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Neesham’s defiance a significant moment in his comeback story

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Jimmy Neesham likes to call it the “fastest 47” in ODI cricket, and he’s not wrong. After having being in the funk for two years, almost having given up on cricket and then setting himself right, Neesham came back to smack 47 off 13 balls against Sri Lanka on his return. That innings, he says, was 18 months in the making, a reward of all the hard work he had put in when he was away. Yet it was just a score of 47 in a career whose highest score was 74.

The chance to play this World Cup, he admits, was sooner than he expected when he set on path to recovery. He was more philosophical about success and failure. He had now learnt to deal with personal failures much better by looking at his efforts through the team of the prism. He was happier nicking off first ball if New Zealand won than scoring a hundred in a defeat. Deep down, though, there must have been some desire to prove himself in more trying circumstances than walking in at 316 for 5 and smashing the ball around.

It is not ideal but this World Cup has provided him these challenges. There was the tense chase against Bangladesh where he ended up holing out to long-off. They lost two wickets in the first over against West Indies where he did better and added 41 for the fifth wicket Kane Williamson for the fifth wicket and himself ended up with 28 off 23 balls.

WATCH on Hotstar (India only) – Jimmy Neesham’s unbeaten 97

At Edgbaston against Pakistan, though, Neesham found himself with a much bigger task. He walked in to join Williamson at 46 for 4, and would soon lose Williamson too. In difficult batting conditions, he battled through, especially when facing the red-hot Shaheen Shah Afridi, and ended up unbeaten on a career-best 97 to give New Zealand a competitive score of 237. This was the longest innings of Neesham’s 55-match career. It must give New Zealand some confidence as they continue to struggle with their openers.

On a personal level, that has to feel satisfying. “I’m pretty tired now,” was Neesham’s immediate reaction after having bowled three overs to go with it. “That’s sort of my emotions at the moment, I think. Yeah, obviously, I suppose there’s external noise about whether you have the ability to guide an innings like that, and I sort of have the belief in my own ability that I have the ability to come out at 40 for 4 and guide our team to 200-plus and also the ability to come out at 310 for 3 with two overs to go. So it’s just about putting it out there, I suppose, and having belief in your own processes.

READ MORE: Second spinner might have helped New Zealand, admits Santner

“Obviously, we had a large period of time where we had to soak up pressure. That was the nature of the wicket and the nature of the bowling attack. We certainly had a belief, if we could get through that hard period, we’d be able to score some runs at the back end, and obviously that’s what ended up happening.”

Neesham did soak up all the pressure, getting beaten multiple teams by Afridi, but then turning it on towards the end. He scored 26 off the first 58 balls he faced followed by 71 off the next 64. This was a near perfect rearguard in conditions ideal for both seam and spin, for which he was congratulated by Pakistan fielders even as he walked off in the innings break. He, in turn, sought out Afridi to congratulate for the spell he had bowled.

However, Neesham was not willing to draw too much pleasure out of the knock. “It [this innings] is something I’ll probably reflect on after the tournament is finished,” Neesham said. “I think, obviously, the whole point of trying to graft out our partnership like that is to try to get ourselves in a position to win the game. I feel like we potentially did that. We potentially had a score that was defendable. Obviously, in a game where you lose, you don’t take a whole lot of pleasure out of stuff like that.”



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Fantasy tips: India v West Indies, 2nd T20I

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December 8: India v West Indies, 2nd T20I in Thiruvananthapuram

NOTE: We might not always be able to tip you off about late injury (or other relevant) updates

Captain: Rohit Sharma

Rohit rarely fails to perform through an entire T20I series. He had an off day in Hyderabad, and is likely to make amends.

Vice-captain: Yuzvendra Chahal

In a high-scoring first T20I, Chahal was India’s most successful bowler, even coming back at the death to pick up two crucial wickets.

Hot picks

Virat Kohli

After that 50-ball 94..

Kieron Pollard

Pollard got going in the first game with the bat, finding his range and clearing some of the longer boundaries in Hyderabad. Why not one more time?

Deepak Chahar

An early wicket is almost always assured with Chahar, but he took quite a beating in the first game. It should be worth backing him one more time.

Value for money

Nicholas Pooran

He’s been striking it at 147.73 in T20s over the past two years, and can clear the boundary against both pace and spin.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar

Among the most experienced T20 bowlers going around, he had a decent first outing on return from injury.

Sheldon Cottrell

His angle from around the wicket, swing, and variations all make him a solid proposition. More salutes = more fantasy points.

Point to note

  • Thiruvananthapuram was not among the higher-scoring venues in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, with an average first innings score of 127. That was due in part to some weaker domestic sides playing there, so a total in excess of 180 on Sunday can’t be ruled out.



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What is the reward for performing in this Ranji Trophy?

