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Recent Match Report – Surrey vs Gloucs Group 2 2021




Captain’s knock revives Surrey after table-toppers make early running

Surrey 285 for 5 (Amla 103*, Patel 62, Overton 50*) vs Gloucestershire

If Surrey supporters could name one thing that they missed most about not being able to come to the Kia Oval in recent times, the sight of Hashim Amla in full flow would surely have been high on the list. Amla has an imposing record on this ground, the scene of his unbeaten 311 for South Africa in 2012, not to mention a double-hundred against Hampshire a few weeks ago, and that aside there are few batsmen in world cricket so unarguably worth the admission fee.

Those who made the pilgrimage for Surrey’s encounter with Gloucestershire were duly rewarded. Amla moved serenely to the landmark during the dying embers of the day, as if to order for those wishing to slip in for a glimpse of greatness on their way home from work. Some 2500 were in the ground, and the majority of them rose to their feet as he stroked his 12th boundary through the covers, then removed his helmet to salute the four corners.

This was also a captain’s innings, with Amla taking over responsibilities from Test-match bound Rory Burns. Leading with the bat has always come naturally for Amla and, having started well by winning the toss, he coasted up and down through the gears as required to ensure Surrey finished the day ably placed – an unbroken century stand with Jamie Overton quietly closing the door on Gloucestershire after they had picked off the majority of the top six without too much damage.
Despite Ryan Patel‘s neatly compiled half-century, Surrey had looked a little ill at ease on 181 for 5 approaching tea. Taking on the Group Two leaders, this is a game they arguably need to win to keep their prospects of being involved in Division One later in the summer alive; Amla’s third Championship hundred for Surrey (the first came back in 2013) ensured they were well placed to make good on the expected advantage of batting first on the same pitch as used against Middlesex last week.

Amla’s repertoire of silk and steel is well known, but there’s nothing wrong with playing the old favourites. His first boundary of the day was a wristy clip off Dan Worrall that perfectly bisected two leg-side fielders; a few overs later he eased on to the gas a little, pinging Worrall for four fours in 10 balls, daubing the canvas on either side of the wicket. Worrall, strong of shoulder and unruly of hair, looks rather like one of the bad guys from a 1980s high school movie – but the twinkling Amla nimbly gave him the slip.

The only blemish came during the evening session, when he attempted to back-cut the left-arm spin of Tom Smith only to edge a catchable chance to slip, which Miles Hammond put it down. Amla was on 76 at the time, and Gloucestershire may well have plenty more time left in the field to rue that miss.

Crowds had made their return in the previous round of the Championship, but here was a balmy south London day to create a genuine frisson of excitement among those trooping along the Harleyford Road, rucksacks full and straw hats in place, and plenty came to bask in late May conditions worthy of the name. One chucklingly referred to the hand “sataniser” dispensers dotted liberally around the ground; for Surrey, who have been off the pace in their group, the devil was in the detail.

There were six changes to the XI that went a long way towards winning and then almost managed to lose against Middlesex. Out went Burns, Ollie Pope and Kemar Roach to international duty, Ben Foakes to the treatment room after his hamstring tear, Jordan Clark and Reece Topley to the exigencies of rest and rotation. In came Patel, Laurie Evans and Will Jacks to fill the batting spots, with Sean Abbott, Roach’s replacement as overseas, and Overton as bolstering the seam department, and Dan Moriarty the extra spinner.

The initial exchanges hinted at an Oval surface of the most benign variety – although, already somewhat worn, Surrey will hope it offers a crumble of comfort for their trio of tweakers (Jacks’ offbreaks being a genuine consideration). Mark Stoneman clipped and cut efficiently to add 50 alongside Patel, before Ryan Higgins succeeded in dragging him across his crease before angling one back to hit the pads in front of leg stump.

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England vs India 2021 – Joe Root on Ben Stokes, ‘I just want my friend to be okay’




England captain recognises allrounder is irreplaceable as first Test looms

Joe Root has admitted that the absence of Ben Stokes leaves a huge hole at the heart of England’s team, but insists his first consideration is for the well-being of his friend.

Stokes has taken a break from the sport to focus on his mental well-being. While there has been no time-frame placed on his return, he is not currently expected to appear at any point in the LV= Insurance Test series against India. Quite apart from the non-physical issues, there is also a concern that the finger Stokes broke earlier this year could require a further operation.

But although Root, the England captain, is candid about the enormity of the loss that Stokes’ absence represents, he is clear that there are more important things in life. And he is adamant that Stokes, who at times over the last few years has carried this England team, has earned the fulsome support of everyone involved in the England set-up.

“From my point of view, I just want my friend to be okay,” Root said from Trent Bridge on Monday. “Anyone who knows Ben knows he always puts other people first. Now is an opportunity for him to put himself first, to take time to look after himself and get to a good place again.

“Cricket has to be a secondary thought. It’s a long way down the line and he should take as much time as he needs. He’s got my full support on that and he’s been assured he’s got the full support of the ECB on that. And certainly, he’s got the whole team’s support. More than anything, we just want Ben to be okay. He’s got everyone behind him.

“I had a conversation with Ben and that’s when I found out. The call will stay between the two of us but for me it was hard to see a friend like that. More than anything, I just want him to be okay. I think throughout this it’s important for people to respect his privacy to give him the best chance to deal with this in his own way.”

In the absence of Stokes, balancing the England team is problematic. Had Chris Woakes, who has a bruised heel sustained falling down stairs, been fit he might have mitigated the loss. Moeen Ali was considered as a replacement, too. But, as Root knows, there is “no one that compares” to Stokes.

