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RCB bank on home advantage in bid to stay alive

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Big Picture

For the first time this season, Royal Challengers Bangalore have picked up wins in successive matches, both away from home. Now with their campaign on the line, they return to home comforts to take on table-toppers Sunrisers Hyderabad. Irrespective of how other results pan out, wins in both their matches is non-negotiable for RCB, although mathematical possibilities could see them miraculously enter the playoffs even with just one win. That’s a route they wouldn’t want to take, however.

Each of their three recent wins, against Mumbai Indians, Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab, have been a result of stupendous bowling performances, led superbly by Umesh Yadav. Four of their wins overall have come while chasing, with either AB de Villiers making a half-century or Virat Kohli steering them through. Now against the best bowling attack of the tournament, they will need more players to up their game.

RCB concede 12.17 per over in the death overs, the highest by a team this season. Their ability to chase notwithstanding, a strong finish with the ball is mandatory, if they are to chase, against an attack that has a history of defending small targets. Sunrisers are already assured of a top-two finish. This means they could look at giving a few of their back-up players an opportunity without hampering the team’s balance. It’s also as good an opportunity as any for the misfiring Manish Pandey to hit form at the ground he calls home.

In the news

Wriddhiman Saha is recovering from a shoulder injury and should slot back in if the team management deems his recovery satisfactory. This could mean a return to the bench for Shreevats Goswami.

Previous meeting

Sunrisers’ bowling might came to their rescue. They huffed and puffed to 146 after losing 7 for 34, but outstanding death bowling – they gave away just 19 off their last three overs – helped pull off a coup, with RCB falling five short.

Likely XIs

Royal Challengers Bangalore 1 Virat Kohli (capt), 2 Parthiv Patel (wk), 3 Moeen Ali, 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Mandeep Singh, 6 Sarfaraz Khan, 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Tim Southee, 9 Umesh Yadav, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal

Sunrisers Hyderabad 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Alex Hales, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Manish Pandey, 5 Deepak Hooda, 6 Shakib Al Hasan, 7 Shreevats Goswami/Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Siddarth Kaul, 11 Sandeep Sharma

Strategic punt

  • Kohli has scored 30 or more in four out of five RCB wins this season. Against Sunrisers, he’s made 473 at 59.1 and a strike rate of 145.1, so getting him out early is paramount. If you’re Sunrisers, your two best men for the job are Rashid Khan and Sandeep Sharma. The RCB captain has stuttered against legspin this season, managing just 75 runs from 65 balls and losing his wicket three times in eight innings. And while he has had his share of success against Sandeep, whom he has slapped for 56 runs in 33 balls, Kohli has fallen to him five times in eight innings.

  • RCB can look to counter the Alex Hales threat by bringing on his England teammate Moeen Ali. Hales has scored at a run a ball off the 17 balls he has faced from Moeen and perished to him twice in three innings. Hales, in fact, has struggled against all kinds of spin bowlers this season. He has 22 runs off the 31 balls he has faced from them and perished to them twice in three innings.

Stats that matter

  • RCB have won three of the last five meetings between these two sides at this venue. And the players to have won it for them (no prizes for guessing): de Villiers twice and Kohli once.

  • Since Sunrisers came into existence, RCB have never held a superior head-to-head record against them. While they were even in the first three seasons with one victory each, Sunrisers have bettered RCB in each of the last three seasons: 2-1 in 2016, and 1-0 in 2017 and 2018.

  • De Villiers feasts on this Sunrisers bowling attack. None of Sunrisers’ main bowlers has a favourable record against de Villiers. Overall, he has plundered 380 runs off the 219 balls he has faced from them, averaging 42.2 and striking at 173.5.

  • Several big names are approaching important milestones. Kohli needs 68 runs to notch up 5000 career IPL runs, while Shikhar Dhawan is 70 away from 4000 and Kane Williamson needs 45 to hit 1000.

Fantasy pick

Dhawan is one of the reasons Sunrisers haven’t felt the absence of David Warner. He is their second-highest run-scorer and is now riding on successive half-centuries. Moreover, his record at the Chinnaswamy makes him a favourable pick: 246 runs in eight T20 innings at an average of 49.2 and a best of 73 not out.

