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Dot-ball pressure, early wickets key to beating India – Lockie Ferguson

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Roll into town. Assess the conditions. Do your homework on the opposition. Play well. Get the win. Forget it. Roll on the next town. Repeat.

Sounds both simple and sensible, doesn’t it?

That’s been the mantra for New Zealand’s campaign and, so far, it’s worked a perfunctory treat. Three wins from three games, virtually all players making significant contributions and conditions suiting their strengths nicely. But now their matter-of-fact approach will, weather permitting, face their biggest challenge to date in the World Cup when they, weather permitting, meet India on Thursday. Did I say weather permitting?

The forecast makes it doubtful that either team will be able to do any outdoor training before the match and, while some might think getting a point out of a washout wouldn’t be the worst outcome against one of the top-ranked teams, Lockie Ferguson isn’t one of them.

“We want to play,” Ferguson said on Tuesday. “It’s the World Cup. We’re playing against India in the World Cup and it’s an opportunity to get two points and we don’t want to get rained-out games. I don’t think any players do but if that happens then so be it. We can’t control that but we’re looking forward to playing India and getting some confidence against them.”

Ferguson has only played three ODIs against India, all of them in January this year. India won all three matches comfortably and Ferguson was the subject of particularly harsh treatment in the second game at Mount Maunganui, where he took two wickets but conceded 81 runs from his ten overs. Now he’s keen to use the lessons learned.

“They showed us that they’re probably a lot more patient in a way,” Ferguson said. “And although we’re looking to take wickets, sometimes we got a little bit expensive. I think taking wickets up front is the key to [beating] India but, if not, creating pressure and building dots.

“They’re world-class players, you’re not going to blow them out of the water, but if you can build up enough pressure against them and then create a half-chance, that could be the wicket and you can then build from there. Obviously, they’re playing some great cricket and they’re one of the top teams in the competition but we’re definitely looking forward to the opportunity of playing them in England and we haven’t played them for a while in England.”

New Zealand have bowled out all three sides they have faced so far – Sri Lanka (136), Bangladesh (244) and Afghanistan (172) – with Trent Boult arguably the unluckiest in the attack, wicketless despite beating the bat and drawing false shots regularly. Ferguson believes it’s only a matter of time before Boult’s form is rewarded with wickets.

“If I were to critique his bowling I think he’s been bowling exceptionally well, creating a lot of chances for us up front,” Ferguson said. “And that’s the nature of international cricket; sometimes the chances don’t get taken but other times they do. Trent’s world-class, very professional guy and the way he talks about his bowling is pretty inspiring if I’m honest. I’m sure it’ll turn his way soon and hopefully it’s on Thursday, that would be great.”

Undoubtedly, the bounce that has been on offer in the matches at Trent Bridge has New Zealand’s pacers salivating, just a little, and Ferguson admitted they had watched the results and conditions with interest, although they will not be playing on the world-record pitch that has been used twice so far in this tournament.

“It’s exciting for Trent Bridge to have a bit of bounce and hopefully that’ll go in our favour,” Ferguson said. “It’s been an interesting start to the World Cup with the games here obviously we keep an eye on the different grounds and how the matches go.

“But the West Indies showed that there’s that extra bounce at Trent Bridge and that caused some trouble for Australia as well, who are good players of the short ball. It’s tournament cricket where, if you can create a bit of pressure, it sort of builds up a little bit because you play each team once and you need to win and move on.

“Tournament cricket’s one of those crazy ones where, I know in the Black Caps, we talk a lot about turning up to the ground we are playing, working out the conditions, the team we are playing, doing the scouting, playing the team as well as we can and then we’ve been fortunate to get three wins and play some good cricket and then moving on to our next opponent.

“That’s one of our main focusses for the Black Caps. We often talk about it but more in particular at a World Cup where every team you play is worth two points so they’re just as important as each other.”

Ah, there it is. Win and move on. Rinse and repeat. Simple. Both teams have done it so far; India twice, New Zealand thrice. But only one can win and move on from Trent Bridge.

Weather permitting, of course.



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Recent Match Report – England vs Australia, World Cup, 32nd match

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Australia 285 for 7 (Finch 100, Warner 53, Woakes 2-46) beat England 221 (Stokes 89, Behrendorff 5-44, Starc 4-43) by 64 runs

As it happened

Australia played Test match cricket in miniature to get the better of England and a set of conditions at Lord’s that were not really in the blueprint for Eoin Morgan’s side ahead of a tournament in which they now face the tightest of ropes to qualify for the semi-finals.

