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Objective is ‘to play like the world’s No. 1 Test team’ in New Zealand – Ravi Shastri

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The objective in the two-Test series in New Zealand is to “play like the world’s No. 1 Test team” and collect full points – 120 of them – “to be in contention to play at Lord’s” in the World Test Championship final in 2021, according to India head coach Ravi Shastri.

India are currently on top of the championship table with a full 360 points after beating West Indies 2-0 away and then South Africa and Bangladesh 3-0 and 2-0 at home respectively. Winning two Tests out of the ones in New Zealand, which starts February 21 in Wellington, or the four in Australia later in the year should put India in a good position to make that trip to Lord’s.

“We need 100 points to be in contention to play at Lord’s. Two overseas wins out of six Tests will keep us in good stead. We play six Tests overseas this year (two in NZ and four in Australia). So, that’s one objective,” Shastri was quoted as saying by the Times of India. “The other is to play like the world’s No. 1 Test team – because that’s what this team believes in more than anything else. On the Test front, that’s what we’re looking at.”

India swept the five-T20I series in New Zealand before being blanked 3-0 in the ODIs, and Shastri called the ODIs “relatively irrelevant” in what is a T20 World Cup year, and that the Tests “matter more right now”.

ALSO READ: Hanuma Vihari presents India with left-field choice for opener

As for the Tests, India are without Rohit Sharma with a calf injury, and have Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill as the opening options in New Zealand.

“Both [Shaw and Gill] are supremely exciting talents,” Shastri said. “Regardless of who gets into the XI in Wellington, the fact of the matter is they’re here, part of India’s national squad, and from here on they should know that the sky remains the limit.”

Speaking specifically about Gill, Shastri said, “He’s phenomenally talented. His approach to batting is very clear and he exhibits a very positive mindset. That’s very exciting for a boy who’s just 20 going on 21.”

In their first innings of the only three-day tour game before the first Test, Shaw and Agarwal opened and scored 0 and 1 respectively, while Gill, batting at No. 4, scored a duck too, all of them falling to Scott Kuggeleijn.

“They’re all from the same school, you know. They love facing the new ball, enjoy a challenge,” Shastri said. “Rohit is unfortunately out so that puts Shubman and Prithvi in contention to open with Mayank. That competition is necessary and that’s what makes a bunch of 15 look strong and stable.”

India are also without Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma, who will be undergoing a fitness test in Bengaluru on Saturday to see if he can join the touring party.



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Recent Match Report – Leicestershire vs Derbyshire North Group 2020

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Derbyshire 101 for 1 (Reece 50*) trail Leicestershire 199 (Dearden 70, Melton 4-22) by 98 runs

Derbyshire enjoyed an outstanding first day with ball and bat in the Bob Willis Trophy match against Leicestershire at the Fischer County Ground, Grace Road.

The visitors bowled Leicestershire out for 199 after the Foxes had chosen to bat first before a fine unbroken partnership of 92, compiled off only 17.3 overs, between Luis Reece and Wayne Madsen saw the Peakites close on 101, just 98 runs behind with nine first innings wickets in hand.

It was all the more impressive for the fact that while Leicestershire made just one change from the team which beat Lancashire in their opening fixture (Will Davis coming in for Tom Taylor), injuries and rotation saw Derbyshire make four from the side which pulled off a remarkable win against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.

Hughes, Melton, Anuj Dal and first-class debutant Ed Barnes came in for Fynn Hudson-Prentice, Matt McKiernan, Michael Cohen and Ben Aitchison.

Paceman Sam Conners make the early breakthrough on a pitch offering both pace and carry, as Ben Slater – formerly of Derbyshire, but currently on loan at Leicestershire from Nottinghamshire – pushed at a length delivery and edged to third slip, where Matt Critchley held the catch.

At the other end Hassan Azad had one escape, Critchley failing to hold a chance two-handed to his left when Luis Reece found the edge, but there was no reprieve when, having allowed a delivery from Reece to go through to wicketkeeper Harvey Hosein, Azad – who was batting outside his crease – did not step back behind the line. The alert Hosein rolled the ball into the stumps from around 12 yards back to effect a remarkable stumping.

Leicestershire were in a hole at 15 for 2, and it deepened when captain Colin Ackermann edged an out-swinger from Dustin Melton low to Leus Du Plooy at second slip.

It was just as well for the Foxes that Harry Dearden looked in good touch, but with lunch approaching the young left-hander lost another partner as George Rhodes edged a gentle outswinger from Alex Hughes, and Hosein, standing up to the wicket, took a neat catch. With Rhodes also out his ground, the wicketkeeper completed a ‘just in case’ stumping.

The key wicket in the afternoon session was that of Dearden, who had hit 12 boundaries as he moved on to 70 before getting a questionable decision in being given out leg before wicket to a delivery from Conners that replays suggested pitched outside leg stump.

Ben Mike looked comfortable before a misjudged leave allowed an inswinging delivery from Melton to clip the top of his off-stump. Melton then picked up two wickets in two balls as first Harry Swindells inside edged an attempted drive onto off stump and then Dieter Klein bottom-edged a cut at a wide ball on to his middle stump.

Callum Parkinson, Davis and Chris Wright did their best to drag their side past 200, and earn at least one batting bonus point, but both Parkinson and Davis went the same way, edging defensive pushes at Reece to Hosein.

