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Mahela Jayawardene’s 48-Ball Ton Not Enough As Central Stags Fall Short By One Run In Record 497-Run T20

Central Stags fell agonisingly short of pulling off one of the most remarkable run chases in the history of T20 cricket against Otago Volts but the game nevertheless entered into the record books after seeing the highest aggregate of runs scored in a T20 match.

Chasing an improbable target of 250, the Stags fell short by a solitary run as they finished their innings on 248 for 4. Stags needed eight runs off the last over and two off the final ball but Dane Cleaver was run-out when trying to steal a single, handing Volts the victory.

Earlier, Hamish Rutherford scored 106 off only 50 balls to propel Volts to a huge total. However, his monumental knock, at one stage, was not looking good enough to ensure a win for his team as former Sri Lanka batsman Mahela Jayawardene struck a 48-ball ton to keep the Stags in the hunt. Jayawardene remained on the pitch till the penultimate over and scored 116 off only 56 balls. Stags still needed 21 off 11 balls when the Sri Lankan great was dismissed but Tom Bruce kept the fight alive with a quickfire fifty. However, Neil Wagner defended eight runs off the final over to break Stags’ hearts.

Lauding Wagner’s effort, Rutherford said:“Wags has been sensational in the death throughout this whole campaign so to have him bowl that over was exciting.I just said to him, ‘Mate, come on, this is what you play cricket for’. And as Neil usually is, he was absolutely fizzing for it. Once it got down to that last ball, it took a while to understand what we were going to do and we thought about maybe a Super Over but to walk away with an actual victory at that point was amazing.”

Rutherford also praised Jayawardene’s innings. He said:“I guess you look back and say he gave us two chances and unfortunately we put them down.I’m not sure where that would have ended up if they were taken. But again you can’t put it away from him, it was a quality innings – untroubled, he hit some nice shots in nice areas and didn’t try and manipulate too much.”

The batsman also expected the game to be remembered for a long time.

“I’m sure it’s something everyone will remember for a long time. These moments really come crucial towards the end of the tournament, you remember those moments, those games, those tight finishes so that will put is in good stead moving forward,” Rutherford concluded.

 

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Why will the Kanpur pitch not be a rank turner?

India is all set to resume their grueling home season from September 22 against New Zealand for a three-match Test series. The opening match of the series will be played at Green Park, Kanpur.

Virat Kohli lead Indian team has come back from a successful four match West Indies series in the Caribbean where India defeated West Indies 2-0 while New Zealand lost to South Africa in a two-match series by a margin of 1-0.

New Zealand is not a good visiting team in Indian conditions. They last won a match in India 1988 under the captaincy of John Wright.

But whenever a mighty team like Australia, England or South Africa visit the subcontinent, India rely on a rank turner to bamboozle the opposition team with whirling spin. Last year, South Africa came to India as a No. 1 team, but at the end of the series they surrendered to India 3-0 in the series. Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was announced man of the series and Ravindra Jadeja as a bowler played the second fiddle.

So what will India dish out this time as New Zealand tour India? Will India make a rank turner in the very first Test of the series at Green Park? The answer is no. The Black Caps have players like Ross Taylor, captain Kane Williamson and Luke Ronchi, who may get selected for the first Test over Martin Guptill, who play spin really well. At the same team, New Zealanders have three spinners in their rank. Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santner, and Mark Craig could be as dangerous as Indian trio-Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, and Amit Mishra.

In the last couple of the years, we have seen that India struggled against quality spin even at home conditions. In 2015 during the Sri Lanka tour Rangana Hearth bamboozled India in the first Test and at home,  even South African opener Dean Elgar’s part-time spin fumbled India.

So, India didn’t dare to ask for a rank turner this time around. With this New Zealand series, India will resume a 13 Test home series. Following the Black Caps, world’s most balanced Test team England will visit India and then in February and March Australia will tour India.

Former Indian Team Director and commentator Ravi Shastri said, “So 13 home Tests in a season is like freebies from telecoms. You chalk up numbers and it doesn’t hurt your pocket. It’s an examination where you not only set the paper but give numbers to self too.”

Ravi Shastri explained why the Kanpur pitch will not be a vicious turner. “New Zealand has one factor in their favour. They bat deep. They are also stout in heart. Every man would do his best and that’s a legacy which precedes even Brendon McCullum and Stephen Fleming. One is also told a few would try to take the bull by the horn. In theory , it means you take the spinners on. The very least it does is make the captain spread the field.There are fewer eyes looking at the edges of your bat, lesser hands waiting to pouch the catch and the eloquence of mouth is also spared,” Shastri, who was at the helm  when India defeated South Africa and Sri Lanka,  stated.

He further added,“Interestingly, Kanpur could allow them to ease into their mission. For one, it won’t be a vicious turner in the initial days.The monsoon has lingered on, the season has begun early and it might not be as dry as those apricots which housewives spread on their terraces under a blazing sun. It could be a game of patience.”

