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‘Batsmen still haven’t understood the value of finishing a match’ – Malinga – WSAIGO Sports
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‘Batsmen still haven’t understood the value of finishing a match’ – Malinga

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It’s all well and good to get fast starts, batsmen, but once you’re in, you have to convert your promising innings into match-winning ones.

So went the message from captain Lasith Malinga to the Sri Lanka top order, after the visitors slumped to a 35-run defeat in the lone T20I against New Zealand in Auckland on Friday. Four batsmen in Sri Lanka’s top five passed 15, but none went on to make a half-century, despite the fact that Sri Lanka were ahead of the required rate early in their innings.

Niroshan Dickwella and Kusal Perera might be especially disappointed, having made 18 off ten and 23 off 12 respectively. Thisara Perera also made 43 off 24 before holing out to long-on. Thanks to their innings, Sri Lanka were 117 for 4 at the end of 12 overs, and on track to chase down the target of 180. But none of the top five hung around, and the middle and lower orders went on to capitulate.

“On this kind of ground, with small boundaries, 180 is a gettable target,” Malinga said. “We have seven genuine batsmen in our side, and they have to realise the situation. They have to capitalise and finish the game. This is quite a big thing in the last couple of years. They still haven’t understood how valuable finishing the match for the side is.

“A finisher is a very valuable player in the playing XI. When there are two guys there, they have to believe that they are the finishers. Don’t leave it to others.”

Sri Lanka had also had similar troubles in the ODIs, with several players in the top order batting well to begin with, before throwing their wickets away. Thisara was the only batsman to make a century in the ODIs, and that had been from down at No. 7.

“Today also we were [all] out in 18 (16.5) overs – with two overs remaining,” Malinga said. “I have hope that in the next six months they will understand that and show character. They have to show their character in the middle of the innings.”

The bowlers were also guilty of letting a good start slip in the T20I. They had had New Zealand 55 for 5 after ten overs, but bowled poorly at the death as the opposition lower order began to blast sixes. Only Malinga bowled cheaply at the death, conceding just six runs in the penultimate over. The 17th, 18th and 20th overs, meanwhile, went for 23, 18 and 17 respectively.

“It’s the same with the bowlers. If they’ve done a good job and have a bit of confidence, they still have to concentrate in the last over,” Malinga said. “They have to bowl to the situation and the conditions. We have to improve those two parts.”



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‘Plan of controlling run rate worked’ – Amir

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Mohammad Amir may have taken time to put plans into action, but South Africa found themselves in a straitjacket once he began to execute them. Having gone wicketless despite being the tightest of the Pakistan bowlers in a pair of sessions where South Africa scored close to four runs per over, the left-arm fast bowler found his rewards after tea.

For his part, Amir said the riches he and his fellow bowlers found after tea had to do with sticking to the plans more effectively than they had done on a surface that offers more to the batsmen than the previous two did.

“When the batsman is settled in, he can get the runs. It’s very difficult to control the run rate but as I said, if you stick with the plans, you can get rewards,” he said. “You have to bowl as a combination. It’s a bowling unit so we have to back each other up. I think (Mohammad) Abbas and I were doing that because that was the plan to control the run rate. That’s why we were successful.”

Numbers show Amir was most effective just short of a good length. Of the 27 balls, he conceded nine runs; it was also the length that brought him both wickets. In addition, the South African batsmen were in control for just 70.3% of the deliveries Amir bowled at that length, the least comfortable they were at any length for any bowler all innings.

Amir said there wasn’t a special plan for any batsmen, but added that Aiden Markram had played exceptionally well and required the greatest effort to bring back under control.

“I was bowling with the same plan. He was a good batsman playing very good shots. We were bowling with the plan, we had to bowl on middle and off. We don’t want to give him runs and we did it.”

Pakistan’s bowling fightback aside, the mood after the high of the final session would be slightly sullied by losing two early wickets in an awkward seven overs before stumps. Most worryingly, it was the man in form, Shan Masood, and the man supposed to be the leader of the batting attack, Azhar Ali, who succumbed before play, leading Amir to believe the game was very much in the balance.

“It’s a 50/50 call [on who won the day],” he said. “It’s Test cricket and you can’t predict anything before the match ends. We have to bat well and if we don’t lose a wicket in the first session (on Saturday) we have a good chance. We are teammates and we have to back up each other. It’s cricket and anything can happen. Sometimes I didn’t bowl well and sometimes you struggle with the batting. It’s all about momentum.”



