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



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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Tennis deal puts Australia Tests back in HD



A looming broadcast conflict has been averted after the Seven and Nine networks agreed terms to allow the latter to air the 2019 Australian Open tennis – a year earlier than originally scheduled. This leaves Seven free to air Tests and Big Bash League matches in high definition on its main channel.

Cricket Australia’s AUD 1.18 billion television and digital rights deal with Fox Sports and Seven, announced in April, had meant that Seven held the rights for both cricket and tennis for the summer of 2018-19, with a contractual obligation to air the first Grand Slam of the year on the network’s primary channel.

However, after more than a month of negotiations, Seven has agreed to on-sell the final year of its tennis rights to Nine for AUD 48.5 million, meaning the Test matches against Sri Lanka and the BBL matches also scheduled to clash with the Australian Open will not have to compete for airtime with tennis on the same network. CA is understood to have been prepared to accept secondary billing in the first year of their six-year deal with Seven, which has unveiled Ricky Ponting, Damien Fleming and Michael Slater as commentators.

For the first time in the history of Australian cricket, two of three men’s formats – ODIs and Twenty20 internationals – will be hidden behind a paywall. Nine had effectively exited the contest for rights to cricket in Australia when it revealed a five-year, AUD 300 million deal with Tennis Australia to broadcast the Open and other lead-up tournaments.

Hugh Marks, the Nine chief executive, underlined the reasons for the network’s decision in confirming the deal to gain the tennis rights a year early. He had been seeking to reduce spending on sports rights, after the network parted with more than AUD 500 million for the rights to international cricket from 2013-18.

“There’s an air of excitement at Nine about being the new home of tennis, so to be able to start our new deal a year early brings us all much delight,” he said. “As I said back in March, the timing of tennis and the audience demographics it delivers are a perfect fit for Nine and its advertisers. We’re also mighty pleased to have been able to settle on a price for the additional year that is consistent with our original offer to Seven.”

CA on Monday announced it had secured another major sponsor in the form of the digital real estate seller Domain, which is majority-owned by Fairfax Media. The four-year deal makes for an intriguing mixture of partnerships given that Fox Sports, provider of the bulk of the broadcast rights money, is owned by Fairfax’s media rival News Corp.

The Domain deal, alongside that with Alinta Energy, will account for the prime presenting and advertising space at Australian cricket grounds over the summer. They were both signed in the wake of the financial firm Magellan’s withdrawal from a previous deal with CA as part of the fallout from the Newlands ball tampering scandal.

“Domain is delighted to begin a partnership with Cricket Australia. Our aligned audience strategies in mobile and content represent a unique opportunity for both brands,” Domain’s chief editorial and marketing officer Melina Cruickshank said. “We believe the ‘spirit of cricket’ is resilient and look forward to the growth opportunities this partnership will provide.”

A new executive is set to join CA in August, with the recruitment of Karina Keisler as executive general manager for public affairs, government relations and infrastructure. Keisler will replace Mark O’Neill, whose contract expired at the end of March. She had previously held roles with Telstra, Vodafone and most recently the NBN corporation, which has faced numerous battles over its rollout of the national broadband network.

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Ashton Agar says Australia must be ‘at our absolute best’ to avert whitewash



Ashton Agar has said Australia have “no choice” other than to believe they can defeat England in the final ODI at Old Trafford. If England continue their domination of Australia it will be their first whitewash over the old enemy in any format.

But Agar insisted the Australia players weren’t feeling pressure to avoid the whitewash and instead were focusing on improving all facets of their game.

“It’s going to be tough,” Agar said. “But I absolutely believe we can beat them: we have no choice [but] to believe that we can beat them.

“But we need to play our very best cricket against a side that’s played really well four games in a row now. We have to bring our absolute best. We have plenty to gain out of tomorrow, plenty to gain, to just put things into practice and just let it all out there.”

Agar scored 40 and 46 in the first two ODIs and, while the bowling figures of some of his team-mates have suffered dreadfully at the hands of England’s brutal batting, Agar has been the pick of Australia’s attack during this series. He took 2 for 48 at Chester-le-Street and conceded 7 runs per over during England’s record innings of 481 at Trent Bridge. He believes that, while it has been a difficult series for AJ Tye and Jhye Richardson in particular, the experience could be positive in the long term.

