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Recent Match Report – Derbyshire vs Worcestershire, Twenty20 Cup (England), North Group

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Derbyshire 181 for 2 (Godleman 92, Reece 51) beat Worcestershire 161 for 7 (Guptill 45, Critchley 4 for 36)

Worcestershire missed the chance to close the gap on Vitality Blast North Group leaders Lancashire when they lost by 20 runs away at Derbyshire Falcons, who moved into the top four.

Billy Godleman made 92 from 65 balls, his highest T20 score, and Luis Reece 51 as the Falcons posted an imposing 181 for 2.

Former Derbyshire batsman Martin Guptill hit 45 from 40 balls but legspinner Matt Critchley celebrated his 23rd birthday by taking 4 for 36 as the Rapids subsided to 161 for 7.

It looked promising for the visitors when Dillon Pennington opened with a maiden but that was the calm before the storm as Godleman reeled off a salvo of boundaries in the next two overs.

Wayne Parnell‘s first ball was launched over the long off boundary and Pennington was driven for three consecutive fours before Reece dispatched Parnell several rows back into the stand at the City End.

The Falcons took 57 from the powerplay and the runs continued to flow as the openers rotated the strike with the Rapids rarely threatening to take a wicket.

Godleman reached 50 from 29 balls and after his side had reached the halfway point on 87 without loss, the pair scored freely without taking any undue risks.

Reece pulled Joe Leach for his sixth four to bring up his 50 from 38 balls and the Rapids had to wait until the 16th over for the breakthrough which came when Reece drilled Daryl Mitchell to cover.

They had slowed the scoring rate, though Goldeman passed his previous highest T20 score of 77 by lifting Ed Barnard over wide mid-wicket for his ninth four.

Wayne Madsen drove Parnell for six but after Godleman failed to clear the man on the deep cover boundary, Leus du Plooy hit the last two balls from Pat Brown for four.

Although the Falcons looked on course for 200, the Rapids faced a tough chase which became harder when the dangerous Riki Wessels failed to respond to Guptill’s call and was run out in the second over.

Callum Ferguson cut and drove Fynn Hudson-Prentice for consecutive fours but at 47 for 1 at the end of the powerplay, the Rapids had to live up to their name if they were going to get close.

Ferguson powered Boyd Rankin high over midwicket for six and pulled the next ball for four before Guptill drove Reece for six over long-on to leave the Rapids needing 100 from the last 10.

But the introduction of Critchley proved decisive as Ferguson drove him to long-on, Guptill was bowled trying to cut, and Parnell, after driving him for six, failed to clear long-off when he tried to repeat the shot.

Ben Cox and Barnard both drove him for big sixes but the night belonged to Critchley and the Falcons, as Worcestershire came up well short.

The result means that Derbyshire jump from eighth to fourth in the group, and with just three points separating second-placed Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire in eighth, things could hardly be closer.



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Kohli on what sets Shami and Umesh apart on Indian pitches

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Among all Indian fast bowlers who’ve taken at least 10 wickets in home Tests, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav have the best strike rates. It’s a fact Virat Kohli is well aware of – he brought it up himself in his post-match press conference after India wrapped up a 3-0 Test series victory over South Africa in Ranchi.

What makes Shami and Umesh so dangerous in Indian conditions? According to Kohli, it stems from the attacking lines they bowl, and their fitness, which allows them to bowl relentlessly in those areas.

“If you look at these two guys, their strike rate is probably the best in Indian conditions in history, which tells you that these guys hit the stumps and the pads more than anyone else before them.” Kohli said. “It’s again a great sign of the kind of intent that the bowlers are running in with now. The fitness levels obviously have gone up, so your brain is obviously supporting what you want to do, because your body also will support that workload.

“You bowl three good overs and if you’re tired, then the other two [overs in the spell] are not as effective, and you lose the opportunity to take a wicket after creating pressure. But these guys are relentless, they’re running in to just take wickets, bowl in areas that make batsmen uncomfortable.

“The focus was on spin [in the lead-up to the series], but the pacers have done the damage. We’ve become a multi-dimensional team now, and it’s not [just] one thing that you need to counter when you’re playing against us.”

India’s fast bowlers ended the series with a collective bowling average of 17.50. South Africa’s quicks, in comparison, averaged 70.20.

After the first Test in Visakhapatnam, where Shami had run through South Africa in the fourth innings, Kohli had said Shami was capable of getting more help out of Indian pitches than anyone else he had seen. Asked how he and Umesh were able to get that sort of help while their South African counterparts could not, Kohli said it was mindset that set India’s fast bowlers apart.

“We speak of doing things differently,” Kohli said. “On a green pitch, say the openers walk into bat and feel like, ‘well, the opposition hasn’t gotten many runs, so we might not either’, then you’re not going to get runs. If you believe we can score runs on green wickets, you will get a hundred when the others don’t. So it’s about mindset.

