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Spirited Australia can’t mask batting frailties as Moeen Ali spins England to victory

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England 218 for 7 (Morgan 69, Root 50) beat Australia 214 (Maxwell 62, Plunkett 3-42 Moeen 3-43) by three wickets
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details

They were handing out sandpaper boundary placards on the way up from Vauxhall Tube Station, but in the end, nothing could smooth away the rough edges in Australia’s new-look batting line-up. Despite their rookie bowling attack mounting a spirited defence of a substandard target of 215, England overcame a double dose of jitters to seal a three-wicket victory in the first ODI at The Kia Oval.

Most of the pre-series focus had, rightly, been on the absence of Australia’s finest two batsmen, David Warner and Steven Smith, and, as might have been expected, they struggled to mitigate for that void in class. After winning the toss on a bright afternoon in South London, Australia mustered 214 in 47 overs, the sort of slow-death innings that exposed their shortcomings more comprehensively than a full-on batting collapse could have done.

Nevertheless, England aren’t without a few notable embarrassments in their (very) recent history, and only days after failing to close out a chase of 372 to hand Scotland a famous victory, they came improbably close to stumbling in pursuit of a target of barely half that height. The beanpole seamer Billy Stanlake was the catalyst for Australia’s defiance, bowling Jason Roy second-ball for a duck as England slipped to 38 for 3 at the top of their innings, before Andrew Tye and his illegible T20 variations came to the fore in the tense closing stages.

In the end it was left to David Willey to haul England over the line with an improbably grindy knock of 35 from 41 balls, with Liam Plunkett unbowed for the second match running on 3. But even then, England still won with a handsome 36 deliveries to spare, which spoke to the gulf in batting quality more eloquently than the official margin of victory.

That was largely a testament to the elder-statesman class of Joe Root and Eoin Morgan. Their fourth-wicket stand of 115 in 21 overs managed to combine defensive accumulation with calculated aggression in a manner that Australia’s own middle order had been unable to replicate. Without such knowhow to rescue their innings, England really would have been in the soup. But then again, that is the entire point of experience.

Before the start of play, Tim Paine had seemed visibly excited at the prospect of ending all the talk of sledging and cheating, and getting back to the day job. But, by the innings break, the captain who had instigated a pre-match handshake with his opponents to mark the start of a new era for his team might have been wondering if he was really that keen to starting talking about actual cricket once again.

The early exchanges of Australia’s innings amounted to a vivisection of the tourists’ anxieties in overseas conditions. Willey’s prodigious new-ball swing accounted for Travis Head via a flat-footed slash to slip from his second delivery, before Moeen Ali came whirling through the middle overs, putting his miserable winter behind him with single-spell figures of 10-1-43-3 that might have been lifted straight out of the 1997 Texaco Trophy.

Four balls into Moeen’s spell, Aaron Finch gave himself room outside off to pick out short third man with an ambitious wipe. Two balls into his second over, Shaun Marsh stayed leg-side of a well-flighted tweaker, a la Ben Duckett in Bangladesh, and lost his off stump for 24. And when Paine himself, desperate to set a tempo, any tempo, offered catching practice to short third man with a muffed reverse sweep, Moeen’s figures were 3 for 11 in 4.1 overs.

After that, it was a given that he’d bowl his spell straight through. Adil Rashid kept him company for a six-over burst of his own, in which time he scalped Marcus Stoinis for 22, before Glenn Maxwell rode to the rescue of his team’s dignity, if not the overall match situation. A restorative 84-run stand for the sixth wicket ended when Plunkett induced a top-edged a pull to deep square leg, and when Agar misread the length of a Rashid legbreak to be plumb lbw for 40, the tail were rounded up meekly.

But there was nothing meek about the response of Stanlake in particular. In the absence of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, this was his chance to demonstrate the timeless virtues of hitting a good length at 90mph. Roy survived one ball before losing the top of his off stump to a beautiful nipbacker, and when the debutant Michael Neser made it two wicket-maidens in the space of four overs by pinning Alex Hales on leg stump, the game was officially afoot.

