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India quicks toil on day headlined by Shaw injury



Cricket Australia XI 356 for 6 (Short 74, Hardie 69*, Bryant 62, Shami 3-67) trail Indians 358 by two runs

India’s time in the field on the third day at the SCG was dominated by the ankle injury to Prithvi Shaw which sent him to hospital and saw him return to the ground on crutches, leaving India’s opening plans for the first Test in Adelaide – and perhaps beyond – needing a rethink.

It was an unconvincing performance from India, as the Cricket Australia XI reached 0 for 114 and then were able to see out the day through an unbroken stand of 122 between Aaron Hardie and Harry Nielsen, although the bowlers did improve during the afternoon session.

Rusty quicks

The opening spells of Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav were poor as the Cricket Australia XI openers, D’Arcy Short and Max Bryant, cantered along at five-an-over. Virat Kohli wore the expression of a frustrated captain as he watched his quicks struggle to settle, although his main concern would soon become the well being of Shaw. However, the value of a few miles in the legs showed during the afternoon. Shami removed Short before lunch to a top-edged hook and later got one through Jake Carder – who faced 139 balls for his 38 before playing around a full delivery – then had Jonathan Merlo caught behind. Yadav, meanwhile removed Sam Whiteman when the left hander edged a booming drive. Ishant Sharma ended wicketless from 16 overs, in just his second match since the Oval Test in early September, but did beat the bat on occasions on what remained a slow pitch.

“Initially we conceded a few runs with the new ball and then we realized what lengths we had to bowl and what sort of fields we need to keep,” R Ashwin said. “Practice matches are those where you are looking to get something out of it for yourself and as a bowling group when you go out there on the park.

Ashwin’s role

R Ashwin’s Test numbers in Australia are not pretty – 21 wickets at 54.71 – although he may be feeling a frisson of excitement at being able to target a batting order with plenty of left handers in Adelaide. Regardless, though, of the wickets he takes he will also have a role to play in keeping a hold on the scoring rate to allow the three quicks to rotate and not exhaust themselves, in the manner Graeme Swann did on England’s successful 2010-11 tour. He was the first bowler to offer Kohli control after the rapid start by the CA XI and broke the opening stand when Bryant missed his charge. An inexperienced batting line-up was not the toughest challenge he will face, but he settled onto a steady line and length as he clocked up 24 overs in the day.

“I thought the ball came out pretty well,” Ashwin said. “I haven’t played an international game for a while so it felt good the way it came out. Obviously the next four to five days I will prep up a bit more for the game.”

Eyes on Rahul and Vijay

The news that Shaw will miss at least the Adelaide Test has thrown the spotlight back on KL Rahul and M Vijay. Rahul failed in the first innings of this match, driving tamely to mid-off, which earned a mild rebuke from batting coach Sanjay Banger. Vijay did not get a bat on the second day, but the indications were that he would have had a hit in the second innings even before Shaw’s injury. Now that gains added importance given a likely return to the Test line-up against Australia’s strong pace attack next week. Vijay was dropped after the second Test against England – where he made a pair at Lord’s – but fought his way back into contention through a spell with Essex. He was one of the Test squad players to play for India A in New Zealand recently where he made 28 and 60 in Mount Maunganui so at least has some time in the middle not too long ago.

CA XI again make tourists sweat

The CA XI have more than held their own against the Indians, as they did a couple of times against England on last year’s Ashes tour. Short put aside his recent T20 struggles with some lovely timing – his 74 was higher than his current first-class best of 66 – and Bryant took the attack to India’s quicks. Whiteman, who may return to the Western Australia Shield team next week, shaped up nicely before his loose drive and when it appeared the innings could fall away Hardie, the star with the ball yesterday, and Nielsen kept India in the field as they each made composed half-centuries. They don’t have any plans to declare either, instead making India bowl them out before they can have another bat. “We’re definitely not declaring,” Short said. “We’ll bat for as long as we can, keep them out there and make them bowl to us and bowl us out.”

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Vernon Philander to miss Boxing Day Test against Pakistan



South Africa seamer Vernon Philander is set to miss the first Test against Pakistan on Boxing Day after sustaining a hairline fracture on his right thumb. With Lungi Ngidi out of action until February with a knee injury, South Africa will go into the first of three Test matches with just three fit frontline quicks in Duanne Olivier, Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn.

Philander had recently returned to action following rehabilitation for a recurring ankle injury, that had flared up during South Africa’s trip to Sri Lanka in July, and had played in one of the early season rounds of the domestic four-day competition, as well as turning out for Durban Heat in seven of their Mzansi Super League matches.

“I really don’t even want to think about what would happen should there be another injury,” said South Africa coach Ottis Gibson.

All three of the remaining fit quicks will be playing in Sunday’s Mzansi Super League final, but they will not be part of next week’s round of domestic four-day cricket.

ALSO READ: Gibson not worried about Amla’s dip in form

“If you look at where we are, Steyn, Rabada and Olivier become very important to us. We just want to manage them as best we can. We’ve seen how Dale’s been going. I don’t want to say we’ve seen a transformation because he’s always been a top player, but he’s back to full fitness and performing like the player of old. KG (Rabada) as always is very important to us.”

“We’ve looked at a few bowling options over the past 14 months and we’ve got what we feel now is a very good bowling attack and group,” Gibson said. “You’ve got Steyn, Rabada, Philander, Ngidi and Olivier, who’s been in-and-out, but always in our thinking. That’s the making of a good attack in any form of the game. My job now is to keep them fit and fresh for them to be at their peak at international level.”

