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Recent Match Report – Derbyshire vs Essex, Twenty20 Cup (England), 2nd Semi-Final



Essex 160 for 5 (Delport 55, Reece 2-24) beat Derbyshire 126 (Harmer 4-19, Nijjar 3-26) by 34 runs

Simon Harmer hadn’t had a particularly rewarding Blast season. Unstoppable in the Championship, he had generally become a mere mortal over 20 overs. Then Derbyshire, in their first T20 Finals Day, had to contend with him on a turning Edgbaston pitch and the story changed as his destructive display pointed Essex towards a comprehensive victory and added another satisfying memory to an outstanding summer.

Harmer has been Essex’s Championship showstopper: his 78 wickets at 18.12 are the prime reason why they have a title showdown with Somerset at Taunton next week. As Essex’s captain in the Blast, however, he had mustered 10 wickets all season and disappeared for nine an over. He was just another player hoping that Edgbaston might look favourably upon him.

All that changed in a second semi-final in which Derbyshire succumbed meekly on a turning surface, falling 34 runs short of Essex’s challenging 160 for 5. They didn’t play spin particularly well, and a couple of their dismissals could fairly be described as naïve, but when it comes to facing Harmer they are not alone in that charge.

Harmer finished with 4 for 19, his tranquillity never threatened, and he had quite an ally, too, in Aron Nijjar, a 24-year-old left-arm spinner from Romford, who had the onerous task of replacing the modish Australian leggie Adam Zampa on Finals Day in only his second Twenty20 match, conceded 14 runs in his first four balls, but lived to tell a glorious tale as Essex won a T20 semi-final at the fifth attempt.

Harmer and Nijjar took three wickets apiece in the space of 58 balls, five of them hitting the stumps. When the sixth batsman to perish, Alex Hughes, was lured down the pitch by Nijjar and stumped, so fell Derbyshire’s top-scorer, on 23. There was another wicket for a spinner, too, when Dan Lawrence bowled Fynn Hudson-Prentice.

Harmer’s first ball jolted Derbyshire, their captain, Billy Godleman, the second batsmen to fall as he turned one sharply to hit the left-hander’s off stump. He repeated the dose in his third over against Leus du Plooy, another left-hander, another delivery that turned big. Next ball, Anuj Dal, determined to use his feet, ran at one and was bowled through the gate. His last wicket was Daryn Smit, who tried to reverse sweep him past two fielders at backward point, the most befuddled shot of all.

“I’m used to seeing the ball disappear so it’s nice to bowl on something that suits me,” Harmer said. Essex started their Blast campaign in the South Group so badly that they have essentially been playing knockout cricket for six matches, knowing that one more defeat would be fatal, and the knowledge has improved them.

Nijjar will attract less attention, but his contribution was, in a way, all the more remarkable because he had not bowled a single delivery in Essex 1st XI cricket all season. His last game of note was a 2nd XI match against Hampshire at Southampton in the first week of August. When Wayne Madsen sniffed vulnerability and struck him for 4-6-4 in his first four balls, things looked ominous; for him to then bowl Madsen round his legs, trying to sweep, was a crucial response.

Derbyshire were the last of the 18 counties to reach Finals Day and for all but the most committed follower of county cricket they could hardly have been more of an unknown quantity. Names did not as much trip off the tongue as go clean out of the mind. Obscurity, for a few hours at least, was in vogue. A side that reached the final stages by toppling Lancashire at Old Trafford were clearly capable of being better than the sum of their parts, and they will be deflated by their display.

Essex took command with an opening stand of 78 in 8.1 overs, Cameron Delport the dominant factor. His 55 from 31 balls gave him 408 runs for the tournament and the highest strike rate, at 172.15, of any of the 13 batsmen who had passed that 400-run mark. He might have fallen early, a leg-side swing against Logan van Beek falling safely when he was only 6, but his strokeplay became increasingly daunting until he deposited Hughes to long-off.

Once Delport had been silenced, Derbyshire shook themselves down and gradually got back into the match on a grippy surface that suited their medium-paced mix. Lawrence, who has grown into the T20 format this season by adopting a more aggressive approach, made little impact as he carved Hughes’ knuckle ball to third man; Ryan ten Doeschate, lbw to Luis Reece’s offcutter, also missed out.

Tom Westley, Delport’s opening partner, played the other innings of substance, 39 from 34 balls, although he, too, had fortune on his side, on 13, when van Beek failed to throw him out from mid-on. Westley’s departure to Reece at deep backward square leg preceded a problematic finish for Essex as they failed to find the boundary for 37 deliveries, from Ravi Bopara’s third-man dab off Reece to Adam Wheater’s square drive four balls from the end when Ravi Rampaul narrowly missed his yorker.

