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Recent Match Report – Essex vs Durham Group 1 2021

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Durham 148 for 8 (Borthwick 100, Harmer 4-41) lead Essex 96 (Rushworth 3-13, Carse 3-37) by 52 runs

It’s fair to assume that Durham were a little bit pumped for this one. Five long years ago, at the end of the 2016 season, these two clubs swapped places in the first and second divisions, and with it, their places in the national pecking order. Essex, promoted as champions, duly embarked on their run of three first-class titles out of four, while Durham’s financially-imposed relegation brought a punitive end to their own indisputable golden age – between 2008 and 2013, they had racked up each of their three Championship titles, with three further one-day titles in the space of eight years.

And so, like a heavyweight title that had changed hands without any punches being thrown, there was something extra at stake at Chelmsford, in the two counties’ first first-class meeting since September 2010 – a bygone era, when Durham themselves had been the two-times reigning champions, and when Essex’s failure to force victory on the final day effectively opened the trapdoor to their own relegation.

By the close of a bruising opening day, the two combatants had punched each other senseless – 18 wickets falling all told, in a sea-change from the circumstances on this same ground last week, when 21 had been grudgingly handed over in the course of four full days. And though Essex were the side finishing with a surge in the semi-darkness, with four wickets falling for as many runs before the close, it was the performances of the two Durham survivors from that previous encounter 11 years ago who had hoisted their side into the ascendancy.

Scott Borthwick and Chris Rushworth have had contrasting experiences since that desperate relegation season. The former headed south to Surrey, in search of the new beginnings that might earn him a chance to add to that solitary Test cap, handed out in such invidious circumstances on England’s whitewash Ashes tour in 2013-14. The latter held firm up north, keeping the home fires burning as he marched ever onwards in Durham’s domestic annals – and with a superb analysis of 11-8-13-3 here, he moved along to 512 wickets, 15 shy of Graham Onions’ all-time record.

But in a day dominated by the bowlers, nobody played a more glorious hand that the prodigal son Borthwick, who produced an urgent, emphatic innings of 100 from 129 balls, while his team-mates managed a grand total of 48 for 8 between them. Though he was crestfallen to be dismissed in the dying overs of the day, his efforts had driven Durham to a priceless lead of 52 by the close, and batting last against the chastened champions, they may yet need every run of that advantage.

Borthwick cracked 15 fours in his innings, as powerful on the sweep against the spinners – the ever-dangerous Simon Harmer in particular – as he was graceful on the drive, with his high-elbowed crunch through the covers off Ben Allison to move to 96 being the absolute pick of the crop. One ball later, he whipped a leg-stump delivery behind square, and ripped off his helmet with glee. After scores of 0 and 1 in an anticlimactic return against Nottinghamshire last week, this was the home-from-homecoming that he had dreamed of. Whether it will be a victorious one, however, remains to be seen.

Essex won the toss and chose to bat on the sort of morning that might have given them pause for thought against a bowling attack forged in the Arctic winds of Chester-le-Street. But then again, having endured the tedium of Worcestershire’s only innings in last week’s season opener, their bowlers had plenty reasons to pass the buck on that score, especially given the lack of complication with which Tom Westley had racked up 213 on the first two days of that game.

It took Rushworth just three deliveries to suggest to Essex that life wasn’t going to be quite that placid, as Nick Browne dangled his bat uncertainly outside off, and detonated his own leg stump with a fat inside-edge. Three overs later, he extended Alastair Cook’s uneasy start to the season by thumping a well-planted knee-roll to send him on his way for 6.

At the other end, Matt Salisbury – revisiting his roots after coming through Essex’s academy as a teenager – had already scalped Westley for 4, via a flat-footed drive that betrayed his team’s mindset, or lack thereof. Essex had parked such shots in grinding along to 207 for 3 on the opening day of the season, but Westley wasn’t interested in relaying his groundwork. He and his team seemed in a collective hurry to get a move on today.

That became a rather more literal experience when Brydon Carse entered the fray in the 14th over. Generating sharp pace from the outset, his first-ball loosener had more heat that Paul Walter was anticipating, as he wafted an under-edged cut onto his stumps for 7. And before the over was out, Essex were 36 for 5 and facing humiliation. Carse’s well-directed short ball thumped into an upraised bat as Ryan ten Doeschate ducked for cover, and a fast flat deflection fizzed to Ned Eckersley at third slip.

Throughout all of this, Dan Lawrence cut a phlegmatic figure at the non-striker’s end – he’d seen it all before, in rather different surroundings, throughout England’s winter exertions in Sri Lanka and India. By the time a rain flurry brought about an early lunch, Lawrence was batting like a man with a different agenda – he’d already cracked his first ball, from Rushworth, through wide long-on, and had added four more cleanly struck fours to stride along to 32 not out, with Adam Wheater solid alongside him in a sixth-wicket rescue-stand of 38.

