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Recent Match Report – Gloucestershire vs Hampshire, Twenty20 Cup (England), South Group



Gloucestershire 144 for 3 (Bracey 64) beat Hampshire 139 for 6 by seven wickets

Gloucestershire overcame Hampshire on a slow, sluggish Bristol wicket to go fourth in the Vitality Blast South Group, thanks to a canny bowling performance and an impressive 64 from James Bracey.

With Rilee Rossouw (ill), Brad Taylor and Mason Crane (both side strains) missing, Hampshire looked light on batting at the toss, and so it proved. After Aneurin Donald‘s eyecatching innings had taken them to 54 for 1 after the powerplay, their innings fell away horribly as Tom Smith found purchase on a turgid pitch, and their seamers used their usual variety of slower balls and cutters.

A target of 140 was never likely to be easy to defend, and after a cautious first four overs of the chase, the fifth broke the back of the chase and meant Gloucestershire could stay in third gear for the remainder.

The beneficiary of those absentees was Ryan Stevenson, the redhead seamer who came in for his first game of the Blast season, but he must have wished he had spent the night in the dugout as usual.

His first ball would have seen Michael Klinger caught behind but for an umpiring error, and things quickly got worse. Klinger chipped a six over midwicket, then got off strike with a three; Stevenson threw in two wides, was smashed for four twice by Bracey, including once off a no-ball, and then had him out caught off the free hit. One last boundary followed, meaning 25 had come off it, and the asking rate shot down to below six.

From that point, Hampshire were toast, as Bracey and Klinger knocked the ball around easily with little pressure on them to score. This was Klinger’s highest T20 score in just under a year – the situation could hardly have suited him better.

This pitch had seen Gloucestershire only squeeze past Kent’s 125 for 8 last week, and from the moment David Payne started to bowl his cutters in the game’s third over, it seemed clear that this pitch would suit their attack.

The conditions could only have been more perfect if they had been able to call upon the services of Benny Howell, who will miss the rest of the season after injuring his hamstring diving in the field against Surrey last week.

As cover, Gloucestershire brought in Zak Chappell on loan from Nottinghamshire, the young fast bowler with a big future and an even bigger reported salary. He struck early to dismiss James Vince – who he gave a roaring send-off – but proved the most expensive bowler on show; perhaps he was overzealous in his efforts to impress after an underwhelming debut season at Trent Bridge.

Hampshire’s selection – while hampered by injury – looked particularly strange when Chris Morris strode out to bat at number five. It was just the 14th time that Morris had batted in the top five in a T20, despite his 180 matches, and he struggled badly to eke out an unbeaten 18 off 24 balls. That they left out Tom Alsop, while having seven bowling options, seemed curious.

This was the sort of surface on which Gloucestershire tend to thrive, and it was apparent that Andrew Tye‘s influence in his several stints as an overseas player has extended beyond just his wickets. Chris Liddle spoke at the interval about the work the club’s seamers do with one another to develop more slower balls and variations, and he, Tye, and Payne went for just 78 from their 12 overs; Ryan Higgins, so impressive in the win at Surrey, never even made it into the attack.

At the interval, it had looked clear that Liam Dawson would be the key man if Hampshire were to come close, but by the time he came on the asking rate had already fallen to 5.46. He was characteristically frugal, but the game was effectively up by the time he had the opportunity to influence it.

Bracey, who has quietly impressed for the best part of three seasons in the Championship, has only recently nailed down a spot in Gloucestershire’s T20 side, but shone with a mature innings in the chase. He was particularly impressive combating the fiery Morris, nailing an early cover drive and pulling him for four in his second spell. He was a recent call-up for the England Lions, and at 22 looks like an old-school batsman with serious promise.

“I’m really pleased with how we’ve come back from a defeat,” he told Sky. “We just wanted to take the initiative with the new ball, which slid onto the bat nicely. It came off for us and made it easier for us at the back end. I’ve started to find my feet in the last few games, so it’s good to play a match-winning knock.”

Gloucestershire’s campaign thus far has been a stop-start affair, with two no-results and a tie in their first four games keeping them in the bunch of teams competing for the quarter-finals. But with three wins in their last four – and a trip to fourth-placed Somerset on Friday night looming – they are now set to be part of the South Group’s qualification narrative.

