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Stuart Law sacked as Middlesex head coach




Australian leaves with one year left on his contract after underwhelming tenure

Middlesex have parted ways with Stuart Law, despite the Australian having a year left on his contract as the club’s head coach. Law took charge in 2019 but struggled to lift Middlesex’s fortunes, twice finishing in the bottom third of the Championship.
Angus Fraser, Middlesex’s long-serving director of cricket, was moved sideways during the summer, with Law reporting directly to Andrew Cornish, the interim chief executive who has now been appointed full time.
Following a review of the club’s performances, Cornish said that “on-field performances have not been up to the standards we require”. Alan Coleman, Middlesex’s assistant coach, will take charge of the squad when they return for training next month, while the club starts the search for Law’s successor.

Middlesex were County Champions in 2016 but suffered relegation the following summer and have struggled to regain ground despite a strong squad. They finished eighth in the second tier in Law’s first season in charge, and although there some encouraging performances in the Bob Willis Trophy in 2020, they finished bottom of their Championship conference this summer, leaving them to fight for scraps in Division Three.

There has been precious little success in the white-ball formats either, with a quarter-final spot in the 2019 Vitality Blast their best performance under Law. This year, Middlesex finished second-bottom in both the Blast and Royal London Cup.

A number of the players who helped win the Championship have left the club in recent seasons – the likes of Dawid Malan, Nick Gubbins and Steven Finn – with Middlesex focusing on bringing through academy talent. Ethan Bamber, Blake Cullen, Robbie White, Martin Andersson and Luke Hollman all made good impressions in 2021, without that translating to team success.

“We would like to thank Stuart for his efforts across three seasons as head coach of Middlesex,” Cornish said. “His passion and dedication to the role have and never will be questioned. It is always sad when committed people leave the club and things do not work out as all parties would have hoped, and Stuart leaves Middlesex with our thanks and best wishes.

“Our on-field performances have not been up to the standards we require. The review and the outcomes resulting from it have not been taken lightly, and the Cricket Committee will be actively involved in the search for a replacement head coach.

“I give my assurance to all members and supporters that we have ambitions to be a club that is competitive in all competitions, and with the talented young homegrown side that has been developed here at Middlesex, I have no doubts that this can be achieved.”

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Match Preview – India vs New Zealand, New Zealand in India 2021/22, 1st Test



Big Picture

India now have the chance to play New Zealand in their own conditions. New Zealand now have the chance to prove they aren’t just WTC champions but also the best all-conditions Test team in the world.

This should be one of the most eagerly anticipated series of recent times, but just look at who won’t be lining up in Kanpur even though they’re fully fit: Kohli, Rohit, Pant, Bumrah, Shami, Boult, de Grandhomme. It’s the reality of these times. There’s endless, wall-to-wall cricket, most of it within biosecure bubbles, and, at some point, everyone needs a break.

It won’t have the star power it might otherwise command, but this still promises to be an enthralling series. After an England tour during which India’s XI mostly had room only for one of them, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja will be back doing what they do best, and their threat is likely to be magnified by the presence of Axar Patel in a three-man spin attack.
The challenge that this India attack – the aforementioned spinners plus their quicks – presents in Indian conditions may well be among the biggest Test cricket has thrown at batters through its history. New Zealand, though, have quality and experience running through their top five, and in Kane Williamson a world-class force whose record in India doesn’t reflect his immense skill against spin.
While it isn’t yet clear what shade of subcontinental this Green Park surface will be, it’ll be of a kind that New Zealand haven’t experienced for quite a while. As good as their fast bowlers are, their magnificent recent records have owed quite a bit to the green carpets that have been rolled out for them wherever they’ve gone. Their last nine Tests have all been played either at home or in England, and Kyle Jamieson, who has played all his eight Tests in this period, has a bowling average of – wait for it – 14.17.
How well he, Neil Wagner and Tim Southee – who has an outstanding record in Asia but hasn’t played in India since 2012 – adapt to Indian pitches might hold as much of a key to how many WTC points New Zealand take home from this tour as the performance of their spinners. On the latter front New Zealand might be better equipped than at any time since the days of Daniel Vettori, with Ajaz Patel having played significant roles in Test wins in Abu Dhabi (twice) and Colombo, and with Will Somerville having featured alongside him in two of those triumphs.

