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County news – Matt Critchley joins Essex after transfer from Derbyshire

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Highly-rated legspinning allrounder moves to Chelmsford in bid to develop career

Matt Critchley, Derbyshire’s highly rated legspinning allrounder, has joined Essex on a three-year deal.

Critchley, 25, was one of the standout players in the LV= Insurance County Championship last year, scoring 1,000 runs and taking 32 wickets, while across all formats he recorded 1,318 runs and claimed 52 victims.

He was named in the PCA Men’s Team of the Year, and finished second in the overall PCA MVP rankings, behind Simon Harmer, the Essex spinner alongside whom he will now hope to form a productive partnership.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be here and to have signed for Essex,” Critchley said. “Essex have been one of the best teams in the country for the last six years, you just have to look at the players in the dressing room and the trophies they’ve won to know this must be a great place to play your cricket.

“It was a tough decision to leave Derbyshire, but as soon as I was made aware of the interest, I wanted to make the move and I can’t wait to get going and to pull on the Essex shirt.”

The move comes in the wake of the ECB’s confirmation that the County Championship will be reverting to a two-division structure next season. This means that Essex – who claimed the Division Two title this year after missing out on the top flight in the three-tier conference system used in response to the Covid outbreak, will be back in Division One next season, and eager to add to the two Championship titles and Bob Willis Trophy that they have claimed since 2017.

“I’m delighted we’ve managed to get this one over the line and that Matt is now an Essex player,” John Stephenson, Essex’s chief executive, said.

“It’s important that we look to improve our squad and continue to challenge for the top honours over the coming years. We feel Matt offers excellent attributes with both his batting and bowling across all formats and he’ll make an excellent addition to the team.

“There were a host of clubs chasing Matt’s signature, so it’s a real coup for us that he’s bought into our vision and feels that Chelmsford is the place for him to develop as a cricketer and win titles.”

Critchley made his first-class debut for Derbyshire back in May 2015, and in his career to date, he’s made 187 appearances across all formats, scoring 4,902 runs and taking 204 wickets.

His highest first-class score of 137 not out came against Northamptonshire in 2015, when he became the youngest player in Derbyshire’s history to score a century, whilst his best bowling figures of 10 for 194 also came against Northants in 2018.

Critchley was selected for the ECB International Pathway and participated in Overseas Placements in Australia in both 2016 and 2017. The following year he was selected to tour the West Indies with England Lions, making two appearances.

Though Critchley was also involved in the inaugural season of the Hundred, after joining Welsh Fire for £24,000, his move to Essex indicates a desire to challenge for red-ball honours, and comes after Essex activated a clause within his contract, allowing him to move to a Division One county for an undisclosed fee.

The club chairman, Ian Morgan, said: “We’re disappointed to be losing Matt after seeing him develop greatly with the club over the past seven seasons.

“We were quick to better any offer from another county, however we understand his desire to test himself in Division One and he leaves with our best wishes for the future.

“As a club, we moved to ensure we would be well-compensated for his departure, and we will be using that money to strengthen the first team under a new Head of Cricket.”



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‘Cooked’ Melbourne Stars keep BBL finals hopes alive

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Glenn Maxwell says he and the team are struggling from the effects of Covid-19

Glenn Maxwell and his Melbourne Stars are “cooked” from the effects of Covid-19 as they battle to make the BBL finals.

The Stars gave their top-five hopes a major boost on Thursday night when they dominated the second derby, beating Renegades by six wickets.

The win elevated the Stars from bottom to fifth place, while the Renegades are last and appear headed to their third-straight wooden spoon.

Maxwell top-scored with an unbeaten 68 and was man of the match in his second game back from the virus. It was a welcome return to form for one of the BBL’s top players, who had only managed 30 runs from his previous five innings.

Covid-19 has hit Stars hard this month and they fielded a patchwork team earlier this month in the first Melbourne derby, which Renegades won by five wickets.