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Shikhar Dhawan picks up shoulder injury, doesn’t open for India



India are yet to take a call on Shikhar Dhawan after he left the field clutching his left shoulder during the ODI series decider against Australia in Bengaluru on Sunday.

Dhawan was immediately sent for an X-ray, with a BCCI spokesperson saying “a call on his availability for the game will be taken once he is back and assessed”.

Dhawan fell over on his left shoulder in the fifth over of the match as he dived to stop an Aaron Finch drive at cover point. Nitin Patel, the team physio who attended to him, took him off the field. He spent the rest of the innings off the field, and didn’t come out to open the batting in India’s chase of 287.

KL Rahul, who made a match-winning 52-ball 80 from No. 5 in the second ODI in Rajkot, opened instead of Dhawan. His partner Rohit Sharma, incidentally, had also bruised his shoulder while fielding during the Rajkot ODI.

In the same game, Dhawan had bruised his ribcage after trying to negate a Pat Cummins delivery, but continued to bat on and make 96 in India’s series-levelling victory. He spent the entire duration of the Australia innings off the field to nurse the injury.

Dhawan has hit a purple patch in recent times, scoring 52, 74 and 96 in his three most recent international innings. In November, he picked up a freak injury – “a deep cut on his left knee” – during a Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 game for Delhi against Maharashtra. Originally picked for the series against West Indies, he was later withdrawn as the medical staff felt he needed more time for his stitches to come off and the wound to heal.

As things stand, Dhawan is part of India’s T20I squad for the tour of New Zealand starting January 24. India are set to fly out of Bengaluru early on Monday to Auckland via Singapore.

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Pace trio sets up Pakistan’s seven-wicket rout of Scotland



Pakistan Under-19s 77 for 3 (Irfan 38*, Naylor 1-12) beat Scotland Under-19s 75 (Uzzair 20, Wasim 5-12, Tahir 3-23, Afridi 2-32) by seven wickets

It was all rather one-sided in Potchefstroom as Pakistan steamrolled Scotland to get their Under-19 World Cup Group C campaign off to a rousing start.

Medium-pacers Tahir Hussain, Mohammad Wasim and Abbas Afridi first shared all ten wickets between them to bowl Scotland out for 75, and Irfan Khan then led the way in a straightforward chase, the target coming up in just 11.4 overs with seven wickets in hand.

Angus Guy, the Scotland captain, won the toss and opted to bat, but was bowled by Tahir off the second ball of the innings for a duck, his opening partner Ben Davidson suffering the same fate two balls later to leave the scoreboard reading 1 for 2 after four balls. Tomas Mackintosh got going, but became Tahir’s third victim when he was caught behind for an 18-ball 17.

Once Tahir was done, Wasim – who came into Pakistan’s squad as Naseem Shah’s replacement – and Afridi took over. Apart from Mackintosh, Uzzair Shah was the only other batsman to get to double-digits as Wasim returned 5 for 12 in 75 overs, to go with Tahir’s 3 for 23 and Afridi’s 2 for 32. The Scotland innings lasted just 23.5 overs.

The reply didn’t start well for the 2004 and 2006 champions, as openers Haider Ali and Muhammad Shehzad were dismissed with just four runs on the board. That was as good as it got for Scotland, though, as captain Rohail Nazir and Irfan scored quickly in a 47-run third-wicket stand and, after Rohail was sent back for a 23-ball 27, Irfan took Pakistan home in the company of Qasim Akram, finishing unbeaten on 38 off 37 balls.

Pakistan next play Zimbabwe on January 22, while Scotland take on Bangladesh a day before.

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Recent Match Report – Auckland vs Wellington, New Zealand Domestic Twenty20, Final



Wellington Firebirds 168 for 7 (Conway 49, McClenaghan 3-32) beat Auckland Aces 146 for 9 (Guptill 60, Cachopa 25, van Beek 3-28, Bennett 3-34) by 22 runs

Wellington did the double at Basin Reserve on Sunday, with both the Firebirds (men’s team) and the Blaze (women’s team) securing the 20-over Super Smash titles. The Firebirds are also the reigning 50-over Ford Trophy champions, having defeated Otago in Dunedin in 2018-19.

Fast bowler Hamish Bennett, who had starred in that final, was at it in the Super Smash final, his 3 for 34 thwarting Martin Guptill and helping the Firebirds defend 168. Bennett, who now holds both domestic white-ball titles, could well make his T20I debut against the visiting India side next week.

