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County Championship 2021 – Dom Sibley builds confidence in injured finger as Lord’s Test looms

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Hard-fought 43 on return to Warwickshire team, but fielding may be key test

Dom Sibley admitted his frustration at getting out for 43 on his return to action after a broken finger, but believes his attritional two-and-a-half hour stay has gone a long way towards proving his readiness for the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s in just under a fortnight’s time.

Despite a struggle for runs at the top and tail of the winter campaign in Sri Lanka and India, Sibley is arguably England’s first-choice Test opener at present, thanks to a pair of match-defining half-centuries at Galle and Chennai that demonstrated his mental fortitude in hostile conditions.

And those same attributes were once again to the fore on a seam-friendly first day of the LV= County Championship at Chelmsford, where his 120-ball knock outlasted the combined efforts of the rest of Warwickshire’s top five, as Peter Siddle led the line for Essex with 4 for 36.

“Some of the balls today nipped as far as some of the balls that spun in the winter,” Sibley said. “Obviously I’m disappointed to get out after doing the hard work to get myself in, but on a wicket like that, there was always going to be one with your name on it. So I’m just pleased to spend some time at the crease and keep building towards what’s going to be a big summer.”

Though Sibley conceded that his finger was not yet at 100%, after sustaining the injury while dropping a slip catch against Nottinghamshire in April, he was hopeful that a day in the field on Friday would give him the final confidence in his recovery that he will need before resuming his place in the England set-up.

“The finger felt good,” he said. “It’s one of those ones where it can feel alright in the nets – obviously the odd one gets hit a little bit – but on the whole it was really good. It was more my inner thigh and my box that was getting peppered today.

“If I’d tried to play a few more shots on that [pitch], I would have been out a bit quicker,” he added. “I realised pretty quickly that it was going to do a little bit, so you just try to defend well, leave well and run really hard between the wickets when you get the opportunity.”

Asked how long he thought it would be until he had full confidence in his finger again, Sibley conceded that the big test of his fitness would come in the field, most likely on Friday, given that Warwickshire reached the close of a rain-interrupted day on 159 for 7.



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Recent Match Report – Zimbabwe vs Bangladesh 2nd ODI 2021

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Ryan Burl and Timycen Maruma ruled out due to injuries; Bangladesh unchanged

Zimbabwe choose to bat vs Bangladesh

Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor decided to bat first in the second ODI against Bangladesh in Harare. However, his counterpart Tamim Iqbal said it was a good toss to lose.

Taylor’s decision was based on the fact that he didn’t want to give his young players the pressure of chasing a total.

Zimbabwe have brought in Sikandar Raza and Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, who would be opening the innings with Tadiwanashe Marumani. They had to leave out Ryan Burl and Timycen Maruma due to injuries, while Bangladesh remained unchanged from their win in the previous match.

The hosts have also pushed Regis Chakabva up to No. 3 after he made a half-century in the first ODI.

Bangladesh: 1 Tamim Iqbal (capt), 2 Liton Das (wk), 3 Shakib Al Hasan, 4 Mohammad Mithun, 5 Mosaddek Hossain, 6 Mahmudullah, 7 Afif Hossain, 8 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 9 Mohammad Saifuddin, 10 Taskin Ahmed, 11 Shoriful Islam

Zimbabwe: 1 Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, 2 Tadiwanashe Marumani, 3 Regis Chakabva (wk), 4 Brendan Taylor (capt), 5 Dion Myers, 6 Sikandar Raza, 7 Wesley Madhevere, 8 Luke Jongwe, 9 Blessing Muzarabani, 10 Tendai Chatara, 11 Richard Ngarava

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84



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Eng vs Pak 1st T20I

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The pair speak about trust, communication, and their telepathic understanding between the wickets

Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan have now put on 429 runs as a T20I first-wicket partnership, at an average of 53.62 and a run rate of 9.36 per over. That’s the highest average of all 46 pairs that have opened for Pakistan, and the highest scoring rate of any of those pairs that have batted together at least five times. They’ve put on two century stands now, the latest being Saturday’s 150 in just 14.4 overs.

