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Match Preview – Super Kings vs KKR, IPL 2021, Final



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When the IPL came to a halt in May, Kolkata Knight Riders were gripped by Covid, gripped by the fear of losing their wickets, gripped by opponents’ bowlers in the powerplay and gripped by surfaces that didn’t aid their game. Their approach was far from the blueprint Brendon McCullum was trying to imbibe.

Needing to win virtually every game in the second half, they hoped they would be able to invoke the spirit of 2014, where they went on a bull run – going from two wins from seven to winning every single game from there on – to lift the trophy. They haven’t come close to winning the cup since, but four weeks into the UAE leg, they are a step away from the miracle they were trying to draw crumbs of comfort from, after being isolated in their hotel rooms in Ahmedabad in May.

Their opponents, Chennai Super Kings, have been there and done that so many times now that approaching a final doesn’t seem new anymore. The hurt of having not qualified for the playoffs for the first time, in 2020, seems to have been a big turning point in terms of the direction they have taken. From the chop-change of last year to change-only-if-needed mantra, they look as settled and calm as a side can come during a knockout, knowing very well how to put together all the pieces of their jigsaw blindfolded.

Deepak Chahar: new ball. Ruturaj Gaikwad: anchor. Faf du Plessis: enforcer. Robin Uthappa: aggressor. Dwayne Bravo: death bowling. Josh Hazlewood: hard lengths. MS Dhoni? Magic. Of the kind from four days ago, when he got the better of Avesh Khan when it came to a one-on-one battle, under pressure, of the kind he has thrived on for so many years. This being the last game before the mega auction is sure to elicit emotions. The “Dad’s Army” will possibly be playing together for one final time. There won’t be a better way to go out than with the cup.

It’s a game between a side that hasn’t lost a final against one that makes so many that they treat all of them like just another game. It’s a contest between two World Cup-winning captains who have been far from their best with the bat. Dhoni provided glimpses of the old Dhoni earlier in the week. Will an out-of-form Eoin Morgan have the last laugh here?


Dhoni and Morgan - a tale of two underperforming batters as captain

Dhoni and Morgan: a tale of two underperforming batters as captain

In the news

Shakib Al Hasan, a two-time IPL winner with Knight Riders, will be available for the game. His participation needed some sort of a sign-off from the BCB, given he will have to leave for Oman, where Bangladesh open their T20 World Cup campaign against Scotland less than 48 hours after the IPL final. The only call Knight Riders may have to make is picking between Shakib and Andre Russell, if fit.

For Super Kings, Suresh Raina may continue to sit out after having an indifferent tournament with the bat. Robin Uthappa, who hit a sparkling half-century in the previous game, is expected to retain his place in what could be an unchanged XI.

Likely XIs

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

Chennai Super Kings: 1 Ruturaj Gaikwad, 2 Faf du Plessis, 3 Moeen Ali, 4 Robin Uthappa, 5 Ambati Rayudu, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 MS Dhoni (capt, wk), 8 Dwayne Bravo, 9 Shardul Thakur, 10 Deepak Chahar, 11 Josh Hazlewood

Strategy punt

  • One of the reasons for Super Kings’ resurgence this season is their partnership of Gaikwad and du Plessis, whose 1150 runs together is the most by an opening pair. Knight Riders need to find a way to disturb this. du Plessis has gone at 137.2 in the powerplay so far this season. Against fast bowlers, this strike rate goes a notch higher (141.86) in the first six. Perhaps Morgan can look to find a way out by introducing spin early, with Sunil Narine who has a favourable match-up against du Plessis, having dismissed him twice recently, while conceding at a strike rate of just 67 in the 9.1 overs he has bowled to him.
  • Gaikwad is in the midst of a prolific season, having been the only batter to top 400-plus runs in the UAE leg of the tournament, and is 24 short of upstaging KL Rahul for most runs this season. Surely, he can’t have too many weaknesses, right? Well, there is one grey area that hasn’t been exploited much. Teams have only bowled 19 short or short-of-length balls to him, three of which have resulted in wickets. So raw pace, short and into the body is the way to go upfront against Gaikwad and Knight Riders have a readymade option in Lockie Ferguson to try and exploit this weakness.
  • Stats that matter

