Pakistan wins the toss and elects to field in 2nd T20 against New Zealand

Pakistan’s Shaheen Shah Afridi, second right, celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of of New Zealand’s Tim Robinson, left, during their first T20 cricket match in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on Apr. 18, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 20 April 2024
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Pakistan wins the toss and elects to field in 2nd T20 against New Zealand

  • Pakistan retained the same playing XI from the washout that included three debutants — Usman Khan, Irfan Khan and Abrar Ahmed
  • Pakistan wicketkeeper-batter Azam Khan was ruled out of the series because of a slightly torn calf muscle that needs 10 days to heal

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan: Pakistan captain Babar Azam won the toss and elected to field against New Zealand on Saturday in the second Twenty20 of their five-match series.
The first game was rained out Thursday after only two balls could be bowled. Shaheen Shah Afridi had clean-bowled debutant Tim Robinson for a duck and New Zealand was 2-1 before rain denied further play.
Pakistan retained the same playing XI from the washout that included three debutants — Usman Khan, Irfan Khan and Abrar Ahmed. Fast bowler Mohammad Amir returns to action in his hometown after he came out of retirement for this June’s T20 World Cup in the United States and the Caribbean.
Pakistan wicketkeeper-batter Azam Khan was ruled out of the series because of a slightly torn calf muscle that needs 10 days to heal.
New Zealand made one change and brought in all-rounder Cole McConchie in place of Josh Clarkson, who was ill and didn’t travel to the stadium with the team.
Both sides are using the series to prepare for the T20 World Cup.
Michael Bracewell is leading the Black Caps, who are without nine key players competing in the Indian Premier League. The squad was further depleted just before the tour when Finn Allen and Adam Milne were injured in training.
Rawalpindi will also host the third game on Sunday before the series moves to Lahore for the last two games next week.

Lineups:
Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Saim Ayub, Mohammad Rizwan, Usman Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Irfan Khan, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammad Amir, Naseem Shah, Abrar Ahmed.
New Zealand: Tim Robinson, Tim Seifert, Dean Foxcroft, Mark Chapman, James Neesham, Michael Bracewell (captain), Cole McConchie, Ish Sodhi, Jacob Duffy, Ben Sears, Ben Lister.


Stellar Mitchell Starc fires Kolkata Knight Riders to third IPL title

Updated 26 May 2024
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Stellar Mitchell Starc fires Kolkata Knight Riders to third IPL title

  • Kolkata bowled out Hyderabad for IPL’s lowest total of 113 in a final
  • Starc went to Kolkata for a record $2.98 million in the December auction

