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Mandeep Singh questions Vijay Hazare Trophy rules, Shreyas Iyer also ‘disappointed’ by washouts

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Mandeep Singh had the air of a man who has endured one too many swings of misfortune. Rain meant Punjab were denied a chance at a semi-final tilt through circumstances beyond their control. Their opponent, Tamil Nadu, had won more games (nine) in the league phase than Punjab (five) had, which meant it was Tamil Nadu who progressed past the quarter-final in the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2019-20.

The catch was, Tamil Nadu played in Group C which had ten teams, while Punjab were in Group B which had nine. So even if Punjab had won every single league game, they would have been eliminated at Tamil Nadu’s expense.

“Going out like this is very unfortunate and I think it’s a very bad rule, to decide something like that,” Mandeep said after the washed out quarter-final at the Alur 1 ground in Bengaluru. “Fighting it out in the A, B groups – the two groups that have the best 18 teams… Had it rained yesterday, Pondicherry would have qualified (ahead of Karnataka, in the tournament’s first quarter-final). Doesn’t make any sense, but cannot help it.

“Teams will prefer to play in groups C and D then, if the rules are like that. Very unfortunate and really not happy about this.”

While the quarter-final between Karnataka and Puducherry wasn’t rain-affected, if there had been a no-result, Puducherry would have gone through.

Both teams had seven wins each in the league stage, and in the absence of a head-to-head result, Puducherry’s net run-rate (3.523) was better than Karnataka’s (1.17) and would have carried them through even though both figures were the result of vastly different circumstances, achieved against significantly dissimilar quality of opposition.

Mandeep was also unhappy that the schedule didn’t keep a reserve day for knockout matches.

“For the knockouts, there should definitely be a reserve day,” he said. “For the league stage, it’s fine, though the BCCI did reschedule the games. But if there is a day [between the quarter-final and semi-final], then there has to be a reserve day for the knockouts.”

The Tamil Nadu-Punjab quarter-final was cut short when it was evenly poised. In the other one, Mumbai were utterly dominant over Chhattisgarh but they couldn’t see the job through because of the weather and were also knocked out. Shreyas Iyer, the captain, was in agony.

“It’s really disappointing. We gave our heart, soul and tears for this amazing tournament, and unfortunately, the way we started the season, rain was affecting every game,” Iyer said. “So we can’t blame anyone in this situation. We’ll take it in our stride and move forward. The boys are also very… disappointed from inside.”

When the downpour that would eventually lead to both games – played on neighbouring grounds at Alur I and Alur II – being cancelled arrived at 3pm local time, the Mumbai players on Alur II showed how keen they were to get a full 20 overs in by lending a hand to the groundstaff in pulling the covers on the ground. But it was all for nothing and disappointed as Iyer was, he also pointed out that the playing conditions for the tournament had been set beforehand and agreed to by all.

“We had our BCCI meeting before the tournament started and they had specifically said that these are going to be the rules and regulations if it rains,” he shrugged. “So we’ve got to take that into consideration and move ahead. Can’t think about it now.”

Mandeep admitted he hadn’t been aware of the rules governing washouts in knockout matches, but held that the playing conditions as they were, made little sense, while drawing fresh attention to the inequity of having teams in Groups A and B mapped onto the same points table.

“Honestly, I didn’t see it (the playing conditions). Maybe our association is aware because I am more focused on my team, my players,” Mandeep said. “And we never thought something like this would happen. Groups A and B are very tough. While being in Group A, you are competing with the teams in Group B and vice versa. Let’s say we had won all our eight games, even then we would have been eliminated. So there is not much logic there.”



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Australia’s other tricky decision: who is the third fast bowler?

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Strength in depth is something the Australian selectors would dearly love with their batting options. They have in it in spades with the fast bowling, however, and that creates a different problem.

The selection of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson and Michael Neser in the Test squad to face Pakistan looks like a luxury teams the world over would love to have.

Now it’s about which three to pick for the Gabba. The selectors rotated their fast bowlers with mixed success in England. Heading into the final Test at The Oval they seemed genuinely unsure of their best trio, with Peter Siddle playing ahead of Starc and Pattinson who were both fully fit.

Pattinson, perhaps to his own detriment given his desire to play his first Test on home soil since January 2016, thinks the New South Wales trio of Cummins, Hazlewood, and Starc will line-up in Brisbane.

ALSO READ: James Pattinson wants to play back-to-back Tests

“I think those three are probably going to get the first look in, realistically,” Pattinson said on Thursday. When probed as to whether the selectors had indicated that to him he responded, “Not really, that’s just my personal opinion.”