Jonny Bairstow, with three ODI hundreds in as many innings, once again looked a different class in easing to 28 from 22 balls with six outstanding boundaries. But then he nailed a pull straight into the hands of the lone man at square leg to give Kane Richardson his breakthrough, and England faced a test of their ego at 38 for 3.

But Root and Morgan swallowed their pride and ate up the overs with deft sweeps, well-placed drives and sharp judgement of the quick singles. By the 29th over, they were 153 for 3 and cruising; three overs later, they’d lost both of their set batsman plus the dangerous Jos Buttler as well, who may be in some of the best form of his life, but today read Tye’s knuckle ball as if it was a Jaipur railway timetable. He had already been dropped off Stanlake – a swirling chance to Paine behind the stumps, who spilled it as his elbows hit the ground – when he scuffed a drive to mid-off.

Moeen, determined to carry on playing his way despite criticism of his dismissal at the Grange, looked to have the chase in hand when he holed out to deep midwicket to give Neser his second and ignite that debate all over again. But in the end, he’d already done enough with the ball to ensure that England’s wobbles would not be terminal.



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N Srinivasan’s 3 am message to Dwayne Bravo – ‘Please take the field’

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On October 17, 2014, India and West Indies played the fourth ODI of a five-match series, in the hill town of Dharamsala. Halfway through the match, news emerged that the West Indies Cricket Board (now Cricket West Indies) had decided to call off the rest of the tour. The WICB communicated to the BCCI that it was left with no choice after a contracts fallout with the players.

Dwayne Bravo was West Indies’ captain for that series. He would never again play an ODI. Bravo, who retired from international cricket late last month, has pointed to the dispute as the main reason for this. Bravo spoke recently to i955fm, a Trinidad-based radio station, chronicling the sequence of events that led to the India tour being abandoned.

Looking back the events that transpired in India, would you do anything differently?

The only thing I would do differently is tape everyone. Record everyone who was in there. I’m the only player that really paid for what happened in India. The only one who never get the opportunity to play one-day cricket again. I made a stand, as the captain, as the leader of the team, for the best interest of my players, and by extension the players who have come and played for West Indies cricket. At the end of the day, it wasn’t fair on our bosses to send us on tour and cut the guys’ contract by 75 percent. It was just really unfair.

“If you pick up the phone, call the president and said sort this out, he has to listen.’ It’s Clive Lloyd, one of the biggest names in world cricket. I guess that call was never made.”

Was it unanimous?

Collectively as a team, we decided what to do. I listened to every single player. Apart from one player, everyone signed on a piece of paper, that they were all in support of leaving the tour. But we did not just decide to walk away from the tour. There were different times when we tried to reach out to both our WIPA president [Wavell Hinds] and the cricket president [Dave Cameron, Cricket West Indies president]. So we threatened [to pull out] from the first game, but we played. We threatened for the second game, but we played. The [fourth] game we went out (the whole team accompanied Bravo to the toss), so it was just a message and a signal, trying to let them know that we are not happy with whatever is going on.

I remember fully well before we said we weren’t going to play the first game, 3 am in the morning, I get a message from the BCCI boss, the old one, Mr [N] Srinivasan, that “please take the field.” I listened to him – and woke up at 6 am to tell the team that we have to play. And everyone was against playing. Everyone thought that I panicked and chickened out and all these things.

But I was more concerned about the players’ future more than anything else, because it was a serious decision to not play and walk away from the tour. All of us could have been banned for life. So by taking the opportunity and listening to the bosses of BCCI, that was one way to ensure that we are protected.

After that first game what happened?

We played the first game, we beat India, then we traveled to Delhi. At that time the president [Cameron] was in Dubai, which is few hours away from Delhi. He said he is still not going to come and meet us.

