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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 their 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 backward point 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 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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Recent Match Report – Islamabad United vs Peshawar Zalmi, Pakistan Super League, 11th Match

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Islamabad United 158 for 9 (Bell 54, Delport 29, Sameen Gul 3-29) beat Peshawar Zalmi 146 all out (Pollard 51, Sami 3-22, Musa 3-25) by 12 runs

How the game played out

As has been the case every year, Islamabad United started this season slowly, winning just one of three games. However, this season has begun to emulate the others just as closely as the tournament progresses, with the defending champions putting in a vastly improved performance, holding their nerve to seal a 12-run win. The game ended with their captain Mohammad Sami knocking off the final three Peshawar batsmen off successive balls, claiming his maiden PSL hat-trick and ensuring his side finished with a flourish.

All of their best efforts looked like they might be derailed during a brief four-over spell of monstrous hitting by Kieron Pollard. With 92 required off 39 balls and the match meandering to its inevitable conclusion, Pollard roused the dispirited ranks of Peshawar fans in Sharjah with a blistering 22-ball 51. But crucially, support from the other end was lacking, and once he holed out to deep cover, the valiant efforts of Darren Sammy and Wahab Riaz couldn’t quite make up for a first ten overs where their side had fallen well behind the pace.

They had been chasing 159, a total Islamabad were only able to put up thanks to Ian Bell, playing his first PSL match of the season. As much of the rest of the order fell away, he remained at the crease until the penultimate delivery, his 54 playing a large part in knitting the innings together, and ensuring Islamabad had just enough runs in the end.

Turning point

By 13 overs, Islamabad were shuffling along at 88 for three, not quite able to get in the big hits in the face of tight Peshawar bowling. But a loose over from Umaid Asif saw Cameron Delport smite a six back over the bowler and Bell a boundary, fetching 16. From there, Peshawar lost their discipline somewhat; it was the start of a spell in which Islamabad plundered 56 off five overs. It was ground ceded they wouldn’t be able to make up.

Star of the day

Mohammad Sami may have come away with a hat-trick, but his wickets had been set up by the efforts earlier on of Islamabad’s emerging player Mohammad Musa. Less than half Sami’s age at 18, the fresh faced Musa was entrusted with the third over, with Imam-ul-Haq and Kamran Akmal batting in the Powerplay. Pace, accuracy, composure and lethality combined, culminating in the wicket of Kamran Akmal – another man twice his age. He would add the wickets of Dawid Malan and Darren Sammy to a collection that may very soon begin to burgeon.

The big miss

At some point, you may risk blasphemy and begin to wonder about Darren Sammy’s role in the Peshawar line-up. He doesn’t bowl anymore, and for some reason, comes in to bat at number seven. He still strikes at over 150, so he might as well bat higher up, but today, the bigger issue was he failed to give his Caribbean teammate much support in terms of run rate reduction. He never could find the middle of the bat as Pollard, and later even Wahab Riaz, took on the senior role in the partnership. When Sammy did hole out, it was to a waist-high full shot he has buttered his bread with by smashing for six. It cost his side today, but as the tournament progresses, the specific role Sammy takes on may begin to come under wider scrutiny; there is no hiding place in this format.

Where the teams stand

The narrow defeat means Peshawar have split their four games, winning and losing two apiece. The same applies to Islamabad United, with the two sides placed third and fourth on the table respectively.



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‘Would personally hate to give them two points’ – Tendulkar

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What players, coaches and other voices from the cricket world have said about India potentially boycotting their World Cup meeting with Pakistan

Ravi Shastri, India head coach (to Times Now)

“It’s entirely left to the BCCI and the government. They know exactly what is happening and they will take a call. We will go by what they decide. If the government says it’s that sensitive you do not need to play the World Cup, I will go by my government.

Sarfaraz Ahmed, Pakistan captain (to cricketpakistan.com.pk)

“The India and Pakistan match should be played as per schedule as there are millions of people who want to watch this game. I just don’t think cricket should be targeted for political gains. It is disappointing to see cricket being targeted after the Pulwama incident. I don’t recall Pakistan ever mixing sports with politics.”

Sunil Gavaskar, former India captain (to India Today)

“Who wins in that case if India decide not to play against Pakistan in the World Cup? And I am not even looking ahead to semifinals and finals. Who wins? Pakistan wins. They get two points.

