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The stand-in Test captain says they reviewed their 2018 defeat to find out where they could improve

A day after coach Phil Simmons raised optimism for the West Indies ODI side, Test captain Kraigg Brathwaite said the side has learnt from the mistakes made during their 2018 tour to Bangladesh.

Brathwaite’s own miserable form in that series – just 22 runs in the two Tests – was one of the reasons why the visitors capitulated so easily. With the home side having their full complement of spinners available this time too, and West Indies having an even more inexperienced side, there will be even more responsibility on Brathwaite. He hasn’t had the best of times recently too, having made just 55 runs in two Tests in New Zealand Tests last month.

Brathwaite wants to lead by example and set a foundation as a batsman, the key to which, he said, would be balance at the crease.



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Recent Match Report – Ireland vs Afghanistan 2nd ODI 2020/21

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Naveen-ul-Haq and Mujeeb Ur Rahman played key roles to restrict Ireland to 259

Afghanistan 260 for 3 (Rahmat 103*, Shahidi 82) beat Ireland 259 for 9 (Stirling 128, Campher 47, Naveen 4-42, Mujeeb 3-46) by seven wickets

Better support with bat and ball ensured Rahmat Shah‘s unbeaten 103 trumped Paul Stirling‘s 128 as Afghanistan took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match ODI series. A third-wicket partnership of 184 between Rahmat and Hashmatullah Shahidi carried Afghanistan to a seven-wicket win with 28 balls remaining, after Ireland had set them a target of 260.

The only comparable partnership for Ireland was a fourth-wicket stand of 106 between Stirling and Curtis Campher, which came up in just 100 balls and featured excellent use of the sweep from both batsmen, particularly off Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan. The partnership left Ireland in good shape to mount a slog-overs charge, but they lost steam following the dismissal of Campher, caught at short extra-cover off Rashid. They only made 49 off the last 51 balls of their innings, and lost five wickets while doing so.

Three of those wickets, including that of Stirling in the 45th over, went to the fast bowler Naveen-ul-Haq, who finished with figures of 4 for 42 from his ten overs. Afghanistan’s other bowling star was Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who picked up three wickets including the key dismissals of Kevin O’Brien and Andy Balbirnie with the new ball, which left Ireland 20 for 2 at one stage. Stirling began rebuilding the innings in the company of Harry Tector, who made a watchful 24, before Campher joined him in the 25th over of the innings.

Stirling celebrated his hundred – his 11th in ODIs, equalling William Porterfield’s Ireland record – by paying tribute to Roy Torrens, the former Ireland player and team manager who died yesterday, pointing to the sky after removing his helmet. Stirling had tweeted that Torrens’ passing was “crushing news”, describing him as “Irish cricket to the very core but an even better man”

Afghanistan’s chase began brightly, with Rahmanullah Gurbaz following up his debut hundred in the first ODI by clattering 31 off 26 balls, including two sixes off Simi Singh’s offspin. Barry McCarthy and Campher struck in successive overs thereafter, though, to leave Afghanistan in a bit of bother at 48 for 2 in the ninth over.

Rahmat and Shahidi counterattacked, hitting four fours and a six between them in their first four full overs together. Shahidi then slipped into a lower gear even as Rahmat kept finding the boundary with pristine drives to keep the required rate well under control. He brought up his half-century off 49 balls, at the start of the 23rd over.

It took Shahidi another ten overs to get to that milestone, off 68 balls, but having done so he opened out significantly, hitting Craig Young for back-to-back fours in the 38th over to bring up Afghanistan’s 200, and repeating the dose off Simi in the 42nd over before holing out to long-off to fall 18 short of a century.

There was no such trouble for Rahmat, who brought up the landmark for the fifth time in his ODI career, before giving a chance, put down at point by a diving Tector off McCarthy. By then Afghanistan only needed 21, and their captain Asghar Afghan ensured they’d finish in a hurry, hitting McCarthy for 6, 6, 4 in the 45th over and ending up unbeaten on 21 off 13 balls.

While Afghanistan have now wrapped up the series with a game to spare, the final fixture on Tuesday will not be treated as a dead-rubber, with 10 World Cup Super League points still on offer.



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India tour of Australia Aus vs Ind 2020-21 – T Natarajan

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The India left-armer looked back at his fairytale Australia tour, where he made his debut in all three formats

“I’m so happy right now. There’s no limit to it and I just can’t explain that feeling.”

