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‘They can execute it for a long period’ – Burns on New Zealand’s short-ball tactic

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New Zealand’s eyes are still firmly fixed on trying to save, or even win, the opening Test in Perth but if, as is very likely, Australia come out on top they may have won a few little battles late on the third day.

Their short-ball tactics, led by Neil Wagner and this time implemented by Tim Southee as well, are so well telegraphed yet still continue to reap considerable reward. “The five men out on the pull gave it away,” Joe Burns said with a smile.

Burns was one of the five Australia second-innings wickets to fall to the short delivery, when he gloved Southee to gully, the odd one out being Tim Paine who was cleaned up second ball.

Significantly, the plan worked for the second time in the match against Steven Smith, who picked out deep square leg having been given a working over by Wagner which included a painful blow on the gloves. It meant that for the first time in his career, Smith had gone three Tests without a half-century.

David Warner miscued a pull to mid-on, Marnus Labuschagne picked out midwicket (although not until he had scored another fifty and become the first batsman to 1000 Test runs this year) and Travis Head flicked straight to leg gully, his second poor dismissal of the match. Those moments are unlikely to have much bearing on this game, but they are little markers for the Tests to come.

“First and foremost it’s to try and get through this match but we have wait and see what the wicket’s like in Melbourne,” Ross Taylor said. “It’s definitely a tactic we’ve used in New Zealand to good effect and Neil has been a fantastic exponent of doing that. The match-ups throughout this whole series, not just this match, will be key and we’ll get a lot of confidence from that.”

Burns acknowledged that knowing the plan was coming and play it are two different things, highlighting the fact that the pace of New Zealand’s – around the low 130kph-mark without the injured Lockie Ferguson – presents a different challenge to when the ball is fired down at 150kph.

“We spoke it, they’ve done it to us and all sorts of different teams in the past,” he said. “We spoke about being clear how you want to play. It’s always disappointing when you lose wickets but credit to the New Zealand bowlers, to get through the overs they’ve done and get executing the short ball for long periods of time. It’s probably why they are No. 2 in the world

“It’s easier said than done to say you’ll come round the wicket, or for Wagner to bowl long periods of the short ball to that field, there isn’t much margin of error if you miss. If you bowl bad balls you’ll leak a lot of runs. Credit to them, it’s a big part of their bowling plans. As a batter you just try to wear them down, pounce on bad balls, but they didn’t miss too many times.

“It’s awkward because you feel like you can play it. At the speeds they bowl it’s challenging, different because they are asking you to play the shot to get off strike and you are bringing in all their catchers. Credit to them because they can execute it for a long period of time. They find a way to keep creating wickets when they flatten out.”



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Virat Kohli stresses on intensity and clarity in New Zealand

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India will focus on starting their T20I series against New Zealand, which will kick off the month-long, all-format tour of the country, with “intensity”, Virat Kohli said on the eve of their departure to Auckland.

In the short ODI series at home against Australia, India batted first with mixed results in the first two matches, before sealing the third one in a chase. One way or other, Kohli said, India wanted to go into the New Zealand series with clarity and purpose.

“We want to bat well when we bat first and in case we’re defending a low total, we should be able to do that as well,” Kohli said. “[…] Clarity of mind is really crucial because we’re playing in conditions that are not ours, so we have to take even more intensity into that series to put the home team under pressure, set that sort of template from game one and build from there.

“We can’t afford to ease into the series after two games, because then it keeps getting tougher and tougher, so we’ll look to make a mark in the first game that we play, play expressive cricket and be sure of what we want to do.”

ALSO READ: ‘The last six or eight months have been a revelation’ – Kohli

India lost their first ODI against Australia by ten wickets before coming back to win the series 2-1. Kohli said that during the huddle ahead of the final ODI against Australia in Bengaluru on Sunday, the team discussed going to New Zealand on a happy note, and beating a team like Australia was vital ahead of a tough tour.

“It’s important. We spoke of that at the huddle, that this is the last game we’re playing in the series and if we win, you go on a tour on a happy note,” Kohli said. “If you lose, it can go under the radar, you can brush it aside as ‘oh it’s just one loss’, but when you win and win under pressure – the last two games were tough wins – it boosts your confidence which we’re carrying forward, so looking forward to the New Zealand tour.”

India last toured New Zealand almost exactly a year ago and began with a 4-1 win in the ODI series, but New Zealand won the T20I series that followed. That tour came in the lead up to last year’s ODI World Cup, and the number of matches in each format are reverse this year, with the T20 World Cup scheduled for later in the year.

“[On the last tour] we were very positive in how we played, very sure of what we wanted to do,” Kohli said. “The thing about playing away is if you’re able to put the home team under pressure, you can enjoy your cricket. You have to win at home, there’s that sort of feeling. So if you bring out your A game, you can really put them under pressure.

“That’s what we did last year, squeezed them in the middle overs, picked up wickets, and the spinners were outstanding. Looking forward to take that same intensity into the series. We’ve played really well in 2020, want to continue that.”



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Recent Match Report – Zimbabwe vs Sri Lanka 1st Test 2020

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Sri Lanka 42 for 1 (Oshada 21, Karunaratne 12*, Tiripano 1-5) trail Zimbabwe 358 (Ervine 85, Kasuza 63, Masvaure 55, Embuldeniya 5-114) by 316 runs

Lasith Embuldeniya completed a second five-wicket haul in Test cricket, and Sri Lanka’s attack finally made headway, but Zimbabwe still ended day two in a position of strength in Harare, thanks in part to a late Sri Lankan wicket.

Nine batsmen fell on Monday in total, in comparison to the two on the stolid first day. The pitch was beginning to show hints of deterioration and life. Where there had been virtually no spin on Sunday, there was at least modest grip today for Embuldeniya to exploit. After Zimbabwe had been bowled out for 358 early in the second session, Donald Tiripano then delivered the ball of the match so far, getting a length ball to jag dramatically back at opener Oshada Fernando, to breach his defences and send middle stump cartwheeling. It seems likely that ball had struck a widening crack.

Still 316 runs ahead, and with Sri Lanka one down now, Zimbabwe can still dream of a healthy first-innings lead overnight. Tiripano was chief among those pushing their cause forward on day two, first hitting 44 not out from No. 8, and joining debutant Victor Nyauchi to put up a 30-run last-wicket stand to further defy a Sri Lanka side that had been made to field for 139 overs (it would be 148 by the time the innings was done). His dismissal of Fernando, which he produced in his first over of the match, then buoyed Zimbabwe just before stumps, and will have worried the Sri Lanka batsmen looking on. Sikandar Raza also made a confident 41 through the course of the afternoon, and was the only Zimbabwe batsman to strike at better than 50.

It was Embuldeniya, though, who did most to bring what was a sleepy Test to life on Monday. In the morning session, he artfully lured Sean Williams to push at a floated, wide delivery, and took his outside edge, which was snaffled by the wicketkeeper. He then took three wickets in the afternoon session to complete his haul (he had also dismissed Prince Masvaure on day one), first having Regis Chakabva caught by a tumbling Angelo Mathews at mid-on, then spinning one past the advancing Raza, before turning a ball between the bat and pad of Kyle Jarvis to clatter off stump. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given he is the lead spinner, Embuldeniya bowled 42 overs in the innings, which comprised more than 28% of the overs delivered by Sri Lanka. His five wickets cost 114 runs.

Full report to follow…



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Liam Livingstone, Josh Inglis smash fifties in Perth Scorchers' victory

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Chasing a modest 154, the belligerent openers flayed the Thunder attack in an opening stand of 136



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