Bopara has crabbed all season about batting as a finisher at No. 6, and who found himself up at five for Finals Day. His scoring rate in the closing overs has been spectacular, justifying his place in the order, but it was a more restrained Bopara (28 from 23 balls when a ramp shot went awry) who guided then to 160 for 5. It was easily enough.

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Coronavirus newsfile: Cricket Ireland receives provisional approval to start limited club training



June 6

Cricket Ireland has received provisional approval from sports and health authorities for club cricket to move a step closer to limited training in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

However, restarting activity at club level is dependent on when the Irish government and the Northern Ireland Executive plan their next phase of reopening, according to a release, and that the clubs undertake pre-opening protocol compliance measures. The board had made its submission to both the governments on May 22 seeking approval to restart activity.

“This means that Provincial Unions and clubs can actively progress their COVID-19 safety preparation work in anticipation of each Government’s progression to Phase 2 / Step 2 of respective roadmaps to reopening,” a board release said.

In the first stage, Cricket Ireland will make “information packs” and resources available to all clubs across the country starting next week which will include checklists and advice regarding training practices that comply with social distancing and health protocols. “Our priority from the outset was to take a safety-first approach – to ensure the health of players, coaches, volunteers and families,” Warren Deutrom, Cricket Ireland CEO, said.

“With this in mind, it’s important that we remind our club and grassroots family that the 20km radius rule still applies to club cricketers, and that the ability to restart training depends upon being able to comply with the protocols. We fully understand that it won’t feel like normal, and there will be more work than usual to implement and properly monitor hygiene protocols and social distancing, but we are sure everyone recognises their role in controlling the spread of the virus and protecting the vulnerable in our community.

“There will undoubtedly be some details still to resolve during implementation, but we will provide advice on issues as they arise. If we work together on meeting these protocols, then we can begin to look towards an eventual resumption of competitive matches later in the roadmap – a scenario that seemed very distant to many just a few weeks ago.”

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Anju Jain, Devika Palshikar to take charge of Baroda women



Former India captain Anju Jain and allrounder Devika Palshikar have been appointed on the Baroda women’s coaching staff after their contracts as the head coach and the assistant coach of the Bangladesh women’s team expired in early March following the Women’s T20 World Cup. While Jain will be in charge of batting and wicketkeeping at Baroda, Palshikar will be looking after the bowling and fielding departments.

ESPNcricinfo understands the Baroda Cricket Association (BCA) had formally approached Jain and Palshikar last month after non-communication on the part of Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) left the Indian pair without any clarity on their future with Bangladesh. The BCA finalised both appointments at its apex council meeting on Tuesday, where the decision to remove Atul Bedade as the head coach was also taken, “considering the sensitivity” of the sexual-harassment allegations levelled at him by the players which had led to his suspension in March.

“It was a [conscious] decision by the Association and the management to bring in female coaches in Anju Jain and Devika Palshikar for the women’s team of Baroda,” Rajkuvardevi Gaekwad, the Baroda women’s selection committee chief, told ESPNcricinfo. “Besides, we had been trying to rope in Anju for the past three years and were on the verge of finalising our talks with Devika in 2018, when the evening before she was due to hear from us, the BCB confirmed her appointment, so our plans never worked out. This time they did, and we are happy that we could get such vastly experienced coaches as Anju and Devika on board for specific disciplines.”

Under Jain and Palshikar, Bangladesh lifted their maiden multi-team title, in June 2018, by defeating heavyweights India at the Women’s Asia Cup final in Kuala Lumpur. However, they failed to win any matches in the T20 World Cups in 2018 and 2020. The coaching staff were due to be part of a review meeting with the BCB officials after the last edition in Australia but, according to Jain, they have not yet heard from the board.

“Before we – Devika, Kavita Pandya [the trainer], and I – returned to India, we spoke to the BCB CEO [Nizamuddin Chowdhury], who had kindly agreed to hold a meeting with us and other board officials about our performance at the World Cup because we, as the coaching and support staff, needed to address to a few concerns from our side and they, too, needed to have their internal meeting, which sounded fair enough,” Jain said. “But, unfortunately, we never had that meeting nor did we get any clarity from the board [about our future with the Bangladesh team].

“It has, however, been a positive and learning experience working with the players because they have been pretty open to the changes we tried to bring about in training and practice; they have given their best.”

The BCB, meanwhile, is understood to not have been keen on renewing Jain and Pashikar’s contracts although there has been no official announcement from the board yet. The fate of Pandya, too, remains unclear.

“Their contract with the BCB ended in March and had no obligation or commitment with us,” Touhid Mahmood, the women’s wing manager of the board, said. “They didn’t contact us, and we learnt about it (their new job) through the media. Our process of looking for a new coach is in place, but we have been slowed down by the current [Covid-19] pandemic.”

Jain and Palshikar, whose previous coaching stints on the domestic circuit were with Vidarbha and Goa respectively, underlined that their job at Baroda has to start with creating an environment of trust in the wake of the allegations around Bedade.

