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Kerala’s Mohammed Azharuddeen smashes second-fastest century in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy

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He missed Rishabh Pant’s record by five balls but powered Kerala to their first-ever win over Mumbai in any format

Kerala’s Mohammed Azharuddeen smashed the second-fastest century in the Syed Mushtaq Ali, India’s domestic T20 tournament, as he reached the landmark in 37 balls against a Mumbai attack led by Dhawal Kulkarni. He missed Rishabh Pant‘s record by five balls but it was still the joint-third-fastest T20 century by an Indian. It was also the first hundred by a Kerala batsman in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and sealed their highest-ever chase in the tournament as they beat Mumbai for the first time in any format.

Kerala were chasing 197 after 40s from Yashasvi Jaiswal and Aditya Tare and handy cameos from Suryakumar Yadav and Shivam Dube. Azharuddeen started the innings with Robin Uthappa, who was sedate only in comparison, and the two put on 129 runs in 9.3 overs before Uthappa a 23-ball 33. Soon after, Azharuddeen got to his century off left-arm spinner Atharva Ankolekar. Pant’s record of 32 balls though was never really under threat.

Azharuddeen slowed down after being on 89 in 31 balls, scoring 1, 1, 0 and 1 to get to 92 in 35 balls before a six off Mulani – his eighth – and a two took him to the landmark. He remained unbeaten on 137 off 54 balls, with nine fours and 11 sixes, as Kerala cantered to victory by eight wickets in 15.5 overs.

Azharuddeen, the 26-year-old, got off the mark off the third ball of the innings – his first – with a boundary off Kulkarni, and took a special liking to Tushar Deshpande, the other new-ball bowler. In the second over of the innings, bowled by Deshpande, Azharuddeen hit one six and two fours as 20 runs were scored. Deshpande went off the attack but returned in the sixth, and Azharuddeen hit him for two fours and two sixes as the over went for 23, taking his score to 65 at the end of the powerplay.

The most noteworthy aspect of Azharuddeen’s innings was his pull shots, but he did play more than a few pleasing drives too, and found his runs off Ankolekar and Shams Mulani primarily in the V, even as he slapped the experienced Kulkarni over his head for two sixes, both off the back foot.

The record for the quickest T20 century is in the name of Chris Gayle – he got to the mark off just 30 balls when he hit 175 not out off 66 balls for the Royal Challengers Bangalore against the Pune Warriors India in IPL 2013. Then comes Pant’s effort. Rohit Sharma’s 35-ball ton against Sri Lanka in a T20I ranks second among Indians, while Azharuddeen has pulled level with Yusuf Pathan, who hit a 37-ball century for the Rajasthan Royals against the Mumbai Indians in IPL 2010.

Azharuddeen has never featured in the IPL before, but this century is a timely step in that direction, given the IPL 2021 auction is scheduled for February.



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Ban vs WI, 2020-21 – Kraigg Brathwaite and Co ready with ‘specific plans’ to counter Bangladesh spinners

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The stand-in Test captain says they reviewed their 2018 defeat to find out where they could improve

A day after coach Phil Simmons raised optimism for the West Indies ODI side, Test captain Kraigg Brathwaite said the side has learnt from the mistakes made during their 2018 tour to Bangladesh.

Brathwaite’s own miserable form in that series – just 22 runs in the two Tests – was one of the reasons why the visitors capitulated so easily. With the home side having their full complement of spinners available this time too, and West Indies having an even more inexperienced side, there will be even more responsibility on Brathwaite. He hasn’t had the best of times recently too, having made just 55 runs in two Tests in New Zealand Tests last month.

Brathwaite wants to lead by example and set a foundation as a batsman, the key to which, he said, would be balance at the crease.



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Clive Lloyd to West Indies team in Bangladesh

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Former captain scripts open letter to the team in Bangladesh, urging the inexperienced players to believe in themselves

In 1966, 22-year-old Guyanese youngster Clive Lloyd made his international debut in the first Test of the India tour, played in what was then Bombay. Lloyd, the tall and bespectacled left-hander, was told he was playing the match less than an hour before the start due to the finger injury to Seymour Nurse.

Lloyd scored 82 and an unbeaten 78 to help the visitors take the series lead. West Indies won the three-match Test series 2-0 with Lloyd finishing among the top five run-makers. Lloyd utilised that fortuitous break to grow into a solid batsman and one of the most successful and dominant captains in cricket.



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Ghana in line to host cricket tournament at 2023 Africa Games

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ICC give blessing to sport’s expansion into multi-sport games, with Olympics also on agenda

Cricket could be included at the 2023 Africa Games as the ICC increasingly looks to multi-sport events as a way to grow the game.

ESPNcricinfo understands the ICC Africa office have been in discussions with the local organising committee in Ghana with a view to including cricket at the event. A delegation, including officials from the ICC, the Ghana Cricket Association and the Ghana Ministry of Sports, has visited the proposed venues to ensure the requisite facilities could be provided.

The feedback is understood to have been overwhelmingly positive, though cricket’s inclusion has not been confirmed at this stage.

Whether it comes to fruition or not, the move underlines the ICC’s apparently new-found desire to embrace multi-sports games. The inclusion of women’s cricket has already been confirmed for the Commonwealth Games of 2022, while there is increasing momentum for a return to The Olympics. The new ECB chair, Ian Watmore, is understood to be a keen advocate of such a move and will shortly be placed in charge of an ICC sub-committee with a remit to explore the possibilities. Cricket’s inclusion as early as 2028, when the Olympics return to Los Angeles, remains possible.

There has long been a hunger among ICC Associate members to include cricket in the Olympics, in particular. It would, they argue, lead to greater exposure for the sport in their individual nations and open up new avenues of public funding. But there has been resistance from some full member nations who have expressed concern that the amount of time required for the Olympics would eat into the time available for bilateral series and various national T20 tournaments.

Increasingly, however, there has been an understanding at the ICC that multi-sport games would provide cricket with both a shop-window for potential new supporters and increase competition and commercial opportunities for its members. With the ECB, who believe it would provide impetus for the growth of the women’s game in particular, now broadly behind the idea, some of the impediments towards progress have been removed.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo



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