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Shreyas Iyer shreds jetlag with bruising 178

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The India A boys returned from New Zealand and lent some competitive edge to the sixth round of Ranji Trophy matches across the country. Many of them reached their venues barely 12 hours before their match. Here’s how the opening day went:

Shreyas Iyer shreds jetlag in style

Less than 24 hours after landing from New Zealand, Shreyas Iyer showed what Mumbai missed for the first half of a dismal campaign – they’re at the bottom of Group A, with only Chhattisgarh below them. Iyer struck his 12th first-class century – a bruising 139-ball 178 – courtesy 17 fours and 11 sixes against Baroda at Wankhede Stadium. His 283-run third-wicket stand with Siddesh Lad, the captain, came off just 271 balls. Mumbai blasted 439 for 8 by stumps. Lad helped himself to a slightly mellow, but no-less effective 130.

How did comeback man Hardik Pandya do?

Among those made to toil was Hardik Pandya. Returning to top-flight cricket for the first time since injuring his lower back at the Asia Cup in September, Pandya, given the new ball, removed openers Aditya Tare and Vikrant Auti in his first spell. He returned later in the day to dismiss the dangerous Shivam Dube. In all, his figures read a respectable 15-0-74-3.

What about the other India A boys?

India A’s highest run-getter during the 3-0 one-day series win in New Zealand, Vijay Shankar‘s journey to Mohali was more eventful. His route read something like this: Mount Maunganui-Auckland-Singapore-Mumbai-Delhi and then a six-hour road trip to Chandigarh. This meant he reached the venue close to midnight on Thursday and was amid the thick of things in the second session, reviving a floundering Tamil Nadu innings. Walking in at 73 for 4, he struck a 122-ball 71 to take them to 213 for 9 at stumps against Punjab. Vijay was the seventh batsman dismissed, after which TN lost two more.

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Ishan Kishan, meanwhile, struck a counter-attacking 42-ball 54 to put Jharkhand back on track after they were reduced to 59 for 4 in the first session by a fired up Uttar Pradesh attack. That they finished at a relatively strong 278 for 6 was courtesy Kishan’s Jharkhand mentor and senior batsman Ishank Jaggi, who was 76 not out at stumps. Jaggi battled for 176 deliveries, hitting eight fours. His unbroken seventh-wicket stand with Shahbaz Nadeem, who was also with India A for the four-day fixtures in New Zealand not too long ago, was worth 121. Nadeem was unbeaten on 70, possibly eyeing a maiden first-class century on Saturday.

Panchal’s form continues, Milind breaches 1000 barrier

Leading Gujarat, champions of 2016-17 in Parthiv Patel’s absence, opener Priyank Panchal struck his eighth score of fifty or more this season – he’s converted three of those into hundreds – but Gujarat failed to capitalise. Smarting from a defeat to Saurashtra on a rank turner, Karnataka roared back to dismiss Gujarat for 216, and finished on 45 for the loss of Mayank Agarwal and D Nischal in reply.

Panchal’s 741 runs, including Friday’s 74, is the most by a batsman from the Elite group so far. Overall, it’s second-best to Milind Kumar‘s 1017. The Delhi-based Sikkim professional breached the 1000-run barrier during the course of his fourth century of the season – two of those have been double tons. He struck 139 to put Sikkim in a commanding position at 321 for 9 against Mizoram in the Plate Group where bowlers dominated proceedings elsewhere.

There also seems to be no stopping Deepak Dhapola, the Uttarakhand fast bowler, who picked up his sixth five-wicket haul of the season to take his wicket tally to 42 in his sixth game, the most in the season so far. It helped bowl Nagaland out for 207, before Uttarakhand finished on 73 for 2. With five wins in five matches, they’re all but through to the knockouts.

Meanwhile in Goalpara, as many as 22 wickets fell on a manic day where Puducherry took control despite being shot out for 136 in the first innings. Fabid Ahmed picked 6 for 29 to shoot Arunachal out for 82. At stumps, Puducherry lost two more in the second innings, but had extended their lead to 82.