CHENNAI: Mitchell Starc bowled a sensational opening spell to fire Kolkata Knight Riders to their third Indian Premier League title with a eight-wicket thrashing of Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Sunday final.
Kolkata bowled out Hyderabad for IPL’s lowest total of 113 in a final as Australia’s left-arm quick Starc returned figures of 2-14 to live up to his top billing in the world’s most lucrative T20 tournament.
Starc went to Kolkata for a record $2.98 million in the December auction and ended the IPL with two stellar performances, including a match-winning 3-34 in the first play-off to hammer the same opponent.
Kolkata’s batsmen had it easy and despite Sunil Narine’s early departure, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who made 39, and Venkatesh Iyer, on 52 not out, helped the team home with 9.3 overs to spare after a partnership of 91.
Iyer, a left-handed batsman, reached his 50 in 24 balls and hit the winning runs to trigger celebrations for Kolkata, who remained the most dominant team after they ended top of the table with 20 points in the league phase.
Skipper Shreyas Iyer was unbeaten on six, and at the other end, when Kolkata players came rushing on to the pitch and the stadium fireworks went off.
“Great night for KKR. What a game, what a season,” player-of-the-match Starc said.
“Probably the two most exciting teams in the final. We have had a fantastic squad of bowlers and batters, our staff have been fantastic to get everyone peaking.”
On the pressure of his high price tag, 34-year-old Starc said: “There’s been jokes about the money. I am experienced, that’s helped with all the expectations.”
Players and national teams now move into the T20 World Cup starting June 1 in the West Indies and the United States.
Afghanistan’s Gurbaz, who left the tournament midway through to be with his ailing mother back home and returned for the play-offs, said: “My mom is watching from home.
“She is feeling good now. I asked mom before the match if she wanted anything. She said just the win,” added the wicket-keeper-batsman.
Kolkata’s co-owner and Bollywood superstar actor Shah Rukh Khan was in attendance and congratulated his champion players after he suffered from a heat-related illness in the first qualifier in Ahmedabad.
It was Kolkata’s second title triumph at the venue, after they won their first trophy in 2012, and a near-capacity crowd at the 36,000-seater stadium cheered on.
Narine, a left-hand batsman and a right-arm spinner, ended as the player of the series with 488 runs as an opener and 17 wickets.
Apart from the big signing of Starc, they got Gautam Gambhir as mentor after the former India batsman led the team to their first two titles, including in 2014.
Hyderabad skipper Pat Cummins won the toss and elected to bat first and go with his team’s strength of scoring big, after they racked up IPL record totals of 277 and 287 in this year’s edition.
Hyderabad took Cummins for $2.5 million in the same auction and made him captain after he led Australia to two titles, including the World Test Championship and the ODI World Cup last year.
“So many (positives), the style with which the guys played especially with the bat. Lot of skills to get to 250 three times,” said Cummins.
“I loved how brave the guys were. It was a lot of fun, great season.”
But it was Starc who took the limelight as he struck in his first over when he bowled in-form Indian batsman Abhishek Sharma, for two, on a delivery that pitched in the middle and caught the top of off stump.
Travis Head followed his fellow left-hand opener Abhishek to the dug-out, caught behind for his second duck in three matches off fast bowler Vaibhav Arora.
Starc struck again and the opposition top-order was in disarray at 47-4 inside seven overs.
Andre Russell took down Aiden Markram for 20 and wickets kept tumbling as fellow South African Heinrich Klaasen fell for 16.
Cummins, who was dropped on 10 by Starc, took the team past 100 before falling for 24 off Russell, who ended with figures of 3-19.


Sunrisers Hyderabad down Rajasthan Royals to set up IPL final with Kolkata Knight Riders

Updated 24 May 2024
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Sunrisers Hyderabad down Rajasthan Royals to set up IPL final with Kolkata Knight Riders

  • Spinner Shahbaz Ahmed starred with three wickets

CHENNAI: Sunrisers Hyderabad beat Rajasthan Royals by 36 runs on Friday to set up an IPL final against Kolkata Knight Riders, as spinner Shahbaz Ahmed starred with three wickets.
Heinrich Klaasen smashed 50 off 34 balls to help Sunrisers post 175-9 and their bowlers combined to restrict Rajasthan to 139-7 as they reached their third IPL final, to be played in Chennai on Sunday.
Ahmed came in as an impact substitute in Hyderabad’s batting innings to score 18 runs and then returned figures of 3-23 with his left-arm spin to flatten the opposition chase.
Kolkata, who thrashed Hyderabad in the first play-off game to reach their fourth final, will meet Pat Cummins’ side again in the decider.
Cummins, who cost Hyderabad $2.5 million at the auction, remains on the cusp of another title after he led Australia to the Test championship trophy and then to the ODI World Cup in India last year.
“You’ve seen that in the way we played,” Cummins said on his team’s turnaround from last year when they ended bottom of the 10-team table. “The finals was the goal and we’ve made it.”
Ahmed was named player of the match and Cummins said it was coach Daniel Vettori’s call to have the all-rounder come in as impact sub.
It took time to fill the 36,000-capacity M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, with local fans still missing the presence of home team Chennai Super Kings.
Chennai veteran M.S. Dhoni remains a hero in the south Indian city and many fans wore his number 7 jersey during the third play-off contest.
The IPL was in the grip of a heatwave in the last two play-off matches in Ahmedabad, where temperatures soared to over 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit), but Chennai remained much cooler at 32 degrees.
Rajasthan faltered in their chase despite Yashasvi Jaiswal’s quickfire 42 before the opener fell to Ahmed and skipper Sanju Samson soon departed for 10.
Ahmed strick twice in one over, including the in-form Riyan Parag for six, and despite Dhruv Jurel’s late unbeaten 56, inaugural champions Rajasthan fell well short.
“We’ve had some brilliant games, we’ve had a great project as a franchise,” said Samson. “We’ve produced some great talent for the country. Parag, Jurel, exciting not only for RR but for India team too.”
Hyderabad’s Abhishek Sharma scored 12 but returned with his part-time spin to take two wickets including the big-hitting Shimron Hetmyer, bowled for four.
Earlier Sunrisers, who had racked up record IPL totals of 277 and 287 this season, lacked firepower in their batting until Klaasen boosted the score with his fourth fifty of the season.
Rajasthan’s Trent Boult made early inroads when he got Abhishek in the first over and struck twice in the fifth to send back Rahul Tripathi, for 37, and Aiden Markram, for one.
Fast bowler Avesh Khan took two wickets in two balls, prompting Hyderabad, who won the IPL in 2016 under Australia’s David Warner, to bring in Ahmed.
South Africa’s Klaasen stood firm to reach his fifty from 33 balls and put on a key seventh-wicket stand of 43 with Ahmed in a total which proved enough.


