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Batting might, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shardul Thakur give India series



An unbeaten 80 by Virat Kohli and a stunning half-century by Rohit Sharma in an unfamiliar but effective opening partnership set India up for a comfortable win in the fifth T20I before Bhuvneshwar Kumar finished it off to seal the series 3-2 in Ahmedabad.

India left out regular opener KL Rahul and brought in an extra bowler, T Natarajan, in a move Kohli described at the toss as prompted by a desire to “bring in a good balance with bat and ball”. But there was no denying Rahul’s struggles – he had made 1, 0, 0, and 14 in the series – and his absence meant Kohli would open for just the eighth time in T20Is. Kohli and Sharma combined for a 94-run stand from 56 balls to lead India to a commanding total of 224 for 2, their third-highest T20I total at home and fourth highest overall. Persisting with the back-of-a-length and short-pitched bowling which had brought them success through the series, England’s attack looked toothless on this occasion as India’s batsmen adapted and thrived.


India fined for slow over-rate

India have been fined 40% of their match fee for maintaining a slow over-rate during the fifth T20I in Ahmedabad.

Javagal Srinath, the ICC match referee, found the side two overs short of their target at the end of England’s innings after time allowances were taken into consideration. The charges were leveled by on-field umpires Anil Chaudhary and Nitin Menon, and third umpire KN Ananthapadmanabhan. There was no need for a formal hearing as India captain Virat Kohli pleaded guilty to the offence and accepted the sanction.

According to Article 2.22 of the ICC code of conduct, which relates to minimum over-rate offences, players are fined 20% of their match fees for every over their side fails to bowl in the given time.

England had said after India levelled the series 2-2 with an eight-run victory on Thursday that they would relish the pressure of a must-win clash as ideal preparation for the World Cup in October. They set out in pursuit needing to score at 11.2 an over and recovered from the early loss of Jason Roy as Dawid Malan and Jos Buttler carried them to 62 for 1 by the end of the powerplay, which compared favourably with India’s 60 for 0, en route to a 130-run partnership.

But some wonderful bowling by Kumar – who claimed 2 for 15 from his four overs, including 17 dot balls and the vital wickets of Roy and Buttler on a batting-friendly pitch – damaged England’s hopes beyond repair. Shardul Thakur accounted for Malan and Jonny Bairstow in the space of four deliveries, which left England needing 83 off the last five overs. When Eoin Morgan fell cheaply to Pandya, the task proved too much.


Rampaging Rohit

Going into the match with scores of 15 and 12 for the series after being rested for the first two matches, Sharma unleashed a masterclass of timing, power and elegance with an effortless-looking 64 off just 34 balls that consigned Kohli to the shade initially. No sooner had Kohli thumped Jofra Archer for a beautiful cover drive for four, Sharma signalled his intent, threading an Archer slower ball between point and cover for a boundary of his own. From there, Rohit took charge, nailing Adil Rashid over deep midwicket for the first of five sixes.

When Mark Wood came into the attack in the fourth over, India took 13 off it, including two fours that Rohit drilled straight back down the ground. Kohli brought up India’s 50 with a huge six over long leg in Wood’s next over and Rohit produced an almost identical shot three balls later. Wood, having taken 3 for 18 over the three previous powerplays he bowled in this series, ended up conceding 28 runs off two overs with nothing to show for it in this one. Rohit crashed sixes off Jordan, thudded over deep square leg, off Sam Curran to bring up his fifty having narrowly evaded Wood in the deep when his leading edge dropped short, and off Ben Stokes with an 83m hit down the ground. It was Stokes who finally made the breakthrough with a legcutter which Sharma dragged back onto his stumps to end an entertaining and valuable innings.


Kohli comes out to play

Kohli took his cue at Sharma’s dismissal and stepped into the limelight with an unbeaten 80 off 52 deliveries. He was well supported by Suryakumar Yadav, who had top-scored with 57 in the fourth match, which was just his second T20I. This time Yadav played a tidy cameo of 32, hitting not his first ball for six as he had in his previous innings, but his second and third, both off Rashid. After 10 overs, India had struck eight sixes. Only once had they hit more by the halfway stage of a T20I – 10 against New Zealand in Christchurch in 2009. Hardik Pandya was unbeaten with 39 off 17 but it was Kohli who provided the steel in an imposing India innings. He added another six to his earlier one off Wood and his seven fours, when he charged down the pitch to launch Stokes over long-on in the 13th over. He brought up his third fifty of the series with two clipped neatly through square leg off Wood and took 12 runs of Archer in the final over of the innings.


