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Harper, bowlers help Renegades gallop to fourth win



Melbourne Renegades 2 for 145 (Harper 56*, Cooper 36*) beat Brisbane Heat 8 for 144 (McCullum 50, Shinwari 3-16, Boyce 2-17) by eight wickets

Melbourne Renegades administered a hiding to Brisbane Heat at a subdued Gabba, set on their path by excellent spells from Cameron Boyce and Usman Shinwari before Marcus Harris, Sam Harper and Tom Cooper shepherded the chase.

The Heat were unable to build any momentum at the crease despite a long innings by Brendon McCullum, as Boyce found useful assistance from the surface and Shinwari shrugged off being struck for one telling six by Max Bryant to concede only 10 more runs from his four overs.

After Harris gave the Renegades a usefully rapid-fire start, Harper and Cooper needed only to keep their heads, something they did with the help of dropped catches by the Heat, who now find themselves in some danger of missing out on the BBL finals.

Boyce trumps McCullum

Sent in to bat, the Heat might have expected a rapid start on what looked a good and pacy pitch, but save for one box office drive over long-on by Bryant, their early overs were characterised by a struggle for timing and poise against diligent Renegades bowling. This all added up to that most rare of spectacles – a slow (for him) innings by McCullum.

After Bryant departed and Chris Lynn was unable to get himself going, McCullum seemed to have set himself to bat through the innings, but was unable to impose himself upon the former Queensland spin bowler Boyce, whose legbreaks were also once favoured by Australia’s Twenty20 set-up. Gaining useful turn and bounce from the Gabba surface, Boyce coaxed numerous miscues before removing McCullum when the Heat opener picked out deep midwicket with an attempted slog sweep.

Having already deceived Lynn, Boyce could be more than content with a return of 2 for 17 from four overs, playing a major role in limiting the horizons of the Heat innings.

Cutting’s catchup exercise

Over recent seasons the Heat have had a couple of familiar threats for opponents, the “bash brothers” McCullum and Lynn up the top and then the heavy hitting of Ben Cutting in the lower middle order. While Cutting’s first ball from Boyce left him groping in the manner of McCullum before him, the tall allrounder was able to size up Joe Mennie and seemed capable of driving Brisbane into the 160s when he took 13 runs from the first five balls of the 18th over.

However, Mennie was able to provoke a skywards pull shot from a wide, short delivery, and after Beau Webster held on in similar fashion to the catch he took to dismiss McCullum, the Heat innings petered out. Shinwari, on the receiving end of Bryant’s big driven six, completed an otherwise exemplary spell worth 3 for 16, while the recalled Test batsmen Matt Renshaw and Joe Burns could cobble a mere 10 off 10 balls between them.

Harris goes after Pattinson

It was the Renegades who drew first blood, literally, when a Harris skier off James Pattinson burst through the hands of Cutting and he walked off for treatment to a bloody nose. There was some debate over whether Cutting had actually controlled the ball after it struck his nose and he fell to the ground, before the umpires eventually ruled it a non-catch.

More definitive was Harris’ treatment of Pattinson in his second over. A full toss scythed through cover, a length ball heaved over wide mid-on, another length ball inside edged past the stumps to the boundary then an extraordinary launch inside out over cover for six made the over worth 19 and gave the Renegades a swift start to ease pressure on the rest of the batting order. Harris would only get as far as 28, but he had made his presence felt.

Harper, Cooper keep composed

The value of Harris’ early acceleration was to be underlined by the way that Harper and Cooper were able to calmly close in on their target, even though at one point they allowed 20 balls to elapse without a boundary off the bat. Cooper had not previously passed 16 in six innings, and he was to be dropped twice in getting as far as 20. Harper was rather more fluent, teasing the Heat captain Lynn in his efforts to plug gaps.

By their union, and the Heat’s obliging fielding, the Renegades were able to gallop to their target with no fewer than 26 balls to spare, going up to four wins while also improving their net run rate appreciably. The Heat, meanwhile, were left two games out of the BBL top four.

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Siddle returns, Behrendorff debuts as Australia opt to bat



Australia won the toss and decided to bat against India

There will be an early chance to assess Australia’s reshaped one-day batting order after Aaron Finch won the toss at the SCG and opted to set a total.

India have had to contend with the controversy around Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul which has seen the pair sent home from the tour as the investigation into their comments on a recently aired TV show continues.

The balance of India’s side was disrupted by Pandya’s absence and they opted for Ravindra Jadeja at No. 7 as the second spinner alongside Kuldeep Yadav who impressed during the fourth Test at the very venue. Dinesh Karthik slots into the middle ahead of Kedar Jadhav.

Mohammed Shami formed a three-pronged pace attack alongside Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Khaleel Ahmed. Ahead of the match, Virat Kohli said this series – and the other matches leading into the World Cup – were important in deciding who would support Bhuvneshwar and the rested Jasprit Bumrah at the World Cup.

Australia confirmed their XI yesterday which included another reshuffled batting order, with Alex Carey opening alongside Finch, and a new-look bowling attack that includes the recalled Peter Siddle, playing his first ODI in more than eight years, and the uncapped left-arm fast bowler Jason Behrendorff.

Australia, the defending World Cup champions, have won just three ODIs in nearly two years.