This was India left-arm seamer T Natarajan‘s reaction to his rousing reception at his hometown Chinnappampatti, near Salem in Tamil Nadu, after returning from Australia, where he made his debut in all three formats and played his part in the historic Gabba Test win.

Natarajan, who had seemingly driven down from Bengaluru to Chinnappampatti on Thursday, was greeted by hoardings, drumrolls and firecrackers on Thursday. After being welcomed back by his mother Shantha, his father Thangarasu and other family members, Natarajan was carried home on a horse-drawn chariot, with everyone in Chinnappampatti wanting a piece of him.

Several people thronged Natarajan’s home for selfies and some even presented him portraits of himself.

On Friday, Natarajan recalled his grand homecoming at a press conference in Salem. “I never expected to get this kind of a reception. I have to thank the people in my village,” Natarajan said. “It was an unforgettable experience in my life and I dreamt of making it big, hoping to bring recognition to Salem. It’s all god’s grace, and I’m so happy right now. There’s no limit to it and I just can’t describe that feeling. I just feel like being selected for the Australia tour was a gift for me.”



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Pakistan vs South Africa – Abdullah Shafique among 3 dropped as Pakistan cut squad to 17

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Agha Salman and Kamran Ghulam are the other two players dropped from the original list

Agha Salman, Abdullah Shafique and this year’s leading first-class run-scorer in Pakistan, Kamran Ghulam, have been dropped from the original 20-man for the first Test against South Africa. The PCB insist they are very much part of the larger squad but won’t be considered for selection for the opening Test starting January 26 in Karachi.

The 20-man squad, named on January 15, was always meant to be whittled down to 16 two days before the Test but the PCB ended up naming 17 instead. ESPNcricinfo understands that the board wrestled with the choice between Haris Rauf and Tabish Khan but ended up retaining both, even though neither is expected to make their Test debuts in Karachi. The squad now has four spin options and five fast bowlers including Mohammad Nawaz and Faheem Ashraf as allrounders.

With Shafique now out of contention, the team has only two potential openers – Abid Ali and Imran Butt – who is set to be handed a debut. The spot was left vacant after Shan Masood was dropped from the larger squad following a dismal run. Saud Shakeel – who holds the second best first-class average (48.81) in Pakistan over the last five years – has been retained. He was also the second leading first-class run-getter this season with 970 runs at 57.05. Agha, who accumulated 924 runs at 48.63 missed out.

Head coach Misbah-ul-Haq said his side is “fully ready”. “Understanding how poor we were in the field on our previous New Zealand tour, we have given fielding much importance while preparing,” said Misbah. “We are having extraordinary training sessions, with dedicated sessions to bring improvements. We are overall ready and looking forward to taking on South Africa.”

The PCB, for once, have relayed a sense of empowerment for the captain Babar Azam, giving him a much stronger say in choosing the starting line-up. Misbah downplayed concerns his role with the side had been reduced, but said the captain needed to independently develop his strategies and ideas.

“Even when I began, like everyone else, I started from zero,” said Misbah. “You have to start somewhere and the important thing is that when we did some scenario practice, there were discussions with me, the coaches, the bowlers, about what plan we take forward and how we execute it. Babar is an intelligent cricketer and if anyone who scores runs like he does at this level, they should understand cricket mechanics and how to deal with the opposition . Babar should be given a free hand to plan, so he learns how to handle things on the field and hopefully he will learn and improve his captaincy along the way.”

The series holds a major significance as this is South Africa first tour to Pakistan since 2007 and the result from it can directly reflect on Misbah’s future as head coach. The PCB had already intended to bring about changes in team management after the New Zealand tour but the cricket committee recommended a stay of execution, opting against making a knee-jerk reaction and resolving instead to meet again after the home series against South Africa. The committee believed a series in home conditions can have “no points for second place”.

Misbah knows the pressure is on him but he cut a relaxed figure at the press conference. “Nothing really matters right now, I played cricket under pressure, my whole life” he said. “Here [in Pakistan] it’s not like you have the certainty and security so the most important thing I have learnt is that you have to do well with the job in hand in the moment. I am not thinking about what is going to happen ahead and the only focus right now is to perform and learn from our mistakes.”

Pakistan: Abid Ali , Imran Butt, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam (capt), Fawad Alam, Saud Shakeel, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Yasir Shah, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Tabish Khan

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent



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