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‘Tonight was just my night’ – Bravo

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About 20 minutes after winning the match for Chennai Super Kings with a flurry of sixes in the dying moments of what looked like a losing cause, Dwayne Bravo was asked in the post-match press conference about his strategy in the death overs against Mumbai Indians. Bravo asked the journalist a question in reply: “While batting or bowling?”

Bravo was fully aware that his bowling had counted for a lot, too, even though he had stunned the Wankhede crowd primarily with a 30-ball 68. He came out to bat when Super Kings were reeling at 75 for 5 with the asking rate nearing 12. But his barrage of boundaries in the end snatched a win from the hosts.

“[While batting] I wasn’t thinking much actually, I was just trying my best to bat till the last over,” he said. “I thought that if I bat deep and till the end, we have a good chance of winning the game because Wankhede is a ground where if you miss your length and yorkers, the ball can travel. So you mistime a few, a few edges go your way and the bowling team is always under pressure because margin for error is so small in this format, you miss your yorker by an inch, it can go for six as you can see tonight.

“When I reached 50, I didn’t even raise my bat. I knew the job wasn’t finished, there was still a long way to go. I was in a zone. I was just focusing on trying to get the game done for my team. I was disappointed that I was out in the last over. But I played the innings that put my team in a position to win. I am just happy that I was able to contribute with the bat. It has been a while that I haven’t been able to make runs with the bat. This one will always be special to me.

“It was just my day, I’ll take that. It’s always good to start any tournament with a win and this is a special win for us personally because our fans have been so loyal to us and they waited for this opportunity and people in Chennai and throughout India as well, our CSK fans and our captain MS [Dhoni].”

Bravo’s task became stiffer and stiffer as each over went by. He watched Kedar Jadhav walk back with an injury, he saw Deepak Chahar dance down to be foxed by debutant Mayank Markande‘s googly, and then witnessed soon Harbhajan Singh and Mark Wood hole out in the quest for some desperate boundaries.

Ultimately, it was down to Bravo when Imran Tahir gave him strike in the 18th over and Super Kings needed 46 from only 17 deliveries. Two sixes and a four in that over against Mitchell McClenaghan and three sixes in the next off Jasprit Bumrah, another death-overs specialist, brought it down to seven from the last over.

“I just wanted to stay still, keep my eyes on the ball, have a good swing,” Bravo explained. “Here at Wankhede the ball travels every time you miss the length. Just get a good contact and the ball will go. Those two overs, we needed 15 an over. So, at some point, I had to take a chance and it worked off. Anytime you hit a boundary, whether it is a six or a four, automatically the bowler is under pressure.

“I know how you feel as a bowler when your first ball goes for a boundary. No matter how good a bowler you are, in these tense moments if you’re put under pressure, you tend to fumble. Again, I was hitting the ball nicely in the nets. I had the confidence and the belief that I can win the game despite losing wickets. I can bat deep. Can’t forget Jadhav, who came back and showed a lot of fight and a lot of guts. To hit that six is a special, special moment. From thereon, we had the game.”

Much before that, Bravo had quietly curbed Mumbai to 165 for 4 by conceding only eight runs in two of their last three overs. Bravo clearly said performing in the death overs, with the bat or ball, was his “specialised” role in the team and a lot of planning and training went behind it.

“I think it’s a challenge for me,” he spoke of bowling in the end. “I mark myself against the best in the world so in moments like this is where it really matters and I don’t enjoy bowling when there’s not much pressure on. When there’s pressure I need to focus a lot more and in the nets, I prepare very well when I bowl to guys like MS and Suresh [Raina] and these guys, who are good hitters. Even when I’m playing for West Indies, I bowl to [Andre] Rusell and [Kieron] Pollard and those guys so it gave me confidence.

“I don’t just turn up in a game and it happens naturally. I prepare in the nets, I make sure I’m executing my yorkers properly so whenever I call on those special deliveries, I deliver more often. Tonight was a little tougher because I bowled the last three overs and the skipper asked me if I’m able to do it and of course I said ‘yes’. And again, bowling to these guys is a big challenge, I embrace it, I enjoy it and tonight was just my night.”

Bravo was not only helping Super Kings return on a good note in the IPL, he was himself returning to the league after a two-year gap after missing last year’s edition with a hamstring injury. Since then, he has played three tournaments – the CPL, BPL and BBL – before returning with the yellow jersey. Now 34 and having undergone plenty of rehabilitation, Bravo said he had to be “careful” with his workload.

