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Seven things we learnt from a memorable Newlands Test



This five-day Test cricket thing is pretty good

This match provided an eloquent response to those suggesting that Test cricket should last only four days. Absorbing until deep into the final session of the fifth day, it attracted large crowds and included fine displays of steadfast and aggressive batting, spells of intimidating fast and skilful seam bowling, intriguing spells of spin and, most of all, the wonderful ebb and flow that makes this game so special. It was, in short, an excellent advert for the game and strong evidence that it doesn’t require too much tinkering. Administrators meddle with it at their peril.

Winning overseas is tough

Going into this match, England had not won an away Test in a live series (one that was not already decided) against any team other than Sri Lanka or Bangladesh since they were last in South Africa four years ago. And while they may have fancied their chances when declaring shortly after lunch on day four, South Africa kept them in the field for 137.4 overs before victory was finally achieved. By then, there were only 50 deliveries left in the match.

England bowled well throughout South Africa’s second innings but, on a surface that had slowed considerably, they lacked the weapons – in particular, perhaps, an attacking spinner – which might have coaxed anything out of the pitch or the Kookaburra ball. As a result, they had to toil relentlessly hard to work their way through the South Africa batting. It was England’s first Test victory in Cape Town since 1957.

There’s only one Jimmy Anderson

James Anderson gave everything he had in this game. Even after it became clear, just before tea on the final day, that he was struggling with a side strain, he was the man his captain called upon to bowl after tea. With pain etched on his face between deliveries, he only managed two overs and may well have worsened the injury. But it was typical of him to try and telling that, even aged 37, he was the first choice in such circumstances.

It seems odd to report now but, ahead of this game, there were suggestions that Anderson might be left out. As it transpired, however, Jofra Archer was ruled out through injury and England were not forced into any such decision. But he responded with an immaculate performance. Despite rarely gaining much swing – his outswinger simply refused to move in the second innings – he maintained pressure in every spell and, in the first innings, became the oldest England seamer to take a Test five-for since Freddie Brown in 1951. It is true that several of those wickets included lower-order batsmen but England have been frustrated by such batsmen often in recent times and, on a surface that negated bowlers as skilled Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander, Anderson finished with outstanding match figures of seven wickets for 63 runs from 37 overs. England now face an anxious wait to learn the severity of the problem. And, perhaps, whether Anderson can stand the thought of another stint of rehab.

Stats don’t tell the whole story

A regular refrain from some on social media is: ‘Ben Stokes isn’t that good; his stats are ordinary.’ Whether that point about his stats is true – a batting average of 36 and bowling average of 33 are really quite impressive – the fact is you cannot judge Stokes purely in those terms. In this game, he provided a record five catches in the first innings, an outstanding innings which helped England accelerate towards a declaration in their second innings – a more selfish player might have not have been prepared to risk his own wicket in such fashion – and a display of pace bowling that underlined, once more, his strength and fitness.

While the wickets didn’t come until late, he troubled all the batsmen with his pace and hostility and perhaps created wickets at the other end with the pressure he built. It was fitting that it was Stokes, when England had tried all other options, who tore in for one final spell and claimed the final three wickets. He was, quite rightly, Player of the Match.

The Vicar takes residence

The manner in which Dom Sibley (the vicar of Sibley, geddit?) batted throughout the second innings suggested England had found an opening partner for Rory Burns. In resisting for nearly 500 minutes, he saw the shine of the ball, wore down the bowlers and eased the role of his middle-order colleagues. This is exactly the requirement an England side rather heavier on aggressors than defenders have had for several years.

Bess can perform a holding role

Dom Bess out-bowled South Africa’s Keshav Maharaj in this Test. The 22-year-old Bess, called into the squad as injury cover and without a match since September, performed admirably in conceding just 2.29 runs per over (from 27 overs) in South Africa’s first innings and thereby allowing England’s seamers to remain fresh and operate in rotation at the other end. While, in a perfect world, he might have proved more potent in the fourth innings, we probably have to be realistic. This was his third Test and only his 39th first-class game. England couldn’t reasonably have asked for more from him. Fitness permitting, he looks certain to be included in the squad to play in Sri Lanka in March.

