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Morgan’s Championship absence set to continue

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The unexpected delight of seeing England’s limited-overs captain, Eoin Morgan, in a Championship match will be delayed after Morgan broke his thumb in the nets.

Morgan, who was not picked up by an IPL team this year, has not played a Championship match since he made a pair against Somerset at Merchant Taylor’s School three years ago, an outcome that seemed to encapsulate his gradual isolation from the longer form of the game.

But while some were surprised that he declared his availability for Middlesex’s Specsavers Championship campaign – especially after England team-mates, Alex Hales and Adil Rashid, both committed to white-ball only deals – Morgan insists the experience will help with his limited-overs cricket and retains hopes of representing the county later in the season.

“I still want to play county cricket and red ball cricket,” Morgan told ESPNcricinfo. “Technically I’m not very good. I’m vulnerable for the first 22-23 balls of my innings and if I still strive to play red-ball it forces me to work on my technique. Until I don’t think it can help my game in any way, I’ll keep playing it. I’ll probably revisit that decision after the 2019 World Cup.

“Originally I was going to be available for 12 Championship matches this season. There’s very little ODI and T20 cricket this year. Now I’m missing three games definitely and, depending on how it heals, it could be four.

“I have actually been available to play for Middlesex for the two years. I’ve not been selected. But I was due to play this year. I was told I was playing a couple of months ago. I had a box of Duke’s balls sent out to New Zealand and practised with Mark Ramprakash before every training session.”

Morgan retains an outside hope that the injury may heal quicker than originally expected. He is due to have another scan within the next 24 hours and, if it is concluded that he does not require surgery, he could return for the Championship match at Hove on May 4.

Morgan suffered the injury during a net session at Merchant Taylor’s ground last week. Facing Tom Barber, the left-arm fast bowler who was armed with a red ball at the time, he was hit on the left thumb. “He’s got a yard,” Morgan said in praise of Barber’s pace.

Middlesex have been less optimistic, speaking of a “4-6 week absence”. If pessimistic forecasts prove correct then he would be relying on the Royal London Cup to give him regular cricket ahead of England’s opening ODI of the season against Scotland in Edinburgh on June 10, which is quickly followed by a five-match series against Australia.

If Morgan then opted for a spell in the Caribbean Premier League, which runs from August 8 to September 16, it would then be quite possible that his Championship absence would extend a further year.

Middlesex’s confidence in their untold batting riches as they attempt to regain their Division One status at the first attempt has now dissipated. Their England Lions opener Nick Gubbins has hamstring trouble and England have withdrawn Dawid Malan from the first two rounds of the Championship after his heavy schedule in Australia and New Zealand.

The hurried signing of Australian allrounder Hilton Cartwright will only partially answer their needs, though Morgan’s bad luck may open the door to a return for Nick Compton, who had previously been told he was unlikely to feature in the first team this season.



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Power-packed Kolkata Knight Riders look to extend Mumbai Indians' winless UAE streak

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Nathan Coulter-Nile might be in line to make the playing XI after missing the first game through injury



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IPL 2020 – Delhi Capitals’ Kagiso Rabada shares the secret behind his Super Over success

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Kagiso Rabada is one of only two bowlers to have bowled two Super Overs in the IPL, alongside Jasprit Bumrah. Not coincidentally, both times they bowled a Super Over, their teams won the match.

Rabada’s Super Over record reads: nine balls bowled, nine runs given, and three wickets taken. Three very impressive wickets too, in Andre Russell, KL Rahul and Nicholas Pooran.

The conditions and batsmen dictated Rabada’s choice of bowling plans in each Super Over. While he went for yorkers to Russell and Dinesh Karthik at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi in 2019, the Dubai International Cricket Stadium called for different tactics as he faced up to Rahul and Pooran on Sunday night, in IPL 2020.

“It just depends what’s working for me on the day, and getting a feel for what might work as well,” Rabada said of the match against Kings XI Punjab. “It differs… today was just mixing the lengths up and luckily it helped. Sometimes it doesn’t go for you, sometimes it does.”

Rabada finished the contest in three balls, giving the Capitals just three runs to chase in their own Super Over. His first ball was to Rahul, full and tailing into him. The second one was a scorching short one bowled into the batsman who was backing away. Rahul went for a pull while off-balance and was caught at deep square leg. With Pooran perhaps hanging back due to the effectiveness of the earlier short one, Rabada bowled his third ball full and fast on off, zipping past an attempted slog to take out the stumps. The second ball, which got Rahul’s wicket and also set up the third, happened because Rabada sussed the conditions well.

“There was also decent bounce in this wicket, and the boundaries are quite big so it’s going to take a good hit to clear it,” he said, explaining why he went for the short ball. “So I just backed myself with the extra pace and bounce, so that hopefully he doesn’t hit it over the fence (laughs). It was a bit of a gamble.

