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Kings XI bowl; Mumbai bring back Pollard in must-win game



Toss: Kings XI Punjab chose to bowl v Mumbai Indians



Graeme Swann and Sanjay Manjrekar preview the crucial game between Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab

Kings XI Punjab captain R Ashwin stuck to this season’s trend of chasing at the Wankhede Stadium, choosing to bowl first in a crucial game against Mumbai Indians. No team has opted to bat first at this ground this season.

In a must-win game, Mumbai brought back Kieron Pollard for JP Duminy. Captain Rohit Sharma said Mumbai had done well in the second half of the season to stay alive in the tournament, but “fearless cricket was needed to get two points.”

Kings XI brought back Yuvraj Singh and Manoj Tiwary for Karun Nair and Mayank Agarwal in a bid to bolster a faltering middle order. Mujeeb Ur Rahman continued to remain sidelined after he injured his bowling hand against Kolkata Knight Riders, on May 12.

Mumbai Indians: 1 Evin Lewis, 2 Suryakumar Yadav, 3 Rohit Sharma (capt), 4 Ishan Kishan (wk), 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 Krunal Pandya, 7 Kieron Pollard, 8 Ben Cutting, 9 Mitchell McClenaghan, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Mayank Markande

Kings XI Punjab: 1 KL Rahul (wk), 2 Chris Gayle, 3 Yuvraj Singh, 4 Manoj Tiwary, 5 Aaron Finch, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Axar Patel, 8 R Ashwin (capt), 9 Andrew Tye, 10 Mohit Sharma, 11 Ankit Rajpoot

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SLC to support investigation into pitch-fixing allegations



Sri Lanka Cricket will cooperate fully with the ICC in its investigations into allegations of pitch-fixing in two Test matches in the past, and potentially one later this year against England.

The board’s response came after TV news channel Al Jazeera claimed that a person involved in preparing the pitches in Galle for the Tests against India in 2017 and Australia in 2016 had tailored the surfaces according to instructions from a person involved in betting. The report also alleged that the Galle pitch for the Test against England later this year would also be made to order for betting.

“Mr Ashley de Silva, CEO of Sri Lanka Cricket is in contact with the CEO of the International Cricket Council Mr. David Richardson and the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit on the matter,” SLC said. “Sri Lanka Cricket wishes to state that it has zero tolerance towards corruption and will take immediate action against any person involved in the alleged incident, if found guilty.

“In the meantime, Sri Lanka Cricket is constantly engaged with the ICC and is following its guidelines on how to handle anti-corruption operations for the forthcoming tours in Sri Lanka.”

The ICC confirmed it was investigating the report. “The ICC is aware of an investigation into corruption in cricket by a news organisation and as you would expect we will take the contents of the programme and any allegations it may make very seriously,” Alex Marshall, ICC general manager Anti-Corruption Unit, said in a statement. “We have already launched an investigation working with anti-corruption colleagues from Member countries based on the limited information we have received. We have made repeated requests that all evidence and supporting materials relating to corruption in cricket is released immediately to enable us to undertake a full and comprehensive investigation.”

According to another head curator in Sri Lanka, however, the individual mentioned in the Al Jazeera report is not a curator, but someone in charge of the temporary staff working at the Galle stadium and was not in charge of either of the two Test pitches specified in the report.

The Al Jazeera report claimed that the individual – under instructions from the bettors – had made a batting-friendly surface for the India Test and a spin-friendly one for the Australia Test, but ESPNcricinfo can confirm the Sri Lanka team had in fact requested the actual curator for such surfaces. Additionally, Galle surfaces have often tended to be very spin-friendly, and are routinely result-oriented pitches, the last draw there having come in 2013.

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Hasan Raza caught on camera in alleged spot-fixing sting



Former Pakistan batsman Hasan Raza has been filmed on camera by news channel Al Jazeera in the same room as another former cricketer – Robin Morris from Mumbai – talks about facilitating spot-fixing in T20 tournaments.

Raza does not participate in the conversation between Morris and the undercover reporter, but is seated in the chair adjacent to Morris. Raza and Morris both played for Mumbai Champs, a team in the now-defunct Indian Cricket League between 2007-08.

Al Jazeera said Hasan Raza did not respond to its allegations, while Morris “denies any wrongdoing” and said the channel invited him “to audition for, and act in, a commercial movie ‘for public entertainment’.”

In the video, part of a broader investigative documentary the channel will air from Sunday, Morris talks about setting up a T20 tournament for the purposes of spot-fixing and betting. He says that no A-grade players will be involved, but that he can bring in B, C, and D grade players. He talks of taking such tournaments from Dubai, to Hong Kong, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka.

