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Curran departure leads frustrated Stewart to call for IPL cut-off date – WSAIGO Sports
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Curran departure leads frustrated Stewart to call for IPL cut-off date

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Alec Stewart, Surrey’s director of cricket, has lent his weight to calls for the ECB to consider a cut-off date for future call-ups to the IPL, after his team’s early-season plans were thrown “out of the window” due to the last-minute departure of Tom Curran to Kolkata Knight Riders.

Though Curran went unsold at his base price of USD156,000 during the IPL auction in February, his stock as a limited-overs allrounder rose considerably during England’s subsequent ODI series win in New Zealand.

And, when Mitchell Starc was ruled out of this year’s campaign due to a shin injury, KKR swooped for Curran in a USD253,000 deal. Barely a week later, he made his debut against Chennai Super Kings at Chepauk, and has impressed his new employers with three wickets in two appearances to date.

While Stewart did not begrudge his player either the pay packet or the high-pressure experience that he accepts will help mould Curran into a better player, he bridled at the timing of his departure, just days before the start of a County Championship campaign in which he had been expected to be a pivotal player.

Curran’s departure was one of three high-profile call-ups from the county circuit this month, preceding Yorkshire’s twin losses of David Willey and Liam Plunkett to Chennai Super Kings and Delhi Daredevils respectively, and the subject was the hot topic of discussion at last week’s crisis meeting of county coaches at Edgbaston.

“It’s far from ideal losing Tom so late,” Stewart said. “I hope in time this will be looked at. The IPL is not going anywhere – I fully understand players wanting to be part of it because, one, it’s a good competition and, second, it helps your bank balance.

“The problem is when you get the phone calls I got for Tom, and Martyn Moxon [Yorkshire’s director of cricket] got for Willey and Plunkett. Your planning goes out of the window.”

“Tom will come back a better player so I don’t have a real issue with it, but the issue is who controls the players – are they our players or are they IPL players?”

Alec Stewart, Surrey director of cricket

The fact that the IPL overlaps with the start of the county season has long been a bone of contention for the ECB, who were resistant to allowing their players to take part in the tournament for most of the first decade of its existence.

But now, having relaxed their attitude towards English involvement, an alternative problem is rearing its head – given that the players’ efforts to get ready for the English season make them obvious oven-ready replacements for IPL franchises seeking to replace injured players.

“All I think needs to be looked at is a cut-off, ideally a month before the championship starts,” Stewart said. “If you get picked up in the auction, that’s fine – it’s at the end of February, so that’s six or seven weeks before the start of the season.

“Then everyone knows that, even if you don’t get picked up in the auction, there’s a three- or four-week window, but once that has gone, you can’t then go and play.”

Stewart believes that the matter has been complicated by blurred lines of communication between the players, the counties, the ECB and the franchises, and says that a redrafting of the No Objection Certificate is the only way to prevent the situation being presented to the counties as a fait accompli.

“How it should work is that IPL phone the ECB to ask about a player, and the ECB talk to the county. That’s how it is meant to work – but it doesn’t, though, because the franchise will ring the player or agent direct to see if they are interested and, once they are told the money, they always are – so you have to let them go.”

“That needs to go on the No Objection Certificate, so that the IPL know and the franchises know that’s the deal and the players understand as well. Otherwise it leaves us in a bit of a mess.

“Tom will come back a better player so I don’t have a real issue with it, but the issue is who controls the players – are they our players or are they IPL players? They are under contract [to the counties] for 12 months, so I would argue they are ours. We should have more control than just saying ‘I guess you are going then’.”

A further complication stems from what Stewart believes is insufficient compensation to those counties who lose out when their star players are snapped up by the IPL – an issue that came to light when Plunkett, who is on an ECB white-ball contract, was approached by Delhi earlier this month.

“We have discovered that the ECB have been receiving 10% of the overall contract a player gets from IPL for a number of years and this year it is 20%,” he said. “I hope that it will now be looked at – now that we are aware that this has been happening, which we weren’t before.

