India v England, 1st Test, Chennai, Preview

The memories of the recently concluded Australian Tour are still fresh in the minds of all Indian Fans and the Players. But in this world of hectic cricket schedule, there is hardly any respite for the players and the fans as another crucial series awaits us. Cricket returns to the Indian Soil after almost a year as India braces itself for the English Challenge. India needs to ensure that they don’t lose more than one match to book their ticket to Lords for the Final of the World Test Championship vs New Zealand in June. Indian Skipper returns to the field after his Paternity leave and he will be itching to be on the ground and lead his side from the front. Indian Top Six batsman pick themselves in the XI but it will be interesting to see whether India goes in with four or five bowlers or will they experiment with Hardik Pandya at No. 7 and play with four specialist bowlers. A lot of that will depend on how many overs Hardik Pandya would be able to bowl. And another choice for the Indians would be whether they play Kuldeep/ Sundar/ Axar. It will be interesting to see who would make the XI for the first test.

On the other hand, English will be confident after defeating the Lankans in Sri Lanka. All eyes will be on the in form Joe Root around whom the English batting will revolve in this series. Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer might be the X Factors for England as both have the ability to make things happen whenever the going gets tough. England spinners will have a major role to play as the Chennai wicket is expected to take turn as the test match progresses.

Hoping for a cracker of a series once again between these two strong well balanced teams. India will be hot favorites going into the first match, but you never know this England team might spring in a few surprises.

Bangalore v Mumbai, Match 10, IPL 2020

This game of cricket continues to amaze us. Two days, two blockbuster games. In a nerve wracking contest, the RCB just managed to bag a win in the Super over against the Mumbai Indians.The Mumbai Indians required 80 from the last four overs & most of the people would have thought the game has slipped away from Mumbai’s grasp. But u can never write off any team as we saw in Sharjah two nights before and even so with Pollard at the crease and Ishan Kishan striking the ball as he did. RCB’s tactics of bowling spin against them was questionable as both the batters absolutely destroyed both the leggies Adam Zampa and Yuzi Chahal. Navdeep Saini bowled a superb penultimate over requiring 19 off the last over. Ishan Kishan brought the equation down to 5 of 2 balls but was holed out of the second last ball on 99 runs missing out on a well deserved century. Pollard managed a boundary on the last ball taking the game to a Super Over. Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard managed only 7 runs in the Super Over with Saini bowling some terrific lines and lengths. Only Jasprit Bumrah could have saved Mumbai by defending those runs but it wasn’t to be his night. De Villiers and Virat Kohli polished of the required runs as RCB clinched a humdinger. Chasing 202, Mumbai lost their top orders cheaply. Washington Sundar was excellent in the Power play troubling the openers and the middle order batsman. But then Ishan Kishan, who didn’t feature in Mumbai’s opening two games showed that he deserved a place in the XI as he smashed 9 sixes in his superlative knock of 99 which almost took Mumbai on the brink of a victory. Earlier cracking half centuries from AB De Villiers, Devdutt Padikkal and Aaron Finch and a cameo from Shivam Dube powered RCB to 201 runs. Aaron Finch got going from the word go as he batted like he wanted to hit every ball in the stands. Devdutt Padikkal showed that he can play the waiting game as well as he tried to build his innings and playing second fiddle to Finch and he also brought up an impressive half century in the process. ABD was just a class apart and it never felt like he hasn’t played a lot in the recent past. Mumbai Indians bowlers not at their best as they gave far too many runs at the death. Bumrah and Pandya Brother’s form will be a great cause of concern for them as they haven’t been able to perform well. But in the end it was another nail-biting finish and this 2020 IPL has given the fans much needed entertainment.

Rajasthan v Punjab, IPL 2020, Match 9

Unbelievable.. Unimaginable.. We’re falling short of words to describe the madness of yesterday’s game in Sharjah as Rajasthan Royals recorded the highest successful run chase in the history of IPL against Kings XI Punjab in a run fest at Sharjah. This game will be forever etched in the minds of all those who witnessed this madness on their television sets. What to say about Rahul Tewatia’s innings. He was struggling to get bat on ball in his first 19 balls and most of the commentators were demanding him to retire or to get out. Then came the Sheldon Cottrell over and Rahul Tewatia’s life changed dramatically as he slammed the Windies Pacer for five gigantic sixes in the over as Cottrell served him ideal lengths. Rajasthan required 51 of the last 3 overs before that over and the equation became 21 off 12 in the space of 6 balls. Jofra Archer got into the act as well with his two humongous strikes. But Rahul Tewatia’s freakish innings overshadowed some terrific moments in the game such as Samson’s classy 85, Nicholas Pooran’s super save on the boundary, Steven Smith’s uncharacteristic quickfire half century, Mayank Agarwal’s sizzling maiden IPL hundred and his 182 run opening stand along with KL Rahul. As I said in my previous blog, Punjab lack a quality death bowler and they should try and fix that problem soon. Shami and the two leggies Bishnoi and M Ashwin have been the standouts so far but Cottrell hasn’t been consistent and is giving away far too many runs at the death. Rajasthan will be buoyed by the fact that they have achieved this steep total without Buttler’s contribution. Steven Smith & Sanju Samson have been exceptional with the bat so far but they will be tested on the long boundaries of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. But the night belonged to Rahul Tewatia and Rajasthan Royals.

