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‘We may look pretty today, but it’s another day tomorrow’ – Rumesh Ratnayake



Although Sri Lanka only have 135 runs to get, with all ten second-innings wickets still in hand, acting coach Rumesh Ratnayake is adamant the Test could still slip away from his team. History would suggest Ratnayake is right to be wary. Only on four previous occasions has a target greater than the 268 the hosts are chasing in Galle been successfully run down in Sri Lanka.

The venue they are playing at is known to be especially difficult in the final innings as well. The highest successful chase at Galle is 99. Wickets have been known to tumble in heaps.

“Even though we are 133 for no loss, it was hard work, and for the batsman who would go in next it’s going to be extremely hard,” Ratnayake said after stumps on day four. “As a batsman, anyone going in fresh would be vulnerable in the first ten minutes. But anybody who’s spent 20 to 30 balls is aware of the way the ball is bouncing and the spin of the wicket. Tomorrow is a fifth day, so it might be a different day entirely. And this 268 is huge. We may look pretty today, at 133 for no loss, but it’s another day tomorrow.

“But the boys are really determined. We are not going to be scared to fail. We are fearlessly going forward, trying to take smart options.”

If Sri Lanka win, it will be the third consecutive testing fourth-innings chase that they would have succeeded in. During Tests in South Africa, Sri Lanka were set targets of 304 and 197 and won both matches.

“We haven’t won this yet. Yes, in South Africa we did well in those two matches. But there’s belief as well, from having won those games. I think that will help us tomorrow as well. But it’s not an easy wicket.”

Ratnayake’s talk of the pitch being especially difficult for new batsmen is in line with what everyone – from both Sri Lanka and New Zealand camps – have been saying so far. In all three completed innings, wickets have been lost quickly, but even tailenders have found ways to survive once they’ve last the initial few overs. New Zealand, for example, went from 124 for 6 to a total of 285 in their second innings.

“As a coach of the bowling team, I would be disappointed in some of the ways in which we bowled – some of the lengths we bowled,” Ratnayake said. “Having said that, it was hard work. The reason being, when you’re set there, you score. Everybody, whether it was a tailender or whoever it may be, scored runs when set. That pattern continued today. New Zealand’s lower order did extremely well, with Tim Southee, Trent Boult, BJ Watling and Will Somerville.”

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Dawid Malan, James Vince should give high yield



February 22: Islamabad United v Multan Sultans at Gadaffi Stadium, Lahore

Our XI: Luke Ronchi, Dawid Malan, Colin Munro, James Vince, Rilee Rossouw, Ravi Bopara, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Sohail Tanvir, Imran Tahir, Mohammad Ilyas

Captain: Dawid Malan

This highly-rated batsman from England showed great promise in the BPL 2020. Malan scored 444 runs in the tournament at a strike rate of 145, including three fifties in and a hundred. He started off his PSL campaign with a fluent 64 against the Gladiators.

Vice-captain: James Vince

Vince is coming off a very good Big Bash League season, where he scored runs in crucial games. In a wicket that is two-paced, he could be your man to get the runs. Vince has a healthy strike rate of 132.84 to go with his average of 30 in the format.

Hot Picks

Colin Munro

Munro continued his good form in T20s and took it to the 50-over format. He scored a 60-ball 104 in the Ford Trophy final in his side’s win last week. In 2020 so far, Munro has scored 332 runs in 11 innings across limited-overs formats.

Rilee Rossouw

Rossouw has not been in form lately but his record in T20s around the world makes him a must-have. The top-order batsman was the highest run-scorer in BPL 2019, scoring 495 runs at an average of 45 and a strike rate of 155.17.

Imran Tahir

The legspinner can be relied on to provide crucial breakthroughs. He has picked up 90 wickets between the 7th and 15th over in all T20s since 2018, making him second in the list behind Rashid Khan (100 wickets).

Value Picks

Faheem Ashraf

Ashraf is more of a bowler but he can pitch in with some late cameos. With the ball, he is an accurate bowler who swings the ball upfront. He has an economy of a touch over 8 and a strike rate of 17.8 in the format. Ashraf scored 129 runs at a strike rate of 159 and picked up 21 wickets (second highest) in PSL 2019.

Ravi Bopara

Bopara is one of the few allrounders with a positive average difference (batting average – bowling average) among all players with a double of 500-plus runs coupled with 25-plus wickets in the format since 2019. Bopara has 721 runs at an average 40.05 with the bat and has picked up 25 wickets, averaging 25.2 with the ball.

Points to note

Five out of seven T20s in Lahore have been won by the team batting first since 2018. Choose your captain from the team batting first and make the other player your vice-captain.

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Mitchell Marsh joins Middlesex for 2020 Blast



Middlesex have signed Australia allrounder Mitchell Marsh as one of their overseas players for this year’s Vitality Blast. Marsh is expected to be available for the duration of the competition, including the knockout stages if Middlesex qualify.

Marsh enjoyed a productive 2019-20 Big Bash League, scoring 382 runs in 14 games at a strike rate of 145.24, and subsequently being recalled to the Australia T20I set-up for their tour of South Africa. He has also featured for three different teams in the IPL, but this will be his first Blast stint.

Middlesex reached the Blast quarter-finals last year and have retained Afghanistan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman, but Marsh’s signing means that AB de Villiers will not be returning.

“It’s great to have Mitch with us for the Blast this season,” Middlesex’s head coach, Stuart Law, said. “The experience he’s had in different T20 competitions around the world will be a real plus for our dressing room.

“Mitch is a hard-hitting batsman, steady medium fast bowler and athletic in the field. I’m looking forward to seeing the big man contribute to our season in a positive way. As a tremendous team man and such a loveable character, I’m sure he’ll fit in well with our group.”

