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Somerset accept 2020 points deduction over ‘poor’ pitch

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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.”



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Recent Match Report – Essex vs Sussex South Group 2020

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Essex 197 for 5 (Lawrence 81) beat Sussex 185 for 8 (Thomason 47) by 12 runs

Dan Lawrence‘s best outing of the summer inspired Essex to a tight 12-run victory at Hove, giving them their first T20 win of the season to take them off the foot of the South Group table.

Lawrence’s flamboyant 44-ball 81 included six fours and as many sixes as he led the Essex charge on a good batting pitch, before he took two crucial wickets in his only over just as Sussex had started to find a foothold in their run-chase.

Defeat sees Sussex squeezed out of top spot by Kent, and they now face a battle to qualify with a resurgent Surrey finding form as the group stage enters its final week. Essex’s first win keeps their title defence alive mathematically, but they will need to string together a series of wins while hoping results elsewhere go their way.

In truth, this has not been the breakthrough summer that Lawrence had hoped for after his stellar form for England Lions in Australia in the spring, where he made 493 runs including 125 against Australia A at the MCG.

When he left that tour, it seemed like the only question surrounding his impending international debut was the format it would come in, but with Covid-19 disrupting England’s plans, he has largely been relegated to bench duties this summer. After weeks locked in hotels and carrying drinks, he left the bubble early following the death of his mother, and has struggled for runs back in county cricket, with only 57 runs in five Blast innings before today.

And there was no sign from Lawrence’s first few balls of what was to come, as he played and missed, then offered a half-chance for a caught-and-bowled in the second over, a wicket maiden by Ollie Robinson which accounted for Cameron Delport. With Adam Wheater absent due to family reasons, the emphasis was on him to make a worthwhile contribution.

But he was soon up and running, shimmying down the pitch and over to the off side to cart the first ball of Robinson’s second over through wide mid-on for six before skipping down to whip him over the pavilion at midwicket four balls later.

Luke Wright threw the ball to his left-arm spinner Danny Briggs after that onslaught, hoping he could turn it away from the bat and beat the edge, but Lawrence was not in the mood to push and prod. Instead, he gave himself room to chip over extra cover, before hitting three towering sixes over mid-on.

Two further boundaries off Tymal Mills – a wristy cut and a straight drive – took him to 47 off 18 balls by the time the Powerplay was over. In fact, by the time he had chipped Mills’ slower ball to mid-off in the 13th to finish with 81 off 44 balls, his scoring had started to slow down.

Lawrence was ably supported by Tom Westley, whose 39 was characteristically attractive, while Michael Pepper and Simon Harmer’s late flurry – they added 45 for the sixth wicket in the final four overs – was vital to a total of 195 after Delray Rawlins’ tight spell had tightened things up in the middle.

Sussex were hampered by a blow to Ollie Robinson diving in the field – he recovered sufficiently to bowl one over at the death – and a knock to Mills, who went off at the end of the 18th as a precaution after feeling pain in his back. They were also left to rue the absence of Chris Jordan, who has flown to the UAE ahead of the IPL after playing their last two matches, while Phil Salt – in the England bubble – was a big miss in the run-chase.

In Salt’s place, Aaron Thomason came in as a makeshift opener, and struggled for timing in an innings of 47. One of the oddities of behind-closed-doors cricket is that players become commentators, and his innings was punctuated by regular shouts of “rate’s going up, boys”, “top edge coming, straight up here” and “15 off 17 in the Powerplay” from Westley.

With Thomason out of sorts, Sussex relied on Rawlins – who has quietly thrived on additional responsibility this season in the middle order – to provide the impetus on his 23rd birthday as the rate climbed. He made his intentions clear by nailing a sweep through wide long-on off Aron Nijjar’s left-arm spin, before lofting Harmer down the ground for six and chipping two more just out of boundary riders’ reach in the 13th.

But Lawrence immediately delivered a breakthrough with the first ball he bowled, as Rawlins attempted to reverse-lap over the keeper’s head but only managed to find short third man. Thomason holed out when cramped for room from round the wicket in the third over, and crucially, Sussex had two new batsmen at the crease.

One of those was Ravi Bopara, playing against Essex for the first time after 415 matches for them. Bopara’s Sussex career is yet to take off, with a top score of just 18 to date. In fact, head coach Jason Gillespie found himself defending his new signing on Twitter this week after criticism from a vicar; he will have to hope that the reverend keeps the faith, after Bopara holed out to long-on for 7.

David Wiese has regularly delivered wins from unlikely situations this season, but the equation proved beyond him as the rate climbed: he found Harmer at long-off from a Sam Cook full toss with 30 needed off the last two overs, and took any residual hope with him.



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IPL 2020 – Will leaving out Chris Gayle give Kings XI Punjab better balance?

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Where they finished in 2019: Sixth, tied on points with Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad (12 each), but behind both on net run-rate.

Potential XI: Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (capt & wk), Nicholas Pooran, Glenn Maxwell, Mandeep Singh, Sarfaraz Khan, K Gowtham, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Mohammed Shami, Sheldon Cottrell, Ravi Bishnoi

Batting: If the Kings XI take the bold call of having a first XI without Chris Gayle, they might just achieve a better balance in the side. Their two best overseas batsmen are Nicholas Pooran and Glenn Maxwell, and they’ll need their other two overseas spots for bowlers.

A top order that has KL Rahul alongside Pooran and Maxwell is one that is capable of taking pitches and conditions out of the equation. Both Rahul and Pooran have the ability to shift gears seamlessly and bat deep, while Maxwell provides the ballast.

