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Australia’s batsmen knuckle down to stem the blood loss

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Lord’s day two, evening, 2009. The Oval, day two, afternoon, 2009. Lord’s, day two, afternoon, 2013. Durham, day four, evening, 2013. Edgbaston, day one, afternoon, 2015. Trent Bridge, day one, morning, 2015.

Just six sessions over 10 years, but together they have been enough to more or less hand England the Ashes on three consecutive tours. Each time Australia suffered a cataclysmic batting collapse of at least six wickets in a session that either set-up or sealed a match for England, generally when clouds and pitch provided assistance for the hosts.

To that catalogue it would have been so easy to add Lord’s day three, morning, 2019. Clouds overhead, rain in the air preparing to fall for the rest of the day, a pitch that had sweated under its overnight covers. These were conditions made to order for England, and it was a marked departure from the aforementioned litany that saw Australia lose only three wickets in the two hours of play that were possible prior to lunch.

Far from a strong session for Tim Paine’s team, but not disastrous. As their mentor Steve Waugh observed afterwards, the potential for a match-shaping session had been avoided through some doughty batting from Steven Smith and Matthew Wade in particular. “I thought we actually did pretty well,” Waugh said. “We talked before the start of the series that the key to doing well over here is to not have a disastrous session.

“You’re going to lose some sessions, but just lose them closely, not by big margins. That’s exactly what we’ve talked about and that’s what the guys did really well. If you lose a couple of quick wickets there, the potential is to lose five or six or seven and then really the Test matches you’re going to struggle to come back from that. We hung in there really well. I thought while Wade is 0 not out he’s faced 20-odd balls. Steve Smith again looked pretty self-assured. But that was a crucial partnership, if we lost a couple more wickets there, it could’ve been a tough session.

For Smith (13 from 40 balls) and Wade (0 from 23 balls) the instinct for survival took precedence over their natural desire to score. “It was difficult conditions,” Waugh said. “I was down on ground level and that was good quality bowling – England were very disciplined. There’s a bit in the pitch, it’s a bit two-paced and a bit off the seam so you have to work really hard. It’s the sort of pitch where you’ve seen everyone who’s scored runs in this Test match has scored at less than a run every second ball.

“So it’s not a pitch where you’re going to go out and dominate, you’ve got to work really hard and get through the tough periods and hopefully the ball gets soft or the sun comes out and conditions change. You’ve got to sum up the conditions and I guess from a bowling point of view try to seize the moment. From a batting point of view you’ve got to stem the blood less and hold steady.”

Part of the process of staunching the bleeding was not allowing any to be spilled in the first hour, Cameron Bancroft and Usman Khawaja did exceptionally well to see out the initial exchanges, rotating the strike and showing decent judgment of what to leave. Bancroft’s efforts to get his head over the ball were sometimes to exaggerated as to give the impression he might trip directly over it, while Khawaja nailed a pair of back foot drives off Chris Woakes that got the Friday Lord’s crowd purring.

However, Bancroft’s tendency also to fall across his crease meant England’s lbw search looked likely to be rewarded, as it was when Jofra Archer brought one back down the hill to hit him on the back pad. A review from Bancroft only confirmed that the ball was clipping the bails, and England had opened things up. They opened further when Khawaja, having left well earlier in his innings, dabbled at a Woakes delivery that, while well pitched, was fractionally wide enough to also shoulder arms.

Travis Head, so proactive at Edgbaston, immediately found himself cornered, beaten from over the wicket before Stuart Broad reverted to the line around the wicket that has so confounded the South Australian captain over the years. Crease bound in part due to Archer’s pace, he was the plumbest of lbws, even if Aleem Dar initially declined the appeal for the hint of a double noise. Wade was given out before the showers arrived, also lbw, but ball-tracking revealed that Stokes angle from wide of the crease had the ball pitching marginally outside leg stump.

All the while Smith left the ball as much as he could, offering his post-leave flourishes with even more spark than usual – as though giving himself little post-delivery rewards for denying a natural instinct to get bat on ball. England, in keeping with Joe Root’s assertion before this match that Smith’s outlandishness can have a tendency to “put off” bowlers and captains from orthodoxy in their plans, stuck more rigorously to the region just outside the off stump and if they didn’t dismiss Smith, made it far harder for him to score.