  • Knight Riders have restricted their opponents to under 140 in five of the six games they have bowled first in the UAE leg of IPL 2021.
  • The team chasing has won the last eight games in Dubai.
  • Moeen has been the most economical spinner so far this season, going at just 6.4, better than the likes of Varun Chakravarthy and Narine.
  • Super Kings have a 100% chasing record this season, winning six out of six. Only Mumbai Indians (2020) have gone through an entire season without a loss in chases (barring one in Super Over).
  • Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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    Recent Match Report – England vs West Indies 1st T20I 2021/22




    Banton opens ahead of Salt; Dawson plays first England game since 2018

    West Indies win the toss and bowl first against England

    Kieron Pollard won the toss for West Indies and chose to bowl first at the Kensington Oval, as the first T20I against England prepared to get underway.

    Two months ago, the end of a mighty era of West Indies T20 cricket was signalled when England routed Pollard’s men for 55 at the World Cup, but it’s a new-look side on parade for this series, with the likes of Brandon King at the top of the order, and the promising allrounders Romario Shepherd and Odean Smith in the lower-middle order.

    “It’s unfamiliar territory for me,” Pollard conceded at the toss, after losing all three tosses in the recent ODI series defeat to Ireland and four out of five at the World Cup. He chose to bowl first on a biscuit-coloured, fresh pitch with a few surface cracks and not a huge covering of grass. With the prospect of dew under the lights, West Indies hope to exploit the evening conditions when their turn comes to bat.

    For England, there’s a rare opportunity to test their bench-strength with a number of first-choice players absent after their roles in the Ashes, among them Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Mark Wood. Sam Billings, however, does play, only days after completing his 15,000km journey from Hobart to Bridgetown.

    “We were going to bat first anyway,” Morgan said. “But the trend of the World Cup just gone is chasing, we are comfortable with it. It’s very exciting, and considering the strong group we’ve got, the guys underneath are pushing hard.”

    For England, Tom Banton gets the chance to open alongside Jason Roy, who proved his form with a 36-ball hundred in England’s warm-up. He gets the nod ahead of Phil Salt, who is making his return to a familiar setting after spending six years in Bridgetown as a child. Chris Jordan is back on home soil too, having also grown up in Barbados.

    West Indies: 1 Shai Hope, 2 Brandon King, 3 Nicholas Pooran (wk), 4 Darren Bravo, 5 Kieron Pollard (capt), 6 Jason Holder, 7 Fabian Allen, 8 Odean Smith, 9 Romario Shepherd, 10 Akeal Hosein, 11 Sheldon Cottrell

    England: 1 Jason Roy, 2 Tom Banton, 3 James Vince, 4 Moeen Ali, 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Sam Billings (wk), 7 Chris Jordan, 8 Liam Dawson, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Saqib Mahmood, 11 Tymal Mills

    Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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    Recent Match Report – Scorchers vs Sixers Qualifier 2021/22




    Ben Dwarshius’ 66 from No. 9 went in vain in the run chase after Sixers slipped to 55 for 7

    Perth Scorchers 3 for 189 (Inglis 79, Patterson 64, Kerr 2-37) beat Sydney Sixers 141 (Dwarshuis 66, Agar 2-16, Richardson 2-21) by 48 runs

    All-conquering Perth Scorchers powered into the BBL final after thrashing beleaguered arch-rivals Sydney Sixers by 49 runs at the Marvel Stadium. In the Qualifier between this season’s top two teams who have shared six titles between them, a full-strength Scorchers produced an almost flawless performance to book a spot in the decider on January 28, which will be played at the same ground – which is also favoured by Scorchers – due to Western Australia’s hard border.