The cut and thrust of this Lord’s ODI was a world away from the virtual home run derby of Trent Bridge a year ago. That day, England tallied a gargantuan 481 and seemingly set the tone for the way this World Cup would be played. Yet, in the crucible of a global tournament played in the damp of an early summer beset by rain, Australia’s more deliberate plans, built on a stable, steady top order and a collective of pace and class with the ball have held up; the fireworks of Nottingham might as well have taken place on Mars.

Watch on Hotstar (India only): Highlights of Aaron Finch’s century

Australia captain Aaron Finch deservedly claimed the match award for a century that represented not only leadership by example but also a personal triumph over technical troubles that had made him so susceptible to the ball seaming into him. It would have been hard to imagine conditions more conducive to such a risk than these, but Finch overcame them with help from David Warner to set up a platform that, if not fully exploited, was enough to take the Australians to the sort of score they have commonly defended in recent months.

They did so via a bowling attack chosen specifically for England. Jason Behrendorff had played only once before this game, and Nathan Lyon not at all, but they gelled beautifully with Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Marcus Stoinis to unbalance England at the start and then snuff out any subsequent rearguards before they assumed troubling proportions.

Behrendorff’s swing and guile, if revelatory to Lord’s observers, were no surprise to those who know his best days for Western Australia. Starc’s speed and swing up front, then his late swerving yorker afterwards, were exactly what Finch required. In all this and another sublime fielding display, the Australians continued their march to a peak of performance at the definitive end of this World Cup. A sixth title is now closer than many, perhaps, expected before the tournament.

Buckets of overnight rain drenched St John’s Wood and there was some question over the start time, but the weather cleared enough to allow for the scheduled toss, though not after Jofra Archer had required a fitness test to play. That interlude did not dissuade Morgan from bowling first on a green-tinged surface when calling correctly, although Finch admitted he had been somewhat more equivocal having called up Lyon and Behrendorff as replacements.

Memories of Australia’s twin collapses to the moving ball in Birmingham and Nottingham in the 2015 Ashes are still fresh, and Warner was a victim of both. But, alongside Finch, he was to carve out an opening stand that confounded the expectations of an overcast morning, aided by English imprecision when choosing their length of attack. Too often short of a length if not outright short, they also saw numerous Australian edges avoid going to hand or falling short, meaning 44 for no loss was the tally after ten nervy overs for both sides.

Acceleration followed, both Warner and Finch finding the boundary and the captain also clearing it twice, as English brows furrowed in the middle and in the stands. Warner looked as fluent as he has all tournament and it was a surprise when, having crafted a third century stand with Finch for the Cup, he was fooled by a Moeen Ali offbreak that held in the pitch and ballooned to Joe Root, running around from backward point.

Usman Khawaja was chosen to accompany Finch, and together they lifted the Australians to an imposing 173 for 1 after 32 overs – a platform from which a score of 350 was plausible on paper, if less likely in the prevailing conditions. Khawaja’s fall only succeeded in bringing Steven Smith to the middle with plenty of overs to spare, and when Finch went to his hundred via a Chris Woakes misfield at fine leg it appeared the Australians were well on top.

But Finch chose the wrong moment to try a hook, top edging straight to Woakes the very next ball and reproaching himself with all the fury of a captain who knew he had done exactly what he has asked teammates not to – squander an opportunity to turn a century into a monument. His anguish was to be intensified by the decline that followed, as Glenn Maxwell followed two memorable blows off Archer with a wafty edge behind off the rapid Mark Wood, Stoinis was run out over a disputed second run with Smith, and the former captain lost his timing and his wicket while trying to get runs around the corner.

It all added up to the loss of 6 for 86, and at 259 for 7 England may have been chasing as little as 270. However, some late salvaging by Alex Carey, including 11 from Ben Stokes’ final over of the innings and a boundary from the final ball, inched the total up to 285. A defendable total is all Australia’s bowlers have asked for this tournament, and there was a small but discernible nod from Ricky Ponting on the Lord’s balcony as Carey and Starc jogged off for the change of innings.