“Well, it’s on my mind in terms of I had to be more careful and I’m no longer 24 like how I used to be before so I have to be very cautious,” he said. “I started very slow and just needed to get momentum going into the game. But as you can see, as the game picked up especially in the later stages, this is where I’m more specialised and this is where the team needs me the most at the close of the game. The captain showed faith in me and this is basically my role in CSK team to finish off games with the ball. Each game now I’ve to make sure I can cover properly, we travel now and fitness is very important but I have a very good medical team and I’m happy that we won tonight’s game.”



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Recent Match Report – Gloucestershire vs Birmingham Bears Central Group 2020

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Gloucestershire 173 for 6 (Hammond 49, Cockbain 44) beat Birmingham Bears 123 (Hain 43*, van Burren 3-33, M Taylor 3-29) by 50 runs

Ian Cockbain proved the scourge of Birmingham Bears again as Gloucestershire moved to the brink of qualification for the Vitality Blast quarter-finals with a 50-run Central Group win in Bristol.

Having smashed an unbeaten 84 in the corresponding game at Edgbaston, the 33-year-old Merseysider hit 44 off just 21 balls to boost his side’s total to 173 for 6 after winning the toss.

Chris Dent and Miles Hammond had led the way with an opening stand of 88, but it was Cockbain’s blistering knock that ensured an above-par score. Olly Stone was the pick of the Birmingham attack with 2 for 31.

In reply, the Bears could manage only 123 all out, Matt Taylor returning 3 for 29 and Graeme van Buuren 3 for 33. Only Sam Hain offered much resistance with 43 not out.

It was the home side’s sixth successive group win and they now look assured of a place in the last eight, while the Bears have some work to do.

Dent wasted no time signalling Gloucestershire’s intentions, with two fours off the opening over, bowled by Tim Bresnan. Hammond was quickly into his stride too, a couple of reverse-sweeps to the boundary off Jeetan Patel taking his side’s score to 21 off two overs.

The two left-handers continued to score freely and by the end of the six-over Powerplay Gloucestershire’s total was a healthy 49 without loss.

That became 86 for 0 after 11 overs. But Dent was then caught and bowled off a steepler by Patel, having hit five fours in his 34-ball innings. Hammond went in the following over, well caught on the run at deep midwicket by Dom Sibley off Stone. He had faced 41 balls and notched seven boundaries.

The Bears began to put a brake on the scoring rate and the 16th over was reached without a six in the Gloucestershire innings. Cockbain put that right with two in succession off Patel and was looking in prime form when caught on the deep cover boundary off Henry Brookes, having hit four sixes and three fours.

From 144 for 2, Gloucestershire lost four wickets for 28 runs, but their score still looked more than competitive. Ryan Higgins was unbeaten on 21 at the end.

The Bears made a poor start to their chase, losing Dom Sibley lbw in the first over, sent down by van Buuren. Soon it was 24 for 2 as Rob Yates cut a catch to point off David Payne.

Adam Hose hit the first six of the innings off Matt Taylor in the fifth over, but perished tamely two balls later, pulling a catch straight to Higgins at midwicket.

The next over saw Rhodes bowled trying to drive van Buuren and the Bears were in disarray at 37 for 4.

Gloucestershire lost skipper Jack Taylor to a hand injury when he tried to catch a fierce drive from Sam Hain in the eighth over, Cockbain taking over the captaincy.

Michael Burgess holed out to long-off as Tom Smith began to weave his customary spell at the Ashley Down Road End. His first three overs cost just 11 runs. Smith bowling in tandem with fellow left-arm spinner van Burren has been one of Gloucestershire’s strengths in the competition and when the latter bowled Tim Bresnan to make it 83 for 6 the outcome was beyond doubt.

Hain did his best, with little support, but it was another impressive success for a Gloucestershire side who will be no-one’s pushovers as the tournament moves to its climax.

They are all but guaranteed a spot in the last eight after today’s win: for them to miss out would take heavy defeats in their final two games while other results all went against them.

“To win six on the bounce in the Vitality Blast is a great effort by the lads,” Cockbain said. “What we want now is to earn a home quarter-final because we know the conditions here and play them well.

“It’s just one of those things that I have been able to score big twice against the Bears. Sometimes you just feel it is your day and I’ve hit the ball sweetly in both games. Today I probably got out to my sweetest hit of the lot.

