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T20 World Cup 2021 – Assad Vala wants Papua New Guinea to become World Cup regulars

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Captain wants team to bring smiles to his countrymen who have endured a tough fight with covid-19

Papua New Guinea may be first-timers at the T20 World Cup, but captain Assad Vala spoke of their ambition of making it out of the competition’s first round and make their appearance in this tournament a habit. At the same time, they want to ensure that people back home, who are suffering from what is being described as the “worst surge” in Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began, have something to smile about.

“It is really a proud moment for me and the boys,” Vala said. “It has been a long time coming. We have come so close on so many occasions. We are a couple of days away from playing our first World Cup match. The boys are looking pumped up for the game on Sunday. During this pandemic, it will mean a lot for people back home. We are trying to put a smile on their faces.”

PNG will take on co-hosts Oman in the tournament opener on Sunday, a day that Vala, synonymous with PNG’s modern-day teams, has been looking forward to. They have had good acclimatisation too, having arrived in the country more than a month ago for a series of camps, WCL matches and friendlies. The mood, understandably, is upbeat.

“To be honest, we believe in ourselves,” he said. “We want to play to the best of our abilities. We want to express ourselves. We want to make it to the second round to test ourselves against the best teams in cricket. We don’t want this World Cup to be a one-off. We want to keep improving. We want to get the exposure and knowledge against the best teams.”

PNG are known in the Associate circuit as nearly men after throwing away good chances to make it into the 2014 and 2016 T20 World Cups. They topped Group A in the 2019 Qualifier tournament to make it into this tournament.

“We got a lot of confidence from the 2019 World Cup qualifiers,” he said. “We have played a lot of cricket over the last 18 months. We have got better by playing more matches, particularly the ones we played in Oman and Dubai. It has put us in good stead. On Sunday, we can hit the ground running.”

He is among the key players, but so are Norman Vanua and Charles Amini, talented allrounders who have done well for them in the past. Vanua however is nursing a shoulder injury, which Vala is confident will be okay come Sunday.
“We are just resting (Vanua) at the moment. He is a very good allrounder. He played a really good innings against Kenya to get us over the line. I hope he will be ready when the game starts.
Charles Amini is the leader of our spin attack. There’s a lot of responsibility on him. He is a really good bowler. He can turn the game in all three departments. Hopefully the pitches will help him.”
He also paid tribute to Joe Dawes, PNG’s former coach who was at the helm when they were awarded ODI status and secured T20 World Cup qualification. But Dawes, also a former India bowling coach, left PNG this March to spend time with his family in the wake of the pandemic. Vala said that Dawes corrected a number of things within the setup, but insisted the team has gelled well with new coach Carl Sandri too.

“I think he brought in a lot of structure to the team,” Vala said. “When he first came in, he saw a lot of things were not done properly, so he tried to correct everything. He got us fitter, and in the right state of mind. When we did the little things right, the cricket took care of itself. He played a really big part in getting us to this stage.

“We have a really good coach in Carl Sandri as well. He has been around the Big Bash. He has different ideas. The boys are trying to implement those ideas, they are taking on the challenges, and working with the coaches.”

Vala said their new Australian bowling coach Chadd Sayers, who joined in July this year, has also become friendly with the bowling unit. “He is really good. I think the bowlers are enjoying working with him. He played at the highest level for Australia. He is always talking about getting AB de Villiers out. It is a lot of fun, lot of banter with the boys. They are enjoying his company and getting a lot from him.”

PNG however know that they have a daunting task at hand, particularly against Bangladesh’s quality spin attack coming up this week. But Vala is also quite confident that they will make themselves proud, and wants his teammates to enjoy the moment.

“We will come up against quality spinners. We have been working hard in training. It is just about executing and expressing ourselves. We have to play with flair. We have to enjoy ourselves.

“We pride ourselves on our fielding. We have to play well in other departments too to become an all-round team. It is all about having fun. We want to leave everything in the field but we want to represent our country with a smile in our face.”