If some surprise greeted the sight of Behrendorff limbering up to deliver the first ball of the England reply, there was slack-jawed shock in the Members Pavilion when his second ball curled fiendishly late to knock back the middle stump of an overcommitted James Vince. Behrendorff mixed swing and angle with skill and experience of his methods to provide an ideal counterpoint to Starc, who at the other end accounted for Root and then Morgan in the manner of his 2015 World Cup pomp.

Root was pinned on the crease and in front of all three stumps by a ball that swung back just enough at pace, before Finch moved long leg finer and Starc delivered with a fast bouncer that Morgan could only sky off top edge and glove to Cummins, who made good ground to the catch. Having already retreated outside leg stump to try to drive Starc, Morgan’s brief innings will remain in the Australian memory bank.

An attempt at recovery by Jonny Bairstow, speckled with some attractive strokes, was ended when he hooked unwisely at Behrendorff and was also held by Cummins, this time on the midwicket fence. A better outfield catch was to follow when Jos Buttler, just getting himself going, swivel-pulled Stoinis towards square leg and Khawaja did not break stride in taking a catch he might have struggled to reach before admirable fitness and fielding work in the year since Justin Langer became head coach.

Even then, with Buttler out of the picture, Stokes harboured some hope of delivering England to victory, for he had shrugged off a calf ailment to climb to his highest score in a Lord’s ODI, and by helping England to 22 in two Cummins overs seemed set for a thrilling finish. This, however, was to reckon without Starc, called back by Finch for the late-innings clean-up job. He certainly did a job on Stokes, conjuring a 145kph yorker that screeched under the set allrounder’s bat to send the bails zinging and more or less end the match. Stokes, for his part, dropped his bat and kicked it away in exasperation.

The rest of the game passed as if according to script. Behrendorff was able to complete a five-for at Lord’s, finding a beauty to leave Moeen then aided by the most composed boundary-line double-act catch from Maxwell to Finch. Starc, fittingly, took the last wicket, leaving Australia atop the Cup table and safely into the semi-finals. England, having waited so long for this day, must now play some of the best cricket of their lives to make the finals, let alone win them.



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Recent Match Report – Essex vs Somerset, County Championship Division One, 2nd Innings

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Essex 216 (Cook 80) and 183 (Cook 47, Groenewald 5-51) beat Somerset 131 (Porter 5-51, Beard 4-23) and 117 (Porter 4-22) by 151 runs

In successive weeks, the top two counties in the Championship have come to Chelmsford and been sent packing. Hampshire were dismissed for 118 and 88 which at least sounded like emergency advice lines they could ring afterwards. Somerset managed 131 and 117. Fortress Chelmsford is earning its reputation.

Hampshire were so poor in going down to an innings defeat the previous week that in less than five sessions they lost all pretensions of being Championship contenders. Somerset competed much better before falling short by the considerable margin of 151 runs; they will press for the title deep into September and still have every chance of winning it. For the moment, though, it is Essex who have momentum. They have hurdled Hampshire into second and have cut the gap to Somerset to 13 points.

When Aaron Beard knocked two of Jack Brooks’ stumps out of the ground with a fast outswinger, 50 minutes into the third afternoon, a thoroughly entertaining contest could not have ended in more emphatic fashion. Beard, in his first Championship outing of the season, returned remarkable match figures of 7 for 45 in only 9.2 overs, a young fast bowler who has been champing for opportunity. Jamie Porter at least had the decency to raise a sweat, his match return of 9 for 73 needing 28.5 overs. Finding movement from an attacking length, they took some playing.

It can be a wearisome affair for Essex supporters to get into Fortress Chelmsford if they are unknowing enough to approach it from the wrong direction. Take a false step and there are more checkpoints than Donald Trump, in his dreams, would put on the Mexican border. Back in the 1980s, when Essex were also well worth watching, there was one gate sort of guarded by somebody struggling to stay awake. Now it appears that the entire retired population of Essex is protecting us all from impending terrorist doom or the danger of somebody gaining access without a pass.

But for those who make it into the ground, the cricket is wonderful consolation. Essex have won four out of four Championship matches on their home turf, the cricket at Chelmsford is always vibrant and the spectators are constantly engaged with what they are watching.

The pitches manage to stay the right side of legality, as far as the ECB are concerned, and yet they are always lively and responsive enough to provide a thoroughly entertaining battle between bat and ball. The mood is not dissimilar to the three-day matches Essex would contest a generation ago. A fourth day, at Chelmsford, appears to be just a safeguard in case of bad weather.