Auckland Aces’ New Zealand internationals Guptill and Colin Munro had given their team a sound start in pursuit of 169 by adding 33 for the opening stand in four overs. But one run and three balls later, Bennett had Munro tickling one behind, and TV umpire Ashley Mehrota ruled the opener out although Munro wasn’t pleased with the decision, suggesting that he hadn’t touched the ball.

Then, immediately after the powerplay, Jimmy Neesham marked his return from a quadricep injury when he had Glenn Phillips dragging a catch to deep square-leg for a run-a-ball 7. Neesham combined with left-arm fingerspinner Rachin Ravindra and Netherlands international Logan van Beek to pin down the middle order. All three bowlers conceded just one boundary each, sharing five wickets between them.

Guptill, though, stood tall even as the Aces sank to 104 for 5 and then 113 for 6. Guptill, who was on 23 off 22 balls by the end of the powerplay, set his focus towards taking the chase deep. He brought up a 45-ball half-century in the 16th over, when then slapped seamer Ollie Newton behind point four.

Auckland now needed 59 off 29 balls, with the in-form Bennett still with one over in his bag. Van Beek, too, did some significant damage, getting three wickets, including two in one over.

Guptill gave Auckland more hope when he lined up the returning Bennett in the 18th over and thumped him over midwicket for six. However, Bennett responded strongly, getting Guptill to hole out for 60 off 53 balls. Van Beek produced a game-changing moment, pulling off a stunning hokey-pokey catch at the edge of the deep-midwicket boundary. A fierce whip from Guptill seemed destined to fly over the boundary… until van Beek himself took flight and caught the ball at the edge of the rope. He then lost his balance and jumped beyond the rope, but had the presence of mind to toss the ball into play and retrieve it in the end.

It was only fitting that Bennett and van Beek closed out the game for the Firebirds. The two men had moved north from Canterbury, playing crucial hands in the Firebirds’ third T20 title victory.

Earlier, it was Black Cap-in-waiting Devon Conway who had set up the win, with a 37-ball 49 at the top. Conway lit up the Basin by crunching beanpole quick Kyle Jamieson for three fours in the first over of the game, including a drilled cover-drive. Michael Pollard, the other opener, wasn’t as fluent at the other end, and was dismissed by left-arm quick Mitchell McClenaghan.

Conway continued on his merry way and lashed left-arm fingerspinner Mark Chapman for back-to-back boundaries to push the Firebirds to 80 for 2 in ten overs. McClenaghan then returned to the attack and had Conway splicing one to extra cover, where Craig Cachopa pulled off a blinding one-handed catch. Conway capped the season as the top run-getter, with 543 runs in 11 innings at an average of 67.87 and strike rate of 145.18.

The South Africa-born top-order batsman will qualify to play for New Zealand soon, just before the T20 World Cup, but coach Gary Stead is already so impressed by him that he called him into New Zealand’s winter camp last year.

Jamieson nailed his yorkers and mixed it up his hard lengths at the death while Munro gave little away with his cutters and rollers as the Firebirds’ innings threatened to spiral out of control. However, charming cameos from a fit-again Neesham (22 off 13 balls), captain Michael Bracewell (23 off 17 balls), and van Beek (15* off eight balls) ensured they reached 168. Van Beek, in particular, was the only Firebirds batsman to get the measure of McClenaghan, taking him for 11 off four balls. Bennett and van Beek then made that total look a whole lot bigger with the ball and in the field, thrilling the home crowd.

Sophie Devine sets up victory in seven-over shootout

Sophie Devine was in complete control after poor weather meant only a seven-overs-a-side contest would be possible in the women’s final.

Devine and Rachel Priest dealt in boundaries to start with, the first 20 runs coming in fours, to take Wellington to 20 after two overs. Once Priest fell, Devine switched to smashing sixes, hitting three in the fourth over of the innings, bowled by Anna Peterson, and reached her half-century in just 22 balls. She couldn’t carry on, though, Bella Armstrong sending her back for a 23-ball 54. Though only eight runs came off the final over, Wellington had a strong 81 for 2 on the board thanks to their captain.

Devine came back to bowl a fine first over, conceding just five runs, and that set the tone for the Auckland reply, as they struggled to find the boundaries, lost wickets, and could only manage 45 for 5, going down by 36 runs.

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