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Jailbreak for Kings XI Punjab, choke for Sunrisers Hyderabad

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The Kolkata Knight Riders thumped the Delhi Capitals earlier on Saturday to consolidate their fourth spot and establish a four-point lead over the Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Kings XI Punjab. In the Sunrisers’ previous game against the Rajasthan Royals, the middle order bailed them out after both David Warner and Jonny Bairstow fell cheaply. However, they unravelled spectacularly on Saturday as the Kings XI pulled off an unlikely heist. Here’s how it unfolded

 

56 for 1

In pursuit of a modest target of 127, the “old-school” Warner turns up and takes on the Kings XI’s gun bowler Mohammed Shami. The Sunrisers’ captain lofts Shami over cover for six, then flat-bats him over his head and pulls him past mid-on for fours. All up, Warner scores 22 runs off 13 balls from Shami. The Sunrisers are 52 for 0 in six overs.

Enter Ravi Bishnoi. Exit Warner. Having reverse-swept a googly for four first ball, Warner aims another reverse-sweep off the second, but Bishnoi finds more turn and bounce. The ball flicks Warner’s glove and Rahul hangs on to a catch. Paul Reiffel, the on-field umpire, though shoots down the appeal, which Rahul reviews successfully to overturn the on-field not-out decision. Warner gone for a rapid 35.

 

58 for 2

M Ashwin had harried Bairstow with googlies in his first two overs. Ashwin, like fellow legspinner Bishnoi, relishes bowling the googly more than the legbreak. It was the same variation that impressed Stephen Fleming and MS Dhoni so much that they shelled out INR 4.5 crore in the 2016 auction to get him on board at the Rising Pune Supergiant.

In the past couple of seasons, Ashwin has got the googly to skid off the pitch. Bairstow is ready for the googly in Ashwin’s third over. He shapes to sweep with the break through square leg. However, Ashwin gets a legbreak to drift into Bairstow and bowls him around his legs.

 

67 for 3

Manish Pandey is taking his time to settle as the Dubai pitch is slowing down. Abdul Samad is promoted to No.4 to perhaps target the bowlers and shorter boundaries. Or perhaps the Sunrisers just don’t want to risk Vijay Shankar, who had hurt his thumb in the field, in a small chase. Shankar had suffered back spasms earlier in the tournament as well.

Rahul searches for another breakthrough and brings back Shami. The Kings XI’s main bowler will finish his quota by the ninth over. Another batsman may have opted to see Shami off, but Samad is a six-hitter, and that’s why he has been picked ahead of Abhishek Sharma.

Shami pitches it right in the slot, but Samad doesn’t quite get underneath the length and feebly chips it to mid-off, where Chris Jordan pouches the overhead catch. The Kings XI start to believe.

 

100 for 4

Pandey and Shankar threaten to close out a second successive chase. They work past the early blows by dropping the ball into the gaps. Pandey, in particular, struggles to read Bishnoi’s googly and so once Jordan comes back, he looks to chance his arm. He swishes at a leg-side full-toss and misses.

Jordan then shifts his line outside off, but overpitches it. Pandey, like Samad, doesn’t quite get under it, and chips it in the air. J Suchith, the sub fielder, tears across to his right, and plucks a catch out of thin air in front of the Kings XI dugout.

In the 2017 IPL final, Suchith had ran out Washington Sundar off the last ball as a sub fielder to seal a one-run win for the Mumbai Indians. Pandey’s grab will turn out to be a match-winning fielding effort as well.

Ravi Bishnoi, Chris Jordan and Mohammed Shami – the heart of KXIP’s bowling BCCI

The Sunrisers need 27 off 23 balls.

 

110 for 5

All of the Sunrisers’ hopes are on Shankar. He had lined up his Tamil Nadu team-mate Ashwin and driven him straight for a brace of fours. Then, there was a languid lofted drive over mid-off for four off Jordan. After that boundary, the Sunrisers need only 20 off 18 balls. At that stage, ESPNcricinfo’s forecaster pegged Kings XI’s chances at a mere 5.47%.

Jason Holder jabs Arshdeep Singh to point and Shankar responds for the single, taking on Nicholas Pooran’s arm. Pooran misses the stumps, but Shankar cops a nasty blow on the grille of his helmet as the ball skids off the turf and bounces extra. After the Sunrisers’ medical staff tend to Shankar, he composes himself and signals that he’s ready to bat on.

Shankar wants to finish back-to-back games for the Sunrisers. He expects a short delivery and ventures leg side, hoping to manipulate the gap between backward point and short third man. Singh keeps it short, but it’s an off-pace cutter that grips and has Shankar edging behind to Rahul.

