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‘I was trying not to look too buzzing!’ – Mark Wood revels in allround fireworks

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Mark Wood admits he took a gamble on his fitness to make himself available for the fourth Test at the Wanderers, but is delighted that he did so after starring with bat and ball to put England on course for a memorable 3-1 series win.

Wood, who admitted to “soreness” after an energetic display in England’s innings win at Port Elizabeth last week, seemed set to be rested from this game until Jofra Archer pulled out through injury shortly before the toss.

And ever since that moment, Wood has been England’s most eye-catching performer (with ball, and less expectedly, bat) to underline both his effectiveness and his fitness. The highlight, in his day-job at least, was a delivery of 94.4mph that claimed the wicket of Pieter Malan, although his personal pick was a cover-driven six during his thrillingly free-wheeling tenth-wicket stand with Stuart Broad that left him “buzzing”.

But as well as expressing delight in helping England gain the upper hand in the game, Wood was also thrilled that he had proved he could play back-to-back Tests. For Wood’s career has been blighted by injury and the last time he attempted to play two Tests so close together, against South Africa in 2017, he struggled horribly.

“I’ve been through periods when I shouldn’t have played when I did,” said Wood. “At least two Test matches – the Lord’s Ashes Test of 2015 and the Trent Bridge South Africa Test of 2017 – hurt my career and probably took me backwards.”

“Probably until the morning of this game I wasn’t in the team,” said Wood. “I put a lot of effort into the last game and I was a bit sore after it. I hadn’t played for six or seven months before it. I was just stiff and sore everywhere.

“But on the morning of the game I spoke to the captain and the coach and said ‘if you want me, I’m ready to go’. I couldn’t guarantee to them I could bowl 90mph in my fourth or fifth spells but I felt good in the warm-ups and I told Chris Silverwood: ‘I’m not quite sure how it’s going to go, but I’m ready to charge in for you one more time.’

“I’m glad I made that decision as it’s gone well.”

ALSO READ: Dobell: Time to end the Buttler Test experiment

Indeed it has. As well as three of the first six wickets, Wood struck a belligerent and unbeaten 35 to extend England’s innings to 400. It’s the first time since March 2013 that England have made successive scores of 400 in Test cricket, while his 82-run 10th-wicket stand with Broad, who thrashed an equally entertaining 43, was the highest for the wicket ever made in a Test on the ground. Incredible as it sounds, Wood has now hit as many sixes in his Test career – 10 – as David Gower did in the whole of his.

Afterwards, Wood credited his wife, Sarah, and his dad, Derek, for the help they had given him with his batting.

“I did a lot of work in the Newcastle indoor centre, behind the scenes there on the bowling machine,” Wood said. “Sometimes with my Dad, sometimes with my wife feeding me the balls on the machine.

“I knew we were coming here and it was a bit bouncy, so I was working on how I thought they’d attack me, either at the stumps or at my head. My wife hit me [with the ball] a couple of times. She has been laughing, telling me to get in line.

“Dad as well is particularly spicy but Silverwood is the worst because he laughs when he hits you. You think the coach would be more supportive but he just laughs. He’s still got a fast bowler in him I think.

“I was buzzing with the six I hit over cover-point. Externally you have to act all professional and that, but internally I was like ‘what a shot that was’. I was trying not to look too buzzing.”

But it’s the bowling that really marks Wood out as a valuable player for England. And while, in those previous back-to-back Tests his figures have been pretty ugly – he finished with 1 for 131 in the match at Lord’s and 0 for 129 at Trent Bridge – here he has already claimed 3 for 21. Not for the first time, the thought occurred that his statistics should be judged differently since he lengthened his run-up at the end of 2018. Since then, his 12 Test wickets have cost 14.75 apiece.

“Since I changed my run-up things seem to click a little easier,” he said. “I’m not forcing it as much and I feel I have better rhythm. Plus, having an iconic stadium and quick pitch gives you extra incentive to impress.”

According to CricViz, only Steve Harmison – like Wood, a product of Ashington and Durham – has bowled a quicker wicket-taking delivery for England since speedguns were introduced in Test cricket: a 97mph delivery to dismiss Glenn McGrath at Perth in 2006.

