Jos Buttler looks set to retain his role as England’s first-choice T20I opener, despite his job swap with Ben Stokes during their IPL campaign with Rajasthan Royals, but there’s unlikely to be an immediate recall for Joe Root, according to head coach Chris Silverwood, even though he restated his value as a short-form batsman during Monday’s intra-squad warm-up in Paarl.
Speaking to PA media in the lead-up to the first of three T20Is against South Africa, Silverwood admitted he had been intrigued by Rajasthan’s manoeuvrings in the UAE last month, in which Buttler was shuffled into the finisher’s role at No.5 with Stokes promoted to open – an experiment which paid dividends with one spectacular matchwinning performance, a 59-ball hundred against the eventual champions, Mumbai Indians.
However, the pair reverted to more familiar roles while facing off for Team Buttler against Team Morgan at Boland Park, and though neither produced a score of note at 1 and 3 respectively, Silverwood said that the rejig would not “muddy the waters” for England as they continue to build towards the T20 World Cup in just under a year’s time.
“It’s great that those two guys get experience of doing different things and I don’t think it ever hurts them as players to explore different options, but it doesn’t muddy the waters at all,” Silverwood said.
“We’re pretty certain about which way we want to go and we’ll do that. We are blessed with the batsmen we’ve got here, world-class players who are capable of doing a multitude of jobs in that order.
“I know Ben was keen to do it, he’s always keen to get up the order and give it a go. I wouldn’t say I was surprised, I’d say I was glad to see him do well.”
That wealth of options at the top of England’s order is one of the reasons why Root has been omitted from each of the last two T20I squads – against Australia in September and for this three-match campaign in South Africa. Given his workload as Test captain, and his integral importance to the ODI side, the selectors have felt it would be counter-productive to keep him in the T20I bubble on a regular basis when he is not currently a first-choice pick.
Nevertheless, Root was England’s player of the tournament when they reached the final of the last World T20 in Kolkata four years ago, and he seized a rare chance to restate his T20 credentials at Paarl on Monday, scoring an unbeaten 45 from 26 balls to ease Team Buttler to victory alongside Sam Curran (45 from 18).
Following on from an unbeaten 77 in a 40-over warm-up at the weekend, Root is arguably England’s form batsman on the tour, and while Silverwood seemed to acknowledge the possibility of a T20I recall on this trip, he also insisted that the team for the opening fixture at Newlands on Friday would be drawn from the first-choice squad.
“Never say never. Everybody that’s here is an option,” Silverwood said. “We’ve got a large group of players here but do have that squad that we’ll initially pick from. If guys are here and doing well, you never know, but we picked that squad and we’ll start there.”
Olly Stone is another player who impressed in the warm-up despite not being an official part of the T20I set-up. He claimed 3 for 12 in a high-class display for Team Buttler, and given that the series is set to be dominated by quick bowlers, with Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje lining up opposite Jofra Archer and Mark Wood, the re-emergence of an extra pace option is timely for the England selectors.
“It’s been great to see guys who are not in the squad coming out and saying ‘we want to be in there’,” Silverwood added.
There may yet be plenty opportunities for Root, Stone, and other fringe candidates in England’s set-up, such as the reserve batsman Tom Banton, to make their cases for the T20 World Cup, with Silverwood acknowledging the likelihood of personnel changes within England’s bio-secure bubble, with tours of India and Sri Lanka also looming in the new year.
“I am looking at the moment, for players and staff, how do we get them in and out? Where can we make gaps for them?,” he said. “There’s uncertainty around family visits so it’s about how we make the best of what we’ve got available to us. It’s something I’m scribbling away in my notebook to try and find solutions and various options to get people home to see families and keep people mentally fresh.”
The build-up to the first T20I has been overshadowed by the news of two positive Covid-19 tests within the South African camp, but all of England’s results have so far come back negative, and Silverwood is confident that the measures taken to protect the team environment in their home summer will stand up to scrutiny on tour as well.
“Our main focus is on making sure everything in our camp is in order and that we observe the rules, regulations and protocols in front of us,” he said. “Hopefully that keeps us safe. We did pretty well in the summer with it. I’ll be led by the doctors but ideal scenario is no-one gets it.”
Eng vs NZ 2021 – ‘Players have got to show desperation and earn the right to stay in the side’
Thorpe, who was a part of the England team that slumped to the bottom of the unofficial world rankings with their 2-1 series loss in 1999, said that he hoped this defeat would spur a similar quest for higher standards among the class of 2021, after he himself played a central role in the Nasser Hussain-led team that went on to win four series in a row in 2000-01, including their first against West Indies in 32 years.