Brief scores:

Groups A & B

Mumbai 439 for 8 (Iyer 178, Lad 130, Bhatt 4-68, Hardik Pandya 3-74) v Baroda in Mumbai

Saurashtra 269 for 3 (Vishwarajsinh Jadeja 97, Snell Patel 84) v Maharashtra in Nashik

Karnataka 45 for 2 trail Gujarat 216 (Panchal 74, Shreyas 2-21, Vinay 2-33) by 171 runs in Surat

Vidarbha 243 for 6 (Fazal 43, Wadkar 48, Avinash Yadav 3-69) v Railways in New Delhi

Kerala 291 for 7 (Manoharan 77*, Jalaj Saxena 68, Shivam 4-78) v Delhi in Thiruvananthapuram

Tamil Nadu 213 for 9 (Vijay Shankar 71, Grewal 5-55) v Punjab in Mohali

Bengal 99 for 2 (Easwaran 57*) v Hyderabad in Hyderabad

Himachal 51 for 1 trail Andhra 173 (Jyothisaikrishna 74, Jaiswal 5-50) by 122 runs in Amtar

Group C

Jharkhand 278 for 6 (Jaggi 76*, Nadeem 70*, DP Singh 4-76) v Uttar Pradesh in Lucknow

Assam 190 for 7 (Sinha 51*, Pandey 3-65) v Services in New Delhi

Haryana 129 for 5 (RP Sharma 41, Nazir 4-43) trail Jammu & Kashmir 161 (Haroon 26, Yuzvendra Chahal 3-50) by 32 runs in Lahli

Odisha 78 for 4 trail Rajasthan 135 (Lomror 85, Basant Mohanty 6-20) by 57 runs in Bhubaneswar

Tripura 247 for 7 (Pratyush Singh 98*, Verma 3-56) v Goa in Agartala

Plate Group

Bihar 80 for 2 trail Meghalaya 125 (Biswa 56, Aman 8-51) by 45 runs in Shillong

Sikkim 321 for 9 (Milind 139, Sinan 3-740 v Mizoram in Jorhat

Puducherry 36 (Ahmed 41*, Deendyal 4-36) and 28 for 2 lead Arunachal 86 (Ahmed 6-29) by 82 runs in Goalpara

Uttarakhand 73 for 2 (Suyal 2-38) trail Nagaland 207 (Jonathan 69, Dhapola 5-49) by 134 runs in Dehradun



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‘Careless whispers’ about Maxwell leave Langer fuming

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Another day, another drama around Australian selection. Head coach Justin Langer was involved in a tense exchange, which he later apologized for, as he said he had “zero knowledge” of guidance given to Glenn Maxwell last year for him to not take up a county deal in England on the assumption that he would be selected for Australia A.

That Australia A place, for a tour of India, never transpired – the justification given was that enough was known about Maxwell’s ability on the subcontinent – and Maxwell was then not selected for the Test tour of the UAE with the instruction of Langer to go and “score more hundreds” to push his credentials. Due to white-ball commitments he has since played just two first-class matches and was not part of Australia’s revamped Test batting line-up to face Sri Lanka.

Speaking on Wednesday, national selector Trevor Hohns said he did not know about any instruction to Maxwell not to spend time in county cricket last year. He added Maxwell was “content” to focus on white-ball cricket ahead of the World Cup, but acknowledged he still had a strong desire to add to his seven Test caps. Maxwell opted against putting his name into the IPL auction this year, instead taking a county stint with Lancashire that will include both first-class and one-day cricket.

The guidance to Maxwell to put rest ahead of county cricket last year – following the one-day tours of England and Zimbabwe – was understood to be made before Langer was appointed the new coach in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal. When pressed on the issue he went back and forth with a journalist before saying he had no knowledge of it.

“Are you certain that’s what happened,” Langer asked of the instructions given to Maxwell, with the journalist responding, “I’m asking”. After two rounds of this, Langer was asked who gave the directive to which he replied: “Did it happen?”

“Well you’re telling me it did happen, I’m asking did it happen?” Langer repeated. “No, I’ve got zero knowledge of that,” he then said, before calling it “careless whispers”.

Before answering the next question, Langer apologised: “Sorry for getting grumpy,” he said. “I don’t like getting grumpy but there’s so many stories that go around about so much stuff. Sorry everyone for getting grumpy. I didn’t mean to get grumpy, but the truth is a beautiful thing.”

Before the exchange about the details of the county deal, Langer had reiterated that Maxwell’s continued omission from the Test side had nothing to do with factors outside of cricket.

“Glenn is crystal clear from me and the selectors, what he needs to do to get back in the Test team,” he said. “He’s shown he is brilliant around the group in white-ball cricket. There’s been some reports about personality. It is literally false. It’s not true. He’s crystal clear what he has to do and that’s important, that he knows that and I know that as the coach and one of the selectors. All the conjecture about it – that’s all part of the noise. Glenn knows exactly what he has to do.”

*Cricket Australia later confirmed Maxwell had in fact been sent a planning email in April discussing his options for the coming year, in which mention was made of resting between the limited-overs tours of England and Zimbabwe and the Australia A tour of India a few weeks later. However a spokesperson denied that the planning email, a common part of discussions between CA and the players, was tantamount to a guarantee of selection.

