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Match Preview Zimbabwe vs Sri Lanka, 1st Test 2020

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Big Picture

The last time these two teams met, Zimbabwe gave Sri Lanka an almighty scare. Craig Ervine and Sikandar Raza struck hundreds, captain Graeme Cremer took nine wickets, and Sri Lanka were made to chase 388 for victory at Khettarama. Had a very tight stumping decision gone Zimbabwe’s way in the back end of that chase, the visitors would have been headed towards an upset. Earlier on that tour, Zimbabwe had won the ODI series.

It’s been only a little over two years since those series, but how much has changed. The optimism that Zimbabwe ended that tour with has not just dissipated in the time since, it has been replaced by gloom. Having been suspended from full-member rights for a large chunk of 2019, Zimbabwe Cricket has had to put a domestic tournament on hold, pending further funding from the ICC.

On the player front, Cremer is not even in the team, having put his career on hold to move to Dubai with his family, while Hamilton Masakadza has retired and swiftly become Zimbabwe’s director of cricket. PJ Moor – one of the best players from that Khettarama game – has been overlooked for the squad as well. In fact, where that old Zimbabwe squad had a little experience about it, the one that has been named for this series features five players who are uncapped in Tests.

It’s a strange series in which Sri Lanka actually appear to have the more stable outfit. Yes, it is Dimuth Karunaratne leading the Test team now, when it had been Dinesh Chandimal at these teams’ last meeting. But at least Chandimal still finds a place in the XI. Having named their strongest squad, Sri Lanka have serious experience on their side, particularly in Angelo Mathews and Suranga Lakmal, who returns after having missed the entire Pakistan series.

The visitors go in as favourites, but they are far from unbeatable. There are huge questions over Dilruwan Perera‘s ability to lead the spin attack after he went wicketless in Pakistan. The top order has shown flashes of brilliance, but is in no way a consistent or cohesive unit. There are plenty of cricketers playing for their spot, which of course opens up opportunities for Zimbabwe.

Form guide

Zimbabwe LWLDL (completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka LDLWW

In the spotlight

The last time Zimbabwe won a Test, in late 2018, Sean Williams first-innings 88 had led them to 282 in Sylhet – a total that proved decisive on that surface, where each of the three other innings fell short of 200. His left-arm spin has also been helpful, such as against West Indies in Bulawayo, the previous year. Now, as he prepares to captain his first Test, he has the likes of Brendan Taylor, Raza and Ervine to call upon for support, but if he can make his own individual mark on the series, it may help a side playing their first Test in over a year rally behind him, and spark a little of that hope they found in their last encounters with Sri Lanka.

In September 2015, Angelo Mathews batting average was a touch above 52, and he was easily one of the best players in the world. At the start of 2020, his average is 43.87, the lowest it’s been in at least six years. Injuries have plagued him, yes, but even those can’t quite account for how he is now merely a good player, when once he was headed toward “great” status. Although it seems as if he’s been around forever, Mathews is only 32 – the kind of age at which many batsmen come into their most prolific years. In the last few months, he has also dropped a lot of the weight he carried through the last few years and suddenly seems as fit as he’s ever been. Can Mathews recapture the form of old? With a challenging year ahead, Sri Lanka are desperate for someone to lead the middle order as he once did.

Team news

Opener Kevin Kasuza, who has been in decent domestic form for Mountaineers, could be in line for a Test debut. He could be partnered by Rhinos opener Prince Masvaure. Seam bowler Victor Nyauchi is one of several bowlers who could debut, with Tendai Chatara out of the series with a bicep injury. Left-arm spinner Ainsley Ndlovu is uncapped in Tests as well, and could get a run, if Zimbabwe feel they need a specialist spinner in addition to Raza and Williams.