The Barmy Army are an asset to cricket – and England, in particular

The sad truth is that, in some nations and at some grounds, this wonderful final day may have been witnessed by a handful of spectators. Here, however, the spectacle was witnessed by several thousand thoroughly engaged supporters. Not all were supporting England, of course, but many were and the noise they made and the atmosphere they generated contributed to a wonderfully memorable day. On a more practical level, the fact that England have attracted so many supporters to follow them – some estimates suggest there are 10,000 England supporters in Cape Town – with the economic benefits it brings to the cities they visit helps keep the longest format viable. They probably deserve a bit more respect than they are sometimes given.

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Hitting ‘thousands’ of balls helps Josh Philippe find form for BBL finals



Josh Philippe has followed the lead of his idol Steven Smith and is reaping the rewards for hitting “thousands” of balls over the last few weeks, as he battled a mid-tournament dip in form which he has turned around with the Sydney Sixers preparing for the Big Bash finals

The Sixers’ route may yet be tougher if the Adelaide Strikers take second place, and the double chance at qualifying for the final, but they are comfortably in the mix. Three wins on the bounce to finish the group stage has been an impressive way to overcome a stretch where they suffered at the hands of Marcus Stoinis’ 147* and were on the wrong end of some rain.

Philippe has made half-centuries in the last two of those outings against the Brisbane Heat and the Melbourne Renegades which came after a run of five matches where he managed 8, 6, 7, 1 and 10 following his unbeaten 83 against the Strikers in Coffs Harbour. He is the Sixers’ highest run-scorer from the regular season with 401 runs at 36.45, and a strike-rate of 126.10.

“To be honest I’ve hit thousands and thousands of balls, I’ve hit so many balls in the last few weeks. The thing with T20 cricket is when you miss out a few times it feels like it all happens so quickly,” Philippe told ESPNcricinfo. “We’ve had so many games close together, just the last few weeks where I didn’t get too many it felt like it all happened at once and I just kept backing myself, hitting a lot of balls, and hoping it would work out which it kind of did, which is nice.

“In the last couple of games I’ve just taken a few more balls to get myself in then starting to go, but sometimes you are chasing massive scores and don’t have time to do that. It’s all about reading the game, reading the situation, and the more you play the better you get at that.”

Hitting masses of deliveries at training is something associated with Smith, and the pair have had the chance to bat together for the first time in their careers in the last two games. Smith was instrumental in getting Philippe to sign for the Sixers in 2018 and is never shy of saying how far he believes the younger man can go.

“Geez, he was striking some balls very cleanly again,” Smith said after his unbeaten 66 completed the chase against the Renegades. “I’ve said it so much that kid has got some serious talent and he showed that again today. He just let me get into my innings before I could start getting a bit more expansive. That really helped.”

When asked about direct comparisons, Smith joked before lauding his striking: “He’s got a tiny head like me, so the boys give him a bit of stick about that. He’s got a pretty unique swing, the way he hits so clean, that six he hit to the on side early on against [Dan Christian] was an amazing shot, the way he check-drove it and gained so much power just shows the talent he’s got. He’ll enjoy playing in those pressure situations, he’ll learn. He’s so young, he’s got so much time on his hands.”

What is it like to hear Smith so often praise your game? “It’s amazing, really nice to hear so sorts of things. He’s a massive idol of mine and I look up to him,” Philippe said. “I’d love to one day get half as many runs as he’s got at the next level. It’s really cool to have that, and fingers crossed, I can keep making runs.”

And if someone had told Philippe a few years ago that he would be batting alongside Smith he wouldn’t have believed them. “I would have said ‘you’re dreaming’ but it’s pretty amazing. I’m stoked to be here and be in a really cool set-up with the Sixers. It’s such a bonus that we get Smith, [Josh] Hazlewood and [Nathan] Lyon back playing and it’s really cool to mix with those guys.”

