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India vs England 2020-21 – Ben Stokes seeks upturn in England’s fortunes after disappointing return to ODI colours

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It wasn’t the glorious return to action that Ben Stokes might have envisaged, more than 18 months on from the World Cup final at Lord’s. His first match back in England’s ODI team, at Pune on Tuesday, ended with a rather limp 66-run defeat, while his much-vaunted promotion to No.3 proved to be something of a non-starter, as he was caught in the covers for 1 from 11 balls.

And the atmosphere at Pune didn’t have a whole lot in common with that fervent July afternoon either – a rapt Lord’s crowd replaced by the echoing silence of another locked-out contest. Just another day at the office for Stokes and his team-mates, on a bio-secure tour in which the players’ points of off-field reference are all beginning to share a familiar theme.

“It felt like I was dropping into Gdansk in the first game of [Call of Duty] Warzone for a while,” he said. “It’s crazy to think it was my first game since the World Cup final. It’s amazing how quickly time can pass but it was great to be out with the rest of the boys. I can’t remember [50-over cricket] taking that long but it might have been to do with the heat and the body was a bit stiff the next day.”

As Eoin Morgan has repeatedly stated on this tour, England’s ambitions in India extend beyond the basics of winning and losing, as they attempt to expand their squad options with back-to-back T20 World Cups looming ahead of the defence of their 50-over crown in 2023.

But the nature of Tuesday’s loss means that India are now gunning for England’s long-held status as the No.1 ODI team in the world. A 3-0 series loss would ensure a switch at the top, and while Stokes agreed with his captain that the rankings were not the be-all-and-end-all, he still acknowledged that such an upshot would smart.

“We look at it from a series point of view, that we’d be bitterly disappointed to lose it,” he said. “As we would any other. We deserve to be No. 1 because of our results and it’s obviously a fantastic thing to have next to your name as a team, but it’s not our driving force.

“Our driving force is the way we go about it and our attitude towards playing the game,” he added. “We know we’re a much better team than that, but one thing we’ve been very good at is putting previous games to bed quickly, whether that be a successful game or a poor game. All our concentration now is on tomorrow.”

For all the power and momentum that Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow were able to produce at the top of England’s innings on Tuesday, the clear missing link in England’s line-up was the absence of Joe Root at No.3, precisely the sort of uncomplicated accumulator who could have kept the innings bubbling along while the chase was under control.

Instead it was Stokes in the role – not for the first time in ODIs, as he batted at 3 on his maiden tour of Australia in 2013-14, even claiming the Player-of-the-Match award for a fine allround display in Perth – but an unfamiliar promotion all the same, and one that possibly has more to do with England’s planning for the T20 World Cup than the 50-over version.

Either way, he took his time to get in – as he was permitted to do in the circumstances, with England needing less than a run a ball with nine wickets in hand – but then got out to a mistimed drive off Prasidh Krishna, having struggled to find his timing against Kuldeep Yadav’s wrist-spin too. It doesn’t mean the experiment has failed, but it does ramp up the scrutiny with the series now on the line.

“There would be talk, whoever filled the place at No. 3 with Rooty not being here,” Stokes said. “People keep talking and I’ll just go out and try to do what I’ve been asked to do. That’s where my focus is, and the T20s have been and gone so I won’t worry about that.

“But I did actually message Rooty and asked him about his mind-set at 3, and he was pretty clear to me in saying just play the way you play.

“Just because he plays a certain way doesn’t mean I have to do it like that. We kept it pretty simple, but it’s just a slightly different role batting at 3 to my usual position in this team. I’m just potentially facing 100 balls compared to 60 or 70 like I normally do. I haven’t got to change too much, just face a slightly different situation when I start my innings.”

Stokes may get a further opportunity to hone his game in the top order when he links up with Rajasthan Royals at the IPL next month. He finished the last season in November as their preferred opening batsman, with Jos Buttler slipping down the order, and he rewarded that faith with a 59-ball century against the eventual champions, Mumbai Indians.

But, with competition for places hotting up among England’s white-ball batsmen, Stokes doesn’t expect his performances for Rajasthan to have a huge bearing on how England line up at the World Cup, with Roy and Buttler firmly ensconced as the team’s preferred opening combination.

“You look at that T20 batting line-up and everyone deserves to be where they deserve to play,” he said. “We have been formidable in the white-ball format for a number of years and why would we change that? It’s a talking point and it always seems to pop up, but just because we lost the T20 series doesn’t mean we need to start changing things around.

“When we win, nobody says too much but when we lose, everyone starts to pipe up and it starts to get like the gulag [in Call of Duty: Warzone]. I am happy where everything is in our white-ball team, because that’s our best formula to win.”



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Stuart Broad believes more could be revealed on Newlands affair once key protagonists retire

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Stuart Broad has expressed a note of scepticism at the official explanation of the ball tampering debacle involving the Australia team and suggested there could be more information revealed once key protagonists retire.