But, Thorpe warned, while today’s selectors were far more tolerant of short-term failure than they were at the start of his own career in 1993, the management would need to see evidence of greater mental application than was the case in the past two Test matches. That was particularly the case in the second innings at Edgbaston, where England slumped to 76 for 6 and ultimately 122 all out.
“We have some younger players in our team who are still developing and we’re wanting them to improve,” Thorpe said. “But sometimes the intensity and the spotlight of Test cricket, when you’re up against a good team like New Zealand, just highlights how much of a challenge our players found their decision-making and the execution of shots.
“Whatever technique you have, the basics are still the same,” he added. “You have to get in, you have to be positive in your defence, leave the ball well outside off stump and play straight. These are the things that have applied to batting in Test match cricket for as long as it has been going.
“So it is a mental skill to be able to train the brain to do these things, and if anything we’ve been lacking consistency in that area.”
“If you look at the techniques of all our batters from Sibley to Burns, to [Ollie] Pope to Lawrence, you can go down our batting order and to me it comes down to decision-making,” Thorpe said. “They have all scored runs at Test level and so it is about doing it more consistently and that is a mental thing really.
“It is about coping with the anxiousness when you first go out there and once you get in, and things become easier, it is about being hungry to score runs and to stay out there to accumulate. You can do that in a number of ways, rotating the strike, putting overs into the bowlers and making them work hard, and then we have the players who can take advantage.
“We have the talent, but you have to mentally push yourself on further as well and that is the area where we have fallen down in this series.”
The wider concern for England, who face India in five Tests from August before heading to Australia for the Ashes in December and January, is that the batters who failed against New Zealand were, broadly speaking, among England’s first-choice picks.
“He’s young, both in terms of age and his Test career,” Thorpe said. “He’s played 14 matches and he’s starting to get an understanding of what Test match batting is all about.
“He’ll be very frustrated. It is important for him to keep learning about what it takes to keep himself at the crease. That is the thing he will be most disappointed about in this series, but he has got to reflect and learn from what has happened. If he goes away and keeps working at his game I’m sure he will be successful, but you do have to learn from these moments so that when you come back you are better for it.
“As coaches that is what we are looking at. Do you have the game, the mental fortitude to improve and learn and push yourself forward when you have a bump in the road?”
The itinerary for the rest of the English summer does not offer much opportunity for the incumbents to groove their games on the county circuit, or for rivals to challenge for their berths ahead of the Trent Bridge Test on August 4, with two rounds of the Championship in early July giving way to the opening matches of the Hundred later that month.
As a consequence, Thorpe indicated that England would not be making wholesale changes against New Zealand, but warned that pressure for places was part and parcel of the job.
“These players have to show a desperation to stay in the side,” he said. “They’ve got to earn the right to stay in the side.
“And they will be fully aware of that, because we’ve got some players who will come back into that team and there are others on the outside putting pressure on so there is competition for places, which is a healthy thing for a team.
“That competition should drive the individual on so, when they get in, they smell that opportunity to perform and go and do it. Of course, that goes with the territory of playing at the highest level. You do have to keep producing. Your right-hand column is very important, it is what keeps you in the team.
“It is for us to keep observing the players to see whether they have the temperament to apply their techniques to score runs,” he added.
“Technique is hugely important and that is what keeps you scoring runs, but it is your decision-making that keeps you out in the middle whatever technique you have.”
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket
England vs India women’s Test 2021 – Harmanpreet Kaur: ‘We may not have much practice, but mentally we’re prepared’ | Cricket
Harmanpreet Kaur believes that a lack of adequate game time in the longest format in the lead-up to India Women’s return to Test cricket after nearly seven years can be offset in some measure by cultivating a positive outlook and heeding advice received from Ajinkya Rahane.
“I’ve played only two red-ball matches [in international cricket]. As a batting group when we have a discussion… this time we got a chance to speak to Rahane as well,” Kaur, the India Test vice-captain, said of her “easy and friendly talk” with her male counterpart in Southampton, where both the Indian teams served a hard quarantine upon arriving in the UK on June 3. “He shared his knowledge with us as to how to approach batting in the longest format and how one should divide their innings into parts.
“We may not have much practice under our belt [going into the Test], but mentally [we are prepared]. We’ve discussed a lot of things so we prepare ourselves well for the match. Even in the nets, we’ve tried to be in a good frame of mind because when you are happy, other than thinking too much about your batting, you tend to play well.”
The women’s team arrived in Bristol on Monday for the one-off Test against hosts England that begins on Wednesday. The opening fixture of a seven-match multi-format assignment, the Test marks India’s first outing in the format since the one-off Test at home against South Africa in November 2014. On the domestic circuit, the last multi-day women’s competition – the Senior Women’s Inter-Zonal Three-Day Game – was held in March-April 2018, in Thiruvananthapuram.