Sarfaraz Khan can be a powerful finisher too. He was in top form in the Ranji Trophy, and with the IPL originally scheduled right after that tournament, the timing was perfect. That he has the talent has never been in doubt, but it remains to be seen if Khan has managed to keep his fitness and training on track during the extended break. If he has, that batting line-up looks very powerful indeed.

The expected slowness of pitches in the UAE should not be as much of a factor for this Kings XI batting group that is adept at tackling both pace and spin.

Bowling: Kings XI have an above-average spin department, led by Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who is coming off an excellent CPL, where he was the second-highest wicket-taker and gave up runs at just 5.29. That means he’s got a lot of game-time and a lot of recent experience of bowling on tired pitches that host a number of matches in a short time-frame, and both could be key points at the IPL.

The all-round talents of K Gowtham should see him be part of the attack too, while Sheldon Cottrell brings in the left-arm element and should take the new ball alongside Mohammed Shami.

Kings XI have the exciting Ravi Bishnoi, who set the Under-19 World Cup alight with his legspin, to throw in the mix too, and other spin options in M Ashwin and Harpreet Brar.

But, while Ishan Porel is a good addition, the rest of the back-up seamers are pretty raw and untested. If Shami can’t make the XI for whatever reason, Kings XI will be hard-pressed for options to replace him.

Another area they might struggle in is death bowling. They have Chris Jordan, but including him would mean no room for Cottrell, who is a greater wicket-taking threat.

Young player to watch out for: The highest wicket-taker at the Under-19 World Cup at the start of this year, Bishnoi drew widespread admiration at the tournament. He has proven difficult to score off, while also being a constant wicket-taking threat with loop, drift, a wicked googly. Bishnoi turned 20 a couple of weeks before the IPL’s start, and this could be among the best opportunities he gets. He’ll have the advantage of conditions, with pitches expected to be slow and likely to be subjected to unprecedented wear and tear. He’ll also have the advantage of working under Anil Kumble, a different type of legspinner to Bishnoi but one who knows more about the art than most in the world. Whether Bishnoi gets a long enough run remains to be seen, but the setting is ideal for the exciting young legspinner.

Coaching staff: Anil Kumble (head coach), Andy Flower (assistant coach), Wasim Jaffer (batting coach), Jonty Rhodes (fielding coach), Charl Langeveldt (bowling coach)



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Recent Match Report – Hampshire vs Kent South Group 2020

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Kent 183 for 2 (Crawley 108*) beat Hampshire 182 for 6 (Fuller 50*, Vince 48) by eight wickets

Zak Crawley continued his love affair with the Ageas Bowl as he smashed his maiden Vitality Blast century to propel Kent to victory over Hampshire.

England star Crawley notched a Test 256 last month at the ground and sustained his fine form with an outrageous unbeaten 108. His 14 fours and two sixes saw Kent return to winning ways with an eight-wicket win, as they chased down an imposing 182 with 17 balls to spare.

Along with his England feats, Crawley had scored a Bob Willis Trophy century against Hampshire at Canterbury last week, partnered with 196 in his six previous Blast innings.

Those factors equalled an inevitable flurry of runs, but the manner of his century was jaw-dropping.

He showed his intent by drilling Shaheen Shah Afridi through the covers off his first delivery and barely slowed down.

Daniel Bell Drummond contributed 12 before he was caught at short third man, but Crawley hardly blinked as he hit Chris Wood for a four and six off the start of the next over. His half-century arrived in only 26 balls, with a boundary through mid-wicket – his seventh four.

Crawley peppered boundaries to every angle of the ground, with his wagon-wheel leaving very few blank spaces.

A stunning cover drive and six off his legs off Afridi rockets mesmerised before his hundred, the ninth in Kent T20 history, was brought up with a sweep in 48 balls.

Joe Denly simply ticked along at the other end as the duo put on 121 before the all-rounder picked out long-on.

Heino Kuhn came in to waltz Kent over the line with 19 not out, but it was Crawley who led his side off to rapturous applause from his team-mates.

ALSO READ: Bell-Drummond: ‘T20 is moving forward, I don’t want to be left behind’

Hampshire won’t have felt like they had bowled too badly, and would have been happy at the halfway point after James Vince‘s 48 and James Fuller‘s half-century.

Vince had failed in his two appearances since returning from the birth of his second child, but despite initially struggling to time the ball he quickly looked back to his free-flowing best.

He lost opening partner Tom Alsop, stumped to the fourth ball of the match, but quickly rebuilt with Sam Northeast – the pair putting on 82 for the second wicket.

Both targeted the short boundary on the Nursery Ground side, although Vince gained a life on 21 when he was spilt by Denly at deep cover.

Northeast pumped a full toss for a square maximum but departed for a 28-ball 34 when he was caught at long-on.

Vince fell reverse sweeping Imran Qayyum straight to short third man, before Joe Weatherley upped the run-rate again with a quick-fire 17 – which included an audacious switch hit into the stands.

Hampshire looked on course for a good score, but Fuller and Lewis McManus made sure they set a very competitive total.

Fuller waited just four balls before he swung down the ground for a six, but it was Matt Milnes’ 19th over that sent his strike-rate into the stratosphere.

Two fours were quickly followed by back-to-back monsters into the Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie Stand as the penultimate over went for 23.

McManus was run out on 15 from six balls after a 47-run stand and Ian Holland was caught and bowled first ball, but Fuller brought up his 23-ball fifty with a six to the long side of the ground off the final ball of the innings. Crawley, however, made mincemeat of the chase.



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