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Match Preview – Capitals vs KKR, IPL 2021, Qualifier 2

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Capitals wait on Stoinis availability; Knight Riders may prefer Shakib over Russell again in knockout

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Kolkata Knight Riders have been on a fairytale ride since the UAE leg of the tournament began. Their top-order batters have scored consistently at a brisk pace and their spinners have stifled oppositions on sluggish tracks. Even though Eoin Morgan hasn’t struck form with the bat, he has led Knight Riders to six wins in the last eight matches. Now they are in Qualifier 2, one step away from the final.

Meanwhile, Delhi Capitals have been the most consistent IPL side in recent years – they are the only ones to qualify for the playoffs in each of the last three seasons. The key to their success has been identifying their best XI early and changing it only when forced to do so.

This season, Capitals topped the league stage despite missing Marcus Stoinis for five games. But after their defeat to Chennai Super Kings in Qualifier 1, cracks seem to have emerged in their line-up. In the absence of Stoinis, their balance looks comprised, while R Ashwin’s bowling form is giving them headaches. Can they regroup quickly and make it to their second successive final?

The chasing teams have won five out of seven games in Sharjah so far this season. Moreover, four of Capitals’ five losses this season have come while batting first, while Knight Riders have won on all five occasions when chasing during the UAE leg of the tournament. So it will not be a surprise if both teams are looking to bowl first.

In the news

Andre Russell is still recovering from his hamstring injury. According to West Indies coach Phil Simmons, Russell has been batting in the Knight Riders nets and is “running at a certain level”. But given the slow nature of the Sharjah surface, Knight Riders could continue with Shakib Al Hasan even if Russell regains full fitness in the next 24 hours.

Rishabh Pant had hoped for Stoinis to be fit for Qualifier 1. That didn’t happen but Capitals will be keeping a close eye on him. If available, Stoinis will replace Tom Curran in the side.

Likely XIs

Delhi Capitals: 1 Prithvi Shaw, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Shreyas Iyer, 4 Rishabh Pant (capt & wk), 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Marcus Stoinis/Tom Curran, 7 Axar Patel, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Anrich Nortje, 11 Avesh Khan

Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Shubman Gill, 2 Venkatesh Iyer, 3 Rahul Tripathi, 4 Nitish Rana, 5 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 6 Eoin Morgan (capt), 7 Shakib Al Hasan, 8 Sunil Narine, 9 Lockie Ferguson, 10 Varun Chakravarthy, 11 Shivam Mavi

Strategy punt

  • Capitals have tried Lalit Yadav, Steven Smith, Ripal Patel and Curran to fill the Hulk-sized hole Stoinis has left behind. But none of them offers the balance Stoinis provides, by being a finisher who can bowl seam-up. A left-field option could be going back to Smith as the Sharjah pitch is likely to suit his style of batting. But given R Ashwin’s form, Capitals could continue with Curran.
  • If Knight Riders go unchanged, they will have five left-hand batters in the top eight. On the face of it, that should work in Ashwin’s favour, but a closer look tells he doesn’t have particularly impressive numbers against them in T20 cricket: 74 runs off 35 balls (no dismissal) against Nitish Rana, 60 runs in 21 balls (no dismissal) against Sunil Narine, 32 runs off 23 balls (two dismissals) against Eoin Morgan. He has a favourable match-up only against Shakib: 30 runs in 31 balls and two dismissals. Generally, Ashwin is an economical bowler in powerplay but there Shubman Gill has taken him for 38 runs in 25 balls without getting out.
  • While Rana has butchered offspinners, he has struggled against Axar Patel. The left-arm spinner has dismissed him twice in 22 balls while conceding only 23 runs. So it will be interesting to see how Capitals use their spinners.
  • Knight Riders can once again promote Narine up the batting order, especially when the spinners are operating. In T20 cricket, Narine has a strike rate of 287.5 against Ashwin and 187.5 against Axar. Neither bowler has been able to dismiss him in a combined 29 balls.
  • Instead of Kagiso Rabada, Capitals could use Anrich Nortje at the death. Rabada has a death-overs economy of 10.84 in this season, whereas Nortje has gone for only 6.81 per over. Rabada could be used in the powerplay and middle overs where has conceded 6.93 and 7.86 per over respectively.

Stats that matter

  • This season Ashwin has picked up only five wickets in 12 games at an average of 60.80 and a strike rate of 49.0. Of the 22 bowlers who have bowled at least 40 overs in the tournament, Ashwin’s average and strike rate are the poorest.
  • Knight Riders have played three games in Sharjah this season. In two of them, against Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore, they didn’t concede even one six.
  • In the IPL playoffs, including finals, Pant has scored 199 runs in six innings, at an average of 49.75 and a strike rate of 151.91.
  • The teams that have scored more runs in powerplay have won eight of nine games in Sharjah this season.
  • Capitals have hit the most number of fours (227) and the least number of sixes (60) by any team in IPL 2021.

