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BBL 2020-21 – Jonny Bairstow unavailable for Melbourne Stars, replaced by Andre Fletcher

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Melbourne Stars have been forced to make a late change to their BBL squad signing West Indies batsman Andre Fletcher after Englishman Jonny Bairstow was ruled out due to international duty.

Bairstow was expected to be available for the Stars after Christmas after completing the 14-day mandatory quarantine in Australia following England’s limited-overs tour of South Africa. However, he is expected to be recalled to England’s Test squad for the tour of Sri Lanka in January.

The Stars moved swiftly to sign Fletcher, who like fellow Stars signing Nicholas Pooran, has been in New Zealand playing in the T20I series.

“We’re naturally disappointed Jonny won’t be able to link up with us this season but we wish him well on his recall and England’s winter tours,” Stars coach David Hussey said.

“We’re glad Andre was in a position to join us and he’ll bring plenty of power and entertainment at the top of the batting order. Andre is a former T20 World Cup winner with the West Indies so he knows what it takes to succeed in major tournaments and I’m confident he’ll be a great asset around our group.”

Fletcher has played 200 T20 matches worldwide with extensive experience in the Caribbean Premier League, the Bangladesh Premier League, and the Pakistan Super League. He is likely to be available for the Stars for the regular season up until January 26.

“I’m really looking forward to coming over to the Melbourne Stars and being part of what should be an exciting season ahead,” Fletcher said. Hopefully, I can bring my brand of batting and recent form to the Stars during the BBL.”



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Aus vs Ind 2020-21 – How Ajinkya Rahane and his trusted lieutenants masterminded India’s triumph

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Ajinkya Rahane has credited the collective leadership that he shared with vice-captain Rohit Sharma and senior players Cheteshwar Pujara and R Ashwin for India being able to come back from behind in the absence of regular captain Virat Kohli and take the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with a 2-1 series win in Australia. All four players, Rahane says, took greater responsibility upon themselves to instill belief and confidence in an inexperienced India team.

Rahane took over the captaincy when Kohli went home on paternity leave following India’s defeat in the first Test in Adelaide, where they were bowled out for 36 in the second innings. Rahane’s first message to the dressing room was clear: the Adelaide defeat was a closed chapter.

“I told them that topic should not be discussed at all,” Rahane told Sakal, a leading Marathi daily. “The fact that we got all out for 36 is not any mistake. We should just accept it and move on. No point going in depth and thinking about it because the [next Test] match was immediately starting in three days. My only message was: it happened in one hour. They [Australia] played good cricket. Such things happen once in a century. The faster we accept this happened and move on, that is good for us.”



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Recent Match Report – Ireland vs Afghanistan 2nd ODI 2020/21

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Naveen-ul-Haq and Mujeeb Ur Rahman played key roles to restrict Ireland to 259

Afghanistan 260 for 3 (Rahmat 103*, Shahidi 82) beat Ireland 259 for 9 (Stirling 128, Campher 47, Naveen 4-42, Mujeeb 3-46) by seven wickets

Better support with bat and ball ensured Rahmat Shah‘s unbeaten 103 trumped Paul Stirling‘s 128 as Afghanistan took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match ODI series. A third-wicket partnership of 184 between Rahmat and Hashmatullah Shahidi carried Afghanistan to a seven-wicket win with 28 balls remaining, after Ireland had set them a target of 260.

The only comparable partnership for Ireland was a fourth-wicket stand of 106 between Stirling and Curtis Campher, which came up in just 100 balls and featured excellent use of the sweep from both batsmen, particularly off Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan. The partnership left Ireland in good shape to mount a slog-overs charge, but they lost steam following the dismissal of Campher, caught at short extra-cover off Rashid. They only made 49 off the last 51 balls of their innings, and lost five wickets while doing so.

Three of those wickets, including that of Stirling in the 45th over, went to the fast bowler Naveen-ul-Haq, who finished with figures of 4 for 42 from his ten overs. Afghanistan’s other bowling star was Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who picked up three wickets including the key dismissals of Kevin O’Brien and Andy Balbirnie with the new ball, which left Ireland 20 for 2 at one stage. Stirling began rebuilding the innings in the company of Harry Tector, who made a watchful 24, before Campher joined him in the 25th over of the innings.

Stirling celebrated his hundred – his 11th in ODIs, equalling William Porterfield’s Ireland record – by paying tribute to Roy Torrens, the former Ireland player and team manager who died yesterday, pointing to the sky after removing his helmet. Stirling had tweeted that Torrens’ passing was “crushing news”, describing him as “Irish cricket to the very core but an even better man”

Afghanistan’s chase began brightly, with Rahmanullah Gurbaz following up his debut hundred in the first ODI by clattering 31 off 26 balls, including two sixes off Simi Singh’s offspin. Barry McCarthy and Campher struck in successive overs thereafter, though, to leave Afghanistan in a bit of bother at 48 for 2 in the ninth over.

Rahmat and Shahidi counterattacked, hitting four fours and a six between them in their first four full overs together. Shahidi then slipped into a lower gear even as Rahmat kept finding the boundary with pristine drives to keep the required rate well under control. He brought up his half-century off 49 balls, at the start of the 23rd over.

It took Shahidi another ten overs to get to that milestone, off 68 balls, but having done so he opened out significantly, hitting Craig Young for back-to-back fours in the 38th over to bring up Afghanistan’s 200, and repeating the dose off Simi in the 42nd over before holing out to long-off to fall 18 short of a century.

There was no such trouble for Rahmat, who brought up the landmark for the fifth time in his ODI career, before giving a chance, put down at point by a diving Tector off McCarthy. By then Afghanistan only needed 21, and their captain Asghar Afghan ensured they’d finish in a hurry, hitting McCarthy for 6, 6, 4 in the 45th over and ending up unbeaten on 21 off 13 balls.

While Afghanistan have now wrapped up the series with a game to spare, the final fixture on Tuesday will not be treated as a dead-rubber, with 10 World Cup Super League points still on offer.



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India tour of Australia Aus vs Ind 2020-21 – T Natarajan

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The India left-armer looked back at his fairytale Australia tour, where he made his debut in all three formats

“I’m so happy right now. There’s no limit to it and I just can’t explain that feeling.”

This was India left-arm seamer T Natarajan‘s reaction to his rousing reception at his hometown Chinnappampatti, near Salem in Tamil Nadu, after returning from Australia, where he made his debut in all three formats and played his part in the historic Gabba Test win.

Natarajan, who had seemingly driven down from Bengaluru to Chinnappampatti on Thursday, was greeted by hoardings, drumrolls and firecrackers on Thursday. After being welcomed back by his mother Shantha, his father Thangarasu and other family members, Natarajan was carried home on a horse-drawn chariot, with everyone in Chinnappampatti wanting a piece of him.

Several people thronged Natarajan’s home for selfies and some even presented him portraits of himself.

On Friday, Natarajan recalled his grand homecoming at a press conference in Salem. “I never expected to get this kind of a reception. I have to thank the people in my village,” Natarajan said. “It was an unforgettable experience in my life and I dreamt of making it big, hoping to bring recognition to Salem. It’s all god’s grace, and I’m so happy right now. There’s no limit to it and I just can’t describe that feeling. I just feel like being selected for the Australia tour was a gift for me.”



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