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Travis Head or Marcus Stoinis – who will your captain be?

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January 22: Adelaide Strikers v Melbourne Stars in Adelaide

Our XI: Alex Carey, Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Jake Weatherald, Jonathan Wells, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Rashid Khan, Adam Zampa, Peter Siddle, Liam O’Connor

NOTE: Zampa and Handscomb return for the Stars and Carey for the Strikers after Australia’s tour of India.

Captain: Travis Head

Head’s 79 in his last game against the Hurricanes was a top knock, but since he has joined the Strikers’ set-up he has been among the wickets as well, with three wickets so far while trying his hand at opening the bowling. Among the big-hitters on view in this game, Head is a risky as well as sensible choice for captain.

Vice-captain: Glenn Maxwell

The first time the two teams met this season, Maxwell hit most the of Strikers bowlers out of sight during a 25-ball 43. He’s lost a bit of shine in the past few games, but being a good player against spin, he could be the man to counter the threat of the in-form Rashid Khan and Liam O’Connor.

Hot picks

Rashid Khan

With 16 wickets in the bag including a hat-trick in Adelaide this season, do you really need a reason to pick Khan?

Marcus Stoinis

BBL’s leading run-scorer so far is another unmissable pick. He comes into the game on the back of a 37-ball 62 against the Sydney Sixers and, really, could be an option for captain for this game too.

Adam Zampa

The bowlers have ruled the roost in the past three games in Adelaide and in Zampa, the Stars have Australia’s best bowler from the India ODI series. He could create a bit of havoc.

Value picks

Liam O’Connor: In the worst ten-wicket collapse in BBL history, when the Strikers shot the Brisbane Heat out, the chief wrecker was Liam O’Connor, who surprised the batsmen with his deceptive legbreaks. That game was at the same venue, so you simply can’t ignore him.

Jake Weatherald: Without Haris Rauf in the side, the Stars bowlers look a bit out of shape and Weatherald, who has a strike rate of 142 in the season so far, will be eager to dominate. He’s been the Strikers’ second-highest run-getter behind Wells, and his explosive opening combination with Phil Salt could prove decisive.

Point to note

The last three BBL games in Adelaide have been low-scoring encounters, so take a punt on your bowlers and middle-order batsmen.



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Cricket

England should be proud of ensuring the show did go on

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Chris Silverwood, England’s head coach, says that his team should be proud of their role in ensuring that the show went ahead this summer, despite their disappointment at losing out to Australia in a thrilling finish to the men’s international season on Wednesday night.

Against all the odds, England completed their full schedule of 18 international fixtures this summer, thanks to the ECB’s innovative use of bio-secure environments at Emirates Old Trafford and the Ageas Bowl, as well as the players’ willingness to subject themselves to lengthy periods in isolation.

And for that reason, Silverwood believes that the bigger picture must take precedence over the minutiae of England’s three-wicket defeat in the decider at Old Trafford, a result that deprived them of a clean sweep of trophies this summer, and ended the world champions’ five-year unbeaten run in home ODI series.

“We look back with a lot of pride to be honest,” he said. “It’s always disappointing to lose. But if you put it in perspective, you go back to April when we were all wondering if we’d get cricket on, to actually play a full international calendar and to be taking part in some fantastic games is nothing short of exceptional.

“I think a lot of credit needs to go to all those people involved in that whether that be players, staff, ECB, the hotels, grounds – everybody involved who has made this happen because it’s been absolutely fantastic. I think cricket as a whole has won.”

ALSO READ: Aussies burst England’s bubble on long road to 2023

England looked to have won as well, when Australia slumped to 73 for 5 in reply to a daunting target of 303, a situation that appeared to worsen when Alex Carey, on 9, holed out to third man, only to be reprieved when the third umpire signalled that Jofra Archer had overstepped.

From that point onwards, Carey and Glenn Maxwell wrested control of the contest, each posting centuries in a magnificent record-breaking stand of 212 – albeit with a few further slices of luck, notably when Jos Buttler reprieved Maxwell on 44.

And though there was another late surge of belief from England, as they prised out both men to take the contest into the final over, they would this time be made to pay for their errors. Mitchell Starc duly finished the game with the same aplomb as he had begun it, cracking 11 not out from three balls to go alongside his two-in-two at the top of England’s own innings, to seal the series with two balls to spare.

“We won’t be getting too down about it,” Silverwood said. “There are things we can work on – fielding is one thing we’ve started pushing coming into this series and we need to continue to work on that because we can always improve.

