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England vs New Zealand – T20 World Cup 2021 semi-final

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Daryl Mitchell, who? He’s the son of John Mitchell, the former All Blacks player and coach. He grew up around the All Blacks and even played rugby at school during the winters. Daryl’s dream, however, was to become a Black Cap.

He became the best finisher in the Super Smash, New Zealand’s domestic T20 competition. After injury sidelined Colin de Grandhomme from the entire 2020-21 home summer, Daryl filled in for him and suddenly found himself in New Zealand’s T20 World Cup squad.

During the warm-ups, in the lead-up to the main tournament, the finisher becomes the accidental opener. He jumps out of the track and lines up mystery spinners like Varun Chakravarthy and Mujeeb Ur Rahman. Daryl, though, is a bigger mystery.
He tells Sky Sports NZ that he sings Frozen songs with his opening partner Martin Guptill before walking out to open. That secret aside, you probably don’t know much about Daryl, the opener.
England are masters at match-ups – Liam Livingstone was bowling legspin to Devon Conway because the left-hander is weaker against this variety of spin than offspin – but how can you plan against someone who has never ever opened in T20 cricket before this World Cup?

Everything, however, goes according to England’s best-laid plans in the powerplay, in their defence of 166 in Abu Dhabi. Chris Woakes hits Test-match lines and lengths, taking out Guptill and captain Kane Williamson. He bowls a perfectly pitched outswinger and gets it to seam away, too, past Daryl’s outside edge. Daryl’s parents, who have flown into Abu Dhabi in the midst of a pandemic, to watch their son in action on the biggest stage, get twitchy in the stands.

Daryl gets twitchy as well. He knows he has been bumped to the top to take advantage of the field restrictions with his muscle, but the ball isn’t quite sliding onto the bat under lights. There isn’t as much dew as New Zealand expected.

Daryl keeps throwing his bat at the ball. He can’t middle anything. He swings so hard that he loses his shape. Mark Wood rushes him with his blistering pace and bounce. He searches for the reverse-sweep against Adil Rashid but the legspinner drags his length back and dangles a legbreak away from Daryl’s reach. Liam Livingstone, too, pins him down with his assortment of offbreaks and legbreaks. Daryl dawdles to a run-a-ball 28.

Guptill and Williamson are gone, but Conway is more fluent, in comparison, to Daryl, marrying timing with invention. But then Livingstone has him stumped as the asking rate soars past ten an over. Conway’s mother Sandy has her head in her hands. New Zealand are helpless. New Zealand fans are helpless.

Wood then thumps out a lifter. Daryl flaps a top-edge over the keeper’s head for six. The cameras pan out to the stands, where Daryl’s parents are as surprised as he is.

Neesham then tees off, smoking three sixes. The weight of the world is now not on Daryl’s shoulders. He breathes easy, composes himself, and starts to play to his strengths: clear his front leg, maintain a stable base, and whack the ball. The dew also sets in as Rashid loses his length and drags one down. Daryl unleashes a devil-may-care swipe and sends the ball over midwicket for six. He barely celebrates his fifty, but his parents can afford a smile.

Two balls later, though, Rashid wipes out the smiles in the New Zealand camp by having Neesham holing out with a wrong’un.

New Zealand need 20 off 12 balls. Woakes is back for his last over. The ball is neither swinging nor seaming now. So Woakes looks to go short and tuck up Daryl. He bowls a cutter into the pitch. Daryl sits deep in the crease, waits for it to arrive, and clobbers it over long-on and into New Zealand’s dug-out.

Woakes then ventures an on-pace short ball, but Daryl sizes it up too and launches it over midwicket and into the grass banks. The mighty strike has his mother breaking into a jig.

Glenn Phillips, Shane Bond, and Kyle Jamieson are all up on their feet, raising their hands in joy. Mind you, the trio was not part of the squad in 2019. Neesham and Williamson, however, don’t move from their seats and keep their poker faces on. They know what it’s like to lose by the “barest of margins” without even losing.

Daryl has messed with Woakes’ length and head after clearing the bigger boundaries in Abu Dhabi. Woakes ditches the short stuff for the yorker, but it comes out as a full-toss, which is swatted away to the boundary.

Daryl pumps his fist and is embraced by Mitchell Santner – the pair grew up together at Northern Districts. Daryl’s parents celebrate with the Kiwi fans in the crowd.
That sequence of 6,6,4 from nowhere puts New Zealand in their first-ever T20 World Cup final. In 2016, it was Carlos Brathwaite who emerged from nowhere to blindside England with a sequence of 6,6,6,6 against Ben Stokes in Kolkata. Five years later, a new hero emerges in the form of Daryl, giving England a sense of deja vu.

So, kids, that’s how the big daddy of the Super Smash beat the big daddies of white-ball cricket. Remember the name: Daryl Mitchell!