As Philippe noted, the Sixers have their Australia players back and there remains some hope that Sean Abbott may yet be able to return from the side injury that ruled him out of the ODI squad to tour India. That would be a boost because the one issue the Sixers have to ponder is how to fill to the hole left by their leading wicket-taker Tom Curran, who departs for England duty now the regular season has finished, having claimed 22 wickets capped off with 3 for 27 against the Renegades.

“[He has] some great skills, he has been magnificent with the ball and under pressure with the bat,” Smith said. “Watching on TV that game that got to the Super Over [against Sydney Thunder] that was one of the best knocks I’ve seen at this Big Bash. He’ll be a big loss. He’s done his job as an overseas player, helped get us to the finals, now it’s our job to get it done for him.”

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AB de Villiers' magic keeps Brisbane Heat alive



The Melbourne Stars have been uncatchable at the top of the points table for a while, but they have now lost three matches in a row

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Match Preview New Zealand vs India, 2nd T20I 2020



Big Picture

New Zealand actually had a fairly decent game with the ball – their plans were good, execution not always but spot on but more on than off – but they still lost comfortably to India in the series opener. This tells you two things: when India are chasing, you need to put on an above-par score, and Jasprit Bumrah always stands in the way of such an endeavour. In an innings that New Zealand kept nudging at 10 an over, looking for a final kick to push them past 220, Bumrah conceded just 16 runs in overs 18 and 20, three overthrows included.

New Zealand can match India’s accomplished batting line-up over 20 overs with power and innovation, but it is in the bowling that India continue to be a superior side. In the second of the double-header at Eden Park, the hosts will have to find a way to hurt India’s bowling to give their bowlers a chance. Expect Shivam Dube and Yuzvendra Chahal to be put under more pressure and not be allowed to go at eight an over on such a small ground.

India’s batting remains good as gold in chases, but if they lose the toss, their newfound intent – and they have shown it when batting first against West Indies and Australia in both T20Is and ODIs recently – will be tested when setting a target on the small ground.

Form guide

New Zealand LLLWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)

In the spotlight

New Zealand openers gave them a start in the first T20I, but they ended up with strike rates of 140 and 158. They will want at least one of Martin Guptill and Colin Munro to score at near two runs a ball to get a score big enough for this venue.

Five overs for 42 runs and two wickets, Ravindra Jadeja and Shivam Dube will have pleased India no end with their performance in the first match. That there are two allrounders eases the pressure on both of them. If they can keep delivering similar results, India will be closer to finding a plan for the T20 World Cup.

Team news

New Zealand might think of the odd change but they will know it was not in the choice of the personnel that they lost the first game.

New Zealand (probable): 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Colin Munro, 3 Kane Williamson (capt.),4 Colin de Grandhomme, 5 Ross Taylor, 6 Tim Seifert (wk) 7 Mitchell Santner/ Daryl Mitchell, 8 Ish Sodhi, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Blair Tickner, 11 Hamish Bennett

Now that they have preferred Manish Pandey to Rishabh Pant in the middle order, India are expected to give him a decent run. Expect only one change in the Indian XI: Navdeep Saini in for Shardul Thakur.

India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 KL Rahul (wk), 3 Virat Kohli (capt.), 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 Manish Pandey, 6 Shivam Dube 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Yuzvendra Chahal, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Navdeep Saini, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Pitch and conditions

The first T20I featured some dew, which will be on the minds of captains at the toss. Other than that, expect a lot of runs and no stoppages.

Stats and trivia

  • Ish Sodhi needs one wicket to become the fourth New Zealand bowler to take 50. Mitchell Santner had reached the landmark on Friday.

  • Only one of the last six matches at Eden Park has resulted in a win for the side batting first.


“We had great support. We had 80% India fans here, and the atmosphere was great. You need that in a 200-plus chase, they help us go further, be braver.”
Virat Kohli is thankful for the fans turning it into a home game

“Every time we play India, whether it is a home game, away game or a neutral venue, they’re always very well supported. I am not sure what the numbers were today. There’s probably 20,000, and probably 12,000 were Indian supporters.”
Ross Taylor on playing at home but not quite

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