Afghanistan though this is a huge boost and something which will help other teams take notice. They deserve to get many more chances and this team under Rashid Khan looks like they will learn and improve fast.

Scores:

Afghanistan 342 (Rahmat Shah 102, Taijul 4/116) & 260 (Ibrahim Zadran 87, Shakib 3/58) beat Bangladesh 205 (Mominul 52, Rashid Khan 5/55) & 173 (Shakib 44, Rashid Khan 6/49) by 224 runs

In this three part series we will be looking the teams India will be facing in this World Cup in the order they will play them. We will look at how India have fared against these opponents over the last 4 years since the 2015 World Cup.

Kuldeep Yadav & Yuzvendra Chahal had wood over protean batters during India’s tour to South Africa in 2018

June 5,2019 – India vs South Africa, The Rose Bowl, Southampton

India kick off the World Cup campaign with a tough game against South Africa at the The Rose Bowl. South Africa have been a difficult team for India to beat in the World Cup in the past. In fact the 2015 victory was India’s first against Proteas in a World Cup match. Even though the historical head to head record between the two sides is firmly in South Africa’s favour the last 4 years have been a little different. Both teams have met 12 times since the 2015 WC and India have a 8-4 advantage. This includes India’s crushing series win in South Africa last year. Both teams have good bowling attack but India definitely have the edge in batting. In the absence of AB De Villiers and inexperienced South African batting rely heavily on Faf Du Plessis and Hashim Amla to provide them with the stability they need. With the game being played at the Rose Bowl, the spinners with come into play. India with Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal will be favourites in this contest.

Verdict: Even though this will be a tough game, India probably hold the edge over an injury stricken SA side. They are still awaiting confirmation on the availability of Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn.

June 9, 2019 – India vs Australia, Kennington Oval, London

Like South Africa, Australia have been one of the most difficult opponents to face in the World Cup for India in the past. Even though India triumphed against them in the 2011 World Cup quarter-finals, en route to the title, they were beaten by Australia in 2015 World Cup in the Semi-Finals. Both teams have met 18 times over the last 4 years with the honours even at 9-9. This is one match up which is difficult to call. The Australia team though will be buoyed by the return of Steven Smith and David Warner to the ODI side and with Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins making a comeback as well they look a strong side this time as well. Their recent form has been brilliant as well as they won 8 games in a row against India & Pakistan in the sub continent over the last couple of months. The battle obviously will be between the two batting sides and how the Australian batters play the Indian spinners. In the last 4 years this has been a high scoring ground with team batting second winning 6 of the last 11 games.

Verdict: This is a tough one to call and I would probably give Australia a slight edge on this one due to their recent form and historical dominance over India in the World Cups.

June 13, 2019 – India vs New Zealand, Trent Bridge, Nottingham

India will be taking on last year’s finalists in their third game of the tournament. India will start as favourites in this contest as historically India have a good record against the Blackcaps. The recent record between the two also alludes to the same conclusion as India have won 9 out of their last 13 games against New Zealand. New Zealand are a good side and have a good bowling attack and an aggressive batting attack. They did struggle a bit against the Indian spinners in the recently concluded series between the two sides. Indian spinners will once again be crucial in this contest. The blackcaps will have Tim Southee and Trent Boult with the new ball and Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi to manage the spin department. The batting will be led by captain Kane Williamson with the experience of Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill. The Indian batters did struggle against Boult’s swing in New Zealand but again we may not see such conditions in the world cup in a dry summer in the UK. The Indian bowling attack were all over New Zealand in the recent series and it will be interesting to see if they continue to do so in the World Cup.

Verdict: India definitely hold the edge over New Zealand in this contest. This will be close game but gain India is expected to win this game against the blackcaps.

That concludes part 1 of this series and the review will continue with the next three games in Part 2.

 

The ICC has announced that Afghanistan and Ireland are now full member nations, which means that they now get Test status.

It is exciting and wonderful news for the hard working cricketers from both the nations who probably dreamt of this day since they started playing cricket.

Even though this is a great news, it also brings about the question if these two nations will be able to get enough competitive games.

The team before these two countries to get Test status was Bangladesh. Bangladesh for a long time struggled to get opportunities to play against the top nations especially away from home.

Bangladesh in their young 17-year career have played just 47 tests away from home, and the majority of their games have been against Sri Lanka against who they have been able to play regularly over the last 17 years.