“The guys are cooked, there’s no secret about that,” he said. “We’re all tired, we’re all holding on to get through this tournament. But we’re really proud and we want to put our best foot forward. We want to perform.

“Once we get out onto the ground, we put all that aside and go our hardest, then deal with the fatigue afterwards.”

While Maxwell returned to form on Thursday night, he was feeling the effects after the game as he continues to recover from his illness. He said the last two weeks had been hard on the team as the BBL reschedules games.

“We feel like we’ve been thrown around a little bit,” he said. “It was a hard place to be, but, to the boys’ credit they’ve kept their heads up, they’ve tried their backsides off.

“I was hit pretty hard with it, I was pretty ill for a few days. It just takes you a while to get full fitness – even out there, I felt with the heat and humidity that it affected you a lot more.”

Stars now head to Adelaide to play the sixth-placed Strikers on Saturday, then host Brisbane Heat (second-last) at the MCG on Sunday.

They will end their regular season next Wednesday against the Hobart Hurricanes (fourth), also at the MCG.

While Marcus Stoinis (back) and Nathan Coulter-Nile (hamstring) are on the verge of returning, international players Haris Rauf and Qais Ahmad have had to go home. Rauf and Qais were outstanding against the Renegades, taking two wickets apiece.



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Recent Match Report – West Indies vs Ireland 2nd ODI 2021/22

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West Indies fought back through Romario Shepherd and Odean Smith, but visitors safely completed a shortened chase

Ireland 168 for 5 (Tector 54*, McBrine 35, Hosein 2-51) beat West Indies 229 all out (Shepherd 50, Smith 46, McBrine 4-36) by five wickets (D/L method)

An unbeaten half-century from Harry Tector and an all-round performance from Andy McBrine helped Ireland level the ODI series with a win in a rain-hit second match at Sabina Park.
The under-strength Ireland side, which had a number of players missing out with Covid-19, reduced the hosts to 43 for 3 after opting to field, with Craig Young accounting for all three wickets. A brief 48-run stand between Shamarh Brooks and Roston Chase revived West Indies’ innings, but McBrine’s back-to-back strikes further dented their progress. The hosts then slipped from 91 for 3 to 111 for 7, but a 58-run ninth-wicket partnership between Romario Shepherd and Odean Smith lifted the side and took the total past 200. Smith hit five sixes and two fours in an aggressive 19-ball 46, while Shepherd scored a 41-ball 50.

But McBrine removed Shepherd to take his fourth wicket, as West Indies were wrapped up for 229.

Ireland’s top four made sure their chase got off to a quick start, with stand-in captain Paul Stirling becoming the first from his country to 5000 ODI runs on his way to a 15-ball 21.

Tector, at No. 4, brought up his fifty off 69 deliveries, as Ireland crossed 150, shortly after which play was halted briefly due to rain. The target was thus brought down to 168, which meant Ireland needed 11 runs from the remaining 28 balls. The revised target was achieved within the next eight deliveries and five wickets in hand, as Ireland added ten more World Cup Super League points while moving to fourth on the table. Tector remained unbeaten on 54 off 75 balls, but McBrine’s efforts with both bat and ball earned him the Player-of-the-Match award.

“The win means a lot,” Stirling said after the match. “We’re delighted with the way the lads responded, coming from a tough loss the other day. To come and put a performance in like this after the sort of off-field activities that have gone on, we’re delighted to get the win.” ​



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Recent Match Report – Scorchers vs Strikers 47th Match 2021/22

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Laurie Evans top-scored for Perth Scorchers, but his momentum was halted after a Harry Conway yorker landed a painful blow on his toe

Adelaide Strikers 4 for 130 (Cockbain 35*, Short 34, Hardie 3-31) beat Perth Scorchers 9 for 127 (Evans 39, Fawad 3-30, Siddle, 2-20) by six wickets

Adelaide Strikers started their playoff push without Rashid Khan in impressive fashion after brushing aside a short-handed Perth Scorchers by six wickets at the Adelaide Oval. Veteran legspinner Fawad Ahmed filled the sizeable hole with three wickets to help restrict Scorchers to a lowly 9 for 127 before Strikers knocked off the target with 18 balls to spare.

