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Chris Morris to join Hampshire for Vitality Blast

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South Africa allrounder Chris Morris will join Hampshire for this year’s Vitality Blast.

The 32-year-old Morris was this week called into South Africa’s World Cup squad as a replacement for fast bowler Anrich Nortje, who was ruled out of the tournament because of a fractured thumb.

Morris will join Hampshire at the end of his World Cup commitments and will be available for the entire Blast season.

A fierce right-arm seamer and destructive middle-order hitter, Morris has made 63 appearances so far for his national side since his debut in a T20I against New Zealand in 2012. He averages 20.50 with the ball in T20Is with a strike rate of 130.39 with the bat.

Playing domestically for the Titans, Morris has also featured in several franchise competitions around the world, including the IPL and CPL, and he played for Surrey in the 2016 Blast.

“I’m really looking forward to joining Hampshire for the Vitality Blast,” Morris said. “It’s an exciting tournament and it’s an exciting summer coming up – I can’t wait to get there and play at the Ageas Bowl and express what I can do.”

Hampshire director of cricket, Giles White said: “We were delighted when Chris agreed early on to join us for the season. He’s a dynamic batsman in the middle-order and a handful with the ball both up front and at the death, so he’s a great fit for us and hopefully he’ll make a big difference this summer.”

Hampshire begin their quest to reach an eighth T20 finals day in 10 years on July 19 when they host Sussex.



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‘Tired’ Virat Kohli pushes himself to match-winning ton

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India captain Virat Kohli revealed that he felt “tired” halfway through his innings of 120 against West Indies in the second ODI, but pulled through because one of India’s top three had to bat long to get them to a match-winning total.

Kohli ended up hitting his 42nd ODI century, and was out for 120 in the 42nd over, driving India to what proved to be a match-winning 279 for 7.

“Our target is always that one of the top three has to make a big score,” Kohli said on bcci.tv. “Shikhar [Dhawan] and Rohit [Sharma] have done it consistently in the past few months. I’ve done it when I’ve got the opportunity. Today, since neither of them got a big score, it was important that I stay for a longer time so that we can get to about 275-280.

“Honestly, I was very tired after getting to 60-65, but the situation was such that I had to bat long, and I had to push myself to work a bit harder for the team. If you think about the team, even if you’re tired you get energy from somewhere. But it was quite challenging, also because there had been rain on the day and when the weather is like that it gets even hotter, so it was very humid too.”

Elaborating on the lifestyle changes he has adopted and his fitness drive, Kohli said that not being at 100% meant you were not doing justice to your team.

“My mindset has always been simple: that I should contribute to the team in some way. If there’s an important catch, I want to take it; if there is a crucial run-out, I want to make it,” Kohli said. “I think every player should make their lifestyle and discipline in such a way that on the field you can give your full effort. If you are not giving your full effort on the field, then I don’t think you are doing justice to your team. The way my lifestyle, training, recovery and diet is, all of it is geared towards making me contribute to the team in every way I can. So on tough days like these, when you have to run a lot for your runs, and in the field also you know the situation demands that you need to make an effort, it [his regimen] helps at those moments, and these small things can make a big difference.”

Though Kohli’s innings tired him, on the field he still found energy to break into a jig, at one point even celebrating with Chris Gayle when the latter went past Brian Lara’s run tally in ODIs. Kohli put his good spirits down to being in a good space in his life.

“I’m enjoying myself on the field. It is a blessing [to play cricket for India]. I don’t follow a typical mould that if I’m captain I have to stand all seriously,” Kohli said. “I think it’s important to enjoy these moments. If there’s music playing, dance. Crack jokes with the opposition players too. I’m just in a very good space in my life, which is why I start dancing wherever I hear music.”



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‘Same old West Indies’ commit same old mistakes

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One minute, the stadium was abuzz with chatter. West Indies were very much in the game – their death bowling had limited India to under 300 and with Nicholas Pooran and Roston Chase on the field, it looked like they had it under control.

Then wickets fell like a pack of cards. Pooran. Chase. Carlos Brathwaite. Kemar Roach.

The crowd started to clear. It was an all too familiar feeling. It was an all too familiar sight. The West Indies team is always close, but somehow, always seems to fall short.

“They say in the islands that the West Indies know how to lose,” Gerald Ramkssoon, former head curator and current maintenance head at Queens Park Oval said. “Same old, same old West Indies,” was the take of Ian Ramsey, part of the pitch staff at Queens Park Oval said.

The team has been struggling for a while – they last won an ODI series in 2014 against Bangladesh. But experts and fans had renewed hope before the World Cup, particularly given a drawn series against England leading up to the event. The general perception was that the squad had the tools – with their deep batting line-up and the in-form pace attack – needed to succeed. Now, it was all about execution.

That’s exactly where they failed, close to winning several matches but not going over the line. They were 15 runs short in their run chase against Australia, a heart-breaking five against New Zealand, and 23 against Sri Lanka. Those three results going their way could have meant a semi-final spot for West Indies.

