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RCB rope in Hasaranga and Chameera for IPL



The Sri Lankan pair of Wanindu Hasaranga and Dushmantha Chameera, as well as Australia’s Singapore-born Tim David, have joined Royal Challengers Bangalore for the second part of IPL 2021. The franchise has also zeroed in on George Garton, the left-arm quick who played a major part in Southern Brave becoming the first-ever champions of the Hundred. ESPNcricinfo understands that Garton’s inclusion is only pending approval from the IPL governing council.

While those are the additions, some players will be missed too: New Zealanders Finn Allen and Scott Kuggeleijn, and the Australians Kane Richardson, Daniel Sams and Adam Zampa.

That aside, there’s been a change at the top among the coaching staff, with Simon Katich stepping down from his position as head coach, and Mike Hesson, at present the director of cricket operations, taking on the additional responsibility of filling in for Katich.

“Some significant changes in our playing squad, from an overseas perspective, due to player unavailability and, indeed, a reshaping of our overseas contingent,” Hesson explained in a press interaction on Saturday. “Finn Allen and Scott Kuggeleijn have been selected for New Zealand tours, and they won’t be part of RCB. Kane Richardson has made himself unavailable, as has Daniel Sams, so the balance of our squad has changed dramatically. So we have obviously gone about making purchases during the replacement window, which opened up about four or five days ago. A lot of preparation has gone into that.”

Hasaranga coming on board is the big news on that front. The 24-year-old legspin-bowling allrounder has been making heads turn in recent times, and certainly made an impression, especially with the ball, when India went to Sri Lanka in July for a limited-overs series, with a three-for in the second ODI and seven wickets – including a 4 for 9 – to top the bowling charts in the three T20Is. At the end of that series, Hasaranga was placed second among T20I bowlers in the ICC rankings.

“One thing we can say is we have replaced Adam Zampa with Wanindu Hasaranga. Certainly delighted to have Hasaranga on board,” Hesson said. “He gives us some balance, obviously from a wristspin point of view and also plenty of batting capability.”

Chameera has also been among the wickets in what is a second coming of sorts for him in international cricket, with a bagful of wickets in England in June and then against India at home. As for David, apart from being among the runs in the Big Bash League, he had a good feel of the conditions in the subcontinent during his time with the Lahore Qalandars, scoring 180 runs at an average of 45 and a strike rate of 166.66 in PSL 2021.

“Chameera, another [from] the Sri Lankan contingent, he is bowling extremely well at the moment. I know him well, having coached against him. He’s got genuine pace and also his white-ball game has developed significantly over the last few years,” Hesson said. “With Finn Allen leaving, we have decided to strengthen our middle-order possibilities, in terms of options, so Tim David has joined our squad.

“He is currently part of the Southern Brave [at the Hundred], he has been performing for Surrey and also Hobart Hurricanes in recent times – a power player who could become a straight swap for either [Glenn] Maxwell or AB de Villiers if required, also gives us other options throughout the order.

“We also have one [more] spot to fill, which we will be looking to do in the coming days. Yeah, it’s been a busy period of time to be able to get that squad together, but delighted with the group we’ve got. Wanindu, Chameera and Tim David are certainly some high-quality players that will add to the likes of AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell, Kyle Jamieson and Daniel Christian. So that’s seven of our eight overseas contingent.”

Katich steps down because of

“personal reasons”

Along with the tweaks in playing personnel, there was also the big update – though Rajesh Menon, vice president and team head, called it a “small change” – about Katich, who had replaced Gary Kirsten as head coach after the 2019 season.

“Simon Katich, the head coach of RCB, has decided to step down as on date, mainly due to personal reasons, and we, as management, support his decision and completely back him on this,” Menon said. “As per the [franchise’s] business continuity plan, Mike Hesson will step in and discharge the duties of head coach until end of this tournament.”

Team to reach Dubai on August 29

With the squad members (mostly) identified, it’s time to get the travel schedule in place. While captain Virat Kohli and pacer Mohammed Siraj are in England for the ongoing Test series and will follow the national team’s schedule, the rest will leave for the UAE – RCB will be put up in Dubai – on August 29, some from India, and the rest from wherever they are stationed at the time.

“The Indian players, minus the players in England, support staff and the team management, will be assembling in Bangalore today. Following which, we will undergo a seven-day quarantine in Bangalore, and we will have three Covid tests during this seven-day quarantine,” Menon said. “The team will depart via chartered flight on August 29, in the afternoon. Once we land in the UAE, again we will have a six-day hard quarantine, and the testing protocol as per BCCI.

