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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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Match Preview – West Indies vs Australia, Australia tour of West Indies 2021, 2nd ODI

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Preview

Australia will wait to assess the fitness of Aaron Finch but Alex Carey made a good start as stand-in

Big Picture

Australia continue to look much more at home in the 50-over format than the T20 game, which has pretty much been the way over the last year. Their strength on this tour lies in the bowling department and it showed in the way Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood cut through West Indies’ top order.

The batting display was far from dynamic, but it was one that suited a tricky surface reasonably well and given the experimental nature of the line-up they kept their composure after being 114 for 4. Captain Alex Carey was key to that with a well-constructed half-century that built on the hundred he made against England last year and Ashton Turner played an important hand.

West Indies were very poor with the bat. On a surface that made stroke-making a challenge – only Kieron Pollard scored freely and he had nothing to lose – they missed Shai Hope at the top of the order to offer a measured anchor for the chase. The shots of Darren Bravo and Jason Holder were disappointing for senior players.

However, Hayden Walsh Jr continued to spin a web around the Australia batting taking his five wickets in 16 balls. He would likely enjoy a scenario defending a decent target where there is run-rate pressure on the batters.

Form guide

(last five completed matches)
West Indies LWWWL
Australia WLWWWL

In the spotlight

Since the 2019 World Cup, ODI cricket has not been a good format for Jason Holder. In 15 matches he averages 13.28 with the bat and 69.60 with the ball. In the opening match he was the most expensive of West Indies’ pace bowlers then followed it with a duck. At his best, as a batter capable of being in the top six and a new-ball bowler, he is the ideal player to balance the XI but his team could do with an uptick in returns.

Ashton Turner made a promising return for just the seventh ODI of his career and the first outside of India. It was his spectacular unbeaten 84 off 43 balls in Mohali in 2019, as Australia chased 359, that put his name up in lights but also left him a tough act to follow. While a host of big names are missing this series there could yet be a middle-order spot for Turner in the future if he can build on his good start.

Team news

West Indies’ original squad has been hit by injuries to Shai Hope (ankle), Fabian Allen (side) and Roston Chase (thigh).

West Indies (possible) 1 Evin Lewis, 2 Shimron Hetmyer, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Jason Mohammed, 5 Nicholas Pooran (wk), 6 Kieron Pollard (capt), 7 Jason Holder, 8 Alzarri Joseph, 9 Akeal Hosein, 10 Hayden Walsh Jr, 11 Sheldon Cottrell

Whether Australia make any changes may depend on the fitness of Aaron Finch otherwise the team deserves another run out. The only consideration might be if there is a need for another spinner.

Australia (possible) 1 Ben McDermott, 2 Josh Philippe, 3 Mitchell Marsh, 4 Moises Henriques, 5 Alex Carey (wk), 6 Ashton Turner, 7 Matthew Wade, 8 Mitchell Starc, 9 Wes Agar, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood

Pitch and conditions

It was a two-paced surface with the ball gripping for seamers and spinners which suggests Australia’s 250 might be a good total throughout. The expectation is that the next pitch will be similar. The forecast says there could be some showers during the match.

Stats and trivia

  • Mitchell Starc now has eight five-wicket hauls in ODIs which puts him one behind Brett Lee as the most for Australia
  • Hayden Walsh Jr now has his best bowling figures in ODIs and T20Is against Australia
  • Quotes

    “There were a couple of soft dismissals and we knew Australia are very dangerous with the new ball, especially Mitchell Starc in the first two or three overs and we weren’t able to negotiate that.”
    Kieron Pollard

    The ball has been coming out pretty well, T20 is sometimes hard to judge yourself on but yesterday was really good fun. That’s probably one of the best starts we’ve had so pretty happy
    Josh Hazlewood

    Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo



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    The Hundred offers something for bowlers and will keep captains alert | Cricket

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    01:58


    Explainer: How to read the Hundred scorecard


    Not sure if that was the intention, but the Hundred’s new playing conditions have a utility beyond the laughs. With the exception of a two-run penalty for a no-ball – which has been a feature of English domestic cricket – they are almost all geared to help the bowlers, the marginalised of the two participants in games of cricket. They will also make the fielding captain’s role more instrumental.

    The advantage is admittedly not massive, and the batters will eventually catch up as they keep getting stronger and better, but anything is welcome in a format that keeps shrinking further and further for a bowler.

    Shorter Powerplay
    This should offset the no-ball penalty. Fifty-three no-balls were bowled in 60 matches in last year’s IPL. So let’s assume there is one no-ball bowled every match. Adding that extra run is not that big a punishment, but a shorter Powerplay is a huge incentive. The Powerplay in the Hundred is only 25% of the innings as against 30% in old-school T20 cricket. That’s one over fewer in a normal T20.

    Tens = good for captains and bowlers
    Imagine MS Dhoni being allowed to bowl Deepak Chahar’s quota out in the Powerplay (no disrespect to Chahar’s emergence as a decent death bowler too). Or if for a certain match, Rohit Sharma could keep all of Jasprit Bumrah’s deliveries for the death. They could if they were captaining in the Hundred.

    The scope this gives bowlers and captains is immense. Imagine Dhoni walks in, and you have the option of bowling 10% of the innings from Sunil Narine without a break then and there. Dhoni strikes at slightly over 50 against Narine. And you don’t get away by playing a dot at the fifth ball; you are on strike for the start of the next five. The bowler, on the other hand, doesn’t have to nominate a “ten” at the start. So if a match-up gets away from him on the fifth ball, he can stop at five.

    Analysis will come in as the database continues to build, but it breaks the templates that T20 cricket has fallen into and that can’t be bad.

