Monday, August 28, 2017

Malan, Stokes edge up England's lead after Raju Kothari

In the nick of time, West Indies held a catch offered by Joe Root as the second Test continued to be an engrossing nip-and-tuck affair with England nudging their lead to 82 by lunch. Dawid Malan, who was fortunate to survive the session, and Ben Stokes were building a fifth-wicket stand as West Indies delayed taking the second new ball.

Root's was shaping as a match-defining innings when he was cramped for room by a short delivery from the impressive Shannon Gabriel and couldn't keep the ball down towards gully. It still needed two grabs from Shai Hope to complete the catch but, unlike his brother yesterday evening when Root had 10, it didn't go to ground.

The same can't be said of the chance offered by Malan on 32 a few moments later when he edged a drive at Jason Holder and Kieran Powell at first slip, distracted by Shane Dowrich diving across then bailing out, put it down. It was Powell who dropped Root early in his first innings.

England resumed on 171 for 3 and made steady progress for much of the first hour. Root went to his second fifty of the match with two boundaries in the opening over, both through the gap between second slip and gully although neither were chances. He was fluent off his pads whenever the bowlers strayed, but was again challenged by Gabriel before he struck in what became the final over of his spell.

Malan was forced to dig very deep, adding just 20 off 83 balls during the session. His first scoring shot of the day was a pleasant straight drive, but precious little else came to him easily. He narrowly evaded square leg with a flick off his hip and then the life came his way in Holder's opening over with a very loose drive outside off.

Holder made the old ball move and there was an appearance of the lesser-spotted Devendra Bishoo in the second hour of the morning. There was some turn for the legspinner but his length was inconsistent - perhaps that was the concern Holder had, but it was hardly a fair chance for Bishoo to wait so long for an extended bowl - and Stokes put him through the leg side three times.

Graeme Smith to coach Benoni Zalmi Raju Kothari

T20 Global League franchise Benoni Zalmi has appointed former South Africa captain Graeme Smith as its head coach. Zalmi team owner Javed Afridi made the announcement on Monday.

Smith, 36, last played a competitive game in May 2014, a T20 for Somerset two months after his final Test against Australia. It will be Smith's first stint as a coach in recognised cricket. Highveld Lions' Geoffrey Toyana, who was recently among the frontrunners to replace Russell Domingo as South Africa's coach, will be his assistant. Their first assignment together comes this weekend, when they will have to pick from a pool of over 400 players in the player draft.

Elsewhere, Durban Qalandars has put Paddy Upton in charge, with Aaqib Javed to oversee the bowlers. Also, Stellenbosch Monarchs has appointed Stephen Fleming head coach, with Eric Simons named his assistant.

Stellenbosch had suffered a setback last week when Brimstone Investment Corporation Limited, the investment company which had been unveiled as its owner by Cricket South Africa, said it will not proceed with the acquisition.

ESPNcricinfo understands Brimstone pulled out because it did not want to hold a majority stake. An insider said that Brimstone always wanted a minority stake and that has been their investment model, where the company supports an expert majority partner. The failure to pull together a consortium meant that Brimstone opted to move out and CSA did not stand in its way. Incidentally Brimstone was one of only two South African owners named for the eight teams in June. Faf du Plessis, South Africa's Test and T20 captain, was named the Stellenbosch franchise's marquee player by the South Africa board.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Stoinis heads home to Western Australia Raju Kothari


Allrounder Marcus Stoinis will return to his home state of Western Australia for the 2017-18 season, after spending the past five summers playing with Victoria.

Stoinis had debuted for the Warriors in 2008-09 before moving to Melbourne in 2012, and his change of states led to consistent output at domestic level and international selection in the limited-overs formats.

Stoinis, who turns 28 this week, has been Victoria's second-leading run scorer in the Sheffield Shield in the past three years, behind only Test batsman Peter Handscomb.

He will be joined in the Western Australia squad this summer by allrounder Matthew Spoors, who has been handed a rookie contract for the first time.

Gone from last year's squad are the retired batsman Adam Voges, along with Nathan Rimmington, Ryan Duffield, Josh Nicholas and Liam O'Connor.

"We're thrilled to have Marcus coming home to Western Australia, not only because he's an extremely talented player but he's a great character as well," coach Justin Langer said. "Young Matt Spoors is an exciting young talent. I love his dancing feet; a lot of kids these days have really slow footwork, but Matt's got really fast batting feet.

"Twelve players have been Australian representatives and that's a great tribute to the program we're running here at the WACA."

Western Australia squad Ashton Agar (Cricket Australia contract), Cameron Bancroft, Jason Behrendorff, William Bosisto, Hilton Cartwright (CA), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Cameron Green, Josh Inglis, Michael Klinger, Simon Mackin, Mitchell Marsh (CA), Shaun Marsh, David Moody, Joel Paris, Jhye Richardson, D'Arcy Short, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Jonathan Wells, Sam Whiteman. Rookies Alex Bevilaqua, Jake Carder, Kyle Gardiner, Clint Hinchcliffe, Matthew Kelly, Matthew Spoors.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Hales sends reminder with blistering 218 Raju Kothari


Alex Hales delivered a compelling reminder of his international class with a brilliant double-century that put Nottinghamshire in total control of the Division Two match against Derbyshire at Derby. The England batsman plundered 38 fours and a six in a run-a-ball 218, which included a century between lunch and tea, and shared a sixth-wicket stand of 204 in 35 overs with skipper Chris Read.