Straight after the break, however, Essex were right back in the soup. Ben Raine’s first delivery of the session was dangled outside off, for Wheater to nibble fatally to second slip for 18. But it was Salisbury’s intercession, 11 balls later, that scuttled any hopes of a fighting total – a superb delivery that bit the seam on a full and tight length, lifting past the edge of a resolute block to trim Lawrence’s bails and send him on his way without addition. At 74 for 7, there were only scraps left for Essex to fight for.

Harmer couldn’t delay Durham’s march, as he prodded limply to slip for a duck, and Ben Allison fared little better, as Rushworth found his edge too to finish with the outstanding figures of 3 for 13 in 11 overs. Only Sam Cook found any meaningful resistance with a free-spirited innings of 15 from No.10, but the end to his stay was savage, as Carse bend his back once more, and David Bedingham swallowed a flap off the eyebrows to slip.

Essex’s total of 96 was their lowest at Chelmsford since 2014, and after Worcestershire had ended their 11-match home winning streak last week, a far greater ignominy awaited.

Durham’s response faltered early, as Alex Lees fell early to Sam Cook, who found some sharp lift on the angle across the left-hander to prise him out for 5. But Borthwick joined Will Young in what appeared to be a game-seizing stand of 87. Between them, they surged past Essex’s total with a riotous acceleration from the end of the 20th over, all but doubling the score from 46 for 1 to 98 in the space of six overs as Porter and Harmer were battered for nine fours between them.

But then, on 24, Young got too frisky against a sharp offbreak from Harmer, and flicked a leg-glance straight into Lawrence’s lap at leg slip to break both the stand, and Durham’s hot streak. One over later, Bedingham skipped down the pitch to Harmer, seeking to keep up the tempo, and holed out to Westley at long-on for a duck. And when Jack Burnham was skittled by a beauty from Cook, angling in and bursting round the edge of a full-faced block, Durhan were 114 for 4 and wobbling.

Borthwick, however, was having none of it. Two more crunching sweeps kept up the pressure on Harmer as he marched into the 90s, and a few overs later he had his moment of catharsis off Allison. His team-mates, however, could match neither his tempo or his endurance, as Eckersley joined the procession with a deflected lob to slip off Harmer. And with the light closing in, Borthwick’s own resistance was finally broken. Lawrence, into the attack for a twin-spin assault, fizzed through his defences before cleaning up Carse one ball later with a ripping offbreak that sent a clear message about how this contest may yet play out in the second innings.

At 144 for 7, it seemed we were done for the day … but not so. With Prince Philip’s impending funeral causing the first two days of this game to be extended, the players trooped back out at 7pm to finish off their allocation, and Durham’s innings was all but finished off full-stop, as Ben Raine became Harmer’s fourth victim of a quietly predatory display. If this is what we’ve been missing out on in the past 11 years of non-combatance, then Essex and Durham have gone a long way towards making up for lost time.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket



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India set to name squads for England Tests, WTC final over the weekend

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The selectors are expected to pick an enlarged squad with enough reserves to cater for any contingency

The Indian squads for both the World Test Championship final and the five-Test England series are set to be picked over the weekend. It is understood that the Virat Kohli-lead Indian squad is likely to depart for England on June 2.

Keeping in mind the extensive length of the tour, spanning between June and mid-September, the selectors are expected to pick an enlarged squad with enough reserves to cater for any contingency. Even the ICC recently approved increasing the squad strength from 23 to 30 (including support staff) for global events during the Covid-19 pandemic.



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Covid-19 in Pakistan – PCB approaches Emirates Cricket Board to host remainder of PSL 2021 in the UAE

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The franchises had requested the PCB to shift the games out of Karachi because of the pandemic

The PCB has approached the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) to host the remaining games of the rescheduled 2021 edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in the UAE. The original plan had been to play the matches in Karachi, but the PCB has decided against it following a request from the six franchises as well as advice from the National Command Operation Centre (NCOC), which asked the board to avoid playing in Karachi because of the worsening Covid-19 situation in the country.

Upon the franchises’ request to move the matches out of Pakistan, the PCB met with all the teams via video conference to discuss the financial implications of postponing the tournament. The PCB has agreed to look beyond Karachi, with UAE as a preferred venue for the games. The UAE was where the PSL began, its inaugural edition in 2016 held there while international cricket was not taking place in Pakistan.

Karachi had originally been announced as the venue for the tournament and even till last week, the PCB was proceeding on the basis that tournament would be held there, with the board making arrangements for a hotel. But earlier this week, the PCB met with the NCOC, whose forecast of the Covid situation in Pakistan over the next 20 days wasn’t reassuring. The NCOC informed the PCB there might be a rise in cases post-Eid, and that the government might subsequently enforce a stricter lockdown in the country. Already a nationwide lockdown has begun from today, to be in place until May 15.

“We had an interactive and productive meeting in which we considered a number of factors,” Wasim Khan, the PCB chief executive, said. “While the UAE has emerged as a preferred venue, a number of challenges remain, which will be worked through over the coming days. We remain committed to doing everything possible to complete the HBL PSL 6.”