Australia: 1 Aaron Finch (capt), 2 Alex Carey (wk), 3 Usman Khawaja, 4 Shaun Marsh, 5 Peter Handscomb, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Glenn Maxwell, 8 Peter Siddle, 9 Jhye Richardson, 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Jason Behrendorff

India: 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 Dinesh Karthik, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Khaleel Ahmed

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Misbah-ul-Haq to play QEA Grade Two cricket ahead of PSL



Misbah-ul-Haq is set to play Quaid-e-Azam Grade Two competition for his home side Faisalabad ahead of the Pakistan Super League, which begins on February 14. This is the second time in the last two years that the former Pakistan captain has turned to the lower level in a bid to extend his playing career. He will be joined by batsman Ahmed Shehzad, who is aiming to work his way back from his ban.

Misbah retired from international cricket in 2017 and has since been active in the domestic circuit. Last season, he played both List A and the four-day games for SNGPL. Ahead of the PSL draft last year, he backtracked on his agreement to mentor Islamabad United, saying he wanted to play in the 2019 season. He was picked by Peshawar Zalmi in the Diamond category in the draft.

The 44-year-old led Faisalabad to a win in 2017 in the Grade Two tournament and helped them qualify for the country’s premier first-class tournament Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. They, however, lost six straight games out of the seven, with one abandoned, following which they were relegated.

“The biggest motivation for me is to help Faisalabad regain their Grade One spot,” Misbah said. “We were relegated last season and our aim is to qualify for first-class cricket again; this is what we can strive to do for our region. Such events also provide an opportunity to work with younger players, to spend time with them to work on their game and transfer experience. On a personal note the tournament should help me prepare for the PSL.”

Meanwhile, Shehzad will return to competitive cricket after serving a five-and-half-month ban for violating the board’s anti-doping rules. He was initially handed a four-month suspension but it was extended by six weeks after he was found guilty of breaching the ruling on the original ban. As a result, he missed playing the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, where he was to play for Sui Southern Gas Corporation after his contract was terminated by Habib Bank Limited.

“The last few months were very tough for me; I badly missed playing cricket especially since the sport is a childhood passion of mine and an integral part of my life,” Shehzad said.

“I am more focused than ever and have worked hard on improving my mindset and other aspects of the game. I am really looking forward to representing Faisalabad. Grade Two is a platform from where a lot of players have emerged and I am eager to deliver to the best of my ability for my team.”

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Afridi rolls back the years as Smith-less Comilla triumph



Comilla Victorians 130 for 5 (Anamul 40, Lewis 28) beat Rajshahi Kings 124 (Udana 32, Mehidy 30, Afridi 3-10) by five wickets

How the game played out

First, he takes wickets with ripping legbreaks, not always associated with Shahid Afridi‘s style of bowling. Then he comes, sees out a few deliveries – surprise, surprise – and with victory all but certain, seals it with a six. While the Test team continues to struggle in South Africa, at least one Pakistani cricketer is giving his country something to rejoice at.

Comilla Victorians hardly felt Steven Smith‘s absence, both as a leader and batsman. His replacement – the experienced Imrul Kayes – tactfully used his spinners to reduce Rajshahi Kings to 63 for 7, but relaxed a little to see Isusu Udana top score with 32 hard-fought runs to set up a 125 chase. The damage had been done in dewy conditions, though. Anamul Haque, Ewin Lewis and Tamim Iqbal set up the chase which Comilla finished off with eight balls to spare, their second in three games. Afridi’s 4-0-10-3 earned him the Player-of-the-Match Award.

Turning points

Mohammad Saifuddin, the medium pacer, wasn’t originally given the ball to bowl the third over of the innings. Liam Dawson had marked his run-up and given his cap to the umpire when Imrul made a late change. It worked immediately as the skiddy bowler picked up two wickets in two deliveries. First he had Mominul Haque playing all around a full delivery to be trapped plumb in front of middle. Then, he bowled the perfect inswinging yorker that sneaked past Soumya Sarkar’s bat and pad to flatten his stumps. Hafeez then averted the hat-trick, but the early damage had been done.

Afridi’s crucial wicket of Mehidy Hasan, the Rajshahi Kings captain, who made a 17-ball 30 where most other top-order batsmen struggled, completed a top-order meltdown of sorts. Rajshahi went on to lose three wickets in four deliveries, losing the cream of their middle order.

Shoaib Malik’s run-out and Mustafizur Rahman’s set-up to get Imrul – reminiscent of Jasprit Bumrah’s dipping, slow yorker that removed Shaun Marsh during the MCG Test – breathed life into the game. Comilla had slipped to 109 for 5. Soon after, Afridi got a thick edge which Mehidy failed to latch on to at a wide slip. Six down with a handful against a skilled bowler may have panned out differently.

Star of the Day

One month can be a long break for a retired 38-year-old cricketer, but looking at Afridi running around, it seemed like he had the boisterous energy of his 18-year-old avatar. He was coolly pedaling away on the cycle with his pads on as his team-mates set up the chase for him to come and finish off. An hour earlier, he was turning them big on a sluggish deck that has seen plenty of cricket already. With Smith away in Australia to nurse an injured elbow, he was also constantly by Imrul’s side, being a driving force from a leadership point of view, too.

The big miss

Between them, Udana and Mustafizur Rahman took 5 for 33 off eight overs in the previous game. Udana’s back-of-the-hand variations and Mustafizur’s cutters could have been a handy proposition early in Rajshahi’s defence of a modest target. Mehidy waited for five overs to bring them into the attack, by which time Comilla had raced to 42 for no loss. This made a big difference.

Where they stand

Comilla jumped to third and are within two points of Dhaka Dynamites, the table toppers. Rajshahi, meanwhile, are placed sixth, with one win in three matches.

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