“As fast bowlers, if you feel like there’s nothing in the pitch but we can make something happen, you will make it happen, because that’s the kind of effort you want to bowl with. If you look at a pitch and you just give up, then you’re getting nothing out of it, so it’s the mindset. They want to make things happen, they don’t want easy cricket, they don’t want easy situations, they want to have things which are challenging, and then they try to come on top, because it’s going to do the team a lot of good if you do well in difficult scenarios.

“It’s all about the mindset. They run in to bowl, they ask – even if the ball is doing a little bit – after the spinners have bowled, they immediately want the ball back, so they want to make an impact, they want to make breakthroughs, and I think it’s about the positive mindset they’ve created for themselves.”

When India went to South Africa last year and played on green, seaming pitches, they lost the first two Tests despite putting the hosts under pressure at various points, but came back to win the third in Johannesburg. The return tour didn’t have anything like the same degree of competitiveness.

“Yeah, look, when we went to South Africa, we know that we competed in every game, and eventually ended up winning the last Test as well,” Kohli said. “It was all about one session or maybe an hour of bad cricket that cost us games, so we understand that, to compete in conditions which are not yours, you need to be positive every single minute of every day on the field. If you let five minutes of negativity creep in, it’s a downward slide from there.

“We understand that it can get difficult, but we have also applied a lot of pressure on the opposition, especially in our conditions, so it’s difficult to keep up when the [other] team is playing so well, but yeah, focusing on the positives of our team, I don’t think we allowed the opposition to get into any game, at any stage at all.”

India handed a debut to Shahbaz Nadeem in the third Test, after he came into the squad as a late replacement for Kuldeep Yadav. Close to 15 years after his first-class debut, the left-arm spinner enjoyed an excellent Test debut, picking up four wickets and finishing the match with two in two balls. Kohli said India had always been aware of Nadeem’s quality as a bowler.

“I’ve played with Nadeem before as well, Under-19 as well, and we’ve always known he’s quite a skilful bowler, the kind of skill he has with his conventional left-arm spin,” Kohli said. “He puts revolutions on the ball, his seam position is really good, bowls at a good pace, and when you’ve taken 420 wickets in first-class cricket, you can come and bowl four maidens straight up in a Test match [like Nadeem did]. He’s capable of bowling in one area.

“I think he’s made a very good start. He bowled with a lot of composure. It’s amazing how things can change dramatically in life. Two days before the Test, he was in Kolkata, and from there he came here and played. He was not out with the bat, he pulled off an excellent run-out, and in both innings he bowled well, so I’m quite happy for him. I’ve known him for a long time. He’s obviously a quality bowler, and for us to bring him in on this kind of track as a replacement, we already knew he has the quality. From here, he’ll only keep building.”



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India should have only five Test centres – Virat Kohli

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Virat Kohli wants India to play their home Tests at only five venues. He did not name them but said Test cricket in India should be distributed across “strong Test centres” as they are in other countries.

Kohli said this in response to a question about whether India should restrict the home Tests to the traditional big-city venues – Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi and Bengaluru.

India follow a rotation policy to allot their home games in all formats, and South Africa’s just-concluded tour took place at three venues that were each hosting just their second-ever Test matches: Visakhapatnam, Pune and Ranchi.

“We’ve been discussing this for a long time now, and in my opinion we should have five Test centres, period,” Kohli said, after the conclusion of the Ranchi Test. “I mean, I agree [with] state associations and rotation and giving games and all that, that is fine for T20 and one-day cricket, but Test cricket, teams coming to India should know, ‘we’re going to play at these five centres, these are the pitches we’re going to expect, these are the kind of people that will come to watch, crowds’.

“So that becomes a challenge already, when you’re leaving your shores, because we go to any place, we know we’re having four Test matches in these venues, this is what the pitch is going to offer, it’s going to be a full stadium, the crowd’s behind the [home] team, and look, you want to keep Test cricket alive and exciting. I totally agree with the fact that we need five Test centres at the max.

“It can’t be sporadic and spread over so many places where people turn up or they don’t, so in my opinion, absolutely. You should have five strong Test centres that teams coming to India know that this is where they’re going to play.”

England play most of their Test matches at their six traditional venues – the two London grounds Lord’s and The Oval. Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Nottingham. Australia play the bulk of their home Tests in six cities too – Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and Hobart. In both these countries – and in South Africa and New Zealand as well – there is usually a set order to which cities host which Tests; The Oval always hosts the last Test of the English summer for instance. Also, in the Southern Hemisphere, traditional dates are fixed for certain venues to host their Tests, such as Boxing Day at the MCG or Durban, and the New Year’s Tests in Cape Town and the SCG.

India, in contrast, spread their Tests all over the country. They’ve played home Tests at 27 venues overall, and 18 grounds since the turn of the millennium. The major venues have usually hosted the most Tests in this period, but, as Kohli said, sporadically. Mumbai and Chennai, for instance, haven’t hosted any Tests since late 2016.

