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England team ‘has grown up together’ – Jos Buttler

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There was a moment in England’s final ODI against Pakistan, on a clear, bright spring afternoon in Yorkshire, that spoke to the sense of possibility and excitement that surrounds the team right now, a matter of days from the start of a home World Cup. When Jos Buttler stuck out a boot to block Sarfaraz Ahmed’s back-foot glide, and then in the same movement swept up the rebound and ran out the Pakistan captain as he stood on the brink of a century, it suggested even Dame Fortune might have developed a soft spot for England.

It was a moment of great skill, with a nod to that wiliest of stumpers MS Dhoni, as well as being, according to Buttler, “really lucky” – but then which successful team didn’t occasionally require the rub of the green? Australia may be the self-styled “lucky country”, while downbeat fatalism is more of an English vibe, but then the England of Buttler and captain Eoin Morgan is not quite the same as those that have gone before.

“It’s certainly the first time it has got someone out,” Buttler said of his footwork at Headingley. “Obviously Dhoni was one of the first guys I saw doing that kind of thing – watching batsmen shape up to play certain shots, trying to use your leg to stop it. I was just really lucky that it dropped next to the stumps and he’d set off for a run.”

That dismissal had been preceded by another run-out, in which Buttler’s role was to throw to the non-striker’s end, where Adil Rashid collected and swivelled to back-hand the ball unsighted on to the stumps. Far from showboating at the end of a series that England would win 4-0, this was just the sort of casual brilliance that occurs for a team when everything clicks – and a sign that their hopes of becoming the first from England to lift the World Cup will not be weighed down by doubt, expectation or a rather dismal history in the competition.

“I’m really excited by the buzz,” Buttler said, speaking at the premiere of OPPO’s TV advert to launch their global partnership with the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. “There’s pressure and expectation but I think that’s to be embraced, we can use that as a positive for the team. We’re playing in our own conditions, it allows us to get away from the tournament when the pressure gets ramped up, we can escape to friends and family as well. It’s an amazing opportunity to be around at the right time and play in a home World Cup.

“It’s a lot of fun [playing for England], that’s one of the main things. The brand of cricket we’re trying to play and the way we’ve been trying to really express ourselves and push the boundaries of what we’re capable of, it breeds a lot of fun.

“The cricket we’re playing on the field has been really exciting to watch, and we’ve obviously had some success. The dressing room is a brilliant dressing room to be part of, a close bunch of guys, there’s a lot of fun, a lot of mickey-taking and it’s just a great environment to be in. It’s definitely the changing room I love being in the most, and I think that gets portrayed on the field.”

While England appear to revel in their current status as world No. 1 and a side repeatedly pushing at the boundaries of the 50-over game, they do not get too hung up on success, either. Team spirit, as Steve Archibald once put it, may be an illusion for the winners’ podium but there are tighter bonds in the England dressing room, where a generation of players have come of age together – Buttler became a father a month ago, while several of his team-mates, including Joe Root, Jason Roy and Chris Woakes, also have young children.

Like a highly specialised NCT group, this England squad, largely unchanged over the four years since the last World Cup, have been through a lot together. And while Buttler is a character who always seems to have been able to separate professional failure from personal fulfilment, the sight of him marking his audacious 50-ball hundred in the second ODI against Pakistan with a baby-rocking celebration for young Georgia Rose hinted at great freedom happily cohabiting with great responsibility; suggesting, perhaps, that England have brought balance to their undoubted force.

“It definitely puts things in perspective, which is always something I’ve really enjoyed about my cricket – trying to keep perspective on it, remember to enjoy it, it’s not the be all and end all,” Buttler said. “She certainly does that, it’s great to come home after a good or bad day and realise it doesn’t really matter that much.

“Another good thing about the side is there’s quite a few of us in the same boat at the minute, being new fathers, so it’s a topic of conversation around the dressing room … It’s been great fun, part of the journey of the side. A lot of us have spent a lot of time together and played a lot of cricket together as youngsters and now quite a few have young families, so it’s a nice feeling.

“I think the team has grown up together in the last few years, it’s very genuine that the guys enjoy each other’s success, enjoy each other’s company. We really do see that in the cricket, it does transform those relationships in the dressing room and off the field, into the performances on it.”

It will soon be time for England to be judged on those performances, and Buttler is confident that he and his team-mates can live up to the external hype and go on to lift that elusive trophy: “Yeah we can, we definitely can, but it’s down to us go and do it.” The World Cup is tantalisingly near but there is a week-long lacuna to fill with media obligations and squad announcements, warm-up fixtures and, probably, a few night-time nappy changes. Unsurprisingly, Buttler can’t wait to get going.

