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Baroda hold off Delhi by one run, while TN beat Mumbai

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Baroda and Karnataka surged to the top of the Super League groups A and B, winning their Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy matches on Friday. While Baroda held off Delhi by a solitary run, Karnataka beat Jharkhand by 13 runs in a game they looked like they would win at a canter at one stage. The victories gave them both eight points each from two matches.

Rajasthan and Jharkhand, who have both had a close defeat each in high-scoring games, now find themselves with two defeats in as many Super League games, making a spot in the semi-finals difficult.

Like on Thursday, there were IPL scouts from at least four franchises in attendance for the matches, making performances in the Super League particularly crucial given the IPL auction that is scheduled for December 19.

Baroda v Delhi

A combined effort by the Delhi bowlers kept Baroda to 151 for 6. However, Delhi’s chase stuttered and finished on 150 for 9. Babashafi Pathan, the right-arm medium-pacer, took 3 for 24 for Baroda, while Kunwar Bidhuri fought a lone battle for Delhi.

Bhiduri, handed a game due to Shikhar Dhawan’s injury, had a sparkling T20 debut, hitting 68 off 51 balls at the top of the order. However, he lacked support from the rest of the Delhi batsmen. He was ninth out at the start of the 20th over. Delhi needed 19 to win from the remaining five balls and though Suboth Bhati swung his bat during an unbeaten 20 off 8 balls, Delhi could make only 17 runs.

Baroda didn’t have any batsman making a standout innings, though Aditya Waghmode continued his good form, top-scoring with 36 off 31 while opening. Only Deepak Hooda (26 off 19) among the other batsmen crossed 20, though useful contributions right through meant Baroda got to a competitive – and eventually winning – total.

Tamil Nadu v Mumbai

Tamil Nadu put behind a comprehensive defeat to Karnataka to hand the other tournament favourites – Mumbai – a resounding loss, by seven wickets with 6.1 overs to spare. Left-arm spinner Shams Mulani had a remarkable day, but the rest of the Mumbai team crumbled.

Tamil Nadu’s bowlers ensured Mumbai could get only 121 for 9, despite Mulani hitting 73 off 52 after being promoted to No. 4. R Sai Kishore continued his good run with figures of 3 for 18 in four overs, while M Siddharth took 4 for 16. Prithvi Shaw made 30 off 19 at the top of the order, but no other Mumbai player got into double-figures.

Tamil Nadu sent in Shahrukh Khan to partner Hari Nishanth at the top of the order, and the duo gave the team a rapid start. Shahrukh fell in the fourth over, bowled by Mulani, with B Aparajith following him back two balls later. However, Nishanth, who didn’t have a good outing against Karnataka, came to the fore in style, smashing 73* off 44 balls.

Mulani took all three wickets to fall – Dinesh Karthik being the third – to complete a fabulous all-round day with figures of 3 for 26 in four overs, but Vijay Shankar ensured he stayed alongside Nishanth as victory was raised in just 13.5 overs.

Karnataka v Jharkhand

Put in to bat, Karnataka rocketed off the blocks, before losing their way in the second half of their innings. Their fantastic start nonetheless ensured a sizeable 189 for 6 on the board, and though Jharkhand fought gamely, the required rate was always a touch above what they looked like achieving, eventually finishing on 176 for 5.

Karnataka’s start was driven by Devdutt Padikkal – in many ways the batsman of the tournament so far – who raced to 63 off 30 balls in an opening stand that brought 114 in 9.3 overs. His opening partner KL Rahul was more sedate in comparison, while Manish Pandey came in and picked up where Padikkal had left off. However, both men fell shortly thereafter, though at 130 for 3 in 11 overs, Karnataka were still looking at a total well in excess of 200. However, with their three main batsmen gone, the rest of the line-up struggled and could only score at around a run a ball thereon. Left-arm spinner Sonu Singh did most of the damage, with 3 for 28 in four overs. He took out both Rahul and Pandey, and added the wicket of Karun Nair too.

Jharkhand’s reply was driven by Virat Singh‘s 76* off 44 from No.3, but the batsmen around him couldn’t keep up with the required rate. They needed 87 runs in the last six overs, which is when Virat and Sumit Kumar (23 off 16) cut loose, but though they scored at more than two runs per ball, the eventual target proved too steep.

