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South Africa rocked after Rohit Sharma 212, Ajinkya Rahane 115

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South Africa 9 for 2 (Shami 1-0, Umesh 1-4) trail India> 497 (Rohit 212, Rahane 115, Linde 4-133) by 488 runs

It’s difficult to see this Test match developing any differently to the previous two in this series.

Full report to follow…





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Shaw, Bhuvneshwar back in action in contrasting styles

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The closing stages of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2019-20 were enlivened by a tight race for the Super League and two prominent names making a comeback in Prithvi Shaw and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Sunday was to be the last day of the league stages for all five groups – A, B, C, D and E – but reschedules have meant there will be seven matches from Groups C, D and E played on Monday. The top two teams from each group will qualify for the Super League, to be followed by semi-finals and the final.

Shaw smacks half-century on comeback

Having served out his eight-month ban for inadvertently consuming a banned substance, Shaw returned to action for Mumbai in the familiar environs of the Wankhede Stadium with 63 off 39 at the top of the order in a Group D match. Assam had to bear the brunt of a Mumbai side smarting from a shock defeat against Meghalaya in their last match.

Mumbai piled up 206 for 5 after being asked to bat, while Assam could muster only 123 for 8.

But while Aditya Tare, Shaw’s opening partner, was the game’s top-scorer, smashing 82 off 48, Shaw was the cynosure. It was his first knock at a representative level since the IPL 2019 Qualifier 2 for Delhi Capitals against Chennai Super Kings on May 10.

He came through the test well, though Assam’s bowling didn’t pose the greatest challenge, hitting six fours and three sixes in his knock. Shaw will now need to build on a successful start to his comeback to challenge for a spot in the Indian team again. In his absence, Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal have established themselves as unquestionably the first-choice openers in the Test team.

Bhuvneshwar makes a solid comeback

Injuries, and team dynamics, have meant Bhuvneshwar has slipped from being a three-format player to one who is looked at primarily for limited-overs cricket. Even with the white ball, Deepak Chahar‘s emergence as a swing bowler of considerable skill has meant Bhuvneshwar’s absence hasn’t quite been an unfillable void.

Before the T20I series against Bangladesh, chief selector MSK Prasad had said, “Bhuvneshwar Kumar might come in the next series.”

Bhuvneshwar took some strides towards an international comeback, making a steady if understated return to competitive cricket. He played his second match in three days for Uttar Pradesh, in Group B. His comeback game was against Manipur on November 15 in Thumba, where he took none for 13 in three overs. Against Kerala in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday, he bowled his full quota of four overs and took 1 for 23.

Kerala made 119 for 8 in 20 overs, but Uttar Pradesh, set a revised target of 44 in seven overs, ended up on 42 for 4, losing by one run. That result had significant ramifications for who ended up qualifying.

Karnataka, Baroda, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Mumbai Haryana qualify

Karnataka, Baroda, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan have qualified for the Super League, with Groups A and B having completed all their matches.

Some matches remain in Group D, but Mumbai and Haryana have already qualified in that group. Mumbai are on 24 points and impregnable. Haryana have 20, with a match against Meghalaya. Even if they lose, there is no other team on 20 points. Puducherry are on 16 and can equal Haryana on points if they beat Madhya Pradesh, but Haryana had won their head to head match against Puducherry.

Both Karnataka and Baroda finished on 20 points in Group A, having five wins and one defeat each, and sailed through comfortably. The going was more tight in Group B. Tamil Nadu were the group leaders with 20 points, but all of Rajasthan, Vidarbha and Kerala finished on 16 points each. They had all beaten each other once, which meant Rajasthan, with a net run-rate of 1.938 qualified ahead of Vidarbha (0.566) and Kerala (0.503).

Two matches that were decided by a margin of just one run in rain-affected games played a part in the Group B table. Vidarbha had beaten Rajasthan by a single run on November 12 despite Chahar’s heroics, and on Sunday, Kerala beat Uttar Pradesh by the same margin. If Kerala hadn’t won, there wouldn’t have been a three-way tie and in that case, Vidarbha would have gone through by virtue of having won their head to head against Rajasthan.

Meanwhile, Rajasthan did all they could to qualify, destroying Tripura in a nine-wicket win. They first restricted Tripura to just 69 for 7 in 20 overs, and then smashed their way to 74 for 1 in five overs, ensuring their net run-rate would be high enough to take them through in case of a three-way tie – which is what happened.