    But against Sixers, it wasn’t all rosy for Scorchers, who will be sweating on the fitness of star allrounder Mitchell Marsh after the T20 World Cup hero didn’t take to the field during Sixers’ innings due to tightness in his right hamstring.

    Two-time defending champions Sixers appeared rattled after getting rocked by opener Jack Edwards being forced into isolation due to his brother Mickey receiving an inconclusive Covid-19 test result and the last minute withdrawal of batter Daniel Hughes, who injured his ankle during the pre-game warm-up.

    Thus, Sixers’ chase for a historic hat-trick of titles now goes on the line in the Challenger on Wednesday against the winner of Sunday’s knockout final between Sydney Thunder and the in-form Adelaide Strikers.

    Rejuvenated Inglis and Patterson smash Sixers

    Josh Inglis had a highest score of 23 from six innings this BBL season but picked a good time to return to form, needing just 16 balls to notch a season high en route to 79 off 49 balls.
    Inglis combined in a rollicking 120-run stand with opening partner Kurtis Patterson, who has unexpectedly transformed himself into a belligerent batter this season. The left-hander rekindled his early-season dynamism and put pressure on Sixers’ maestro spinner Steve O’Keefe from the get go with a slog-sweep for six.
    After Patterson fell for 64, an audacious Inglis took over, marked by a stunning reverse-paddle for four off quick Hayden Kerr as he unleashed two days of frustration on the hapless Sixers, who were fuming on being disallowed Steven Smith’s services for the finals. It meant Scorchers only required a cameo from Marsh, who hit 28 from 21 balls and appeared inconvenienced with an injury.

    Abbott’s struggles underline Sixers’ woes
    Sixers started with senior Australia spinner Nathan Lyon instead of O’Keefe, who is normally a master in the four-over powerplay but may have been held back due to his good record against Marsh. Even though Lyon bowled a menacing first over where he created half chances, Sixers’ plan didn’t work as they had no answer for Scorchers’ red-hot openers.

    O’Keefe finally came on in the sixth over, but it might have been too late as a rampaging Patterson treated him with disdain. Sixers weren’t helped by an out-of-form Sean Abbott either, who once again struggled to find the right lengths, seamer leaking 39 runs from four overs. An unfocused Sixers appeared to be going through the motions as Scorchers hovered around ten runs an over for the whole innings.

    Thus, Sixers need to do some soul searching before their must-win Challenger match on Wednesday.

    Richardson stars in BBL season debut

    Playing his first BBL match of the season after Ashes duties for Australia, speedster Jhye Richardson made up for lost time with a withering opening burst. He thought he had claimed the prized wicket of Josh Philippe in the first over when Scorchers appealed for what seemed like a leg-before chance as well as a caught behind, as the ball deflected through to the keeper. But neither was given out, as replays later confirmed that there was indeed an inside edge on the ball.

    However, Richardson nevertheless knocked Philippe out in his next over amid Scorchers’ rout of Sixers’ top order. He then came back in the 11th over to claim Moises Henriques, finishing with an impressive 2 for 21 to further strengthen Scorchers’ strong attack.

    Mainstays Jason Behrendorff, Andrew Tye and Ashton Agar, who have all enjoyed stellar seasons, also claimed regular wickets for Scorchers to underline a well-oiled machine. The three-time champions have never looked better this season, storming into a remarkable seventh BBL final.

    Sixers’ batting offers little resistance
    Sixers did endure a disrupted preparation but they should still be spooked by such a torrid batting effort. After their top order was blown away, they had the ignominy of the lowest ever score at the midway point of an innings in a final when they lurched at 5 for 41.

    It was a hiding to nothing for debutant Nick Bertus, who made just 4 after being plucked out of the replacement pool of players to cover for Hughes, as his more seasoned team-mates fared little better. Only some late fireworks from Ben Dwarshuis, who hit a BBL record 66 at No.9, saved Sixers from complete humiliation.