“Should the ECB be keeping that? Or should that money come back to the county, who are the ones who miss out? I personally believe all that money should come back to the county if you are not an ECB contracted player because of the money that has been invested.”



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Umesh Yadav, Aditya Sarwate hand Vidarbha innings win for semi-final berth | Cricket

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Umesh Yadav celebrates © Associated Press


Vidarbha took only eight overs on the fifth day to wrap up victory by an innings and 115 runs against Ranji Trophy debutants Uttarakhand in their quarter-final in Nagpur. Umesh Yadav and left-arm spinner Aditya Sarwate both took a five-wicket haul to bring a swift end to Uttarakhand’s second innings for 159.

Resuming on 152 for 5, Uttarakhand’s overnight batsman Saurabh Rawat, who had scored 108 in the first innings, was trapped in front by Umesh for a 21-ball duck after Sarwate had accounted for Malolan Rangarajan two overs into the day. At 154 for 7, Uttarakhand’s hopes of at least putting up a resistance vanished.

Umesh ended with 5 for 23 in 15 overs, adding to the 4 for 90 he had got in the first innings, and was adjudged the Man of the Match. Sarwate had 5 for 55 in 19.1 overs, and he sealed victory by castling No. 11 Dhanraj Sharma for his third wicket of the morning. It completed a fine all-round show for Sarwate, who had also hit his second first-class century in the first innings.

Uttarkhand had put on 355 in the first innings, to which Vidarbha responded with 629, with Wasim Jaffer’s 206 the highest score.

Vidarbha will now face Kerala in the semi-finals, in a repeat of last year’s quarter-final. On that occasion, a dominant Vidarbha had won by 412 runs in Surat, on the way to winning their maiden Ranji title.

Uttarakhand, who earned their spot in the quarter-final after topping the Plate Group, will be part of Group C next year.

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Johnson, Barsby power Brisbane Heat into maiden WBBL final

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Brisbane Heat 7 for 140 (Johnson 33, Harris 32*) beat Sydney Thunder 7 for 136 (Priest 44, Blackwell 29, Barsby 3-23) by four runs

Brisbane Heat topped Sydney Thunder in a thriller to enter their first-ever WBBL finals. The match came down to the final ball and could have gone the other way, but for a brilliant catch on the deep square leg boundary by Haidee Birkett to dismiss Nicola Carey to secure a four-run win.

Heat’s bowlers had stifled the chase on a sluggish pitch, but a late flurry of runs from Carey took them within touching distance. Carey, who had powerfully slog-swept left-arm spinner Jemma Barsby over deep square in the precious over attempted the same shot, off Jess Jonassen. Birkett, sprinting from deep backward square, snatched the ball on the move to send the Heat players into rapturous celebrations.

Set 141 for victory, Thunder had looked solid early in the chase, despite losing the dangerous Rachael Haynes in the first over. This was down to Rachel Priest’s blistering 33-ball 44. But Heat kept chipping away at the wickets and used their variations well to strangle the Thunder’s middle order. Alex Blackwell steadied the chase and was just beginning her late inning launch when she holed out to long-on off Jemma Barsby, who took 3 for 23 and was, at one stage, on a hat-trick.

Sent into bat, Heat lost three early wickets: Grace Harris holed out to a full toss from Stafanie Taylor, while Beth Mooney and Kirby Short both found leading edges. With the ball stopping in the pitch, sweeps and slog sweeps were employed well by Sammy Jo Johnson, whose 37-run partnership with Jonassen led the recovery. When Johnson was caught at long-on off by Naomi Stalenberg – one of her three catches – Laura Harris chimed in with 32 off 25 to give the Heat a total they could defend.

But Johnson – in a brilliant all round performance – hit the deck hard and successfully cramped Haynes into bunting the ball to a diving Dooley to be run out second ball. Naomi Stalenberg put on a sprightly 56-run partnership with Priest until she was fooled by Barsby’s dip and turn and was bowled through the gate.

Priest, who had seen Johnson smash the ball over the leg side, employed the same tactic, smiting five boundaries and two sixes, but the shot that brought her success was also her undoing. She was caught at deep square leg by Birkett.