Haryana v Rajasthan

Tight bowling by Haryana gave them a four-wicket victory over Rajasthan with 4.4 overs remaining, with Harshal Patel putting in an all-round show once again.

Harshal, who has been opening the batting in this tournament, first took 1 for 19 in his four overs as Rajasthan were restricted to 123 for 8. Ankit Lamba top-scored with 38, but took 41 balls, and only Chandrapal Singh (25* off 14) crossed 20 among other batsmen. Rahul Tewatia, recently traded from Delhi Capitals to Rajasthan Royals, was the most successful bowler, with 3 for 18 in four overs.

Interestingly, Haryana opened with two leggies in Yuzvendra Chahal and Amit Mishra, while Tewatia – another leggie – was the first change bowler.

Harshal led Haryana’s reply, smacking 41 off 25 at the top of the order to be the highest score of the match. Haryana didn’t have too many others contributing, but given the small target, they didn’t need to.



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Firebird Hamish Bennett ready for his New Zealand rebirth

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Hamish Bennett had made his Test debut along with Kane Williamson in 2010. He bolted into New Zealand’s World Cup squad the next year and later, in 2014, he gave Virat Kohli a proper workout in that tied ODI with his searing pace.

Bennett nailed the hard lengths and stopped Kohli from pulling or driving in a sequence of back-to-back maidens. Then, he had the batsman nicking off with a 143kph rocket that took off after landing on the pitch. Kohli v Bennett: 1 off 16 balls at a strike rate of 6.25.

Fast-forward to 2020: Williamson and Kohli are now international veterans and world beaters. Bennett, meanwhile, is preparing to make his T20I debut in the series opener against India at Eden Park – the scene of his incredible burst against Kohli.

This Kohli is a white-ball monster. These India players are, as Ross Taylor put it, rock stars. Former batting coach Craig McMillian calls them the real deal. New Zealand, though, are missing several of their first-choice seamers, including Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult and Matt Henry. In their injury-enforced absence, they have turned back to Bennett, who is a also a changed cricketer.

He’s no longer a one-trick pony, who just bounces out batsmen. He has overcome multiple injuries and has transformed himself into a well-rounded white-ball bowler, and is currently the holder of both the 50-over Ford Trophy and the 20-over Super Smash titles.

ALSO READ: Southee backs New Zealand to bounce back from Australia set back

In the final against Auckland Aces earlier this week, where the Wellington Firebirds were defending 168, he began his spell in the Powerplay with a brace of lifters, having Martin Guptill ducking and weaving. Then, when Bennett missed his lengths and went too full, Guptill planted his front leg and cracked him for a brace of fours.

Having conceded 11 runs in his opening over, he came back strongly in his second, the fifth of the innings, and had Colin Munro nicking behind with a back-of-a-length delivery that seamed away. Guptill, though, settled down and rebuilt the innings with Craig Cachopa, pushing the Aces to 82 for 3 in the 12th over.

Bennett hit hard lengths once again and mixed it up with his offcutters to hike the required rate close to 12. One such offcutter, reared off the pitch and took the splice of Guptill’s bat before streaking away towards cover prompting the batsman to just see off the bowler’s third over.

With wickets falling around him, Guptill aimed to take the chase deep, but with the Aces needing 52 off 18 balls, he had to go for broke. And he happened to run into Bennett again. When Bennett bowled length and outside off, Guptill lined him up and smoked him over midwicket for six. Bennett went much fuller the next ball and Guptill helicoptered it, MS Dhoni-style, with his strong wrists. The ball seemed destined to sail over the midwicket boundary, until Logan van Beek pulled off a stunning relay catch. The wicket was down to van Beek’s brilliance at the edge of the boundary and some luck, but the pressure created by Bennett earlier had also played a part. The Aces’ gun batsman was gone for 60 off 53 balls. Game over for them.

All told, Bennett has been among the most consistent T20 bowlers in New Zealand over the past couple of seasons. He has 26 wickets in 20 games at an economy rate of 8.06. Kyle Jamieson (30 wickets), Mitchell McClenaghan (27), his Firebirds team-mate Ollie Newton (27), Ajaz Patel (27) and Blair Tickner (27), have picked up more wickets than him but they have come at greater cost. In this season alone, Bennett has bagged 17 wickets in 11 games at an economy rate of 7.20 and emerged as the leading wicket-taker.