Zimbabwe(possible): 1 Kevin Kasuza, 2 Prince Masvaure, 3 Brendan Taylor, 4 Craig Ervine, 5 Sean Williams (capt.), 6 Sikandar Raza, 7 Regis Chakabva (wk), 8 Donald Tiripano, 9 Victor Nyauchi, 10 Kyle Jarvis, 11 Ainsley Ndlovu

Sri Lanka’s top order should be fairly settled – Lahiru Thirimanne the likeliest to sit out. Lahiru Kumara and Lakmal will most likely share the new ball, while Dilruwan and Lasith Embuldeniya will probably be the frontline spin options.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Dimuth Karunaratne (capt.), 2 Oshada Fernando, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Angelo Mathews, 5 Dinesh Chandimal, 6 Dhananjaya de Silva, 7 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Lasith Embuldeniya, 11 Lahiru Kumara

Pitch and conditions

There’s rain scheduled for the first half of Saturday, with showers predicted for Monday and Tuesday as well. The Harare Sports Club surface is generally good for batting in the first innings.

Stats and trivia

  • Zimbabwe have lost five matches and drawn five at home against Sri Lanka. The most recent of those draws, though, was all the way back in 1999. Their last two matches at the Harare Sports Club against Sri Lanka have ended in 225-run and 257-run defeats.

  • Ervine needs 59 more runs to complete 1000 in Tests. His highest score was the 160 at Khettarama in 2017.

  • Mathews has averaged less than 30 with the bat in three of the last four calendar years.



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Recent Match Report – Kent vs Surrey South Group 2020

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Surrey 161 for 4 (Roy 72, Evans 73) beat Kent 159 for 8 (Billings 50, Plunkett 3-19) by six wickets

Jason Roy‘s first half-century of the summer helped Surrey to confirm top spot in the South Group and lock in a home quarter-final in the Vitality Blast.

Chasing 160 to win – and 127 to ensure they won the group ahead of Kent on net run-rate – Surrey started slowly, losing the in-form Will Jacks early on and with Roy looking out of nick as he struggled towards 18 off 21 balls.

But Roy started to find his rhythm with a flurry of boundaries off Fred Klaassen in the fifth over, and was soon up and running. He was ably supported by Laurie Evans, who has now made 268 runs for twice out in his last four T20 innings after a lean start to the Blast, with their 135-run partnership setting up a convincing victory.

It has been a difficult summer for Roy, who managed only 49 runs in his six ODI innings for England, and missed all of their T20Is due to a side strain. His two previous Surrey appearances had yielded 24 runs in three innings, across the Bob Willis Trophy and the Blast, and he would be the first to admit that things had not gone his way.

“He’s a bit grumpy at the minute, and we’ve lost four golf games in a row, so he’s not speaking to me on the golf course either,” Evans joked. “Me and Jase said it was a wicket that if you bowled well on, it made it quite difficult to score. We took options at the right time and put them under pressure, and I’m glad we got over the line.”

Roy’s best shot came off Imran Qayyum, when he skipped down the pitch to loft the left-arm spinner into the building site to the right of the pavilion, and he reached his half-century with a slash through extra cover off the same bowler.

Evans, meanwhile, appears to have found his groove after a quiet start to the competition. He batted superbly for his 45-ball 73, with a towering six over extra cover off Matt Milnes to bring up his half-century demonstrating his form: he picked a 61mph/98kph slower ball outside off, hung back in his crease, and launched it into the stands with a full extension of his arms. He smote another into the top tier of the pavilion, putting his inexplicable drop of Sam Billings in the first innings to the back of his mind.

Kent’s 159 had appeared a par score on a slow, used pitch, and owed plenty to Billings’ 33-ball 50. After Daniel Bell-Drummond continued his impressive season with a fluent 37 at the top of the order, Kent had begun to stumble in the middle overs with two wickets in as many overs.

Billings drove them up towards a useful total as he extended his form with the bat, taking a particular liking to Jamie Overton, Jacks and Reece Topley, all of whom were hit for two fours in an over, but they ultimately paid for a poor finish.