Derbyshire's bowlers contributed 50 extras, including 24 no-balls and 10 wides, to Nottinghamshire's 508 for 9 declared which left the home side needing 288 to avoid an innings defeat. They started badly, losing Luis Reece to their former fast bowler Mark Footitt in the fourth over, and at the close were 45 for 1, still 243 behind.

Derbyshire might have thought it was going to be their day when Tony Palladino deflected a Steven Mullaney drive into the stumps to run out Samit Patel in the fourth over of the morning. When Mullaney sliced Tom Taylor to point, the game was still in the balance but Derbyshire's bowling lacked the consistency and discipline required to put Hales under pressure.

There were 12 fours in his first 50 and he stayed in overdrive for the rest of an innings, which put his team in a dominant position and allowed Read to let his bowlers loose at Derbyshire before stumps.

Riki Wessels made only 13 out of a fifth-wicket stand of 80 before he gloved a lifting delivery from Hardus Viljoen, who was straight-driven by Hales for his 20th four to reach his first Championship hundred of the season.

With Read scoring freely from the start, 181 runs came in the afternoon session with Hales sweeping a Luis Reece full toss for his 27th four to go to 150. His 200 came from only 201 balls and after Read was caught behind down the leg side for 75, Hales struck two more fours before swinging Wayne Madsen to deep midwicket where Viljoen took a good running catch.

There was still more punishment to come as Jake Ball opened his shoulders and smashed four sixes in 43 off 24 balls before Read pulled out leaving Derbyshire to negotiate 12 overs. It was always going to be a tricky period for the openers and Reece did not survive, edging a loose drive at Footitt to give Read his 967th dismissal for Nottinghamshire.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Raju Kothari likely to return for second Test, Herath doubtful


Dinesh Chandimal is expected to return to lead the Sri Lanka team in the second Test against India at the SSC next week, after recovering from a bout of pneumonia that kept him out of the first Test in Galle. Rangana Herath, who suffered an injury to his finger in the first Test, is being closely monitored, ahead of the match which starts from August 3.

"Dinesh should be fit, he actually played this (Sunday) morning and he has batted the last couple of days," Asanka Gurusinha, Sri Lanka's cricket manager and selector, said.

"We have to see how he is going to come up in the next couple of days because his finger is pretty sore," Gurusinha said of Herath's condition. "We will give him till the last minute to make sure that he is fit.

"The day before the Test we will see whether he can drift the ball, it will come down to that. If he can without pain he will play, otherwise we will have to look at different options. The finger is not swollen but it's sore and painful."

Danushka Gunathilaka, who made his Test debut in Galle, is likely to be left out once Chandimal returns, while Kusal Mendis is expected to return to the No. 3 slot. Mendis had batted at No. 4 in Galle, dropping one spot as the team played Gunathilaka.

"It's for just one game, we pushed Kusal to four. Danushka was in form and you can't bat him in the middle order," Gurusinha said. "We couldn't get him to open either because the openers were already there, that's why we got Kusal to four for this Test. When Chandimal comes back, he will go back to No. 3 straight away. He is our No. 3 and we are grooming him for that position definitely."

Sri Lanka also have another slot to fill after the injury to Asela Gunaratne, who has been ruled out of the series with a broken thumb.

"We have Dhananjaya (de Silva) in the squad and we have Danushka as well," Gurusinha said. "We haven't looked at whether this is the squad we are going to have for the second Test. We will have a chat later today and see whether we will need someone from outside or what combination we are going to play. It comes down to whether we are going to play six or seven batsmen, we will have to decide on that after looking at the wicket."

Sri Lanka will look to recover some ground after losing the first Test by 304 runs. Gurusinha pinned that defeat on the batsmen, who did not execute their plans well. The hosts managed scores of 291 in the first innings, in response to India's 600, and 245 in the second innings while chasing an improbable 550.

"Getting 600 runs it always affects which is a difficult thing, but our batsmen on that track I don't think they handled it well because it wasn't a track to get 291 in the first innings. That was a 400-run track," Gurusinha said.

"Even on the fourth day, it wasn't doing much, it wasn't difficult when you see the way everyone batted. When you are playing the No. 1 side, they are very patient they'll bowl a good line and length and wait. They tested our patience and they won. They were good in that and we took more risks. Batting overall, when you look at it, we didn't handle it well."

Gurusinha said the pace at which cricket is played today made it difficult to draw Test matches. "These days in Test cricket, the game has changed a lot because of T20. They are playing it at a very fast rate getting 300-350 in a day is nothing new in Test cricket. Sometimes if you try to bat long, you can go into a negative frame of mind. You need to play positively but positively is not hitting every ball, it is playing according to your plans. Our execution of plans was the main problem.