He has also been in fine form in the Ford Trophy and has developed a reputation of being a bowling leader at Wellington, after a decade-long stint at Canterbury. The switch up north has switched his fortunes as well, and in the absence of Boult and co. Bennett is likely to shoulder the bowling load for New Zealand along with Southee.

“He has done extremely well in white-ball cricket for Wellington – not only the T20s but the one-day stuff as well,” Southee said of Bennett on Wednesday. “He has earned his recall and it has been a while and he knows his game now. He’s a little bit older and I’m sure he’s excited about the challenge and he probably is bowling as well as he has ever in his career. Pleased for him, [I’ve] played a bit of cricket [with him] when I was younger. So, nice to see him still trucking in and getting another opportunity.

“The environment is pretty good, the guys can come in and someone like Hamish, he feels comfortable when he comes in. And he’s able to be himself, which I think helps going forward in the field. You’re relaxed and if you feel welcome, then I guess it makes the transition easier out onto the field with your mates.”

Bennett doesn’t want to put too much pressure on himself and instead just wants to enjoy his cricket, a shift in mindset that gave him a second wind after moving to Wellington.

“I’d never given up on playing for New Zealand. I don’t think anyone does,” Bennett told the New Zealand Cricket website. “You just have to keep plugging away. For me, I just enjoy playing cricket. I don’t live and die by New Zealand selections, but I’m still trying to be the best cricketer I can be.”

Now, at 32, Bennett will have another crack at Kohli at Eden Park again, and a chance to find a second wind in his chequered international career.



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‘Only focused on winning, rest will follow’ – Smriti Mandhana

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Smriti Mandhana thinks it is “unfair to compare” the BCCI women’s retainer contracts to their male counterparts. Speaking at an event in Mumbai, India’s T20I vice-captain made it clear the team was only focusing on winning, which would automatically bring in a bigger following, thereby more revenue.

Currently, the top grade of women cricketers are paid an annual retainer of INR 50 lakh, which half the value of the lowest retainer for men – those in Grade C get INR 1 crore.

“We need to understand one thing: revenue for women’s cricket. The day when women’s cricket starts generating the same revenue, I’ll be the first person to say we need same pay, but right now, we can’t say that,” Mandhana said on Wednesday. “No one is thinking about the [salary] cap or anything like that.

“The focus is to win matches, get crowd and revenues coming in. It’s unfair on our part to say ‘we need same pay’. It’s not right. I don’t want to comment on the gap. If we win matches and the crowds come, all other things will fall in place, and for that we need to perform.”

The Indian team will leave for Australia on Thursday, a month prior to the T20 World Cup. They will play a tri-series involving defending champions Australia and England in the run-up to the eight-team event, where India are looking to go a step ahead of their semi-final finish in 2018 in the Caribbean.

Never before in recent memory have India slotted in so much match time in the build-up to a global event. Only last month, 45 of the country’s top players played two rounds of group games followed by a final in the Challenger Trophy.

Also for the first time, an India A team was sent to Australia as part of a preparatory tournament, keeping the T20 World Cup in mind. As many as six players from India’s World Cup squad – Priya Punia, Shafali Verma, Veda Krishnamurthy, Arundhati Reddy, D Hemalatha and Mansi Joshi – were part of the series India lost 3-0. The results aside, it provided a young squad much-needed acclimatisation time.

“Most of us have played in Australia. With India A also touring there last month, it will be a big help. Four-five players were part of that team as well,” Mandhana explained. “But the tri-series is going to be very important when it comes to judging our team composure, the targets we need to aim at on those wickets, and how our bowlers can plan better. The tri-series will help us understand that.

“Over the last one year, whatever we were doing in the matches was by keeping the [T20] World Cup in mind. Now that we’re leaving for the tournament, it’s very exciting. We’ve got a mix of experience and new young players.”

At a personal level, Mandhana endured a mixed 2019, struggling with patchy form and niggles. As she looks to build towards the World Cup, she has the words of head coach WV Raman on her mind. Shot selection and spending time in the middle is foremost on her mind.

