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Sunil Narine ambushes Royal Challengers Bangalore again | Cricket

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Kolkata Knight Riders 177 for 6 (Narine 50, Karthik 34*, Woakes 3-36) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 176 for 7 (De Villiers 44, McCullum 43, Rana 2-11) by four wickets
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Agarkar: I’d always get a fast bowler to bowl at Narine


Sunil Narine‘s 17-ball half-century and Nitish Rana‘s all-round display helped Kolkata Knight Riders win their season-opener against Royal Challengers Bangalore by four wickets. Asked to bat under cloudy skies, Royal Challengers posted 176, a middling total on a good batting pitch, and just as he did last season against the same opponents, Narine blasted away a significant chunk of the target in very little time. The middle-order built on his efforts to steer Knight Riders home with seven balls to spare.

RCB could have made much more than their eventual total of 176 for 7, especially after being positioned at 127 for 2 after 14.1 overs, but a one-over special from part-time offspinner Rana, who took out AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli with consecutive balls, swung the momentum Knight Riders’ way.

After Narine fell for 50 in the sixth over, the hosts wobbled slightly as Umesh Yadav – a former Knight Rider himself – took two wickets in two overs, but Dinesh Karthik (35*), Rana (34) and Andre Russell (15) took them to victory without too many undue alarms.

Red-hot RCB fizzle out with the bat

The visitors made their intentions clear off the game’s first ball when Brendon McCullum clipped Vinay Kumar off his pads for four. In all, RCB extracted 52 off the Powerplay for the loss of Quinton de Kock, and McCullum looked for the boundary at every opportunity before his dismissal for 43 in the ninth over.

De Villiers replaced McCullum and carried on in similar vein, launching Kuldeep Yadav inside-out and down the ground for successive sixes, and following up with one more six each off Narine and Mitchell Johnson in the next two overs. His brilliance made up for an unusually off-colour Kohli at the other end, and the two put on 64 off 36 balls despite the RCB captain going at less than a run a ball.

With their two best batsmen in the middle, RCB seemed set for a massive total when they were undone by the unlikeliest of destroyers.

Rana’s double-whammy

Before this game, Rana had only four T20 wickets to his name. Thus, it was rather surprising when Dinesh Karthik turned to him to bowl the 15th over. Rana’s first-ball, a half-tracker, was disdainfully pulled over the midwicket boundary in what seemed a continuation of de Villiers’ dominance. But two balls later, the momentum had completely shifted.

Rana’s second ball was another long-hop. De Villiers went for another leg-side heave but this time he holed out to Mitchell Johnson at long-on. Kohli took strike next ball, on virtue of the batsmen crossing, went for a drive, and ended up yorking himself against a quick and extremely full offbreak. The ball crashed into middle stump and, the visitors suddenly had two new batsmen at the crease with neither having faced a ball.

The last 33 balls of RCB’s innings produced 49 runs – decent, but not great – and they could have ended up with even less if not for an 18-ball 37 from Mandeep Singh, who hit 6, 4, 6 off the first three balls of Vinay Kumar’s 20th over before being dismissed.

Ghost of RCB’s past returns

It wasn’t unfamiliar territory for RCB when Narine walked out with Chris Lynn for the chase. The duo had hammered their way to victory the last time the sides had met. Narine, in fact, had struck what was then the tournament’s joint-fastest fifty (off 15 balls) on that occasion.

So you’d think RCB would have had new plans for the Trinidadian, but he seemed to take them by surprise once again. Narine swept Yuzvendra Chahal for four and six off the first two balls of the innings, and then proceeded to cream 20 off Chris Woakes in the fourth over.

Spin returned for the fifth over, this time in the shape of Washington Sundar, but even the Powerplay specialist wasn’t spared. Sundar kept pitching the ball up, and Narine kept clattering it down the ground. By the time the fifth over was done, Narine had already raced to his fifth T20 half-century off just 17 balls.

He fell two balls later, chopping Umesh onto his stumps, but with the equation now reading 112 off 88 balls, his job was done. There were a couple of minor hiccups, but no real turn in momentum, and soon enough, Vinay Kumar swatted Kunal Khejroliya to the long-on boundary to bring up victory in the 19th over.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo


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Pakistan to tour New Zealand for two Tests and three T20Is in December

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The schedule for Pakistan’s second overseas tour since the Covid-19 pandemic has been finalised, with their visit to New Zealand over Christmas set to go ahead with virtually no deviation from the original FTP. The two teams will play three T20Is and two Tests from December 18 to January 7, with each international played at a different venue. In accordance with Covid-19 protocols mandated by the New Zealand government, the Pakistan squad will enter a two-week quarantine period in Lincoln once they reach New Zealand in the last week of November.