What a catch, Jordan

Chris Jordan’s torrid time with the ball was epitomised when he all but nailed his yorker to Yadav only to watch the batsman thread it nonchalantly between point and third man. Jordan managed a wry smile at the time but he brought a grin to his team-mates’ faces – none more so than Roy – with his hand in Yadav’s eventual dismissal. Yadav lofted Rashid down the ground and Jordan, running full-pelt towards the boundary to his right from long-on, stuck out his right hand and the ball stuck beautifully. That was until Jordan’s momentum continued to propel him over the rope and he had the presence of mind to lob it to Roy, waiting like a Cheshire cat at deep midwicket. The catch would go down next to Roy’s name, perhaps adding insult to the injury of Jordan conceding 57 from four wicketless overs, but his brilliance in the field was undeniable. And, while it’s little consolation, he wasn’t the only England bowler left hurting – Wood went for 53 runs from his four overs. (cricinfo)



India 224 for 2 wkts in 20 overs (V. Kohli 80 n.o., R. Sharma 64)

England 188

for 8 wkts in 20 Overs (D. Malan 68, J. Buttler 52; S. Thakur 3-45, B. Kumar 2-15).


Malan to the fore

When Kumar had Roy out for a duck on the second ball of England’s chase, with one that swung in as the batsman charged down the wicket for an attempted slog over midwicket and clattered into middle and off, it was still India’s game. But then England showed the might of a top order that the likes of Alex Hales – historical off-field issues aside – and Joe Root can’t break into. England could have been tempted to tinker with line-up, with suggestions they should take a look at Stokes at No. 3, and they might have done had it been a dead rubber but, with the series on the line, they went with their full-strength side. Malan, the No. 1-ranked T20I batsman in the world, had not breached 25 in four innings going into the match. But his 68, combined with some power hitting by Buttler, who carted Rahul Chahar for two sixes in the eighth over and another in Chahar’s next as the bowler conceded 20 runs in seven balls, kept England in the contest.

Malan also broke Babar Azam’s record for the fastest batsman to 1000 T20I runs. Azam reached the mark in 26 innings, while Malan’s knock took him to 1003 runs in 24 innings.


Brilliant Bhuvi

It was Kumar who had put England on the back foot and he struck again when Buttler holed out to Pandya at long-off for 52 in a pivotal 13th over of the innings yielding not only the wicket but just three runs. By that stage England had fallen considerably behind at 130 for 2, compared with India’s 140 for 1. At the same time, Kumar had taken 2 for 9 from three overs to squeeze England before Thakur and Pandya accounted for Bairstow, Malan and Morgan in quick succession to leave the tourists short of answers.

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Australia’s system produces good captains, but you can’t say the same



by Ian Chappell

The subject of captaincy has provoked some vociferous discussion lately, with the daring deeds of England captain Ben Stokes, and manoeuvring in Australia following the announcement that Aaron Finch had retired from ODIs.

Finch’s retirement was lamented in many circles. This is understandable because he is a good white-ball captain. However, his replacement ought also to be an experienced player with strong leadership qualities. The Australian system for producing leaders, while diluted, is still the best of an increasingly cluttered set.

Finch’s retirement needs careful handling, otherwise it could be construed that no other Australian captain would have performed as well. That is an incorrect assumption; there were a number of viable options.

Then there’s the much publicised episode of David Warner requesting the case for his leadership be reassessed by a different management group at Cricket Australia. That raises the obvious question: why, following the original ball-tampering incident at Newlands in 2018 did Warner receive a more stringent punishment in respect to captaincy than the captain at the time, Steve Smith?

They both committed a serious crime at Newlands, but Smith’s as a captain in saying “I don’t want to know” was a greater infraction than Warner’s. If Warner had been alone in hatching the plot – which is not proven – then it was Smith’s job as captain to know about it and put an end to it. Either way they should have received an identical suspension and the fact that they didn’t raises serious questions about whether there was prejudice towards Warner. And surely, no one believes that only three players – the banned trio of Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft – were the only ones involved in the plot?

While Warner has created an intriguing situation with his assertive request, he shouldn’t be appointed captain of an Australia side. The captaincy should always be awarded to a player who still has some prime years remaining. A captain must have in his armoury the ability to regularly lead by example on the field. Warner, with his aggressive approach, would have been a good on-field leader but sadly his best now only appears occasionally and it’s time to appoint a younger captain.

In the case of Stokes, the job was his if he desired a leadership role. While Joe Root is a top-class batter, he was no captain, and in hindsight, should not have been appointed. If Root was the best choice at the time of his elevation – there was a list of potential captains – then the English system is not producing enough true international leaders.