Before Rizwan, Azam was part of a long-standing partnership with Fakhar Zaman, with whom he opened 19 times and added 489 runs at an average of 25.73 and a run rate of 7.99, with a highest stand of 72. Since they began opening together, both Azam and Rizwan have enjoyed tremendous returns in T20Is: Rizwan is Pakistan’s highest T20I run-getter this year, with 593 runs at an average of 98.83 and a strike rate of 142.89, with Azam has scored 439 runs at 39.90 and 135.07.

Their 150-run stand on Saturday set Pakistan up for their highest T20I total ever – 232 for 6 – and eventually a 31-run win in the first T20I against England, a stunning reversal of fortunes following a 3-0 ODI series defeat against a second-string home team. Having just put on the second-highest partnership for any wicket by a Pakistan pair, both Rizwan and Azam shared their insights in a PCB video.

“We discussed while going in that we would have a look at the pitch, how it behaved, and at what pace the ball would come [onto the bat],” Azam said. “We took one or two overs [to get our eye in], and I began to charge, because my shots were coming off nicely, but Rizwan bhai, I thought, was struggling for a few balls, so I was conscious of not adding any extra pressure on him. We spoke about having to score 10 an over, 8 an over, because it would be easier for the incoming batsmen if we put on a good, long partnership.”

Rizwan then chipped in with his impressions of the partnership’s strengths. “The key thing about our partnership is that whenever one of us looks to start power-hitting, we go and ask our partner. So we get the confidence that the non-striker has backed our instinct, and I know that the captain (Azam) has given me his inputs, or vice-versa, on whether this is the time for power-hitting or it isn’t, and that eases the situation for both of us.”

One of the metrics of trust between the two is Rizwan’s record of run-outs – which he insists was a major issue for him earlier in his career. “I’ve been run-out 8 or 10 times earlier on, but my understanding with him is really good – his calling is much better than mine.”

For the record, Rizwan was run-out six times in 64 innings in all international cricket until the end of 2020. This year, he’s not been run out even once in 24 innings.

Azam says the pair doesn’t even need to call while running between the wickets.

“We have a belief in each other, that whenever [the ball] goes in the gap, we can run two,” Azam said. “Sometimes we don’t even call, and start running with just a signal from the eyes.”

Saturday’s partnership didn’t get off to the most fluent of starts, with both batters enduring early troubles against David Willey before settling in to score 49 in the powerplay. It took until the 12th over for Pakistan to hit their first six, but that triggered an avalanche, with the innings eventually going on to contain 12 sixes, equalling Pakistan’s previous highest six-count, against Bangladesh in 2007.

“Willey was getting swing early on and our plan was to play him carefully, but we picked up a few boundaries after the second over, and that gave us confidence and momentum,” Azam said. “Our plan after that was to keep going at 10 an over regardless of anything, whether that meant me taking a chance or Rizwan.”



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Recent Match Report – Yorkshire vs Lancashire North Group 2021

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Lancashire 131 for 6 (Wells 30, Croft 26*) beat Yorkshire 128 for 7 (Root 32, Ballance 31, Wood 4-20) by four wickets

Those in charge of recording Roses folklore, pens and pads to the ready please. Joe Root, as a stand-in Yorkshire captain, was at the centre of one of the most debatable acts of sportsmanship (now there’s a word that, seriously, needs some urgent gender-neutral consideration) in Roses history. If it is not read about a hundred years from now then either the chroniclers have not done their job or county cricket has collapsed without trace.

Lancashire needed to win their final North Group tie to join Yorkshire in the quarter-finals of the Vitality Blast, but do not believe that Yorkshire were soft-pedalling as a result. They were tigerishly defending their inadequate 128 for 7 with Lancashire five down, 15 needed from 18 balls and enough tension to ensure that the result was not quite the formality it sounds.

Matthew Waite’s delivery to Luke Wells was worked into the leg-side with a single on offer, only for Steven Croft to hesitate and collapse in mid-pitch, clutching his hamstring as if he would never play again. Yorkshire chose not to remove the bails, it turned out to be cramp and thanks to the seemingly magical hands of the Lancashire physio, he was able not only to resume, but celebrate a four-wicket victory with an over to spare as if he had drunk from the elixir of life in the meantime. That’s what qualifying for the last eight of the Blast means to people. Tell that to advocates of the Hundred.

