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‘I feel like I have nothing to lose’




Preparation is being disrupted by the weather and there are concerns around Covid-19, but the focus is on the Gabba

He’s never played a first-class match, let alone a Test, in Australia and the final week of preparation leading into the opening game of the Ashes in Brisbane looks set to be disrupted by the weather, but Jos Buttler is determined to go into the series unburdened by things he can’t control.

Buttler is part of the second group of England players who have now joined the full squad following their quarantine after the T20 World Cup but on leaving their Gold Coast camp for Brisbane they encountered torrential rain which wiped out the opening day of their final warm-up match.

With the forecast poor, there is a real chance England may not get any proper middle time in the days ahead. The first intrasquad match last week had just 29 overs on the first day. Australia are in the same position with their three-game likely to be canned – and have also had to deal with the off-field drama around Tim Paine’s resignation – although some of their players have been playing in the Sheffield Shield over the last two months.

Buttler did not play England’s most recent Test, against India at The Oval, due to paternity leave but had been due to regain his place for the Old Trafford match that was called off due to Covid-19 concerns. Overall it was a disjointed home season with no great Test reward for Buttler, who missed the New Zealand series due to the IPL and then made 72 runs in five innings against India, but he is ready to embrace the challenge in Australia.

“I feel like I have nothing to lose, to be honest,” he said. “It’s sort of been disjointed, that [year] just gone. Some good form and some bad form and in the year before as well. It’s the first time I’m experiencing an Ashes series [in Australia] so I’m fully determined to enjoy all the challenges that throws up. I’m excited to experience it, the good the bad, and I’m sure the highs and lows along the way.

“As a player at the minute I’m trying to bring a fearless approach and to truly try and embrace the opportunity. I know when I get to somewhere near my best that’s going to be pretty good.”

Buttler has reasonably extensive experience playing in Australia although it has all been in the white-ball formats. He averages 38.71 from 18 ODIs, has played five T20Is and has had Big Bash stints with Melbourne Renegades and most recently Sydney Thunder.

“Familiarity with some conditions is something I can dip into and hopefully not be surprised by,” he said. “But I think the challenge always as a player is to adapt to any conditions that are in front of you and adapt quickly. The practice, when you can practice, is incredibly important for that and your first five, 10 balls are vital as a player to understanding the conditions and playing accordingly. But certainly I will try to dip into that experience and I’m in my early 30s now so played quite a bit of cricket and hopefully know what to expect.”

As ever in the current world there could be further complications thrown the way of the series. It remains to be seen whether Covid-19 protocols will need to be tightened following the emergence of the Omicron variant – with cases detected in arriving passengers in New South Wales – and the impact any potential changes to international border restrictions could have on families.

Buttler was among the players to raise concerns about families not being able to join the tour but he said it was too early to be worrying about a scenario where they were unable to fly out.

“It’s a hypothetical situation at the minute. Until we get told that something’s changed there’s no decision to make and it just adds to the unknown. So it’s things I don’t really need to worry about at the moment. If something like that happens I have to get the information and we can work through it and see how that looks.”

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Under-19 World Cup – Jacob Bethell’s 88, Rehan Ahmed’s four-for lift England to semi-finals




Meanwhile, West Indies, Zimbabwe post big wins in the Plate quarter-finals

England 212 for 4 (Bethell 88, Luxton 47*, Brevis 2-40) beat South Africa 209 all out (Brevis 97, Rehan 4-48) by six wickets

Jacob Bethell smacked 88 in only 42 balls to make short work of South Africa’s modest total and secured England’s passage into the semi-final of the U-19 World Cup. England legspinner Rehan Ahmed took 4 for 48 to bowl South Africa for 209 before Bethell set the tone in England’s victory with 112 balls to spare.

Bethell, the England opener, scored 76 of his 88 runs in boundaries as he peppered 16 fours and two sixes in his 42-ball innings. His blitz gave England a 100+ score in the powerplay, and even though he was the first man out in the 11th over, his innings allowed the rest of England’s batters to sail smoothly over the line. William Luxton, the No. 5, struck an unbeaten 41-ball 47 – including a six to win the game – after Bethell’s fall.

Bethell had already provided England with a flying start when he struck Matthew Boast for two fours in the opening over, but it was his dismantling of Boast’s second over that showed glimpses of how his innings was going to turn out. In the third over, he hit Boast for four boundaries in four balls – two pulls and two drives – and a straight shot for four through mid-on brought up his fifty in just 20 balls in the sixth over.

The Barbados-born Bethell, who is also England’s vice-captain, found the boundary in every single over that he was out there. He was also unafraid to play the unconventional reverse sweep and had a contribution of 83 by the time England’s opening stand crossed a hundred. His success allowed the other opener George Thomas, who faced much fewer balls in the partnership, to take it slow.