Fifth-placed Strikers moved back inside the playoff frame with 20 points, while Scorchers – who have 38 points – missed out on a chance to lock up top spot.

The home team claimed the Jason Gillespie Trophy to cap the BBL’s inaugural First Nations Round, which honoured and celebrated Indigenous culture.

Quick Matthew Kelly and opener Cameron Bancroft were late withdrawals for Scorchers after they returned positive PCR results for Covid-19, joining star batter Colin Munro who had also tested positive earlier in the week, while allrounder Ashton Agar didn’t play due to a shoulder injury. As part of the BBL’s rejigged scheduling amid Covid-19 chaos engulfing the tournament, the match started at 10.10am local time in just the second morning match in BBL history.

Rashid-less Strikers dominate with the ball
It always loomed as a tough ask for Strikers without their spin ace Rashid Khan, but they started life without him rather brightly. With the Afghanistan spinner headed home, Strikers fortunately had the experienced Fawad to rely on, and he delivered in spades. The 39-year-old claimed the early wicket of Kurtis Patterson before being put under pressure by Ashton Turner and Laurie Evans.

Under siege, a rattled Fawad bowled too short but he enjoyed returning in the backend with Turner in the pavilion, thus giving Strikers a firm stranglehold in the 15th over with the wickets of Evans and Jason Behrendorff, who was deceived by a gem of a wrong ‘un.

The ageless Peter Siddle, who has had a stellar BBL as stand-in skipper, also starred with the wicket of opener Nick Hobson off his first ball and the important strike of an in-form Aaron Hardie, as Strikers tore through Scorchers’ weakened middle-order. Siddle’s strong leadership has galvanised Strikers, who now have belief after their third win from four matches.

Weakened Scorchers rue sloppy batting
Given the early start time, the players could have been forgiven for going through the motions with Scorchers meandering to 1 for 19 in the four-over powerplay after being sent in.

But Turner and Evans then provided a much-needed spark and impressively counterattacked to flip the momentum. Turner, the in-form Scorchers captain, mixed beautiful drives with inventive strokes, including an audacious scoop shot for six off seamer Henry Thornton. But his 15-ball 28 whirlwind ended on the last ball before the drinks break when he holed out in a rash stroke, thus triggering a middle-order collapse.

The burden fell on Evans, whose momentum was halted after a Harry Conway yorker hit him in the toe in a painful blow. He departed in the next over as Scorchers fell apart in a disappointing batting display where they rued sluggish strokes, none more so than the momentum-shifting dismissal of Turner.

Debutant Cockbain shows maturity
This could have been a potentially tricky chase for Strikers, who have generally struggled with their batting this season. But hard-hitting opener Matt Short once again showed his liking for the four-over powerplay with an assault on Behrendorff in a fearless start for Strikers. But as is his bane, Short was unable to convert an attractive start, falling for 34 off 28 balls. Opener Henry Hunt departed first ball after the drinks break, followed by veteran Jonathan Wells, to leave Strikers at 3 for 91.

But debutant Ian Cockbain held firm with a mature knock of 35* from 24 balls in another tonic for Strikers, who claimed consecutive wins for the first time this season.

Scorchers’ depth being tested
An ailed Evans could not take his place behind the stumps after injuring the big toe on his left foot. But despite being short-handed, Scorchers still fancied their chances given their prowess at defending low totals. But they never were in the hunt with Behrendorff unusually wayward, and they clearly missed Kelly’s full-length mastery and so too Agar’s miserly left-arm spin. Scorchers used legspinner Peter Hatzoglou early, who looked dangerous during his spell but couldn’t crash through Strikers’ top order.

Hardie, who has been emerging nicely as an allrounder, claimed a trio of wickets at the backend but it wasn’t enough for an under-manned Scorchers, who will be sweating on the availability of key players as they attempt to secure pole position for the playoffs.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth



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