“It’s almost a feeling of you just want the tournament to start proper. We had four games against Pakistan, one washed out, two more warm-up games to come… We just want the first game to start. I think everyone’s ready, there’s been a lot of talk around the World Cup and the build-up. The date everyone’s really looking to now is that one against South Africa.”

Jos Buttler was speaking as Global Partner OPPO unveiled their ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 TV advert and launched the OPPO Reno Series. To view the new TV advert and to find out more info on the new Reno Series, visit https://twitter.com/oppo





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Managing bowlers’ workload ‘most important’ in Test championship – Kohli

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Managing the workload of their fast bowlers is going to be key for India to win the World Test Championship, India’s captain Virat Kohli believes. After the win in Antigua Test, which made him India’s most successful captain in overseas Tests, Kohli spoke of the importance of having his bowlers making maximum impact in Test matches.

One of those was Jasprit Bumrah, who sat out the limited-overs legs of the ongoing tour and came back to blow West Indies away in the second innings with a spell that read 8-4-7-5. He was not at his best in the first innings, which he put down to a slightly stiff back coming back into action after a long break, but in the second innings he was lethal, relying on the outswinger, which is not his stock delivery.

“That’s probably the most important thing for us right now, managing player workloads,” Kohli said at the post-match presentation. “That’s why he (Bumrah) didn’t play any white-ball cricket after the World Cup because we wanted him to be fresh for the Tests. He is going to be a key factor for us as long as the Test championship continues. We know how good a bowler he is. And the impact he can make in a spell.”

Kohli said India had the required personnel in the pace department to be able to dominate but spoke of the need to monitor the workloads closely. “[Mohammed] Shami is the same [as Bumrah],” Kohli continued. “Ishant [Sharma] is a banker for years now. And he can make an impact in any spell he bowls. Those three together are bowling really well. Umesh [Yadav] hasn’t had a game, and we have Navdeep Saini, who can bowl 150 clicks, waiting in the wings. We are pretty settled as far as our bowling options are concerned. Managing workloads and the number of overs we bowl is going to be a key factor for us.”

Other than workloads, the team’s selection of the XIs has come under scrutiny in the past. In this Test, too, they had to make two difficult decisions. They ended up leaving out R Ashwin and Rohit Sharma. Ashwin’s exclusion left the experts, including Sunil Gavaskar, surprised. Kohli said the selections were being made in the team’s best interests. While he went on to offer a reason for Hanuma Vihari’s inclusion ahead of Rohit, he avoided speaking about leaving out Ashwin.

“The combination is absolutely based on players who can provide more than one skill,” Kohli said. “That’s why Vihari got the nod for this particular game because he can bowl you those eight-ten overs when you are falling behind the over rate. As a part-timer he is pretty effective as well.

“Look, for us it is about managing the best combination we can as a side, and feeling settled about it. We all have a discussion on that particular thing, and we go ahead with what is the best thing for the team. There will always be opinions on a team selected, but we all understand that whatever decisions are taken are in the best interest of the team.”

To live with selection calls is definitely one of the challenges of captaincy, but it is a job that has brought Kohli a lot of satisfaction over the years. Going past Sourav Ganguly as the most successful India captain in away Tests is just one of them.

“It is a responsibility that I am fulfilling,” Kohli said of captaincy. “It is a blessing that I am in a position where I can contribute to the team in more than one way. I like taking that responsibility but nothing is possible without the team. If these guys hadn’t bowled or batted the way they have, we wouldn’t have won the Tests we have. The credit can’t be taken away from them at all because I am just making decisions on the field. Execution is in their hand. Always been a team game for us.”



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Recent Match Report – Worcestershire vs Lancashire, Twenty20 Cup (England), North Group

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Lancashire 218 for 5 (Croft 94) beat Worcestershire 193 for 7 (Whiteley 89*, Maxwell 3-23) by 25 runs

Lancashire Lightning secured a top two spot – and a home quarter-final – in the Vitality Blast North Group with a 25-run victory over holders Worcestershire Rapids at Blackfinch New Road.

Steven Croft hit a career equalling 94 as the Lightning totalled a formidable 218 for 5 after being put into bat. Saqib Mahmood then pressed home Lancashire’s advantage by removed Rapids openers Hamish Rutherford – the overseas replacement for Martin Guptill – and Riki Wessels in his first two overs.

The game was effectively ended when Rapids captain Moeen Ali became the first of two wickets to fall in spinner Glenn Maxwell’s first over and the Australian ended with the excellent figures of 3 for 23 from four overs.

Some typical hitting by Ross Whiteley – including his 100th T20 six for Worcestershire – kept the capacity 4500 crowd entertained. The Rapids are still very much in contention to reach the knockout stages but now face a crucial game against Notts Outlaws at Blackfinch New Road on Wednesday.

The Rapids opted to field first and struck an immediate blow with Alex Davies top-edging the first delivery of the game from Dillon Pennington to keeper Ben Cox.