“I guess Trent Bridge is one that would highlight that for some young bowlers, and we have a quite young bowling attack,” said Agar. “To feel what that’s like — JL [Justin Langer] referred to it as the ‘jungle’, that’s international cricket, playing against good players on good wickets and sometimes small grounds.

“That was pretty difficult. It’s good to experience that now and not in a World Cup, learn from that now and then know what to do when you face that situation again.”

“They definitely would have been hurt after Trent Bridge. Everyone was. That was pretty incredible, it was a world record and unfortunately we were on the receiving end of that. But we have to keep learning from those experiences and it’s good to experience that now and not in a World Cup. Learn now, improve now. We can move forward instantly.”

Langer, Australia’s coach, may decide to tinker with his line-up once more in an effort to find the best balance but, with England unlikely to change what is a red-hot top and middle order, Agar doesn’t expect any easing of pressure.

“England are a very good side, an experienced side and they gel really well,” Agar said. “They’ve got beautiful balance in their team and I think we are working towards that.

“Their confidence, their self-belief: they ooze it out there, no doubt. They are playing like a team where everyone knows their role and they back themselves and each other to just go and do it. They’ve set the benchmark.

“We are not where they are yet but I think tomorrow is just another opportunity to try to win and try and do really well. It’s the last game [of the series], you go 100% every game but I think it means more to us now to go as hard as we can and just leave nothing out there.”

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Gabriel, Roach give West Indies honours on rain-hit day | Cricket



West Indies v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Barbados, 2nd day

June 25, 2018

Shashank Kishore and Sreshth Shah

Sri Lanka 99 for 5 (Dickwella 13*, Roshen 3*, Roach 2-13, Gabriel 2-42) trail West Indies 204 (Holder 74, Dowrich 71, Kumara 4-58, Rajitha 3-68) by 105 runs

Shannon Gabriel flattens Kusal Mendis’ off stump © CWI Media

West Indies didn’t bat as well as they would’ve liked, but entertained the possibility of a first-innings lead at the end of a truncated second day in Bridgetown. Only 59 overs were possible in all, 23 of which allowed West Indies to move from their overnight 132 for 5 to 204 all out. Jason Holder made bulk of those runs en route to 74, the highest of the innings. Then Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel and Holder struck to dent Sri Lanka’s push to parity under lights as they were reeling at 99 for 5 at stumps, still behind by 105.

Sri Lanka’s inexperienced top order, minus their suspended captain Dinesh Chandimal, failed to apply themselves for long periods, the dismissal of No. 4 Kusal Mendis after doing all the hard work exemplifying their effort. Mendis, averaging 59.50 in the series before the innings, blocked deliveries religiously for 58 deliveries, until he ran out of patience in trying an uncharacteristic across-the-line slog to Gabriel’s first ball of a new spell, only to see his off stump flattened. This broke a 59-run stand with comeback man Danushka Gunathilaka, after Sri Lanka briefly recovered post Roach’s double-strike.

Opener Kusal Perera fell for a nine-ball duck, Roach using his angle from around the wicket induce the underedge through to the keeper. Mahela Udawatte, playing only his second Test upon his international return after a long layoff, fell to Roach’s express pace four overs later. He was trapped lbw after failing to commit himself fully forward to a pitched up delivery that nipped back in. This left Sri Lanka at 16 for 2.

Mendis and Gunathilaka briefly stemmed the rut, along the way enjoying a slice of luck too when Gunathilaka chipped Miguel Cummins to cover, only to hear the third umpire rule against the bowler because he had overstepped. The error, however, didn’t cost West Indies much as Gunathilaka fell two overs into the final session – out on review to an lbw off Holder.

There was more success in store for West Indies when Gabriel had a decision reversed, as Dhananjaya de Silva was out for 8. The nip of the Kensington Oval surface taking the batsman by surprise as he pushed outside the line, only for the ball to thud into the back leg. At the crease are Roshen de Silva (3*) and Niroshan Dickwella (13*), the visitors’ last recognised pair.

Earlier in the day, Shane Dowrich, who resumed on 60, became the highest scoring wicketkeeper in a Day-Night Test when he went past Pakistan’s Sarfraz Ahmed’s 68 from Dubai, but perished lbw trying to flick one behind square.

Holder, however, stuck around, opening up to play some delightful strokes with the wickets tumbling at the other end. The fiery Lahiru Kumara who picked up three of the last four wickets to fall, eventually finishing with his third successive four-for of the series.

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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