“As for the overseas players and support staff, they will be coming in on August 29 and they will also undergo six days of quarantine there. Once we are all clear, we will be on the field and we will have a clear practice schedule which Mike and the [coaching] team will draw up.”

The second leg of the IPL will begin in the UAE on September 19. RCB will resume their season on September 20, against the Kolkata Knight Riders.

The Royal Challengers have been one of the most followed teams in the IPL over the years, and have made the final four on six occasions, finishing runners-up in 2009, 2011 and 2016. After that last second-place finish, though, they had a terrible run, finishing eighth, sixth and eighth – among eight teams – before bouncing back in 2020, when they finished fourth.

This year has been a pleasant change. Before the positive Covid-19 cases in a number of team set-ups forced the authorities to postpone IPL 2021 (and, later, move it to the UAE), the Royal Challengers had won five of their seven games, and were in third place – behind the Delhi Capitals and the Chennai Super Kings.

Hesson said the key for the team, in their bid to keep up the good run of results, would be to “reaffirm the key components of why we were successful; things didn’t just happen by accident, we were able to have the right people performing the right roles at key times.”

While the 2014 edition of the IPL was also split between the UAE and India because of the general elections that year, this is the first instance of the tournament being interrupted by a gap of more than four months. Disruptive for the teams, yes, but as Hesson agreed, a chance to reboot and sort out whatever flaws might be there.

“When sides have looked at the replacement window, they would have looked at the conditions that we are likely to face in the UAE, and even within the three venues (Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah), there are some subtle differences there. I guess it gives you a chance to reflect and just reconfigure the structure of your side, whether that’s a change in balance or in personnel or match-ups,” Hesson said. “Every side has just had a chance to make sure they know the conditions well and they have selected a squad that’s going to give them the best chance, and we’re certainly no different.” (ESPN)

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Novak Djokovic takes on Carlos Alcaraz in Paris semi-finals today




Djokovic and Alcaraz will meet at a Grand Slam for the first time, having only played each other once at the 2022 Madrid Open (pic BBC)

From the moment the French Open draw was made a fortnight ago, the tennis world licked its lips at the prospect of one blockbuster match. The countdown towards Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, the 22-time Grand Slam champion, against Spanish world number one Carlos Alcaraz was on.

Today (09), the two men – at opposite ends of their careers but in the same stunning form – finally go head-to-head at a Grand Slam when they meet in the Roland Garros semi-finals.

“That’s the match that a lot of people want to see,” said 36-year-old Djokovic, who is bidding for a third French Open title and a men’s record 23rd major.

Alcaraz, 20, won his first Grand Slam title at the US Open in September and is contesting his maiden semi-final on the Paris clay.  “Since the draw came out, everyone was expecting that match. Myself as well. I have really wanted to play this match,” Alcaraz said.

The pair have long been considered the main contenders to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires on Sunday, even before 14-time champion Rafael Nadal withdrew with a hip injury.

Whoever wins in the last four will be favourite to beat the victor of Friday’s other semi-final between Norwegian fourth seed Casper Ruud and Germany’s 22nd seed Alexander Zverev.

(BBC Sports)

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Bowlers extend Australia’s dominance in WTC final




India were 151-5 at stumps on day two in the World Test Championship final on Thursday (pic Agencies)

Australia extended their dominance in the World Test Championship 2021-23 final on Thursday (June 8), with their bowlers taking the centre stage after a massive partnership between Travis Head and Steve Smith.

India did limit the damage from the Australian batters as they picked up the last seven wickets for 108 runs. But Australia, who finished with 469, ensured they did not let any substantial partnership develop in India’s innings as the Rohit Sharma-led side ended Day 2 at 151/5, trailing by 318

The day began with Smith bringing up his 31st Test hundred with two successive fours off Mohammed Siraj in the opening over. A short while later, Head registered his fourth 150-plus score as they extended their partnership to 285. India, though, came back strongly as they picked up three for 26 which started with the dismissal of Head. While there were a few boundaries scored, India persisted with short-ball tactics and the move paid off when Siraj had Head caught down the leg-side to dismiss him for 163. Cameron Green edged a Mohammed Shami delivery to second slip and Smith chopped Shardul Thakur onto the stumps to depart for 121. Australia lost their fourth wicket in the first session as Mitchell Starc was run out.