Wayne Parnell shared the new ball and Steven Croft helped his first delivery over the fine leg boundary for six. Liam Livingstone collected four boundaries in Parnell’s second over and the Lightning half-century came up in 4.1 overs.

Croft raced to his half century off just 24 balls with four sixes and four fours. Livingstone helped him add 83 in eight overs before he lofted Ed Barnard straight to Whiteley at deep midwicket.

Maxwell flicked Pat Brown over the fine leg boundary for six but tried to repeat the shot from the next ball and was pouched by Pat Brown. Captain Dane Vilas made a quickfire 23 before he cut hard at Barnard and picked out Rutherford at third man.

Daryl Mitchell bowled a tight mid innings spell and his four overs cost only 26 runs. But Croft continued to blaze away and hoisted Brown for two sixes in an over costing 22 runs. He moved onto 94 before attempting a slog-sweep in the final over from Moeen Ali and was stumped.

Croft faced 55 balls and struck six sixes and six fours and his fifth wicket partnership with James Faulkner was worth 60 in five overs.

When the Rapids launched their reply they were immediately on the back foot as Rutherford lobbed a Mahmood delivery to mid-on and Wessels perished at deep midwicket. Tom Fell was taken at long on – a fine low catch by Croft – off legspinner Matt Parkinson and then Maxwell’s introduction to the attack paid double dividends.

Moeen was bowled by his first delivery and then Parnell perished at long-on. The Rapids lost half their side for 59 and required 151 from the final 10 overs.

Whiteley reached a 20 ball half-century, which included 26 from an over by Richard Gleeson. It included two sixes and seven fours.

An entertaining stand of 86 in eight overs with Cox ended when the keeper provided Maxwell with a third scalp with Davies this time holding onto the chance at deep midwicket. Whiteley ended unbeaten on 89 from 40 balls as the Rapids closed on 193 for 7.



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Recent Match Report – Surrey Stars vs Western Storm, Women’s Cricket Super League, 27th Match

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Western Storm 171 for 4 (Priest 89, Knight 51) beat Surrey Stars 94 (Taylor 34, Odedra 4-25) by 77 runs

Rachel Priest gave a masterclass in power hitting as Western Storm maintained their 100 percent record in the 2019 Kia Super League with a 77-run thrashing of Surrey Stars at Guildford.

The New Zealand international blazed 89 in just 55 balls with six sixes and 10 fours as Storm totalled 171 for 4. Stars never threatened to chase it down with Sonia Odedra returning figures of 4 for 25 to hustle them out for 94

It means victory over Yorkshire Diamonds on Wednesday will see Storm head for finals day with a perfect 10/10 record in the group stages.

For Stars this was a sixth defeat in a row in what has become a wretched campaign.

Priest had her radar set from over one, hitting Dane Van Niekerk into the crowd.

Eva Gray got similar treatment, though the Kiwi would have had her heart in her mouth after one lbw shout from Marizanne Kapp which was turned down by umpire Sue Redfearn.

Smriti Mandhana was superbly stumped by Sarah Taylor off Van Niekerk, but Priest continued on with her relentless assault. Three more maximums and six fours carried her to 50 in just 33 balls with Western skipper Heather Knight content to play second fiddle.

Stars didn’t help their cause, Amy Gordon dropping Priest at deep mid-on on 76 before shelling another chance, this time to dismiss Knight when she had 22, Laura Marsh the unlucky bowler on both occasions.

A century looked certain for Priest, but she fell 11 short, pulling a short one from Van Niekerk to Natalie Sciver on the mid-wicket fence. The stand with Knight had realised 97 in 65 balls.

Knight took charge, moving to her own half-century with a six and five fours. And though she fell to Marsh in the last over, 171 for 4 was another imposing score.

Stars made the worst possible start in pursuit of the target, Lizelle Lee falling to Freya Davies for one to continue her poor run in the campaign.

Van Niekerk soon followed, hitting one huge six before nicking Deepti Sharma into the gloves of Priest.

The rate required was soon beyond 10, but with Davies and Sharma bowling with superb accuracy, Stars went six overs without finding the fence.

Successive fours from Taylor ended the famine, but still the scoreboard pressure mounted. Taylor’s shot back over the head of Anya Shrubsole was a joy to watch, but England’s 2017 World Cup star extracted swift revenge when the Stars’ wicketkeeper fell later in the over to a catch by Knight at extra cover.

Knight accounted for Bryony Smith and Sciver and Kapp fell in successive balls to Odedra, the latter having her stumps spread-eagled.

There would be no hat-trick, but there was third wicket for Odedra when Marsh was stumped for just a single. And she struck again later in the over as Gray found the hands of Sophie Luff. Naomi Dattani joined in the fun by mopping up the tail on a sorry afternoon for the Stars.



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