"Nobody scored a hundred from our side in the last two Tests, even against Zimbabwe. That's what we need. We need one of the top four batsmen to get 150 or 160 and a couple of others to get 70s and 80s. As soon as that happens it will give us a 400-plus total.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

'The bond within the team is outstanding' - Raju Kothari

On the eve of India's first Test series since an acrimonious coach swap, Virat Kohli spoke of a tight-knit team as the biggest success of his captaincy apart from the rise to No. 1. He spoke of the "outstanding bond" when asked what satisfied him most apart from the obvious winning feeling.

"Just to see the responsibility taken by such a young bunch of players; to go out there and make a difference for the team," Kohli said. "Even the substitutes that sit on the sidelines, their efforts, their energies, their concerns for the team when they are running in to provide to with the essentials… It's great to see them also almost feeling like they are part of the playing XI that's on the field.

"That's the kind of culture that has been created. It's taken a while. Whoever steps into the dressing room, immediately feel comfortable because of the way they are embraced and how people are taking responsibility to maintain that culture. The bond within the team is outstanding and that is something that makes me really proud that we are all really close to each other and really enjoy playing alongside each other. That for me stands out the most because that shows on the field. Even in the most difficult of situations all guys believe that we can do it together and we have been able to overturn situations more often than not just because of that belief and the trust that we have between the players. So, that for me is most special thing apart from cricket performances."

That is perhaps why Kohli sees not many weaknesses in his side. "Well I don't think there are any massive areas of concern for us," he said. "We've been looking to fine-tune smaller areas during the course of the games, which probably people might not be able to pick up. [Areas] that can lead us into a situation which is not ideal. We have given responsibility to the players to identify those areas and work on those areas themselves. We have been able to put ourselves in a position in games, 80-85% of the games, where there's only one winner left.

"That's the kind of sustained pressure that we've been able to build. But the key, as I said, is to go out there and repeat those things again and again. You can't expect things to happen by themselves. You need to work hard every ball that you play on the cricket field and that applies to batsmen and bowlers collectively. So, the smaller areas we keep identifying and keep working on them."

With the confidence running that high, there is an obvious danger of letting the guard drop against Sri Lanka, who have not had the best of time in Test cricket of late. "For us we are playing a game of cricket, it doesn't matter which opposition we are playing against," Kohli said. "For us it's all about identifying the players that they have, their strengths, their areas of weakness and focussing really on our performances and what we can do as a team. The moment you start focussing on the opposition and try to adjust your intensity according to who you are playing against, then that's a very dangerous thing to do because if you don't respect the game the game will sort you out and expose you.

"We totally respect the game, we totally how hard we need to work to win every Test match, every situation, every session and every ball is an event for us. So we are willing to put in the hard yards for that and something that everyone in the team respects. As I said it's something that is built as a culture and I am proud of it and the whole team is proud of it. We take a lot of pride in playing Test cricket for India and doing the hard yards that win the games."

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Raju Kothari Eastbourne and other Elysiums

The Saffrons: sometimes a simple name is sufficient to prompt a confection of histories. It is over a century since the orange-yellow crocus noted for its dyeing and medicinal qualities was grown in the fields where Eastbourne's cricketers spend their summers. Yet the gentle beauty of the noun lingers and has now been coupled to a children's nursery, an apartment block and a hotel. "I'm watching cricket at Eastbourne on Sunday," I tell friends. "Oh, you're going to the Saffrons," they reply.

In Eastbourne's long 20th-century heyday there was a cricket week: two three-day county games and, as often as not, matches against the universities or the tourists. This was the ground on which AC MacLaren's personally selected amateur XI defeated Warwick Armstrong's seemingly invincible Australians in 1921, thereby giving Neville Cardus the only scoop of his career. There were important matches being played at The Oval and Leyton at the same time and Cardus' editor felt he should have been covering those. That opinion was strengthened when MacLaren's side was bowled out for 43 on the first day. By the second morning Cardus had sent his luggage to the railway station and was ready to leave; but he stayed instead and watched Aubrey Faulkner make 153. The Australians lost by 28 runs.

"At Eastbourne cricket is played to a background of croquet and bowls, old Colonels and straight-backed memsahibs going about their daily ritual, indifferent to the pock of bat on ball and the marauding seagulls," wrote Alan Ross, for whom India and Sussex were twin lodestars and who found his loves united in the batting of Duleepsinhji in the summer of 1932.

And one scarcely has to look to see deeper histories and other aristocracies at Eastbourne. Behind the trees at the Larkin's Field End is the Compton Croquet Club, one of many references in the environs to the estate that owns acres of prime land in the town. The land on which cricket, hockey and soccer are played is still owned by the Duke of Devonshire. Seniors at the club pass on the stories they were told of horse-drawn carriages that set off from the Duke's Compton estate and travelled down the tree-lined Old Orchard Road into town. When I first visited the ground in September 2015 almost the only noise one could hear in the late afternoon was the gentle cracks of mallets on croquet balls. The players were dressed in communion white and moved slowly around the lawns in the soft sunlight of early autumn.