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England v Australia 2020 – Bursting of England’s bubble shows how long the road to 2023 will be

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If part of the art of success in limited-overs cricket is peaking at the right time, England haven’t timed their dip in results too badly.

There’s never a good time to lose to Australia, of course. Particularly given that the result was 5-0 to England the last time they visited. But this is still the early stages of the new four-year cycle towards the next World Cup. If ever there was a time to experiment and learn, it is now. Come the start of that tournament, in October 2023, the details of this series – fascinating though they are – will not be most people’s first frame of reference.

On that basis alone, it may well prove unwise to read too much into this defeat. This is the first bilateral ODI series England have lost since January 2017 in India, after all. The first they have lost in England since 2015, when Australia were, again, the victors. Their long-term record remains excellent. And, in the end, they lost this match by a whisker to what Eoin Morgan admitted, quite accurately, looked “a better side”.

In many ways, England will take a lot of heart from this series. For if there’s one quality that shone out it was their resilience. In all three of these ODIs – and in the first T20I against the same opposition – there were moments when it appeared as if they were going to be on the wrong end of a drubbing. To have won two of those matches and gone close in the two others demonstrates a certain amount of self-confidence and fight.

“The positive is we can win when we don’t play our best games,” Morgan said afterwards. “We’ve seen the guys show belief and fight. Australia have out-played us but sometimes when you do that [win easily] you take things for granted. But these contests have been so tight we’ve learned a huge amount.”

It’s worth remembering, too, what Morgan said ahead of the series. He said he welcomed the prospect of playing on lower, slower surfaces which provided assistance to spin as they considered both an area of weakness and a likely scenario ahead of the tournament in India.

In that case, he will have learned plenty. And in some respects, it is that England have a long way to go before they can be considered favourites to retain their title. For, if they’re really honest, they will accept they were flattered a bit by the margin of defeat in the first game, escaped from jail in the second and saw a couple of familiar failings come back to haunt them in the third.

“We’ve learned quite a lot about the group playing on slower wickets,” Morgan continued. “Having an opportunity to play on them for three games in a row is a rare one for us. It hasn’t gone our way, but certainly we have addressed an area of our game that is our weakest. We now have time to take it and work on it.”

The thing they must improve most, in all formats, is their fielding. Whether in T20Is, Tests or ODIs, too many chances are going down to sustain serious hopes of winning the biggest tournaments. Morgan suggested his side missed the intensity created by a live audience, which is, no doubt, a factor. But it was telling that Australia seemed to manage far better.

Two chances went down in this game. The first, Jofra Archer seeing a drive from Marcus Stoinis burst through his hands at mid-off, did not prove costly. But the second, Jos Buttler failing to cling on to a sharp but, by these standards, pretty much regulation chance offered by Glenn Maxwell off Adil Rashid when he had 44, was arguably the turning point of the game.

The England management maintain they are working hard on the team’s fielding and no doubt that’s the case. But whatever they’re doing isn’t working. It’s an area that requires a rethink.

Might that include Buttler behind the stumps? Probably not. He’s clearly an outstanding batsman in this format – despite a series average of 4.00 – and has performed decently with the gloves in the white-ball game. You only have to think back World Cup final to know that.

But he is not convincing standing up to the spinners. Not in any format. And with the World Cup set to be played in India, it is an area that will require attention.

There may be a vacancy in the spin-bowling department, too. The decision to leave out Moeen Ali on these surfaces was revealing. In normal circumstances, you might have thought England would even have considered playing a third spinner on such pitches but, with confidence in Moeen waning, they elected to pick only Rashid.

ALSO READ: Maxwell, Carey centuries seal thrilling series win for Australia

It was understandable, too. Since the start of July 2018, Moeen is averaging 16.20 with the bat in 27 ODIs and has taken just 13 wickets at a cost of 86 apiece. His economy rate in that period – 5.75 – isn’t too bad but, by comparison, Adil Rashid’s is 5.71 (and his average 32.85) in the same period, Nathan Lyon’s is 5.01, while Mitchell Santner and Ravi Jadeja both concede 4.88 an over. Yes, Joe Root deputised nicely at Emirates Old Trafford. But at a World Cup in India, England may want to consider him a third spinner at best.

Liam Plunkett has been missed, too. He would, if fit, have been awkward to face on these surfaces, in particular, and at this stage England look no closer to replacing his middle over wickets. It wasn’t necessarily wrong to move on from him – he is 35 now and unlikely to remain a viable selection by the time this World Cup cycle comes to a conclusion – but it was a reminder of how much he offered and the need to replace him.