    Shorter “overs”
    Fives, as the umpire calls in the Hundred. Batters say they try to hit the first ball of a new over big to put the bowler under the pressure, but you also hear so often how a bowler has failed to get out of an over. The longer an over is, the more a batter gets a chance to line the bowler up. Perhaps in Test cricket you want it to be longer to set a batter up, but mostly in T20s, you are trying to get out of it without significant damage. The fewer the balls to constitute a mandatory set, the easier for a defensive bowler to get out of it without late damage.

    Of course batters will adjust and start treating the fifth ball as they do the sixth in other T20s, but it will take some time. Can’t be a bad thing.

    Last ball of the penultimate over is not a free hit
    A team is seven or eight down. A tailender is batting with a specialist batter. Seven balls to go, the tailender on strike, and you often hear commentators say this is basically a free hit. If you connect, great; if you don’t, at least the specialist batter is on strike for the last over.

    Not in the Hundred. The end changes only every two sets of fives. So at the end of the 19th five, the tailender will have to actually take a single to turn the strike over. Or keep facing.

    New batter always on strike
    Oh, so what if they sky one up and cross? Nope. Unlike in all other cricket, if a batter is out caught, it doesn’t matter if the batters in the middle crossed over. The new batter will be on strike. It might not sound as much to you, but ask a bowler who has forced or coaxed a batter to hit to his deep fielder but doesn’t get the luxury of bowling a new batter next ball because they crossed while the ball was in the air.

    One dampener
    For wides, the umpires have been instructed to “apply a very strict and consistent interpretation of this Law”. The umpires hopefully will continue to use their discretion to allow wide yorkers, especially to batters who move around in the crease. Also it does defeat the purpose a little bit: the more the number of wides, the longer the match goes on.

    Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo


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    Steven Smith ‘building up nicely’ in cautious rehab from elbow injury | Cricket

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    Play

    00:50


    Paine open to Smith missing T20 World Cup for Ashes


    Steven Smith is making encouraging progress in his recovery from the elbow injury which ruled him out of the current Australia tours with the beginning of the domestic season a potential comeback target.

    Smith was sidelined in the latter part of last season when the elbow problem flared up following the India series before returning briefly for New South Wales ahead of the IPL. While playing for Delhi Capitals he felt further pain and he was unavailable for the West Indies and Bangladesh trips.

    He told cricket.com.au earlier this month that the Ashes series was his priority and he would be willing to forego the T20 World Cup if it ensured he would be fit for that.

    A cautious approach has been taken with his rehab but he is currently increasing the amount of batting he can do as part of New South Wales’ pre-season.

    “He’s been building it up nicely,” Phil Jaques, the New South Wales head coach, told ESPNcricinfo. “He’s been very conscientious about his rehab and in terms of how long he bats it for, he’s building up his time which is great and his elbow is responding really well to it.

    “We’ve taken a really slow approach with him to make sure we don’t have too many setbacks by pushing too hard but we are stepping things up gradually. He’s definitely moving in the right direction, he’s not going backwards. Hopefully he’ll be ready to go once the season kicks off.

    “I don’t think he really got rid of it last time so it came back…hopefully if he gets the tolerance through the tendon that he needs to then he should be able to manage it.”

    How much cricket Smith plays for New South Wales this season depends on a lot of factors. There is potentially a small window for those selected for the T20 World Cup to play a few Marsh Cup matches in mid-September, but if Smith is part of that trip he won’t have any first-class cricket ahead of the Test season starting due to the quarantine period on return. There is also the resumption of the IPL to consider.

    However, if he doesn’t make the World Cup there are up to five Sheffield Shield games available before the Afghanistan Test at the end of November.

    The Sheffield Shield is set to start on September 28 with a schedule mapped out which is hoped will give players time to rest and prepare between matches which should be particularly advantageous for the quick bowlers.




    Steven Smith plays through the off side © Getty Images and Cricket Australia


    “Last season, and there was no other way around it, there was certainly a big load for the quicks to turnaround really quickly,” Jaques said. “It allows us as coaching staff to prepare the players the best they can for each fixture which is what the Australian domestic summer has always built itself on, to be able to train and prepare for each game individually.”

    Quite how the season eventually plays out remains uncertain amid Covid-19 and while there is confidence that hubs can be avoided Jaques believes players will again do what is needed despite the toll it can take. “As professionals we adapt where we need to and if that’s called upon again I think we’ll do it but if there’s ways around it we’ll look to explore that as well,” he said.

    Towards the end of last season’s Sheffield Shield the decision was taken to revamp the New South Wales batting line-up after they had been bundled out for 32 by Tasmania. Lachlan Hearne, Matthew Gilkes and Baxter Holt were given a chance while faith was shown in Jason Sangha, who responded with a century against Queensland, and Jack Edwards who made a match-winning hundred in the Marsh Cup final.

    “The ceiling is massive with those guys, they are super talented,” Jaques said. “They just need some experience and game time which they got some of last year. We are expecting them to go to another level this year and I’m sure that will come with experience. I was really happy with how they went, to be able to play a final will only put them in good stead. They are definitely the future and think we have a really good mix in the group.”

    New South Wales will make a decision on their captaincy positions in the upcoming weeks. Last season Pat Cummins was given the role in the Marsh Cup while Peter Nevill led the Sheffield Shield side until he was absent at the end of the season for the birth of his child. Kurtis Patterson stood in for both formats.

    “Whatever role Peter plays within our team he’s a leader, he’s a top guy, he’s someone the players look up to,” Jaques said. “Whoever is actually captaining they’ll be helped out by a lot of leaders.”

    Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo


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    ESPN Sports Media Ltd.






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