In another location, poolside at a hotel, a person identified by Al Jazeera as Gaurav Rajkumar is seen and heard talking about organising a four-team T20 tournament in the UAE. Morris is also present during this conversation and later details how much money a corrupt player stands to make by facilitating spot-fixing in such tournaments.

Al Jazeera said Rajkumar also claimed the channel invited him to act in a movie for public entertainment.

The videos were released on the same day that Al Jazeera also alleged that a person involved in the preparation of pitches in Galle, Sri Lanka, for the Tests against India in 2017 and Australia in 2016 had tailored the surfaces according to instructions from a person involved in betting. The report also alleged that the Galle pitch for the Test against England later this year would also be made to order for betting.

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CSK, Sunrisers reflect on challenges overcome on eve of grand final



The two IPL 2018 finalists have traversed contrasting paths during the past seven weeks to get to Mumbai. And now they face off for the fourth time this season, after overcoming very different challenges.

Sunrisers Hyderabad will play their second IPL final but for their new captain Kane Williamson, it will be his first. They have largely banked on Williamson’s batting and strangled oppositions with their bowling attack, and Sunrisers coach Tom Moody said succeeding on different kind of pitches – especially adapting to flat ones – was their strength.

“They [bowlers] have done an excellent job,” Moody said while sitting next to Williamson at the team hotel in Mumbai. “There’s no question about that. We played on a number of varied wickets throughout the tournament and we’ve managed to adjust pretty effectively with Kane’s leadership with regards to how he used those bowlers through the 20 overs. We’ve managed to – more often than not – get it right.

“I guess those experiences of playing on some wickets that the team found flat has been really good for us. We did come across a couple of surfaces which were quite different than what we had played a lot of our games on. Yes, we didn’t get the results that we wanted but what we did get was compete in every single one of those games. We didn’t have an occasion this year where we were smashed up in any game. Even last night, perhaps a lot of people thought after the seventh over we’re out of the contest, but that was certainly not the mind set of the 11 players on the field.”

Their opponents Chennai Super Kings are in the final in their first season back after serving a two-year suspension. MS Dhoni and Stephen Fleming were together at Rising Pune Supergiant for those two years as well, and are reaping the benefits of those experiences – second from bottom in 2016 and second from top in 2017 – with their original franchise. Among their problems were the average age of their squad, a couple of tournament-ending injuries, and losing home advantage after playing only one game in Chennai.

“The challenge this year was slightly different to what we faced in the past seven-eight years,” Dhoni said on the eve of the IPL final. “The age group of the boys was definitely a concern as we had to keep them fit because of the frequency of the games. You have to manoeuvre your resources and you have to look at the bigger picture, to make sure that when we come to the business end of the tournament, our best XI is available.

“I was saddened that we couldn’t play our home matches in Chennai but I was still happy that we played at least one match. Our fans waited a very long time for this moment.”

CSK’s strength has been how different players have stepped up one after another to steal wins from oppositions. Faf du Plessis’ 67 against Sunrisers earlier this week was the latest example. It also meant Dhoni has plenty of resources to choose from, which showed when he did not bowl Harbhajan Singh at all in the first qualifier. In typical philosophical mode, Dhoni said having experience in his “old” squad made a difference, but that was not all a T20 team needed.

“Yes, we want to contribute as a team but it is always good when an individual takes the game away from the opposition as it makes the job of the others easy,” Dhoni said. “Experience really counts but it’s not that it always matters. It is not something that can’t be replaced.

“It is good that whenever we have played we have had at least two good fielders or outstanding fielders, that can man that deep midwicket position. We have done well so far but it is something that can hurt us at any time.

“There are times especially when you have six to seven bowlers in the side, you see the conditions, who is batting and what is needed at that point. I have always said in the past when we had [Pawan] Negi and [Ravindra] Jadeja I always gave them different slots in bowling. I see the conditions and what is best for the team, and then decide who to bowl, who has the best chance against the batsman. It is always tough, in the last game I didn’t feel it was necessary to bowl him (Harbhajan), and I didn’t bowl him.”

Fleming, the CSK coach, was aware that Sunrisers also had individual performers standing up, citing Rashid Khan’s example, and joked while looking at Williamson and Moody at the press conference table to say, “he won’t probably be able to do it tomorrow because having to do it twice in a row is tough.”

Fleming brought up the point of how the CSK squad had been “written off after the auction” and said having different performers contribute to wins was “a characteristic of our campaign that we needed.”

“I guess teams win competitions when individuals can win finals, so we’re game for that match-winning performance and it’s going to have to come because the opposition is very good,” Fleming said.

Despite having loads of experience in the squad, Fleming and Dhoni also carry the burden of a poor record in finals, having won only two out of six with CSK, and losing one for Rising Pune Supergiant against Mumbai Indians last year. Williamson also carries baggage but of a different kind – of losing three matches to CSK already this year.

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