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James Neesham – You don’t come halfway across the world just to win a semi-final

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“There’s one game to go and I’m sure there will be a bigger outpouring of emotion if we manage to get across the line.”

“Try and hit every ball for six”. This was Jimmy Neesham‘s plan after he got together with opener Daryl Mitchell, with New Zealand needing 60 off the last 29 balls in their semi-final against England. Neesham faced 11 balls, clearing the fence three times and finding it once.

Neesham threw his hands, hips, shoulders and every muscle into his leg-side swipes. His first six off Chris Jordan was a mis-hit over the midwicket boundary, but he loaded up again and hoicked a four between deep midwicket and wide long-on. He unleashed another no-holds-barred hoick and for a moment it looked like Jonny Bairstow would track it down at wide long-on, but his knee brushed the rope when he had caught the ball before he could relay the catch to the converging outfielder inside the field of play.

Neesham also lined up legspinner Adil Rashid and mowed him into the grassbanks beyond midwicket for his third six.

“I just said to Daz [Daryl Mitchell], I hit CJ [Chris Jordan] for a six second ball and Daz sort of came down and said: ‘what do you think?’ I just said I’m going to try and hit every ball for six,” Neesham told NZC’s in-house media team, ahead of New Zealand’s final against Australia. “It doesn’t always come out of the middle but chunked a couple and got enough to get over the rope. Yeah, ended up doing reasonably comfortably in the end.”

Neesham’s triptych of sixes also helped free up Mitchell, who had struggled in the early exchanges against Chris Woakes and Jordan. Rashid got rid of Neesham with an in-to-the-pitch wrong’un, but Mitchell ultimately blasted New Zealand to a memorable victory with 6,6,4 against Woakes.

“I think that’s the situation you want to be in when you open the batting,” Neesham said. “You just want to be still there having faced 40-50 balls at the end and he was obviously seeing it very nicely and striking it well. It was just a case of hoping we hadn’t left the run too late, but like I mentioned before plenty of time to spare in the end.”

While some of his team-mates were having the time of their lives in the middle in the 2015 World Cup, Neesham watched that semi-final against South Africa from the Eden Park grass banks. He later fell out of love with cricket and even contemplated retirement. Okay, let’s not bring up the 2019 heartbreak. In 2021, he was viciously swinging balls into the Abu Dhabi grass banks.

The tables have turned, but Neesham was not ready to celebrate just yet. After Mitchell struck the winning runs, the entire New Zealand side broke into celebrations, but Neesham didn’t indulge in any of it. He simply stayed expressionless in his chair in front of the dug-out. Neesham – and New Zealand – have their eyes on the big prize.

“It’s a situation worthy of celebrating I guess – winning a semi-final – but you don’t come halfway around the world just to win a semi-final,” Neesham said. “We’ve got our sights pretty firmly set on the game in a few days’ time… I’m personally, and we as a team, are not getting ahead of ourselves. One game to go and I’m sure there will be a bigger outpouring of emotion if we manage to get across the line.”

Neesham stressed that it’s not in New Zealand’s nature to get carried away by the euphoria of the semi-final victory and he backed his side to regather themselves for the final on November 14.

“Look, I think we’re experienced at it,” he said. “We’ve done so well and so consistently in tournaments across five or six years. We know how to I suppose hit the reset button and put a win or a loss behind us pretty quickly. We’ve got pretty robust strategies around how to prepare for games with scouting, planning, and all that kind of stuff. So, those strategies will all kick over the next couple of days and we will get back on the training paddock tomorrow I think and prepare as best as we can.”

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Marnus Labuschagne eager for James Anderson duel with 'target on the back'

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Australia’s No. 3 is one of the few players who will enter the Ashes with substantial cricket under his belt



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India vs NZ, 2nd Test

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Tom Latham will lead New Zealand

Rahane is out due to a minor left hamstring strain he picked up while fielding on the final day of the Kanpur Test. Jadeja’s is a right forearm injury that required scans which revealed swelling. “He has been advised rest,” stated a BCCI release.

Ishant, meanwhile, dislocated his left little finger on the final day in Kanpur, leaving the door open for Mohammed Siraj‘s return. Siraj had himself sustained a finger injury during the T20I series, but has now been deemed fit.
For Williamson, it’s the recurrence of an old left-elbow problem that has troubled him for much of the year. Coach Gary Stead confirmed the injury had flared up during the first Test and with it failing to improve in the days following the match, the call was made to rule him out. In his absence. Tom Latham will lead the side.

