The South Africans start their short tour of India with the first of three T-20 internationals at Dharamsala on Sunday and this format gives them their best opportunity to win in India. There is very little chance of the visitors winning the three-match Test series that follows going by their past record in this country. In the first place it is the one format in which they are above India in the ICC rankings being third to India’s fourth. Secondly it does appear that they have the team personnel to challenge India.
In skipper Quinton de Kock they have one of the leading players in the world in the shortest formats of the game. He loves to strike the ball hard and high and is equally proficient in ODIs. He has a particularly good record against India and who can forget his three hundreds in successive ODI’s six years ago. He followed this up with two more hundreds in India a couple of years later.
David Miller is another player the Indian bowlers will be wary of. The 30-year -old has class, skill and experience and his career strike rate of 140 in T20 internationals is among the best in the format. Both de Kock and Miller have been regulars in the IPL for years. Miller has been one of the stalwarts for King’s XI Punjab while the skipper has turned out for Mumbai Indians, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Daredevils. Little wonder then there have been reports that other team members have been picking the brains of the duo to find out more about Indian players and conditions.
Pace bowling has a major role to play in T-20 cricket and here the visitors are well served. Kagiso Rabada heads the department and he has the likes of Andile Phehlukwayo, Beuran Hendricks, Dwaine Pretorious and Anrich Nortje for company and South Africa will be hoping that the bowling can cover up for any weaknesses in the batting which to be candid lacks depth.
In fact with India either resting their main pace bowlers or not considering them for the shortest format South Africa are better served in the department. In the absence of the regulars it will be up to the likes of Deepak Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed, Navdeep Saini and all-rounder Hardik Pandya to come up with something special. Of course India has the better spin attack with Ravindra Jadeja and Krunal Pandya so things sort of level out in the bowling department. But where India should have the decisive edge is in the batting. In Virat Kohli they have the best batsman in limited overs cricket and the support cast too is of the top drawer – Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shikhar Dhawan, Manish Pandey and KL Rahul.
England pacer Jofra Archer took 6-62 as Australia was dismissed for 225 on Day 2 of the fifth Ashes test, with star batter Steve Smith out for 80 in his lowest score of the series.
England had a first-innings lead of 69 — after scoring 294 when it was put into bat in a gamble by Australia captain Tim Paine — and reached stumps Friday on 9-0 in its second innings to lead by 78 runs overall.
Smith was trapped leg before wicket by a straight delivery from Chris Woakes and has now made 751 runs from his six innings this series. Marnus Labuschagne hit 48 before he was out lbw to Archer, who took the first three wickets of the innings. Sam Curran also proved a significant threat with 3-46 in his first appearance of the series.
Smith took his sequence of 50-plus scores against England to 10 in a row, but this time he was unable to fully make up for the mediocrity of his teammates.
Smith was only really troubled when Jonny Bairstow's arrival at the stumps led to him diving awkwardly to beat a throw that was instead collected at the non-striker's end.
Smiles were exchanged with the seemingly mischievous England wicketkeeper, Smith dusted himself down and passed 50 by carving Leach for six.
"He got me there, didn't he? Dirtied my clothes. He didn't say anything, I don't think, but he got me. I didn't know where the ball was. Bloody thing, faked it. He got me. I don't know what else to say," Smith said during the press conference after stumps.
Jofra Archer has been making the right noises that too in his first Test series. The English paceman has taken 22 wickets so far. He scalped a six-fer in the first innings of the ongoing Oval Test as well. But, England's leading pace bowler is finding it extremely difficult to get the world's no.1 Test batsman, Steve Smith out.
Smith continued his insane run of form as he made 80 in Australia's first innings despite suffering from flu. "Steve Smith didn't look himself today, he didn't look as nailed on, he didn't seem the same way,” Archer asserted.
“It’s weird, you know. Every time he bats, I don’t know what it is. He literally cannot get out. If he plays a bad shot, the ball lands in no man’s and. For the whole series. Obviously he’s a good batter, he’s got a good temperament, but I don’t know what it is: the ball never ever goes to hand,” the pacer said.
“We know he’s going to miss one, though, and today just proves it. Funnily enough, the last person he missed one-off was Woakes [at Lord’s],” he added.
Australian opener David Warner had a sensational 2019 IPL followed by an equally good Cricket World Cup campaign. But, he has failed to make a smooth transition to Test cricket and has continued his poor track record on the English soil.
He added an unwanted record to his name during Australia's first innings in the ongoing Oval Test when he got out for 5 runs off 8 balls to become Jofra Archer's first of six scalps on the second day of the final Test.