Asakhe Tsaka found the eventual breakthrough, breaking the 110-run opening stand with Bethell miscueing a shot to deep midwicket. Thomas was then run out for 19. Tom Prest, the captain, and James Rew then got tarts before being dismissed by lbws from Dewald Brevis. However, William Luxton extinguished all hopes for South Africa after he saw off the rest of the runs with his knock of six fours and two sixes, the last one a slog sweep over deep midwicket in the 32nd over to help England breach the 210-run target.

Even though Bethell’s innings at a 200+ strike rate expedited the win, England’s strong position in the contest was set up by their bowlers, led by Rehan’s four-for. He first had South Africa captain George Van Heerden top-edging a sweep before rattling Andile Simelane’s stumps with a yorker. He followed that up with Michael Copeland’s wicket to reduce South Africa from 117 for 3 to 136 for 5. He then returned in his final spell to take the tenth South Africa wicket to finish with 4 for 48.

That South Africa reached 209 was courtesy the tournament’s most consistent batter Brevis. Brevis had struck 65, 104 and 96 in the group stage, and in the quarter-final, played a lone hand of 97 for South Africa. Coming in at 11 for 1, he began attacking from the start, and ended up hitting nine fours and four sixes in his 88-ball innings. He was the only batter who dominated England’s bowling, using his strong build to go over the top too. After he fell three short of a second century of the tournament, No. 9 Boast (22) and No. 11 Asakhe Tsaka (18) took South Africa up to 209.

England will now face either Sri Lanka or Afghanistan in the semi-final.

West Indies 317 for 7 (Nandu 128, Parris 64, Wickham 61*, Ray 3-43) beat Papua New Guinea 148 all out (Oru 27, Nandu 2-17, Thorne 2-30) by 169 runs

Over at the Plate quarter-final in Diego Martin, West Indies opener Matthew Nandu hit a 134-ball 128 to give them a 169-run win over Papua New Guinea.

Nandu first put on a 155-run opening stand with Shaqkere Parris, who made 64, before following it up with a 107-run third-wicket stand with Kevin Wickham (61*). That took West Indies to 298 for 3. By the time Nandu fell in the 49th over, and despite losing five more wickets in the last ten balls of the innings, West Indies finished on an imposing 317 for 7.

The six West Indies bowlers then bowled PNG all out for 148, with extras (34) being the highest contributor in the chase. Aue Oru, the No. 6 was not out on 27 with six PNG batters finishing with single-digit scores. Nandu, high on confidence after his 128, then returned as the pick of the West Indies bowlers to take 2 for 14 in his six overs of offspin.

Zimbabwe 248 all out (Welch 78, B Bennett 54, Jarvis 3-46) beat Scotland 140 all out (Mackintosh 25, D Bennett 3-25, Mitchell 3-28) by 108 runs

In the Plate quarter-final match in Port of Spain, Zimbabwe completed a big win too, defeating Scotland by 108 runs. Connor Mitchell and legspinner David Bennett took three wickets apiece to bowl Scotland out for 140 in their chase of 249.

Zimbabwe’s first-innings was set up by the 78 from opener Matthew Welch and the 54 that Brian Bennett scored from No. 4. Before his three-for, David Bennett scored a handy 41-ball 35, and despite a lower-order collapse, the hosts finished on 248. Welch, who scored seven fours and a six in his 117-ball stay, put on a 112-run second-wicket stand with Brian Bennett to lay the foundation in the Zimbabwe innings.

Scotland lost five wickets by the time they reached 102 in the chase. Mitchell then ran through the lower-middle order with his three scalps, and David Bennett cleaned up the tail to end Scotland’s challenge in the 39th over. Tomas Mackintosh (25) and Jack Jarvis (24) top-scored in Scotland’s 140.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx

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Recent Match Report – West Indies vs England 3rd T20I 2021/22




Banton, Salt battle for England but have no lasting answer to six-laden onslaught

West Indies 224 for 5 (Powell 107, Pooran 70) beat England 204 for 9 (Banton 73, Salt 57, Shepherd 3-59, Pollard 2-31) by 20 runs

A brutal 51-ball century from Rovman Powell blasted West Indies to a 20-run victory over England and a 2-1 lead in their five-match T20I series in Barbados.
Powell muscled the hosts to 224 for 5 with an astonishing 107 off just 53 deliveries amid a 122-run stand for the third wicket with Nicholas Pooran, who was the perfect cornerman to Powell’s heavyweight destroyer with a sublimely crafted 70 off 43.
In response, England’s inexperienced team – which had undergone no less than five changes through illness, injury and rotation – were left punch drunk until Tom Banton‘s gallant half-century and an assured 57 from Phil Salt on his T20I debut kept them in the fight. But ultimately, the tourists had been left with too much to do.

Powell’s Power

Making his first appearance of the series after being called up to bolster West Indies’ batting in place of allrounder Odean Smith, Powell did exactly what his side asked of him. Their line-up was hardly tested in pursuit of a paltry 104 in Saturday’s nine-wicket victory but stumbled badly on Sunday when they were forced to rely on ninth-wicket stand of 72 between Romario Shepherd and Akeal Hosein to get within two runs of victory. On this occasion, Powell and Pooran got the hosts firing.