Group C currently has six out of eight teams on 16 points, making the race very right. Two Group C games are still remaining. The winner of Maharashtra v Punjab will straightaway qualify, since they are two of the teams on 16 points. Railways, also on 16, will join in if they can beat Himachal Pradesh in the other game. Himachal have only eight points though, so if they win, it could leave five teams on 16. Punjab have a net run-rate superior to all others, so if they lose to Maharashtra, they’ll still be in position to qualify – should Railways lose. The team with the second highest net run-rate right now is an unlikely one: Chandigarh. It will be quite a story if they qualify.

Jharkhand are on top of Group E, but both Delhi and Jammu & Kashmir are close behind, and the latter two have matches in hand. The next two teams are Gujarat and Odisha, who will also be in action on the final day, which makes Group E’s scenario uncertain till the end.



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Recent Match Report – Paarl Rocks vs Tshwane Spartans, Mzansi Super League, 10th Match

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Tshwane Spartans 188 for 2 (Elgar 88*) beat Paarl Rocks 185 for 6 (Vince 86*, Morkel 2-24) by eight wickets

Tshwane Spartans got their first win of this Mzansi Super League (MSL) with only the second successful chase of the tournament so far. After the Nelson Mandela Bay Stars eased to victory chasing 109 against the Jozi Stars on Saturday, the Spartans made bigger tasks look easy and hunted down a target of 186, with five balls to spare. Their win has taken up to third place on the points table and pushed Paarl Rocks into fourth.

It’s blowing in the wind

While the east coast of the country has been hit by heavy rain, the west has seen strong winds with gusts of up to 50kph over this weekend and it had an effect on the fielders. Six catches were dropped in total, four by the visiting team and two which gave top-scorer James Vince a lifeline.

Henry Davids was on 14 when he was put down at deep square leg, and he went on to score 30. Vince did much more damage. He was first put down on 5 when he miscued a shot off Lungi Ngidi to AB de Villiers at long-off. De Villiers had the ball in his hands but was back-pedaling and heading over the rope so he tossed the ball up, but not high enough that he could get back on the field and complete the catch.

Three overs later, Vince offered a much simpler chance to by Donovan Ferreira at deep midwicket off Roelof van der Merwe but the ball slipped through the hands. Morne Morkel then dropped a return catch off Dwaine Pretorius when the batsman was on 7. He only added two more to his total.

The hosts did not escape the wind either. Isuru Udana had two chances put down – Theunis de Bruyn on 31, who was dropped by Bjorn Fortuin at long-on and de Villiers, on 8, put down by Pretorius at backward square leg. While de Bruyn went on to make 42, de Villiers only scored 19.

Faf v Morne

Watching former team-mates take each other on is part of the fun of T20 franchise cricket and though today was billed as being about Faf du Plessis v de Villiers, it was actually du Plessis v Morne Morkel. The former Titans and South African team-mates were on opposite sides in Paarl and Morkel claimed major bragging rights. He had du Plessis caught at midwicket for a third-ball duck to put the Rocks in early trouble at 45 for 2.

Highest opening partnership of the competition

Who said Dean Elgar and Theunis de Bruyn are red-ball cricketers only? Not us! The Test duo put on the highest opening partnership of the competition so far – 104 runs in 12.2 overs which featured a dynamic array of strokes. De Bruyn cut and pulled well while Elgar was enterprising and aggressive, hitting down the ground and timing and placing the ball well, especially in the air. Elgar was the match’s top-scorer with 88 off 60 balls, including seven fours and two sixes.

Captain Klaasen

The most-scrutinised leadership skills in this competition are Temba Bavuma’s and Quinton de Kock’s as the succession race for the South African national team hots up, but Heinrich Klaasen showed why he also has something to offer as he led from the front to take his side to victory. Klaasen’s cameo of 31 runs off 13 balls featured a reverse-sweep, a straight drive over Tabraiz Shamsi and back-to-back sixes at the end of the 19th over to ensure the Spartans only needed two runs to win off the last six balls.