Now England have the right captain in place, it becomes a matter of choosing the best combination to win in the prevailing conditions. It’s not surprising that their results have greatly improved following their disastrous tour of Australia. Their recent games have been in the more comfortable environment of home, and they replaced Root’s dubious leadership with the enterprising captaincy of charismatic allrounder Stokes.

England were certainly unlucky in Australia because they were deprived of some first-choice fast bowlers through injury. However, it’s patently clear that selecting the ageing Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad in the same team anywhere but in England is a mistake. It’s acceptable, but not ideal, to select a right-arm seam attack in England because it can suit the pitch and surrounding conditions. However, that doesn’t work on Australia’s bouncy pitches, where you need variety and the genuine pace of a Jofra Archer and a Mark Wood to have a chance of victory.

Spin bowling is another major headache for England. Jack Leach or Moeen Ali aren’t the right bowlers to succeed against teams like Australia. England tend to choose a holding spinner, whereas what they really need is a potential wicket-taking one. Ideally they need a spin bowler like Graeme Swann, who could handle either role because he was a top-class operator.Apart from Stokes, Test captaincy in England is currently a lottery because of the lack of candidates. However, the Australian system still generally produces acceptable leaders, with Pat Cummins being the prime exhibit in the case of outstanding captains.


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Rafael Nadal withdrew from the Laver Cup for personal reasons



Rafael Nadal withdrew from the Laver Cup on Saturday for personal reasons, his press spokesperson confirmed to ESPN.Nadal partnered with Roger Federer in his last professional match at the team competition between Europe and the rest of the world in London on Friday, losing in a deciding match tiebreak to Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe.

Nadal, 36, has struggled with an abdominal injury for much of the summer. The pain caused him to pull out before his semifinal at Wimbledon and he then suffered more problems with it after losing in the fourth round of the US Open.In the early hours of Saturday morning, after a joint press conference with Federer, Nadal told reporters at London’s O2 Arena he needed to return home.

“I’m not good, I’m not good,” Nadal said. “The truth is these have been difficult weeks in that sense. Few, very few hours of sleep, a bit of stress in general, slightly more difficult situations than usual at home.

“As a result, well, I’ve had to deal with all that, which is a different pressure to the one you’re used to in your professional life. But, well, luckily everything is good and we are much more calm. And in that sense, I’ve been able to come here, which for me was the most important thing.”

Nadal won the Australian Open in January and then won the French Open for a 14th time to take his Grand Slam total to a record 22 titles. (ESPN)

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Messi on debut season at PSG: I had a ‘bad time,’ struggled to find myself



Lionel Messi has said he endured a “bad time” during his debut season at Paris Saint-Germain but added he is enjoying his football again, with Argentina’s World Cup campaign two months away.The Argentina captain, after spending 21 years at Barcelona, moved to Paris last summer and only contributed 11 goals and 14 assists for the Ligue 1 champions in his first season.- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, more (U.S.) Messi has already netted six goals and assisted eight times in 11 appearances this term and said his revival is down to a different mentality.

“I feel good,” Messi said after Argentina’s 3-0 win over Honduras. “It’s different from last year and I knew it was going to be like that.

“Last year, as I already said, I had a bad time. I never finished finding myself and this time is different. I arrived with a different mindset, more adapted to the club, to the locker room, to the game, to my teammates. The truth is that I feel very good, and I’m enjoying myself again.”

He scored twice in Argentina’s victory over Honduras in Friday’s international friendly in Miami to extend their unbeaten run to 34 games.Messi, 35, will play in his fifth World Cup in Qatar and Argentina head into the tournament in high spirits after winning the 2021 Copa America, their first major title in 28 years following past disappointments.

“I’m very eager, excited and anxious for it to arrive,” he added. “But at the same time, I’m calm because we know there is still some time. We have to do well at our clubs to arrive at that point in good form. We have a great team, a great group, the World Cup is special, and we have to take it one step at a time.”

Argentina will be hopeful of Messi avoiding injury before they begin their World Cup campaign against Saudi Arabia on Nov. 22 but the forward said he will not alter his game.

“There are many games and little rest time, but you have to face it as always,” Messi said. “If you are going to play thinking about the World Cup, taking care of yourself or avoiding contact, in the end it could be worse.

“I am one of those who thinks that things happen because they happen and if things have to happen, they will happen. God willing, nothing happens to anyone, and we can all arrive as we are.”

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni is also delighted that his star player has rediscovered his best form.

“I think that PSG have found a way to play that understands him and I think he has taken a step ahead in his team,” he said earlier this week. “We are very happy with how things are currently going.”

Following the win on Friday, Scaloni added: “The important thing is that he [Messi] is comfortable and that he is enjoying playing football. He is enjoying playing for his club and that is important. When he enjoys it, we all enjoy it. May it continue.”


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