“In my opinion, there’s no one that compares to Ben Stokes in world cricket,” Root continued. “Obviously for a long time now, he’s been incredible. He’s the heartbeat of this team. Balancing the side with Ben not there is one of the things that will take a lot of the thinking.”

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Eng vs Ind 2021 – Concussion rules Mayank Agarwal out of first England Test




Ajinkya Rahane, who had a hamstring niggle, has been cleared to play the first Test

India opener Mayank Agarwal will miss the Trent Bridge Test because of concussion, after he was hit in the head by a Mohammed Siraj bouncer in the nets two days before the match, the first of a five-Test series.

Agarwal copped the blow early in his batting session when, while trying to duck a short delivery from Siraj, he lost sight of the ball and got hit on the helmet before falling down. He was immediately surrounded by his team-mates, including Siraj and the support staff. A little while later, he walked out alongside physio Nitin Patel. He was seen holding the back of his head as he walked off.

Agarwal was set to play the Test after regular opener Shubman Gill went home with a shin injury. Abhimanyu Easwaran, originally with the squad as a reserve player, is now the back-up opener in the squad. KL Rahul, who has played 33 of his 36 Tests as an opener, is in the squad but it is believed he is being looked at as a middle-order batter. In the three-day warm-up match in Durham he batted at No. 5 and scored 101.

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Match Preview – West Indies vs Pakistan, Pakistan tour of West Indies 2021, 4th T20I



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The series was of significant importance for both teams in their preparations ahead of the T20 World Cup but so far rain has ruled the headlines, ditching all the promises for the series. With two of three games washed out and one game slashed before the series began, Pakistan come into the final match against West Indies 1-0 ahead.

Pakistan’s run-scoring has revolved around Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam. They have rejigged their line-up to break the two up, playing Sharjeel Khan as an opener, but the washouts mean they haven’t gathered enough evidence to vindicate the tweak. The middle-order conundrum is deeper than ever with Mohammad Hafeez’s silent bat, misfiring Sohaib Maqsood and inexperienced Azam Khan out with an injury.

For a while now, Hafeez has been in the side mainly because of his batting with his bowling being used on an as-and-when-needed basis. However, his four-over spell – at an economy of 1.50 – in the only completed game, earned him the Player-of-the-Match award and has been a big positive for Pakistan. More of that in the final T20I will give Pakistan wider options for the World Cup to be played in the UAE, where pitches are more conducive to spin.

West Indies, under Kieron Pollard, were hoping to know most of their first-choice picks by the end of this series but have not learnt much either. Despite restricting Pakistan to 157 in the second T20I, their dangerous batting order failed to display the firepower they are synonymous with. Only Nicholas Pooran made any impression, scoring an unbeaten 62 runs off 33 balls.

On Tuesday, Pakistan will be eyeing an away series win, and while winning remains paramount, what they would seek is batters apart from Rizwan and Azam to raise their hands. Before the series, Azam had promised to check the bench strength. In that sense, this game gives both sides yet another opportunity to finetune their respective team combinations.

Form guide

West Indies LWLWW (last five completed T20I, most recent first)
Australia WLLWW

In the spotlight

Chris Gayle scored a match-winning 67 against Australia but against Pakistan, has scored 7, 16 and 1*. In the last 12 months, he is averaging 16.53 with a strike rate of 114.97 with just one half-century in 15 T20Is. His T20 numbers aren’t great either; this year he has played 25 innings and averaged 22.72 at a strike rate of 130.20. The last calendar year where he averaged less than 25 in T20s was in 2010. West Indies will have to see whether he’s strengthening the batting unit or weakening it.

Pakistan’s middle and lower order will be under scrutiny. In the last completed game, they were well set to go past 180 but finished with a middling 157, including just 23 runs in the last four overs despite a fairly long batting line-up. Maqsood’s success has largely been built batting in the top order, but being sent in at No. 7 is reducing his effectiveness. Fakhar Zaman and Hafeez’s numbers keep fluctuating, and the pinch-hitting stocks of Shadab Khan and Hasan Ali dip when transitioning from T20s to T20Is. Can they come together to the best of their potential this time around?

Team news

With their two-first choice openers nursing injuries – Lendl Simmons was injured in the first match and Evin Lewis retired hurt in the second – Gayle could open alongside Andre Fletcher.

West Indies (probable): 1 Andre Fletcher, 2 Chris Gayle, 3 Shimron Hetmyer 4 Nicholas Pooran (wk) 5 Kieron Pollard (capt), 6 Andre Russell, 7 Jason Holder, 8 Romario Shepherd, 9 Dwayne Bravo, 10 Hayden Walsh, 11 Akeal Hosein

It’s likely that Haris Rauf remains in the XI after he replaced Shaheen Shah Afridi for the washed-out third match. Azam Khan, however, could make it to the XI if he is cleared by the medical team.

Pakistan (probable): 1 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 2 Sharjeel Khan, 3 Babar Azam, (capt) 4 Fakhar Zaman, 5 Mohammad Hafeez, 6 Sohaib Maqsood/Azam Khan, 7 Shadab Khan, 8 Hasan Ali, 9 Mohammad Wasim, 10 Usman Qadir, 11 Haris Rauf

Pitch and conditions

With rain predicted for the week as a whole, there is a chance that the contest may be a shortened one. However, there is a clear window in the day but conditions are expected to be overcast. Win toss, bowl first may be the best bet.

  • During the second T20I, Rizwan became the most-prolific run-getter in a single calendar year in the format.
  • West Indies have not lost a T20I series that was played wholly in the Caribbean since the 3-0 defeat against England in March 2019.
  • Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent

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