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Maxwell threat adds to Royals’ challenge



Big Picture

If you’ve received a pounding of the kind Rajasthan Royals did on Monday, you don’t want too much time to keep pondering over what could’ve been. Royals, in any case, don’t have time to reflect on the nine-wicket defeat because they’re back home to Jaipur, once their bastion, to face Delhi Daredevils, also smarting from a loss to Kings XI Punjab.

Both sides have a similar make-up. Two batsmen who like to play anchor in Gautam Gambhir and Ajinkya Rahane, and two destructive allrounders in Glenn Maxwell and Ben Stokes. They also have a plethora of spin options. Yet, the main concern will be the batting for one and bowling for the other.

Royals endured a problem of plenty in their tournament opener. Having five openers in the top six didn’t help matters. While one game is too early to talk combinations, Royals will quickly need to identify who bats where.

At the auction, much of their strategy seemed to suggest a replication of Rising Pune Supergiant’s formula. They will do well to implement some of it too, like slotting Rahul Tripathi back at the top of the order, where he struck 391 runs in 14 innings, including six successive 30 plus scores, at 146.44 during a breakout 2017 season.

Royals aren’t the only ones with things on their plate though. Daredevils play five away games first up. Having gone down in their opener, they would have to find ways to lift themselves up soon and not get into a rut that could leave them with too much to do at home in the second half.

For starters, they will need to decide how much is too much, before making changes. Colin Munro, as destructive as he can be, was all at sea against spin in Mohali. The Jaipur surface of old offered plenty of zip. Now, with the track slightly slower, there’s a case of Royals continuing to stifle him with spin. Munro, though should back himself. In the first game, he was up against R Ashwin and Mujeeb Ur Rehman, Here, he’ll possibly face K Gowtham and Shreyas Gopal, who struggled in the opener.

The Daredevils spinners were also found wanting. Amit Mishra was particularly expensive. With one frontline legspinner in Rahul Tewatia to do the job, they could possibly look at fielding Shahbaz Nadeem, the left-arm spinner, who has also proved himself with the new ball in the past.

As such, it’s a battle between the two batting line-ups. Who will blink first?

In the news

Daredevils will welcome the return of Glenn Maxwell. A straight swap with Dan Christian is the most-likely possibility, given they have two other seam-bowling allrounders in Vijay Shankar and Chris Morris to bank on.

Given how their batting struggled, they could look at beefing up their lower order by including Stuart Binny in place of K Gowtham, who was out for zero and bowled a lone over. Binny can also chip in with the ball if needed. Jofra Archer is still recovering from a side strain and hasn’t arrived until match-eve. Their two other overseas recruits – Sri Lanka’s Dushmantha Chameera and Afghanistan’s Zahir Khan are struggling with injuries.

The likely XIs

Rajasthan Royals: 1 D’Arcy Short, 2 Ajinkya Rahane (capt), 3 Rahul Tripathi, 4 Sanju Samson, 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Butler, 7 Stuart Binny 8 Shreyas Gopal, 9 Dhawal Kulkarni 10 Jaydev Unadkat, 11 Ben Laughlin

Delhi Daredevils: 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Colin Munro, 3 Shreyas Iyer, 4 Rishabh Pant, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Vijay Shankar, 7 Chris Morris, 8 Rahul Tewatia 9 Shahbaz Nadeem/Amit Mishra 10 Trent Boult, 11 Mohammed Shami

Stats that matter

  • Royals have a win-loss ratio of 2.428 is the best among all teams in the tournament’s history. They’ve won 34 out of their 49 home games.

  • Daredevils captain Gautam Gambhir will be playing his 150th IPL game on Wednesday. His 36 half-centuries are the joint-most in IPL history along with David Warner. His 4188 runs in 148 innings are the most by a batsman without a century.

  • Ben Stokes and Jaydev Unadkat are two of Royals’ best bowlers in the Powerplay with a Smart Strike Rate of 6.12 and 6.39 respectively. Stokes wasn’t bowled in the first six on Monday.

Strategic punt

  • Maxwell presents a case to be promoted up the order. Far too often, teams have left him for a little too late. Given Daredevils already have Morris for death hitting, Maxwell can be considered a sound choice, perhaps even at No. 3, should Daredevils start well. His Smart Strike Rate of 190.22 between overs 7 and 15 makes him a bigger threat than Shreyas Iyer, who strikes at 154.80 in the same period.