“We rested Benny Howell because we didn’t want him playing back-to-back games after such a long injury lay-off and Jack Taylor’s hand should be fine, so both should be available for the next game.”





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England v Australia, 3rd ODI, Chris Woakes

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Chris Woakes says that England’s unprecedented recent success in white-ball cricket has given them the belief that “they can win from any position”.

Woakes was instrumental in England’s stunning fightback in the second ODI on Sunday, claiming three quick wickets at the back-end of the run-chase, including both of Australia’s set batsmen, Marnus Labuschagne and Aaron Finch, to set in motion a stunning collapse of 7 for 32.

In closing the game out for a 24-run win, England not only squared the series with Wednesday’s decider to come, they kept alive their hopes of an unbeaten record across formats this summer, and maintaining their perfect run in home ODI series that dates back to 2015.

“Over the last five years we’ve earned that respect, I think,” Woakes said. “Across that period, teams have realised that we can win from any position and the game is not done until they get over the line.

“We’ve found that in this series and also in the T20 series, so we’ve earned that respect. Within the dressing room we’ve got that character and the belief that we can win from any position.”

Speaking on the eve of the series, Eoin Morgan had welcomed the prospect of three tricky batting surfaces at Emirates Old Trafford, as England begin to adapt their style of play from the no-holds-barred batting force that racked up a world-record 481 for 6 on Australia’s last bilateral ODI visit in 2018, to the more rounded outfit that will have to defend their world title on India’s slow and low pitches in 2023.

And given the success of England’s bowlers on Sunday, first in chivvying their total to a defendable 231 for 9 with some calculated hitting from Tom Curran and Adil Rashid, and then in bowling Australia out for 207 in reply, Woakes was pleased with their early efforts to reinvent their game.

ALSO READ: Steven Smith firming for place in series decider

“A few years ago we probably thought we could only win from a tricky position with the bat chasing, but now we feel like we can do it with the ball as well,” he said. “I don’t really see why that should change

“The other night was brilliant. A different role for us to play to come back and attack and take wickets rather than hold overs back for the death.

“It was a completely different game in comparison to a normal ODI so I’m really pleased how we pulled that back and took the attack to Australia and put them on the back foot. It was the only way we were going to win that game.

“We’re in a great position as a team. I think there have been times in this series where we feel we haven’t played our best cricket across the two games so hopefully we can put in a big performance and bring it all together in the last one, because there are areas of our game that haven’t been quite as sharp as we would like them to be.”

Whereas the second ODI was played on a used surface, a fresh pitch has been prepared for Wednesday’s day-nighter, which may change the way the two teams approach the contest.

“The first game, it was a bit two-paced but it was actually a pretty good wicket,” said Woakes. “By no means a 400 pitch but 280-290 was around par. The other day, it was used, so it took a little bit more spin, and it definitely slowed up as the game went on. Then the ball roughed up as well which mean a little bit of reverse on offer. It was tricky to bat on.

“The new wicket looks pretty good, pretty flat,” he added. “The boundary looks a bit shorter on one side so it’s definitely different to the last game, and the team which adapts quickly will probably come out on top.”

Given the extraordinary nature of their victory in the second game, England are now clear favourites to seal their series win, but Woakes was cautious when it was put to him that Australia’s mental fragilities had been exposed.

“We’ve been playing against Australia a hell of a lot over the last few years, and we’ve obviously got good records in white-ball against them recently, but we know how dangerous they can be.

“They’re obviously a good side,” he added. “They’ve shown how dangerous they can be a couple of occasions this summer but also last summer during the World Cup. We’ll take the positives from the last couple of games but also there are a few things we need to work on ourselves.”

One key factor could be the return of Steven Smith, who missed the first two games with concussion after taking a blow to the head during training. He was back in the nets on the eve of the match, and a final decision on his availability will be taken before the match.

“We are wary of the impact Steve Smith could have,” Woakes said. “We know he’s a world-class player and we’ve been on the receiving end of his performances a few times in the past.

“We know he can affect games but, at the same time, it can be tricky coming in with not much cricket under your belt and having to perform from ball one in a decider.

“We’ll prepare for him to play and if he does we have our plans for him and I think Australia would love to see him back.”



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South Africa men’s team loses major sponsor Momentum

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Cricket South Africa will lose men’s ODI sponsor Momentum whose contract expires in April 2021 because the financial services company is ” not satisfied with the current state of affairs at CSA regarding governance and other reputational issues.” Momentum will continue to sponsor the women’s national team until 2023.

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