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Men’s T20 World Cup 2021

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He has taken on a new role at this World Cup and been a vital part of Australia’s success

Marcus Stoinis‘ massive biceps, broad chest and muscular physique in general remind you of the Incredible Hulk, the Marvel superhero. Stoinis himself thinks he looks like the Hulk when he flexes his biceps and chest in celebration after taking a wicket. However, Stoinis the batter – more precisely the finisher – had more looked like Bruce Banner since his breakout unbeaten 146, in only his second ODI innings against New Zealand at Eden Park in 2017.

During that match Stoinis had stepped into bat at 54 for 5 in Australia’s pursuit of 287. He watched them slide further to 67 for 6 and would have single-handedly pulled off a coup if not for Kane Williamson swooping in from silly mid-on and running out No. 11 Josh Hazlewood for a duck. In an exhibition of explosive power-hitting, Stoinis blitzed 48 in a 54-run last-wicket stand, with Hazlewood contributing none.

It seemed like Australia had finally found their next big finisher. Stoinis could have become that finisher at various points – most notably Sydney 2018, and Nagpur 2019. However, he couldn’t quite get the job done.

The 2019 ODI World Cup didn’t go according to his plan either. He feared that his tournament was over after a side strain ruled him out of Australia’s first two matches. He managed to return to action but scrounged only 87 runs in seven innings, with the injury also hampering his bowling. Stoinis was dropped from the T20I side after the 50-over World Cup, but he forced his way back in August 2020 after enjoying a prolific run with the Melbourne Stars at the BBL – although at the top of the order.

Had the T20 World Cup gone ahead as scheduled last year, Stoinis might not have even made the cut. A year on, Stoinis has helped take Australia’s men’s team to within one step of winning their first-ever T20 world title.

The role of a finisher is arguably the toughest in T20 cricket and Stoinis has given himself a chance to succeed by failing multiple times.

“You definitely do draw on your past experiences,” Stoinis said the day after the Pakistan semi-final. “Something that’s probably lucky looking back is I’ve played a lot of cricket, I’ve played a lot of T20 cricket and I’ve sort of built that scar tissue. I’ve failed in situations and I’ve been told I can’t finish a game; we’ve heard all these sort of things before.

“I think you need to go through all sort of stuff and build that scar tissue, go and stand in the middle in a pressure situation. It doesn’t mean it’s always going to work, but I think I’ve definitely noticed the way that I do think through that situation has grown over the past couple of years.”

Stoinis’ stint with Delhi Capitals as their finisher under coach Ricky Ponting has certainly contributed to his growth. At the death in IPL 2020 in the UAE, he struck at 10.21 an over that season, putting himself in the company of the likes of Kieron Pollard, AB de Villiers, Eoin Morgan and Ravindra Jadeja.

Stoinis then injured his hamstring in the UAE leg of IPL 2021 and played just two matches. Another injury, another doomed World Cup for Stoinis? He didn’t let history repeat itself, completing three chases in three attempts. The only other time he batted in the tournament, he bagged a duck after Australia had opted to bat against England.

When Stoinis reunited with his former Victoria team-mate Matthew Wade in the semi-final against Pakistan on Thursday, Australia still needed 81 off 46 balls. Stoinis changed the game when he clattered his Stars team-mate Haris Rauf 13 in the 17th over. When Rauf dug one into the pitch, Stoinis rose tall and smote it over the midwicket boundary with the stillest of heads and smoothest of bat-swings. Next ball Rauf marginally missed his yorker and Stoinis held his shape again to belt it down the ground for four.

“It was pretty much just working with Wadey,” Stoinis recalled. “We were talking through one short boundary and one longer boundary. Certain bowlers he thought he could target, certain ones that I could target. And then in between, there’s the chaos that’s going on in your own head (laughs). So, just trying to stay calm and trying to keep each other calm. You are talking through your plans and making sure you’re really clear on what you want to do.”

For years, Stoinis has only provided glimpses of the Incredible Hulk persona at the top level. If his recent finishing acts in the T20 World Cup are anything to go by, the transformation could be complete.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Recent Match Report – Eng Lions vs England Tour Match 2021/22

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England Lions XI make 226 for 4 against potential Test attack featuring Stokes, Anderson and Broad

England Lions XI 226 for 4 vs England XI

Ben Stokes was England’s most-successful bowler as the Brisbane rains finally relented, allowing the tourists their most significant warm-up action since arriving in Australia.

Stokes claimed 2 for 31 from 10 overs in his first red-ball outing since appearing for Durham in July, as an England Lions XI batted through the scheduled third day at Ian Healy Oval. Three batters retired their innings not out in order to give others an opportunity, with Liam Norwell and captain Joe Root the other England XI bowlers to take wickets.