Fantasy picks

D’Arcy Short likes pace on the ball and will be offered just that if Daredevils hand the new ball to Trent Boult and Mohammed Shami. His strong backfoot game having grown up on bouncy Australian decks could help him and Royals on a fresh Jaipur deck. If he’s already in your squad, there’s no reason to make a change just yet. Not all returns, after all, are instant.

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Neetu David to lead new Indian women’s selection committee



Neetu David, the former India left-arm spinner, has been appointed as the chairperson of the new women’s national selection panel, with former wicketkeeper-batter Kalpana Venkatachar (south), batter Aarti Vaidya (west), allrounder Mithu Mukherjee (east), and medium pacer Renu Margrate (north) the others in the team.

More to follow…

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Australia women vs New Zealand women, 1st T20I, 2020



New Zealand captain Sophie Devine refused to hide behind the lack of the Decision Review System (DRS) after their T20I series opener defeat against Australia in Brisbane, saying her team will need to take “a long, hard look in the mirror” in the short turnaround before Sunday’s second outing.

The absence of DRS, which is currently being used in the England-West Indies series, came to the fore in the 14th over of Australia’s innings when Nicola Carey clearly edged Devine but was given not out on the field. Carey soon wore a sheepish grin, with team-mate and non-striker Ashleigh Gardner knowing she had edged it. If the decision had been given in New Zealand’s favour, it would have been Devine’s third wicket of the over to leave Australia 6 for 82.

While Carey would only go on to make 7 off 12 balls, if Australia had been six down with six overs still to go, it might have made Gardner more reluctant to launch her game-changing counterattack that would end up proving decisive. With the bat Devine was then on the receiving end of a very marginal stumping decision although that would not have been changed by the presence of DRS.

“If the technology is available across the series then absolutely [we’d like it], but we know there’s no DRS this series so we’ll just have to live with it,” Devine said. “We have full trust and faith in the umpires. They’ll make mistakes, just like us players do.

“We also know there’s an extreme cost that comes with [DRS] and we all know [in] the current situation that purse strings are probably a little bit tighter. We can’t look to DRS to save our hinds. We’ve just got to be better, can’t finger point anywhere but ourselves. The Australian side was clinical and got the job done.

“We’ll have to take a long, hard look at ourselves in the mirror tonight because it wasn’t good enough. We should have won that game. It’s frustrating. In the field I thought we were poor: we missed a lot of simple ground balls that nine times out of 10 we’d collect those. We can’t use the excuse that we haven’t played in a while.

“We probably let the Australians get 20-30 more than they should have then I’d back ourselves to chase that down with a couple of overs to spare, but poor decisions were made with the bat and left too much to do at the end.”

Gardner, whose 61 off 41 balls was the standout innings of a match where others struggled for their timing, expected DRS to become a regular feature of the women’s game in years to come.

“Where the women’s game is going there should be no reason not to use the technology if it’s there,” she said. “Probably within the next one or two years it will be something adapted all around the world.”

The 17-run margin of this match – and Australia’s recovery from 5 for 82 – followed the T20 World Cup outing earlier this year where New Zealand fell five runs short of victory. “We’ve got them in threatening positions and need to put the foot on the throat, to put it bluntly, but we know how good the Australian side is and depth they’ve got,” Devine said.

Reflecting on her matchwinning innings, Gardner said that vice-captain Rachael Haynes had given her early advice about not attacking too early and then she was able to take advantage of the strong breeze. She peppered the deep midwicket area for her three sixes although arguably her best stroke was the lofted inside-out cover drive which brought up her fifty off 37 balls.

“When I got out there we were three for not too many. Rach and I spoke about rebuilding a little bit,” Gardner said. “She said just take your time because you can catch up at the back end which I was able to do. Conditions played in my favour a little as well, the wind was blowing quite strongly one way which I was able to take advantage of and I really tried to nail that.”

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Recent Match Report – Australia Women vs New Zealand Women 1st T20I 2020



Australia 6 for 138 (Gardner 61, Devine 3-18) beat New Zealand 7 for 121 (Bates 33, Schutt 4-23) by 17 runs

On a day Australia’s cricketers made a public statement of solidarity with Aboriginal Australia in their opening match of the new season, it was the ferocious counterattack of the Muruwari woman Ashleigh Gardner that gave Australia enough runs to comfortably defend against New Zealand for victory at Allan Border Field in Brisbane.

