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Recent Match Report – Surrey vs Middlesex Group 2 2021

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Murtagh bags four before duo share unbroken stand of 98 as hosts seek to put things right

Middlesex 114 for 3 (White 52*) trail Surrey 154 (Murtagh 4-28) by 40 runs

“Look up, not down,” is the guiding principle for captains winning the toss at Lord’s. Pitches can be deceptive in their appearance, so the prevailing wisdom suggests, and thus it is safer to trust the overhead conditions. As such, much of the first day of this London derby was difficult to comprehend, as 13 wickets fell under clear blue skies to leave Middlesex 16 for 3 at 4.10pm, having inserted Surrey and bowled them out before tea.

But a determined, unbroken stand of 98 in just over two hours between Sam Robson and Robbie White ensured that Middlesex had the upper hand overnight, with the opportunity to press on towards a position of dominance. For White in particular, this was a crucial innings. His second-innings 73 at Hampshire last week ensured that Stevie Eskinazi – the stand-in captain for the first two rounds – dropped out of the side instead of him to accommodate Peter Handscomb‘s inclusion, but left him needing to repay that faith; at 25 and yet to nail down a first-team spot, his early-season form could easily define his career

He came in with Reece Topley swinging the ball late from the Nursery End and with the first-innings capitulation against Mohammad Abbas last week fresh in the memory, but showed resolve to reach the close unbeaten. He offered a pair of half-chances, with neither Rory Burns nor Ollie Pope able to dive forward and get their hands underneath balls outside-edged into the slip cordon, and survived a prolonged lbw shout when Topley hit him on the pad, but became the match’s first half-centurion in the final over of the day with a confident square-drive through cover point. Robson, at the far end, was resolute as ever.

Their stand means that the deficit for Middlesex is just 40 heading into the second day, which had looked unlikely when Topley struck three times in his first three overs. He had Max Holden in his second, squeezing a half-volley out to second slip, before bowling Nick Gubbins with a low full toss that tailed away late and bursting through Handscomb’s considerable gate in his third. For Handscomb, it was a harsh reminder of the realities of county cricket: he signed as the club’s overseas player some 76 weeks ago and finally made his debut as captain here, but there is little room for loose drives this early in the summer.

Topley, playing his fourth first-class match since May 2017, was as impressive in a wicketless second spell as he had been in his first, and his return to red-ball cricket will invite questions as to whether he can offer England a point of difference in Australia this winter; while he needs to prove his fitness before they become more serious, there are not many 6ft 8in left-arm seamers around the country who can swing the ball late.



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Steven Smith was given captaincy too young but I’d support him getting the job again

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“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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WBBL 2021 – Shafali Verma, Radha Yadav set for maiden WBBL deals

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Verma has already signed a contract with two-time champions Sydney Sixers

India batter Shafali Verma and left-arm spinner Radha Yadav are set to make their Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) debuts later this year in Australia.

ESPNcricinfo understands that Verma, 17, has already signed a contract with two-time champions Sydney Sixers while Yadav, 21, is on the verge of finalising her deal with one of the two Sydney-based clubs. Aside from Verma and Yadav, at least one more India player is likely to make her maiden appearance in the competition this season.

“Yes, Shafali has signed the contract with Sydney Sixers, and given she is a minor, I have had to give my consent, too,” Verma’s father, Sanjeev, told ESPNcricinfo. “I would like to thank the BCCI and Haryana Cricket Association [HCA] for giving my daughter the permission and support to play in the WBBL. Without the guidance of the HCA, whatever Shafali is doing in her career wouldn’t have been possible.”

A senior BCCI official told ESPNcricinfo that the WBBL could see the largest ever Indian contingent this season. “All players who have been or will be approached by Big Bash teams will be given all necessary permissions to participate in the WBBL this season,” he said on the condition of anonymity.

Verma, as reported by ESPNcricinfo last week, is also set to make her debut in the inaugural edition of the Hundred, the 100-ball domestic competition of the ECB. She will be joined by her India team-mates Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Deepti Sharma and Jemimah Rodrigues.

Only three India players have played in the WBBL previously. India T20I captain Kaur and vice-captain Mandhana debuted in the 2016-17 edition for the Sydney Thunder and the Brisbane Heat respectively. While Kaur played three straight seasons for the Thunder, Mandhana’s second bow in the competition was for the Hobart Hurricanes, in 2018-19. Veda Krishnamurthy played a solitary season, in 2017-18, also for the Hurricanes.

The WBBL didn’t have any Indian representation in 2019-20 as they focussed on preparing for the 2020 T20 World Cup instead, with assignments against South Africa and West Indies during the same time as the WBBL. A clash in scheduling with the 2020 Women’s T20 Challenge, the domestic three-team, four-match competition run by the BCCI, ruled at least three top-drawer India players out of the WBBL.

The seventh season of the WBBL is likely to run in its usual October-November window, and overseas players will be expected to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival in Australia.

Additional reporting by Daniel Brettig

Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha



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Charter flight may return Maldives-bound Australia players this week

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The group of 38 would be able to take a charter flight out of the Maldives via Malaysia to Sydney on May 16

Australian cricketers, coaches and media currently stranded in the Maldives may be able to return to home shores as soon as Sunday.

Cricket Australia, the Australian Cricketers Association and the BCCI are still awaiting confirmation from the Australian government that citizens who have recently been to India will be allowed to return to home shores after May 15 as previously flagged.

However, under plans currently being thrashed out on that condition, the group of 38 would be able to take a charter flight out of the Maldives via Malaysia to Sydney on May 16, where they would then serve their mandatory 14-day quarantine period.



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