And while India will start as heavy favourites as they always do at home, their batting line-up won’t wear its usual impregnable look, with Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli and Rishabh Pant absent; with Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane potentially rusty in addition to not having been in the best of form for close to two years; and with one or potentially two debutants set to feature.

In this line-up’s inexperience might lie New Zealand’s biggest opportunity.

Form guide

India WLWDL (last five Tests, most recent first)
New Zealand WWDWW

In the spotlight

The last time New Zealand made a full tour of India, Ajinkya Rahane scored a career-best 188 in the third Test and “>lifted his average to 51.37 after 29 matches. Now, after 78 Tests, that number has dropped below 40, and a number of young, hungry middle-order batters are breathing down his neck. Against that backdrop, and as the stand-in captain and experienced pillar in a largely inexperienced top six, this could be a very important Test in his career.
Ajaz Patel comes into this series with 13 wickets at 29.61 against Pakistan in the UAE, and nine wickets at 26.88 in Sri Lanka. Those are excellent numbers, but bowling in India, as even Shane Warne and Muthiah Muralidaran discovered, isn’t the same as it is in the rest of Asia. It’s the biggest test for a visiting spinner, but if he can bowl a lot of overs and bowl them with control, the rest of the New Zealand attack will have an axis to bowl around.

Team news

Rahane has confirmed Shreyas Iyer will make his debut on Thursday. He hasn’t ruled out playing another debutant in Suryakumar Yadav as well, though, with India not yet revealing if they will play five specialist batters – as they have done in most of their recent home Tests – or six. They may have a difficult decision to make on which seamer to leave out, with a third being unlikely at a venue not reputed to offer too much pace or carry.

India (probable): 1 Mayank Agarwal, 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Ajinkya Rahane (capt), 5 Shreyas Iyer, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 8 R Ashwin, 9 Axar Patel/Suryakumar Yadav, 10 and 11 two out of Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma.

The big question for New Zealand is the composition of their attack – two spinners or three, and if two, which two; and if only two seamers, which one to leave out. Will Young seems likely to take the opening slot vacated by Devon Conway’s injury, with Tom Blundell taking the keeping gloves in the first Test of the post-BJ Watling era.

New Zealand (probable): 1 Tom Latham, 2 Will Young, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 Tom Blundell (wk), 7 Mitchell Santner/Kyle Jamieson, 8 Tim Southee, 9 Neil Wagner, 10 Will Somerville, 11 Ajaz Patel.

Pitch and conditions

Ashwin and Jadeja shared 16 wickets between them the last time India met New Zealand in a Test match in Kanpur. In his pre-match press conference, Rahane didn’t go into a whole lot of detail about what he expected from this Green Park pitch, but he made it clear that India, like every other team in the WTC, would look to “make the most of home advantage”. It would be no surprise, therefore, if both teams picked three spinners.

Stats and trivia


“When we play on spin-friendly wickets, it is a challenge even for Indian batsmen. But as batsmen once you are in you have to make it count. It is a challenge and we accept that. We are not bothered about our runs, but as a team we want to win each and every game.”
Ajinkya Rahane says India’s batters don’t mind it if their averages suffer in the team’s quest for Test wins

“I’ve got Wags (Neil Wagner) and Timmy (Tim Southee) here, so that’ll be good to bounce ideas of them, to get their expertise on how to bowl here. It’s certainly going to be a different challenge to what we get back home but really looking forward to it.”
Kyle Jamieson looks forward to the biggest challenge of his career so far

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Recent Match Report – Queensland vs South Aust 13th Match 2021/22




Marnus Labuschagne made a century following the suspension of play on the first day due to the pitch

South Australia 8 for 93 (Kuhnemann 4-25) trail Queensland 302 (Labuschagne 110, Street 87) by 209 runs

The pitch behaved itself on the second day at Karen Rolton Oval, although was far from easy, and Marnus Labuschagne made his second hundred of the season, but the contest for the No. 5 spot in the Ashes side fell flat with failures for both Usman Khawaja and Travis Head.

After play was suspended 50 overs into the opening due to concerns over damp patches on a length the game resumed on time. Although Queensland fell away from 1 for 179 they were in control at stumps having reduced the home side to 8 for 93 on a surface that remained challenging.

Head was caught at leg slip off the left-arm spin of Matt Kuhnemann to continue a relatively lean run of scores since the opening weeks of the season.