On a windy afternoon and at times tricky pitch, the hosts were far from from the fluency they had displayed in the Twenty20 World Cup decider back in March. But Garder’s powerful striking ensured that they had enough runs to pressure the visitors into error. That all this came in the absence of Ellyse Perry, even as she gets to the finish of her recovery from a serious hamstring injury, made it more special.

New Zealand and their captain, Sophie Devine, were on the wrong end of a couple of contentious moments. First, Devine had a raucous caught behind appeal turned down against Nicola Carey when the Australian innings wobbled. Then in the chase, Devine was adjudged stumped off Delissa Kimmince’s bowling in a decision that was marginal at best.

Nos. 1 and 5 make just 2 and 6

Australia’s previous match, the small matter of a T20 World Cup final in front of more than 86,000 spectators at the MCG in March, was more or less decided by the opening partnership of Beth Mooney and Alyssa Healy. Mooney batted through the innings after Healy had crashed an opening salvo of boundaries that India could not cope with. But in the quieter, windier surrounds of Allan Border Field, neither Mooney nor Healy could get going, on a surface that required a little more careful assessment than the MCG’s had done.

Mooney was facing her fourth ball when she tried to get after Rosemary Mair and managed only to spoon a catch to mid-off. Healy and Meg Lanning formed the foundations of a partnership before Healy also tried to force the pace and could only loop a catch to cover. Australia’s Powerplay at the MCG had reaped 0 for 49; this one scraped 2 for 33.

Gardner thrives after Devine intervention

That sluggish start provided Devine with an ideal scenario in which to pressure the Australians still further with ring fields. Her own excellent combination of a tight line and subtle variations in pace on a pitch that also offered its own inconsistencies helped too. Her third over fetched the wickets of Rachael Haynes and Sophie Molineux, as both fell trying to clear the inner ring and reach the boundary. Devine should have had a third when Nicola Carey edged behind but was reprieved when the umpire apparently missed the nick due to the wind. Without any technology available, New Zealand couldn’t take the DRS.

At the other end, Gardner was slowly building into her innings, doing so with the confidence of a performer who knows how quickly her enormous power can help “catch-up” an innings after a sedate start. Against the leg breaks of Amelia Kerr, Gardner aimed for straight midwicket with devastating effect, crashing two of her three sixes in the space of three balls. A trio of further boundaries took Gardner as far as 61, the third highest score by an Australian at No. 5 or lower – the other top three scores all contributed by Haynes.

Healy’s photo finish

If Devine had a right to feel hard done by after Carey was given not out and then stayed on right to the end of Australia’s innings, the feeling was enhanced just as she and Suzie Bates appeared to be building a sound foundation for New Zealand’s chase. Delissa Kimmince appealed for caught behind as ball drifted down the leg side and brushed Devine’s pad on the way through to Healy, but as New Zealand’s captain overbalanced slightly, the gloves were whipped off for a stumping chance.

It was extremely close – made to look tighter still by the fact that Australia’s uniforms are black, the same colour as the sponsored bails – and the most likely result was that Healy had lifted the bails in the frame between Devine lifting her foot and returning it to safety. Nevertheless, the third umpire Michael Graham-Smith chose to give Devine out, breaking up the pivotal partnership of the innings and allowing Lanning and her bowlers to tighten things up still further.

Lanning, Schutt close the net

With Devine and Bates separated, the Australians had engineered for themselves a position from which they lose remarkably few matches – one of being able to gradually push up the required run rate up the point where the pressure creates a flow of opposition wickets. Lanning was helped on this day by the sluggishness of the pitch and the challenges presented by the breeze, as her bowlers worked through now familiar sequences of discipline, backed by a familiar desperation in the field.

With the exception of Georgia Wareham’s two overs and Gardner’s one, none of the Australians conceded more than six runs per over, and the most effective performer was, as is so often the case, the miserly and resourceful Schutt. After her first two overs went wicketless and cost 15, she returned at the death with the run rate in her favour, and capitalised supremely by scooping the wickets of Bates, Katie Martin, Kerr and Hayley Jensen. Give Lanning, Schutt and their fielders any sort of total to defend and they are fiendishly tough to beat.

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