Cricket’s rising demands are impacting physical and mental health

Updated 23 May 2024
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Cricket’s rising demands are impacting physical and mental health

  • Against a background of outstanding achievements are cries for help by professional cricketers who want to reduce their workload

Fred Trueman of Yorkshire and England was long regarded as his nation’s greatest fast bowler. In his prime, he bowled a thousand overs for Yorkshire during a summer.

This was an era when the only cricket matches on view, apart from Tests, were three-day county championships between 17 counties. In 1964, Trueman was the first bowler to claim 300 wickets in Test matches. When asked if he thought his achievement would be beaten, his response — typical of the man — was: “Aye, but whoever does it will be very tired.”

Since then, 36 bowlers have beaten Trueman’s record. Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan claimed 800, followed by Australia’s Shane Warne with 708, and then there is England’s James Anderson, who has 700 and is due to play his last Test this year.

Anderson’s longevity and fitness is truly remarkable. He has sent down almost 40,000 deliveries in Test matches alone, the fourth highest among those taking more than three hundred wickets. He is not admitting to any tiredness and is regarded by some as having claim to be England’s finest quick bowler, rather than Trueman. Both their achievements, in different eras, are extraordinary. Trueman’s feat was accompanied by a bowling average of 21.57, only bettered by Malcom Marshall (20.94) and Curtly Ambrose (20.99). Anderson’s is 26.52.

It is against the background of these achievements that current cries for help by professional cricketers to reduce their workload should be gauged. Another of Yorkshire’s finest players is Joe Root who, in 140 Tests for England so far, has scored 11,626 runs. This puts him 10th on the all-time list of top Test run scorers. His workload has been intense for years, even more so when he captained England in 64 Tests, yet he rarely complains. Last week, however, he called for a major rethink of English cricket’s crowded schedule.

This was accompanied by the Professional Cricketers Association calling for change “before something disastrous happens.”

Based on a survey of professional male cricketers, the PCA revealed that key concerns are physical heath (81 percent), travel conditions (75 percent) and mental health (62 percent). Long-distance driving late at night, whether moving between matches or traveling home, is a particular worry. It is argued that player welfare and performance are compromised by the lack of time to recover, prepare and practice.

Professional cricket in England and Wales has a particular issue in that there are four men’s competitions shoe-horned into a window between mid-April and the end of September, with August given over entirely to The Hundred. Last year, proposals to reduce the amount of four-day county cricket and T20 cricket were rejected by the counties. Effectively, the 50 over competition has been downgraded because so few of the top players appear in it. According to Root, the objective should be to get “the standard of first-class and county cricket as close as you can to the international game.”

Professional cricketers in England and Wales have raised the issue of congested schedules and travelling pressure before. The explosion of T20 cricket in the last 20 years has increased this congestion and turned it into a more international concern. In India and Australia, for example, the distances between venues are much greater, with flying and its attendant risks additional factors.

In November 2023, during the announcement of India’s ODI squad for a series against Australia, India’s captain, Rohit Sharma, blamed excessive travel for injured players across the teams. It is in the interests of all cricket boards to narrow the gap between the standard of the breeding ground of first-class cricket and international cricket. Each one has different ways of doing so, a reflection of relative resources, geography and historic structures.