Powell’s 10 sixes were breath-taking as he clubbed England’s bowlers into the stands time and again, particularly down the ground with one of his efforts being measured at more than 100 metres. He brought up his fifty with a crunching effort off Liam Livingstone over deep extra cover and his only nervous moments appeared as his century came within reach of just one more hammer blow during a tight start to Reece Topley’s final over. But, having brought up his hundred with a two-run punch to square leg, he freed his arms once more to pump the ball back over the bowler’s head and clear the ropes for the tenth time.

Powell fell two balls later, picking out Livingstone as he ran in from long-off but by that stage, he’d done irrevocable damage. Earlier, Pooran had chimed in with five sixes and four fours of his own and it wasn’t until the 17th over that Adil Rashid made the breakthrough that removed him, caught by Livingstone at long on. When Pooran fell, he and Powell had lifted West Indies from 48 for 2 to 170 for 3.

England’s babes

Moeen Ali, standing in as captain for Eoin Morgan who was suffering from quadriceps soreness, won a rain-delayed toss and barely managed to recite the ins and outs for his team, which handed international debuts to George Garton and Harry Brook and a maiden T20I cap to Salt, who was part of the hastily assembled ODI squad that beat Pakistan 3-0 after a Covid outbreak in July.

Also sitting out for England was an unwell Sam Billings, with Banton taking the wicketkeeping gloves, and Liam Dawson, who made way after Livingstone recovered sufficiently from the acid reflux problem which had kept him out of the first two games. Chris Jordan and Saqib Mahmood were left out as Tymal Mills returned to the attack.

Livingstone bowled a particularly expensive over, which went for 26 as he mixed up his leg-spin and off-spin to the right-hand left-hand combination of Powell and Pooran. But he had Shai Hope caught behind and took both catches to dismiss Pooran and Powell, the latter almost slipping through his fingers as he went to ground running in from long off. Garton had contributed to a bright start for England, having bowled Brandon King with a beauty on the top of off stump in the second over of the match in an excellent response to being struck for two boundaries within his first four balls. But then the Powell-Pooran main event began.

Banton, Salt step up

Jason Roy threatened at the start of England’s chase but when he, James Vince and Moeen all succumbed to some disciplined bowling and an improved performance in the field by West Indies, Banton stepped up to score a career-best 73 in his 12th T20I.

Banton played a superb knock, setting the scene with a six off the second ball he faced – the sixth of the innings – and facing 39 deliveries all told. But he fell victim to West Indies captain Kieron Pollard, who had already removed Moeen for a duck in an excellent spell, when he was caught by Jason Holder. That was shortly after Livingstone, who appeared to be suffering some after-effects of his illness during his innings, fell to a sharp catch by Hosein backpedalling to extra cover and managing to hold on as he landed on his back. Hosein almost took a screamer at point that would have had Salt out for a duck, but the ball spilled as his arm hit the ground after a valiant leap.

Playing on the island where had lived for six years as a youngster, Salt made the most of his chance, racing to his score off just 24 deliveries, including five sixes on a night when 31 in all were struck. With England needing 36 off the last six balls, Salt brought up his fifty with the first of back-to-back sixes off Shepherd, but he fell next ball, bowled round his legs and it was game over for England.

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Injury-hit Sydney Sixers set to ask again for Steven Smith




The defending champions picked up further damage during the Challenger final

It could be a case of third time lucky for Sydney Sixers as the injury-riddled BBL club prepare to send another SOS to Cricket Australia, asking for Steven Smith to return in Friday night’s final against the Perth Scorchers.

Sixers attempted to sign former skipper Smith for the entire finals series, only for CA to block the move after rival state associations raised objections. They tried again prior to Wednesday night’s Challenger final because Josh Philippe contracted Covid-19 but failed, having to send out assistant coach Jay Lenton instead.

Steve O’Keefe (calf), Jordan Silk (hamstring) and captain Moises Henriques (calf) suffered fresh injuries on Wednesday night, while Daniel Hughes (ankle) failed a pre-match fitness test. Philippe will miss the title-deciding clash with the Scorchers at Marvel Stadium.

Brothers Jack and Mickey Edwards will be on the final night of their isolation period, meaning they will also remain unavailable unless the Victoria government provide an exemption.

A glut of enforced omissions could potentially result in a CA rethink regarding Smith, who was expecting to be part of a limited-overs series against New Zealand that was ultimately postponed.

The issue is set to be discussed by powerbrokers on Thursday, when the depleted Sixers head south for their fifth title-deciding showdown with Perth.

Henriques, speaking to Fox Sports on Wednesday night, remained unsure whether he will be fit to face the Scorchers.

“I have no idea. It’s going to have to be a bloody bad calf for me not to play,” Henriques said. “Flight tomorrow won’t be amazing. We’ll see what happens. I’ll just hobble around like an old bloke. I’ve been doing that all year anyway.”

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