Batsman and bowlers alike were left puzzled by a Southampton surface that seamed like a green top but dried out rapidly over day one of Australia’s lone Ashes warm-up while also providing variable bounce.
A ledger of 201 for 17 across the day hardly depicted a batting paradise, but nor was it exactly the sort of slow, seaming surface that the tourists can be expected to face against England over five Tests at Edgbaston, Lord’s, Headingley, Old Trafford and The Oval over the next two months. Marnus Labuschagne, the only batsman to pass 30 all day, and Jackson Bird, one of four pacemen to take three wickets or more, were united in their puzzlement.
“We were umming and ahhing this morning about what to do if we were going to bowl or bat,” Labuschagne said after making 41 out of 105 for his side. “I actually called Sam Northeast up in the change room and he was saying that on this wicket they tend to bat first because of the deterioration during the game. It’s really hard to tell – the conditions with the ball as well, there was plenty of swing and seam for pretty much the whole day, so I don’t really think it made too much of a difference batting first or second.
“The heavy roller probably did, over here it flattens it out a little bit for probably 30-40 minutes but towards the back end it was still pretty lively and going. It was just the dryness of the wicket, with the bowlers we had who did bowl a heavier ball into the wicket I think they got considerably more up and down out of the wicket than you would potentially in a championship game with the bowlers bowling a bit slower and a bit more sideways movement. But everyone you’ll see will adapt and hopefully get some runs in the second innings.”
Bird, who has played county cricket for Hampshire and Nottinghamshire in the past, said it was not like any pitch he had seen before in these parts. “It was a funny sort of wicket, you don’t really see this sort of wicket in England,” Bird said. “There was lots of live grass on it but the surface was really dry, so there was a bit of inconsistent bounce from the top end, and it nipped around a little bit as well with that inconsistent bounce, which made it hard. The wicket got a little bit better as the day went on, but the bowling all day was reasonably good.”
Where this all leaves Australia’s Ashes preparations is anyone’s guess, but suffice to say there were more than a few batsmen who would have preferred greater time in the middle, particularly given its dual status as a preparatory fixture and also a selection trial.
“This game is a very serious game and it’s one where we’re all looking to perform,” Labuschagne said. “As a whole squad everyone wants to score runs, take wickets and I think we’re getting the best out of each other by playing this hard cricket and its the best preparation for the upcoming tour.
“Facing the majority of the people out there bowling 130-140kph plus, facing the extra pace on a wicket that is going a little bit up and down, you need to make sure your ducks are in a row and your plans are in order. You wish as a batter it counted as 141 but no, 41 is still 41. In a low-scoring game those scores do help the team but from a personal view, it’s frustrating when someone does get in and doesn’t go on with it.”
As Labuschagne’s opponents, Bird complimented the Queensland No. 3 on his diligent planning for the surface. “He had a plan especially facing up to me, he came down the wicket and across to off stump and tried to take away getting bowled and lbw,” Bird said. “The wicket could nip and stay a little bit low so he took that mode of dismissal out and it seemed to work for him. Although he nicked one in the end but that happens sometimes. It was good to see him have a plan, he’s had a really strong start to the county championship season this year.”
Regarding the selection trial, with the final Ashes squad to be named at the end of the match, Bird admitted to more than a few unusual emotions. “It’s a weird situation that we haven’t been in before,” Bird said, “but everyone’s really embraced it the last week and it’s been really good to get in both teams in separate groups and I guess try to get the team camaraderie as much as you can in a weird situation.
“Our batters are world class as well, so anytime you get to come up against those guys it’s good for your confidence and good for honing your skills I guess. It was a poor day out for the batters but the bowlers took a lot out of it. I’m expecting the batting group to bounce back in the next three days.”
How Jharkhand pulled off ‘a repeat of Eden Gardens’ in Agartala
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”
“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.
Somerset accept 2020 points deduction over ‘poor’ pitch
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.”
Buttler, Stokes and Archer back for South Africa T20Is, no room for Root
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
Jadon Sancho will choose Man Utd transfer over Chelsea because of Man City issue
Dolphins sign WR DeVante Parker to 4-year contract extension
Cubs, reliever Brandon Morrow agree to minor-league deal
How Jharkhand pulled off ‘a repeat of Eden Gardens’ in Agartala
Freddie Ljungberg issues back me or sack me ultimatum to Arsenal ahead of Man City clash
Mets, Yoenis Cespedes agree to terms on amended contract
Frank Lampard puts talks with three Chelsea players on hold before January transfer window
Steven Gerrard, Rangers contract, news, Liverpool manager
Somerset accept 2020 points deduction over ‘poor’ pitch
Man Utd backed to complete Raul Jimenez transfer in January – 'He’s a quality player'
Soccer4 days ago
Arsenal player ratings vs West Ham: Pepe and Martinelli shine in win but Xhaka gets a 3
Soccer6 days ago
EPL: Racism, Fred racially abused, monkey chants, video, watch, Manchester City fans, derby, Manchester United
MLB4 days ago
Cubs to face Red Sox, Yankees in back-to-back weeks as part of Sunday Night Baseball slate
MLB4 days ago
Stephen Strasburg stays with Nats on $245M deal
MLB5 days ago
Ted Simmons, Marvin Miller finally get their due with Hall of Fame election
Soccer5 days ago
Former Celtic striker Moussa Dembele mocks Rangers after Hoops’ Scottish League Cup win
Soccer4 days ago
Arsenal fans produced brilliant chant during West Ham Premier League win
Soccer5 days ago
Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho identifies Harry Kane backup ahead of January transfer window