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‘Those last two overs were like hell’ – Shreyas Iyer

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Delhi Capitals captain Shreyas Iyer has said the last two overs of their chase in the IPL eliminator against Sunrisers Hyderabad were “like hell”. In that time, Capitals saw a straightforward equation of 12 runs from 12 balls come down to two needed off the last two with three wickets also falling in between.

Capitals were 151 for 5, chasing a target of 163, but lost Sherfane Rutherford, Rishabh Pant and Amit Mishra in the next ten balls, before Keemo Paul pulled Khaleel Ahmed for the winning boundary off the penultimate delivery. Capitals will now meet Chennai Super Kings in the second qualifier to decide who goes through to the final against Mumbai Indians.

“I can’t express my emotions,” Iyer said at the presentation ceremony, after Capitals had won their first ever IPL playoff or knockout match. “It was such a pressure situation. I was just sitting with my teammates and it felt as if I’ve been sitting with them for years! Those last two overs it was like hell, to be honest.

“I could see the happiness in everyone’s faces, and it was an amazing feeling to see them coming out and expressing themselves. Obviously the joy we’re going to share after victory is going to be really good. And yes, hoping for another one against Chennai. We’re definitely not going to be intimidated by any team. Looking forward to the next game.”

The chase for Capitals was set up by Prithvi Shaw‘s 56 off 38 at the top of the order, before Rishabh Pant blasted 49 off 21 to take them to the brink of victory. Iyer said he didn’t interfere with the instincts of both young batsmen, preferring to let them express themselves.

“I personally feel they are the sort of batsmen you can’t [try to] control,” Iyer said. “You just have to leave them on their own and not say anything to them. Because if you say anything, it will play in their minds. When you stop a batsman like Rishabh or Prithvi, if you stop their flow, definitely they are not going to perform up to your expectation. Such situations if they go with their flow, they can win you matches, and it was really amazing to see both of them chipping in today and taking our team through.”

Pant had blasted Basil Thampi for 22 runs in the 18th over, changing the complexion of the match and ensuring Capitals could get over the line despite their late collapse from 151 for 5 to 161 for 8. Pant himself was out in the 19th over, leaving Capitals five to get from seven balls.

“If you are set inside on a wicket like this you need to finish the match for the team. I took it very close, but in the end I couldn’t finish the match. Next time I’ll try to finish it for my team,” Pant, the Player of the Match, said. “I just try to be positive every time I go in. If your mindset is negative, it’s difficult to play your shots. Especially in T20 when you’re set, and you need some 40 runs in four overs, you have to have a big over. That’s what I did today. I didn’t try to hit the ball too hard, I just took my time and in the end, I was just trying to time the ball and it went all my way today.”

The pitch at the ACA stadium in Visakhapatnam was sticky, with the ball not coming on to the bat and scoring becoming more difficult after the Powerplay. Sunrisers got off to a good start after being put in, with Martin Guptill hitting a 19-ball 36, but Capitals pulled things back.

“The start they got was really good on this track. It was really tough to control Martin Guptill,” Iyer said. “The way he carried on with this flow in the Powerplay, I think they got an above-par score. We controlled in between, especially Mishy bhai (Amit Mishra) with that amazing spell, coming up and giving 15-odd runs I guess (1 for 16 in four overs). He was exceptionally good. The other bowlers came and chipped in with good economic bowling. Overall, really happy with the efforts of our bowlers. It was a good wicket to bat against the seamers, but 160 was a good total to defend on this wicket.”



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How Jharkhand pulled off ‘a repeat of Eden Gardens’ in Agartala

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Ishank Jaggi, the Jharkhand batsman, was resting his sore back in the dressing room when PN Singh, the team manager, sat beside him and quipped, “Eden Gardens ka repeat ho jaaye (Should we have a repeat of Eden Gardens)?” Jaggi, as he later told ESPNcricinfo, replied: “Kabhi Kabhi ho sakta hai, baar baar nahi (It might happen once in a way, not always).”

The comparison was apt. Tripura had scored 289 at home in Agartala and then bowled Jharkhand out for 136, enforcing the follow on with more than two days left to play in Agartala. Singh’s reference was obviously to that Kolkata Test of 2001. It seemed hopeless then, and it did now, and little did Jaggi know that he would be at the centre of this “kabhi kabhi ho sakta hai” turnaround.