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Scotland call up uncapped Adrian Neill, Chris Greaves for Oman tour

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Scotland men have named the uncapped Adrian Neill and Chris Greaves in their 14-member squad for their first ever tour of Oman, where they will feature in a T20I quadrangular series, from February 13 to 17, that also involves Netherlands and Ireland, followed by a 50-over series against the hosts. Fast-bowling allrounder Ruaidhri Smith, who had an impressive T20 season with Glamorgan, also returns to the national fold.

For what will be Scotland’s first international assignment since the T20I tri-series in Netherlands in June, which also included Ireland, allrounder Dylan Budge and the quick-bowling trio of Chris Sole, Brad Wheal and Stuart Whittingham are the prominent exclusions.

Speaking about the make-up of the squad, acting head coach Toby Bailey said: “We are delighted that Adrian Neill has developed so much in the last year with the help of Gloucestershire and Owen Dawkins who will also join the coaching staff for the tour. Adrian now has the engine and skills to match his 6-foot-8 frame to be a real menace at international level.

“We also wanted to introduce the legspin skill set of Chris Greaves and it will be exciting to see this other dimension added to our spin unit. Chris impressed at the end of the Tilney T20 series and in La Manga. He also adds strength to the batting line up down the order and has recently been training with Pakistan in South Africa, learning from Yasir Shah and Shadab Khan.

“We are also excited to see Ruaidhri Smith back in the squad after a successful T20 campaign with Glamorgan, including a 4-6 against Middlesex. He will not only add strength to our seam attack but also to the batting and fielding unit. Ruaidhri also impressed in La Manga and it will be great to see him back in a Scotland shirt.

“We are looking forward to the challenge of continuing the success of last year, and the quadrangular tournament and one day series against Oman represent an ideal opportunity to do this.”

The quadrangular series will be played on February 13, 15 and 17, before the three-match series gets underway.

Scotland squad: Kyle Coetzer (capt), Richie Berrington, Matthew Cross, Alasdair Evans, Chris Greaves, Michael Leask, Calum MacLeod, George Munsey, Adrian Neill, Safyaan Sharif, Ruaidhri Smith, Hamza Tahir, Craig Wallace, Mark Watt
IN: Ruaidhri Smith, Adrian Neill and Chris Greaves
OUT: Dylan Budge, Chris Sole, Brad Wheal and Stuart Whittingham



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Jury in Alex Hepburn rape trial discharged after failing to reach verdict | Cricket

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Alex Hepburn at Worcester Crown Court © Getty Images


The jury in the trial of Alex Hepburn, the former Worcestershire cricketer who was accused of raping a sleeping woman, has been discharged after failing to reach a verdict.

The case at Worcester Crown Court was adjourned on Friday afternoon, the fifth day of the trial, after the 12-person jury failed to reach a majority verdict following more than nine hours of deliberation.

Hepburn, 23, now faces the prospect of a retrial after pleading not guilty to two counts of rape, following his initial arrest in April 2017.

In the course of the trial it was claimed that the alleged victim, who cannot be named, had awoken during the attack, having initially assumed Hepburn to be Joe Clarke, his Worcestershire team-mate, with whom she had had consensual sex earlier in the night.

Hepburn, who was born in Western Australia and moved to England in 2013 to pursue his cricket career, told the court that he had previously arranged to sleep in his friend’s room, and did not see the woman until he was in bed beside her.

The case brought to light what was described in court as a “sexual conquest game” on the social media app WhatsApp, involving a number of Worcestershire’s players, including Hepburn and Clarke.

Miranda Moore QC, for the prosecution, alleged that Hepburn had been “fired up” by his desire to win the competition, having posted the rules of the game to the WhatsApp group five days before the alleged attack.

Hepburn, giving evidence, had claimed the WhatsApp group was “meant to be nothing more than immature chat between a group of friends”, adding that he was embarrassed that his family had had to see the comments that he had made.

The Crown Prosecution Service will now discuss the prospect of a retrial with the lawyers and the judge, Jim Tindal, with a decision due in 14 days’ time.

It is also understood that the ECB, the PCA and Worcestershire CCC are paying close attention to the case, with the behaviour of the club’s players likely to come under scrutiny from the Cricket Discipline Commission, irrespective of the verdict.

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