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Dec 5: Kandy Tuskers vs Colombo Kings, Hambantota

Pro Tip: If Kandy Tuskers lose this game, they might have to depend on Galle Gladiators to qualify for knockouts. So, expect their experienced players like Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis and Brendan Taylor to deliver.

Our XI: Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Kusal Perera, Dinesh Chandimal, Laurie Evans, Kusal Mendis, Brendan Taylor, Asela Gunaratne, Andre Russell, Angelo Mathews, Isuru Udana, Dushmantha Chameera

Substitutes: Qais Ahmed, Thikshila de Silva, Naveen-ul-Haq, Seekuge Prasanna

Player availability: Irfan Pathan and Dale Steyn are doubtful but we might not always be able to tip you off about late injury (or other relevant) updates, so please finalise your team after the toss.

Captain: Andre Russell

One of the best T20 players of this generation, Russell has found form with both bat and ball in the tournament. He made 65* off 19 balls in a five-over game and scored a crucial 20-ball 32 in the last game which helped his side to chase down the target. He has also picked up four wickets in the last two games.

Vice-captain: Kusal Mendis

The 25-year-old pocket dynamo has been firing with the bat for the Tuskers in LPL 2020. His 188 runs in five innings at a strike rate of 140.29 make him their leading run-scorer. Against spinners, he has been a rock for them, scoring at an average of 59.50 and a strike rate of 140.oo.

Hot Picks

Rahmanullah Gurbaz: During LPL 2020, nobody has scored more runs in the powerplay than the young Afghanistan opener. His fearless hitting helped him score 123 runs in just 65 balls with nine sixes. He is yet to bat in the middle overs in the tournament though.

Laurie Evans: Evans scored a 33-ball 59 which included five fours and four sixes a couple of games back and is one of the top run-scorers for his team. He was also the top run-scorer for his side Surrey in NatWest T20 Blast this year where he scored 363 runs in 11 games at a strike rate of 153.16.

Asela Gunaratne: For a bowler who bowls around 110kph, to be the most prolific bowler in powerplay is some stat. In the powerplay overs, he has taken four wickets in 27 balls while conceding just 30 runs. Overall, he is the joint-second leading wicket-taker in the tournament with seven wickets. In the limited chances he got with the bat, he has scored 96 runs in 65 balls so far.

Differential Picks

Dinesh Chandimal: He had a couple of Man-of-the-Match performances and a couple of forgettable games, but Chandimal is a proven performer and is likely to get you some points behind the stumps too.

Angelo Mathews: For his standards, Mathews has underperformed in the tournament so far. He has scored 35 runs in three innings and got just a couple of wickets. But he showed signs of coming back to his best form in the last game.

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Recent Match Report – Yorkshire vs Leics North Group 2021

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Yorkshire given scare in defence of massive 240 in aggregate record for Blast

Yorkshire 240 for 4 (Bairstow 82, Lyth 51, Brook 48*) beat Leicestershire 222 for 8 (Inglis 82, Willey 3-44) by 18 runs

Jonny Bairstow smashed 82 off 45 balls as Yorkshire added to Leicestershire’s miserable start to this season’s Vitality Blast with a thrilling 18-run victory in an Emerald Headingley run-fest.
The Vikings amassed 240 for 4 before the Foxes gave them an almighty scare as Leeds-born Australian Josh Inglis matched Bairstow’s score off only 37 balls.
This was Yorkshire’s third highest total in Blast history and included Adam Lyth‘s 51, 44 for David Willey and 48 not out for Harry Brook.

Leicestershire, 146 for 3 in the 13th over with opener Inglis unbeaten, later slipped to a fourth straight North Group defeat. But Inglis ensured they fought to the death at 222 for 8.

This was Yorkshire’s second win in three North Group games, and 462 runs combined equals the Blast record.

The triumph was built on a 113 opening partnership in 10.1 overs between Bairstow and Lyth, with further half-century stands for the third and fifth wickets.

On a glorious Leeds evening, there were 29 sixes hit.

Each of the Foxes six-man attack was taken to task after home captain Willey had won his side’s 10th toss in 11 in all cricket in 2021.