While New Zealand Cricket’s chief executive David White had already confirmed both Pakistan and West Indies would tour the country as previously planned, the schedule for the Pakistan series is only now out. Auckland, Hamilton and Napier will host the three T20Is to be played on December 18, 20 and 22, while Mount Maungunui hosts the Boxing Day Test. The Hagley Oval in Christchurch will be the venue for the second Test, which begins on January 3rd.

“It’s always a pleasure to host the Pakistan cricket team in New Zealand and I know there will be a lot of interest in the Test and T20 series,” NZC chief executive, David White, said. “Pakistan touring sides have been coming here since 1965 and many New Zealanders have grown up watching the likes of Hanif Mohammad, Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, and of course, the great Imran Khan in action. I’m sure the squads coming out here this summer will be similarly steeped in talent and class and will continue the great legacy that is Pakistan cricket.”

“New Zealand boast some outstanding cricket facilities with supportive and knowledgeable crowds,” PCB director international cricket, Zakir Khan said. “Pakistan have always enjoyed touring New Zealand and have performed well there, and we look forward to similar performances from our side on this tour.”

“New Zealand series will be our penultimate series in the ICC World Test Championship with the last series against South Africa at home following this tour. We remain optimistic and committed to finishing on a high in the Championship as it is our endeavour to become one of the top-performing Test playing nations.”

The relatively low rate of Covid-19 transmission in New Zealand means the bio-secure bubble need not be maintained following the expiry of the quarantine period. Aside from the largest city, Auckland, the entire nation is operating under what are known as Level 1 conditions, which effectively mean no restrictions on movement besides border control. At one point, the nation went over 100 days without an officially recorded positive Covid-19 case, and a second wave that saw a few hundred further cases has been all but extinguished. By contrast, when the Pakistan side toured England for three Tests and three T20Is over the summer, the bio-secure bubble was strictly maintained throughout the tour.

A press release from the PCB revealed the Pakistan Shaheens, effectively the “A” team, would also travel to New Zealand, with details on their departure to be announced in due course.

Pakistan were last in New Zealand for a limited-overs tour in 2018, with the hosts sweeping the ODI series 5-0, while Pakistan triumphed in the T20I leg 2-1 to rise to the No. 1 ranking in that format. The last time the two sides played Test cricket in New Zealand was in 2016, with New Zealand winning both Test matches.



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Ellyse Perry to continue rehab in hope of being fit for WBBL

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Ellyse Perry, who has been aiming to return from major hamstring surgery, has been ruled out of the remainder of Australia’s limited overs series against New Zealand – not that the team’s performances in the opening two T20Is indicated she would be needed anyway.

The world’s best allrounder, Perry suffered from hamstring tightness after running drills as she reached the final stages of her return from an injury that kept her out of the closing stages of the T20 World Cup back in March.

She will now aim to make her return to playing for the Sydney Sixers in the WBBL next month. Australia’ captain Meg Lanning said that Perry would remain with the squad to continue her rehab work, ahead of the third T20I in Brisbane on Wednesday, which will be followed by three ODI fixtures.

“Unfortunately she had some hamstring awareness and has got a low grade strain, so she won’t be available for the rest of this series,” Lanning said. “She’ll remain with the team to continue her rehab and training in the hope of being available at some point during the WBBL. So she won’t be playing any part in this series. It’s the same hamstring but a different muscle within the hamstring. It’s on the minor end, so hopefully doesn’t delay it too much.

“It was just during a running session at training that she was doing, she was progressing through her plan, so unfortunate that it’s happened but it’s on the minor end and she’s doing everything she can to be able to make herself available.

“I think she’s doing everything she can to be available as soon as possible, it’s a very complex injury, and hard to get the timing on when certain things will happen. So hopefully at some point, she’s doing the best she can and it’s really important to get it right and take the time before we do put her out on the field. Hopefully it’s sooner rather than later, but we’ll just have to see how it pans out.”

In beating New Zealand comfortably in both the opening two matches on Saturday and Sunday, Lanning’s team showcased impressive depth, not only to cover Perry but also to find bowling and batting options from beyond the likes of Megan Schutt, Jess Jonassen, Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney. Sophie Molineux, Georgia Wareham, Delissa Kimmince and Nicola Carey have all shone at various times, adapting nicely to the slow and sometimes spinning Allan Border Field.

