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Recent Match Report – Gloucestershire vs Sussex, County Championship Division Two, 1st Innings



Sussex 73 for 0 (Salt 53*, Wells 6*) trail Gloucestershire 200 (Bracey 61) by 127 runs

Studies in Texas have revealed that it took a meteorite hitting Earth at a force ten billion times the power of the Hiroshima bomb to wipe out the dinosaurs. Bowlers at flat-track Bristol must often feel they need something equivalent to remove 20 batsmen, and one theory for Gloucestershire’s surge to second place in Division Two is their high ratio of games at Cheltenham to headquarters this season.

Surprise all round, then, at the clatter of wickets on a slightly untypical surface that, while slow, has offered signs of variable bounce. Sussex capitalised by dismissing Gloucestershire for only 200 in 77.5 overs in a game that they might not quite need to win to remain in contention for promotion, but can hardly afford to lose to a side four places and 30 points ahead of them at the start.

Things are so tight that three successive wins, including two at Cheltenham, have propelled Gloucester from second-from-bottom in mid-July to next-to-top. They also boast most batting points in the division, but could add only one more this time as too many players made starts before losing their way against generally well-disciplined bowling and reliable fielding.

Only the composed James Bracey made a serious contribution before becoming the first of two victims in a fine spell by Chris Jordan after lunch. The England bowler swung the ball from lines that made both right and left-handers play consistently. When Bracey nibbled, Ben Brown took an excellent, low catch in front of first slip, and Tom Smith did well even to edge one that compelled a stroke.

Any hope that Gloucester might then end the day more positively was denied as they failed to break through with the new ball. Shannon Gabriel has been signed for the sound and obvious reason that his extra pace gives sharper teeth to the attack, but spells from both ends proved erratic and expensive despite the odd one signalling menace as well as promise. Maybe he was trying too hard.

Phil Salt almost edged an attempted hook behind having been rushed into the stroke, but the vehement appeal was rejected and Salt proceeded to play the best shot of the day, a lovely, fierce off-drive when David Payne overpitched. As if that was not enough, Ryan Higgins found himself warned for running on the pitch, the penultimate misfortune of a rotten old day.

The final ignominy arrived as the shadows neared the square when Salt struck four boundaries in a row off Gabriel to complete a half-century from 56 balls. If Gabriel thought that Salt would hang on the back foot expecting bouncers the hope proved wishful as half-volleys were stroked through the off side. Thanks to Salt’s positive attitude the deficit has already been cut (or driven) to 127.

“They got away from us at the end, but if we can stand up and fight for a bit tomorrow we can get back in the game,” Bracey said. “It always seems to be low and slow here, it does a little bit for the first couple of sessions but come tea we hope to be no more than four-down rather than six-down as we were this time. That does make it hard. Hopefully we can be a bit more precise.”

Without a big innings or anything more than a three-fer the day was not one for the painters or the poets. But there was scope for comedians in a stoppage of several minutes when glare from an open doorway in a flat at the Ashley Down Road End disturbed Matt Taylor, the batsman. Unfortunately, the home-owner wasn’t at immediate hand to shut it.

Umpire Ben Debenham could only shout from the boundary to the nearest neighbour for advice and help in spreading the word. This well-tanned, second-floor resident was bare of chest, in holiday blue shorts and sandals, and did not look prepared to have his half-hour of sun worship interrupted by a man in a white coat. Play resumed, the episode a footnote and the spectator back catching his rays.

Gloucester actually started solidly, undaunted under cloudy sky with the floodlights on. Bracey made an immediate impact when he moved up to open in the previous game against Derbyshire and started to look good value for a second century, leaving and defending well without ever getting bogged down against a very varied attack.

But Gareth Roderick was bowled shouldering arms and another important moment came when Miles Hammond top-edged George Garton’s second ball into the off side. A happy moment for Garton, briefly an England squad member on the 2017-18 Ashes but here making his first Championship appearance since May last year. His skiddy, left-arm pace is still there, still promising.

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Cheteshwar Pujara signs for Gloucestershire for six County Championship games | Cricket



Pujara walks off to applause © Getty Images

Cheteshwar Pujara, the Indian top-order batsman, will play six County Championship fixtures for Gloucestershire this season after signing a short-term deal with the club.

Gloucestershire, who will be playing in Division One for the first time since 2005 after winning promotion last season, will be Pujara’s fourth county, following spells at Derbyshire (2014), Yorkshire (2015 and 2018) and Nottinghamshire (2017).

Pujara is one of only two Test specialists in the contracted list of 27 Indian players not to feature in the IPL, making him available for the start of the English season.

His first game will be the season opener against Yorkshire at Headingley on April 12, and he will leave immediately before the T20 Blast starts at the end of May. Qais Ahmad, the Afghanistan legspinner, will play the final six Championship games as well as the whole of the Blast, while the club does not currently have an overseas player for the mid-season games against Somerset and Hampshire.

ALSO READ: Pujara joins elite list with 50th first-class ton

Pujara will be the club’s first Indian player since Javagal Srinath in 1995, who took 87 Championship wickets at 19.09 apiece after being recommended to the county by Courtney Walsh.

“I am really excited to get the opportunity to represent Gloucestershire this season,” Pujara said. “The club has a rich cricketing history, and this is a great opportunity to be a part of it and contribute to its success.

“I am grateful to the club for giving me this opportunity and cannot wait to get to Bristol to meet my teammates and score some runs. I have really enjoyed the experience of coming over to the UK and playing county cricket over the last few years and I am looking forward to building on that whilst continuing to improve my game.”

