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Moeen Ali set for ‘short break’ from cricket after Lord’s omission

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Moeen Ali will take a short break from cricket after his omission from the England squad for the second Ashes Test at Lord’s this week.

Moeen struggled badly in the first Test of the series, taking 2 for 130 in Australia’s second innings on a turning pitch and twice being dismissed cheaply by Nathan Lyon, who has now dismissed him in nine of his last 11 innings against Australia.

He was left out of the squad for Lord’s in favour of Jack Leach, the Somerset left-arm spinner, and was expected to return to Worcestershire’s squads for the Vitality Blast.

ALSO READ: The triumphs and travails of Moeen Ali’s Test career

Instead, Worcestershire announced that he would be stepping away from cricket for a “short break” after a “hectic and high-intensity period of international cricket” before linking up with the county again.

Despite Moeen’s brief break, England’s captain Joe Root said that he remained integral to England’s long-term success, and backed him to bounce back after a spell in county cricket, just as he did against India last summer, when he returned to the side for the fourth Test at Southampton with a Player-of-the-Match-winning nine-wicket haul.

“I spent a good while chatting to Mo, making sure he understood where he’s at, and where we’re at in terms of getting him back to his best,” said Root. “We felt it was best for him to play some county cricket, and perform well for Worcestershire.

“Now, as he proved last summer, coming into that India series having a massive influence on it, there’s no reason why he can’t go back and do the same again, and try and force his way back into the squad.

“You know, he’s been a big part of English cricket and he’s done some fantastic things in a Test shirt. And it’s certainly not the last we’ll see of him, he’s a fine character, a great man and gives so much to this team. I’m sure that it won’t be long until you see him back involved.”

Worcestershire coach Alex Gidman said: “Mo is spending a little time away from the middle recharging his batteries and putting in some quality practice time which he feels he needs, and we completely respect. He has had an intense schedule of international cricket involving the ICC World Cup and the start of the Ashes.

“Mo loves playing for Worcestershire and he gives a lift to everyone in the dressing room when he comes back and plays for us. We saw at Trent Bridge [in the Blast] what he gives to us and we look forward to when he returns soon.”

The announcement, in addition to Adil Rashid’s season-ending shoulder injury, suggests that Leach is likely to be England’s spinner for much of the ongoing series – though it is possible Moeen could return for Sunday’s Championship match against Northamptonshire.

Leach told the BBC this week that he had been in conversation with Moeen after the squad announcement.

“Mo sent me a text wishing me all the best,” Leach said. “He said he hopes that I do really well. He’s been so supportive of me coming into this environment and helping me with my bowling. I actually told him to be ready for the third Test, so we had a little laugh.”



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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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Jacques Faul appointed acting CEO of CSA

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CSA have appointed Dr Jacques Faul as acting CEO. Faul replaces Thabang Moroe, who was suspended on Friday on allegations of misconduct.

Faul is currently CEO of the Titans, the franchise based at SuperSport Park and has acted as CSA head before. He filled the role in 2012, between the Gerald Majola and Haroon Lorgat administrations.

At a media briefing on Saturday afternoon, CSA president Chris Nenzani also confirmed that former captain Graeme Smith is in in “final talks,” with the organisation to take on the role of director of cricket. Smith was interviewed for the position last month, alongside suspended interim director of cricket Corrie van Zyl and former national selector Hussein Manack, but withdrew interest citing lack of confidence in the administration. He has since indicated on social media that negotiations are ongoing.

South Africa begin a four-Test, three ODI and three T20I series against England, starting on Boxing Day.

More to follow



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