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Ben Stokes nominated for New Zealander of the Year

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England’s World Cup hero Ben Stokes who ended New Zealand’s dream has been nominated for New Zealander of the Year. Yes, you read that right.

New Zealander of the Year Awards chief judge Cameron Bennet said, “there’s clearly a few Kiwis about who think we can still claim him”. Stokes was born in Christchurch, but he later moved to the UK along with his family and forged a career with England.

New Zealand captain and the player of the World Cup Kane Williamson was also nominated for the award. “He’s been the embodiment of the qualities we cherish as New Zealanders – courage, fairness, humility,” Bennett said.

All New Zealand citizens over the age of 15 are eligible to be nominated. Film maker Taika Waititi and former All Blacks captain Ritchie McCaw are among the previous award-winners.

Stokes made 465 runs in the World Cup and was named Man of the Match in the final, where, outside of top-scoring with 84, he was involved in a very bizarre play.

It was the final over of the game and he was diving into the crease to complete a second run when he inadvertently deflected a throw from outfielder Martin Guptill to the third-man boundary. England were handed six runs, which raised questions about the laws of the game and set up the World Cup’s first Super Over. Stokes returned to bat in the Super Over and hit a crucial boundary against Trent Boult to help push England to 15. New Zealand, too, scored 15 in the Super Over, but England eventually won the title on boundary count.



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Recent Match Report – Worcestershire vs Essex, Twenty20 Cup (England), Final

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Essex 148 for 6 (Westley 36, Bopara 36*) beat Worcestershire 145 for 9 (Harmer 3-16) by four wickets

Eight hours earlier, Wayne Parnell had successfully defended Notts’ requirement of a single off the final ball to take Worcestershire into the final of the Vitality Blast. Now, at the end of English cricket’s longest day, with Edgbaston once again a sea of delirium, he had to do it again. This time Simon Harmer beat the off-side field and Essex had seen off the defending champions to win the tournament for the first time.

It was fitting that Harmer had the last word. In Essex’s semi-final stroll against Derbyshire and this narrowest of victories, he returned the combined figures of 7 for 35, the best ever recorded on T20 Finals Day. He was perfectly served by a surface that turned substantially throughout the day and perhaps, just perhaps, gave Essex a little added zip with a hint of dew in the closing overs.

“It’s a lottery,” decry the critics of Twenty20. Don’t tell that to Worcestershire. In successive seasons, their nerveless, intelligent cricket under the brilliant stewardship of Moeen Ali (is there a better captain in the country?) had made them the most resilient side in the land. They had defended 147 against Notts; now it was 145. But this time they had to reckon with Ravi Bopara.

For much of the climax to this riveting final, it had felt like Bopara versus Worcestershire, and for his most zealous admirers (and there are many) Bopara versus The World. County cricket’s most reluctant finisher, who has gently carped all summer long about batting at No 6, fashioned a super-cool 36 from 22 balls to hold together an Essex chase that, when they lost their fifth wicket at 82, needing 64 from 41, was so patently down to him.

This was Essex’s fifth Finals Day appearance and the first time they had won a semi-final. With two wins from their first 10 in the South Group it has been win-or-bust ever since and Bopara has been at the heart of it. “It’s the one trophy I don’t have in my cabinet and we finally have it,” he said. He has been trying since a T20 debut, batting at No 9, against Surrey at East Molesey in 2003. His international career ended in 2015 just as England adopted a new approach to limited-overs cricket and that his reputation was tarnished by association with their previous failings is his misfortune.

Bopara’s six over long off from Moeen’s penultimate ball was a key moment, leaving Essex 39 short with four overs left. He then clattered Pat Brown’s slower ball over midwicket as that rate fell to 23 from two.

When Brown bowled Paul Walter, Essex were still 17 short with eight balls left. Harmer drove Brown down the ground to cut the last-over requirement to 12 – but 11 for the tie, and victory by virtue of losing fewer wickets, was likely to be enough. Harmer drilled Parnell down the ground to reduce the trophy-winning requirement to one off the final ball. Parnell looked distraught and close to exhaustion. Moeen offered calming words. Harmer whistled the final shot to the cover boundary.