Ryan ten Doeschate’s assessment was sound. “Conditions were tough and I thought we battled slightly harder than they did,” he said. “Batting has been tough here this season but the scores aren’t necessarily reflective of the pitch. If you get stuck in there are runs to be had. We have handled conditions better both skill-wise and mentally with the ball and the home record is keeping us in contention.”

The person who got stuck in most of all was not lost on Tom Abell, Somerset’s captain. Alastair Cook made 127 runs in the game and, in the context of a low-scoring match, it was an immense contribution.

Essex’s lead was 249 with four wickets remaining when the third day began. Somerset needed to round up the rest quickly and then somebody needed to produce an innings of brilliance.

They got the wickets for another 19 runs, although not without an admonishment to Abell for not controlling the verbals from his slip cordon after Peter Siddle had refused to walk for a claimed catch. Losing the match was one thing for Somerset’s supporters; for Young Mr Abell to have his chivalrous image put under scrutiny was even more of a jolt.

As for the batting brilliance, it never came. James Hildreth hinted at a successful counter-attack before Siddle had him caught at the wicket immediately after lunch, but by the time Lewis Gregory hit three successive midwicket sixes off Simon Harmer the game was up as Beard soon emphasised by sending the ground staff scurrying for a replacement middle stump. Somerset’s resistance lasted only 32.2 overs.

Porter, full of attacking intent from the outset, took wickets in each of his first two overs. He plucked out a sharp return catch to his left to remove Abell for nought and then had Azhar Ali caught at third slip. Somerset were eager to carry the fight, but after pulling Beard’s third ball for six, Tom Banton obligingly clipped Harmer’s sixth ball to a short midwicket who had just been placed there for that eventuality. Hildreth had departed by lunch, too, when he failed to upper-cut Porter.

After lunch, Somerset crumbled. Steven Davies, caught on the crease, fell for nought as he meekly edged his third ball to slip, George Bartlett was well caught by Dan Lawrence at gully before Jamie Overton provided a replica of his first-innings dismissal by pulling Porter to Browne on the square-leg boundary. There was a time, according to cricket historians, when some cricket writers were so influential that their admonishments in print could cause players to change their approach. In the case of this correspondent and Jamie Overton, clearly quite the opposite applied.



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PCB brings down contracted women players from 17 to 10

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The PCB has brought down the number of centrally contracted women cricketers from 17 to 10 in a bid to increase remuneration for the retainers. A condensed list has left only Sana Mir and Nida Dar in the ‘A’ category, while Bismah Maroof and Javeria Khan have been demoted to category ‘B’ and the fourth level, ‘D’, has been removed altogether.

The three categories – A, B and C – all come with higher pay now: a hike of 20%, 18.5% and 18% respectively. The span of each contract offer in the new fiscal year, starting July 1, has also been increased from six to 12 months. Daily allowances in camps have been doubled, making it Rs 2000 (approx. $13), as have daily allowances on foreign tours, going from $50 to $100.

“The announcement of the new central contracts is a great story for the women’s game in Pakistan and indicates the exciting times that lie ahead for cricketers in the country,” said Urooj Mumtaz, chief selector for the women’s team. “The women cricketers have shown tremendous improvement recently and this is reflected in the central contracts being offered to them, which are reward-and incentive-based.

“With more international cricket scheduled over the coming months, this will motivate the girls to continue to perform strongly. Apart from the enhanced central contracts, we have also introduced incentives for the players in domestic cricket, who will now earn Rs 10,000 [approx. $64] per match. This is a small step in making women’s cricket more professional and inspiring young women cricketers to take up the sport with a realistic opportunity to represent the country.”

PCB managing director Wasim Khan stressed that the changes reflected the respect and importance the board have for women cricketers. “The enhanced new central contracts form a key part of the vision to enhance the profile of women’s cricket and our aim to strive towards a fairer system,” he said in a statement. “As a responsible and professional organisation, we remain committed to investing in the growth and development of women’s cricket. We want to strengthen the women’s and girls’ game at all levels so that our national team can continue to go from strength to strength.”

Pakistan are currently fifth on the ICC Women’s Championship table, and have a top-four finish, which will help them qualify directly for the 2021 Women’s World Cup 2021 in New Zealand, very much in their sights. Their next assignment is against India.



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