“But it was a hard-fought series to be honest, two good teams going at each other and it’s provided some really entertaining cricket. We’ve seen some exceptional individual performances in there and we saw an exceptional partnership between two players and they won the game for them. Sometimes you’ve got to say well done to the opposition.”

A further positive for England came in the challenge provided by Old Trafford’s surfaces, which were a far cry from the belters on which England honed their hard-hitting strategies ahead of the 2019 World Cup.

In spite of the 2-1 defeat, England’s skills with bat and ball held up well in conditions that were similar to those they might face in India in 2023. However, as Silverwood acknowledged, a certain degree of ruthlessness was lacking, perhaps understandably, given both the summer’s strange circumstances, and the obvious comedown from the highs of 2019.

“I think the passion is there, the desire is still there, so I think it will come from within,” he said. “The wicket for the first two games was a difficult wicket, it’s not the type of wicket we’re used to playing on with our expansive game. So that was a different challenge for us.

“It certainly wasn’t through any lack of effort or passion, but I don’t think we have performed at our best,” he added. “There’s a few more gears in there for us and we’ve got to continually strive to improve and keep pushing the boundaries because the last thing I want is for the guys to go into their shell.

“I want them to come out of it more. If we get pushed, we want to push back harder, we want to break records. It’s what these guys do, they don’t know what limits are, so we’ll just keep trying to create an environment where they feel they’ll break records.”

In the medium- to long-term, however, that environment may have to be very similar to the one that the players have just endured. For as Silverwood acknowledged, there is no obvious end in sight to the pandemic, and no certainty as to whether their winter tours of South Africa in December and India and Sri Lanka in the new year will be able to take place as scheduled.

“There’s quite a bit up in the air but we’re hopeful,” said Silverwood. “We’re learning every day of how we deal with Covid and hopefully if we continue to do that, we’ll play. But [the bubble] has been successful here and if we can do it so can other countries. Getting cricket on everywhere around the world is what we all want.”



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IPL 2020 – IPL-bound England players counselled to be on guard against burn-out by Chris Silverwood

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England’s IPL-bound players have been cautioned by Chris Silverwood, their head coach, to keep checking in with the management to guard against burn-out, as they prepare to swap a summer of bio-secure bubbles in England for another seven-week stint in Abu D, Dubai, Sharjah between September 19 and November 10

A total of 11 England players will feature in this year’s competition, which gets underway in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, including seven of the men who were involved in the recent T20I and ODI series against Australia.

Eoin Morgan, the England captain, will be linking up with Kolkata Knight Riders, alongside Tom Banton, while Jos Buttler, Tom Curran and Jofra Archer are headed for Rajasthan Royals’ bubble, where they will be joined by Australia’s captain Steve Smith, and potentially Ben Stokes as well, although he is currently in New Zealand for personal reasons.

ALSO READ: England should be proud of ensuring show did go on – Silverwood

Moeen Ali (Bangalore), Jonny Bairstow (Sunrisers) and Sam Curran (Super Kings) are among the other England players who picked up deals for this year’s tournament. They are among a total of 21 IPL-bound players – including ten members of the Australian camp – who will land in the UAE on a specially chartered flight from Manchester on Thursday evening, before splitting off into their respective franchises.

And speaking in the wake of England’s three-wicket defeat in the third ODI at Emirates Old Trafford – where Australia claimed the series 2-1 – Silverwood said he was realistic about both the financial and the competitive imperatives of taking part in such a competition, but encouraged his players to exercise caution.

“It’s their decision really … but we’ll have to keep an eye on them,” he said. “Obviously, the contracts are good for them but equally as well we’re looking forward at a T20 World Cup. The more high-class T20 they can play will be a good thing for us.”

“The one thing that I have encouraged is that they keep talking to us; we need to make sure that they don’t burn out as well.”

Morgan has already spoken positively about joining his KKR team-mates at their beach-fronted hotel in the UAE – which promises a more pleasant lifestyle than the pitch-side hotels in Manchester and Southampton.

Nevertheless, Silverwood remains cautious about his players’ welfare – not least that of Archer, who is due to link up with Rajasthan Royals this week, but has hinted that he will pull out of the Big Bash in Australia, after acknowledging the mental toll that a total of three months in the England bubble had taken on him.

While England were careful to manage their players’ welfare as best they could – with Buttler, for instance, missing the third T20I to spend his 30th birthday with his family – Archer was the one player to be sanctioned for a breach of protocol during the summer, after he made an unauthorised stop-over at his home in Brighton during the West Indies Test series.