“I don’t know if the ball to Malan was the best ball I’ve bowled,” said Wood. “My first-ever wicket – well, it wasn’t technically a wicket – was Martin Guptill at Lord’s. It was a very similar ball but it turned out my foot was just over the line and it was a no-ball. I was pretty close this time but I just got a tiny bit of foot behind it.

“Winning this series would mean a hell of a lot to me. I want to affect games of cricket for England. It was nice to get some runs and get some catches in the last game, but I know my main suit is my bowling. To be able to win a series away from home against a quality opposition would be especially pleasing for me after coming through some hard times.”



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Rajasthan Royals vs Kings XI Punjab, IPL 2020, Fantasy Pick, team predictions

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Rajasthan Royals vs Kings XI Punjab, Sharjah

Pro Tip
Pack your team with batsmen from both teams and expect yet another high scoring game at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium

Our XI: Jos Buttler, Sanju Samson, KL Rahul, Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Steven Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Tom Curran, Jofra Archer, Mohammed Shami, Ravi Bishnoi

Substitutes: Sheldon Cottrell, Rahul Tewatia, Nicholas Pooran, Jaydev Unadkat

NOTE: We might not always be able to tip you off about late injury (or other relevant) updates, so please finalise your team after the toss.

Player availability: All players are available including Jos Buttler who missed the last game.

Captain: Jos Buttler
Buttler has had a week off after the ODI series against Australia and would be eager to resume playing his preferred format. In his last three T20I innings, Buttler scored 178 runs at a strike rate of 158.92. His performance against the Kings XI have been impressive since 2018: 225 runs in four innings at a strike rate of 143.41.

Vice-captain: KL Rahul
Rahul has continued his purple patch even after a six-month break. His 132 not out against the Royal Challengers is the highest individual score for an Indian in the IPL. With his ability to clear long boundaries, he is likely to make the most of the Sharjah ground dimensions.

Hot Picks
Glenn Maxwell
Though Maxwell has had a couple of failures in as many games this season, he could find form against the Kings XI. Rahul tossed him the ball against the Royal Challengers and the Australian returned a wicket. In the ODI series against England, he struck a fifty and a hundred against a Jofra Archer-led attack.

Chris Gayle
This could be the right time for the Kings XI to unleash Gayle: a small ground, a batting-friendly surface and a couple of legspinners in the opposition XI – all could favour Gayle’s style of batting. Gayle has a strike rate of 197.14 against legspinners, the highest among all batsmen who’ve faced 100 or more balls from legspinners in T20s since 2018.

Mohammed Shami
Shami has been bowling with great rhythm and pace. He’s looked peerless in the pace-bowling department across teams so far this season. He has picked up four wickets at an economy of 4.14. Even in a small ground without much help for the pacers, Shami is a key pick. Since 2018, Shami has had an economy of 6.80 in the powerplay, the best among all seamers who have picked up five or more wickets in the phase.

Differential Picks
Ravi Bishnoi
The young leggie has been given the ball in tough situations and has still come on top. He has picked up 4 wickets at an economy of 6.75. The small ground and big hitters in the Royals line-up will be another challenge for Bishnoi but we expect him to ace it yet again. Tom Curran: After a forgettable outing the Super Kings, many may not pick Curran. But a bowler with as many variations as Curran is very handy on this ground. Even though he has an economy of 9.99 in the death since 2018 in all T20s, he also has a SR of 9.9 suggesting he will get you a wicket or two more often than not.

Alternate Scenarios

  • Wait until the toss to see if Buttler keeps wickets. If Sanju Samson does, make Buttler your vice-captain and Rahul your captain to maximise on points as Rahul will surely keep wickets for the Kings XI.

  • Chris Gayle should be brought into the XI given the ground dimensions and the two legspinners in the Royals’ line-up. Since 2017 in all T20s, Gayle has struck at 182.93 against leg spin.

  • If Gayle does not play, pick one of the the Royals legspinners ahead of Tom Curran since there’s expected to be only one left-handed batsman in the top six for the Kings XI

  • Royals’ line-up is filled with right-handed batsmen, so playing both the Kings XI legspinners could also be an option instead of one of their batsmen.



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Bob Willis Trophy Final – Tom Lammonby seizes unexpected chance with record-breaking first impression

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Whatever happens on the final day of the English first-class season on Sunday, Somerset – and perhaps England – can take heart from the emergence what may well prove to be a significant new talent.