It comes down to the Sunrisers

needing 17 off 12 balls.

 

112 for 6

Jordan v Holder. The Kings XI’s seniors Rahul, Chris Gayle, Glenn Maxwell, and Pooran are all part of an intense discussion with Jordan. He will be bowling into Big Jase from over the wicket, with the leg-side boundary being the shorter one. Arshdeep will have the cushion of bowling of the last over, with the leg-side boundary being the bigger one.

Jordan brings him with him the reputation of being a bonafide death bowler for England, but he hasn’t quite had his IPL moment. That Super Over against the Mumbai Indians could’ve gone awry for him if not for Mayank Agarwal’s stunning save at the boundary.

 

Arshdeep Singh celebrates after a key strike BCCI

Agarwal is out injured now, but Jordan has a chance to stamp his authority on the IPL. His first ball is a middle-stump yorker and Holder stabs it down to long-on for one. Priyam Garg squeezes a single off the second to bring Holder back on strike. Jordan’s plan is simple: hide the ball away from Holder’s reach and deny him access to the shorter leg-side fence. Jordan executes his plan and has Holder carving a catch to Mandeep Singh at extra-cover.

Mandeep had lost his father on Friday evening, but here he is stepping up under pressure for the Kings XI.

 

112 for 7

The Sunrisers need 15 off nine balls. They need more magic from Rashid Khan after he had ripped out Rahul with a perfect wrong’un earlier in the evening. Jordan goes wide of off once again, and Khan only scythes it straight to Pooran at sweeper cover for a golden duck. Double-wicket penultimate over. Four years after having been yanked out of Sky Sports’ panel of IPL analysts as a late replacement for the Royal Challengers Bangalore, Jordan has his IPL moment. It’s panic stations for the Sunrisers.

 

114 for 8

Arshdeep has 13 to defend to pull off a coup. He has only played three first-class and 18 white-ball games for Punjab in domestic cricket. He is up against Sandeep Sharma, his senior state mate, who is Sunrisers’ swing bowler in the IPL. Sunrisers need him to swing with the bat now. Arshdeep, however, digs in an offcutter and has Sharma splicing a pull to midwicket.

114 for 9

 

Garg has crossed over and the Sunrisers need 13 off four balls. He’s probably wondering how it came down to this? Arshdeep digs in another cutter at off stump and dares Garg to manufacture pace for himself. However, the batsman is cramped for room and only drags it to long-on, where Jordan runs in, dives forward, and snaps up another smart catch.

 

114 all out

With the game up, Arshdeep gets another cutter to stick in the pitch, drawing a weak push from No.11 Khaleel Ahmed to point. Ahmed simply dawdles for the single and is emphatically beaten by a direct hit from Bishnoi. It raises his coach Anil Kumble off his seat and even has him applauding animatedly.

From having lost games from seemingly winning positions, the Kings XI pulled off a great escape to secure their fourth victory in a row, boosting their playoffs chances. As for the Sunrisers, they’re still not out yet, but how will they recover from such a cataclysmic collapse? (ESPN)

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Galle Gladiators problems compound after fourth straight loss

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Game one of yesterday’s double header proved to be a stalemate with Jaffna Stallions proving their might and Galle Gladiators struggling to make an impact yet again. Jaffna continued their impressive run collecting their fourth win in the competition and despite them having four more games in the league stage, they are through to the semis. Galle meanwhile now have lost all four encounters and there’s not much indication that they can fix the problem.

Galle got a few things wrong in their campaign and selections is one of them. To quote Sanjay Manjrekar they have got too many, ‘bits and pieces cricketers’ and their over reliance on all-rounders has resulted in absence of a couple of solid batsmen.

Leading up to their game against the in form Jaffna side, Galle had to come out all guns blazing but they were dealt a heavy blow when captain Shahid Afridi flew back to Pakistan due to personal reasons.

They got off to a good start with Danushka Gunathilaka posting yet another half-century. But Galle depend too much on Gunathilaka and although a few batsmen chipped in with useful contributions nobody was able to take on the bowling and put pressure back on Jaffna.

Shehan Jayasuriya often said to be not being given enough opportunities by Sri Lanka’s selectors; despite his impressive shows in domestic cricket and here was a perfect opportunity for him to make an impact. But his seniority has not meant much in this competition and he was run out off the last ball of the innings for eight that came off 13 balls.