“It’s been a really tough time for Kane having to deal with such a persistent injury,” Stead said. “While we’ve been able to manage the injury through the year and the T20 World Cup, the shift to Test cricket and the increased batting loading has re-aggravated his elbow.

“Ultimately the injury is still not right and while he got through the Kanpur Test, it was clear playing in the second Test wasn’t an option.”

Meanwhile, the absence of Rahane and Jadeja could leave India’s team management contemplate a sixth batting option. If they go down this route, it could mean a debut for KS Bharat or Suryakumar Yadav at his home ground. Wriddhiman Saha was ruled fit by Virat Kohli a day before the match.



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Recent Match Report – Sri Lanka vs West Indies 2nd Test 2021/22

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Ninth-wicket partnership of 107 with Embuldeniya hurts West Indies and their hopes of victory in Galle

Sri Lanka 328 for 8 (Dhananjaya 153*, Embuldeniya 25*, Permaul 3-100, Chase 2-82) and 204 lead West Indies 253 by 279 runs

Dhananjaya de Silva came to the crease with Sri Lanka only 23 runs ahead, with three wickets down, and their most experienced batter injured an unable to play normally. By the time his work ended on day four, Sri Lanka were 279 runs ahead, with two wickets still in hand, in firm control.
De Silva, in sublime touch for much of this knock, was 153 not out off 259 balls by stumps, put on 78 alongside Pathum Nissanka to rescue Sri Lanka from immediate peril, and made 51 with Ramesh Mendis during a second session in which West Indies’ spinners made a four-wicket charge, but it was with No. 10 Lasith Embuldeniya with whom he produced the most consequential and perhaps match-defining partnership – an as-yet unbeaten association of 107 runs, during which he completed his eighth Test century, and breezed past 150, plundering 73 runs off 98 balls from a tiring attack.
He was dropped twice – both times off the bowling of Veerasammy Permaul. On 5, wicketkeeper Joshua Da Silva could not hold on to a big edge, though this was an incredibly difficult chance, the ball traveling quickly and hitting only the tips of his gloves. The opportunity West Indies will rue more came when de Silva was on 116 and attempted a slog sweep with the field spread. Permaul got himself under the swirling top edge as he ran toward the sight screen, but ultimately could not wrap his fingers around the ball. If he’d caught that, Sri Lanka would have been nine down with a lead of 218. It’s possible West Indies would already have been batting by now, chasing a difficult but not outlandish target.

The earliest stretch of the de Silva-Embuldeniya stand had been tense. Embuldeniya had come in with Sri Lanka only 179 ahead, and with Permaul having taken two wickets in quick succession with the second new ball. De Silva was batting on 80, and so the hundred was in sight as well. But the pair settled into a rhythm – de Silva farming the strike to give Embuldeniya only the last two or three balls an over, where possible. Though de Silva didn’t always attempt to hit boundaries early in those overs, largely because Kraigg Brathwaite had positioned fielders on the rope.

Embuldeniya scratched his way through that period, facing 20 balls before de Silva was able to complete the century. After that, de Silva moved up the gears. He hit Roston Chase behind point for four soon after getting to a hundred, then slammed him over long-on two balls later. The field spread back to him, he ran hard twos, and when Brathwaite brought the seamers back, attacked them as well. Having got to his hundred off his 189th delivery, he added the next 50 off 65.

Embuldeniya played an unambitious supporting hand, all the way up to stumps. He faced 110 balls for his 25. He did not hit a single boundary, but was largely good in defence. West Indies, through this period, seemed ragged and short of ideas. Brathwaite bowled a strange spell in which he occasionally tossed the ball up almost comically high.

West Indies will be kicking themselves for letting the situation slip, after having surged through the middle session, and having kept the opposition in check even before lunch. Sri Lanka had begun the day still three runs in arrears, and with two inexperienced batters at the crease. Permaul got one to bite to take Charith Asalanka’s inside edge, which popped up off the pad to short leg, in the first hour of play. And although Nissanka completed his third fifty of the series in the company of de SIlva, he was out the ball before lunch too – lbw to Chase.

Chase struck again in the afternoon, pocketing a return catch off Dinesh Chandimal, before Brathwaite was the beneficiary of the only wicket Sri Lanka truly threw away in the day – Mendis holing out at deep midwicket the over before the second new ball was due. Permaul removed Suranga Lakmal and Angelo Mathews cheaply with that new ball. He finished the day on 3 for 100 – West Indies’ best analysis.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf



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