Sandeep has had an outstanding IPL. His economy rate of 5.83 is the best this season and goes alongside eight wickets at 22.62. A proven, consistent performer who doesn’t really eat into your purse. What else do you need?



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How do you fit Ben Stokes back in the England team?

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Ben Stokes was added to the England squad for the third Test against India less than two hours after being acquitted of affray at Bristol Crown Court. From a purely cricketing point of view, England now have the dilemma of how to fit him back into the team after the success of Chris Woakes and Sam Curran. Here are the main options

Drop Sam Curran (or Chris Woakes)

It would be harsh on Curran just two games after a Man of the Match award, but as the least experienced of the attack he is probably the most vulnerable. However, Trent Bridge is known as a venue that favours swing bowlers – James Anderson’s stats are outstanding at the ground – and that is Curran’s strength. His left-arm angle has also caused the India batsmen problems. This does, though, appear to be the likeliest route for Stokes’ inclusion. What of the last in, first out route? Chris Woakes was Stokes’ direct replacement at Lord’s. Nope. After a maiden Test century and four wickets, that won’t be happening with Woakes.

No spinner gamble

Adil Rashid had one of the quietest Tests of the all-time at Lord’s. Trent Bridge has the highest average for England spinners of all their home Test venues so there could be an argument whether they even need a spinner. There is rarely, however, a situation where five quicks does not feel like an overkill regardless of the venue. The luxury that England have – due to their number of allrounders – is always being able to field a balanced attack, so it would seem counter-intuitive to move away from that.

All the allrounders

It’s the era of the allrounder for England so how about playing them all? Trevor Bayliss has more than once said how he believes Stokes can be a Test No. 5 – and he played that role in Auckland earlier this year. This would entail leaving out Ollie Pope or Jos Buttler. Pope showed promise on his debut while Buttler was named vice-captain at the start of the series, so is clearly inked in as part of the side. Buttler’s omission would also mean a further reshuffle in the slips and leaving out Pope would have Jonny Bairstow batting at No. 4 and keeping wicket. There is one way around that: give Buttler the gloves and leave Bairstow to be a specialist batsman. That, though, won’t be happening anytime soon.

Something really radical

Linked to the option of taking the gloves off Bairstow would be a significant shake-up of the batting order. Promote Bairstow to open – the position he holds in one-day cricket with such success – in place of Keaton Jennings who has yet to make a substantial score since his recall, albeit in some tricky batting conditions. That would, as with the previous option, allow Stokes to fit back into the middle while also retaining Pope and Buttler. However, opening in Test cricket is a much different prospect to the one-day game where the white Kookaburra barely moves. And there’s that wicketkeeping debate.

Leave him out

Just because Stokes is in the squad doesn’t mean he has to play. He has been through an emotionally draining period in court. No doubt Stokes will think he’s ready to play, but sometimes for the sake of a player the decision has to be taken out of his hands. The flip side to that is that, with his court case looming, he did not lose an ounce of focus at Edgbaston in a matchwinning performance.



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The third Curran – Ben – signs for Northamptonshire

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Ben Curran, the brother of England cricketers Sam and Tom, has signed with Northamptonshire, the club of their late father, Kevin, for the remainder of the season.

Ben, 22, a left-handed batsman, made his Northamptonshire debut in the T20 Blast against Derbyshire last week after a successful period in the 2nd XI where he scored 490 runs in six Championship matches having caught the club’s eye while playing against them for MCC Young Cricketers.

“I’m delighted to have signed for Northants. The fact that my Dad played here too it makes it even more special to be able to represent this county,” Curran said

“I hope that I can contribute in all three formats over the next few years and fingers crossed we can have a strong end to the season in both the Blast and the County Championship”.

Northants’ head coach, David Ripley said: “Ben has scored heavily in all formats for us in the 2’s as well as continuing to churn out runs for the MCCYC’s.

“He deserves an opportunity and we look forward to working with him over the next two seasons. He has a lot of competitive spirit and I know he will make the most of his chance.

“We are grateful to Steve Kirby and the YC’s for their cooperation in making this happen.”