Then during a crucial stage of the run chase, Jayasuriya made a mess of a chance off Man of the Match Avishka Fernando not attacking the ball. The very next ball, Fernando was put down by the wicket-keeper with Dhananjaya Lakshan being the unlucky bowler.

Jaffna had a scare or two especially when they needed 18 off 12 balls. But they got home with four balls to spare.

Avishka Fernando was in red hot form. Together with Minod Bhanuka he added 99 runs for the second wicket as both batters found the boundary frequently.

Given Thisara Perera’s big hitting skills, often fans have wondered why Sri Lanka do not promote him up in the order to get them some quick runs. They have been very conventional limiting him to number seven or eight, but yesterday, Perera – with little pressure on his side – promoted himself to number four. He managed only nine off nine but the experimentation is commendable nevertheless.

Fernando was Man of the Match. He made 84 off 59 balls with seven fours and five sixes.

 

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Pandemic forces Sri Lanka Athletics to take unprecedented steps

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Two banned athletes included pending Appeals Committee decision

by Reemus Fernando

The current pandemic situation has forced Sri Lanka Athletics to take an unprecedented step in including two track athletes, who are currently serving drug bans, in the list of eligible athletes to compete at the forthcoming National Athletics Championships.

Names of sprinter M.G.C.M. Jayasekara and 800 metres specialist S.K. Wedagedara, who were banned for failed drug tests appear in the list of eligible athletes published by Sri Lanka Athletics.

“The two athletes had been included in the list pending an Appeals Committee decision,” a senior official of Sri Lanka Athletics said in reply to The Island queries.

“The pandemic situation has forced us to limit participation. Only the top ranked athletes are allowed to compete. We have already published the top list to avoid confusion and only those who are in that list wiil be allowed to enter the Stadium. In the event the Appeals Committee take a decision within these few days to allow the two banned athletes to compete, they would not be able to enter the stadium if we do not include them in the list now. They are included, pending the Appeals Committee decision,” said the official.

When contacted in this regard the Sri Lanka Anti Doping Agency sources confirmed that M.G.C.M. Jayasekara and S.K. Wedagedara have both appealed their bans.

The senior official also said that the athletes whose names are not listed in the eligible list to compete at the 98th National Athletics Championship can appeal for their inclusion before December 8 as the sport’s governing body struggles amidst the pandemic to provide top athletes with the final opportunity to earn ranking points for this year.

“There is no need to panic if your name is not there. What you need to do is to make an appeal. Then we will consider including them,” said the official.

Sri Lanka Athletics released a list of top athletes who are eligible to compete at the flagship event following a series of cancellations throughout the year due to the Covid 19 pandemic. The track and field governing body took the decision to limit the number of participants due to the spread of the Covid 19 pandemic.

The eligible list includes the highest ranked athletes who are currently in Sri Lanka.

“All top athletes excluding those who are based overseas are included in the eligible list. There are a few athletes who had gone out of our radar during the last few months. They can appeal if they consider themselves fit to compete,” said the official.

The championship will commence on December 26 with only athletes, coaches and masseurs allowed inside the Sugathadasa Stadium.

Top athletes winning their respective National Championship events earn 100 ranking points which augur well for those aspiring to earn better World Athletics rankings and qualifying standards for the Tokyo Olympics.

If held as scheduled the 98th National Championship will be the first track and field event at which local athletes are taking part after the South Asian Games in Nepal in December 2019.

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Pandya, Jadeja, Thakur hand India consolation win

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Virat Kohli spoke of the “need to improve body language in the field and the bowling” going into the final One-Day International in the three-match series. India had already conceded the series 0-2 to Australia having lost the opening two ODIs. However, the Indian side heeded to their captain’s call as India fought back to finish with an eventual result of 1-2 in the one-dayers with a 13-run win on Wednesday, bowling Australia out for 289.

Chasing 303 for a whitewash at the Manuka Oval in Canberra, extra bounce from Jasprit Bumrah had stand-in opener Marnus Labuschagne on tenterhooks against the new ball as Australia struggled in the first few overs. Debutant T Natarajan put an end to Labuschagne’s edgy stay forcing an inside edge onto the stumps for his maiden ODI scalp. It was the first time in six games that India had picked a wicket in the powerplay.