Both sides featured 13 players, with Alex Lees captaining the Lions. Lees and Zak Crawley batted through the first session against a potential Test attack of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Ollie Robinson, Jack Leach and Stokes, with Saqib Mahmood also involved for England.

Lees was first to retire, before Stokes struck to remove Crawley, the top-scorer for the Lions XI with 45. Dan Lawrence did not last long, removed by Norwell for 1, but Ollie Pope spent some time in the middle before falling to Root’s offspin.

James Bracey and Tom Abell kept the bowlers at bay before retiring not out, and Stokes claimed his second wicket when dismissing Chris Woakes late on.

Following four straight days of washed-out practice across two fixtures in Brisbane, England managed to get through 78 overs, with Anderson bowling eight, Broad 11 and Robinson 12, while Leach also went wicketless from his 18 overs.



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Recent Match Report – Delhi Bulls vs Abu Dhabi 30th Match 2021/22

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Delhi Bulls 135 for 5 (Gurbaz 69, Rutherford 52) beat Team Abu Dhabi 86 for 8 (Rashid 3-15, Drakes 3-15) by 49 runs

It’s tough to think of a more exciting and promising young batter in world cricket right now than Rahmanullah Gurbaz.

With the IPL auction a month or so away, Gurbaz has gone about executing his audition in style at the Abu Dhabi T10.

A night after hitting the fastest fifty of the tournament with a quite stunning 14-ball effort, the baby-faced Afghanistan international smashed 69 off just 29 deliveries to remarkably drag Delhi Bulls into the top two and into a straight qualifier for the final against Deccan Gladiators on Friday. A 49-run hammering of Team Abu Dhabi was more than enough to go ahead of their opponents on net run rate.

The top two will have the luxury of getting another chance, with the losing side playing the winner of the eliminator between Team Abu Dhabi and Bangla Tigers, in a triple-header on Friday at the Zayed Cricket Ground.

Over the course of two nights, Gurbaz has accumulated 126 runs in 45 balls. In a tournament with renowned hitters of a cricket ball from across the globe, it is the emergence of Gurbaz that has lit up the competition. He stands clear at the top of the runs and boundaries leaderboard with 310 runs and 50 boundaries

In so many ways, Gurbaz embodies the term “the exuberance of youth” beautifully, with his fearlessness and the genuine 360-degree game – something that doesn’t come as a surprise, given that AB de Villiers is his idol. Mind you, here is a talent who hit a scintillating century on his ODI debut for Afghanistan at the very same ground in January. Eleven months on and there isn’t a more thrilling prospect across the cricketing globe.

The 50th National Day of the UAE has signalled a long holiday weekend in Abu Dhabi, which has been filled with a frenzy of celebrations thus far. On Thursday night, in front of the biggest crowd of the tournament thus far, Gurbaz provided the best fireworks display yet with a classy knock that included five fours and six sixes.

Here is a man who has grown in confidence as the tournament has progressed. A week ago, as he blasted a devastating 70 in a 116-run partnership with Luke Wright, Gurbaz spoke about how his confidence increased when there was experience alongside him.

He didn’t need experience by his side on this occasion. This was a man showcasing to the world what he was all about. That trust in his own ability. That decisiveness in his decision making. The execution of the shots themselves.

Put into bat by Liam Livingstone, Gurbaz carried on from where left off the night before, effortlessly cutting a wide delivery from Sheldon Cottrell first up for four. He took the West Indian for 14 in his second over, including a majestic six over deep midwicket and the very next over, he and Sherfane Rutherford, who scored a blistering 54 off 22 deliveries, combined to smash Jamie Overton for 22.

Livingstone brought himself on to try to break the partnership. Instead, Gurbaz gave the England allrounder a taste of his own medicine to audaciously send him for consecutive maximums. By now, he was putting on a show.

Rutherford belted Naveen-ul-Haq for three sixes in an over, before Gurbaz reached a second half-century in as many nights, gloriously dispatching his countryman over extra-cover for six. It was a shot of the highest class and entertainment of the highest order. The youngster’s celebration was something to behold.

Gurbaz let out an almighty roar, removed his helmet and raised his bat towards a Bulls dugout that was standing in ovation for their superstar. The cameras panned towards the likes of Eoin Morgan and Dwayne Bravo who were stood beaming with joy, clapping in appreciation of a sparkling talent that perhaps encapsulates the next wave of young cricketers, a generation who have grown up immersed in the short-format cricket that has revolutionised the art of batting itself.

Alongside Rutherford, they put on a partnership of over a hundred in six overs and by the time Gurbaz was dismissed, Bulls not only had a total to defend, but also a chance to go above Team Abu Dhabi if they managed to win by 28 runs or more.

