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Ind vs NZ, 1st Test, 5th day, 2021 – Rahul Dravid

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Too early to decide on Iyer’s place in the next Test, says India coach

India’s captain for the Kanpur Test must still have been processing the tight result with India falling one wicket short of what would have been an incredible win on a slow, low surface when his coach Rahul Dravid was being asked about his lack of runs. Ajinkya Rahane now averages 24.39 over his last 16 Tests, including one century in the Boxing Day Test nearly a year ago. With scores of 35 and 4 in this Test, his career average has now dipped below 40. At home he averages 35.73.

Dravid was asked if he was worried about Rahane’s lack of runs. “I don’t get worried, you don’t get worried,” Dravid said. “Of course you would like more runs from Ajinkya. I am sure he would like a few more runs. He is a quality player. He has done well for India in the past. He is one of those guys who has that quality. He has the experience. Hopefully it’s just a matter of an innings, a matter of a game where he can turn it around. Certainly he would like to score more runs. He knows that. And we know that.”

The lack of runs became stark when full-time captain Virat Kohli rested and his replacement Shreyas Iyer responded by becoming the first India player to score a century and a half-century on Test debut. Usually you see the replacement player make way for the one returning, but when there are others struggling in the side, the question is asked: how can you drop a debutant centurion when others are not scoring runs? Dravid was asked, too, if Iyer would be retained in the side.

“We haven’t decided the playing XI for Mumbai,” Dravid said. “It will be too early to talk about it. We have only been thinking about this Test till now. When we get to Bombay, we will look at the conditions, the pitch. We will look at the guys’ fitness. Virat Kohli will also join us so there will be consultation with him. Then we will decide who will be in the playing XI.”

Apart from Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara has been short of runs too, having last scored a century in January 2019. Even Kohli has gone two years without a century, but he has played fewer Tests than the duo, missing three Tests in Australia and one now. An interesting first selection awaits the Kohli-Dravid captain-coach team.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Toby Roland-Jones signs contract extension at Middlesex

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Fast bowler backed after injury setbacks, and will stay with club at least until 2023

Toby Roland-Jones will stay with Middlesex at least until the end of 2023, after signing a contract extension that will take him into his 13th year with the club.
Roland-Jones has endured an injury-plagued few years, including a knee cartilage injury that took four months out of his 2021 season, following back and shoulder problems that had limited his involvement since 2018.

“I am absolutely delighted to commit to Middlesex Cricket for the next two years,” Roland-Jones said. “I feel hugely fortunate that my passion for the club and the game continues to grow, as it has since the day I joined, back in 2010.

“The excitement and potential in this squad gives us every opportunity to return this club to the level it should be at, and I look forward to playing any part I can to make that happen.

“With the appointment of Richard Johnson as First Team Coach yesterday, we have a high-quality coach returning to the club, and someone who has previously worked with and helped so many of our players in the earlier parts of their careers. I know the players can’t wait to get started under him, and I’m sure he returns as eager as we all are to bring the club success.”

Roland-Jones has made a total of 224 appearances for Middlesex across all three formats of the game, with a total of 545 wickets. His debut for the club came in 2010, when he picked up two five-wicket hauls in eight appearances, and in 2015, he made his maiden first-class hundred against Yorkshire at Lord’s.

His place in club folklore was secured in the final match of the 2016 season, when he claimed a hat-trick against Yorkshire to secure the County Championship title. His final wicket completed a ten-wicket haul, and took his tally for the season to 54 at 28.22.

The following year, Roland-Jones made the first of his four Test appearances, claiming five wickets on debut against South Africa at The Oval, but his hopes of starring in that winter’s Ashes were curtailed by the diagnosis of a stress fracture in his back.

Alan Coleman, Middlesex’s head of Men’s Performance, said: “I’m delighted that we’ve been able to agree this extension to Toby’s contract. He is a huge character in our dressing room, a great influence to the rest of our group, and a key player for us on the field.

“We saw at the back end of last season what he is capable of as a player, just like we have witnessed for many seasons beforehand, and I am certain that we’ll be seeing much more of that over the next two seasons.”



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BBL 2021-22 final – Adam Voges: ‘For Laurie Evans and Ashton Turner to be brave and take risks was outstanding’

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Sydney Sixers’ captain Moises Henriques says Scorchers had their measure “throughout the season”

As a jittery Perth Scorchers suffered a dramatic top-order collapse against a shorthanded Sydney Sixers, head coach Adam Voges decided to make a drastic change in a bid to spark his team in the BBL final.
An uncharacteristically reckless Scorchers repeatedly threw away their wickets to be teetering at 4 for 25 after being sent in at a closed-roof Marvel Stadium. It left Voges filling out the official form to insert young allrounder Aaron Hardie into the contest as the X-factor at the designated ten-over mark of the innings.
But Scorchers’ brains trust decided to wait on lodging the paperwork until a fifth wicket fell. It didn’t eventuate any time soon and Hardie was not required as Player-of-the-Final Laurie Evans and skipper Ashton Turner turned the match with a belligerent 104-run partnership to fuel Scorchers’ eventual 79-run victory and record fourth BBL title.

“It wasn’t the start we wanted,” Voges said. “We didn’t get the tempo right, went too hard. Fortunately, Laurie and Ashton changed the whole course of the game. For them to be brave and take risks was outstanding.”

English import Evans produced his best innings of his debut BBL season, where he smoked an unbeaten 41-ball 76 marked by aggression from the get-go against Sixers’ star spinners Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon, who had torn through the top order.