Pujara’s record in County Championship cricket is surprisingly underwhelming. He averages 29.93 across 36 innings in the competition, including a six-game spell with Yorkshire in 2018 in which he failed to make a single half-century.

Richard Dawson, Gloucestershire head coach, said: “Cheteshwar is a player with great temperament who will add international experience to the squad. He is undoubtedly one of the best batsmen in world cricket and we are very fortunate to have him in our squad for the start of the County Championship campaign.

“Adding Pujara to a strong batting line-up gives me great confidence ahead of our opening County Championship matches.”

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Periodic breaks the best way to deal with ‘rigorous’ schedule – Virat Kohli



He has a “rigorous three years” lined up, and Virat Kohli feels taking periodic breaks during the hectic schedule has helped him continue to play all formats of the game, at the international level and the IPL, regularly.

Kohli is one of the busiest cricketers in the international circuit and has often stressed on workload management of the India players, especially the ones playing across formats. The India captain, who was last rested for the Bangladesh T20Is in November 2019 following the World Cup and the series against West Indies and South Africa, also highlighted the added pressure of “being captain”.

“I think it’s been eight or nine years that I have been playing almost 300 days a year with the travelling and practice sessions,” Kohli said ahead of the first Test against New Zealand. “And the intensity is right up there all the time. So it does take a toll on you. I am not saying it’s not something the players are not thinking about. We do choose to take a lot more breaks individually even though the schedule might not allow you to. You are going to see a lot of that in the future from many players. Not just myself, especially from the guys who are playing all three formats. It’s not that easy.

ALSO READ: Mayank Agarwal drives on after making technical adjustments

“Then being captain and having intensity in practice sessions and discussing the game, so it does take a toll on you. So periodic breaks for me seems to work pretty okay. At a time when the body doesn’t respond as well, maybe when I am 34-35, you might have a different conversation at that stage. But, for the next two-three years, I have no issues at all. I can keep going on with the same intensity and I also understand that the team wants a lot of my contribution so that we can ease into another transition phase that we faced some five-six years ago. So the mindset is on the larger picture, and from that point, I am preparing myself for a rigorous three years from now.”

Following back-to-back home series against South Africa, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Australia, India arrived in New Zealand for a different challenge of having to play away against a strong opposition, in all three formats. The side’s approach and attitude hasn’t changed, according to Kohli.

“They are intense and very, very fit guys, and they can keep going all day and test your patience, really skilled with what they do as both bowlers and batsmen and obviously brilliant fielders as well. So they don’t give you a lot within the game to sort of bank on or pounce on”

“It [the approach] is not different at all,” he said. “It’s international cricket. Every team needs to be treated in the same manner. Basically, what we do is focus on our strengths. It doesn’t matter how much patience the opposition has.

“I think in New Zealand it’s all about cricket discipline and what the team brings on to the field. They are intense and very, very fit guys, and they can keep going all day and test your patience, really skilled with what they do as both bowlers and batsmen and obviously brilliant fielders as well. So they don’t give you a lot within the game to sort of bank on or pounce on. You need to be wary of the chances that come on the way, and be focussed enough to capitalise on those. So I think it takes a lot more concentration on the field rather than dealing with things off the field in New Zealand.”

India’s opening pair will be a new one, with Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal likely to step out at the top after Shubman Gill, the third option, finished with two low scores. It is expected to be a challenge, especially against the new ball, but Kohli doesn’t want anyone to be under unnecessary pressure.

“Look, these guys [Shaw and Agarwal] have no baggage,” Kohli said. “These guys are not desperate to perform here in any manner or they don’t have any nerves in wanting to do well overseas because they haven’t done well in the past or something like that. I think with a clear head, as Mayank played in Australia, hopefully Prithvi can do the same in New Zealand and Mayank can carry forward that as well.

“A bunch of new guys, they play with a lot of fearlessness and something that can motivate the whole team and give us the starts that we want and not be intimidated by the opposition in any manner.”

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Matt Henry to join New Zealand Test squad as cover for Neil Wagner



Fast bowler Matt Henry has been called up to the New Zealand Test squad as cover for Neil Wagner, who is awaiting the birth of his child. New Zealand Cricket tweeted that Henry will arrive in Wellington on Wednesday evening for the Test starting on Friday.

Henry will join Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Wagner and Kyle Jamieson among the pace options for New Zealand. Even though Lockie Ferguson had returned to the domestic Ford Trophy, coach Gary Stead had said recently that his “loads aren’t anywhere near for us to be able to consider him for four-day [Test] cricket.” Henry, too, has been playing the Ford Trophy but Stead had said picking Jamieson over Henry in the initial squad was a “tough call”.

ALSO READ: Lockie Ferguson not rushing return from calf injury

While Jamieson will be in line for a Test debut after impressing in the recent ODIs, Henry has played 12 Tests, including the Sydney game against Australia last month in which he finished with 1 for 94 and 1 for 54 in New Zealand’s 279-run loss before being dropped.

Overall, Henry has taken 30 Test wickets in his 12 games with an average exceeding 50. He has played two Tests against India – both in India in 2016 – but it was in the World Cup semi-final last year that he troubled them with his 3 for 37 to set up New Zealand’s win.

The hosts will be eager to pose problems for India again, this time because the two Tests count for the World Test Championship, where New Zealand are currently placed sixth with only one win from six games. India, meanwhile, are on top with seven wins from as many games.

Test squad: Kane Williamson (capt.) Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, Matt Henry

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