In India, reform is proposed for 2024-25. It seems likely that the Ranji Trophy, the country’s state-based long format game and the equivalent of the English county championship, will be split into two halves. White ball tournaments would be held in between. The main drivers behind this are to address variable winter weather conditions in the north and to allow longer gaps between matches to facilitate travel and recovery. This is similar reasoning to that aired by Joe Root and the PCA.

More forgiving schedules may release pressure on mental health, an often-overlooked facet of professional sport. There have been a number of high-profile cases in recent years in cricket. Azeem Rafiq’s experience of racism at Yorkshire was one. Another was Jonathan Trott, who played 52 Tests for England between 2009 and 2015. He left England’s tour of Australia in November 2013, unable to cope with the demands at that level. A man with very high levels of concentration lost them and referred to the impact of social media, saying: “People don't look you in the face and have a conversation and ask you how you are.”

Rohit Sharma, in the aftermath of India’s defeat in the 2023 ODI World Cup Final, was mentally shattered. He eschewed social media and opted out of ODI and T20I assignments against South Africa. Men’s cricket is a tough environment that appears not to appreciate that mental health issues are real. The growth of women’s cricket has brought about a change in approaches to mental health within the game. A webinar which I joined this week promoted by the Cricket Research Network discussed the different physiological challenges which women face in advancing in the game.

Quite what Fred Trueman would have made of this is an open question. He was an un-constituted menacing quick bowler who bullied opponents. It is not unreasonable to assume he would have been aghast at the notion of women playing professional cricket.

After his playing days were over, he became a pundit and commentator. His catch line was: “I don’t know what is going on.” He would be even more at a loss in today’s world of social media and Bollywood-style cricket.


US, Canada squads at the Twenty20 World Cup are a melting pot of nationalities

Updated 23 May 2024
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US, Canada squads at the Twenty20 World Cup are a melting pot of nationalities

  • The team provides a snapshot of US cricket at this formative stage, as Major League Cricket jostles for its place in a crowded sporting market
  • Canada will be led by the veteran left-armer spinner Saad bin Zafar, who was born in Pakistan
  • The US meet Canada in the tournament opener on June 1 and then there’ll be a step up for both teams in Group A

NEW YORK: The US cricket team which will co-host the Twenty20 World Cup may be a fitting cross-section of its country as a roster of migrants, a melting pot of nationalities and cultures.

The 15-man squad includes players born in India, Pakistan, New Zealand and South Africa. Home-grown players include vice-captain Aaron Jones, who was born in Queens, and allrounder Steven Taylor, of Hialeah, Florida.

The team provides a snapshot of US cricket at this formative stage, as Major League Cricket jostles for its place in a crowded sporting market. The squad includes foreign players drawn to America by the MLC and local players given the chance to play cricket at a professional level in the United States

The home team’s most recognized member is the former New Zealand allrounder Corey Anderson. The 33-year-old Anderson played 13 Tests, 49 one-day internationals and 31 T20 internationals for New Zealand between 2013 and 2018 in a career limited by injuries.

He earned a place in cricket history for his 36-ball century in a one-day international between New Zealand and the West Indies on New Year’s Day, 2014. Anderson also has played in T20 leagues in Australia, India, the Caribbean and UAE before finding an MLC home at the San Francisco Unicorns.

Anderson made his first half-century for the US in their T20 win over Canada last month.

Mumbai-born Harmeet Singh, who played for India at two Under-19 World Cups, was the star for the 19th-ranked US team earlier this week in an upset win over Bangladesh. It the only the second win over a full ICC member for the US

He scored 33 from the 13 deliveries he faced and shared an unbeaten, match-winning 62-run partnership with Anderson, who was unbeaten on 34.

“It means a lot to us to put on a show against Bangladesh. We are no walkovers,” Harmeet told ESPNcricinfo. “I think our potential is immense.”

The US meet Canada in the tournament opener on June 1 and then there’ll be a step up for both teams in Group A, which also includes India and Pakistan, fierce cricket rivals with enormous support, and Ireland.

Among the other foreign-born players on the US squad coached by ex-Australia batter Stuart Law is right-arm fast bowler Ali Khan, who moved with his parents from Pakistan to the US when he was 18.