Selection has been a key debate through the Australian season with the absence of David Warner and Steven Smith leaving a threadbare Test batting order. Marnus Labuschagne was the surprise choice to bat No. 3 in the final Test against India while Matt Renshaw, Joe Burns and Will Pucovski have been called up for the series against Sri Lanka. There have also been considerable changes to the one-day team that will face India.

Maxwell remains part of the one-day set-up but has been asked to take a role lower down the order in recent times, batting at No. 6 in last year’s series against England and South Africa, having been briefly dropped from the team after a lean run in 2017. He has made one half-century in his last 14 ODI innings.

*GMT 0845 The story was amended to include this paragraph.



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Pakistan consider changes after ‘disappointment’ of series defeat

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It was perhaps no accident Azhar Ali came out to face the press in Johannesburg. With speculation rife about the number of changes Pakistan may make to their side for the third Test – it could be as many as three – Azhar offered a characteristically straight bat to any queries on the subject.

“There might be changes but the captain and the coach should speak about them,” he said. “But there might be changes according to the balance that best suits this pitch.”

With Mickey Arthur having said last week that Shadab Khan‘s recovery from injury gave Pakistan a genuine allrounder who can play at No. 7, those changes can be set in motion. According to the Pakistan coach, No. 8 is the highest he was comfortable playing Faheem Ashraf. Should Shadab and Ashraf slot in, as is widely expected, the struggling Fakhar Zaman and equally hapless Yasir Shah would be likeliest to give way.

ALSO READ: When Babar met Steyn

Given the one-sided nature of the contests so far, it is tempting to write the tour off as yet another miserable episode for Pakistan in South Africa. It took under 18 sessions for the series to be sealed by the hosts, extending Pakistan’s disappointing run in the longer format. Yasir, the man Sarfraz Ahmed had marked out as an important asset to Pakistan even in these conditions, was a non-factor, while the middle order still looks unconvincing. But Azhar, in a somewhat philosophical mood, said just because things hadn’t quite gone to plan didn’t mean the tour was a failure, with several batsmen having “learned a lot”.

“It’s always very tough here. We knew that and we’ve tried to plan for it, but unfortunately things didn’t go to plan. There are some things we think we have achieved on this tour. A few of the batsmen really stuck in and showed we can play on these hard wickets. As a batting unit we did not score enough runs but all the batsmen learned a lot and will hopefully do well in future.”

That he would be pressed on arguably the burning issue of the tour – the state of the pitches – was perhaps inevitable. In three of the four innings so far, Azhar’s stay at the crease has been ended by vicious bouncers, at least one of which reared up from a length. The other dismissal, in the second innings at Cape Town during which he sat on the back foot slightly, more wary of the short ball, saw Azhar undone by one that stayed low from Kagiso Rabada and crashed into his pad plumb in front.

“We knew we’d get pace and bounce but even if you asked the SA batsmen they’d say these wickets were hard. It’s not quite even, there were cracks in both wickets but it’s the same for both teams. We didn’t perform as well as we should have done. We had opportunities but I think the South African attack is very good in these conditions. All the bowlers bowled 140kph-plus apart from Philander but he’s quite accurate, but I do think the pitches were unusually difficult too.”

The good news on that front, though, is Azhar feels the surface at the Wanderers isn’t quite cut from the same cloth. “I think it’s a much better surface than the other two,” he said. “Yes, this does have grass and a few cracks, but I think they will widen a lot later than Centurion and Cape Town.”

The series might be gone in quick time, something Azhar acknowledged the whole team felt “disappointment” about, but wasn’t letting despondency take over. “We are disappointed but every Test match you play in countries like South Africa, England and Australia, it’s always important to bring our A game. We want to do that tomorrow in this Test match. The tour is not over, we still have to play ODIs, so there’s still an opportunity to do well here.”



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Smith to miss two BPL matches to fix elbow injury

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Steven Smith will miss Comilla Victorians’ next two matches in the BPL, after a previous elbow injury flared up in the last couple of days. He will fly back to Sydney for a check-up but is expected to be back in Bangladesh sometime next week.

“He is quite positive about returning, possibly during the Sylhet phase of the competition,” Victorians media manager Sohanuzzaman Khan told ESPNcricinfo. “He will undergo an MRI in Australia, which isn’t available in Bangladesh, and will inform us about it.”

Their next two matches in Dhaka are against Rajshahi Kings and Chittagong Vikings on January 11 and 13, while their Sylhet phase begins on January 15.

Smith, who led the Victorians to one win in the two outings, has so far made 16 and 0 in his two innings against Sylhet Sixers and Rangpur Riders. The former Australia captain’s participation in the BPL made news after the organisers had to change the drafting rules to accommodate him.

Meanwhile, Khulna Titans have replaced Ali Khan with Junaid Khan after the US fast bowler was ruled out due to a hamstring injury he suffered during his only match in the BPL.



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