ALSO READ: Must ignore Smith’s twitches and stick to plans – Root

England, too, were left with hope from the session that, while the dam did not burst this day, it may yet do so at Leeds, Manchester or the Oval. “Yeah it will happen,” Broad said when asked whether he could see England scooping six or seven wickets in a session this series. “We know in England it’s not necessarily the pitch that plays a huge part in that, it’s the overhead conditions that you need a bit of luck when you’re batting or bowling. Here at Lord’s if the sun comes out you can quite easily go and get a wicketless session with the bat.

“But you know if it clouds over and the humidity rises you can get 10 wickets in a session. You need a bit of luck of when those conditions fall, and both bowling attacks I think have got a lot of confidence in taking wickets, and I think this series will be quite intriguing in periods in which batting unit can soak up the pressure and actually get through periods of good bowling, and which batting unit maybe tries to hit their way out and struggles.

“The weather’s played a part in this Test match and there’s still a chance of a result. I can’t see too many draws coming in the next three, I think they’ll be result Test matches.”

Nevertheless, this was the sort of session in which the teams of 2009, 2013 and 2015 may well have lost six wickets or more. To only lose three meant that the Australians entered the final two days of a rain blighted match with a chance to wriggle their way to a more advantageous position. For the first time in at least four Ashes tours, they ended a potential banana skin of a day without having fallen on their faces.



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Fantasy Picks: Bank on experience, pick Imran Tahir and Moeen Ali

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February 21: Lahore Qalandars vs Multan Sultans at Gadaffi Stadium, Lahore

Our XI: Chris Lynn, Sohail Akhtar, James Vince, Rohail Nazir, Mohammad Hafeez, Moeen Ali, Mohammad Ilyas, Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf, Sohail Tanvir, Imran Tahir (c)

Captain:Imran Tahir

The legspinner is one of the most experienced T20 players. He was the leading wicket-taker (17) in the last T20 tournament he played – the Mzansi Super League 2019-20.

Vice-captain: Haris Rauf

The right-arm quick was the show-stopper at this year’s Big Bash League. He picked 20 wickets in just 10 games and struck every 11.3 balls. It all started at the PSL for him and he will look to put up a good show this year as well.

Hot Picks

Chris Lynn

Though the Lahore pitch has traditionally favoured the bowlers, Lynn can stand out even in those conditions with his big hits. In the T10 league last November, he was the highest run-getter with 371 runs, striking at 236.3.

James Vince

Vince scored 323 runs in the BBL at a strike rate of 123.28. As someone who can help his sides get off to brisk starts, he is expected to shine in Lahore.

Moeen Ali

Moeen’s all-round ability could be valuable for the Sultans. Although he’s coming into the tournament following a poor run, his experience would definitely come in handy.

Value Picks

Rohail Nazir

The Pakistan U-19 captain is Sultans’ wicketkeeper who bats in the top order. Nazir scored 111 runs in four innings in the U-19 World cup leading up to the tournament and will be a good value pick.

Mohammad Ilyas

The 20-year old right-arm quick was impressive last year in the limited opportunities he got. He picked up nine wickets at a strike-rate of 16 and an economy of a touch over 8.

Points to note

Points to note:

  • The average first innings score in T20s at Lahore since 2018 is 158 (five international and two PSL games)

  • In the last five T20 matches in Lahore, fast bowlers have picked up 36 wickets at an economy of 7.31 and spinners have taken 15 wickets at an economy of 7.22



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Fantasy Picks: Smriti Mandhana, Beth Mooney must-haves in your XI

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February 21: Australia v India, in Sydney Showground

Our XI: Smriti Mandhana, Alyssa Healy, Shafali Verma, Beth Mooney, Ashleigh Gardner, Ellyse Perry, Harmanpreet Kaur, Deepti Sharma, Megan Schutt, Jess Jonassen, Poonam Yadav

Captain: Beth Mooney

The left-handed batter strikes at 123 in the format. She has also been in outstanding form, in similar conditions as well, scoring three fifties in her last five T20I innings. It’s a good punt to make her your captain.

