Warwickshire 7 for 0 trail Essex 295 (Browne 68, Walter 66, ten Doeschate 56, Hannon-Dalby 4-73, Stone 4-89) by 288 runs
Not all wickets are equal. It has long remained one of cricket’s charming idiosyncrasies that the wicket of Ricky Ponting on a batting paradise in Adelaide is valued (in basis career statistics, at least) the same as the wicket as Charl Willoughby – a man who did almost as little for bats as the wet markets of Wuhan – on a minefield in Leeds.
But there are dismissals that make you sit up and take notice. So it was when Olly Stone dismissed Paul Walter at Edgbaston. Walter was well set at the time. The ball was old – in its 69th over – and the wicket held no terrors. Quite the opposite: this looks like an excellent batting track for the time of year.
But such is Stone’s pace and hostility, he had Walter caught at third man – a fly slip, really, albeit one standing on the boundary – by a bouncer that reared towards his neck, took the shoulder of the bat and flew every bit of 40 metres. He had already softened him up with a pair of bouncers that struck him on the upper body.
Pace isn’t everything, of course. But just because it’s not everything doesn’t mean it’s nothing. And on flat surfaces – the sort England can anticipate in Australia this winter, for example – well-directed pace is an invaluable tool. Stone, with his pleasing shape, his probing length, his pace and his sharp bouncer looks tailor-made for the trip. Marcus Trescothick, England’s new elite batting coach, will have noted this as he watched on from the deserted stands at Edgbaston.
By then, Stone had already had Dan Lawrence caught at midwicket – not from his finest ball, to be fair – and Nick Browne caught behind after flashing at one he might have left. Replays also suggested Stone might have been a little unfortunate not to win a leg-before decision against Browne before the batter had scored and was even more unfortunate not to win a leg-before decision against Walter when he had 30. An edge from Browne, on 24, eluded the slip cordon.
Stone did not have things entirely his own way. Ryan ten Doeschate, in particular, made full use of an unusually short boundary towards the Priory side of the ground by pulling successive fours and then a six when Stone tried to bounce him. But Stone countered with the dismissal of Adam Wheater, poking at one flashing past his off stump, to claim his fourth wicket and see off Essex for a total that might be considered as much as 100 below par.
Given Stone’s injury record, it was encouraging he played this game at all. He delivered 41 overs last week and, having not played back-to-back first-class games since 2019 – this is actually just his fourth first-class game since July 2019 and one of those was curtailed by injury – it bodes well that he didn’t just report fit, but was able to generate such pace. In this form, he offers England a depth in their fast-bowling resources they have not had for a decade or more – in other words, since they last time they won in Australia.
“My body is feeling great,” he said afterwards, belying an open blister and blackened nail on his big toe. “Having had an injury-free winter, I felt ready to play back-to-back games and I wanted to prove to people that I could do it. It’s all about being ready for the Tests against New Zealand.
“I hope I’m the finished article now. I’m still pushing hard to improve but all the months of rehab were about getting to where I am now. Dismissals like that one – the Walter one – are the dream, really. I’m really happy.”
Stone’s contribution helped Warwickshire hit back in the final session of an intriguing day. At tea, Essex had been well-placed at 186 for 3 with Warwickshire ruing two or three dropping catches. The worst of them, Sam Hain putting down Browne in the slips on 20 off Craig Miles, looked as if it might be especially expensive as Browne moved ominously into the 60s.
Indeed, such was Browne’s patience that he played only five scoring shots in the first two hours of play and his first single came from his 92nd delivery. It was some surprise when, almost immediately after the second interval, he poked at one from Stone in a fiery three-over burst that removed both set batters and turned the direction of the day’s play.
Earlier, an impostor purporting to be Alastair Cook produced a more than passable impression of David Gower in making a run-a-ball 46. He certainly looked like Cook; he even wore his shirt. But, as he reeled off a string of gorgeous drives and pulled Stone for six, it was hard to recall a time he had ever batted so fluently. As Browne, who contributed eight of their first 50 runs, put it: “I’ve batted with Cookie a lot of times over the years and never seen him bat like that before. He looked like Bradman.”
Oliver Hannon-Dalby, plugging away at the other end on a probing length, ended with even better figures than Stone. But harsh though it may be, England are blessed with an abundance of excellent fast-medium bowlers who can threaten with a Dukes ball. It’s bowlers like Stone who could unlock batting line-ups on the flatter surfaces generally encountered in Test cricket.