Jharkhand went on to win in dramatic circumstances, with the final wicket claimed in possibly the last over of the contest, Tripura bowled out for 211 after Jharkhand had declared on 418 for 8.

“We were just beginning to get a little nervy, but eventually managed to hold on because we were determined to not be denied after having come that close. It would’ve been cruel to not win after that kind of a comeback”

Ishank Jaggi

“It was around 4pm, and just an over earlier the umpires got together to take a light reading,” Jaggi, who had hit 107 (retired) – with Saurabh Tiwary scoring 122 not out – in the second innings, said. “We knew it was a race against time. We possibly had six balls to take the last wicket, or else it would have most likely been a draw, because once we went out, there was no way we were coming back on.”

When Ashish Kumar, the senior-most bowler in the Jharkhand XI, trapped Rana Dutta lbw, the camp went crazy. They had become the first team since Sourav Ganguly’s Indians to win a first-class game in India after following on. Astonishingly, Jharkhand also became the first side in Ranji Trophy history to come back from a follow-on and win. “It’s unbelievable,” Jaggi added.

Victory was even more special as it had come without a number of their first-XI players. Ishan Kishan, Varun Aaron, Shahbaz Nadeem and Rahul Shukla were all out due to niggles. Ashish, with 30 first-class games under his belt, and Ajay Yadav, slightly less experienced, had 19-year-old debutant Vivekanand Tiwari as the third fast bowler. The trio picked up all ten second-innings wickets between them.

Before that, Jaggi and Tiwary got together in the first session on day three, with Tripura having reduced Jharkhand to 138 for 5 in the second innings, still 15 runs behind. Jaggi, a veteran of 84 first-class games, hit his 19th first-class century, before retiring because of that flared back. Tiwary was still there when Jharkhand declared.

“We batted for a bit on the final day, just to tire them out even more,” Jaggi said of the plan. “I don’t think anyone in Tripura’s position would have expected the turnaround after picking up five wickets in the second innings. In going all out for a win, they kept attacking with their main bowlers, we kept playing them out and eventually they were tired.

“Later when their second set of bowlers came on, we started picking the runs. Once the partnership between Saurabh and me crossed 100, we decided to slowly try and push the runs, so that even if we get bowled out, there is some sort of a total to defend.”

There was a small issue, though. Jaggi’s back was beginning to hurt. He has a left-side disk compression in his spine, a problem he has had to manage for seven years now. His left leg is also a tad longer than his right, leading to issues. This even forced him to pull out midway through the white-ball season.

“As I got tired, I decided to attack the new ball in search of quick runs,” Jaggi said. “But once it got to a stage where I had to go off, we decided having a new batsman with fresh legs in Anukul Roy was the best way forward, since they at one stage had nine fielders at the rope, and I wasn’t able to run.”

Roy contributed a quickfire 25 to set up the declaration.

This gave their bowlers a little over two-and-half sessions to defend 265, and victory was very much in sight when Jharkhand reduced Tripura to 41 for 5 at lunch.

“We briefly switched off after picking five wickets, but Manisankar Murasingh played a fabulous knock to make a century. We were just beginning to get a little nervy, but eventually managed to hold on because we were determined to not be denied after having come that close. It would’ve been cruel to not win after that kind of a comeback,” Jaggi said.

Were there any celebrations afterwards? “No restaurants, no entertainment, no food outside,” Jaggi laughed. “We stayed put at the hotel, enjoyed a quiet dinner, and all of us went to bed early.”

Now, they have to wait. The Assam v Services game in Guwahati had to be abandoned because of political turmoil in Assam, and that’s where Jharkhand are scheduled to travel next. The situation hasn’t improved, and the match might well be rescheduled.



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Somerset accept 2020 points deduction over ‘poor’ pitch

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Somerset have confirmed that they will not be appealing against the decision to dock them 12 points for preparing a substandard pitch for the 2019 Championship title decider against Essex.

The ECB’s Cricket Disciplinary Committee (CDC) imposed the deduction last month after rating the Taunton surface as ‘poor’, noting its “excessive unevenness of bounce”. While Somerset accepted the charge, they disputed the suggestion that the pitch was not the best they could have produced.