Alex Carey, who had seen off the opening session along with Pat Cummins, began with a flurry of boundaries at the start of the second, including three in an over off Shami. He also struck a six off Ravindra Jadeja to power Australia past the 450 mark and raise the half-century stand with Cummins. But he missed a reverse-sweep off the left-arm spinner and was out leg-before, with India using the review to reverse the onfield call of not out. Siraj bagged the last two wickets, accounting for Nathan Lyon and Cummins, as he bagged a four wicket haul and reached the 50-wicket milestone in the process.

India made a confident start with the bat, with Rohit and Shubman Gill dealing in regular boundaries. But it didn’t take Australia long to get on top again as the openers departed in quick succession. Cummins trapped Rohit leg-before while Gill was bowled by Scott Boland shouldering arms. Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara faced a couple of probing overs but got through the testing period unscathed before the Tea break.

Pujara began confidently in the final session, clipping a Boland delivery wide of mid-on and then playing a square drive off the backfoot off Green. But much like Gill, a poor judgement ended Pujara’s outing as he was bowled shouldering arms to a Green delivery. A rising delivery off a length from Mitchell Starc clipped Kohli’s thumb en route to the ‘keeper, leaving India in further trouble as they slipped to 71/4. Ajinkya Rahane, meanwhile, had a lucky break as he was trapped in front by Cummins but upon review it was clear that the bowler had overstepped.

Rahane, meanwhile, needed the physio’s attention a couple of times as he was struck on his fingers by a Cummins delivery while he was struck on the helmet after missing a hook off Green. Ravindra Jadeja, on the other hand, batted positively as he dealt in regular boundaries and also flicked a Boland delivery over the fence. Rahane, however, did capitalise on anything in his zone as he executed a cover drive off Boland en route to a half-century partnership. The fifth wicket pair extended their stand to 71 before Jadeja edged a Nathan Lyon delivery to slip to fall two short of a fifty. Rahane and KS Bharat were unbeaten at Stumps, having their work cut out for Day 3.

Brief scores:

Australia 469 (Travis Head 163, Steve Smith 121, Alex Carey 48; Mohammed Siraj 4-108, Shardul Thakur 2-83) lead India 151/5 (Ravindra Jadeja 48, Ajinkya Rahane 29*; Nathan Lyon 1-4, Scott Boland 1-29) by 318 runs

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Mathews left out of World Cup qualifiers



by Rex Clementine  

Sri Lanka’s selectors have left out former captain Angelo Mathews from the World Cup Qualifiers that will begin in Zimbabwe shortly. There was not much change from the squad announced for the bilateral series against Afghanistan with the only omission being that of Mathews.

Mathews had made a comeback to the ODI side when Sri Lanka toured New Zealand a couple of months back and was dropped after the first ODI against Afghanistan. Since making a comeback to the ODI side in more than two years, Mathews had managed scores of 12, 0 and 18.

However, if hard hitting batsman Kusal Perera hadn’t recovered from a hamstring injury, Mathews was expected to be part of the squad for Zimbabwe, despite not having a big knock to his name. It was leg-spinner Dushan Hemantha who was expected to miss out but the selectors have chosen to pick two leg-spinners with Wanindu Hasaranga being the number one pick.

As for Kusal Perera, the hopes of him recovering in time for the qualifiers have faded away. The batsman returned to international cricket after shoulder surgery in New Zealand but featured only in T-20 cricket. Even if he wasn’t picked for the Afghanistan series, he was tipped to make it to the World Cup Qualifiers but his hamstring is continuing to give trouble.

Sri Lanka will be pleased that Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara have recovered from injuries and the team’s hopes of earning one of the two remaining slots for the World Cup are very much high.  Extra pace is going to be vital against associate countries who’ll be featuring in the qualifying round. Even Afghansitan were shaken up by the pace as Chameera and Kumara claimed the top six wickets with the new ball in the deciding third ODI where the tourists were shot out for 116.

The lack of left-arm variety in the attack is cause for some concern but the selectors seem to be adamant that they have got all bases covered.   The return of Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne to the ODI side is the biggest plus point as Sri Lanka had struggled to bat out their 50 overs in recent months. The irony is that the same selectors who axed him have recalled him.

Sri Lanka Squad:

Dasun Shanaka (Captain), Kusal Mendis (Vice-Captain), Pathum Nissanka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dhananjaya De Silva, Charith Asalanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana, Dushan Hemantha, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Matheesha Pathirana, Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha

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