In general, this series was probably a useful wake-up call. England do not have a great recent record of resetting after achieving their targets. Consider the fate of the Test side which, having reached No. 1 in the rankings in 2011, was defeated by Pakistan, South Africa (at home), Australia and Sri Lanka (at home) over the next few years.

Equally, when they travelled to Australia in 2006-07, they remained wedded to the team who had claimed the historic Ashes victory in 2005. Instead of refreshing it with younger player, they relied upon a team that was, in several cases, well past its best. So, coming up against a strong, motivated Australia team here may have been just the reminder of the levels required to maintain success at this level. Defeat will sting.

There’s a bigger issue here, of course. The fact that we were able to see a result at all – the fact we’ve been treated to some terrifically entertaining cricket over these last two-and-a-half months – must be considered a great success. Bearing in mind the position we were in a few months ago, the achieving of playing the entire men’s international schedule is remarkable. It will help keep the professional game’s head just above the water.

There are many to credit for this achievement with Steve Elworthy, the man who also ran the World Cup, a primary candidate. But England also owe plenty to West Indies, Pakistan, Ireland and Australia who have, in some cases, sent teams from regions where Covid-19 appeared to be less of a threat in order to help the ECB survive. This spirit must be remembered when future decisions about the game’s global finances are made.

The coming weeks will see debates about the need to cut the pay of England’s top players. And, in the circumstances, it’s probably only right they share the pain. But it must also be remembered that some of them have spent 90 days, with very brief breaks here and there, in a hugely limiting bio-bubble.

They decided long ago not to make any public complaint about this but to have been separated from their families, to have been unable to leave the ground, to have been stuck in the increasingly claustrophobic environment is some way more demanding that they have let on. Whatever the result of this ODI series, they – and all the other teams who visited this summer – deserve a lot of credit for that.





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Recent Match Report – Kings XI Punjab vs Rajasthan Royals 9th Match 2020

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Rajasthan Royals 226 for 6 (Samson 85, Tewatia 53, Smith 50, Shami 3-53) beat Kings XI Punjab 223 for 2 (Agarwal 106, Rahul 69) by four wickets

As it unfolded, it felt like a match that defied logic in every way possible. But by the time the Rajasthan Royals were done mowing down a target of 224 – an IPL record – the scorecard reflected one bit of cold, hard T20 logic: the team that hits more sixes wins. Kings XI Punjab hit 11 sixes – seven coming off the bat of Mayank Agarwal, who made a scintillating 106 off 50 balls – and the Royals hit 18.

Sanju Samson hit seven of those sixes while scoring a second successive half-century for the first time in his IPL career. His 42-ball 85 was more reward for the intense training he did during cricket’s Covid-19 hiatus, which enabled him to take his natural ball-striking ability and turn it into an instrument of almost scientific precision.

Samson put on 81 for the second wicket with Steven Smith in just 40 balls, putting the Royals well in touch with their asking rate. They then promoted Rahul Tewatia – their only left-hander – to No. 4, and the move was beginning to look like one of the most ill-judged tactical interventions in IPL history when he struggled to hit the ball off the square and crawled to 8 off 19 balls. But the six-hitting ability that he possesses came into view just when the Royals seemed out of it. Tewatia smacked Sheldon Cottrell for five sixes in a match-turning, match-defining 18th over, and an improbable 51 off 18 balls turned into a far more straightforward 21 off 12.

A partnership of two tempos

Sent in to bat – Smith, the Royals captain, expected dew to play an influential role through the second innings, and it did – Kings XI got off to a flier, their openers rushing to 60 in the powerplay. From there, Agarwal and KL Rahul extended their partnership to 183 – the third highest for the first wicket and the eighth highest overall in the IPL.

The two batsmen approached their innings differently. At one end, Agarwal went for his shots at every opportunity, and also looked to create opportunities to play his shots. He moved around his crease – to manufacture room to hit Ankit Rajpoot over mid-off, for instance, or to manufacture length to shovel the quickish legspin of Tewatia over midwicket – and in general went through with his shots with a degree of abandon; some of the sixes he hit weren’t off the cleanest connections, but a batsman can gamble on a small ground like Sharjah.

Even so, Agarwal’s sparkling form allowed him to achieve a control percentage of 80 – which is pretty high for an innings achieving a strike rate of 212.00. At the other end, Rahul faced 54 balls – four more than Agarwal – and pulled off a control percentage of 85, but only struck at 127.77. Aside from a hat-trick of fours against Jofra Archer in the fourth over, he seemed to almost consciously play second fiddle to Agarwal, giving him the strike whenever possible.

It’s a common tactic in partnerships like this, and Rahul has the game to up his tempo dramatically later on – his unbeaten 132 against Royal Challengers Bangalore followed the same template.