“We spoke to people in England about him,” Voges said of Evans who played with a broken toe sustained at the end of the regular season. “He’s suited to these types of wickets. He has gotten better and better and he saved his best for tonight.”

Evans had been overshadowed through the season by Scorchers’ big-hitters at the top of the order but his energetic batting made him an important part of their middle order. Given their usual strength at the top, Evans had mainly batted in the backend of innings but he showcased his devastating firepower after coming in at the end of the sixth over.

“It’s a do-or-die game, you come out swinging,” Evans said. “It was about managing risks and the game plan. I’ve played a lot of cricket and batted everywhere… I tried to add some experience and skill.”

Scorchers’ triumph might be the sweetest in their storied history having been the team to beat all season despite being on the road for 50 straight days due to being shut out of Western Australia’s closed borders.

“If we had lost today it would have meant nothing,” Evans said. “To dominate the way we did says a lot about the group and coaching staff. It was my job to put the cherry on top.”

The victory meant Scorchers broke the deadlock for most BBL titles with arch-rivals Sixers, who had limped into the final after being decimated by Covid-19 and injury.

Sixers captain Moises Henriques rued his attack leaking 38 runs from overs eight to ten as their bid for a historic hat-trick of titles ended after a fourth straight defeat to Scorchers this month.

“They put the pressure back on us,” Henriques said. “That was one of the better partnerships I’ve seen. I didn’t think they would take SOK [O’Keefe] on, and they kept going and took that momentum. It completely changes the mindset.

“Perth had a fantastic year. They had our measure throughout the season.”

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth



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Women’s Ashes 2022 – Heather Knight’s innings is among ‘top three’ performances, says Katherine Brunt

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Fast bowler praises competitive surface after picking up five-wicket haul on second day

Heather Knight‘s battling century in the Ashes Test in Canberra ranks among the “top three” performances in women’s cricket, according to her longest-serving team-mate Katherine Brunt, whose own five-wicket haul helped to keep England in contention after two days of a keenly fought contest.

By the close of the second day, Knight’s unbeaten 127 had rescued England from the prospect of the follow-on, after they had at one stage slumped to 169 for 8 in reply to Australia’s 337 for 9 declared. But with Sophie Ecclestone providing stout support with an unbeaten 27, England reduced the arrears to 102 with the prospect of further runs when play resumes on Saturday.

It was Knight’s second Test century, after a matchsaving 157, also against Australia at Wormsley in 2013, but Brunt – who has been critical of the quality of pitches used for women’s Tests – had no doubts that this was the superior knock, after withstanding a varied Australia attack on a surface offering turn for the spinners and carry for the quicks.

“It was massive, beyond a shadow of a doubt,” Brunt said, of an innings that spanned 249 balls, and was 100 runs more than England’s next highest scorer. “She’s resilient as ever, showing fighting spirit, and she’s 100% a leader. You want to lead by example, and that’s how you do it. I don’t know how she does it personally, but if she could teach me how, that’d be lovely.

“There was a bit more in this [pitch],” Brunt added, compared to the Wormsley match in which 23 wickets fell across the four days. “Both were equally brilliant, both really tough situations. But that’s what she’s made for. And none of us thought that she would go out there and not do it. We all believe that she can do it – she does, Australia do. She’s at that level [now], but unfortunately no-one could back her up which is the sad thing about it.

“I’ve been around a long time now, and seen some brilliant hundreds in World Cup cricket and a hundred here by Danni Wyatt in in a T20 [in the 2017-18 Ashes], but that [was in the] top three. Not one person has scored a significant score so she has taken the whole world on her shoulders and dug extremely deep to put a score on the board.”

Earlier, Brunt did her utmost to keep England afloat, claiming her third Test five-for, and her first since 2009. She picked off both of the Australia wickets to fall on the second morning, prior to Meg Lanning’s declaration, including an outstanding delivery to pick off the top of Annabel Sutherland’s off stump.

“It’s been a while,” Brunt said. “I think someone said maybe 16 years [sic], which is absolutely ridiculous, but we don’t often get to play on wickets that have a little bit of something in it for the bowlers. So I’m just really happy that the conditions suit.

“No-one wants to play on a pitch where you don’t get a result,” Brunt added. “No-results are just sad, you always want it to go one way or the other. A result means an exciting game of Test cricket and, with it being viewed on air, we want to be able to showcase our skills bat and ball, not just the bat. It’s a breath of fresh air to have something to get excited about and be happy to run in on.”

England’s position could have been stronger but for a mixed display in the field. Knight dropped Lanning on 14 before lunch on the first day, while Nat Sciver reprieved Rachael Haynes off Brunt’s bowling, allowing Haynes to recover and post a key innings of 86.

“I can’t scream at my fiancée, can I?” Brunt said of Sciver’s spill. “Screaming and shouting gets you nowhere, I’ve found that over the years. It only makes people feel worse, then they are stressing about the next one coming. It’s heart-wrenching, but everyone’s trying their best. I’m really fiery and passionate and want the best, but stuff like that happens, so you can’t let it destroy you.”

Addressing the match situation, Brunt insisted that England “can win from anywhere” – and they need to as well, with Australia leading the series 4-2 on points after a win and two washouts in the T20Is.

“Had we taken our opportunities, they might be 100 less on the board and we’d be sitting in a really good position. But we’ve been clawing that back since, and the fight that we’re showing should be an example of what it means to us, and what we’re trying to achieve in this Test.”



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