Given the wretched luck he has suffered with injuries over the years, there can be no room for complacency. But as England build for the Ashes, Stone seems to be coming to the boil nicely.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
BAN vs SL 2021 – New ODI captain Kusal Perera wants young Sri Lanka to play ‘fearlessly’ against Bangladesh | Cricket
Fearlessness. If there’s one change Sri Lanka’s new ODI captain Kusal Perera would like to usher in, it is for his team to play as he says he does: completely unafraid.
Perera has been appointed leader of a young squad, which is without several big names, including Angelo Mathews, and now has the opportunity to turn around Sri Lanka’s poor form in the format – the side having slipped to ninth on the ICC rankings. Perera has long been one of the most aggressive batsmen in Sri Lanka’s ranks, and early indications are that he would like the team to embrace that ethos.
“We have to fearless cricket to win matches,” he said, a day after his appointment as captain was made official. “You can’t be fearful about losing. If you’re worried about your place, you aren’t going to give 100%. What I’m going to tell the players is to go and give it everything. If we play fearlessly even when we are practicing, then you will be able to play the same way in a match. That’s what I’ve told the team. If we are fearful, we will fall even further. I’m trying to build a culture where the players have a lot of confidence.”
Perera’s own most notable innings have been aggressive ones. In Tests, his 153 not out off 200 in Durban is now counted among the format’s greatest knocks. In ODIs, he has hit the second-equal fastest half-century – off 17 balls, against Pakistan, in 2015.
“I really like to play fearless cricket personally, and that’s where my success has been. Whenever I’ve played with fear, it hasn’t worked for me. I want everyone else to play like that. You can’t guarantee that you will go right playing this way, but the chances of things going well are greater.”
“But you have to practice well to instill that fearlessness. Because if you are 100% certain about the shot you’re playing, you can play without fear. You need to understand your strengths and weaknesses. Where does the ball need to be for me to hit it? Will I get myself in trouble by hitting there? You need to have that understanding. If you’re a bowler, you need to know which ball can get you a wicket, and which will help you bowl a dot. These things help you play fearlessly. As a fielding unit, you have to carry that same ethos as well, and I have big hopes for the upcoming Bangladesh series about our fielding.”
Although Perera has sparkled briefly, however, his overall record as a batsman is modest. After 96 ODI innings, he averages 31.04, with a strike rate of 92.04. The responsibility of leadership, he hoped, would bring bigger personal scores as well.
“What the selectors told me when they appointed me was that I often get a 50 or a 60 and get out without getting to a 100. I accept that. If I score a hundred, the chances of winning the match go up. You can’t get a 100 every game, but when you get a start, you need to make sure you convert. They expect me to take that responsibility.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf
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Ramesh Powar returns as India Women coach, no extension for WV Raman
He replaces WV Raman, coming back after his last stint had ended in an acrimonious fallout with Mithali Raj
Powar was replaced by WV Raman, and will now take over from the incumbent. While Raman’s coaching tenure began in December 2018, the Indian team has been largely inactive for almost two years, including the time period after which the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
— RAMESH POWAR (@imrameshpowar) May 13, 2021
Under Raman, India reached the final of the T20 World Cup in 2020, losing to Australia on March 8. With the pandemic striking worldwide almost immediately after, the team didn’t play another international match until their home series against South Africa Women that began on March 7 earlier this year. South Africa won the ODIs 4-1, and the T20Is 2-1.
Raman’s position had come in for scrutiny following the losses to South Africa, and those reversals, ESPNcricinfo understands, prompted the selection panel led by Neetu David to ask the BCCI for a rethink on the support staff. BCCI secretary Jay Shah is believed to have spoken to at least one member of the selection committee before the Indian board put out an advertisement, on April 13, inviting applications for the head coach’s job – for a term of two years, with the job including overseeing the senior team as well as the India A and Under-19 teams.
Powar was then selected by the Cricket Advisory Committee, comprising Madan Lal, RP Singh and Sulakshana Naik, who interviewed a number of candidates for the post which saw 35 applications. Besides Powar and Raman – who re-applied – the others in the fray were Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Ajay Ratra, Mamtha Maben, Devika Palshikar, former chair of selectors Hemlatha Kala, and former assistant coach Suman Sharma.