That they did in emphatic fashion, with three wickets from Dominic Drakes and a mesmerising hat-trick from Adil Rashid, which included the scalps of Livingstone, Colin Ingram and Overton. Livingstone top-edged one into the night sky to Gurbaz who held on and celebrated that wicket with the same intensity and energy that he had displayed with the bat. Ingram was undone by a legbreak, before Overton was clean bowled by a googly from Rashid that snuck past his inside edge.

The icing on the cake of Gurbaz’s night out in Abu Dhabi was seeing his friend and team-mate, Fazalhaq Farooqi bowl a maiden as the Team Abu Dhabi innings petered out. At the end of the over, he sprinted towards Farooqi with a joyous smile and greeted him with a double fist bump, knowing that the job was almost complete.

Whether or not Delhi Bulls go on to become champions of the Abu Dhabi T10, one thing is for certain; in Rahmanullah Gurbaz, there is a champion player in the making.

Aadam Patel is a freelance sports reporter who has written for BBC Sport, the Daily Mail, ESPNcricinfo, the Cricketer and other publications @aadamp9



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Ind vs NZ 2nd Test Mumbai

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The India Test captain is back to reclaim his spot in the XI for the Mumbai Test, but who will sit out? He isn’t telling just yet

Virat Kohli is back in international cricket after a break, during which he skipped the T20I series against New Zealand completely and then essentially chose to step off the treadmill and spend time working on his game rather than jump right back into Test cricket. While India played the Kanpur Test, Kohli worked with former India batting coach Sanjay Bangar in Mumbai, which is where he lives.

Kohli is now back refreshed and recharged, and emphasised on the need to look after one’s mental well-being in this bio-bubbles era of cricket. “It is very important to understand that it is crucial to refresh yourself mentally,” Kohli said a day before the Mumbai Test. “When you play so much cricket at a certain level for so long, it gets taken for granted that you will keep turning up series after series and perform with the same intensity in every match.

“Since the situation has changed [with bio-bubbles being introduced as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic], a lot of people have spoken about how difficult it is in bubble life. Our players’ understanding and management’s communication is good, we have spoken a lot about how to manage the workload. More than workload, giving them mental space.

“From my personal experience, I can tell you that practising in an environment where you were not in a structured environment and there weren’t 50 cameras trained at you… we could do that previously, we would have windows where you could step aside and individually work on your game or take some time off where you are not doing the same thing every day. That makes a lot of difference.

“To maintain the quality of cricket, to maximise the ability of the cricketers, to keep them in a good space, it is very important to consider this. Not just our team, but across the world, players are in the mindset to manage the workload, more from the mental point of view rather than physical.”

Kohli has now gone two years of international cricket without a century. This period has included the break because of the pandemic and his paternity leave, but 12 Tests and 15 ODIs is the longest he has had to wait for a century. Was there anything specific he felt he needed to work on during this week spent away from the spotlight? No, said Kohli.

“It was just to stay in the rhythm of playing red-ball cricket,” he said. “The idea was to get repetition and volume, which is important in Test cricket. It is just about getting into the mould of switching in-between formats, something that I have always tried to do. Whenever I get the opportunity to get some time to work on setting up for different formats. It is more so mentally than doing anything technique-wise. The more cricket you play, you understand your game more. It is just about getting into that headspace that you want to play in a certain way in a certain format. It was purely based on that.”

There is no soft landing for Kohli. Straight off the bat, he has to make a tricky call on who should make way for him in the XI. Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara have had low returns for a while now, and Shreyas Iyer has amplified that with a century and a half-century on debut. Kohli didn’t give any information on what changes to expect, but spoke on dealing with such tough calls on a human level, mainly handling the person who is left out.

2:12

Agarwal or Rahane: Who will sit out when Kohli is back?

Agarwal or Rahane: Who will sit out when Kohli is back?

“You have to obviously understand the situation of where the team is placed,” Kohli said. “You have to understand where individuals stand at certain stages during the course of a long season. So you have to obviously communicate well. You have to speak to the individuals, and approach them in a way where you explain things to them properly. Mostly it has been combination-based whenever we have done changes in the past.

“We have explained it to the individuals, and they have understood the mindset behind going in with a certain combination. It is not a difficult thing to do when there is collective trust and belief in the group that we are working towards the same vision. Along the line, there are ups and downs, and we understand that as cricketers and sportspeople in general.

“It is never a thing that you say that I am absolutely okay or happy about being told that the combination doesn’t allow me to play. That is the dynamic of team sport, and we prioritise the team first, and making sure we take care of individuals along the way. That’s something we have done consistently as a Test team.

“We have backed the set of players that have done the job for the Indian team the last five-six years. We maintain and continue to maintain they are the integral part of the larger scheme of things, of the core group of the Indian Test team. They have always been players we have relied upon on many occasions. And they have done the job. It is upon realising and being aware of what’s happening, and then we find the right space and the right way to approach people. Obviously with the management, the coaching staff, discussions happen in a rounded manner.”

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo



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