Maxwell, Pooran apply the finish

On this day, however, both Rahul and Agarwal seemed to tire as their partnership progressed, and from 172 for no loss at the 15-over mark, Kings XI scored 22 off the next 18 balls – a period in which they lost both openers.

Only 21 balls remained in the innings when Glenn Maxwell walked in, and only 12 when Nicholas Pooran came to the crease. It can be difficult to come in at that sort of time and find the boundary immediately, but both managed it to varying degrees of success. Rajpoot and Tom Curran managed to tie Maxwell down to an extent, but he created a couple of boundaries with his movement around the crease. Pooran, however, got a few balls in his slot and dispatched all of them ruthlessly – he hit three sixes and a four in just eight balls, three of those boundaries coming in an 18-run final over from Jofra Archer.

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RR vs KXIP, IPL 2020

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Rajasthan Royals’ Rahul Tewatia turned the chase and how against Kings XI Punjab. From 8 off 19 balls in the 15th over, he eventually finished on a 53 off 31, with as many as seven sixes, to turn the tables for a stunning four-wicket win for the Royals. Here’s what he said after the match to the host broadcaster Star Sports:

How were you feeling at the halfway point in your innings when you couldn’t really get it out of the middle?
I think that was the worst 20 balls that I have ever played. After that – I was hitting the ball very well in the nets so I had belief in myself and kept going.

What about mental strength? You were 8 off 19 and turned it around. How did you stay positive and strong?
I was not hitting the ball well initially. Then I saw in the dugout, everybody was curious because they know that I can hit the ball long. At once, I thought “I have to believe in myself”. It was a matter of just one six, and after that I thought now it’s time to get going. Five [sixes] in the [18th] over felt amazing.

Cottrell was the over for you…
Well, the coach told me to hit sixes off the legspinner (Ravi Bishnoi) but unfortunately I didn’t hit him. So I had to hit the other bowler so that we could win or get closer to the target.

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Recent Match Report – Southern Vipers vs Northern Diamonds Final 2020

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Southern Vipers 231 (Adams 80, Windsor 37) beat Northern Diamonds 193 (Kalis 55, Taylor 6-34) by 38 runs

Charlotte Taylor‘s game-changing six-wicket haul ensured the Southern Vipers defended 232 to beat Northern Diamonds by 38 runs and claim the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy title at Edgbaston.

An enthralling game which swung back and forth throughout saw the Diamonds well placed at 74 for 1 in the 15th over of their chase, only to slip to 96 for 6 in the 23rd as brilliant off-spinner Taylor struck the decisive blows.

She had opener Hollie Armitage caught at backward point for 26, Alex MacDonald out hit wicket, Jenny Gunn trapped lbw and Bess Heath caught at deep mid-wicket.

The Diamonds were later bowled out for 193 inside 43 overs, with 26-year-old Taylor also trapping Beth Langston lbw and having Netherlands international Sterre Kalis caught at mid-on for 55 on the way to a fabulous 6 for 34 from her 10 overs – the best return from any bowler in the competition.

Vipers’ captain Georgia Adams continued her stunning form with 80 off 102 balls, including eleven fours, at the top of the order as she underpinned 231 all out and moved to 500 competition runs in the process.

She shared a century opening partnership with Ella McCaughan, who posted 35, having been inserted, only for the Diamonds to drag things back impressively as leg-spinners Katie Levick and Armitage shared five wickets.

After Adams and McCaughan shared 100 inside 24 overs, their side’s fourth century opening stand in seven games, the South Coast side were in a dominant position at 150 for 1 in the 32nd over. Adams was particularly strong square of the wicket, reaching 50 for the fourth time in this competition off 68 balls.

Maia Bouchier, however, looked more fluent at the crease and was punishing through the covers and over the top on the way to 28. Together with Adams – they shared 50 inside eight overs after McCaughan had feathered left-arm spinner Linsey Smith behind – a total nearing 300 was not unrealistic on a pacy and true surface with a fast outfield.

But things changed in a flash. Diamonds captain Lauren Winfield-Hill, back from England’s T20 bubble, brought Armitage into the attack, and she struck first ball with a long hop which Bouchier pulled head high to mid-on, leaving the score at 150 for 2 in the 32nd.

Almost 12 overs later, the Vipers were 191 for 8, with Armitage striking again plus three wickets for Levick, who trapped Charlie Dean and Carla Rudd lbw and removed Adams, caught at deep mid-wicket. Levick’s first two overs had cost her 19 and she finished with 3 for 49 from eight.

Miserly former England seamers Langston and Gunn both contributed significantly in dragging things back and finished with a wicket apiece.

However, there was to be a late twist as the Vipers were boosted by an industrious 37 off 48 balls from Emily Windsor to ensure they went beyond 230.



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