From 136 for 3 after 16 overs, they failed to hit a boundary off the bat in the final four overs, with Liam Plunkett in particular impressing with a series of cutters and back-of-a-length balls. Kent paid the price, too, for picking an extra batsman: Heino Kuhn and Jack Leaning contributed two runs from four balls between them, while captain Billings had no choice but to give Joe Denly his full four-over allocation.

“Joe Denly has been brilliant with the ball so we get four overs out of him, and Jack Leaning’s also bowled well with his offspin but with two right-handers and the way they were playing, I thought it was a risk to get a couple of overs out of him [today],” Billings said, defending their combination.

“Timmy Groenewald is on the bench at the moment, and maybe that’s something we can look at – that experience, coming into those latter stages might be something to lean on – but I think the boys have done really well in this tournament, and trying to get back to what they were doing, that’s all.”

The fixture also served as a warm-up act for next month’s quarter-final, with the same two teams returning to The Oval on October 1.

Vitality Blast quarter-finals:

Nottinghamshire v Leicestershire
Surrey v Kent
Gloucestershire v Northamptonshire
Sussex v Lancashire
All fixtures to be played on October 1





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Recent Match Report – Somerset vs Gloucestershire Central Group 2020

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Gloucestershire 163 for 8 (Cockbain 89, Sale 3-32, Davey 3-24) beat Somerset 161 for 7 (Gregory 50) by two wickets

Ian Cockbain played the starring role as Gloucestershire eliminated arch-rivals Somerset from the Vitality Blast with a thrilling two-wicket Central Group win in Bristol.

The visitors posted 161 for 7 after winning the toss under cloudless skies, Lewis Gregory hitting 50 and Babar Azam 42. Tom Smith was the pick of the Gloucestershire bowlers with 2 for 25.

In reply, Gloucestershire reached 163 for eight off the final ball of the match, Smith hitting a boundary off Ollie Sale through midwicket. Cockbain had set up the victory with a brilliant 89 off 57 balls, including nine fours and three sixes.

The result meant a home quarter-final for the hosts, while Somerset were left to reflect on a bitterly disappointing campaign.

They were given a brisk start to their innings by Babar and Steve Davies, who took the score to 53 by the end of the fifth over. Davies was timing the ball sweetly but, having moved to 31 off 19 balls, he pulled a catch to deep midwicket off Josh Shaw.

Gloucestershire then applied their customary mid-innings squeeze, taking pace off the ball with left-arm spinners Smith and Graeme van Buuren, well supported by the wily medium pace of Benny Howell.

Somerset could score only 24 runs between the fifth and tenth overs, the last of which from Howell saw Will Smeed caught at mid-off.

Smith removed Tom Abell to a catch at point in the 11th over and in his next claimed the big wicket of Babar, the Pakistan batsman giving a return catch, having faced 35 balls and hit five fours.

Tom Lammonby reverse-swept a catch to deep cover off van Buuren and Somerset were struggling at 105 for 5.

But Gregory supplied much-needed acceleration, hitting the first six of the innings in the 18th over and following up with another maximum over deep square off David Payne. The Somerset skipper also hit four fours in his 28-ball innings. When he fell to the second ball of the final over, his team could add only two off the last four deliveries.

Sale struck a major blow for the visitors by have Chris Dent caught at deep square off the final ball of the second over of Gloucestershire’s reply.

Miles Hammond feathered a catch to wicketkeeper Davies off Josh Davey to make it 20 for 2. That became 27 for 3 when James Bracey mishit a catch to mid-on to give Sale a second wicket.

When Ryan Higgins holed out to deep midwicket off 19-year-old left-arm spinner Lewis Goldsworthy, it was 50 for 4 and much rested on Cockbain, who was looking in dangerously good form.

The first six of the innings was struck by van Buuren off Goldsworthy in the 12th over, but he then fell to a catch at short third-man off Josh Davey.

Cockbain moved to a classy 35-ball half-century, with seven fours. He and Jack Taylor both hit straight sixes off Goldsworthy as the 15th over went for 19 runs.