Crowds for Test cricket at newer venues in smaller cities and towns has been a talking point for quite a few years, though there isn’t a clear pattern to suggest that Tests at all such venues are poorly attended. The three grounds that hosted the series against South Africa are all located at a fair distance from the city centre, and the facilities at some of the grounds aren’t particularly spectator-friendly – three-fourths of the stands in Pune, for instance, don’t have roofs. Still, though there were no full houses, there was a decent turnout on most days in Visakhapatnam and Ranchi, and over the weekend in Pune.



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India’s ‘relentless ruthlessness’ with bat left us ‘mentally weak’ – Faf du Plessis

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Faf du Plessis will continue to captain South Africa despite overseeing one of their worst Test results since readmission – he sees it as his responsibility to ease them through the transition. South Africa last suffered successive innings defeats in Tests in 1935-36, and though they have been whitewashed by Australia twice since 1992, their defeats then were not as stark as they are now. Du Plessis, who has led the side since mid-2016, will not use the results as a reason to jump ship and wants to oversee a process that will enable a new leader to take over in due course.

“How I see my journey unfolding with this team is to help with the transition period,” du Plessis said at the press conference after the Ranchi Test. “That’s something we spoke about before that wasn’t necessarily the case before. Graeme Smith was a successful captain for a very long time and then after that, it was like, ‘what now, who is going to captain the side, what’s going to happen?’ This period is to try and make that process a bit smoother, identifying the next leaders, identifying the next captains, working with them, and then when that time is right, that time will be right.”

His reference to Smith and his golden generation will only make the India series’ result sting even more. It was under Smith that South Africa last won a Test in India, in 2010 and remained unbeaten in an away Test series for nine years. But earlier this year, South Africa lost a home Test series to Sri Lanka and now they haven’t merely lost in India, they have been outplayed and exposed, something du Plessis puts down to inexperience.

“I found the tour really tough,” he said. “We have had a very mature Test team for a while, guys that have played 30, 40 and more Test matches. Now you look in the dressing room and its five, six, seven, eight, ten Tests.”

South Africa’s most experienced player on this trip is du Plessis himself, with 61 Test caps, and only five of the 16-man squad had toured India before. Of those, Dean Elgar showed he has made some progress from 2015 by scoring a century, but Temba Bavuma did not. Similarly, in the bowling department Kagiso Rabada, who debuted in that series, showed flashes of brilliance but Vernon Philander, who was injured after one Test on the 2015 tour, didn’t. A combination of the inability to bowl out the opposition even once and a failure to bat big is how du Plessis summed up what went wrong.

“When we play in the subcontinent, our style of bowling is not successful. You have to adapt your style to the style that is required. Obviously, someone like Dale Steyn was effective in the subcontinent because he has a similar skill set. He is a skiddy bowler off the pitch, hits the stumps, whereas if you are missing the stumps a lot or bouncing it over the stumps, it’s not as effective here.

“Seam bowling is one area; spin they [India] were better than us and from a batting unit, exceptional ruthlessness in the way they put massive scores on the board. That’s one of the reasons why mentally we were so weak towards the end. Obviously, they did bat first every time, which made it easier but they still to put on 500, 500, 600 and the scoreboard pressure, the effect that it has on you mentally as a batting line-up, it takes a lot of energy and it takes a lot of toll. You just feel like there’s no opportunity or no moment in the game when you can hide. Your body is tired, your mind is tired and then you make mistakes.”

Mind games have long haunted South Africa, mostly at major tournaments but now even in the longer format and du Plessis believes its an area that needs improvement fast. “Our next journey is to try and make sure we get a lot stronger as a cricketing team mentally. As you can see, a tour like this reveals that there is a lot of mental scars that can happen and then obviously it’s difficult to come out of the hole. We played our best match in the first match and the consistent pressure that was on us made us weaker with every Test match that we played. It tells me we are not mentally strong as a team and that some work is required in that department.”

This tour is the first place du Plessis will look at when it comes to identifying who is mentally strong enough to keep playing at this level and who will form the next leadership group. “When you go through extreme hardships like this, in the hardships, you will still find guys that are up for Test cricket.”

Like who? Quinton de Kock scored one century, Keshav Maharaj was brave with ball and bat, Senuran Muthusamy showed all-round potential and Zubayr Hamza played one sprightly knock.

The same cannot automatically be applied to Bavuma, the man being groomed as du Plessis’ successor. He scored 96 runs in six innings and was moved down the order from No.4 to 5, swapping places with du Plessis. His numbers suggest he is not ready to take over just yet, but his mindset reveals something else. In a revealing press conference in the second Test, Bavuma spoke frankly about his battle to convert and acknowledged that his best was not good enough at the moment. Like du Plessis, he recognised his responsibility and he knows what’s expected of him. For now, that’s all South Africa can ask for. It will take time before Bavuma is performing at the level required of a captain, or South Africa find someone else who is and no-one can say how much.

The next few months will not be easy as South Africa host England at home for four Tests. When the same sequence of fixtures was played four years ago, South Africa lost both series and their captain, Amla. This time, if du Plessis sticks to his word, they are are only at risk of the former.



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