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Five wickets in six balls: Abhimanyu Mithun’s unreal T20 record



Abhimanyu Mithun is having a domestic season to remember. First, he picked up a birthday hat-trick and a maiden List A five-wicket haul in Karnataka’s win over Tamil Nadu in the Vijay Hazare Trophy final last month. On Friday, he not only picked up another hat-trick but became perhaps only the second bowler to pick five wickets in six balls in T20 history. From the time ESPNcricinfo has been gathering ball-by-ball data, only Bangladesh’s Al-Amin Hossain has managed to knock over so many batsmen in a single over.

Mithun’s 5 for 39 came in the semi-final of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy – the domestic T20 competition – against Haryana in Surat. Coming into his fourth over after conceding 18 off his third – the most expensive over of the innings – Mithun’s strikes prevented Haryana from going past the 200-run mark.

Before Mithun started the over, Haryana were rampant at 192 for 3, with Himanshu Rana and Rahul Tewatia having stitched together a robust partnership. Between overs 15 and 19, Haryana had scored 57 runs, and a 200-plus score was very much on the cards. But Mithun had plans up his sleeve – slow the pace down. And it worked.

Rana, who had blasted his second fifty in the tournament, his highest in the format, mistimed a pull straight into the hands of Mayank Agarwal at deep midwicket. Tewatia then holed out to wide long-on. Mithun then achieved his maiden hat-trick in the format after Sumit Kumar failed to read a slower one and scooped it straight to the fielder behind square leg.

Off the next delivery, he bowled a knuckle ball that Amit Mishra mistimed to cover to become the second bowler after Lasith Malinga (against New Zealand in September) to take four wickets in four balls in the same over in T20 cricket this year. A back-of-the-hand slower delivery, which Jayant Yadav did not read, was easily pouched by KL Rahul behind the wicket off the last ball to complete the haul.

Stats inputs by Shiva Jayaraman

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Faf du Plessis under scrutiny after Jos Buttler ‘barge’



Faf du Plessis, South Africa’s captain, could be in trouble with the match referee after appearing to make physical contact with Jos Buttler on the fourth afternoon in Johannesburg.

With du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen batting together for more than 30 overs on a brutally hot day, England appeared to be growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of movement they were generating from the ball and, it seemed, du Plessis’ habit of picking the ball up after playing a stroke and returning it to the fielders.

At one stage, du Plessis was hit on the pads by a throw from Sam Curran, who was fielding at mid-on. That appeared to lead to an exchange of words between du Plessis and several of the fielding side. As the players converged, du Plessis appeared to deliberately walk into Buttler before continuing his verbal altercation with Stuart Broad.

After the game, with South Africa beaten by 191 runs, du Plessis played down the incident, saying he was just trying to show fight and did not realise he had come into contact with Buttler.

“It’s part of my character,” he said. “I am always involved in a little bit of something somewhere in the game. Trying to show that fight as the leader the team, that you don’t stand back. It’s not like I am looking for it. It just happens. He said something to me and I said something back.

“I don’t think we knew we touched each other. It was just myself and Broady having a go. He [Buttler] was just trying to get between myself and him. There was no malicious thing. He was trying to diffuse the situation. He didn’t do anything wrong there. It was just words from Broady.”

While the contact was far from violent, the ICC’s code of conduct states that “any form of inappropriate physical contact is prohibited in cricket. Without limitation, players will breach this regulation if they deliberately, recklessly and/or negligently walk or run into or shoulder another player or umpire.”

Such an incident is considered either a Level 1 or Level 2 offence and carries a maximum penalty of four demerit points, which would also bring an automatic suspension. It may not help du Plessis’ case that he is an experienced player and his side’s captain. As such, the match referee may expect him to set an example.

England’s captain, Joe Root, was sympathetic, however, describing it as a moment of “handbags”.

“I thought Faf was trying to use it as an opportunity to get himself going and get himself in the contest and my worry was that it was going to work in his favour,” he said. “There was absolutely nothing. It was handbags. Given what’s happened in this series, it may become a big thing but it was absolutely nothing.”

Moments after the incident, du Plessis’ miserable series was ended when a delivery from Ben Stokes kept horribly low and ricocheted into the stumps of a bottom edge. It meant du Plessis had failed to reach 40 in the entire series and took his side close to a 3-1 home defeat. Speculation is rife that this will be du Plessis’ final Test as captain and possibly his final Test as a player.

“It happens, that’s not me outside my bubble,” du Plessis added. “It just got a bit heated. That’s not out of my character. If you say something towards me, I will say something back. It doesn’t cause me to concentrate less. They got a ball to stay low.”

Buttler attracted the ire of the South Africa players for abusing Vernon Philander earlier in the series. Buttler was fined 15% of his match fee and received one demerit point for the episode. Philander, Stokes and Kagiso Rabada have also been punished for disciplinary issues during the Tests.