Where was WIPA president [Hinds] all this time?

In Jamaica. They [Hinds and Cameron] were scheduled to come, I think, two weeks after the ODI series, by when most of us would have left. Only the Test team would be there. We play the second game, we lose, then the third game rained out, so we stayed in Delhi for an extra week. Again the president [Cameron] refused to come. Then we went to Dharamsala, up in the hills, that’s where we play the last game.

Did anyone from BCCI still try to influence you all to continue to play?

After we played three of the games, we decided we’re going to see how far we reach. Hopefully someone from the West Indies board come and assist us. I remember talking to Mr Lloyd (Clive Lloyd, chairman of selectors at the time), pleading to him basically that he can actually make a difference in this situation because at the end of the day he’s Clive Lloyd. “If you pick up the phone, call the president [Cameron] and said sort this out, he (the president) has to listen.” It’s Clive Lloyd, one of the biggest names in world cricket. I guess that call was never made and at the end of the day Dwayne Bravo and to a lesser extent [Kieron] Pollard – who got a bit of the blame – but it was all on my shoulders.

“Darren Bravo and Denesh Ramdin both stand up and say, ‘Wavell, that’s a lie. That never took place.’ Wavell Hinds had nothing to say.”

For people to really understand that one of the reasons we even had that fallout between players and the board as far as the contracts is concerned, in January of 2014 we had a WIPA general meeting. The WIPA president Mr Hinds said that we have a proposal – we want to implement a professional league system and in order for that to take place, they asked the West Indies men’s senior team to take a salary cut. So, the senior players who were in the meeting – myself, [Ramnaresh] Sarwan, [Shivnarine] Chanderpaul – we all agree. We said okay, yes we can take a salary cut, let’s discuss figures. The president [Hinds] said that there are no figures yet. They wanted to know whether or not the players would be willing to take a salary cut and when at the end of that meeting our answer was yes, we can take a salary cut, let us know the percentage.

The next time we hear from WIPA, or see anything about our contract or new figures, was in October, when the team was already in India. When the team arrived in India – I was already there playing Champions League for Chennai Super Kings – couple of the players message me, “skipper, did you see the new contract?” I said, no. When you look at it, you see, straight across the board, the players’ salary was cut by 75 percent. That’s where it really, really happened, where everything break down. I straightaway get on to Wavell Hinds. He says, “Bravo, tell the players do not sign the contract, it’s not still cast in stone, do not sign the contract.”

Wavell Hinds told you not to sign the contracts?

Yes, which I relayed that to the players. After, before we play our first game (first ODI), that we had a Skype call with Wavell Hinds.

You should’ve recorded that?

As I said that is the only regret I have, that I did not record these things. We said to him “who gave you the rights to negotiate our new contracts without discussing it with any player?” He said he talk to some players. We said, “who you talk to?” He said he talk to Denesh Ramdin and Darren Bravo. Darren Bravo and Denesh Ramdin both stand up and say, “Wavell, that’s a lie. That never took place.” Wavell Hinds had nothing to say.

Then, his next excuse was he sent the information to Samuel Badree months ago and it was Samuel Badree’s responsibility to relay the message to the players. Samuel Badree said to him, in his face, “Wavell Hinds I am a cricketer. It is your job [and] that’s why we elect you as president.” You can’t send a player who is on tour, playing cricket, a 90-page contract, saying to go through it [and] relay the message to the players. That’s where it all break down, where it all went wrong.

After that tour the BCCI said it was owed by the CWI about USD 40-plus million because the players left the tour?

It was a big damage. Obviously a hefty bill. To me my concern was players and our contracts.

Do you think the BCCI was on the side of the Windies players? Or they understood the players?

Yeah, they understood, of course. Because they were very supportive of all of us. Actually they even offered to pay us whatever we were losing. We was like, “we don’t want you to pay us. We need our board to sort out our contracts.” The BCCI was very, very supportive and that is one of the reasons why most of us were still able to continue playing without any serious, serious problems taking place.