The New South Wales trio tuned up for Brisbane by dismantling Western Australia on a slow dry SCG track, the antithesis of what will be presented at the Gabba. The trio took 13 wickets between them on a spin-friendly surface to bowl WA out for 191 and 128. All three were outstanding with a reverse-swinging ball.

They were the trio that secured the Ashes for Australia at Old Trafford, in Starc’s only Test of the campaign, but he was unsure whether they would get the nod together in Brisbane.

“We’ve all said we are here to win games for New South Wales and the rest of it will take care of itself,” Starc said. “For this week it was nice to have everyone back in blue, Patty’s [Cummins] first game and was nice seeing him bowl fast as well. We’ve played a lot of cricket together for New South Wales and Australia and if that’s the way they go in the first Test then great, if not keep pushing for the next one.”

Starc’s form probably makes him the favourite to be named alongside Cummins and Hazlewood, who appear certain starters. After a lean match at the Gabba against Queensland, where he claimed 1 for 129, some remedial work with NSW bowling coach Andre Adams propelled him to a man of the match display against Tasmania at Drummoyne Oval where he took 10 for 60 from 43.2 overs.

He then took eight wickets in six T20Is but stepped back into Shield cricket without missing a beat, claiming 4 for 57 in the second innings against Western Australia with some vicious reverse swing and six wickets in the match

“I’ve just been happy with the rhythm and things I’ve worked on, just to get into a clearer mindset,” Starc said. “The things I worked on coming out of the Gabba Shield game and into Drummoyne I’ve been pretty focused and clear since the Gabba – in the T20s as well – so that’s pretty pleasing. Hopefully having that mindset can carry on through the summer.”

Pattinson’s form in the Sheffield Shield should not be overlooked. He consistently troubled opponents with pace and hostility on three very flat surfaces at the Junction Oval, the WACA and the MCG. He was rested for the game against Tasmania on a bowler-friendly surface in Hobart. He has 11 wickets in four innings thus far this season with two four-wicket hauls but has bowled without luck at times.

The squad mentality has been spoken about at length, with Australia’s hierarchy keen to sell the idea to the fast bowlers to both keep them fresh and extend their careers.

Pattinson spoke last Friday of his desire to play back-to-back Test matches and his envy of the batsmen being able to find form through continuity of playing.

But it seems the bowlers, begrudgingly or not, have accepted their fate that they may not play every game.

“We spoke about the squad mentality during the Ashes and having five fast bowlers again it will be the same thing,” Starc said. “Whether that’s conditions-based, Nes [Neser] bowled really well in that A game from what I’ve heard and Patto has been bowling really nicely. Joshy, Patty and myself are pretty happy with how we’ve been progressing.”

While Pattinson believed he would not play in the first Test he did believe that his opportunity would come depending on conditions.

“I think it’s just a game to game basis, however, they pull up. If I’m just there staying fit and bowling well and putting my name forward, hopefully at some stage I’ll get the nod.”



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Recent Match Report – West Indies Women vs India Women 3rd T20I 2019

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India women 60 for 3 (Rodrigues 40*, Matthews 2-7) beat West Indies women 59 for 9 (Radha Yadav 2-6, Sharma 2-12) by seven wickets

India continued their dominant run against a West Indies side that seems to have lost its way without regular captain Stafanie Taylor, winning the third T20I by seven wickets to take a 3-0 lead in the five-match series. In the first two games, West Indies had barely managed to get past 100, losing by 84 runs and ten wickets respectively, and it got worse for them this time, as they limped to 59 for 9 from their 20 overs before India got past the target with enough and more in hand.

It wasn’t easy going for India in their modest chase, though. Hayley Matthews rocked them at the start, getting Shafali Verma stumped by Shemaine Campbelle in the first over for a duck and then having Smriti Mandhana caught by Shakera Salman in the fifth over for 3, leaving India at 13 for 2 at that stage and just 16 for 2 at the end of six overs.

But there was only so much Matthews and the rest of the bowlers could do after the batters had put up so woeful a performance. Harmanpreet Kaur fell too, for 7 to Afy Fletcher, but Jemimah Rodrigues could just knock the ball around without taking unnecessary risks and chip away at the chase. She hit four fours in her 51-ball innings, getting to 40 when she hit the winning single to take India to their target in 16.4 overs with Deepti Sharma by her side.