In normal circumstances, there is every chance Tom Lammonby may have spent this season playing second XI cricket. He is only 20, after all, and Somerset had signed Matthew Wade as an overseas player to strengthen their top order in the Championship. Had Tom Banton been available and James Hildreth fit, it’s hard to see how space might have been made for Lammonby.

It’s too early to predict how far he can go in the game. He has faced some good bowling on tricky wickets this summer, for sure. But he’s yet to be tested by the sort of pace and bounce which might be encountered in Australia or the sort of spin which might be encountered in India. He only made his first-class debut last month.

But from the evidence we have, he can hardly have made a better impression. He’s only played six first-class games but, already, he has become the youngest Somerset player to carry their bat in a first-class game (he did that in Somerset’s previous match, at New Road; the next highest score was 21) and the first England-qualified player to make three centuries in his first six first-class games since Graham Lloyd in 1989. He has also scored three centuries in successive first-class matches and is, at this point, the only man to have scored three in the competition this season.

Oh, and in between times, picked up his first player-of-the-match award for hitting Somerset to victory in a T20 Blast match against Northamptonshire.

It’s not a bad effort for a man who had never played at Lord’s before this match – he had only visited the ground once, to watch Somerset win the Royal London One-day Cup last year – and thinks of himself as a seam-bowling, middle-order batsman. He reckons he has now opened in first-class cricket more times than he has in club cricket.

“There was a point this year I was sitting at home, probably in a mood thinking there wasn’t going to be any cricket,” he said. “So for us to get three or four months has been amazing. It wasn’t a season when I was worried about trying to get into the first team. The way I looked at it, I hoped I’d get an opportunity.

“If I’m honest, I didn’t think there was any chance I’d be opening the batting. I thought I might slot into the middle-order somewhere. But any opportunity at the start of the year was one that would have been taken with open arms.

“But it’s only 11 innings. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I had a few low scores early on so I want to take the positives but learn from the mistakes. I’m not an opener. I’m a No. 3 or No. 4 really, but opening is going well and I’m taking each day as it comes.”

That level-headed approach is apparent in his batting. And while his strength is clearly the leg-side – 13 of his 17 fours came on that side of the wicket – he plays admirably straight and was prepared to come down the wicket to drive Simon Harmer as well as demonstrating a neat sweep.

But perhaps the most impressive aspect of his cricket has been the versatility. In his innings at Worcester he was obliged to take a generally patient approach on a wicket of uneven bounce, here he was required to push the tempo in order to give Somerset’s bowlers enough time to bowl Essex out a second time. At one stage, he went from 63 to 92 in 13 deliveries, treating Essex’s impressive attack – Harmer included – with calm assurance and more than a little class. Really, he’s lost nothing in comparison to Alastair Cook in this match. And there’s no higher praise than that. Varun Chopra, watching on from the media area, suggested he might already be the best batsman in this Somerset side.

ALSO READ: Lammonby makes mark but Essex retain edge

“I bowled some good balls that he hit for four,” Jamie Porter, who bowled really nicely for Essex, said afterwards. “And only good players do that. The confidence he showed for a young lad to come out and score that way for such a young lad. He reminded me of Rory Burns.”

“That has to be the best attack I’ve faced,” Lammonby said. “Obviously, they’re high quality bowlers so it’s always nice to contribute to the team against the best opposition there is out there.”

While he was born in Exeter, there is an Australian influence in his life. His father, Glenn, was born in Perth and is the cousin of Ryan Campbell, the former Australia and Hong Kong batsman. And while there are hints of that background – he begins each sentence with “Ahh, look” for a start, even though it is said without a hint of the accent – he insists he has no interest at all in pursuing a career anywhere but Somerset and England. “Definitely not,” he says with feeling when asked about it.

Somerset still have it all to do on the final day. The nature of the playing regulations of this competition – awarding victory to the scorer of the most first-innings run – means they have to make all the running and it renders then vulnerable to the weather. And they are a club that has really had its fill of coming second.

But Lammonby has given them a chance. As the fourth day progressed, there were signs of more spin for Harmer and just a little more nip – and even a hint of irregular bounce – for the seamers. Lammonby, who dismissed Tom Westley with his left-arm seamers in the first innings, could yet have a role to play with the ball.