Notably, this was Warner's eighth single-digit score in the ongoing Ashes series. With this, he has become the first batsman to achieve this unwanted feat (most single-digit-scores) in Ashes cricket.
Warner has scored 84 runs in nine innings at an average of 9.33 and if it was not for 61 in the Headingley Test, his numbers would have been even poorer. Interestingly, Steve Smith has hit more fours (88) than Warner's run-tally in the series.
Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed is still counting on Sri Lanka turning up for a limited-overs tour this month despite alleged terrorist threats.
Sri Lanka Cricket said it was warned of a possible terrorist threat during the scheduled tour of Pakistan, and sought a reassessment of the security situation before the first of three one-day internationals on Sept. 27 in Karachi. There's also three Twenty20s scheduled in Lahore from Oct. 5-9.
"Inshallah (God willing) they will come, we should hope for the best," Sarfaraz said on Friday in Karachi.
"The Pakistan Cricket Board is trying its best and we should all pray that international cricket should come back to Pakistan."
Sarfaraz added the International Cricket Council and other national boards should come forward and support Pakistan more in its bid to revive international cricket.
"The way PCB has worked over the last 10 years, it's a tremendous effort," he said.
He also noted how quick Pakistan supported Sri Lanka after the Easter Sunday bombings there by sending a junior team to tour.
Major teams have avoided Pakistan since the Sri Lanka team bus was attacked by terrorists in 2009. Over the past three years, Pakistan has successfully hosted Zimbabwe, the West Indies, Sri Lanka, and a World XI in limited-overs matches amid intense security.
Sarfaraz was confirmed as captain on Friday for both limited-overs series. Babar Azam was named as vice-captain and PCB chairman Ehsan Mani hinted the middle-order batsman could be Pakistan's future captain in the shorter formats.
"This is part of Babar's gradual development as a future captain and in line with our strategy of introducing a succession plan across the board so that there are no gaps," Mani said in a statement.
A stand at Feroz Shah Kotla ground was named after Indian captain Virat Kohli on September 12. The stadium was renamed after former DDCA President, Arun Jaitley. Team India along with the family of Virat Kohli attended the ceremony.
Virat took to social media to thank the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA).
"Thank you @delhi_cricket and @BCCI for bestowing this honour upon me. The pavilion will remind me of my journey in life and in cricket but most importantly I hope it will serve as an inspiration for the next generation of young cricketers of our nation," Virat wrote on Twitter.
Earlier, Virat Kohli’s teammates were asked questions related to him.
Shikhar Dhawan, the left hand batsman, was asked to reveal the type of songs Kohli likes to listen.
“Before marriage or after marriage?” was Dhawan's response.
He went on to add that Kohli likes to hear Punjabi songs.
Men in Blue were present at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in the national capital to attend an event where a pavilion at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground was named after Virat Kohli.
The Indian skipper was honored by the Delhi and District Cricket Association and the governing body of Indian cricket for his contribution towards cricket in India. Virat's teammates were asked questions related to their skipper.
Hardik Pandya, the all-rounder, who was recently selected for the upcoming T20 series South Africa, was asked about Kohli's superstition. According to him, Virat Kohli is not superstitious.
Hardik was rested from the tour of West Indies considering his workload. He will play a key role in the home season where India have couple of important assignments lined-up.
Shubman Gill was finally selected in Inia's Test team after being overlooked from all formats for the tour of West Indies. He replaced KL Rahul for the three-match Test series against South Africa. He has been selected as a back-up opener with Rohit Sharma likely to open the batting with Mayank Agarwal.
The 20 years old has acknowledged the contribution of Yuvraj Singh in his growth as a cricketer so far and had words of praise for him. "Yuvi paji keeps telling me what needs to be done. A few years back, he told me I shouldn't sign any company, I should just go and play. I didn't sign anyone. He keeps guiding me, keeps tells me what to do what not to do," he said. "There are a lot of people who keep guiding me. In our team (Punjab), we have Yuvraj Singh, Gurkeerat Mann, my father. I'm very close to my father. He keeps telling me, guiding me."
Shubman also told how his father has helped him in his career. He said, "I've learnt (to be patient) from my father - he had the patience and calmness to keep throwing 200-300 balls at the nets when I was a kid. From my early days my mindset was such that if I am set, batting on a hundred, I have to go on to a big one. I should not lose my concentration and should not play any loose shots. This is one habit I have adopted when I was young and it has helped me."
Former South Africa all-rounder Lance Klusener feels that Rishabh Pant will have to learn from others mistakes in order to become a better player across formats. The left hand batsman has been inconsistent in shorter formats.