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Travis Head wins the race to be Australia's No. 5 in the Ashes

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Mitchell Starc will complete the fast-bowling trio alongside Josh Hazlewood and captain Pat Cummins



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Mithali Raj – We have had ‘good preparation’ for 2022 World Cup by playing SA, England, Australia this year

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“We are getting to play in New Zealand before World Cup which is also good,” she says

India Women are scheduled to play only one ODI series – against New Zealand – before the World Cup early next year but captain Mithali Raj feels the team has had “good preparation” so far in 2021.
This year, India hosted South Africa for five ODIs before playing a three-match series in England and Australia each. They lost all three series but made Australia, the No. 1 team, work really hard for their 2-1 win and also ended their 26-match winning streak in the third ODI there.

India will play World Cup hosts New Zealand for five ODIs before the World Cup in March-April.

“We have played three best teams since March and it has given us good preparation,” Raj said after a partnership between KFC and Indian Deaf Cricket Association in Delhi on Wednesday. “Players have played domestic cricket and also in the Women’s Big Bash so they are getting game time which is the most important thing.

“We are getting to play in New Zealand before World Cup which is also good.”

India, who were unable to post 250-plus scores regularly earlier, did that twice in the Australia series and chased down 265 in the final ODI.

“When you play against a strong team in its backyard you try to give your best,” Raj said. “Though we lost the series, the matches were very close. We scored 270 (274) and chased 270-odd, if we can do that consistently we will be among the best sides in world cricket.”

India’s middle-order batting needs improvement but Raj said all departments must fire as a unit if they are to win the World Cup.

“We bat as a unit so you can’t pinpoint one area,” she said. “There are times when the top order failed and the others performed. As a unit if we look to post a good total then it will help. If we focus on one area like middle order then it becomes too much of a burden for that particular slot.”

India finished runners-up in the 2017 World Cup in England when not many expected them to but expectations will be higher this time.

“There were not enough expectations back then,” Raj said. “Now in 2021, players have got experience and got a lot of exposure with the T20 leagues. Overall we have young players but they have got enough exposure. It is just of matter of gelling well as a team.

“Every match will be different there. The quicker we read our opponents the better it will be for us.”



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The Ashes 2021-22 – Michael Vaughan stood down from BT Sport Ashes coverage after Azeem Rafiq allegations

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Channel to adopt a “hybrid” approach with Vaughan’s stints on Fox Sports to be overlaid

Michael Vaughan, the former England captain, will not be heard by UK audiences during this winter’s Ashes in Australia, after BT Sport followed the BBC’s decision to remove him from their TV coverage of the series.

Vaughan, 47, was last week stood down from BBC Test Match Special’s coverage for “editorial” reasons, following allegations from Azeem Rafiq, the former Yorkshire cricketer, that he had said “there are too many of you lot” following the selection of four players of Asian heritage in a county fixture in 2009.

Vaughan, who denies the allegations, apologised last week in an interview on BBC Breakfast for the “hurt” caused to Rafiq during his time as a player at Yorkshire, and will still be involved in this winter’s Ashes coverage through his commentary role with Fox Sports, the Australian host broadcaster.

However, BT Sport – who are due to take the Fox Sports feed after choosing not to send a bespoke commentary team to Australia – announced on Tuesday that they will be taking a “hybrid” approach to their coverage, with Vaughan’s on-air stints to be overlaid with studio analysis.

“As a result of Covid and travel restrictions BT Sport had made the decision to take our commentary feed from the Australian host broadcaster,” the channel said in a statement. “The recent report presented to UK Parliament uncovering institutional racism within cricket and specifically Yorkshire County Cricket Club is extremely disappointing and a concern for all.

“Given these recent events and the controversy with the situation we have taken the decision that including Michael Vaughan within our Ashes coverage would not be editorially appropriate or fit with BT Sport’s values. We are still finalising plans but we are assessing the option of taking a hybrid approach, using Fox commentary where possible with the aim of putting our own commentary team in place if necessary.”

Vaughan’s troubled build-up to the series continued on Tuesday, when he announced on Twitter that his arrival in Australia had been delayed by a week due to a positive Covid test. “[It] is frustrating,” he wrote. “But at least I’ll avoid the rain in Brisbane for a few days!”

However, his hopes of being retained by the BBC after the Ashes have received a boost, after the corporation confirmed that they had been in “regular contact” with Vaughan since his suspension, and had held “positive conversations with him in recent days”.

“Our contributors are required to talk about relevant issues, so Michael’s involvement in a story of such significance means it’s not possible for him to be part of our Ashes coverage or wider cricket coverage at the moment,” the statement added. “We’re pleased with how our conversations are going and expect to work with Michael again in the future. He remains on contract to the BBC.”

The BBC’s stance was criticised this week by his former England team-mate Monty Panesar, who wrote in a column in the Daily Telegraph: “This feels deeply unethical — a classic case of someone being tried and convicted without any form of due process being undertaken.”



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