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‘Nice to see things falling into place’ – Joe Root encouraged by Test team’s progress



Joe Root believes England have found a template that can help them win the 2021-22 Ashes in Australia. While delighted by the 3-1 victory over South Africa, Root was also encouraged that his team had found a method that could serve them well in future challenges.

In particular, England’s captain was thrilled by the prospect of taking two fast bowlers to Australia and the progress his side had made in adopting to a new approach to Test cricket. Jofra Archer and Mark Wood both claimed five-wicket hauls during the series to help the England attack bowl South Africa out twice in all four Tests – something they have historically struggled to do with the Kookaburra ball – while England’s batsmen, embracing a more cautious approach, posted totals of 400 or more in successive innings for the first time since March 2013. They also recorded three individual centuries, while South Africa’s batsmen didn’t make any.

“We’ve got a great template to work around and it’s nice to see it falling into place,” Root said. “We put things in place this winter about the way we want to play. It has taken time and it will continue to take time for us to stay consistent and adapt to different conditions but we are learning quickly.

“It would have made a big difference to have Jofra and Woody in Australia last time, I do believe that. It’s something you feel that you need in those conditions.

“One of our big learnings as a team is that we have taken 20 wickets in every game. That is something we have struggled with in the past when abroad with a Kookaburra ball.

“There’s still a huge amount of Test cricket to be played before the Ashes. But this does give us confidence and it also gives us knowledge about how to perform on wickets that might be similar.”

Most of all, though, Root was proud of how his side reacted to the adversity they experienced in the opening weeks of the tour and the manner in which young players had come into the side and “taken their chance”. England lost four players who could reasonably be described as first choice – James Anderson, Jack Leach, Rory Burns and Archer – to illness and injury for most of the tour, while their performance in the first Test was hindered by the sickness bug that swept through the camp. But Dom Sibley and Ollie Pope scored maiden Test centuries, while Dom Bess claimed a maiden five-wicket haul. All three are aged 24 or younger.

“It has been a huge effort by the players, the support staff and the management,” Root said. “We have had to dig deep collectively. It would have been very easy for us to go off the rails after that first game but we stuck tight together. Even losing Burnsy and Jimmy we made sure it was not going to change how we went about things and it gave opportunities for young guys to take their chance.

“I’m really pleased not only that the young guys have stood up on this tour, but that the senior players have created an environment that allows that to happen. Young guys are coming into a very good environment and succeeding. The senior players are providing that environment and delivering as well. I am really proud of everyone.

“The last afternoon in Cape Town was probably the turning point of the series. For us to finish off that game was fabulous. We caught very well and we took our opportunities with time running out through just sheer hard work and determination. I think that gave us a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence.

“A big part of our three teams is our three pillars: courage, respect and unity. We have shown those in abundance throughout this trip and it has made a massive difference to our performances on the field.”

Despite his joy, Root accepted England had a long way to go before they could considered themselves the finished article.

“We’ve done extremely well in the last three games but in the last three years we’ve not been consistent enough,” Root said. “We’re very open about that.

“We go to Sri Lanka next and then we have three big games at home against West Indies. So it’s a great opportunity to string a number of good performances together. We’ve got to keep looking to get better and keep developing.”

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Glamorgan appoint Chris Cooke, David Lloyd captains for 2020



Glamorgan will be led by Chris Cooke and David Lloyd next season after a captaincy reshuffles. Cooke continues as Championship captain while also taking charge of the T20 side, while Lloyd will step up for the Royal London Cup, when Cook will be absent at the Hundred.

Cook, 33, oversaw Glamorgan’s best Championship campaign since 2015, as the club kept alive promotion hopes until the final weeks before finishing fourth. He adds the Blast captaincy for 2020, with Colin Ingram relinquishing the role.

“It was an honour to lead the club last year and I’m delighted to continue in the role,” Cooke said. “We saw a lot of improvement in our County Championship performances last season and it’s something we want to take into the Vitality Blast.

“It’s going to be an exciting season and we can’t wait to get started and hit the ground running in April.”

Allrounder Lloyd, 27, has been a regular member of the List A side since 2014 and took charge in one Royal London Cup game last season.

“I thoroughly enjoyed stepping in as captain and it’s a really proud moment to be asked to lead the side in the Royal London Cup,” Lloyd said. “We have a great bunch of lads at the club and a lot of talent in the squad, so there is no reason why we can’t build on last season’s improvement and reach the knockout stages of the competition.”

Cooke will be absent with Birmingham Phoenix during the Hundred, which will also feature Ingram, who was signed as a ‘local icon’ by Welsh Fire.

Glamorgan’s director of cricket, Mark Wallace, said: “Chris did a fantastic job in his first season in charge and led the side with a great deal of enthusiasm and skill. He commands a lot of respect in the dressing room and deserves the opportunity to carry on his good work from last year and take the club forward.

“It’s also great news for Glamorgan that David is taking over the 50-over captaincy. He showed many leadership qualities last year and did a good job under tough circumstances when he deputised for Chris.”

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