“I’ve been a firm believer that appointment of coaches — for men’s or women’s teams — has to be based on merit and passion, not gender,” Jain said. “That said, there’s no denying that given it’s unfortunate what’s happened, our work with the Baroda girls would begin with rebuilding the trust there should be between a coach and his or her players because that’s key to any team’s performance.”

Palshikar echoed Jain, adding that their appointments could also offer an evolved perspective on prevailing gender-biases around coaching in India. “I think for a coach as respected as Anju di and my being approached as a unit and coming together [to train a domestic side] after our time with a national team should help administrators and players [in India] look past any debates [inclined towards favouring male coaches] because of the gender factor. Labelling all male coaches as [morally] bad for women’s teams because they are ‘male’ is as unreasonable as labelling women’s coaches as being incapable or inferior to men because of their gender. Prevalent as the latter outlook especially is, both need a re-look into.”

With additional reporting by Mohammad Isam

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Michael Holding: Absence of Bravo, Hetmyer and Paul ‘unfortunate’ for West Indies



Michael Holding, the broadcaster and former West Indies fast bowler, has said the decisions of Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer and Keemo Paul to opt out of touring England were “unfortunate”, if understandable because of concerns over the Covid-19 situation in the UK.

Earlier this week, West Indies announced a 25-man party to travel for three rearranged Tests against England next month. CWI had previously given guarantees that players would not be forced to go on the tour if they were not comfortable with the safety provisions being put in place. Johnny Grave, CWI’s chief executive, told ESPNcricinfo that Bravo, Hetmyer and Paul all expressed fears about how going to the UK could adversely affect their families.

Speaking in an interview for his YouTube channel, Holding said that while he would not blame any of the players for making that choice, their talents would be missed as West Indies seek to defend the Wisden Trophy.

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“The West Indies board, before they were even confirming the tour, had told everyone and the entire public that they would not be forcing anyone to go on this tour,” Holding said. “If any player decided they weren’t absolutely sure about going on tour, they weren’t confident of proceedings they could opt out. And these three guys have opted out.

“I think it’s unfortunate as far as West Indies cricket is concerned. I’m not going to tell anyone that they should be going to England because Covid-19 is around, someone may get sick or even worse. But at the same time I think it’s unfortunate for the West Indies team because these guys have quite a bit of talent, and they’ll be missed.”

Holding made special mention of Bravo, who was dropped for West Indies’ one-off Test against Afghanistan in November, and Hetmyer. Both batsmen were members of the side that beat England 2-1 at home in 2018-19.

Bravo, 31, only returned to the international set-up for that series, after more than two years on the sidelines because of a dispute with the board, and Holding has previously described him as “too talented to be left out”.

“I’m sorry that Bravo in particular isn’t going because Bravo, I think, needs to resuscitate his career,” Holding said. “He started off so brilliantly, everybody thought he was going to be another great West Indian batsman. He hasn’t really fulfilled that. I think the more cricket he can play now, especially for West Indies, the better chance he has of getting back on track and showing everyone the great player that he could be.

“Hetmyer, again, I think he’s a very, very talented player. I think people have heard me talk about him in the past. Again, I’m sorry that he’s not going so that he can get more opportunity to express himself. But I ain’t blaming them for not going.”

Ian Bishop, another former West Indies quick turned commentator, echoed the view that declining to tour should not be held against the trio.

“You have to give players the option because it’s a world health crisis,” Bishop told the Trinidad Express. “If a player decides he does not want to take that health risk, you can’t hold it against him in this context. The players know they are taking a risk if someone who replaced them goes on to have great success. That’s a chance you take.”

West Indies are due to depart the Caribbean on Monday, boarding a specially chartered flight to the UK. On arrival, they will go into quarantine for 14 days before beginning their preparations in Manchester. The first Test is scheduled to begin on July 8 at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, followed by two matches at Emirates Old Trafford, with the whole series taking just three weeks to complete.

The West Indies squad will remain within a “bio-secure bubble” for the duration of their visit, as part of ECB efforts to ensure international cricket during England’s home window, but Holding suggested the experience shouldn’t be viewed as “too much of a hardship” for the tourists.

“I think it’s good. Everyone has been hoping to get back to live sport, because they’ve been watching a lot of recordings – they want to get back to live sport, and cricket in particular,” he said. “Cricket is a game played over quite a few days, so you can get involved in the game, get distracted from other problems or issues that might be going on in life. So it’s good to see cricket is back.

“I’m not too sure about the confinement. They might be confined in one venue, yes, in a hotel, but I wouldn’t really call that confinement, if you think of what’s been happening around the world with the Covid pandemic, because people have been confined to their apartments, a very, very small area. So being confined to one venue, I don’t think that’s too much of a hardship.”

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