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Match Preview – RCB vs KKR, IPL 2021, Eliminator

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Both teams have shown plenty of spark in the UAE, despite their captains misfiring with the bat

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After two years of missing out due to an inferior net run rate (NRR), Kolkata Knight Riders are back in the playoffs, and have done it in barnstorming fashion in the second half of IPL 2021. When the season was suspended in May, Knight Riders had played seven games and won two. The move to UAE saw them reverse those results, winning five of their next seven games, and in commanding enough fashion to survive a Mumbai Indians’ late NRR charge.

Royal Challengers Bangalore have not been too far behind, following their good showing in the first half with solid displays in the second, winning four of their seven matches in UAE.

So, there’s no obvious “form team” between the two, both having shown plenty of spark so far in this leg, both filled with match-winners in their line-ups, both discovering breezy options in the top order in Venkatesh Iyer and KS Bharat – and both having captains who haven’t been piling up the runs as they normally would.

Virat Kohli has 168 runs in seven games in the UAE leg, bolstered by two fifties in the first three of those. The last four have yielded only 59 runs. His strike rate’s been 117.48, and not too much higher even during his half-centuries. However, Kohli’s returns look gargantuan when compared to Eoin Morgan’s in the UAE leg this year: a measly 32 runs in six innings, reaching double figures for the first time in Knight Riders’ last league game where he finished unbeaten on 13. He’s also been considerably slower than a run a ball, striking at 82.05.

That they have come so far despite these numbers from key batters is a credit to both teams. But for one of them, the journey will end tomorrow.

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The biggest question ahead of this game is Andre Russell‘s fitness. As of two days ago, Knight Riders chief mentor David Hussey said Russell would be “pushing hard” to get fit for the playoffs, while Morgan took solace from Russell’s ability to heal quickly from injuries. The last time these two sides met, Russell yorked AB de Villiers first-ball, and his legendary six-hitting ability has often found an extra gear against Royal Challengers. But will Russell be fit? We’ll know only at toss time. Shakib Al Hasan has been a good addition to the XI, but really, there’s no replacing Russell.



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SL vs WI 2021 – Nkrumah Bonner: West Indies need ‘smart tactics’ to beat Sri Lanka’s spinners

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West Indies batter says if they can keep Dimuth Karunaratne to low scores, they take substantial steps to winning the second Test

Be precise and decisive with your footwork against spin. Oh, and don’t drop catches off Dimuth Karunaratne. Nkrumah Bonner, who top-scored for West Indies with 68 not out off 220 said the above would help his team be more competitive in the second Test.
Bonner was one of only two West Indies batters to cross fifty in the first Test, the other being Joshua da Silva, with whom he was involved in a 100-run stand. The pitch for the second Test is expected to be just as spin-friendly as the first. In fact, it may even start off drier, which means the kind of fast spin seen on days three, four and five in the first Test could arrive earlier.

“The ball is spinning a lot, so we’ve got to be more precise in our footwork – whether we’re gonna come forward or go back,” Bonner said. “These are small things we need work on if we want to be more sure in our defense, and when we attack.

“It’s difficult when players don’t get a start. In the first innings, the ball was holding and spinning. It was a different challenge in the second innings when the ball was sliding at times, and spinning too. We have to come up with smart tactics in order to play all the left-arm spinners.”

Easily the most prolific batter in the game was Karunaratne, who hit 147 in the first innings, and 83 in the second – top-scoring for Sri Lanka both times. He had been dropped at slip on 14 in the first dig, though, and West Indies had also failed to review a not-out lbw decision they would have had overturned, early in Karunaratne’s second innings.

If West Indies can keep Karunaratne to low scores, they take substantial steps to winning the match, Bonner said.

“Their skipper has a lot to do with that team. He probably made 250 runs in the first Test match. Take out him, their batting is not that long to me. Mathews is a good player and Chandimal is a good player, but Dimuth is really the player we need to get out early. In the last Test he got a few chances that haunted us for sure, because they made a big first-innings total. In the second Test, if we take our chances, we have a better chance. Getting him out is a big thing for us.”