Powar had first been appointed as coach in July 2018 in an interim capacity, and his contract was then extended to cover the 2018 T20 World Cup in the Caribbean. While India reached the semi-finals of the event, its aftermath had Raj and Powar trading accusations, with Raj saying she felt “deflated, depressed and let down” by the actions of Powar during the tournament, and Powar countering that Raj had “threatened to retire” mid-tournament if she wasn’t given the opener’s slot.
The controversy meant Powar’s contract was not renewed, even though senior players Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana had both written to the BCCI urging them to continue with him.
Powar then worked at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru and with the India A sides, before taking over as the coach of Mumbai men’s team in February 2021. Under his charge, Mumbai turned their fortunes around to romp to the Vijay Hazare Trophy (50-overs domestic competition) title after a forgettable Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy campaign in which they won only one of their five games.
In his playing career, Powar played two Tests and 31 ODIs for India from 2004 to 2007, taking a total of 40 international wickets. His domestic career spanned from 1999-00 to 2015, as an offspinning allrounder of considerable skill. He took 470 first-class wickets (average 31.31) while also scoring 4245 first-class runs (average 26.53) in 148 games. He played 113 List A matches, taking 142 wickets and hitting 1082 runs. Powar played 28 T20 games, including in the IPL for Kings XI Punjab and Kochi Tuskers Kerala.
Steven Smith was given captaincy too young but I’d support him getting the job again
“Obviously I don’t make that decision but the time I played with Steve as captain he was excellent,” Paine said of Smith
Australia captain Tim Paine has argued that Steven Smith was too immature for the demands of captaincy when the national role was first handed to him in 2014 and 2015. But Paine has fewer qualms about Smith returning to the job whenever the incumbent chooses to retire.
Paine, who initially had been unsure of whether he would continue as captain beyond the end of the 2019 Ashes, has hung on for another two years since, and the national team coach Justin Langer has attempted to end any speculation on the future by claiming that the selectors aren’t even discussing the issue.
But this summer’s Ashes series looms as the most logical conclusion to Paine’s unexpected run in the job, which came about directly through the Newlands scandal that saw Smith banned from playing for a year and banned from leadership for two years.
“At least another six Tests,” Paine told the Chappell Foundation dinner when asked how long he had left. “If I feel like the time is right and we’ve beaten the Poms 5-0, what a way to go out. But it might be a tight series and we might be chasing 300 on the last day and I’m 100 not out and hit the winning runs — and then I might go again.”
Smith’s entourage, including his leadership mentor Maurice Duffy, are adamant that he should get the chance for a second go at a role that was snatched away from him after events in South Africa.
“It would be a tragedy right now if he didn’t get the opportunity to be captain again,” Duffy told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2019. “He owns himself much more now. He has an inner calmness. He owns his own feelings a lot better now, he’s much more in control of himself. I think he’s got a better outlook on life right now and I think he appreciates hugely what has been given to him.”
Other senior figures in Australian cricket are not so sure, and New South Wales broadened the race to replace Paine by handing domestic limited-overs captaincy duties to Pat Cummins instead of Smith earlier this year. Paine, who has never argued against Smith getting the job again, maintained his stance on Wednesday night.
“I think so. Obviously I don’t make that decision but the time I played with Steve as captain he was excellent. Certainly tactically he is as good as you get,” Paine said. “He’s probably a bit like me when I was at the start of my captaincy journey in Tasmania — he was thrown into a very big role at a very, very young age and he probably wasn’t quite ready for it.
“But by the time I came in he was growing into that role and getting better and better. Then obviously South Africa events happened and he’s not doing it anymore. But yeah I would support him getting that job again.”
On captaincy in general, Paine said that in his experience that ambition for leadership was often a dangerous thing. “In my experience the guy who wants it too much is probably not the best option,” Paine said. “So if [his son] Charlie does come up and says he wants to be captain of Australia, I’d say just lower your expectations and worry about being a good player and a good team man and whatever happens from that would happen.”
Reflecting on the series defeat to India, Paine said that the hosts had been distracted by the tourists’ psychological tactics. “Part of the challenge of playing against India is they’re very good at niggling you and trying to distract you with stuff that doesn’t really matter,” Paine said, “and there were times in that series where we fell for that.
“The classic example was when they said they weren’t going to the Gabba so we didn’t know where we were going. They’re very good at creating these sideshows and we took our eye off the ball.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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