Essex’s Powerplay had yielded only 36 for the loss of Cameron Delport, who was strangely subdued in making a single off seven balls in an innings that came to grief when he clipped Parnell to backward square. Adam Wheater, a No 5 all season, came in at three, and no doubt to orders provided a decorous run-a-ball 15 until he was bowled attempting a reverse lap at Daryl Mitchell. Essex appeared composed enough at 63 for 2 at midway, with 83 needed from the second half of the innings, but Moeen had retained nine overs from himself, Parnell and Brown for the second half of the innings.

The strength of Worcestershire’s batting line-up, one that seems full of bit parts from as high as No 4, is that it finds a way. And, in making 145 for 8, it appeared to have found a way again. But Worcestershire could not subdue Harmer. He followed his 4 for 19 against Derbyshire in the semi-final with 3 for 16, a comparable return despite the sense that Worcestershire were playing him with rather more nous.

Moeen and Riki Wessels provided the substance with a second-wicket stand of 56 in 48 balls. Moeen’s presence was enough to persuade Harmer not to bowl in the Powerplay, as he had in the semi-final, Sam Cook’s pace was as unthreatening as that of Jamie Porter, who had been preferred to him in the semi.

Harmer intervened with wickets in successive balls at the start of his second over. Moeen’s first boundary had been an uppish slice against Lawrence through backward point, but he smoothed his way to 32 in 26 balls with another exercise in cricketing meditation.

But Harmer’s turn defeated his work to leg whereupon the bowler, one of the best slippers in the country, plunged forward to hold an excellent low catch. Ben Cox, who had guided Worcestershire to the trophy a year ago, was lbw next ball as he tried to sweep, but even the president of the Respect for Umpires Association would have deemed this a terrible decision, because Cox was well outside the line and got a big inside-edge on the ball too.

Parnell fell to Harmer’s penultimate ball, bowled by a faster arm-ball, and at 90 for 4 with the 14th over about to begin, Worcestershire promoted Mitchell above Whiteley. In Western terms, the peace-loving sheriff had been preferred to the local gunslinger, and Mitchell duly provided a cautious 19 from 15 balls to edge Worcestershire to a realistic total.

Wessels was a figure of realism, too, with 31 from 34 balls;. Once a square-of-the-wicket adventurer, he still has those qualities but increasingly in this Worcestershire side, a successful side at that, he finds himself pushing singles to hold the innings together. It might have been enough. Instead, he became a support act in a wonderfully entertaining day.



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Billy Godleman bemoans failure to adapt to ‘excessive turn’ of semi-final pitch

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Billy Godleman suggested the Edgbaston pitch had offered “excessive turn” and bemoaned his side’s failure to adapt to conditions after losing their T20 Blast semi-final against Essex.

Derbyshire lost eight wickets to spin – four to Simon Harmer, three to Aron Nijjar and one to Dan Lawrence – and struggled badly in the middle overs after flying out the blocks, and Godleman suggested that “the better team won” on the day.

“There was excessive turn,” he said, “which obviously provides challenges for hitting boundaries, but our job as professionals is to adapt to whatever conditions we’re given, and try to find a way to be effective.

“Unfortunately for us, Essex were a lot better at that today than we were.”

Godleman said that he was “slightly concerned” at the interval after Essex had posted 160 for 5 – the highest total across the two semi-finals – and that his side had conceded an above-par total.

“I thought the way that Alex [Hughes], Matthew [Critchley], and Luis [Reece] bowled,” he said, “taking pace off in the middle, I could see that it would be difficult against their spinners in the second half of the game. I thought anything over 140 would be difficult.”

But Godleman reflected that his side had come a long way in the past three seasons, which have all been under the stewardship of specialist T20 coaches – first John Wright, and then this season Dominic Cork.