They only played their first test in India just recently after 17 years of being granted the Test status. They have never played Pakistan in UAE and haven’t toured Australia since 2003.

Out of the 47 Tests 32 have come against four nations which are Sri Lanka, New Zealand, West Indies and Zimbabwe. The rest of the five teams in total have invited Bangladesh only for a grand total of 15 games in 17 years. That does not even equate to even one Test a year.

This is something which the ICC has to guard against. Bangladesh still does not get enough games against the top 5 nations. They haven’t played a game in England since 2010 and in South Africa since 2008. Those are pretty shocking numbers to be honest. When the world is calling Bangladesh a mediocre team in Tests, the stats above tells us why.

Both these teams would be incredibly excited at the prospect of competing against the top nations and it would be a disappointment if they have to resort to just playing with each other all the time.

The individual cricketing boards also have a part to play in this induction. Countries like India, England, Pakistan and Australia need to try and squeeze in series against these two teams regularly, even it is just for a game or two.

I understand that initially there might be lots of one sided games but they will improve with time and with enough opportunities against top teams.

The addition of Bangladesh and now Afghanistan and Ireland is wonderful for cricket in general and sends out a great message for other associate nations.

The rapid strides that Afghanistan has taken will give great confidence to other associate nations to take their cricket seriously.

This is a great day for cricket but again steps have to be taken that these teams are engaged effectively to keep the interest alive in their respective countries.

Hopefully the ICC and the rest of the countries realise that and do their part in development of cricket in these two countries.

Welcome Afghanistan and Ireland, and I hope you have a wonderful time playing Test cricket.

Read my original article at The Roar

While they are not yet there in terms of constantly troubling the top teams, Afghanistan have gained respect in one-day cricketing circles with their enthusiasm and passion.

Afghanistan also have produced some good cricketers in the recent times, with the latest addition to that impressive list being Rashid Khan, a young leg spinner with immense talent.

In his short career, Khan has become an integral part of Afghanistan side with some mind-boggling numbers. While the top eight nations are battling for the Champions Trophy, Afghanistan are taking on the West Indies, and in the first ODI between the nations, Khan claimed 7/18 in a crushing win for his side.

The West Indies batsmen were clueless and struggled to pick his variation in an abject capitulation in the first ODI. Khan also bowled brilliantly in the second ODI, which his side lost, to pick up three more Windies wickets.

At just 18 years of age, Khan has played 28 ODI games, claiming 63 wickets, with an amazing average of 14.74. These numbers may be skewed due to lack of games with the top nations, but are still remarkable.

Khan is an extremely accurate spinner with a great googly to boot.

Playing for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL this season, Khan’s 17 wickets was second only to Bhuvneshwar Kumar for their club.

Afghanistan, as a cricketing nation, is still in its infancy, but having stars like Rashid Khan and Mohammed Nabi will surely help them to grow.

The series against West Indies might not get much media attention, but it’s an important series for Afghanistan, as they now stand a chance to actually win a series against a Test-playing nation.

Khan is one of the best leg spinners in world cricket at the moment, and he surely can become the best with more exposure and games against top cricketing nations.

What do other cricket fans think of this bowling? How good is he compared to other spinners around the world?

Link to my original article

The role of a cricket coach is most underrated and also most overrated at the same time by the fans.

Recently I was watching a talk show where this topic was discussed extensively. The panel on the show were Brian Lara, Sir Vivian Richards and Ian Chappell.

All three of them legends of the game and they unanimously agreed that coaches are at the international level should basically be good man managers.

They also mentioned that the name “Coach” should be changed to something more relevant.

Even though that kind of simplifies the role, I think there is some merit to that line of thinking.

Sourav Ganguly recently on another TV show brought up an interesting point. India toured Ireland and England in 2007 without a coach.

The Indian team manager for that tour was Chandu Borde who was already 72 years old at that time. India went on to win both the series, first against South Africa in Ireland, followed by a Test series win in England.

The Indian team was experienced and contained players of the calibre of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Kumble and Zaheer Khan.

The team was full of legends and the role of the coach here would have been just to help to manage and help the captain with the strategy for the games.

Coaching in the international level does not exist. If a player needs coaching at the international level, he should not be there in the first place.

So would it be more appropriate to call them consultant or Advisor or Strategist instead? Probably yes, but again I am not sure what the position is called is that important compared to having a clear understanding of the role.