“India has every time so far beaten them in the World Cup, so we are actually conceding two points when we could, by beating Pakistan (in the group stage), actually make sure that they don’t qualify for the knockout. I know emotions are running high, but that needs to be looked at with a little more depth.

“They can try but it will not happen (ICC boycott of Pakistan). It will not happen because the other member countries have to accept that. I can’t see other member countries accepting that. So while India can certainly go ahead and try to do that, I don’t think it is likely to happen because the other countries might say “look, it is an internal issue between two countries so please don’t involve us.””

Sachin Tendulkar, former India captain (on Twitter)

“India has always come up trumps against Pakistan in the World Cup. Time to beat them once again. Would personally hate to give them two points and help them in the tournament. Having said that, for me India always comes first, so whatever my country decides, I will back that decision with all my heart.”

Yuzvendra Chahal, India legspinner (to ANI)

“It’s not in our hands. If BCCI says, we will play, if they say no then we won’t. I think it is high time we need to take firm action. I am not saying all people there (Pakistan) are at fault but those who are responsible should be acted against.”

Sourav Ganguly, former India captain (on India TV)

“This is a 10-team World Cup and every team plays every team and I feel if India doesn’t play a match in the World Cup, it won’t be an issue. ICC can’t go on with a World Cup without India and I feel it will be really difficult for ICC to go on with a World Cup without India. But, you also have to see if India have the power to stop ICC from doing such a thing.”

Harbhajan Singh, former India offspinner (to India Today)

“India should not play Pakistan in the World Cup. India are powerful enough to win the World Cup without having to play Pakistan. One mistake will not correct the other one. Since we played in 1999 does not mean we should go ahead and do it again. We need to stand with our government and our soldiers. This is the time to talk and have a discussion which is far, far bigger than the World Cup. World Cup is not everything. Our country comes first, our soldiers come first and our government comes first. Cricket is not our first priority, our priority is our nation.”

Javed Miandad, former Pakistan captain (to Dawn

“I felt bad after hearing about our pictures being removed from their (Indian) stadiums. Now this talk of boycotting the World Cup. I think India need to understand they can face consequences of such an action. I don’t understand the mindset. Do they really think they (India) can get away without playing the World Cup match?”





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Benkenstein unhappy with South Africa’s complacency

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South Africa were “complacent” heading into this Sri Lanka series. This is not the opinion of reporters, fans, or commentators, but that of the team’s own batting coach Dale Benkenstein, after he watched his team collapse to 128 all out on the second day in Port Elizabeth.

Right through the series, South Africa have been modest with the bat, recording a highest-score of 259 across four completed innings. No South Africa batsman has hit a hundred, and only Faf du Plessis, Aiden Markram and Quinton de Kock have managed half-centuries.

“We came in a little bit complacent,” Benkenstain said. “We addressed that, but it’s still very important to have the right attitude coming into a series. We say all the right things, but when you go in thinking we’ll probably have enough to beat the Sri Lankan side, I think it’s a dangerous place to be. We had two days in between series. It’s a full-on summer so you don’t have time to prepare. You can’t change what is really inside you.”

Benkenstein praised the Sri Lanka attack, whom he said had bowled with skill, and whom South Africa have repeatedly said they have been surprised by. But although Benkenstein thought some of South Africa’s dismissals were the result of good opposition bowling, there were plenty that weren’t he said.

“We have not been at our best – after a pretty disappointing first game as well – against a side that we did not know a lot about. There wasn’t a lot of footage with which to analyse them. You have to give credit to the Sri Lankan bowlers. They’ve shown good skill, but we’ve given them soft wickets at crucial times. I keep thinking that it will be sorted out in the next innings.

“We’ve been pretty strong mentally, we came up against some very good bowling attacks and we scored enough runs to win those series. So I can’t really put my finger on what’s gone wrong now, but it’s been a long, full-on summer and the guys are only human, there may be a slight lack of energy.”

On what will almost certainly be the final day of the series, on Saturday, South Africa are now in a position where they must take eight wickets (possibly only seven, if the injured Lasith Embuldeniya does not bat). They haver 137 runs to defend.

“The game is still on the line and if we can have a good hour first thing tomorrow morning (Saturday) then we could make it hard for them to get the runs. There’s a little bit still there in the pitch and we have good bowlers. Sri Lanka have fought hard and put us under pressure, but overall the cricket has not been good, especially the batting – from both teams.”



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