He first played for the US team in 2016 and has also has played in the Indian Premier League, Caribbean Premier League and Pakistan Premier League, in Global T20 Canada and the Afghanistan Premier League.

Captain Monank Patel, a wicketkeeper-batsman, was born in India and settled in New Jersey after moving permanently to the US in 2016. He played at a junior level for Gujarat in India and played the first of his 47 one-day internationals and 23 T20 internationals for the US in 2019.

Andries Gous, another wicketkeeper-batsmen, was born in Welkom, South Africa, played for South Africa at under-19 level and played 60 first-class matches before relocating to the US in 2021. He and Patel were the highest scorers for the US in the recent five-match series against Canada.

Allrounder Milind Kumar is another India-born player who accumulated nine centuries in 60 first-class appearances for Delhi before making his home in the US

The Canada team scheduled to meet the US in the opening match is also a team drawn from many places and shaped by the evolution of a professional league at home.

Canada will be led by the veteran left-armer spinner Saad bin Zafar, who was born in Pakistan. He moved to Canada to study and was first named in the Canadian T20 team in 2008. Now 37, he has played 38 T20 internationals and once took two wickets without conceding a run in four overs in a T20 against Panama.

Jamaica-born batter Aaron Johnson, Pakistan-born left-arm fast bowler Kaleem Sana and Guyana-born right-arm quick Dillon Heyliger reflect the international makeup of the team which is coached by former Sri Lanka international Pubudu Dassanayake.
 


Nicholas Pooran powers Lucknow Super Giants to dead-rubber IPL win over hapless Mumbai Indians

Updated 17 May 2024
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Nicholas Pooran powers Lucknow Super Giants to dead-rubber IPL win over hapless Mumbai Indians

  • Mumbai out, Lucknow too failed to qualify for the playoffs

MUMBAI: Nicholas Pooran starred in Lucknow Super Giants’ 18-run victory over pre-tournament favorites Mumbai Indians in the last game of a disappointing Indian Premier League season for both teams Friday.
The maverick West Indies’ wicketkeeper-batsman hit eight sixes in his 29-ball 75 to take Lucknow to 214-6 after Mumbai skipper Hardik Pandya won the toss and chose to field first.
Mumbai crashed to 196-6 despite an impressive start by openers Rohit Sharma and Dewald Brevis in their rain-interrupted chase.
Pandya said that it was “quite difficult” for five-time champions Mumbai, who finished the 10-team league in last spot.
“This season we didn’t play good quality cricket and it cost us the whole season,” Pandya said.
Lucknow too failed to qualify for the playoffs and ended the tournament in sixth spot.
Captain KL Rahul said that it was “very disappointing.”
He blamed mid-season injuries to key players and said that they “didn’t play well enough collectively and couldn’t come together” as a team.
Earlier, Nuwan Thushara got Mumbai off to a great start and removed opener Devdutt Padikkal for a first ball duck.
Padikkal’s partner Rahul stitched together a 48-run partnership with Australia’s Marcus Stoinis, who fell to Piyush Chawla’s leg-spin for a 22-ball 28 in the sixth over.
Chawla also removed Deepak Hooda (11) to reduce Lucknow to 69-3 by the 10th over.
Thushara finally removed Pooran in the 17th over to end his match-defining, 109-run partnership with Rahul.
He also removed rookie Arshad Khan (0) in the same over and finished with 3-28 in his four-over spell.
Chawla removed Rahul, who took 41 balls for his 55 runs, in the 18th over and finished with 3-29.
Key unbeaten cameos by Ayush Badoni (22) and Krunal Pandya (12) took Lucknow to 214-6.
Mumbai’s openers took their team to 88 before Brevis fell for 23 in the ninth over.
India skipper Sharma top-scored with a 38-ball 68 with 10 fours and three sixes before he fell in the 11th over.
In between, Mumbai also lost their best T20 batsman, Suryakumar Yadav, for 0 and were reduced to 97-3 while out-of-form skipper Pandya fell for 16.
Indian rookie Naman Dhir hit five sixes and four fours in his unbeaten 28-ball 62.
Leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi, who removed Sharma, and Afghanistan’s Naveen-ul-Haq, who removed Brevis, took four key Mumbai wickets between them.