Marsh, 28, has plenty of experience of playing in England, as part of two Ashes tours and also during the 2013 Champions Trophy. He was due to play county cricket in 2018, having signed for Surrey, but had to pull out of the deal in order to undergo ankle surgery.

“I’m very excited to play for Middlesex in this year’s Vitality Blast,” Marsh said. “The opportunity to play at this great club with an exciting list of players is something I’m very proud of and hopefully we can play some great cricket and entertain the fans along the way.”

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Recent Match Report – Australia Women vs India Women, ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, 1st Match, Group A



India 4 for 132 (Sharma 49*, Jonassen 2-24) beat Australia 115 (Healy 51, Yadav 4-19, Pandey 3-14) by 17 runs

A bewitching spell of wrist-spin bowling from Poonam Yadav sank Australia on the opening night of the T20 World Cup at the Sydney Showgrounds, underlining India’s status as genuine contenders to win a tournament that has heaped untold pressure on the world No. 1-ranked hosts.

In front of a crowd of 13,432 – the best for a standalone women’s cricket match in Australia – the Indians began with familiar bombast at the top of the order before the loss of three wickets for six runs lowered their expectations. Deepti Sharma was not daunted, reverting to plan B of running as many singles as possible and guiding India to a competitive 132.

While Alyssa Healy made a much-needed return to runs and confidence at the top of the Australian order, the rest struggled for timing on a slow, dry surface that proved to be ideally suited to Yadav’s art. A legbreak and three wrong’uns delivered her the wondrous figures of 4 for 19, and with the strong support of Shikha Pandey, Australia were confounded. Having entered 2020 as the world’s undisputed T20 dominators, the hosts have now lost three games out of six and are no guarantee to make the semi-finals.

India boom, then bust

If it was a surprise to see Molly Strano go from missing Australia’s World Cup squad to bowling the first ball of the tournament a couple days after she was a late inclusion for the injured Tayla Vlaeminck. India’s top-order approach after blocking out the offspinner’s exploratory first over was not.

After she was dropped by Strano at midwicket, Smriti Mandhana found the boundary off Ellyse Perry, and Shafali Verma found her range against Megan Schutt, pinging four boundaries as the Indians vaulted to 0 for 40 from four overs.

The Australians knew they needed to maintain composure, and did so through the intervention of the in-form Jess Jonassen, who pinned Mandhana lbw on the slog sweep and was later to be the beneficiary of a foolhardy dance down the pitch by a keyed-up Harmanpreet Kaur and then a fortuitous stumping as the ball rebounded off Healy’s pads. That after Verma had pulled her 15th ball straight to mid-on off Perry to depart for 29 off just 15 balls. Three wickets down for six in 15 balls made the rest of the innings a salvage job.

Sharma keeps her cool

A decidedly sluggish surface at the Sydney Showgrounds recalled some of the desperately slow pitches the Sydney Thunder men’s team had played on at the neighbouring Sydney Olympic Stadium in the early years of the Big Bash League. This meant that it was fiendishly difficult to force the pace against anything but the longest of half-volleys, something Sharma recognised as she sought to pull the innings back from the brink.

Singles were the order of the day, and Sharma was to collect no fewer than 29 of them in her sturdy, unbeaten 49. She received useful support from Jemimah Rodrigues, who had been reprieved from an early lbw decision in Perry’s favour when a review showed the ball sliding past leg stump, and scored 24 runs in singles herself. So while a tally of three boundaries in the final 16 overs of the innings sounds paltry, the approach at least meant that India could reach a couple of runs beyond the average T20I score at the venue.

Healy turns a corner

Nine, one, duck, one, four, nine. That sequence of six sickly innings represented Healy’s run into the T20 World Cup, and left her team hoping as much as expecting that she would be “due” for a big score when the main event began. The fact that the long build-up was finally over had to help Healy’s mind, and she was soon back into the sort of stride that had seen her win the Player of the Tournament in the Caribbean in 2018 and also take out the T20 and ODI Player of the Year trophies at the Australian Cricket Awards earlier this month.

Healy’s power down the ground, along with some deft touch on the cut and glide past short third man, put India’s bowlers on the back foot quickly, and also saw the return to some Australian batting line-up permutations that had not been needed so long as she kept being the first out for her team. Meg Lanning came in at No. 3 in place of Ashleigh Gardner when Beth Mooney cut to backward point, and Rachael Haynes replaced Lanning when she was beaten wonderfully in flight by Rajeshwari Gayakwad.

Yadav’s mayhem

Australia were comfortably placed if not quite dominant when Yadav entered the attack, having not played at all in the triangular series before the Cup proper. Her high, looping legbreaks and googlies provide a tantalising sight for opponents and spectators alike, and Healy was soon teased into a return catch. That was nothing, though, on the sequence of googlies Yadav would present to the middle-order. Haynes was beaten and comfortably stumped, Perry even more comprehensively bowled first ball, and Jonassen’s edge was only millimetres too thick to allow Taniya Bhatia to hang on to.

Nevertheless, another wrong’un soon claimed a slighter deflection and a safe catch for Bhatia, giving Yadav the figures of 4 for 15 from three overs and India control of the contest. More smart work from Bhatia saw Annabel Sutherland stumped off Pandey, and when Harmanpreet brought Yadav back, only the quirk of a second bouncing short ball denied her a fifth wicket. Australia had needed 75 off 66 balls with eight wickets in hand when Yadav came on. By the time she was done, the equation was 28 from 12 with three in hand: the game-changer without doubt.

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