Vice-captain: Smriti Mandhana

Another left-handed opener who is in great form. In the recently-concluded tri-series, Mandana was the top run-getter, scoring 216 runs at 136.70 and if India are chasing, you may consider swapping Mooney with her as the captain.

Hot Picks

Harmanpreet Kaur

It is difficult to leave out India’s captain from a T20I fantasy XI. She is the only Indian woman to score a hundred in the format, and when she gets going, there are few batters who can strike the ball as well as her. Given her golden arm, her offspin might fetch you some points too.

Alyssa Healy

She may have had a lean tri-series but she is too experienced and talented a player to not turn things around come the big stage. Among those who have scored at least 1000 runs in the format, she has the highest strike rate (129.45). Don’t forget, she can get you some points through her wicketkeeping as well.

Ellyse Perry

Perry, the No.1 allrounder in the format, is someone you cannot leave out of any XI. She is the second highest wicket-taker in T20Is and also the only pacer to have taken four or more wickets on four occasions.

Value Picks

Shafali Verma

The 16-year old scored a 28-ball 49 against Australia less than a couple of weeks back. In her short career so far, she has scored 324 runs at an average of almost 25, striking at 141. For the price, she is surely a value pick.

Jess Jonassen

Jonassen is a left-arm spinner with great control and pace variations. She is capable of tying one end up while the Australian quicks look for wickets from the other end. Her best bowling performance (5 for 12) in T20Is came just over a week ago against India.

Points to note

  • Only three women’s games have happened at this venue in the last three years and the chasing team has won all three.

  • India’s top three scored 59.5% of the total runs scored by the team in the recently-concluded tri-series.

  • India average only 135 batting first in their last five games (when they have batted 20 overs). So if they are batting first you may want to consider replacing Verma with Meg Lanning.



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Fantasy picks – Smriti Mandhana, Beth Mooney must-haves in your XI | Cricket

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Fantasy Pick: Go with Beth Mooney as your captain


February 21: Australia v India, in Sydney Showground

Our XI: Smriti Mandhana, Alyssa Healy, Shafali Verma, Beth Mooney, Ashleigh Gardner, Ellyse Perry, Harmanpreet Kaur, Deepti Sharma, Megan Schutt, Jess Jonassen, Poonam Yadav

Captain: Beth Mooney

The left-handed batter strikes at 123 in the format. She has also been in outstanding form, in similar conditions as well, scoring three fifties in her last five T20I innings. It’s a good punt to make her your captain.

Vice Captain: Smriti Mandhana

Another left-handed opener who is in great form. In the recently-concluded tri-series, Mandana was the top run-getter, scoring 216 runs at 136.70 and if India are chasing, you may consider swapping Mooney with her as the captain.

Hot Picks

Harmanpreet Kaur

It is difficult to leave out India’s captain from a T20I fantasy XI. She is the only Indian woman to score a hundred in the format, and when she gets going, there are few batters who can strike the ball as well as her. Given her golden arm, her offspin might fetch you some points too.

Alyssa Healy

She may have had a lean tri-series but she is too experienced and talented a player to not turn things around come the big stage. Among those who have scored at least 1000 runs in the format, she has the highest strike rate (129.45). Don’t forget, she can get you some points through her wicketkeeping as well.

Ellyse Perry

Perry, the No.1 allrounder in the format, is someone you cannot leave out of any XI. She is the second highest wicket-taker in T20Is and also the only pacer to have taken four or more wickets on four occasions.

Value Picks

Shafali Verma

The 16-year old scored a 28-ball 49 against Australia less than a couple of weeks back. In her short career so far, she has scored 324 runs at an average of almost 25, striking at 141. For the price, she is surely a value pick.

Jess Jonassen

Jonassen is a left-arm spinner with great control and pace variations. She is capable of tying one end up while the Australian quicks look for wickets from the other end. Her best bowling performance (5 for 12) in T20Is came just over a week ago against India.

Points to note





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