There are lots of fans who blame the coach for the poor performance of the batsmen or the bowlers but again the role of an international coach is not to teach players to bowl or bat.

That level of coaching is done at the grassroots level and should stay there. Once the player is representing his country, he is expected to do the basics right.

If he is not, the coaches at the preliminary levels need to questioned.

This does not mean that coaches are not needed at the international level. An international team can be full of legends but they need a good manager and also someone who helps the captain strategize ahead of the game.

A manager/coach is extremely important in a professional setup and cannot be completely ignored. You can never understate the role of coaches like Dave Whatmore, Bob Woolmer and Gary Kirsten and their contributions to their respective teams during their tenure.

Managing a team full of legends is very important in cricket and all the above coaches did that. Gary Kirsten helped India to a world cup win and achieve No.1 rankings in Test cricket. I don’t think Gary ever had to teach Sachin Tendulkar how to bat or Zaheer and Kumble how to bowl.

The success of these coaches was to effectively manage the teams they were involved in and offer support to their respective team captains.

Dave Whatmore converted the Sri Lankan team into world beaters. Bob Woolmer managed a mercurial Pakistan team full of legends effectively which none of his successors were able to do.

All the above coaches I mentioned understood their role and their boundaries. A coach’s role should never interfere with that of the captain and a coach should never have a say in what the captain does on the field.

The cricket coach role is no different that coaches at any other sport. A player at the international level cannot be coached and that should not be in the national coach’s job description.

The link to my original article

Roger Federer decided to give French Open a miss this year. Not only did he missed the Open, he missed the entire clay season in order to concentrate on Wimbledon.

Federer earlier this year won the Australian Open, his first Grand Slam in five years and to do it by beating Nadal in the finals was phenomenal. Federer is a great champion and the current record holder with most Grand Slam singles title in men’s tennis.

Federer is currently 35 years old and possibly has a year or two left at the top level, so it is prudent that he decided to pick his battles.

This is not something new in professional sports. In cricket there are players who during the back end of their careers decided to skip one format over the other to prolong their careers.

There is nothing wrong with that. Sportsmen have very uncertain and short careers and them wanting to make most of their time is something which needs to be respected.

Federer won the French Open in 2009 on clay, a surface where is he not very comfortable playing. It is harder to play on clay when you get older.

Unlike grass courts and hard courts, clay isn’t a quick surface. Players need to have lots of stamina and the ability to engage in long baseline exchanges. Also unlike on synthetic and grass courts, you don’t get too many free points on clay.

Competing against young players on clay can be very taxing and can take a lot out of you. I am not saying that Federer would not have won the title – he may well have – but again that’s the chance he has taken.

It can be really hard for someone who has been struggling with injuries over the past year or so to ignore the fact that he isn’t young anymore.

Federer is arguably the greatest tennis player in history of the game and he has practically achieved everything a professional tennis player could achieve in the game.

He has also said that he is not aiming for number one ranking anymore which means that he need not play all the tournaments for points either.

Grass courts have always been Federer’s best surface and he has seven Wimbledon titles. He wants to be fit and ready for the championship and that’s something which is a personal decision. Only the player knows his body and what he can or cannot do at a particular time in his career.

Federer’s decision needs to be respected and there is no reason to question it. He is a great player and I am really looking forward to couple more Grand Slam titles from him before he calls it a day.

Wimbledon and the US Open gives him the best chance of adding to his 18 titles than the French open does. So Federer deciding to miss the clay season may not have been a bad idea and as Andy Roddick put it, it was smart from the champion.

My article published on The Roar

England are the only team among the top eight test-playing nations to not have a 50-over title to their name.

England for a long time did not take ODI cricket seriously. Their style of play and their strategies were outdated and they struggled to compete in the modern game. For years they failed to recognise that as a problem until yet another poor performance in the World Cup 2015 gave them the jolt they needed.

England realised that they were way behind the rest of the world in the shorter format, and so they’ve changed their ODI team and their approach towards the shorter format. England now have an explosive ODI team. They finally have a team that can break the jinx of not having a 50-over trophy.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Now that IPL is out of the way, focus shifts to the 2017 Champions Trophy, kicking off on June 1 at The Oval, where the hosts take on Bangladesh.

Australia have won the tournament twice and are one of the favourites to lift the trophy. Most Australian players were involved in the two-month-long IPL and have just few days to recuperate before they play their first warm-up game, against the Sri Lankans.

Read the full article at The Roar


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