The tournament was initially slated to start from June, but with the change of venue, the PCB will work on a revised schedule. The window to host the tournament is unlikely to alter too much though, as Pakistan are scheduled to begin a tour of England from June 23. Though the PCB and PSL have both agreed to playing in UAE, a final confirmation will be made only when the franchises give their approval upon seeing the revised opportunity costs of playing abroad.

“The PCB will carry out a detailed financial and risk assessment as well as cost analysis before reporting back to the franchises, who will then review before a decision on the event venue is confirmed,” the PCB said.

As reported by ESPNcricinfo, the franchises had written a letter to the board last week, asking for the tournament to be played in the Emirates.

The 2021 edition of the PSL was suspended after 14 games – played between February 20 and March 3, all in Karachi – following an outbreak of cases among players and support staff. After a date for resumption was finalised – June 2 to June 20 – the franchises took part in a replacement draft to plug holes in their line-ups because a number of overseas players would not be able to take part in the games on the new dates.

The changed situation with the pandemic, however, made franchises nervous about the situation, which led to them approaching the PCB.

Pakistan, meanwhile, has announced a decision to curtail inbound flights to the country from May 5 to May 20.

A move to the UAE would not be without its own logistical and operational issues, though. Flights to the country from Pakistan are currently operating at a severely reduced frequency. And June is not a month in which top-level cricket is often played in the UAE, because of the oppressive heat at that time of the year.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent



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No Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav in India’s squad of 20 for WTC final and England Tests

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There is no room for Hardik Pandya or Kuldeep Yadav in India’s squad of 20 players, including two players – KL Rahul and Wriddhiman Saha – subject to “fitness clearance”, for the final of the World Test Championship against New Zealand and the subsequent five-Test series against England. Pandya and Kuldeep aren’t among the four standby players either.

India will play the WTC final from June 18 to 22 in Southampton and the Test series against England from August 4, starting in Nottingham, to September 14, with the last Test scheduled for Manchester.

Virat Kohli’s side is expected to leave for England on June 2, and keeping in mind the length of the tour as well as possible contingencies because of the Covid-19 pandemic, India are carrying a total of 24 players, their reserves’ list containing Abhimanyu Easwaran, the opening batter, and three fast bowlers: Prasidh Krishna, Avesh Khan and Arzan Nagwaswalla.

Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja and Hanuma Vihari returned to the squad after missing the recent home Tests against England because of their respective injuries.

Rahul underwent surgery for appendicitis in early May after he complained of “severe abdomen pain” during the IPL. At the time, the doctors were understood to have told the Punjab Kings that Rahul would be able to resume all activity in a week’s time.

Saha, the other player who has to prove his fitness in time for the tour, tested positive for Covid-19 on May 4, the same day the IPL was postponed indefinitely. Saha, who was a part of the Sunrisers Hyderabad squad, is still in Delhi, where he returned the positive test. It is understood that he will have to undergo 14 days in isolation and be able to move out only after a negative test.

Of the players dropped from the squad that played against England at home earlier this year, Pandya did have a question mark over him since he has not bowled regularly for some time now, with Kohli saying he wanted to preserve Pandya the bowler for the Tests in England. He had a shoulder niggle during the IPL, and didn’t bowl at all in the seven matches he played for the Mumbai Indians. He did, however, bowl a nine-over burst in the third and final ODI against England.

As for Kuldeep, while he has been a part of the India squad recently, he has not had many games. Of his seven Tests, he has played only one in the last two years – the second Test against England in February this year – in which he got to bowl just 12.2 overs overall, returning 0 for 16 and 2 for 25 as India won by 317 runs. He could have also been left out because the two spinners picked ahead of him – Axar Patel and Washington Sundar – provide better batting options and shorten India’s tail.

With Patel making a big splash on Test debut in the England series with a haul of 27 wickets from three games and India mostly preferring one or both of R Ashwin and Jadeja, depending on conditions, Kuldeep’s chances of making the cut took a hit.

Among the opening batters, India have the options of Mayank Agarwal and Rahul, who can also double up as middle-order batters should the need arise, apart from the first-choice pair of Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill. Vihari returned after the hamstring injury he sustained in Sydney and is currently representing Warwickshire in the County Championship in England.

For fast-bowling options, the selectors included Shardul Thakur and Umesh Yadav ahead of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has been facing injury issues recently, apart from the more obvious names of Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Shami and Mohammed Siraj.

Before the latest Covid-19 surge in India which led to the UK government putting India on the red list in April, the BCCI was looking at picking two separate squads with the first batch meant for the WTC final and the second leaving closer to the England tour. That had to change once the circumstances changed.

In April, the ECB had announced that the Indians would be arriving with an inflated squad and would play two intra-squad practice matches in July. Those two matches replaced the original warm-up schedule of four-day fixtures between the Indians and India A in July. The ECB, in agreement with BCCI, had postponed the India A tour because of the pandemic.

Squad: Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane (vice-capt), Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul (subject to fitness clearance), Wriddhiman Saha (wk; subject to fitness clearance). Standby players: Abhimanyu Easwaran, Prasidh Krishna, Avesh Khan, Arzan Nagwaswalla

Shamya Dasgupta is senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo



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