Wright briefly lifted Leicestershire’s spirits with a fine delivery that seamed away to take Billy Godleman’s edge and give Azad a waist-high catch at first slip, but Reece and Madsen took full advantage of inconsistent bowling, a fast outfield and a short boundary to score at 5.25 runs per over in taking Derbyshire past 100 before the close.

“I’m absolutely delighted,” Melton said. “I felt the love from the staff and the players as well – we’ve always been big believers in celebrating each other’s successes.

“Coming back from lockdown there was a momentum shift in my mindset, especially in regards to first-class cricket: getting away from being a clubby, greedy, wicket-taking bowler who thinks he can just run in and take a pole whenever he feels like it.

“I had to do a bit of soul searching and change my outlook, do whatever the team needs, and if that means banging a couple in, fine, and if it means just trying to control the scoreboard, fine, I’ll do that.”





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Recent Match Report – Middlesex vs Hampshire South Group 2020

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Hampshire 27 for 2 trail Middlesex 252 (Andersson 92, Stevenson 4-71) by 225 runs

Ryan Stevenson and Martin Andersson recorded career-bests for their respective sides as Middlesex and Hampshire fought out an absorbing first day of their Bob Willis Trophy encounter at Radlett.

Devon-born seamer Stevenson, recalled for only his sixth first-class game, took 4 for 71, doubling his first-class wicket tally in the process, but Andersson, a man with just eight first-class matches behind him, hit 92 to take the hosts to 252 all out.

Liam Dawson, Keith Barker and James Fuller were also among the wickets, seemingly justifying Sam Northeast’s decision to bowl first, but James Harris took two wickets to leave the visitors 27 for 2 in reply after a seesaw day of action.

Northeast’s decision to field raised eyebrows given their hosts opted for two spinners on a pitch expected to turn late in the match.

However, in humid conditions and thanks to some early seam movement, it didn’t take the visitors’ attack long to reward their captain’s faith. In just the third over Barker bowled Sam Robson for a duck with a beauty which clipped the top of off stump.

Nick Gubbins, fresh from his hundred in the win over Surrey also didn’t stay long. The left-hander got away with one top edge hook over the slips, only to play the shot again in the same over and hole out to Felix Organ at fine leg, so giving Fuller a wicket against his former county. And when the Stevenson got in on the act for the first time, trapping home skipper Stevie Eskinazi for 18, Middlesex were struggling at 41 for 3.

That was Andersson’s cue to enter the fray and he played positively from the off, steadying the ship in the company of opener Max Holden either side of the lunch interval.

Holden was dropped at slip by Ian Holland off the luckless Barker early in the afternoon, but the drop wasn’t costly as the same combination accounted for the left-hander for 36 shortly afterwards – a wonderful catch taken just millimetres from the turf to end a stand of 44.

Andersson was given his one life on 23 when Dawson spilt a difficult chance at slip and he went on to make the most of his reprieve, reaching 50 from 71 balls with eight fours. He found a staunch ally in wicketkeeper John Simpson, who after a sticky start hit Barker for three successive fours.

Dawson dropped Simpson on 26, but like Holland earlier atoned soon afterwards to give Stevenson a second wicket and end a stand of 93 for the fifth wicket. Dawson, back from England ODI duty then struck with the ball having Harris taken at slip off the last ball before tea.

Six more boundaries took Anderson past his previous best of 83 against Lancashire at Old Trafford last September and to within touching distance of a maiden first-class hundred, but he came up eight short when Fuller trapped him lbw.

Tom Helm and Nathan Sowter added useful runs for the eighth wicket before Stevenson returned to dismiss the latter and Thilan Walallawita off successive balls to cap his excellent day.

Helm ensured a second batting point by striking Dawson for a towering straight six, but Dawson had him caught and bowled later in the same over.

With 14 overs left to bat, Hampshire looked set to get to the close unscathed before Harris found the edge of Organ’s bat and Sowter took a sharp catch at second slip.

Barker was sent in as nightwatchman, but that plan backfired when Harris struck a second time with one that splayed the stumps, leaving the match intriguingly poised ahead of day two.



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Heather Knight ‘pretty gutted’ at 2021 Women’s World Cup postponement

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England captain Heather Knight has admitted she feels “pretty gutted” about the ICC’s decision to postpone the Women’s World Cup from 2021 to 2022, and raised fears that boards will use it as “an excuse… to put women’s cricket on the back burner”.

The ICC made the decision on Friday, citing the need to maintain the “integrity of the tournament” by ensuring that all teams had sufficient preparation.

“We have taken the decision to move the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup to give players from every competing nation, the best opportunity to be ready for the world’s biggest stage and there is still a global qualifier to complete to decide the final three teams,” Manu Sawhney, the ICC’s chief executive, said.

“Moving the event by 12 months gives all competing teams the chance to play a sufficient level of cricket ahead of both the qualification event and leading into a Cricket World Cup so the integrity of the tournament is maintained.”

ALSO READ: Why the Women’s World Cup was postponed

But Knight expressed her fears that boards would not give sufficient attention to women’s cricket without a world tournament to prepare for.

Alyssa Healy, the Australia wicketkeeper, also expressed her frustration at the decision, which she labelled “remarkable” in response to a tweet from journalist Scott Bailey comparing the number of Covid-19 cases in New Zealand and India.

Knight’s England team were back in training this week ahead of their series against South Africa, which is due to start at the end of this month. It will be the first women’s international cricket to be played since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.





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