However, after reviewing the CDC’s full report and relevant procedures, the club has decided not to appeal because of the “heavy burden of proof” required to overturn the original verdict.

“This conclusion has been reached because it is clear that, in order to overturn the decision, the club would have to demonstrate conclusively to the Panel who originally implemented the sanctions that they had come to the wrong decision,” a Somerset statement said. “Such a heavy burden of proof is extremely difficult for any appellant to discharge.

“The club are very disappointed with the panel’s decision but has concluded that it is in the best interest of all parties to move forward.

“We can now focus on preparing the team and the venue for the demands of the season ahead, with a specific focus on performing successfully, with a highly talented and competitive group of players and a clear focus on developing broader strategies to support this objective through our teams off the field. The club notes the strong message the panel ruling sends to all first-class counties.”

Somerset finished the 2019 season second in Division One, 11 points behind Essex, after drawing a rain-affected final game – extending the club’s wait for a maiden Championship title. They will begin 2020 on minus-12 points, with a further, suspended 12-point deduction hanging over them.

Somerset’s captain, Tom Abell, denied that the club had set out to produce an up-and-down pitch, but said they would have to deal with the points penalty “as best we can”.

“It’s a big blow, nobody wants to start the season 12 points adrift, but we know what we’ve got to do,” he told ESPNcricinfo. “The particularly disappointing thing was that we accepted the charge of it being a poor pitch, however, we were also found guilty of not producing the best wicket possible. That was disappointing because we wanted a pitch to spin, we wanted to win the game, but we felt like we were playing on the best pitch available to us.

“It’s still obviously pretty raw… but the issue wasn’t the spin, apparently. The reason we got deducted points was because of the surface and the inconsistent bounce… But I can assure you there was no intent to produce a wicket that was going to go up and down. But obviously the punishment’s been handed out, and we’ve got to deal with that as best we can.”



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Buttler, Stokes and Archer back for South Africa T20Is, no room for Root

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England have named four uncapped players in their ODI squad to face South Africa, while recalling the likes of Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer for the T20I series to follow. Moeen Ali and Jason Roy return in both white-ball formats after being rested for the New Zealand tour, but there was no room in the T20I squad for Joe Root.

Tom Banton, Pat Brown, Saqib Mahmood and Matt Parkinson have all been picked in 50-over cricket for the first time – though only Brown and Parkinson retained their T20I spots. Of the group that beat New Zealand 3-2 last month, Sam Billings, James Vince and Lewis Gregory also miss out.

The three-match ODI series, starting on February 4 at Cape Town, will be England’s first involvement in the format since lifting the World Cup in July. Eoin Morgan remains as captain, with Dawid Malan winning a recall after his excellent T20I form and Chris Jordan and Sam Curran also included, having last won ODI caps in 2016 and 2018 respectively.

The squad contains eight members of the World Cup-winning group. Mark Wood is also rested, alongside Buttler, Stokes and Archer; Liam Dawson has once again been overtaken by Joe Denly as the spinning allrounder; and England appear to have moved on from Vince and Liam Plunkett.

The four new faces were all involved, to varying degrees of success, in New Zealand. Banton scored 56 runs in three innings, at a strike rate of 164.70, Parkinson claimed a four-wicket haul in his second game, while Brown and Mahmood picked up three wickets each. In List A cricket, Banton scored two hundreds as Somerset won the 2019 Royal London Cup; Lancashire’s Mahmood was the competition’s leading wicket-taker with 28 at 18.50.

England will also play three T20Is in South Africa and they have prioritised the shortest format ahead of next year’s T20 World Cup. The absence of Root suggests his chances of involvement are receding, with England well-stocked for top-order batting options.

“These two squads were selected with an eye on the T20 World Cup in Australia in 2020,” England’s national selector, Ed Smith, said. “In the T20s, a number of players who were rested for the successful 3-2 victory in New Zealand return to the squad: Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and Jason Roy.

“We want to expand the pool of players who can perform successfully for England, while also helping the team to peak for major tournaments.”

England ODI squad: Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Tom Banton, Pat Brown, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Joe Denly, Chris Jordan, Saqib Mahmood, Dawid Malan, Matthew Parkinson, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Chris Woakes

England T20I squad: Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonathan Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Pat Brown, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Joe Denly, Chris Jordan, Dawid Malan, Matt Parkinson, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Mark Wood



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