Afghanistan seamer Naveen-ul-Haq claimed two wickets, getting Willey and Bairstow caught in the deep in the 17th over. That left Yorkshire at 189 for four.

Fellow quick Gavin Griffiths had a night to forget, conceding 60 in three overs, as Bairstow set the tone, giving the Foxes fielders little chance with his power.



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Recent Match Report – Essex vs Sussex South Group 2021

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Skipper slams 75 from 44 to help make short work of small chase

Sussex 130 for 3 (Wright 75) beat Essex 128 for 8 (Garton 3-31) by seven wickets

Luke Wright entered the 2021 Vitality Blast with a stunning 75 off 44 balls as Sussex Sharks made it three wins from three with a seven-wicket victory over Essex Eagles.

The Blast’s all-time leading run-scorer missed the opening two rounds after splitting the webbing in his hand while practising fielding on the eve of the competition. But he made up for lost time by bringing up his fifty in 33 deliveries as Sussex chased down Essex’s below-par 128 for eight with 36 balls to spare.

Wright looked at home right from the start, with boundaries from his second and third deliveries – two of eight fours.

Opening partner Phil Salt earned a life when he bludgeoned a full toss to mid-on, only to earn a reprieve for the umpire to judge the ball to have been above waist-height, much to Simon Harmer’s chagrin. Salt was run out for 13, after putting on 54 with Wright before Travis Head added 60 together with the skipper.

Wright continued to his 26th Blast half-century, going past 8000 T20 career runs, with a pair of straight sixes and another over cow corner. He departed with six still needed but Delray Rawlins clattered the winning runs over long-off soon after.

Wright’s day had started perfectly as he won the toss and stuck the hosts in – although Will Buttleman struck successive sixes in the fourth over. On a used hybrid pitch, scoring proved difficult for Essex with only Buttleman, Michael Pepper and Jimmy Neesham’s strike rates topping 100, for those who reached double figures.

The strain on scoring was exemplified by the last over of the Powerplay, which saw just one run, as Paul Walter struggled to lay a bat on Chris Jordan – the run rate throughout the innings hovering just below seven an over.

To add to the Eagles’ woes, wickets were a regular occurrence. Tom Westley and Buttleman fell in the Powerplay – the former picking out deep midwicket off George Garton and the latter slapping a Tymal Mills slower ball to cover.

Walter was stumped, Ryan ten Doeschate clubbed old pal Ravi Bopara to long off, Pepper – having scored 38 off 25 balls – drilled to extra cover, Harmer miscued to midwicket, Jack Plom skied to mid-off and Neesham was comprehensively bowled.

Garton ended up with 3 for 31, with Mills, Jordan and Bopara all going at under a run-a-ball.



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Recent Match Report – Hampshire vs Middlesex South Group 2021

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Imposing Hampshire target overhauled with two balls to spare in outground thriller

Middlesex 217 for 7 (Cracknell 77, Simpson 62) beat Hampshire 215 for 6 (Short 48, McManus 47, Weatherley 41) by three wickets with two balls to spare

Middlesex pulled off their second highest T20 chase – by three wickets with two balls to spare – in a memorable match at Radlett which saw the next generation take charge of a county going through a difficult transition, and leave another ailing T20 side, Hampshire, fearing that they don’t seem to be in much of a transition at all.

Radlett is about as far away from the ECB’s vision of T20 cricket as it is possible to be. The dream is maximum revenue from large stadia, a football-style atmosphere and a sense of theatre that delights a TV audience. Start an overly loud, alcohol-fuelled chant at Radlett and you may be blackballed from the golf club or become the subject of gossip in the Ladies Circle.

It would be interesting to know what Middlesex and England’s limited-overs captain, Eoin Morgan, who makes no pretence that he shares the ECB’s modernising vision, privately thinks of it when he decamps from Lord’s. Last night, as a setting sun cast a gentle amber light over a fine victory, he might even have been getting to like it.
What a game Radlett staged. Professional cricket in England obviously can’t financially survive on small club grounds, but is also about highly entertaining nights like this, fought out before people who care deeply, and even more wonderfully so when two players at the start of their careers come to the fore in such a fashion. Blake Cullen is not about to get a headline for his intelligent and aggressive 1 for 29 in four overs; Joe Cracknell can be assured of plaudits for a brilliant 77 from 42 balls which saw Middlesex home. Both give Middlesex faith that their player development is reaping dividends.