Kevin Curran had a successful spell with Northamptonshire between 1991 and 1999



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Adam Zampa, Glenn Phillips keep St Lucia Stars winless | Cricket

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Jamaica Tallawahs 176 for 4 (Phillips 58, Powell 43) beat St Lucia Stars 175 all out (Fletcher 43, Sammy 36, Zampa 3-27, Thomas 3-39) by six wickets




© CPL/Sportsfile


Andre Russell’s captaincy career remains perfect while St Lucia Stars still have no idea what a win feels like, they’re now winless for 14 matches – a streak stretching back to 2016 when they were known as the Zouks. For the record, Jamaica Tallawahs recorded their second successive win courtesy a Glenn Phillips half-century and an 81-run stand with Johnson Charles in a 176 chase. They eventually won with two balls to spare, but the win was more comprehensive than that.

Double your curse: Zouks meet Sandpapergate

It’s hard to know which curse possesses a more powerful life force at the moment: the Zouks, who have hexed the St Lucia franchise since they were struck off the letterhead or those impacted by Sandpapergate or David Warner’s string of unlucky and unusual dismissals that started in King City during the Global T20 Canada.

Warner was the victim of one of the poorer lbw decisions of the DRS era on Saturday, struck outside off stump on the gloves missing a reverse sweep. On Wednesday, he was partially done in by lack of footwork, but even still his toe-drag drive against Oshane Thomas would have gone past leg stump on most occasions. Instead the ball caromed off Warner’s feet, then knuckled up into the air with the backspin grazing off the bails. All Warner could do was laugh as he walked off.

Another CPL matchwinning leggie

Russell intervened to break a 54-run stand between Lendl Simmons and Andre Fletcher that followed Warner’s early dismissal, but the major momentum killer in the Stars innings was Adam Zampa, who continued the trend of legspinners producing top notch performances in CPL 2018.

Fletcher was his first victim in the 11th over, aiming for mid-on to a delivery pitching on leg stump when sharp turn produced a leading edge long-off. Two balls later, another leg stump delivery accounted for Mark Chapman, but this one was a googly that beat Mark Chapman’s drive to crash into the stumps. His biggest blow came in the 16th when a quicker ball cramped Kieron Pollard for room on an attempted cut that floated to Ross Taylor at point. The tail wagged for 50 runs in the final five overs but Stars were well short of what they could have achieved before Zampa wiped out their big guns.

Phill your boots

Playing the last place team in the competition is a general invitation to make merry with bat or ball. Tallawahs keeper Phillips accepted the offer to top score with 58 off 40 balls, including a half-dozen sixes. The high number of dot balls was representative of a decent effort across the first five overs of the Powerplay by the Stars bowling unit to keep the run rate manageable, but that unraveled in the sixth over bowled by Qais Ahmad.

It actually started off quite well for Qais, who beat Phillips with a pair of ripping legbreaks on the first two deliveries that had Darren Sammy excited at slip. But Qais started bowling a 14-yard length to match the inevitable extension of Stars winless streak to 14 matches and the result was three straight balls heaved by Phillips over square leg for six, six and four. He eventually brought up his fifty off 34 balls in the 11th over before falling to Obed McCoy, caught uppercutting to third man where Kesrick Williams took a fantastic diving catch.

Sorry skip

Simmons may want to find a seat as far away as possible from Pollard on the Stars flight from Jamaica to St Lucia for the start of their home leg. The three worst fielding mistakes of the night all came courtesy Simmons, all three off his captain’s bowling.

The first incident happened in the 14th over when Andre McCarthy drove softly to Simmons who spilled a straightforward chance at cover. The next incident happened in the 18th over when Rovman Powell swung one to long-on where Simmons covered ground running right but shelled another chance.

The Simmons misfieldhat-trick was completed on the final ball of the match. Ross Taylor had just leveled scores on the third ball of the 20th over with a six over midwicket. Taylor drove the next ball straight to Simmons at mid-off. Perhaps aware that it was Simmons doing the fielding, Powell bolted from the non-striker’s end while Taylor stayed put only to see Simmons fumble the ball between his legs.

Taylor belatedly took off as Simmons eventually gathered the ball on the third attempt and still had plenty of time to relay to either Pollard or Sammy, who was running in from short midwicket to field a throw over the stumps. But Simmons fired a panicky throw well wide of the stumps that also shorthopped Sammy and gave him no chance to collect despite Taylor being five yards short. An exasperated Pollard shook his head, praying that his side’s fortunes will change over the next five matches at home in Gros Islet.

Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo’s USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna


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