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo



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BBL11 2021-22 – Bowling attack gives Melbourne Renegades hope of revival

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The batting remains questionable and they will be looking for the youngsters to develop

Captain Nic Maddinson
Coach David Saker

Squad
Cameron Boyce, Zak Evans, Aaron Finch, Jake Fraser-McGurk, Sam Harper, Marcus Harris, Mackenzie Harvey, Josh Lalor, Shaun Marsh, Jono Merlo (replacement player), James Pattinson, Mitch Perry, Jack Prestwidge, Kane Richardson, James Seymour (replacement player), Will Sutherland, Nic Maddinson, Reece Topley (Eng), Unmukt Chand (Ind), Mohammad Nabi (Afg), Zahir Khan (Afg)

In Nic Maddinson, Jono Merlo, James Seymour, Reece Topley, Unmukt Chand, Zahir Khan
Out Beau Webster, Peter Hazloglou, Jon Holland, Benny, Howell, Noor Ahmed, Imran Tahir, Imad Wasim

Last season

It was another disastrous season for the Renegades finishing last for the second straight year. They won their first match and then lost seven in a row. Their batting was abysmal, bowled out for less than 90 on three occasions and 111 in another match against Adelaide. The bowling was nowhere near as effective as season’s past and they struggled to find a consistent unit as they mixed and matched their overseas players. There was one bright spot as they produced a brilliant chasing win over Melbourne Stars late in the season. Mackenzie Harvey starred smashing 47 not out from 21 balls to give a glimpse into the future.
International impact
Renegades have been severely impacted by both Australia selection and injury. Nic Maddinson‘s selection in the Australia A side to face England Lions means the new Renegades captain won’t get a chance to lead his new club until their fourth game at the earliest. Marcus Harris is set to miss most of the season due to Test duty. Aaron Finch is in doubt for the early games due to his ongoing knee issue while Shaun Marsh is set to miss at least half the tournament due to a calf tear. England does have tour of West Indies in the new year and Afghanistan is scheduled to visit Bangladesh but it is unknown if the likes of Reece Topley, Mohammad Nabi or Zahir Khan will need to leave the BBL early.
Player to watch
Reece Topley is an important recruit for Renegades and has a chance to make a serious statement to England selectors ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia next year. Fellow Englishman Harry Gurney was a key part of Renegades’ run to the title three years ago and Topley has a similar opportunity to cause havoc on the inconsistent home surface of Marvel Stadium.

Key stat (Gaurav Sundararaman)
Renegades were the worst bowling unit in the previous BBL edition. Their bowling economy rate of 8.61 was the highest among all teams and their death bowling economy was 11.24. If Renegades want to play finals, this is an area they need to focus on. Their attack certainly looks stronger this season

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Chris Gayle farewell on the cards with Jamaica set to host West Indies-Ireland series

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The series will comprise three ODIs and a one-off T20I, all at Sabina Park

West Indies will play three ODIs and a T20I against Ireland in Jamaica from January 8 to 16, the CWI has announced, with the possibility that the standalone T20I will be used as a farewell match for Chris Gayle.

While Gayle will not be part of the ODI squad, with the series counting towards 2023 World Cup qualification through the Super League, the one-off fixture at Sabina Park could be used as his farewell game. ESPNcricinfo understands that a decision has yet to be made on Gayle’s inclusion but that the issue will be up for discussion at the next meeting of CWI’s board of directors later this month.

“It’s whether collectively we all feel that it’s appropriate for him to have one last game at home to say farewell in a one-off game,” Johnny Grave, CWI’s chief executive, told the Mason and Guest radio show in Barbados last month. “That Ireland series would represent that opportunity.

“It would certainly be appropriate, as far as I can see it, to treat our players and give them the opportunity to bow out – especially players like Chris who have had unbelievable careers and won trophies for the West Indies.”

Ireland will travel to the Caribbean on December 31, immediately after their series against USA which starts on December 22 and comprises two T20Is and three ODIs. They have already named their squads for both tours, with Kevin O’Brien left out and David Ripley taking temporary charge as interim head coach.
Ireland last toured the Caribbean in 2020, drawing the T20I series 1-1 and losing the ODI series 3-0. Sabina Park was also the venue for one of the finest moments in Irish cricketing history, their victory over Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup on St Patrick’s Day.

“We are pleased to be returning to the Caribbean where we have so many great memories,” Richard Holdsworth, Cricket Ireland’s performance director, said. “The World Cup Super League is a crucial set of fixtures for Ireland as we attempt to qualify for the next Cricket World Cup, and – if the series in 2020 is anything to go by – we look forward to a highly competitive series in January.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98



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Bangladesh tour of NZ BCB approves Shakib Al Hasan’s request to skip New Zealand tour

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Nazmul Hassan says BCB has no problem with players wanting a break, but says it should happen via official channels

BCB president Nazmul Hassan said on Monday that the board has accepted Shakib Al Hasan‘s leave request to skip the New Zealand tour for which Bangladesh are scheduled to leave later this week. Some days ago, Hassan claimed that Shakib only informed them “unofficially” of his reluctance to be on the tour, and hours later, Shakib reportedly had requested the board by handing over a letter officially.

“We have accepted his request,” Hassan said. “We have been saying this for a long time that we have no objection if a player wants to take a break or rest, but it has to be informed officially. The thing is, we want to be informed about such a decision in advance as it is difficult for us if it is informed suddenly. From January, if anyone wants a break, he has to inform us in advance so that we can prepare alternatives.”

This is the third time in 2021 that Shakib has skipped a tour for Bangladesh. He opted out of the white-ball tour of New Zealand in March due to paternity leave before missing the two Tests against Sri Lanka in April to play in the IPL.

Hassan felt Shakib should have asked for the leave officially, rather than informing them verbally.

“This [the confusion] is not embarrassing, to be honest. We simply didn’t know about it, officially,” Hassan said. “The thing is, these things have always happened unofficially. Now, to avoid confusion, we are emphasising that these matters should be official.”

Bangladesh’s tour of New Zealand includes two Tests, part of the World Test Championship, beginning on New Year’s Day. The team will leave on December 9 to complete quarantine and then play practice matches.



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