India have batsmen like Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahne who will be in the middle to nullify the New Zealand’s most potent weapon in Indian conditions the  spin. Tim Southee’s may affect New Zealand’s team spirit, but bowler Neil Wagner could be the most lethal at pace friendly Kanpur pitch along with Trent Boult.

This three-match series is crucial for India before taking on England in November. In 2012, England won the series in India, so this time, Indians will look to pay them back in kind.

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Neil Wagner on the verge of breaking Richard Hadlee’s record

New Zealand bowler Neil Wagner is threatening Sir Richard Hadlee’s fastest New Zealand bowler to take 100 Test wickets.

Hadlee is the current fastest New Zealand cricketer to take  100 Test wicket in 86 six years of  New Zealand’s Test cricket. Now the 30-year-old might threaten Tim Southee and Trent Boult for their frontline roles.

Wagner has 94 wickets from 23 Tests. Hadlee reached a century of dismissals in his  25th  Test. To add further context, Bruce Taylor completed the feat in 27 Tests, Danny Morrison, Daniel Vettori, Southee and Boult took 29. The only bowler to loom into the reckoning for Hadlee’s feat was Shane Bond. He reached 87 wickets in 18 Tests before retiring.

Statistics can never be a definitive guide to someone’s team contribution, given the variables at play in a cricket team.

However, the fact Wagner has taken a wicket in each of his Test, and only missed collecting in five of 43 innings, indicates his value. Whether that is enough to be retained in the starting XI for three Tests in spin-friendly India will be an intriguing call.

Now the question is if New Zealand opts to play Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, and Mark Craig, does that make the South-Boult partnership vulnerable? The pair has been New Zealand’s finest new-ball pairing since Hadlee and Richard Collinge, and arguably the best ever, but that does not guarantee selection given Wagner’s form and their respective slumps since the start of the year.

In six Tests, Southee has taken 14 wickets at 46.14 average. Compare to a career average of 32.63 in 52 tests with a strike rate of 64.

Meanwhile, Boult has taken 116 wickets at 38.62 with a strike rate of 82. He averages 29.32 across 43 Tests with a strike rate of 59.

This year, Wagner has 27 wickets in five Tests at an  average of 18.66 and strike rate of 43. Those statistics give bowling coach Shane Jurgensen a clear working brief in an area in which New Zealand  has lacked impact since Bond’s exit as a mentor after the 2015 World Cup.

Q De Kock plays it towards off-side.
Q De Kock plays it towards off-side.
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‘Opening in Test cricket is an under-rated job’: Quinton de Kock

Quinton de Kock, the South African wicketkeeper, admitted he learnt a lot about his game while, opening the innings in the second Test against New Zealand, on Saturday. De Kock replaced the injured Dean Elgar at the top of the order and made 82 runs to help hosts reach 283 for 3 at stumps on the first day.

“Opening in Test cricket is an under-rated job,” de Kock said at the end of day’s play. “It’s a different level, it’s not the same as opening the batting in one-day and T20 cricket. The ball moves around a lot and it tests your technique and your patience,”

“I actually learnt a lot about myself, like where to be tight and how to play certain balls. I think it’s the most I’ve ever left a ball in my career. I am proud of myself for doing that. It’s quite nice knowing that I can do that.”

The 23-year-old also revealed that he would love to go back to his preferred No. 6 or No. 7 slot in the batting order after volunteering to open in this Test. “I think that is more for dean and Stephen, I’ll stay at six and seven, thanks,” he said.

“I just thought let me just do it. I didn’t see anybody else doing that job. I have a bit of experience at the opening in red-ball cricket. I thought that since Stiaan has had a go, let me just rather go there and do it and do what I can for the team.”

De Kock was also happy for JP Duminy, who finally delivered under pressure with an unbeaten 67. He  now hopes that  Duminy  will be able to score a big innings.  “JP has been working very hard lately,” he noted. “For him to score a hundred will be a massive boost. I hope he does. It will be nice to see a team-mate who has been under pressure off the field do well.”

Mark Boucher, the former wicketkeeper, was roped in by South Africa ahead of the series and de Kock feels his presence has helped him maintain his fitness level.

“He just grinds me, makes me work hard. He loves the fitness part of ‘keeping and I feel fitter. It’s the stuff I know but he just does it to an extreme level.”

Even though New Zealand managed to pick up three wickets, in the end, Neil Wagner backed the management’s decision to bowl first on a green surface.

“I have never seen a wicket this time of the year that had so much grass on it,” Wagner said. “When we saw the grass on it, 100 per cent we were keen to bowl and a lot of the time the ball did go around.”

The South African-born seamer  now hopes to dismiss his former schoolmate Faf du Plessis on the second day. “You run into Faf and you want to have a laugh because there is a lot of memories from school in your head,” he said.

“You try and put that out of your head and focus on the battle: you want to get him out. That’s the main thing. Growing up it was a different story. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing – he knows what’s coming,” Wagner concluded.

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