Earlier, Khawaja, who is competing with Head for a return to the Test side, was caught behind off an inside edge against Dan Worrall. Both batters will hope to make a mark in the second innings of this contest before the Australia-Australia A fixture at the start of December, although speaking when the squad was announced national selector George Bailey said the selectors had their preferred candidate.

It was the blows Labuschagne took on the opening day that prompted the suspension of play but there were no such alarms as he moved towards three figures.

He and Bryce Street, who is part of the Australia A squad, added 124 for the second wicket but from there South Australia fought back. At one stage Queensland lost four wickets for five runs which included Labuschagne dragging on a sweep against Head’s part-time offspin. It took Kuhnemann at No. 11 to lift them over 300.

The early stages of South Australia’s reply were promising but once Henry Hunt fell to James Bazley they went into a nosedive. After Head’s departure their situation was compounded when Alex Carey slog-swept to deep square leg before Jake Weatherald was bounced out by Mark Stekette.

Kuhnemann, who has been excellent this season filling in for Mitchell Swepson, had time to claim two more wickets before the close to leave South Australia starring at a follow-on.

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IND vs NZ 1st Test Kanpur Shreyas Iyer to make Test debut in Kanpur Test vs New Zealand




Iyer averages 52.18 in first-class cricket, and scores them at an astonishing strike-rate of 81.54

Shreyas Iyer is all set to be India’s 303rd men’s Test cricketer. Stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane confirmed a day before the Kanpur Test against New Zealand that Iyer will be debuting after KL Rahul was ruled out with a muscle strain in the thigh. Rahane said India hadn’t yet decided a day out if Iyer would be the only debutant or if they might play an extra batter given India are without Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant.
India have preferred to go into home Tests with just the five specialist batters, which is probably why Hanuma Vihari was not selected in the squad and was sent to South Africa for the A tour, but Rahul’s injury on the eve of the Test series has been a spanner in the works. Rahane said India would miss all the big names, but that the youngsters stepping in were good enough to compete at Test level.

Iyer averages 52.18 in first-class cricket, and scores them at an astonishing pace of 81.54 per 100 balls. Against New Zealand A’s attack comprising Matt Henry, Lockie Ferguson and Ish Sodhi, Iyer scored 108 and 82, both at better than a run a ball, in the two unofficial Tests in Vijayawada in 2017.

Iyer is set to slot into the middle order, leaving, in all likelihood, Shubman Gill to open with Mayank Agarwal. India did want to try Gill in the middle order in the one Test that usual captain Virat Kohli was missing, but the injury to Rahul has put rest to those plans unless they still ask Cheteshwar Pujara to open once again.

Rahane said India would miss all the big names, but that the youngsters stepping in were good enough to compete at Test level. “It is a big blow obviously,” Rahane said of the Rahul injury. “He did really well in England, he was in good form, obviously we will miss him. But we have guys who can do that job, guys who have done well for us in the past. So not too worried about the opening slot.”

Rahane didn’t give out the final combination but there was strong indication to expect three spinners. He said the pitches were likely to assist spin because every team is maximising home advantage given the World Test Championship points at stake in every match.

“We are not too sure of the combination,” Rahane said. “But in India you generally get spin-friendly wickets, the ball generally keeps slightly low and slow. We expect that but not too sure how the wicket will play. We will have to wait till tomorrow and assess from there.

“Right now we are into the ICC Test championship. You have to make the most of the home advantage. In India we all know we are backing our bowlers to take 20 wickets. We are going to play on spin-friendly wickets. Batsmen will have to apply themselves. If they get set, they will have to convert it. That is the challenge as a batsman. You have to adapt to the situations and conditions. And then once you are set, try and get a big one. Yeah in future we are going to play on wickets that are spin-friendly.”

Big names missing and the expected challenging conditions puts the onus on the two senior batters, Cheteshwar Pujara and Rahane. The latter has averaged 25 over the last 15 Tests. Rahane said he was not too concerned about his numbers.

“No concern,” Rahane said. “My job is to contribute for the team. And contribution doesn’t mean you score a hundred every game; 30-40-70 at a crucial moment is also an important contribution. I always think about the team. I have never thought where I am going. It is an honour for me to lead the team. What happens in the future is not of concern to me. I am focusing only on how I can give my best at a given particular moment.”

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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