Sharma had played a leading role in the first half of the match too, picking up two wickets as she and Radha Yadav led a strong bowling performance where all the six bowlers in action picked up at least a wicket each.

Matthews fell first, caught and bowled by Anuja Patil, and Radha sent back Campbelle by the end of the Powerplay too. There was no real resistance at any stage of the innings by the West Indians, who were batting first out of choice, as only Chedean Nation and Chinelle Henry got into double-digits, scoring identical 11s. The wickets fell frequently, and it was only some dead-batting from Anisa Mohammed and Selman at the end that prevented the home side from being bowled out.

Radha returned 2 for 6 from her four overs, while Sharma had 2 for 12 from four as seven of the wickets fell to the Indian spinners, Pooja Vastrakar’s dismissal of Kyshona Knight and Natasha McLean’s run-out the exceptions.

India, who won the preceding ODI series 2-1, and West Indies play the fourth game of the T20I series on Saturday, also in Providence.



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Recent Match Report – India vs Bangladesh, ICC World Test Championship, 1st Test

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India 86 for 1 (Pujara 43*, Agarwal 37*) trail Bangladesh 150 (Mushfiqur 43, Shami 3-27) by 64 runs

It’s weird. For someone who has like the most amazing seam position, Mohammed Shami with the old ball looks way, way, waaaay better than Mohammed Shami with the new ball. And if you’re not convinced, see what he did to Mushfiqur Rahim in Indore. It was pure poetry and that’s without getting into how it took out Bangladesh’s top-scorer and sent them crashing to 150 all out.

The game had just ticked past 50 overs, somewhere near the time reverse swing comes into play. India had already dismissed half the opposition and Bangladesh were just trying to make the best of a bad situation. All hopes of doing that vanished when Shami came for his fourth spell. For some reason he decided to go wide of the crease. The ball kissed the good length but it was so far away from the off stump that Mushfiqur was preparing to leave it altogether. Then it swung in. Sharply. Quickly. Violently.

The batsman had no chance. Especially because, in that same over, Shami was moving the ball conventionally away from the right-hander. How can you prepare for that? #AskingForAFriend. India finished the day only 64 runs behind, with Rohit Sharma out for 6 but Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara fairly dominant.

No plan survives contact with the enemy. Mushfiqur’s was swing. For the rest of his team-mates, it was, well, mostly themselves. Bangladesh had won a good toss. Their captain Mominul Haque had made a brave call to bat first. The pitch had enough grass cover to make India pick three seamers, all of whom have improved so much since the start of their careers that Virat Kohli now commands one of the best bowling attacks in history. Still, the visitors backed themselves to put runs on the board because that’s what you do in the subcontinent. And in short phases of their innings, they showed they were capable of it.

Mominul was the best of them, walking in with the score 12 for 1, seeing it become 12 for 2 and reviving it until it was a much healthier 99 for 3. He didn’t really do much to pull off that recovery. It was just careful Test-match batting, playing close to the body, leaving as much as he could outside off stump and most importantly using soft hands as much as possible. His openers failed to do that.

Imrul Kayes was caught at third slip off Umesh Yadav for 6, Shadman Islam was sucked in by a full and wide delivery from Ishant Sharma and it was hard not to think about Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan. One of them could have helped Bangladesh withstand the early pressure from India, the other might have counterattacked and the contest would have been even.

It still was for a little period in the lead up to and then after the lunch break. Mominul had steadied the ship, scoring 37 off 80 balls, all of his six boundaries coming behind the wicket as he lured India into bowling at his body and to his strengths. That is why it was so bizarre when he left a straight ball and got bowled.

R Ashwin was responsible for that little misjudgment; the India offspinner had snuck onto the Bangladesh vessel, all whistling and innocent-like, and gently elbowed their captain overboard. It was his 250th wicket in 42 Tests at home. He had been lovely to watch on a pitch that offered him nothing. His control in the air – varying the flight of the ball – his tricks – getting one to spin and the other to hold its line – and that sixth sense of when to bowl what were all on show. On a better day, when Ajinkya Rahane doesn’t drop three catches off his bowling, Ashwin would have got more than 2 for 43.

It was the 19th time in the last two years that India had bowled out an opposition for a sub-200 total. Their bowlers are relentless. They stay patient. They have a variety of skills. They can out-think batsmen. They’re a threat no matter the condition of the ball. Heck, they take wickets even when they’re fielding down at deep fine leg as Ravindra Jadeja proved with a pin-point throw that led to Taijul Islam’s run-out. It was a day for the bowling coach B Arun to sit back and revel in a job well done.



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