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England in India 2020-21 – How Virat Kohli warned Ollie Pope to prepare for spinning wickets

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Ollie Pope believes that India paid England a back-handed compliment in preparing a trio of spin-friendly wickets for the final three matches of this winter’s Test tour, after revealing how Virat Kohli warned him midway through England’s first-Test victory in Chennai that life for the batsmen was about to get much tougher.

After winning the toss and batting in the series opener in February, England posted a matchwinning first-innings total of 578 thanks to Joe Root’s 228, with Pope contributing 34 from 89 balls in his first Test appearance since dislocating his left shoulder in August.

However, England were bowled out in 46.3 overs for 178 in the second innings, and though that was ample to seal a convincing 227-run win, Pope acknowledged that the seeds of their series loss were sown there and then.

“In the second innings the pitch started spinning quite a lot,” Pope said during Surrey’s pre-season media day at the Kia Oval. “I remember standing at the non-striker’s end and Kohli came up to me and said ‘this is the last of the flat wickets’. At that point I knew it was probably going to be quite a challenging rest of the series from a batting point of view.”

For the rest of the series, England never came close to such batting serenity, with a highest total of 205 in their six subsequent innings. Instead, India’s greater prowess in their own conditions set them up for three comprehensive victories, including two in the space of five days’ play at Ahmedabad.

Pope himself finished the series with 153 runs at 19.12, a return that he conceded was “frustrating” after reaching double-figures in all but one of his visits to the crease. However, he insisted that he would chalk the tour up for the experience, safe in the knowledge that, at the age of 23 and with 17 Tests now under his belt, he has encountered one of the toughest challenges that will ever be thrown his way.

“Chatting to the more experienced guys like Joe Root and Ben Stokes, those guys were pretty much saying exactly the same: these are the toughest conditions they’ve played in,” Pope said. “If those guys are saying it as well, you know how challenging it is.

“I’m not saying [India] felt they had to produce those wickets, but the fact they’ve gone away from their flat wickets for three days, then spin on day four and five, which is generally the theme out there, it was quite a compliment to us in how we went about our business and a compliment to our bowlers.

“That shot us in the foot a little bit but it’s a good compliment to us as a team because they obviously felt they had to change their gameplan.”

This winter’s challenge was a far cry from Pope’s breakthrough campaign in South Africa 12 months earlier, where he scored his maiden Test hundred to set up a series-turning victory in Port Elizabeth, and where he was identified as one of a core of young players – Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley among them, with Dan Lawrence now joining that number – who could form the backbone of England’s Test team for years to come.

And so, even though the challenge of winning in India proved to be beyond England on this occasion, Pope was still able to reflect on the development of the team in tough circumstances, and recognise that such harsh lessons can only stand them in good stead for future campaigns.

“There’s not many international teams out there with a 25-year-old and three 23-year-olds [in the top six]. It’s not about managing expectations but it’s also realising this is a great learning experience for us.

“We’ve played on bouncier wickets in South Africa and we’ve played a little bit in England now and we’ve had the extremes of the subcontinent in Sri Lanka and India. Moving forward hopefully we can keep scoring runs, stay in the side but hopefully for our return in India we know exactly what it requires to be successful – that’s a massive positive for us going forward.”

One of the key lessons, Pope acknowledged, came from watching India’s batsmen at close quarters – often, in his case, from under the helmet at short leg. In particular he singled out Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant, whose methods may have been distinct, but whose mastery of the conditions both stemmed from an unwavering faith in their techniques.

“They trusted their defence really well, but they’ve got some great boundary options as well which allowed them to turn the pressure to the bowler a little bit,” Pope said. “Defending, you do need a little bit of luck, you need your plays-and-misses, you need to hope your nicks drop short, but if you can just really nail your boundary options that’s a good way of turning the pressure over.

“On those kind of wickets, it’s going to be difficult to accumulate runs in a low-risk fashion. That’s probably my main takeaway: knowing your defence but also knowing your boundary options.”



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England vs New Zealand 2021

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England fast bowler may face surgery as ECB plan next steps of recovery

Jofra Archer has been ruled out of England’s two-Test series against New Zealand, starting at Lord’s on June 2, and may face surgery on his troublesome right elbow after failing to come through this week’s return to first-class action.

Archer, who was withdrawn from this year’s IPL prior to its postponement earlier this month, had undergone a series of cortisone injections to enable him to get through the T20I leg of England’s white-ball tour of India in March.