Finch, meanwhile, was living a charmed life. He took his time to settle in and the game could’ve panned out differently had Shikhar Dhawan held on to a chance at slip that he spilled early on in Finch’s innings. Hardik Pandya missed a run-out chance and Bumrah missed a return catch as Finch made the most with another half-century adding to his scores of 114 and 60 in the series. He attacked in spurts, kept the scoreboard ticking and in turn, Australia in the game. In the absence of Warner, who was ruled out with a groin injury, much of the onus was on him to give Australia the start they’ve been getting in the series. With Labuschagne and Steve Smith falling cheaply, with Shardul Thakur impressive early on, Finch shook off the tentative start and soaked in the pressure to compile a well-made 75 before finally being sent back after Jadeja plucked out a sharp catch in the deep.

Debutant Cameron Green got himself a start but couldn’t capitalise on it, as was the case with Moises Henriques who was promoted to No. 4. The pair got themselves into the 20s before leaving too much for the lower-middle order. Alex Carey and Glenn Maxwell resisted the Indian attack getting the big shots in even, but a suicidal run-out broke the vital stand that added 52 with Carey departing for 38 as India sighted victory with Australia needing 92.

Maxwell brought that equation down to 36 from 34 with a brilliant half-century, his second this series, but India heaved a sigh of relief when Bumrah knocked him over for a 38-ball 59. Maxwell’s stand with Ashton Agar for the seventh wicket was instrumental in keeping them in the game, but if Australia were to pull this win out of the bag, they needed Maxwell. In the end, although Australia bat deep, they fell short.

Bumrah came into his own, getting the yorkers in, varying his pace and keeping the batsmen on their toes. He was the most economical of the lot, returning 2 for 43 while Thakur was impressive with 3-51 with spells of knuckleballs and slower ones that foxed the batsmen.

Earlier, after finally winning a toss this series, Kohli led the way with a masterclass while wickets fell around him. He played sheet anchor to perfection with textbook ODI batting. But it wasn’t until he fell that the game turned on its head with Pandya’s enterprising 92* and Ravindra Jadeja’s dynamic 66*. The pair amidst India’s highest sixth-wicket stand of 150 against Australia gave India a fighting total after a stumble in the middle overs. The pair accelerated in the final five to get as many as 76 with shots across both sides of the wicket, piercing the gaps at will as they helped India finish with 302.

It was their strong finish that handed India the momentum going into the break after Australia had done well to contain them to 192 for 5 after 40 overs. On a belter of a wicket at the Manuka Oval, Australia’s bowlers were right on the money early on despite missing their mainstays in Starc and Cummins. Sean Abbott and Agar got among the wickets to hand Australia the early advantage.

Abbott carried forward his form from the domestic season with a wicket in his first over. He bowled in good areas and got Dhawan advancing early on to end up chipping straight to cover. Kohli and Shubman Gill revived India’s innings with a solid 56-run stand as the youngster flicked, drove and used his wrists well. Once the spinners began operating, they tied him down a tad before he fell leg before to Agar, trying to sweep him, unable to convert his start.

During his knock, Kohli became the fastest batsman in ODIs to get to 12000 runs. Shreyas Iyer’s penchant against spin came to the fore as he got a start, but squandered it after slashing straight to backward point. India lost a wicket just when it seemed like they were building a partnership. KL Rahul fell soon after rewarding Agar for some tight bowling, sticking to his lines, bowling wicket to wicket and the premeditated sweep from the batsman had him trapped leg before – a dismissal eerily similar to that of Gill.

Pace and bounce with slight turn for Zampa and Agar helped tighten the noose in the middle overs, making the Indian batsmen work hard for their runs and forcing them to make mistakes. Kohli, however, was unperturbed, lunging forward to tackle them. It took Hazlewood, who continued to have the wood over Kohli this series, to send him back for 63 for the third time in three games after a stroke of brilliance from Finch. There was no appeal from the bowler, and a half-hearted one from Carey, but Finch reviewed it; although HotSpot showed nothing, there was a spike on snicko.

Hardik and Jadeja thereafter staged a counterattack that Australia didn’t have an answer for. They were the last recognised batting pair for India and they made the most of the opportunity to make it count. They found the gaps, kept the scoreboard ticking, cleared the fence, and put the poor balls away. Abbott, who made a good start, took a pasting in the latter half, conceding 84 in his 10 overs, leaving the question if Finch had underused Henriques and overbowled the former.

Brief scores:

India 302/5 in 50 overs (Virat Kohli 63, Hadrik Pandya 90*, Ravindra Jadeja 66*; Ashton Agar 2-44) beat Australia 289 in 49.3 overs (Aaron Finch 75, Alex Carey 38, Glenn Maxwell 59; Jasprit Bumrah 2-43, Shardul Thakur 3-51) by 13 runs. (Cricbuzz)

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