“If we can get 200 to 225 ahead, we are definitely in with a chance seeing the deterioration of the pitch,” he said. “We want to add a few and then have a right good go with the ball. The pitch definitely has some nip in it for the seamers and some spin as well.”

If Somerset – the perennial bridesmaids, of course – do pull this off, Lammonby really will have made a name for himself. It’s a long time – perhaps since the days of Marcus Trescothick and Mark Lathwell – since a homegrown opening batsman has promised so much. But whatever happens on Sunday, Somerset will take comfort in the knowledge they have a good one here. Lammonby is a young cricketer to keep your eye upon.



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Neetu David – Covid-19 has made picking Women’s T20 Challenge squads ‘a challenging first assignment’

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Neetu David, the new chairperson of selectors for India Women, expects picking squads for the upcoming Women’s T20 Challenge to be “a challenging first assignment” given that the Covid-19 pandemic has left players with little to no training. But she backed several “exciting India prospects” to make a mark in the three-team competition, to be played in the UAE from November 1 to 10.

Her colleague Arati Vaidya, meanwhile, feels that when it comes to veterans Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami, performance and not age, would determine selection.

“These are, of course, unprecedented times; the pandemic has made any cricket close to impossible in India at the moment,” David told ESPNcricinfo soon after news of the appointment of the panel was made public. “It’s not an ideal pre-tournament situation for any team, in any sport, in any country, so when it comes to selecting the squads for the Women’s T20 Challenge, it’s going to be a challenging first assignment of sorts, but it’s not impossible to pick promising lesser-known players.

ALSO READ: What’s next for India women?

“We are awaiting guidelines from the BCCI on how the board expects us to proceed. The players are mentally ready and eager to get back on the field, they have been training in their respective towns. And having known and played with some of my fellow selectors in this panel, and also given Mithu Mukherjee has formerly been a national selector, we are looking forward to working as a team and introducing new players from our current domestic pool, who we think are exciting India prospects. They have the potential to do well in the T20 Challenge.”

David was hopeful that the new selection panel would be able to build on the work of the previous panel – India finished as runners-up in the 2017 ODI World Cup and the T20 World Cup earlier this earlier during their tenure. With two World Cups and a Commonwealth Games slated for 2022, much of the new committee’s focus would be on putting together squads that take the next step – win a World Cup.

“We do well up to the final, but have not been able to get over the final hurdle yet – that’s something we need to find a solution to,” David said. “We are looking to work on the mental resilience and temperament aspect of our upcoming squads, and we’ll work with the board, coaches, players and captains to make sure that we put systems in place that helps us overcome that final barrier. We will look to go one better in the next major events.”

“Whether it’s Mithali or Jhulan or any other experienced player in our national or domestic mix, we will try to make sure that the performance of players alone is what dictates the look of the squads”

Arati Vaidya

While David spoke of becoming world champions in senior cricket, Vaidya expressed hope that India would do well in age-group global tournaments going forward too.

“The more new talent we unearth, the better the health of the national team and domestic cricket will be,” she told ESPNcricinfo. “I can tell you that the age-group players we have at the moment, we can surely be in the final of the [inaugural] Under-19 World Cup for girls – whether it goes ahead on schedule next year or is postponed.

“My career as a match referee has helped me get a glimpse of many uncapped players, and from what I have seen, I am hopeful we will do well, and if other things fall into place, we might even win the title. India doesn’t lack talent; it’s just that more systems need to be put in to place to unearth and nurture those talents. As a selection committee, we will, therefore, try to get the best talent we can from all zones.”

Raj and Goswami are now both past 37, and retired from T20Is, but Vaidya wanted to take their age out of the equation when discussing their futures with the national team.

“Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami’s contribution will remain matchless, and to this day they remain key performers in the ODI team,” Vaidya said. “Personally, my view is only performance – not age or how long they’ve played – should determine whether or not a player warrants a place in the side.

“Whenever they choose to call it a day, it’s their call, and yes, someone or the other will take up their places in the coming years when they bow out of the game, but to us ensuring the right blend of youth and experience will be key. So whether it’s Mithali or Jhulan or any other experienced player in our national or domestic mix, we will try to make sure that the performance of players alone is what dictates the look of the squads.”



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