"It would hard for me to pinpoint but with a phenomenal talent like that, one always tends to get a bit ahead of himself," Klusener, who is currently in India as the white ball batting coach of the South African team, told PTI during an interaction.
He worked with Pant when he was appointed as Delhi senior team's white ball consultant last year.
"He needs to give himself time to get in and that bit of time will allow him to showcase his talent," he added.
"What gets you ahead in international cricket is learning from others' mistakes rather than making your own mistakes along the way and learning," he said.
"I will tell you why. You can learn from your own mistakes but it will take a lot more time to realize, correct and become a better player using that process. If you look at mistakes others are making, you will learn quickly and thus improve fast," said Klusener.
He further added that Pant can speak to senior pros to solve his problems.
"It's wonderful to have the talent like Rishabh in the twilight years of MS Dhoni's career. From an Indian point of view, maybe they should try and get him to contribute more.
"He has some wonderful coaches and players around him so take their advice but at the same time don't curb your natural talent," advised Klusener.
Former South Africa all-rounder Lance Klusener, who was recently appointed as the white-ball batting coach of the national team, feels more focus on shorter formats has impacted all-rounders in international cricket.
He, along with Andre Flintoff and Jacques Kallis, were pure all-rounders with Ben Stokes being one among active players.
"We were possibly (that last batch of pure all-rounders)," he agreed.
"I think in the past, when the focus was more on Test cricket, you had to bowl 15-overs-a-day. The more you bowled or longer you batted, you got better at it naturally," he said.
He will go back after the T20 series against India but he is thinking of coming back.
"I haven't yet decided but I would like to comeback. There are a few offers that I am contemplating. One is Bangladesh Premier League the dates of which, I believe, have been deferred and now clashing with Mushtaq Ali," he said.
"I had good communication with DDCA brass and I thoroughly enjoyed my time over here. It was wonderful to work with Mithun Manhas last year, who is a good friend of mine and unfortunately, not there this year," he concluded.
India skipper Virat Kohli has disclosed how late former Finance Minister and DDCA President, Arun Jaitely motivated him after he lost his father due to a cardiac arrest when he was merely 18 years old and just getting into his groove as a cricketer.
On the occasion of renaming Feroz Shah Kotla stadium as Arun Jaitley Stadium and the unveiling of the stand named after him, Kohli remembered how Jaitley came to his home and offered words of encouragement after passing away of his father.
"It is more special. It is happening at the same time as the stadium being named after Arun Jaitley Ji," said Kohli at the event.
"I know Jaitley Ji as a person who came to my house and encouraged me when my father passed away. He also motivated me. So, I had a special connection with him. He was a very good person. So, it is a proud moment that both the things happened at the same time," he said.
A while back, Kohli had opened up on his father's demise. “I was playing a four day game at the time and was supposed to resume batting the next day when this (father passed) happened at 230 odd in the morning. We all woke up but had no idea what to do. I literally saw him breathe his last,” Kohli had told Graham Bensinger in a freewheeling interview.
West Indies all-rounder, Andre Russell, who copped a nasty blow on his helmet and carted off the ground during a Caribbean Premier League match, has been cleared off a serious injury, which comes as a huge relief for Jamaica Tallawahs and his fans.
In an attempt to pull a short ball, the right-hander was struck near the right ear off paceman Hardus Viljoen. The scary injury forced him to leave the field that too on a stretcher in a neck brace, making it a dreadful sight for the lovers of the game.
But thankfully, the CPL organizers today announced that the 31-year-old had been cleared by scans at hospital.
“Under the doctor’s advice he has headed back to the team hotel with his wife and a member of the Tallawahs medical team to rest and recover,” the league said on Twitter.
Head injuries are being taken very seriously, ever since the unfortunate death of Australian batsman, Philip Hughes. Now, in international cricket concussion substitutes are allowed, which was the case when Marnus Labuschagne of Australia became the first-ever concussion substitute in the second Ashes Test at Lord's.
Every series between India and South Africa have had their epic moments. The challenge, therefore, to pick five has meant having to sift through the many robust performances from players on both sides that made virtually every series historically significant.
True to form, South Africa’s captain, Kepler Wessels, kicked off the first Test of India’s inaugural tour with a century worthy of his stature. However, it was in the same series and Test that a young Indian debutant by the name of Praveen Amre made a name for himself with a praiseworthy century of 103 runs. While the series in the end was a draw at 1-1, it was Amre whose innings made an impact and really put his name on the map. This, even as Kapil Dev made a strong century in Port Elizabeth even as Allan Donald made a name for himself as a lethal spearhead, picking up seven Indian wickets in the second innings, and taking his tally to twelve for the match. However, it was the debutant’s strong statement in his first Test century in the Durban Test that has become the stuff of legends.