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India ‘surprised’ by soft signal on Virat Kohli catch – Jasprit Bumrah



India’s players were “surprised” that Virat Kohli was given out on the field after Peter Handscomb claimed a catch off the bowling of Pat Cummins, according to Jasprit Bumrah.

A diving Handscomb appeared to scoop up a thick edge after Kohli drove hard at a full and wide delivery, but the decision was then referred to the third umpire, Nigel Llong. Llong was unable to find conclusive evidence, after extensively reviewing replays, to overturn the soft signal of out given by Kumar Dharmasena in consultation with Chris Gaffaney on the field.

But Bumrah said India were puzzled by the original decision.

“We were a little surprised by the on-field call,” said Bumrah. “Now it has been done, and it has been done. Now we will move forward with the game.”

Conversely, Nathan Lyon said there was no doubt in the minds of the Australian players that Handscomb had taken the catch cleanly.

“I wasn’t sure about the conversation between the umpires but, yeah, we thought it was out.

“Conversation was ‘great catch’.”

Kohli’s wicket fell at a crucial time in India’s innings, with India on 251 and trailing Australia’s first-innings total by 75 runs. The decision sparked a lively debate among fans and commentators alike and drew a strong reaction on social media in India.

ALSO READ: Bat, breathe, bat – the essence of Virat Kohli

Speaking on ABC radio, former Australia batsman Ed Cowan took an opposing view. “There is zero doubt in my mind that this catch has carried,” Cowan said. “Virat has made this a news story, and he shouldn’t.

“He should have the grace to walk off and say that was a fair catch.”

Kohli’s demeanour was animated through the day’s play. When he reached his century he held his bat up with one hand and made a talking gesture with his other hand. He encouraged the enthusiastic and noisy Indian contingent in the crowd and was front and centre for celebrations whenever an Australian wicket fell. There was also what appeared to be a colourful exchange between Kohli and Tim Paine as the pair walked off the field at the end of the day’s play.

Lyon played down the significance of the exchange.

“I think he just asked him where he was going for dinner that’s all,” Lyon said. “I’ve played enough cricket against Virat to know what he’s like.

“Virat’s Virat and I’m not worried about what he’s doing or what India’s doing.”

But Kohli’s animation throughout the day was enough to draw criticism from some, including former Australia batsmen, Michael Hussey.

“Virat Kohli is out of control out there,” said Hussey, speaking on Macquarie Radio. “He is revving up the crowd and he is going nuts when they take a wicket. I don’t like his attitude at the moment.”

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Afif Hossain, Zakir Hasan haven’t developed as expected, says Bangladesh selector



Poor form has held back some of Bangladesh’s young cricketers who, at the start of the year, were touted for big things. Chief selector Minhajul Abedin said that Afif Hossain, Zakir Hasan and, to a lesser extent, Mahedi Hasan had been disappointing in domestic and representative sides since making their T20I debuts in February this year.

Afif is a left-handed opener who bowls useful offspin, once snaring Chris Gayle as part of a five-wicket haul on T20 debut. Zakir is also a left-handed batsman who keeps wickets and is also known for his fielding. Both Under-19s graduates have been billed as the next big stars emerging from Bangladesh but so far they have struggled to find a spot in the senior side regularly.

Mahedi, an offspinner who is useful with the bat, had impressed in the 2017 BPL along with Afif and Zakir. All three were doing well in the Dhaka Premier League List-A competition when they were picked in the T20I side in place of some senior players who were injured at the time.

“We had high hopes about Afif and Zakir but they have been quite disappointing, to be honest,” Minhajul told ESPNcricinfo. “They haven’t made use of their skill development as well as given game planning much thought. Afif and Zakir didn’t do well in domestic cricket or in the Emerging Teams Cup.”

Afif made two first-class centuries immediately after his T20I debut but, for Bangladesh A, he scored only 64 runs in six innings against Sri Lanka A and Ireland A. He has averaged 16.90 in the current first-class season, before making just 20 runs in the two Emerging Teams Cup matches.

ALSO READ: ‘As long as he is alive, Hope will play’ – Brathwaite

Zakir averaged 28.92 in 13 innings for Bangladesh A, before making three fifties in seven first-class matches this season so far. He made 69 in one of his two Emerging Teams Cup appearances.

By contrast, Mahedi has done very well in this season’s Bangladesh Cricket League first-class tournament, averaging 80.50 with bat and taking 16 wickets at 26.75. “He is not out of contention,” Minhajul said. “Mehidy Hasan Miraz is playing all three formats while Nayeem Hasan made a wonderful start to his Test career. We consider him [Nayeem] as Miraz’s backup but Mahedi is also one of the offspinners in our radar.”

The Bangladesh team management have instead trusted Nazmul Islam, Ariful Haque and Abu Jayed in recent times, with the trio regularly picked in the senior side. Nazmul has played all 13 of Bangladesh’s T20Is this year while Jayed has made an impressive start to his Test career. Ariful meanwhile has made debuts in all formats this year.

One thing in common among Nazmul, Jayed and Ariful, as well as Mohammad Mithun who made his Test debut this year, is the length of time they have spent in domestic cricket. Afif, Zakir and Mahedi need a few more seasons in domestic and A-team cricket before they can have enough experience for their individual skills to develop, and to find consistency.

It answers a long-standing question in Bangladesh cricket: do they really need to give youth a chance at the top so quickly? Perhaps, given the evidence, it is more important to let these young cricketers succeed and fail in domestic cricket for a few years before being picked at the highest level.

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