Hampshire’s first 200-plus total for three years was eminently chaseable in perfect batting conditions. But patently not by Middlesex, most of their supporters would have suggested. At 30 for 3, with Morgan trudging off, having reached at a very wide one to hole out at deep backward point, a philosophical kind of pessimism had taken hold.

But Cracknell, whose threat was illustrated by a 22-ball 50 against Kent, and John Simpson rallied with a stand of 122 from 59 balls. Cracknell possesses a natural belligerence and his youthful optimism began the surge – his innings full of commanding pulls and slog sweeps; Simpson then took over with successive sixes against Liam Dawson’s left-arm spin, never as stylish, but possessing the experience to know what he can get away with.
Simpson was stumped at the second attempt, off the leg spin of Mason Crane for 62 from 30 balls. Cracknell, seeking an off-side boundary, where he had rarely ventured, also fell to Crane for 77 from 42. He had been selected ahead of Max Holden which, with due respect to Holden, was a bit of a no-brainer in this format.
Crane had carried some threat, as illustrated by his 3 for 35 in three overs. Dawson’s full allocation had gone for 54 and his return to the England T20 squad looked even more like a selection of habit. But Hampshire’s skipper, James Vince, opted logically enough to give the final over to the seam of Brad Wheal with ten needed and Chris Green hammered a successive four and six over deep midwicket to give Middlesex the game.

Radlett is an idyllic county ground: a good batting surface, a ground lined by trees and hedges, and a convivial crowd adopting a Country Show attitude to any minor privations in the marquees and the portable toilets. They were allowed not far short of 1,000 spectators which is roughly the same as some of the smaller county grounds, which have stands and things. All to do with pinch points apparently.

Hampshire’s 215 for 6 was their first 200-plus score for three years, but it was far from impregnable. Their record since then is as bad as any county in the country and conditions – excellent pitch, fast outfield, short boundaries – was considerably bowler-friendly. They were also without Chris Wood which meant that Kyle Abbott played his first T20 match since turning out in the Lanka Premier League in December.

They were on the verge of a colossal Powerplay with 68 garnered from the first five overs and Vince and D’Arcy Short in a blissful world where they could do much as they pleased. With Middlesex lacking five pace bowlers because of injury or (in the case of Tom Helm) recovery from Covid-19, a colossal score looked on the cards.

Then came Cullen. Three off the first over; Vince’s head-high hook falling to deep backward square in his next. In his final over, he twice troubled Hampshire’s ex-Middlesex man, James Fuller, twice for pace, the first of them gloved to third man.

Cullen, a former England U19, has played for Middlesex since the U10s, and both player and club are beginning to reap the reward of years of endeavour. Pacey, with a strong action, he can reputedly swing the ball in four-day cricket, but here, he adapted intelligently and hit the pitch. The assessment of Middlesex’s director of cricket, Angus Fraser, that he “bowls like a grown man” could not have been more apparent.

Green’s night did not begin well. He averages below seven runs an over in a career spanning more than 70 matches, making him beloved of T20 aficionados, and he was also on the back of a five-for against Kent, with four wickets taken in the final over. He was Middlesex’s most expensive bowler, leaking 55 from four overs as his method of pushing it fast and wide across the right-hander brought no dividends.

If Middlesex prospered by slog sweeps, Hampshire perished by them, courtesy of the leg spin of Nathan Sowter. Short and Joe Weatherley, the latter after 41 from 22, both fell in such a fashion.

Middlesex missed chances in the field, and a succession of shots escaped clawing fingers. The most damaging, in more than one sense, was Sowter’s drop of Dawson, running in from deep backward square, his right ankle sprained in the process. But not damaged enough for him to play a part in Middlesex’s uplifting victory.

David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps



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