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf



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Ban vs Pak 1st Test 2nd day

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Batter used his time away from the team to get his mind ready for long-form cricket

Liton Das said that getting a break from T20s after the World Cup was a blessing in disguise after scoring by his maiden Test century against Pakistan in Chattogram. Liton was one of several high-profile players to be dropped from the Bangladesh squad for the three T20Is against Pakistan last week.
Bangladesh lost 3-0 but many believed that the team management sent a stern message to Liton, Mushfiqur Rahim and Soumya Sarkar for their below par performance in the UAE. Liton (114) and Mushfiqur (91) have already bounced back in the first innings of the Chattogram Test.
Liton used his time away from the team to get his mind ready for long-form cricket. He went to play a first-class match at BKSP, his alma mater, and sought the advice of his mentors from childhood, Nazmul Abedeen Fahim and Montu Dutta. He has also been tweaking his batting stance with Bangladesh batting coach Ashwell Prince.

“Maybe they gave me a break to do well in Tests,” Liton said. “I think we got the main result from the break after the World Cup. As far as mental preparations are concerned, I played a first-class match after coming back from the World Cup. I had this Test series in mind. I didn’t expect too much from myself but I prepared adequately.

“Both (psychological and technical) aspects are important. The technical aspects are crucial. Even the smallest change in something like your stance can make a huge difference. It could change the style of play. It is nothing new. When I was in BKSP playing the NCL match, I spoke to Fahim sir and Montu sir about this particular problem. I worked with him (Prince) in Chittagong, when he felt I needed a small change. I won’t say that I did well because I changed my stance. I worked hard to come to this stage.

Liton said that Mushfiqur motivated him constantly during their partnership, especially when he was cramping all over his body late on the first day.

“I had plenty of small partnerships with (Mushfiqur) bhaiya. This one was a big partnership. It feels great when your partner helps you, motivates you. Together we overcame a tough situation.

“(Mushfiqur) bhaiya kept telling me to stick around, especially when I was cramping towards the end of the day. He said it would be tough for a new batter. I just wanted to survive till the end of the day,” he said.

About the state of play – Pakistan are 145 for 0 in response to Bangladesh’s 330 all out – Liton is hopeful that a new day brings better luck. After all, all 10 wickets in this match have fallen in the first session of play.

“We are not thinking about the result yet. When we lost four wickets before lunch, everyone thought we would be bowled out early. Mushfiq bhai and I put together a good partnership. By the end of the day, we were thinking about a big total.

“But cricket is unpredictable. Pakistan are in a good position now. If we can take two or three wickets tomorrow morning, we will be back on par. The run-rate isn’t too high. It is difficult to score quickly on this pitch. A lot depends on the third day,” he said.

Bangladesh’s bowling has been a bit insipid so far, but they can take inspiration from the Liton-Mushfiqur partnership. It turned around the batting innings for them, particularly Liton who continued his good year in Tests with the century.

“It is always a difficult question about consistency. Everyone tries to be consistent. I will continue the process of my last six or seven Tests. I can’t expect to score a hundred in my next innings. I have to start from zero next time. It is always a challenge, but I will try to stick to my process,” he said.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84



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India tour of South Africa

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As things stand, India A will remain in South Africa with both teams committed to continue their red-ball series

The status of India’s December-January tour of South Africa remains unchanged, for now. It is understood that the Indian team will require special government permission to tour South Africa – the borders between the countries are open at the moment, and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has instructed officials to review plans to ease travel restrictions.

If the borders close between now and December 8-9, when the Indians are expected to fly out, the prospect of the tour taking place will be severely diminished. As things stand, the Netherlands team, which is in South Africa for an ODI series, has opted to postpone the last two games, and the women’s ODI World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe has been called off altogether. But India A are expected to stay in South Africa and complete their red-ball series in Bloemfontein, of which two (of three) games are left.

“Both boards are in touch. They will take a final call soon. We will abide by travel directive from the Indian government in the interim”

Arun Dhumal, BCCI treasurer

India A not returning home could suggest that the senior side will follow, but the situation is changing quickly with more countries issuing travel bans on the southern African region. The United Kingdom, the United States of America, most of Europe, and Australia have all stopped travel to and from the area. The South African government is petitioning them to reverse those sanctions.

While CSA is likely to be anxious about India squad arriving for the tour, the BCCI has decided to not rush into taking a call at the moment.

“We are monitoring the situation closely and players’ safety is paramount for both BCCI and CSA,” BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal told ESPNcricinfo. “Both boards are in touch. They will take a final call soon. We will abide by travel directive from the Indian government in the interim.”

Anurag Thakur, the former BCCI president who is now the country’s sports minister, told ANI, “In such situations, every board, be it BCCI or any other, should take permission from government of India. Government will take a decision when it gets the application from them (BCCI).”

India’s tour of South Africa, which is set to run from December 17 to January 26, consists of three Tests, three ODIs and four T20Is.



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