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Recent Match Report – Kent vs Sussex Group 3 2021

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A whole lot of not a lot at Hove, but it’s an improvement on this time last year

Sussex 256 (van Zyl 52; Quinn 4-54, Gilchrist 3-51, Stevens 3-64) drew with Kent 145 (Leaning 63, Robinson 3-29, Garton 3-65) and 387 for 4 dec (Leaning 127*, Robinson 85, Crawley 85)

A match that had once seemed likely to end in a Sussex victory with Jofra Archer displaying his fitness for Test cricket ended in the most sclerotic of draws with Archer not even on the field. The first of these outcomes had always seemed likely once Kent had survived a short session on Saturday, and the second was probable once the England bowler’s sore elbow had prevented him bowling that same evening.

Despite their lowly positions in Group C these sides never appeared to contemplate the possibility of setting up a game and the 43 overs we saw this afternoon might not be numbered among the most gripping of the season. Other correspondents could even judge them balls-achingly tedious.

But Jack Leaning will take a different view. The former Yorkshire batsman notched only his second first-class century since 2017 and will approach Thursday’s game against Glamorgan in a more confident mood. Likewise, from their different perspectives, Tom Clark, who took his maiden first-class wicket, and Tawanda Muyeye, who batted half an hour for 12 not out on his debut. A drop of red ink is as comforting as a duvet to a young professional making his way. Every solid defensive shot is a moment.

And if these slightly aimless sessions were still a disappointment we could scourge no one but ourselves. On Friday, when a 104-over day had heaved itself beyond seven o’clock, we little thought how fortunate we were to see any cricket at all, let alone to be doing so when millions could not.

Zak Crawley was batting on that second evening, so such ingratitude required public abasement. But our penance, such as it might have been, was useless. The following evening, when only 24 overs were possible, Crawley was dismissed by the excellent Jack Carson and even that moment was given the elbow by Archer’s inaction, forced or otherwise.

Thus to Sunday with the Channel turquoise in its shallows but gravely blue farther out to sea. A pleasant dawn was replaced by an unlucky bag of showers, some of them slight, others heavy with Anabaptist doom. While David Millns and Graham Lloyd made one of their inspections the clouds to the west were grey as an undertaker’s work-suit; to the east they were blue as one of Bryan Ferry’s more exotic two-piece numbers. Birds gathered ravenously on the white pyramidal roofs of the hospitality suites. By the way, the gulls in Hove have clearly been watching Alfred Hitchcock movies; I’ve seen smaller turkeys. The white thugs waited for scraps; we waited for cricket.



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Recent Match Report – Glamorgan vs Yorkshire Group 3 2021

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Only 13 overs possible on final day but Glamorgan batter impresses

Glamorgan 149 (Brook 3-13, Patterson 3-27) and 164 for 4 (Carlson 88*, Lloyd 40) drew with Yorkshire 230 (Root 99, Patterson 47*, Neser 5-39)

Persistent rain prevented a positive result in the LV=Insurance County Championship match between Glamorgan and Yorkshire in Cardiff with only 13 overs possible on the final day, but there was enough time for Kiran Carlson to continue his impressive season with his sixth fifty-plus score of this campaign.

The match was set up for an exciting finish at the close of day three with Glamorgan 27 runs in front with seven first innings wickets in hand. The weather meant that the players only made it into the middle at 4:15pm and Glamorgan successfully saw out a tricky session to secure the draw.

It was a frustrating experience in the hours before they started with the sun shining just long enough for some hope to emerge only for the rain to reappear to send the groundsmen back to their hut.

A brilliant 99 from England captain Joe Root on day three had given Yorkshire hope of pushing for a win but first rain and then Carlson prevented that from happening. Carlson finished the day on 88 not out with Glamorgan 164 for 4.

When play did get started Yorkshire were convinced they had David Lloyd caught in the slips in the first over but it was off his thigh pad rather than his bat. As it was, they had Lloyd without adding to his overnight score when he was trapped lbw by Ben Coad. That was the only wicket to fall before the players shook hands.

Carlson has been Glamorgan’s most consistent batsman in this Championship campaign, and his runs meant that any chances of a Yorkshire win evaporated. Such was Carlson’s brilliance, had Glamorgan had more time, they might even have set up a victory chance of their own. Carlson now has four fifties and two hundreds this season as his potential has begun to be realised.

The draw gives Yorkshire 12 points, sending them to the top of Group 3 of the Championship, five points ahead of Lancashire who did not play in this round of matches.



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