“We’re very proud, very happy with the accomplishment of making it to Finals Day. It’s obviously bittersweet – you get here, you’re part of the day, it’s such a great atmosphere, and you just think ‘win two games and we’ll lift the trophy’.

“I think once these 24-48 hours pass by, the real context of what we’ve done as a club, playing with only one overseas player, giving opportunities to a lot of our talented homegrown cricketers, and being able to beat a lot of the big counties home and away, make it to Finals Day – we’re really proud.”

Godleman suggested that his side had taken plenty from their quarter-final loss to Hampshire in 2017, and said that in the future he hoped they would reflect on this defeat as something to learn from in the future.

“Two years ago, we made a quarter-final and got beaten quite badly by Hampshire,” he said. “This year, we made a quarter-final, we won it convincingly, and some of the guys who played in the defeat to Hampshire a few years ago really gained from that experience.

“Hopefully next year, or in the next 24 months, we can make another Finals Day and draw upon this experience.”



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Recent Match Report – Bangladesh vs Afghanistan, Bangladesh Twenty20 Tri-Series, 6th Match

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Bangladesh 139 for 6 (Shakib 70*, Naveen 2-20) beat Afghanistan 138 for 7 (Zazai 47, Afif 2-9) by four wickets

Shakib Al Hasan‘s calculated counterattack helped Bangladesh win by four wickets in Chattogram, marking their first win over these opponents in the format in five years, as they moved to the top of the points table.

Shakib made an unbeaten 70 off 45 balls with eight fours and a six, as he rode out the pressure created by Afghanistan’s spinners, even as wickets kept falling at the other end.

Shakib strikes down Rashid

Shakib finished on top in the battle of the captains. With Bangladesh needing 27 off 18 balls, Shakib turned the game their way by hitting Rashid for a four and a six in an 18-run over that left them needing just nine off the last two overs.

Rashid had gone off the field in the eighth over with a hamstring niggle. He returned in the 13th over and removed Mahmudullah for 6, before dismissing Afif Hossain for 2, leaving Bangladesh at 106 for six in the 16th over. Mosaddek Hossain had opened the over with a boundary before Shakib muscled the ball over midwicket twice, first for a four and then a six that landed in the stands.

Bangladesh’s seniors to the rescue

Bangladesh lost their openers within the first four overs which left them at 12 for 2. Mujeeb Ur Rahman removed Liton in the third over, and in the next over Najmul became Naveen-ul-Haq’s maiden T20I wicket as he chipped a slower ball to the midwicket fielder.

Shakib provided the relief for Bangladesh by striking two boundaries in the sixth over. He picked up the singles and twos on offer and brought up a calculated fifty off 35 balls in the 15th over. He added 58 runs for the third wicket with Mushfiqur Rahim, who survived in the tenth over when substitute Najeeb Tarakai dropped him, but he fell in the very next over when he dragged a pull to deep midwicket.

Yet another strong start for Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s openers put up yet another strong show. Rahmanullah Gurbaz was lucky to be dropped on one in the second over, but that hardly stopped the Afghanistan openers from going big. Hazratullah Zazai struck Shafiul Islam for two fours in the fourth over and then blasted Mahmudullah for two fours and a six in a 16-run over to round off a good Powerplay. They took turns to hit three more sixes in the next three overs. Gurbaz then connected with a reverse sweep off Mosaddek Hossain as Afghanistan had their second successive fifty-plus opening stand.

Collapse dents final flourish

But after the 75-run opening stand ended, Afghanistan’s lost the next six wickets for 39 runs. Zazai’s wicket in the tenth over, after he made a quick 47 off 35 balls, triggered the collapse. After Afif had him caught at short fine-leg, he removed Asghar Afghan for a second-ball duck.

Gurbaz was caught and bowled by Mustafizur for 29 before Shakib had the dangerous Mohammad Nabi lbw for 4. A run-out removed Gubadin Naib, Zadran and Karim Janat then fell in successive overs, as Afghanistan meandered to 114 for seven in the 17th over. They scored only two fours in the 31 runs they made in the last five overs.



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