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84



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Under-19 World Cup 2022 – Harnoor and Raghuvanshi fifties guide Covid-hit India to quarter-finals

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Ireland slipped to 66 for 6 and were swept aside in Tarouba

India 307 for 5 (Harnoor 88, Raghuvanshi 79, Bawa 42, Sherzad 3-79) beat Ireland 133 all out (Macbeth 32, Tambe 2-8, Gautam 2-11, Sangwan 2-23) by 174 runs

Despite missing their captain Yash Dhull and vice-captain Shaikh Rasheed after both tested positive for Covid-19, India thumped Ireland by 174 runs and in the process secured their quarter-final spot too.
Sent into bat, India openers Harnoor Singh (88) and Angkrish Raghuvanshi (79) hit exquisite half-centuries to set the tone with a 164-run opening stand. The middle order then made crucial contributions to take India past 300. In Ireland’s chase, they were reduced to 66 for 6 inside 22 overs, after which the only question that remained was the final margin of India’s victory.
With six of their 17 squad members either Covid positive or suspected as infected, India fielded the only 11 players who were available for selection. They were led by 17-year-old Nishant Sindhu from Haryana, and he struck a 34-ball 36 after the openers built the foundation. On either side of Sindhu’s innings, No. 3 Raj Bawa made 42 and the lower-order batter Rajvardhan Hangargekar – promoted for the slog overs – smacked 39 in a 17-ball innings to post 307 for 5.

Openers Harnoor and Raghuvanshi had both failed in the first game against South Africa, but with the usual No. 3 Rasheed and No. 4 Dhull not available, both batters had an added responsibility. They were, however, unperturbed in their batting style, attacking right from the start. The right-handed Raghuvanshi hit a hat-trick of fours in the third over off Ireland spinner Matthew Humphreys and followed it up with three boundaries off offspinner Nathan McGuire to race away to 26 in 22 balls.

After that, Harnoor found the gaps to hit back-to-back fours off seamer Muzamil Sherzad, and by the time the tenth over was up, India were 68 for 0.

Raghuvanshi reached his fifty first, off 41 balls, when he pulled a short delivery from Humphreys over deep midwicket for six. Harnoor’s scoring-rate kept increasing steadily, and by the 21st over, he too had reached his half-century in 56 balls. A series of fours – all around the ground – then flowed from Harnoor’s bat and soon enough he had caught up to Raghuvanshi’s score, with both batters in their seventies.

The stand was finally broken in the 26th over when India were 164 for 0. Raghuvanshi, on 79, was caught behind off left-arm spinner Jamie Forbes. The opening partnership gave No. 3 Bawa the liberty to settle in, but the 35th over brought about Harnoor’s end, as he was dismissed lbw by Humphreys on 88.

With eight wickets in hand, a big finish was expected. It came with Sindhu playing aggressive shots off his pads on numerous occasions. After Sindhu fell in the 46th over, India promoted the seam bowler Hangargekar, and he got into the groove by hammering Humphreys for two sixes down the ground. In the 50th over, he spoiled Sherzad’s spell by crunching a hat-trick of sixes and ending the innings with a four to third man.

Ireland’s chase of 308 began sedately. The first wicket came when left-arm seamer Ravi Kumar had Liam Doherty caught at midwicket in the fourth over. Hangargekar, on a high after at a strike rate of 229, then trapped Jack Dickson lbw. Bawa’s direct-hit then sent David Vincent back with Ireland at 17 for 3.

Right-arm seamer Garv Sangwan, into the India XI because of the forced absences, then removed Ireland captain Tim Tector when the batter sliced a shot to gully. Sangwan followed it up with the wicket of Joshua Cox, who edged one to wicketkeeper Dinesh Bana.
With half the side gone for only 66, Ireland’s chances of a win were almost zero. Vicky Ostwal, who took four wickets against South Africa, had Philippus le Roux lbw when he played a sweep down the wrong line. Although Scott MacBeth smacked 32, the rest of the game was a one-sided affair. Left-arm spinner Aneeshwar Gautam, another new entrant into the XI, then took two lower-order wickets, and offspinner Kaushal Tambe cleaned up the tail.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx



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Aus vs Sco – Under-19 World Cup 2022

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Team now relying on Sri Lanka to beat West Indies on Friday

Australia 240 for 3 (Wyllie 101*, Cahill 72, Kellaway 47) beat Scotland 236 for 8 (Tear 54, Mackintosh 54, Cahill 2-33, Salzmann 2-38) by seven wickets

In their final Group D match, Australia needed a big win to give themselves their best chance of making the quarter-final, and they did so by chasing Scotland’s target of 237 with more than ten overs to spare. Opener Teague Wyllie, Australia’s Player of the Match in their win over West Indies, struck an unbeaten 101 and No. 3 Aidan Cahill a quick-fire 72.
Australia’s chase began with a century stand between Wyllie and Campbell Kellaway (47), followed by the 97-run second-wicket partnership between Wyllie and Cahill with the latter going at a strike-rate of 160. With only three wickets down, No. 5 Isaac Higgins hit the winning runs, a boundary, in the 40th over.