“I think we’ve developed that over a period of time, we don’t rely on one or two players and as we saw in the first game, Ash Gardner was able to step up and make a winning contribution, so that gives us a lot of confidence that if your top order with the bat for example doesn’t fire, that we’ve still got real depth to be able to get us over the line,” Lanning said. “Even when things don’t go our way the whole game, we’re able to fight through and I think it’s a really important quality to have.

“At different times throughout the first two games, people have stepped up and contributed but we don’t feel like we’ve played our best game yet, still a fair bit to work on with both bat and ball, which is really exciting for this group. New Zealand are going to come back hard at us, they’ve got some real match winners within their side, so we do need to step it up again and hopefully we see that tomorrow.

“With the bat we don’t rely on one or two players and I think with the ball as well we’ve developed that real depth. Delissa Kimmince has been great for us over the last few years, and Sophie Molineux, a young player coming through, is very calm under pressure and certainly for me it’s nice to be able to go to her at different points. The other one who hasn’t bowled a lot of overs in the series, Nic Carey has really bowled some important overs and it’s not easy sometimes to come on and bowl one or two overs at critical points, but I think she’s done an excellent job.”

Australia’s cricketers have exhibited plenty of drive to improve and over the next 12 to 18 months have a clear goal in terms of regaining the ODI World Cup after falling short in England in 2017 when eliminated by India in the semi-finals.

“As a group what we have spoken about is continuing to improve and get better, because if we don’t do that, teams will catch up pretty quick and there’s a lot of really good teams out there who are trying to push the boundaries and become better as well,” Lanning said. “We can’t stand still and expect to keep performing and dominating, we need to keep improving our side.

“I think we’ve done that by bringing people in, but also those players who’ve been in for a period of time who improved their games – Alyssa Healy speaking about some shots she’s introduced to her game. The drive for us to get better is still there, which is great to see, especially given the success we’ve had over the last few years. So we need to keep getting better and we’ve got a year now to continue to do that before we get to 2022, which is going to be massive for us. So it’s really exciting that’s ahead of us.”



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Belinda Clark quits as Cricket Australia community cricket chief

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Australian cricket has lost arguably its most capable executive after the former national captain Belinda Clark announced her intention to resign from employment with Cricket Australia.

In a major blow to the community cricket department that she has extensively reshaped over the past two and a half years, Clark has chosen to finish up as a CA executive after first making it clear she had no intention of following Kevin Roberts into the role of chief executive. Nick Hockley is currently serving as interim, with a wider search still expected to be undertaken.

As one of CA’s most accomplished performers over a long time, Clark held roles managing the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane, as head of junior cricket and then community cricket as a whole. Vitally, she worked as interim head of team performance following the exit of Pat Howard in late 2018, up until Ben Oliver and Drew Ginn were handed joint roles nine months later.

This meant that Clark was in charge of the department responsible for the men’s and women’s national teams at the time that included the reintegration of Steven Smith and David Warner after their Newlands scandal bans. It also involved extensive planning for the difficult “double tour” of England for the 2019 World Cup and Ashes series. Australia’s cup campaign made it as far as the semi-finals before the Ashes were retained in a drawn series.

“I have loved my time working for the sport and while this chapter is coming to a close after 20 years with CA, a further six years with Cricket New South Wales and a long-standing member of ICC Women’s Committee, I am committed to finding new ways to give back to the game that has given me so much,” Clark said. “The journey has been exciting and rewarding because of the many amazing people I have worked with across the community, State and Territory Associations, and CA.

“I am grateful for their support and am so proud of what we have achieved together. “My dream is to help young girls develop the confidence, skills and courage to step forward when leadership opportunities arise. This shift in my focus is timely as we navigate through significant global challenges – many of which need strong local and diverse voices to overcome. Cricket has been a major part of my life since I was a little girl growing up in Newcastle and it will continue to be for many years to come.”

Clark, 50, has started her own business, The Leadership Playground, which has been devised to educate and mentor young girls int he fostering of leadership skills between the ages of 10 and 15. CA on Tuesday denied the Clark was exiting the executive role so she could move immediately onto the Board as an independent director later this year.

The nominations committee for board appointments is required to find an independent director to replace the outgoing Jacquie Hey, a director since 2012, with the strong preference understood to be for a highly capable female in the role.

Cricket New South Wales had earlier made it clear that it intends to nominate the former state premier Mike Baird as a board director, while wanting to see its current director, Richard Freudenstein, retained as an independent on the nine-person board, comprised of six state-nominated directors and three independents including the chairman, Earl Eddings. Clark is currently a director on the organising committee for the Twenty20 World Cup.



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