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Sui Gas inflict two-day thrashing upon Lahore Blues, WAPDA beat KRL

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Lahore Blues outgunned by SNGPL

It doesn’t say much about a team that loses by an innings to a side that only managed 258, but such was Lahore Blues’ performance in this crunch Super Eight match. It was a nine-wicket match haul by Imran Khalid that beset Lahore most, playing a large part in ensuring they were bowled out for 122 and 108 either side of SNGPL’s innings. Iftikhar Ahmed was primarily responsible for getting SNGPL to 258, scoring 125, a number the entire Lahore side failed to manage in either of their innings. It leaves Lahore at the bottom of the table after two losses from two, while a perfect record for SNGPL sees them take top spot.

Zahid Mansoor spins WAPDA to innings win

Khan Research Laboratories met a similarly ignominious fate, unable to total up to the 296 WAPDA scored in their one innings. KRL stumbled to 12 for 5 in the first innings, setting the tone for the match. Their 110 was answered by 296 from WAPDA thanks to a number of middle-order contributions, notably half-centuries from Abubakar Khan and Kamran Akmal. The 186-run lead they established was too much to overhaul for KRL, with Zahid Mansoortaking another four wickets to go with his four in the first innings, while Waqas Maqsood, recently called up to the Pakistan T20I side, took another three as KRL were wrapped up for 162.

Heavyweights SSGC, HBL play out stalemate

Two of the heavyweights on the domestic circuit, SSGC and HBL, couldn’t be separated over four days, a grinding battle ending with the points shared. After Aamer Yamin‘s 80 had taken SSGC to 211, after Khurram Shehzad had wiped out five of the top six, HBL responded with 274, with eight of the top nine getting into double figures. Zohaib Khan scored 65 as captain Imran Farhat chipped in with 44, while the national selectors will have been pleased to see Mohammad Amir take a five-wicket haul.

In the second innings, SSGC were far more impressive, declaring at 380 for five, with Fawad Alam the top-scorer, unbeaten on 85. The target of 318 was never on for HBL, but they were able to avoid being bowled out, batting nearly 90 overs, with Farhat scoring 77, before the two sides shook hands with four HBL players till undismissed.



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Rahane and Vijay fail amid flurry of half-centuries

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India A 340 for 5 (Vihari 85, Parthiv 79*, Agarwal 65, Shaw 62, Tickner 2-48) v New Zealand A

Four batsmen struck half-centuries for India A on the first day of the four-dayer against New Zealand A in Mount Maunganui, but M Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane missed out, scoring 28 and 12 respectively, as the visitors went to stumps at 340 for 5.

Of those part of the Test touring party to Australia, middle-order batsman Hanuma Vihari top-scored with 85, before being dismissed off the fourth ball of the 90th over, which proved to be the last ball of the day. Vihari and wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel shared the most lucrative stand of the day for India, adding 138 in 199 balls for the fifth wicket before Vihari fell to the medium-pace of Kyle Jamieson.

India began well after choosing to bat, with openers Vijay and Prithvi Shaw adding 61 before Vijay was bowled by Blair Tickner, who was the pick of the New Zealand A bowlers on the day. Shaw, the more dominant opening partner, went on to score an 88-ball 62 and added 50 with Mayank Agarwal before falling to the left-arm spin of Theo van Woerkom. This was the fifth time in his last seven innings that Shaw was dismissed by a spinner.

Agarwal added another 73 runs with Vihari before becoming Tickner’s second victim, for 65. Rahane got off the blocks with a boundary off just his third ball but there wasn’t much joy for India’s vice-captain thereafter, as Doug Bracewell cleaned him up for a 19-ball 12, leaving the match delicately poised. But the Vihari-Parthiv stand helped India seize control again and finish the day on top.



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