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Smith apologises to team-mates for dissent charge

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Steven Smith fronted his Australian team-mates to apologise for drawing a dissent charge and fine in the Sheffield Shield as the captain Tim Paine reminded all members of the squad that they need to maintain standards of behaviour “regardless of who we’re playing for”, as they ramped up preparations for the Pakistan Test series.

After a period of more than a year in which the Australian team had earned significant respect for improved behaviour, while being lauded by Cricket Australia’s board for making only one ICC code of conduct transgression – an audible obscenity by Adam Zampa during the World Cup – in 18 months since the Newlands scandal, standards have slipped this season with no fewer than eight code of conduct breaches being recorded across state, second XI and under-age tournaments. The pair of breaches in the last Shield around arrived from two of Australia’s most high-profile players.

In addition to James Pattinson‘s suspension for abusive language while playing for Victoria against Queensland, Smith was fined 25% of his match fee for obvious dissent when given out caught behind while playing for New South Wales against Western Australia at the SCG. At one of the team’s recurring “values” meetings, held at the start of every major assignment since Justin Langer was appointed coach, Smith told his team-mates he was sorry for raising the ire of officials and admitted he needed to improve his body language and conduct when dismissed.

ALSO READ: James Pattinson out of first Test after code of conduct suspension

“I came in and apologised to the group yesterday for getting a code of conduct,” Smith said in Brisbane. “I don’t think there was a great deal in it but I’ve copped it and I have to look at when I get out and the way I sort of conduct myself. I know lots of kids watch me play and watch all of us play and the way we conduct ourselves when we get out as well as when we’re batting.

“So we have to be very mindful of that and sometimes just bite the bullet and just conduct ourselves in, I guess, a better manner at times. Sometimes your emotions can get the better of you out on the field. We’re playing a game [where] everyone is trying to do their best and sometimes that happens.”

The transgressions of Smith and Pattinson underline the fact that occasionally, international players are given to dropping their guard in matches not subject to major international broadcast or media attention, even though all domestic matches are streamed online in their entirety. Smith noted that, within reason, the place for letting out frustrations about a dismissal or decision disagreed with is within the dressing room itself, away not only from cameras but also spectators.

“You’re going to get fines, breach notices or whatever it is, but to be honest, the feeling around the group is enough of a punishment”

Pat Cummins on players staying in line

“When you get behind closed doors, go for your life, do what you need to do to let your frustrations out,” he said. “Within reason – you probably don’t want to punch anything. Mitch Marsh can probably attest to that. We’re Australian players regardless of where we’re playing and what we’re doing. We sign up to values and in our contracts we’ve got a code of conduct there we have to play by. I got pinged and so be it. I felt I should apologise for that.”

Paine said that greater consistency in behaviour across all levels of the game was something that all team members were clear about trying to achieve. “I think it’s more just a reminder that we’ve got to set those standards all the time,” Paine said. “Whether we’re playing for Australia or we’re playing club cricket or we’re playing for our states or we’re not playing cricket, there are standards we set ourselves to live by day in and day out so it’s important we do that whether we’re on the field off the field, regardless of who we’re playing for.

“We’ve had a couple of instances this week but we always revisit them. We did again last night, just to brush up on what’s expected and what we expect of the group. Both of those guys apologised, they know that they fell a little bit short of what we set ourselves in the Test team. And the fact that it’s important that we maintain that when we go back to state cricket and lead the way there. They’re disappointed with that but we are going to keep on top of it and maintain the level that we’ve set so far in the last couple of years.”

Pat Cummins, one of the joint vice-captains, said that more often than not, the knowledge of team-mates that mistakes had been made and values not lived up to provided as stinging a punishment as any fine or ban. “It’s pretty clear how we want to play and go about it and our standards we set ourselves,” he said. “You’re going to get fines, breach notices or whatever it is, but to be honest, the feeling around the group is enough of a punishment. You now when you’ve stepped out of line. He [Pattinson] has owned up to it, he’ll be super remorseful and it’s a good lesson for him to learn.

“We’ve identified five key values, and we just want to stay on top of those, so every few months it’s just trying to talk about them and say ‘what does this look like’. We’ll break up in groups, talk about different values and also it gives us something to measure against that at the end of the series to see how we’re tracking. It’s run by the players, we own it, we know what standards we have to uphold, and it’s a good little reminder and it’s no different for the T20, one-day or Test side, if someone comes in, these are the expectations.”



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