In the first innings, Scotland reached 236 courtesy a couple of 54s from opener Charlie Tear and No. 3 Thomas Mackintosh. But Australia captain Cooper Connolly used as many as eight bowlers to get the breakthroughs. Cahill, the eighth bowler used, took 2 for 33 in his five overs, while seam bowler William Salzmann rattled Scotland in the slog overs with two wickets.

Australia’s big win gave them a net run-rate boost but with four points they are not assured of qualification. If West Indies beat Sri Lanka in a very close finish, then Australia could be eliminated to the Plate round. If Sri Lanka beat West Indies, Australia will qualify.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx



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how the BBL finalists stack up as Ashes stars return

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Perth Scorchers, Sydney Sixers, Sydney Thunder, Adelaide Strikers and Hobart Hurricanes are left chasing the prize

After a turbulent regular season, the BBL has pushed through Covid-19 upheaval as a much-anticipated finals series starts on schedule on Friday. Amid player movement, where several of Australia’s Ashes heroes return, here’s a round-up of the five teams eyeing the BBL title.

Perth Scorchers

The minor premiers received a massive boost in their regular season finale against Brisbane Heat with the inclusions of Mitchell Marsh and Josh Inglis, who both hadn’t played since December 28 after being called up into Australia’s Ashes squad.

New Zealand import Colin Munro also returned after recovering from Covid-19 while star allrounder Ashton Agar was back after missing one match due to a shoulder injury.

Scorchers will enter the Qualifier on Saturday almost full-strength with quick Jhye Richardson available for his first match of the season after being part of Australia’s squad for the entire Ashes. English import Laurie Evans, who had cemented a position in the middle-order, is injured with a broken toe suffered last week against Adelaide Strikers, while quick Matt Kelly and batter Cameron Bancroft are currently sidelined after testing positive to Covid-19.

Canny left-arm quick Tymal Mills had been a key part of Scorchers’ strong early season form having taken 12 wickets from seven matches before being called up for England’s T20 tour of the Caribbean.

Sydney Sixers

In search of a hat-trick of titles, they have been bolstered by the return of Test spinner Nathan Lyon, who made his season debut against Heat on Wednesday. Justin Avendano, who is the first BBL player to play for two teams in the same season after featuring for Covid-hit Melbourne Stars earlier in the month, has cemented a spot in the squad after a recent whirlwind half-century against Adelaide Strikers.

Sixers have dealt with personnel changes throughout the season with imports Tom Curran, Chris Jordan, James Vince and Shadab Khan departing at various stages.

Sydney Thunder

Captain Usman Khawaja is Thunder’s big addition having backed up his Ashes heroics with a BBL season debut against Melbourne Renegades on Wednesday.

Thunder had been rocked by Covid-19 earlier in the month but their affected players, including Alex Ross, Chris Green and Sam Whiteman, are back in the line-up.

However, they will be without Sam Billings, who made his Test debut in Hobart and has since joined England’s tour of the Caribbean, with the wicketkeeper-batter having been a key cog in the line-up after a terrific season where he averaged 40.57 with a strike rate of 153.51 from nine innings.

Adelaide Strikers

In-form Strikers have benefited the most from the returns of Australia’s Test players with Ashes dynamo Travis Head and wicketkeeper-batter Alex Carey back in the fold.
They strengthen an improved batting order which suddenly looks well stocked since Matthew Renshaw came into the line-up after Australia A duties and the emergence of Englishman Ian Cockbain.

The 34-year-old, who was plucked from club cricket in Melbourne, smashed an unbeaten 71 to power Strikers past Sixers earlier in the week in an eye-catching knock that helped him secure a PSL contract with Karachi Kings.

Strikers, however, will need to go all the way without star spinner Rashid Khan, who recently left due to national duties with Afghanistan. Left-arm seamer George Garton had departed earlier in the season because of England commitments although he had minimal impact with six wickets from six games and was eventually dropped.

Hobart Hurricanes

Hurricanes, who secured the last BBL playoff spot on Tuesday after beating Renegades, have regained the services of Ashes cult hero Scott Boland, who lined up against Stars in their regular season finale on Wednesday.
Boland’s only previous BBL match this season was against Scorchers on December 14, where he took 1 for 45. His inclusion strengthens Hurricanes’ attack missing injured quicks Nathan Ellis and Joel Paris. They rested their main attack for the final regular-season game against Stars and were dealt a record-breaking hammering.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth



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