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Into its 86th year, the biggest first-class competition in the world – the Ranji Trophy – gets bigger with a 38th team, Chandigarh, added to the roster for the 2019-20 season. Like every year, it gives around 800 hopefuls a platform to establish themselves. Players aside, it is also a true test for ground staff, curators, logistics personnel, scorers, coaches and, of course, match officials. Here is a look at what the key talking points from this season are likely to be.



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Rahul 2.0 makes strong case for regular limited-overs spots

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Ball dekho, maaro.” (See ball, hit ball)

Speaking to Chahal TV for the BCCI website, this was how KL Rahul summed up his approach and mindset after getting to a start in India’s pursuit of 208 against West Indies in the T20I series opener in Hyderabad. In stark contrast to his captain Virat Kohli’s early struggles at the other end, Rahul seamlessly built on his start and converted it into a 40-ball 62. It was Rahul’s innings that set the scene for the angry Kohli masterclass in the latter half of the chase.

When Rahul had broken into first-class cricket in 2010, he was a proper top-order batsman whose game was founded on the old-school virtues: leaving anything that’s wide of off stump and playing the balls that threaten the stumps with a dead-straight bat.

Rahul, however, unlocked the white-ball monster in him during IPL 2018, when he racked up 659 runs in 14 matches at a strike rate of 158.41. He followed it up with 593 runs in 14 matches in 2019, having expanded his range with a variety of sweeps, scoops and big hits. Some of that funkiness has perhaps seeped into his red-ball game and as a result he has been jettisoned from the Test squad.

His white-ball form, though, is reaching a stage where it might be just too hard to ignore. Rahul might not have even started the series had Shikhar Dhawan been fit. This, despite being at the forefront of Karnataka’s 20-overs Syed Mushtaq Ali title defence. Rahul had tallied 313 runs in eight innings at an average of 52.16 and strike rate of 155.72, including some tough runs on spin-friendly tracks in Surat.

On the eve of the T20I series against West Indies, Kohli was even asked if the management might consider bumping Rishabh Pant to the top, but the India captain shot that thought down quickly and indicated that Rahul will slot in alongside Rohit Sharma.

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KL Rahul on getting to open the innings in T20Is and the new front-foot no-ball monitoring system

Rohit picked out deep midwicket for 8 off 10 balls in India’s steep chase in Hyderabad and Kohli just couldn’t find his bearings early on at the other end. West Indies’ bowlers, particularly Sheldon Cottrell, varied their pace and lengths smartly to make life more difficult for India.

After Cottrell had softened Rohit with a length ball that burst off the track and pinged his right glove, left-arm fingerspinner Khary Pierre made the incision for West Indies. However, Rahul continued to pick off runs in risk-free fashion.

Having all the shots is one thing and knowing when to use them is another. When Cottrell or Holder found some extra bounce and aimed for the fourth stump, Rahul simply rode it and tapped it behind point, down towards third man.

Only when the ball was well short and wide of off did Rahul unleash the full-blooded cut. Hayden Walsh Jr. was the best fielder of CPL 2019, his athletic interventions at backward point turned games as much as his wristspin did for eventual champions Barbados Tridents. Just ask West Indies and Trinbago Knight Riders captain Kieron Pollard. It was a moment of brilliance in the field from Walsh Jr. that ran out Pollard in the second qualifier and KO’d Knight Riders.

On Friday night, Rahul cracked a brace of square-cuts, beating a sprawling Walsh Jr. – both to his left and right for fours. Then, after bedding in, in the last over of the Powerplay, Rahul brought out his attacking enterprise. He backed away to left-arm fingerspinner Pierre and slog-swept him over square leg for six. See ball, hit ball.

In the next over, Rahul used the extra pace of Walsh Jr. to his advantage and dabbed him fine of short third man for four. He also rotated the strike without much fuss and raised his fifty off 37 balls. During the process, Rahul passed 1000 T20I runs in his 29th innings.

Just when Rahul was about to hit full tilt, having sent Kesrick Williams and Pierre for sixes over midwicket, he holed out to long-off while attempting a third six. By then, Kohli had found his touch and India eventually sailed to victory.

“[It’s] important to lay a solid foundation as an opener because there are power hitters in the back end,” Rahul told Star Sports after the match. “Playing Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy helped a lot. Doesn’t matter how many hours you spend in the nets. Winning games gives me the most confidence. Did that with Karnataka, happy to do it with India. Good that I can carry my confidence across tournaments.”

Rahul has two more T20Is in this series to extend his rich white-ball form and give the Indian management another happy headache in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup in Australia – the scene of his Test debut – next year.

“It’s a long way [away], honestly,” Rahul said of the T20 World Cup, at the post-match press conference. “I’ve got the opportunity to bat at the top of the order again after a couple of series. So [I’m] looking forward to just making the best use of it. Today was a good outing, a good hit in the middle, and hopefully I just continue the same thing and not worry about October next year, there are a lot of games before that.”



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