“I don’t plan to win, but instead I plan to execute to win, and I think I managed to do that well in the Super Over,” Rabada later told the Delhi Capitals media team. “That’s just the way a game of cricket goes. Honestly, it was a big relief because I knew if I did that, and with the kind of batters we have, three runs to win, we could do that. I was just very relieved that I took the wicket and could help the team in winning.”

The change in tactics for Rabada – despite the yorker plan bringing him great success against T20 cricket’s most fearsome hitter in Russell a year ago – was also a marker of his evolution as a bowler. Rabada’s planning stems from having a ‘feel’ for the moment and the match, an instinct that itself has been developed by experience. “It just about the feeling. And the way you read the game. There are many ways to get the job done. You will be criticised if you don’t get the job done – whether you bowl slower balls or yorkers,” Rabada had told The Cricket Monthly last year, after his first Super Over.

And that reading of the game told Rabada that despite the yorker being among the best options for a Super Over, and one he was proficient at, he could mix his lengths up this time around.

Unlike last season, when Delhi Capitals could choose between Chris Morris and Rabada for the Super Over against Kolkata Knight Riders, it was clear from the outset that Rabada would have the ball for the Super Over against Kings XI. He was the Capitals’ best bowler on the night too, even if conventional figures might not portray that, and the team were right to trust him.

Rabada had 2 for 28 in four overs during the regular match play, but ESPNcricinfo’s Smart Stats helps see why Rabada was clearly the Capitals’ best choice. His Smart Economy rate – adjusted for the phases in which a bowler bowls and the opposition’s position – was a superb 5.84, while his Smart Wickets tally was 2.51, because he not only got Glenn Maxwell cheaply but also came back to stop K Gowtham, who was leading a late charge for the Kings XI. That meant Rabada’s bowling impact was the best among the bowlers the Capitals had at their disposal, better than even Axar Patel, who conceded half the runs Rabada did in returning 4-0-14-1, validating his team’s faith in him in three balls.



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IPL 2020 – ‘I like to take on the big players’

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Entrusted with the final over in Mumbai Indians’ IPL 2020 opener against Chennai Super Kings in the absence of Lasith Malinga, where he was taken for two fours in two balls by Faf du Plessis to end the match, Trent Boult called bowling in the death overs the “biggest challenge in T20 cricket”.

“It’s the biggest challenge in the game, to be honest,” Boult said of bowling at the death. “It’s very difficult to bowl in the last couple of overs when the batsmen are set; du Plessis was set the other night on 50 runs, and when guys are hitting from that platform it’s very hard to defend.

“Personally, I want to try and stick to my strengths, try and execute yorkers and take the pace off [the ball], and just try and stay a step ahead of the batsmen. It’s definitely the biggest challenge in T20 cricket.”

ALSO READ: Chennai Super Kings vs Mumbai Indians – Talking Points

Jasprit Bumrah’s poor day out added to Mumbai’s concerns against the Super Kings. He leaked 32 runs in his first three overs before bowling the penultimate over, when the Super Kings needed 16 from 12 balls. He dismissed Sam Curran on the second ball but only after being hit for a six on the first ball. By the time the last over started, the Super Kings needed just five runs.

Boult said he expected Bumrah to “bounce back” as he had been “working very hard the last couple of days to find that rhythm”.

Mumbai, and Boult, will be up against it again on Wednesday when they take on Kolkata Knight Riders in Abu Dhabi. The Knight Riders are expected to field a power-packed middle order, with the likes of Eoin Morgan and Andre Russell in the mix. Russell is coming offf three half-centuries in the recent CPL and had a strike rate of 249 in the death overs last IPL, including a 40-ball 80 not out against Mumbai at Eden Gardens.

“The wickets are going to change throughout the tournament but from what we experienced the other night, in the humidity the ball definitely swung around a little bit, being early in the tournament and a fresh wicket”

To add to that, Russell has an impressive record against both Bumrah (49 runs off 33 balls, one dismissal) and Boult (17 runs off nine balls, one dismissal) in T20s.

“He (Russell) is one of the most destructive batsmen in the game and therein lies the challenge,” Boult accepted. “That’s personally why I play the game, I like to take on the big players and look to take wickets, I’ll be looking forward to that challenge and I am sure I’ll face it at some stage in this tournament.”

Boult found some early swing against the Super Kings with an opening spell of 3-0-15-1 but expects the pitches to deteriorate as the tournament goes on.

“I’m presuming the wickets are going to change, not drastically, but they will deteriorate in the next couple of months,” he said. “It’s pretty hot here, the day games will be interesting with the heat and humidity and how the wicket seems to quicken up little bit under lights.

“The wickets are going to change throughout the tournament but from what we experienced the other night, in the humidity the ball definitely swung around a little bit, being early in the tournament and a fresh wicket. From my point of view, I just want to be on the mark with the ball and take wickets. I’d like to see them as swinging-friendly conditions with a bit of pace in the wicket but the teams are assessing conditions and adjusting as quickly as possible.”



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