The 1996 South Africa’s tour of India was a tale largely of two bowlers. While Javagal Srinath blew away South Africa’s hopes in Ahmedabad with a logic defying return figures of six wickets for twenty-one runs in a low target chase, Lance Klusener converted what looked like a disastrous debut into a memorable one, erasing an expensive first innings outing with stupendous returning figures of eight wickets for sixty-four runs to hand South Africa an improbable win at Eden Gardens, Kolkata. Srinath, however, would walk away with the cake after annihilating the South Africans, this time at Kanpur in the third and decisive Test, thereby making this a rare series for an Indian fast bowler to walk away with accolades under conditions that would otherwise be considered the death bed of pace bowlers.
Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin put forth one of the more magnificent batting partnerships witnessed in world cricket when they defied the odds at Newlands, this despite the hosts putting up a mammoth score declared at 529/7 after centuries by Gary Kirsten and Brian MacMillan. Their partnership, worth 222 runs, brought India back from the brink, tottering at five down for only fifty-eight runs on board. Sachin Tendulkar’s 169 run innings and Azhar’s blazing 115 runs knock at Cape Town had South Africa befuddled, as the world watch mesmerized. Although India could not do an encore in their second innings to prevent a comprehensive defeat, it was the solitary memory of that enigmatic partnership that has become one for the cricket books.
It might seem hard to believe that in a match where Venkatesh Prasad took five wickets in each innings of the Test, India lost by over 300 runs. Andrew Hudson's half-centuries in both innings were forgotten by the impact of India being bowled out for paltry scores in both innings of the Durban Test in the 1996-’97 series. The supporting cast of Brian MacMillan and Shaun Pollock would also be soon forgotten as White Lightning dominated the headlines. Allan Donald was at his lethal best in conducive conditions as he returned with figures of a five wicket haul in the first innings and four wickets in India’s abysmal second innings that yielded just 66 runs. It was a match to be forgotten for India in a hurry but it was the sheer intensity and exploitation of conditions by South Africa and particularly by Allan Donald that makes this match a stand out in memory.
What could have been an Indian victory turned out to be a great chase by the hosts. South Africa almost bagged the impossible chasing 458 runs for victory in the fourth innings. Although overpowered by the towering partnership between Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, South Africa found their own in the form of AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis in the final innings of the Johannesburg Test of 2013. Although Kohli nearly made history with a century in each innings only to miss the second one by four runs, it was his double century partnership with Pujara in the second innings that put South Africa under great pressure. In what eventually became Jacques Kallis’ final Test, South Africa were stopped in their tracks from pulling off an unthinkable victory by the fact that they did not want to take risks at the end stages of the game. While the match ended in a draw, it was as close a draw as one could expect in Test cricket.
The most welcome aspect of the selection of the Indian team to play South Africa in the three match Test series is the inclusion of Shubman Gill. In picking him the MSK Prasad led selection committee has rewarded both an uncommon talent and an awesome domestic record. At 20 Gill is already well known in cricketing circles thanks to his penchant for big scores and consistent run getting. He has been in rip roaring form of late while playing for India A against both West Indies A and South Africa A, the highlight being an unbeaten 204 against the former when he shared an unbroken 315 run partnership with Hanuma Vihari. Besides he has a superb first class record. In 23 innings he averages 72 with a highest score of 268 – just the kind of figures that are a passport to the Test squad.
Gill may have to wait a while to actually earn his Test cap for with Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal in the squad it is unlikely he will be drafted into the playing eleven right away. Rohit of course will be the subject of much focus as he has been picked for the first time in the Test squad as an opening batsman having played 27 Tests in the middle order. It will be interesting to see whether he can successfully make the transition into the game’s traditional format from ODIs where of course he has an excellent record at the top of the order. There will be those who will press the case for younger players like Priyank Panchal and Abhimanyu Easwaran but these two gifted cricketers will surely get their opportunity an indication being their inclusion in the Board President’s XI to play the visitors in the three day game that starts on September 26.
Following the success of Hanuma Vihari in the West Indies the middle order picked itself and there are no real surprises in the rest of the squad too. Senior spinners Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja should get the nod in the playing eleven ahead of Kuldeep Yadav and while Jasprit Bumrah is a cert among the fast bowlers it could be a toss-up between Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami as to who will be his new ball partner. Rishabh Pant should get the stumper’s slot ahead of Wriddhiman Saha.
It is a balanced squad, strong enough one feels to get the better of South Africa who have won only one series in India way back in 2000. Since then only Australia in 2004 and England in 2012 have emerged triumphant in a Test series in this country and one cannot see Faf du Plessis’ side emulating them.
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