And after Archer hinted that he had found the white-ball leg of his summer more enjoyable than his time in the Test camps against West Indies and Pakistan, Silverwood acknowledged it would be important to find ways to keep such a key player geed up across formats.

“Jofra’s found being locked up difficult at times,” he said. “He’s not the only player, there’s been quite a few. We have to do it and I’m very proud of how the guys have dealt with it.

“It’s a juggling act of keeping people fresh in the mind,” Silverwood added. “When people have asked to get out of the bubble, we’ve got them out. We said we would and we have. It’s a case of making sure we don’t burn people out.

“We’ve mixed up the coaches so they work with different people. A change of personnel, fresh voices, new ideas keeping things fresh and new opportunities for our county coaches to make their mark and see how we do things.”

That mixing-up of coaches included Graham Thorpe, Silverwood’s assistant, taking charge of the white-ball squad against Ireland and Pakistan. That situation may have to be repeated at stages in the winter, Silverwood acknowledged, because it is not immediately clear how England’s itinerary will look when it is finalised in the coming weeks.

Their planned white-ball tour of South Africa in December is already in jeopardy, while the exact dates of their Test series against India and Sri Lanka in the new year yet to be confirmed.

“It’s been strange times, no doubt about it,” Silverwood said. “Things aren’t going to change in a rush [so] it may be we have to take that step again. One of the things I’ve enjoyed is the fact my assistant coaches have got to lead the team as well, and I’ve had opportunities to step back and watch from a distance. That’s a positive.”



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This IPL, we’re playing to bring smiles back on people’s faces

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Virat Kohli feeds off the energy of crowds and packed stadiums, but despite IPL 2020 set to be played behind closed doors in the UAE, the Royal Challengers Bangalore captain foresaw no drop in his playing intensity.

“The intensity and passion won’t drop even if there are no crowds,” Kohli said at a media session to launch Royal Challengers covid warriors campaign. “Yes, empty stadiums will give us a strange feeling, and I won’t deny it’ll not be different when we walk out. But the feeling has changed a little after many training sessions and practice matches.

“You understand why you started playing – because you love the game. This is a chance for us to play with that feeling with the entire country watching. As long as we’re playing for the right reasons, all external factors become irrelevant. Yes, crowds are an amazing part of the game but this time, that’s not what we’re playing for. This time we’re playing for a bigger reason. To bring smiles back on people’s faces, those who’ve faced tough times due to the pandemic.”

Being in the bio bubble has also given Kohli a new perspective and a new appreciation for the sport.

“We’ve all become more accepting of the situation around us,” he said. “Acceptance is the biggest change I’ve experienced. Even in this bubble, when we spoke for the first time, we discussed the need to be appreciative of what we have. It’s easy to think of what we can’t do, but all of us have become relaxed. If people aren’t, they’ll be sad or upset. I don’t see any of that. Also there is no desperation of any kind in the ground. The biggest learning has been to become more accepting and appreciative of things around us.”

“As long as we’re playing for the right reasons, all external factors become irrelevant. Yes, crowds are an amazing part of the game but this time, that’s not what we’re playing for.”

VIRAT KOHLI

Rohit Sharma, the Mumbai Indians captain, also touched upon the challenges of being in a bubble. He admitted being in one was “tough mentally” but having families around – something the Mumbai franchise was happy to facilitate – as well as trying to create a “fun environment” with play stations, golf simulators, F1 simulators, virtual reality games, pool and table tennis, would provide some much-needed downtime.

“Mentally it is tough [being in a bubble], but hats off to the MI management and the support staff,” Rohit said. “They have done an excellent job here in our hotel, they’ve created some amazing space for us in the hotel where we can relax and spend time with family and kids, so that mentally you’re fresh and not drained. We’ve been here for three weeks, all of us are in good spirits because of the space we have created here at the hotel. Hats off to the team management, now it’s all about our preparation and getting into game face mode.”

Rohit’s words were echoed by Mahela Jayawardene, the Mumbai Indians coach. “A lot of the players will be away from home probably for more than two months, because of other commitments [after the IPL],” Jayawardene said. “It’s god to have this environment within the hotel, where everyone’s looked after.

“Most of our players are with families, so that is good. They get to spend quality time with them. The rest of the guys are also trying to keep themselves occupied with different activities. It’s not just cricket-oriented, but we have different activities. Yes it is a challenge, but we’ve looked at all aspects, making sure it’s not just the cricket, but creating a good environment around the players so that they can grow, focus and enjoy the job at hand.”



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