Taylor then drove a catch to long-off to give Gregory a wicket. Cockbain cleared the ropes again off Sale and Howell hit Gregory for a straight six to leave 24 required from two overs.

Another Cockbain six off Davey made Gloucestershire favourites, but the batsman then cross-batted a catch to long-on.

The last over, bowled by Sale, began with 13 runs needed. Two Howell boundaries followed, but there was another twist then he was caught at long-off.

Three runs were still required when Smith faced the last ball, which he smote over wide long-on for four to loud cheers from Gloucestershire fans in the flats adjoining the ground.

Vitality Blast quarter-finals:

Nottinghamshire v Leicestershire
Surrey v Kent
Gloucestershire v Northamptonshire
Sussex v Lancashire
All fixtures to be played on October 1



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Recent Match Report – Birmingham Bears vs Northamptonshire Central Group 2020

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Northamptonshire 193 for 7 (Taylor 50*, Bresnan 3-25) beat Birmingham Bears 191 for 5 (Hose 119, Mousley 58*) by three wickets

Northants Steelbacks booked their place in the Vitality Blast quarter-finals with a stunning three-wicket victory over Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston, who missed out on the last eight on net run-rate after their defeat.

A wildly fluctuating match was yanked the Steelbacks’ way in the closing stages when a violent assault from debutant Tom Taylor, who hit 50 not out off 26 balls and Graeme White, whose 13-ball 37 included two fours and four sixes, saw them collect an unlikely 73 from the last six overs.

The Bears had posted a hefty 191 for 5 having been rescued from 20 for 4 by a fifth-wicket stand of 171 from 99 balls between Adam Hose and Dan Mousley. Hose blasted his maiden T20 century, making 119 from 64 balls with nine fours and seven sixes, while 19-year-old Mousley struck a T20-best 58 not out.

The Steelbacks reply hit trouble at 28 for 3 and 71 for 6 but Taylor, making his debut after moving across the East Midlands from Leicestershire, and White hit cleanly to see their side home with seven balls to spare.

The Bears chose to bat but the Steelbacks quickly took control by taking two wickets in the third over and two more in the fourth. Taylor’s first ball for Northants was lifted for six by Rob Yates but his second had the batsman caught at mid-on. Will Rhodes was then bowled, first ball.

Ben Sanderson followed up with two quickfire blows with successive balls as Bears linchpin Sam Hain was trapped lbw and Michael Burgess edged to Richard Levi at slip.

That was 20 for 4 but Hose and Mousley rebuilt, first carefully and then with increasing aggression. Hose reached 50 from 37 balls and then galloped to his century in just another 17 balls to become the third Bears T20 century-maker alongside Brendon McCullum and Ian Bell. Mousley played the perfect supporting role, posting his maiden T20 half-century from 37 balls.

Northants’ reply suffered early damage as three wickets fell in the first 20 balls. Jake Lintott was involved in them all, taking smart catches to remove Richard Levi and Adam Rossington off Tim Bresnan and ousting Josh Cobb via a catch by Mousley at extra cover. Lintott swooped again, this time at mid on, to dismiss Procter to leave Bresnan with 3 for 16 from his first three overs.

Paul Stirling’s dangerous innings – 38 off 23 balls – was ended by a gloved pull at Liam Norwell and when Saif Zaib became the fourth batsmen caught by Lintott, the Steelbacks were 71 for 6.

But Taylor and Rob Keogh clubbed a stand of 69 in 34 balls to keep their side in contention and then White arrived to crown a stunning fightback with a blitz of boundaries to seal the Steelbacks’ place in the last eight.

For the Bears, meanwhile, there was heartbreak, not least for club legend Jeetan Patel whose great Warwickshire career, which brought so much joy and success, had concluded with a devastating defeat.

Vitality Blast quarter-finals:

Nottinghamshire v Leicestershire
Surrey v Kent
Gloucestershire v Northamptonshire
Sussex v Lancashire
All fixtures to be played on October 1



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