Not since Marcelo Bielsa ordered Leeds United deliberately to concede a goal against Aston Villa two years ago will Yorkshire have debated acts of sporting integrity with such passion. It’s probably worth reflecting that the three players involved in the decision had a combined age of 68 and have not actually played much professional cricket. The bowler, Matthew Waite, the fielder Jordan Thompson, the keeper Harry Duke. Integrity or largely confusion? It would be no surprise to find that some on Yorkshire’s coaching staff disagreed with their humanitarian stance (this is not often presented as a prime feature of Yorkshire cricket) and for the sake of history perhaps they should put their views on the record.

Root, impressively, seeking unity, protecting all concerned, was a master of diplomacy. “As a side we made a very difficult decision under pressure,” he said. “It looked very serious at first glance. In many ways it was a relief it was nothing serious. I am sure there will be many different opinions. Many people would have handled it differently.”

(Forgive the personal intervention here, but as somebody who ruptured two Achilles tendons in mid-pitch in successive seasons in Yorkshire club cricket and was run out both times, yes, it’s possible they probably would have done. Maybe I morally deserved those not outs? Acts of integrity, 30 years on, seem a very good thing).

The umpires called a dead ball, although that decision was just to negotiate a settlement. There was no right or wrong. There was just half a second when three young players wondered what to do. It is not clear whether Root, a captain, who whether he likes it or not has become the moral conscience of England cricket, uttered an instruction.

But what of Croft, Lancashire’s Lazarus? “Two games in two days at 36 and a bit of sun has done me,” he told Sky TV. “I put the brakes on, they worked, and my legs just cramped up. I didn’t know where the ball had gone. They could have taken the bails off and credit to them that they didn’t.”

There was little need to ask him how he was. His unbeaten 26 from 29 balls had concluded with a sprinted two and an uninhibited pull against Matt Fisher, with six needed from eight balls, that was almost intercepted, left-handed, by Thompson on the midwicket boundary only for him to fall into the boundary advertising and the ball to roll for four. He struck the next ball slightly squarer for the winning hit. He had the decency to curb his celebrations.

All this meant that Lancashire extended a winning sequence against Yorkshire in the Old Trafford Roses T20 that began in 2015. Simply put, but accurate for all that, they won it on the Powerplay. On a grabby, used Old Trafford pitch, this is where runs are most easily made. Yorkshire made 27 for 2, restricted by an entire top five (with the exception of Adam Lyth who got out early) which seemed to want to play the controlling role. Lancashire, by contrast, returned 57 for 3.

Lancashire understood the Old Trafford pitch and bought into the nature of what they had to do, no more so than the New Zealander Finn Allen, who made 22 from eight balls, easefully striking Adam Lyth’s fill-in offspin for two successive legside sixes in the second over before he was bowled in what has become a very predictable fashion – careering outside off stump against the seam bowling of Matthew Fisher to leave his leg stump exposed.

And Lancashire had a champion with the ball up front. Luke Wood’s left-arm pace is always full of verve and on this occasion his length, his change-ups, his concentration, was also on the money. He returned a career-best 4 for 20 and to rub it in for Yorkshire he was born in Sheffield.

He had Lyth brilliantly caught down the legside by Dane Vilas, who spring athletically to his right to hold a pukka leg glance, and left Mark Stoneman uncertain with changes of length and pace before nipping one back into his off stump. Stoneman’s loan from Surrey, despite a half-century, had not been a success.

Root and Harry Brook, brought together after 2.5 overs, both wanted to play the long game before expanding. Root, the England captain, whose game is built upon it. Brook, the leading scorer in the Blast, whose success has been built upon a low-risk start. Wood had shaken Yorkshire and by the time both were dismissed (Root cutting, Brook bowled by the workaday offspin of Luke Wells) Yorkshire has used more than half their overs in making 59.

There followed panic. Here’s one for the data analysts. What are the record number of balls in a second half of a T20 innings where batsmen swing above the ball without making contract? Yorkshire must be up there. Somehow, Gary Balance, desperation etched on his face, emerged with a highly creditable 31 from 21 before Wood’s on-a-length cutter defeated his legside swipe.
At 64 for 5 off 7.2 overs, Lancashire could have lost the game. They should have reined in their aggression with three down, instead they adjusted with five lost. They had probably just about won it when Croft, innocently enough, collapsed in mid-pitch. But it is a rare Roses match that proves to be straightforward.

David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps



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