The squeeze was on, led by Johnson – who conceded just 12 runs off her 4 overs – and Grace Harris, whose commentary on the Channel 7 player mic was the source for much entertainment. Her laconic insights during the over when she dropped a caught and bowled chance and then bowled a charging Stafanie Taylor were a highlight in a match that had plenty.

Just as the Thunder seemed to have succumbed to the strangle, Carey lifted a gear. When she dropped to one knee in the penultimate over and powerfully flat-batted the ball for six the great escape seemed eminently possible. In the end it took a superb piece of fielding to deny her.



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Australia playing catch-up on spin as World Cup looms

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Australia’s ODI series defeat by India exposed another major flaw in the national team’s approach to 50-over matches since the 2015 World Cup – chiefly their reluctance to play spin meaning they have now fallen well and truly behind the leading opponents in terms of white ball tweaking options.

Four years ago, Australia did not include a single full-time spin bowler in their team for the pointy end of the global tournament, leaving Xavier Doherty on close to exclusive drinks duty while Nathan Lyon did not even make the squad. Since then, Adam Zampa, Ashton Agar and Lyon have all been tried, but without the consistency or faith extended by most other countries to their slow bowlers.

The contrast with India at the MCG on Friday night was stark, as the tourists were able to shuffle out Kuldeep Yadav and replace him with the highly-skilled Yuzvendra Chahal while at the same time also employing Ravindra Jadeja and Kedar Jadhav. Meanwhile the Australians had dropped Lyon for Zampa, maintaining a policy of only using one spinner at most while seldom giving that one slow bowling option an extended run in the team.

England, another leading nation in 50-over matches, have been consistent in using both Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, with the latter in particular blossoming into a world class threat to batsmen in the middle overs of an innings.

Justin Langer, Australia’s coach, noted the contrast between Chahal’s record haul of 6 for 42 and Zampa’s 0 for 34, after Lyon had also gone without a wicket in each of the first two matches of the series. In going on to identify the importance of wicket-taking spinners in the middle overs of an innings, Langer exposed how little investment Austrlaia had placed in white-ball spin bowling for most of the four years they have had to prepare for this year’s World Cup in England.

“Nathan Lyon is probably the best off-spinner in the world. The reason why he didn’t play is that we felt that he had played two games on the back of the philosophy of trying to take wickets … then we hadn’t taken any wickets,” Langer said. “Also with the number of right handers in the Indian side, we decided to go with ‘Zamps’ to spin the ball away from the bat rather than into it.

“But Nathan Lyon is a gun. He is a world-class spinner … he is a very good fielder and one of our senior members of the team. We don’t traditionally play two spinners in one-day cricket, but it might come up in the World Cup. And certainly, in India and the UAE, there’s a good chance that will happen. There might be opportunities … where you might play both of them. If it doesn’t, depending on the opposition, we’ll pick one of those two to play in the World Cup.

“We have identified, though, that you have got to, between the 10-and-40-over mark, we have got to take wickets otherwise it gets down to the end and that’s what happened to us. We lost wickets in the middle overs and then you get down to the end and you haven’t got your main batsmen in.”

Zampa enjoyed a pair of highly successful series, a triangular tournament against West Indies and South Africa, then a bilateral in Sri Lanka, during 2016. But since then he has been starved of opportunities, playing 34 ODIs overall whereas Kuldeep has played 35 despite debuting for India more than a year after Zampa. Chahal has also played 35 in a shorter time-span than Zampa.

“If he can spin the ball both ways, he becomes a fantastic option for us, as we are seeing all round the world,” Langer said of Zampa. “It’s no secret to anyone that the leg-spinner is having a huge impact on the game and most of them who are can spin it both ways and ‘Zamps’ showed, some of those leggies he bowled and wrong-uns, was very pleasing.”

So in addition to top order batting, a balance of shotmaking and strike rotation in the middle and more adroit use of pace, spin is yet another area in which the Australian ODI team is playing catch-up, dangerously close to the start of the World Cup.



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