In recent days Cameron Bancroft, who was suspended for nine-months for his role in the Newlands scandal, and David Saker, who was the Australian bowling coach at the time, have appeared to concede that knowledge of the ploy was not limited to the three men who were suspended for their part in it.

Now Broad, talking at an event organised by soap and hand cleanser manufacturers Lifebuoy aimed at doubling the rate of handwashing in the UK, has suggested that, in his experience, a bowler is very sensitive to the condition of the ball and everyone in the team is required to “buy into” plans to look after it.

“I’ve obviously never bowled within the Australian bowling attack but I can talk about how, in an England Test team, if I miss the seam by four millimetres, Jimmy Anderson is on me,” Broad said. “He’ll be saying ‘why has this ball got a mark on it here? It’s because you’ve missed the seam! Start hitting the seam, will you’.

“Reverse swing with the red ball can be affected by so many different things. If you chase it to the boundary and throw it into the grass it can smooth the ball over and stop it reversing. If you touch the ball with wet hands it will stop it reversing. If you shine it in a way that smooths over the rough side it will stop it reversing.

“So as an England team, we are aware if we’re trying to get the ball reversing every player has to buy into that or it will stop it.

“There’s no doubt the Aussies would have been hoping this episode was signed sealed and delivered. It was an incredibly tough thing for those three players to go through. I can’t see it still being a conversation [when the Ashes start] in November, December, but I can see it being sung in the Barmy Army stands if they’re allowed.

“I have seen a couple of comments from David Warner’s agent, too, and I think it will be an interesting time when he stops playing for Australia and writes a book.”

Broad also expressed sympathy for Jofra Archer, who has been ruled out of the New Zealand series with a recurrence of an elbow injury. With “rest and rehab” having not worked, though, Broad suggested “more intensive” treatment may be necessary. While he stopped short of using the word ‘surgery’, he did suggest England – and Archer – would have to accept he can’t play every game.

“I saw Jofra this morning,” Broad said. “He is in decent spirits. I think it’s been frustrating for him. You know, the first time I was really aware that he had a bit of an elbow issue was in South Africa. He missed a couple of games there and he tried to get fit for the Wanderers; he bowled in the morning and it hurt him too much. It’s been a bit of an underlying niggle for him since.

“The rest and rehab option hasn’t pulled through for him. He was obviously hopeful of coming back after having that hand surgery and resting the elbow. But it’s still niggled him, so I’m sure the ECB will be thinking long and hard of what the next step is, but it’s probably a little bit more intensive than rest and recoup now.

“I think Jofra can play a huge part in all three formats for England. But he won’t just be able to play every game. It’s unrealistic to think that any all-format player – Ben Stokes included – can and that’s when, without being disrespectful to any other type of international cricket, you do have to get him right for the games you want him right for.

“I was annoyed at the time, aged 28 or 29, when the decision was almost forced on me not to play in the white-ball stuff anymore. But sat here now aged 34, I feel fresh as a daisy. I feel excited and buzzing every time I play cricket. It’s quite hard to keep that when you play all three formats.

“It’s still too early for Jofra to start having doubts of whether he’s a three-format cricketer, but he needs to get very clear in his mind what cricket he wants to be absolutely fit and firing for.

“If I was a captain or head coach looking at Jofra Archer, I’d want him bowling my last over in the T20 World Cup and I’d want him playing [in the first Ashes Test] at Brisbane.”

Lifebuoy are proud to partner with Chance to Shine, as part of their ambition to double the rate of handwashing in the UK. Stuart Broad was coaching schoolchildren at Hague Primary School, as a representative of the England Cricket team, of which Lifebuoy are also a partner.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo



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Hundred may lose overseas stars amid packed schedule and travel restrictions

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New tournament might have to bow to demands of international calendar, Covid-related travel rules

A number of overseas players are expected to withdraw from the inaugural season of the Hundred due to clashes in the international calendar and complications regarding international travel caused by Covid restrictions.

West Indies, Pakistan and Australia players with contracts to appear in the men’s competition will have their availability limited if they are involved in the two T20I series due to take place in the Caribbean in July and August, while two Australia players – Rachael Haynes and Jess Jonassen – have already withdrawn from the women’s tournament due to quarantine requirements.

Cricket West Indies announced its men’s fixtures for the 2021 home season last week, with the end of the T20I series against Australia overlapping with the start of the Hundred. Seven of the nine Australians contracted to play in the men’s competition were named in an enlarged 23-man squad on Monday – Chris Lynn and Nathan Coulter-Nile were the exceptions.

Those seven include marquee names in Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell and David Warner, and while it is possible that they could still play the majority of the eight-game group stage subject to quarantine periods, Cricket Australia remain in talks with the Bangladesh Cricket Board regarding a possible tour which would present a further clash.



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Shiv Sunder Das named India Women batting coach for England tour

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The former Test opener will be part of a nine-member support staff under head coach Ramesh Powar



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