Kaur admitted that inadequate preparedness heading into the tour wasn’t ideal, but welcomed the revival of Test cricket for her team.
“Whatever time we’ve got [since coming out of quarantine], we’ve tried to simulate match scenarios as much as possible and tried to keep ourselves in the best frame of mind,” Kaur said. “We didn’t get much time to prepare, or any practice games. Individually, it’s imperative to adapt to the situation.
“We’ve never tried tinkering too much with Shafali because she is a natural player, and if you try talking too much technique or game planning with her, she can get disturbed because she is only 17″
Harmanpreet Kaur is all for letting Shafali Verma develop her own way
“The surfaces are different to what we get in India. We’ve practised against the swinging ball in the nets. We have a further two days – today and tomorrow – to prepare ourselves better for the match, so I hope we’ll be able to do that well.
“It’s a totally different scenario [to playing with the white ball]. I know we didn’t even get any domestic games with the red ball. In the upcoming season and years we’ll get more red-ball cricket also, which is a very good sign for us.”
As with Tests in the Women’s Ashes, the Bristol Test will feature the use of the Kookaburra red ball (the Dukes ball is usually used in England), with England captain Heather Knight saying last week that “we’re going to be using a Kookaburra in this match because that’s what we’re going to be using in the Ashes and it’s no secret this Test match is a huge part of our preparation going into that Ashes series and that Ashes Test match away from home.”
Kaur said that in the practice sessions India have had so far, the Kookaburra didn’t pose much challenge.
“Dealing with a Kookaburra didn’t feel too different because the ball size and weight is roughly the same [as the white ball we use in limited-overs cricket]. The last time we played [a Test], we felt the red ball was a bit heavier than the white variant, which makes you rely on your timing more. But the Kookaburra white and red ball feels the same; just the colour is different. We felt good playing with it because when you’re in whites and you play with the red ball, it’s a totally different feeling.”
When asked about the likelihood of 17-year-old big-hitter Shafali Verma making her debut on Wednesday, Kaur stressed that it was important for the senior players and the team management to refrain from talking shop too much with the young batter.
“We’ve never tried tinkering too much with Shafali because she is a natural player, and if you try talking too much technique or game planning with her, she can get disturbed because she is only 17 years old,” Kaur said. “To burden her with too many thoughts isn’t the right thing.
“All of us try to create a good environment for her to be able to feel less pressured and be able to enjoy her cricket well. She was looking great in the nets, and I hope if she gets a chance to play she’ll do better.”
As regards Jhulan Goswami, the senior-most bowler in the Indian attack, Kaur was hopeful that the 38-year-old pacer would replicate in this Test the consistency and success that’s been a hallmark of her nearly two-decade-long international career.
“She is someone who always takes the lead whenever we’re on the field,” Kaur said. “She’s always [been] special for us because her quota [of overs] is [important]. She will always give us breakthroughs whenever we need. Not only her but all the bowlers are very important because in Test matches you need breakthroughs, and I think she will be fantastic in this match also.”
The tour of England is also returning head coach Ramesh Powar‘s first assignment since replacing WV Raman in the role last month. Kaur, who is also India’s T20I captain, said her interactions with Powar on the ongoing tour had been no different to those during his first stint in the position which ended with the 2018 T20 World Cup, following a high-profile controversy involving himself, ODI captain Mithali Raj, Kaur, T20I vice-captain Smriti Mandhana, and several members of the now-defunct Committee of Administrators that was overseeing the BCCI.
“My interactions with him have been the same [as before]. He is someone who’s involved in the game all the time and expects the same of the players. Whenever you speak to him, you feel like you’re in a match. He asks you to imagine yourself in a match situation and figure out how you would react to it.
“I get a lot of information speaking to him because he, too, has played a lot of cricket, including T20 cricket. So the experience is the same. Whatever we had done in 2018, we are repeating those things now as well.”
Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Ind vs NZ – WTC winners to take home USD 1.6 million as well as Test Championship mace
Runners-up to get USD 800,000; the teams will split the prize money in case there isn’t a result
The winners of the India vs New Zealand World Test Championship (WTC) final will take home USD 1.6 million, as well as the Test Championship Mace, while the losing team will get USD 800,000, the ICC has announced. In case there is a stalemate, or weather prevents a winner from being identified despite the reserve day, the two teams will split the total prize money of USD 2.4 million.
Australia, who finished third on the points table, England, who were fourth, and Pakistan, the fifth-placed side, will receive USD 450,000, USD 350,000 and USD 200,000 respectively, while the remaining teams that were a part of the competition – West Indies, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – will get USD 100,000 each.
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