“Again, we were in front today and then we found a way to give away our wickets, so it’s just a matter of us now learning from our mistakes and trying to dig deeper,” West Indies coach Floyd Reifer said after the defeat to India in the second ODI.

Captain Jason Holder has been saying that their main batting focus is taking time with the new ball, understanding the conditions and then scoring runs at a steady pace. But, that approach runs contrary to how many West Indies batsmen usually play – the slam-bang T20 style. And that’s the style that has resulted in the batsmen, particularly the middle order, making careless shot selections.

Ramkssoon reminisced about the time when West Indies had someone like Shivnarine Chanderpaul, whom bowlers would spend hours trying to dislodge.

“T20, especially CPL, Big Bash and IPL changed everything,” Ramkssoon said. “Don’t get me wrong, the current team, Pooran, (Evin) Lewis and (Shimron) Hetmyer, they have the ability and the game to take West Indies far, but it’s about how you approach cricket, how you play the game.”

Both Ramkssoon and Ramsey felt the relative lack of experience in the line-up was crucial. “(Kieron) Pollard should have been in this series. He played in the IPL, he knows how most of the Indian players work, he was in good form – he would have helped players on the field, bowled and batted, we call him the triple threat in Trinidad,” Ramkssoon said.

With Gayle’s looming retirement, there is also the gaping hole that is West Indies’ opening spot. Evin Lewis seems set at the top, but without a solid partner, West Indies will struggle to build the foundation that Holder is keen on.

These are just some among a number of issues West Indies need to address sooner rather than later. After all, among the fans, the ground staff and even the local press, there is continuing hope for the glory days of the 1970s and 1980s to return one day.



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Langer lauds Australia’s fast-bowling depth but warns against complacency

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Justin Langer has said that having six fit-and-firing fast bowlers at his disposal is a “luxury” that he cannot recall enjoying at any previous point of his coaching career, but reiterated that Australia must not get complacent about their resources with four Ashes Tests still to come in the space of five weeks.

Eyebrows were raised among England fans when both Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc were omitted from Australia’s attack for the first Test at Edgbaston, but that selection was richly vindicated in a 251-run win that has given them the lead in an away Ashes series for the first time since 2005.

And, understandably, Langer was keeping his cards close to his chest with 48 hours to go until the series resumes at Lord’s. “The same as last time, we want to keep England guessing as long as we can,” he said. “We’re pretty clear with the team that we think will win this next Test match, we’ll see that when the toss goes up. Unless you can ask Painey [Tim Paine] the same question and he gives it away.”

ALSO READ: ‘Keep wearing him down’ – Langer’s plan for Archer

The broad strategy, however, is unmistakable and ruthless – very similar in outlook, in fact, to the one that England themselves used in Australia in 2010-11, their last successful campaign on Australian soil.

Bat as long as possible, with Steven Smith leading the line at Edgbaston but the tailenders – not least Peter Siddle – playing a vital role in the first innings, and bowl as dry as possible – with Siddle’s line-and-length earning selection ahead of Starc due to his tendency to go for runs in red-ball cricket in exchange for his wicket-taking deliveries.

And, in the event of attrition taking its toll in the course of the series – as it did nine years ago with Stuart Broad going lame during the Brisbane Test and Steven Finn proving too expensive for the team tacticians after Perth – ensure that the fast-bowling bench-strength (Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan on that occasion) is hungry and ready for action.

The condensed Ashes itinerary, Langer admitted, was having a “big impact” on the selection of their Test XI, and with just a three-day turnaround to the second Test at Headingley on August 22, it was only going to get more acute.

“We know that back-to-back Tests are always hard,” he said. “We were lucky in the first Test that our fast bowlers didn’t have to bowl much in the second innings, as Nathan [Lyon] bowled very well and the way the game panned out. But it’s certainly something that’s on our mind. It will be on England’s mind as well. You’ve got to get through back-to-back Test matches, that’s why Test series are hard, Ashes series are hard.

“Why we’re fortunate at the moment is that we’ve got six fit-and-healthy fast bowlers. I’ve been coaching for about 10 years now and I can’t ever remember having that luxury, but it could change like that so we’re not getting carried away with it.

“The fact that we had Josh and Mitch Starc on the bench last Test match, it doesn’t happen very often, so we won’t get complacent with it, we’ll just be happy we’re in that spot.”

One reason why Australia may yet name an unchanged XI lies in the success of Australia’s lower order – not least Siddle, whose critical innings of 44 helped rescue Australia from 122 for 8 and give Smith an obdurate ally en route to arguably the finest Test century of his career.

“Test cricket is a big game of chess,” Langer said. “I thought Siddle’s batting was the big difference in the Test match, and that was one of our game plans at the start of the summer.

“We saw how frustrating it was with England’s tail in the first innings, it’s the same with us,” he added. “You always have the strategy, the strategy of every team will be the same, but then you have to put it into practice.

“The boys have done that, the bowlers have probably hit more balls in this series than they have in their whole life. Hopefully it pays dividends, and it’s not just talk about it.”



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