    Sixers clearly would have welcomed the services of Smith, whose bid to play in the finals was blocked by the BBL. However, now they simply need to regroup quickly.

    Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth

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    SA Women vs WI Women 2021-22




    She could become first West Indian and only fourth bowler in women’s cricket to get 300 international wickets

    A new variation to unleash on the opposition and four wickets to add to her tally during the four-ODI tour of South Africa.

    These, along with helping West Indies fine-tune their preparations ahead of the ODI World Cup in March-April, are on the checklist of their premier offspinner Anisa Mohammed as she heads into the bilateral series next week, four wickets shy of becoming the first West Indies women’s player to 300 wickets in international cricket.
    “I’m currently working on a new variation,” Mohammed, the leading ODI wicket-taker of 2021 and the all-time highest wicket taker in T20Is, said in a virtual press conference from Johannesburg. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to use that in this upcoming series against South Africa, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to execute and get a positive result from that.”
    Behind only India’s Jhulan Goswami, England’s Katherine Brunt, and Australia’s Ellyse Perry, Mohammed, who has 171 wickets in ODIs and 125 wickets in T20Is, is hopeful the series against South Africa starting on January 28 at the Wanderers propels her to the distinction of the first spinner to reach the 300-wicket mark in the women’s international game.

    “This would be a huge milestone for me. I’d really like to get it in this series and not have to wait for the World Cup,” Mohammed said. “That’s something that I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time. I’ve been working on my game and I really hope that I’m able to pick up just four [wickets]. I’m just telling myself, ‘Four wickets – I have four matches to get four wickets,’ so I’m really excited.”

    A veteran of four ODI World Cups and West Indies’ most-capped player, Mohammed, 33, is mindful of the responsibility her experience and heft of personal achievements in a career spanning nearly 19 years bring with them, especially with the 50-over World Cup in New Zealand around the corner.

    “I’m one of the senior players on the team. This is my fifth ODI World Cup. And I’ve said to some of the younger players, ‘Playing in a World Cup the atmosphere is different and you have to keep a level head.’ I think having played four World Cups – this will be my fifth one – I have to step up as the one of the senior players on the team and try to perform and while I do that, try to keep the younger players calm and help them to be able to go out there and execute as well.”

    “It’s a great feeling to be named in the ICC ODI Team of the Year last year,” Mohammed said. “And that’s definitely inspiration to go forward and try to make it into this year’s team as well. To be honest, I’m just trying to enjoy my cricket. As you know, I’m coming to the latter part of my career, so I’ve been trying to enjoy whatever is left of my career.

    “I’ll be 34 this year. I don’t know how long I have, but I just really want to make sure that when I leave cricket or when I retire, I have a good memory of West Indies cricket and representing West Indies.”

    West Indies were not among the five teams to earn direct qualification to the ODI World Cup but made the cut based on rankings in the wake of the pandemic-enforced cancellation of the global qualifier. They will fancy their chances against South Africa, who will be missing their designated captain and premier legspin-bowling allrounder Dane van Niekerk through an injury.

    “That’s a big blow for South Africa. And it’s never nice when you have an injury,” Mohammed said. “But if you’re looking at winning and losing, I think that’s an advantage for us because, as we know, she’s a key player for the South Africa team, not just in her batting and bowling but also her leadership qualities. And I think that we have to take full advantage of that – of her not being here. But having said that, I would like to wish her a speedy recovery.”

    Mohammed, for her part, will spearhead an attack bolstered by the addition of the experienced legspinner Afy Fletcher in their 18-member squad.

    “We’re really excited for Afy. It’s nice having her back,” Mohammed said of Fletcher, who is returning from a maternity break, having last played for West Indies in September 2020. “Unfortunately, she could not bring the baby with her. We would have liked to have a baby on tour, like the other teams, but she calls her baby every day and chat with him online. So it’s nice having a baby around and having some fun with him as well.”

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

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