“More than patience, I had to work on shot selection,” she assessed. “That is one thing I spoke to Raman sir about. More than patience or mental side, I had to work on limiting my shots and understanding what the team needs, in the 50-over format.

“The one thing he [Raman] told me was to try and play 30 overs in an ODI and 12 overs in a T20I. He said ‘if you do this, your game is such that you will automatically get a big score’. Being there is very important.”



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Graeme Smith seeks clarity on Faf du Plessis’ future following ODI captaincy change

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Graeme Smith, South Africa’s director of cricket, says that Quinton de Kock’s appointment as ODI captain is the first step in a succession plan aimed towards a successful challenge for the 2023 World Cup, as he confirmed that Faf du Plessis will not be reinstated as leader should he return to the team for the series against Australia in February.

Speaking at a press conference in Johannesburg, Smith added that the selectors would review du Plessis’ remaining roles as Test and T20 captain at the conclusion of the England tour, but stressed the need for a “robust” discussion about his long-term future in the team.

Du Plessis, 35, hinted at the end of last week’s innings defeat in Port Elizabeth that the fourth Test at the Wanderers, starting on Friday, could be his last on home soil.

He has been short of runs in the past few months – his second-innings 36 was his highest score in six innings against England, in which time he has been averaging 18.83.

And though du Plessis has earmarked South Africa’s Test tour of the West Indies in July as his farewell series, Smith is cautious about committing to the incumbent captain, both for that trip and for the T20 World Cup that takes place in Australia in November.

“We see Faf playing a role as a player but from a leadership perspective, we felt the need to move on,” Smith said of the decision to hand over the ODI reins to de Kock. “Faf doesn’t see himself being around in 2023. Leadership has been an issue of late in South African cricket and we have made the decision to give Quinny an opportunity.

“We feel tactically he is good, there are areas of his leadership that we all know we need to grow and develop but he is the right guy at this stage to take the one-day side forward.

De Kock himself has said he plans to take a “street-smart” approach to his new role, and should it prove a success in the coming weeks against England and Australia, the role could yet be his for the T20 World Cup too.

“With the World Cup around the corner, we need to go forward,” said Smith. “At the moment Faf is in that position but I need to sit with him post this Test series. He has got a bit of time because he is being rested from the one-day series so we will have some time to have a robust discussion on his future.

“He is the South African Test captain. The next Test match we play after this series will be in the Caribbean – there is an extensive amount of time. I need to understand how he sees his future in the game.”

ALSO READ: De Kock promises ‘street-smart’ approach to ODI captaincy

Smith admitted that, while his appointment prior to the England tour had helped to deflect some of the political issues away from du Plessis, he had still had to deal with more off-field issues than most international captains, not least given the absence of Temba Bavuma and the impact that has had on South Africa’s transformation targets.

“For far too long, he has had too much to deal with and too many things to talk about, and I really wanted that not to happen in this series,” said Smith. “At times it has. Post these series, him and I can really sit down and work on how he sees his future and both of us can put our cards on the table.”

In terms of du Plessis’ future in ODI cricket, Smith insisted that the loss of the captaincy did not necessarily mean the end of a white-ball career that began in January 2011, and that his extensive experience could still be important in a new-look squad.

“His record in one-day cricket and T20 cricket is outstanding,” Smith said. “It will be silly of us not to have him involved. We’ve put a very young team on the table. Talented, yes, but we are up against the world champions. It could be a very daunting series for our guys, so we need to balance how we expose the youngsters with some senior players.”

At the age of 27, de Kock ought to be entering his prime, but Smith acknowledged that as a young leader he will need support on and off the field to grow into his new role.

“As CSA we are not going to throw him to the wolves,” said Smith. “He has had a bit of a taste of the leadership in India, we feel he is the right guy to go forward. We have got to support him and make sure we develop into an outstanding leader.”

The T20 World Cup could also feature a return to South Africa colours for AB de Villiers, whose belated decision to make himself available for last year’s 50-over World Cup came too late for the selectors to include him.

However, even at the age of 36, de Villiers remains one of the pre-eminent T20 batsmen in the world, and Smith said he was open to the prospect of his return.

“His record in one-day and T20 cricket is outstanding,” said Smith. “It would be silly of us not have him involved.”



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