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Fletcher’s ton puts NZ A ahead despite Gowtham’s six-for

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India A 38 for 1 (Samarth 27*, Bracewell 1-17) and 323 trail New Zealand A 398 (Fletcher 103, Seifert 86, Bracewell 55, Jamieson 53, Gowtham 6-139) by 37 runs

Cam Fletcher‘s second first-class century, and fifties from Doug Bracewell and Kyle Jamieson, put New Zealand A ahead on the third day of the third unofficial Test against India A, counterbalancing offspinner K Gowtham‘s six-for in Whangarei.

Fletcher made a career-best 103, sharing solid partnerships with the lower order as New Zealand A were dismissed for 398, with a first innings lead of 75.

Resuming the day at 121 for 3, they lost Rachin Ravindra to Gowtham and Tim Seifert – who finished with 86 – to Rajneesh Gurbani, following which Bracewell joined Fletcher at the crease.

Bracewell, whose five-for helped clean up India’s tail in the first innings, struck nine fours on his way to his 17th first-class half-century. After Bracewell’s dismissal, Fletcher stitched together a 100-run stand with Jamieson, who brought up his maiden first-class fifty before falling to Gowtham.

Gowtham also went on to snare the final three wickets of the innings while finishing with figures of 6 for 139, his sixth first-class five-for.

India A went to stumps on 38 for 1, having lost Abhimanyu Easwaran to Bracewell in the seventh over.



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Cricket

Keen on Test comeback, Hardik turns to Ranji Trophy

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Hardik Pandya, who is set to return to competitive cricket in Baroda’s match against Mumbai in the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy, is also targeting a comeback to the Indian Test side that is currently playing in Australia.

Hardik had been sidelined with a back injury sustained during the Asia Cup in September, and he was originally selected in the India A squad for their three-match one-day series against New Zealand A. However, he said it made sense to focus his energies on the longest format first, with the ODIs against Australia only scheduled after the Test series ends.

“If I am playing a Test match, I should play a four-day game (rather) than one-day,” Hardik told Times Now on Thursday. “Because one-day is later on. I am focusing right now that if I can make it to the team, because there is scope of me making a comeback into the Test team, if I am fit to play a Test match. That’s why I wanted to take my time and see where exactly I stand in Ranji Trophy.

“Playing a Test match is a different league. The workload goes very high, so I wanted to see if I can manage the workload. I knew I would get enough match preparation before the Australia ODIs. Therefore I focused on playing Ranji Trophy.”

India will play their second Test against Australia in Perth from Friday. That still leaves room for Hardik to be added to the squad before the last two matches, the Boxing Day and New Year Tests in Melbourne and Sydney.

“Before I go for any major series, I wanted to see where exactly I stand,” Hardik said. “Ranji Trophy is the best domestic tournament. I wanted to check my fitness levels there, and then take a call about how I am feeling and what should be the next step. Right now, I am only focusing on the Ranji Trophy and then obviously, I want to get back to the team as soon as possible, because it’s difficult to stay away for so long.”

Baroda are currently in fifth place on the combined Groups A and B points table with 13 points, while Mumbai, who have played four matches to Baroda’s five, are in 16th place with just five points. The top five teams at the end of the league stage in the two groups combined will qualify for the quarter-finals.



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PCB earns rights to 2020 Asia Cup, but no clarity on venue

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The next Asia Cup will be hosted by the PCB for the first time in over a decade, but whether that means it will be played in Pakistan or the UAE, is not yet clear. The tournament, which will switch back to being a T20 event, is scheduled to be played in September 2020 – a month ahead of the World T20 in Australia.

If the situation in Pakistan, or Pakistan’s relationship with India, does not improve between now and then, it would seem logical for the tournament to be held in the UAE, the PCB’s de factor home ground since 2010. That would mean the UAE would have hosted back-to-back Asia Cups, having held a 50-over version this September.

The tournament just gone was hosted by the BCCI, who opted to play it on neutral territory given that a Pakistan team traveling and playing in India would’ve been a complicated political issue. Ties between the two countries are at a low ebb, neither side having played a full bilateral series against the other in over a decade and India not having played in Pakistan since June 2008. Tensions remain between their boards too, most recently in the dismissal of the PCB claim that the BCCI “legally breached” an agreement to play bilateral series in 2014 and 2015.

The 2008 visit, incidentally, was also for the Asia Cup, and the last time Pakistan held a multi-nation competition. The PCB has not yet responded to queries about where the tournament is planning to be staged.

Since the Lahore terror attacks on the Sri Lankan team in 2009, international cricket has slowly returned to Pakistan. In the last year, Lahore has hosted T20Is against Sri Lanka and a World XI while West Indies played a series in Karachi in April this year. Added to are the staging of several high-profile PSL games in both cities over the last two seasons, with the involvement of foreign players.



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Rovman Powell questions Bangladesh’s skills against pace

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West Indies captain Rovman Powell‘s claim that Bangladesh’s batsmen “do not like” fast bowling drew a fairly strong reaction from his opposite number Mashrafe Mortaza. The two sides are tied one-all heading into the decider in Sylhet where pace, like in Dhaka, isn’t supposed to play a major part because of the slow and low nature of the pitch.

“It is a fact. Bangladesh don’t like fast bowling. We are definitely looking to exploit it and hopefully tomorrow we can do that,” Powell said, when asked which area in the Bangladesh side he wanted to exploit.

An hour later, Mashrafe was asked if he also thought facing fast bowling was a problem for his side. But he disagreed, saying that it was losing wickets at the wrong time that hurt them in the second ODI, not pace.

“We have lost a wicket at the top but, largely, we have tackled their fast bowling in the first two matches,” Mashrafe said. “Tamim, Mushfiqur, [Mahmudullah] Riyad and Shakib played them comfortably. If Tamim and Shakib didn’t get out in those stages, things would have been a lot different. I don’t think their pace bowlers have made much of an impact.

“There used to be a time when it was a problem, but not anymore. Extreme pace troubles any batsman but it is manageable when it is around 140-143 kmph.”

He said that Oshane Thomas, West Indies’ fastest bowler, has been handled well, with Shakib taking him on towards the end of the innings in the second game. “[Thomas] conceded at nearly six an over on both days,” Mashrafe said. “If that makes him their best bowler, then we have handled him comfortably.

“I think the key has been losing wickets at important moments. We couldn’t execute our plans, which is why we made just 64 runs in the last 10 overs. Not because of pace. Shakib took 16 runs off an over from the guy who bowls 147 kmph.”

Soumya Sarkar and Mushfiqur Rahim fell to aggressive shots off Thomas, caught behind and caught at third man, after Imrul Kayes had also been caught behind in the fourth over. Imrul also fell to Thomas in the first ODI, bowled through bat and pad.

Kemar Roach has taken one wicket in the two matches so far but his change of pace, during the slog overs of the second ODI, troubled the Bangladesh lower order.

In five ODIs against West Indies’ fast bowlers this year, Bangladesh’s batsmen have a batting average of 47.33, a strike rate of 104.41 and at a run rate of 6.26. Bangladesh’s batting average against pace in 2018 of 28.66 is a tad below their 10-year average of 29.16 but their run rate (5.39) and strike rate (89.88) are at par.



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