IPL 2020 : Punjab v Bangalore, Match 7

It was KL Rahul show at Dubai as he pumelled RCB bowlers and scored a fabulous century guiding Punjab to a crushing victory over Virat Kohli’s men,though he was given reprieve by the Indian Skipper Virat Kohli twice on en route to his second IPL hundred. Virat Kohli, generally regarded as the safest catcher dropped dollies which cost his side dearly helping Punjab to a mammoth total of 206 runs. RCB, although, won their first match but their bowling continues to remain the weak link. Other than Yuzi Chahal & Shivam Dube none of their bowlers looked likely to take wickets. Chris Morris’s injury have aggravated the problems further as Steyn & Umesh Yadav are going for plenty of runs. Umesh Yadav, the experienced pro has not learnt from his past mistakes and looks like an ordinary bowler. Dale Steyn isn’t the bowler he was some years back. RCB faltered in this steep run chase as the Punjab Pacers rattled the openers and the Captain Virat Kohli and reduced them to 5 for 3. The two young leggies M Ashwin and Ravi Bishnoi were excellent and got the wickets of AB De Villiers and Aaron Finch who looked threatening briefly. RCB’s ploy of sending Josh Philippe ahead of Kohli at No.3 also failed miserably as he was dismissed cheaply. Punjab bowling, much like RCB, also looks quite weak as they lack quality in death overs, but they were provided the luxury of a huge score on the board in this match. Their real test will be defending low scores against quality batting lineups. KL Rahul was looking in ominous touch today as he played some elegant strokes early on and also showed his big hitting power in the final overs. Punjab opened their points tally with this victory after a heartbreaking loss in their opening match. Though, RCB won their opening game, they will be pondering over their bowling combinations for the upcoming games.

IPL 2020 : Rajasthan v Chennai, Match 4

It was raining sixes in Sharjah yesterday night. A total of 33 sixes were hit in this game & in this competition of big hitting the Rajasthan Royals courtesy of blazing knocks from Sanju Samson, Steve Smith & Jofra Archer outfoxed the big hitters from Chennai Super Kings in a run fest. After being put into bat by Dhoni, the Royals lost Yashasvi Jaiswal early. But then it felt like an exhibition game as Piyush Chawla , Ravindra Jadeja & Lungi Ngidi were taken to the cleaners by Samson & Smith. Chennai pulled the things back nicely in the middle as Rajasthan batting collapsed a bit, before Jofra Archer arrived at the scene and took apart Ngidi for 30 runs in the last over with 4 sixes including two of the No-ball empowering Rajasthan to 216. Chasing a stiff target, the openers had to get on from the word go but Murali Vijay was not looking high on confidence and struggled in his run a ball innings of 21 runs. Shane Watson got into the groove and was looking in good touch before Rahul Tewatia disloged his stumps. Sam Curran yet again was given the license with the bat, but his stay was short lived after he smacked two sixes of Rahul Tewatia. Ruturaj Gaikwad got out on the first ball and from then Chennai batsman played as if they do not want to win the game. There was clearly a lack of intent in Chennai’s batting as Du Plessis and Jadhav were just looking for easy singles. Although Du Plessis got into the act hitting sixes at will & scored a half century and Dhoni who batted way down at No.7 hit some monsterous sixes, it was little too late as they fell short by 16 runs. Dhoni said after the game that he was playing after a long time and quarantine of 14 days didn’t help either and he wanted to give some opportunities to Sam Curran and Jadeja ahead of him and that’s why he batted down the order. Rajasthan spinners learnt the lessons from chennai spinners regarding the length to be bowled on this pitch. Tewatia and Shreyas Gopal were excellent and Jofra Archer bowled brilliantly on this batting friendly pitch. It was a tremendous display of batting by both the sides and you would expect the same in the remaining matches in Sharjah.

IPL 2020 : Delhi v Punjab, Match 2

It’s said that in cricket the match never ends until the last ball is bowled and this was on display yesterday night in Dubai where Kings XI Punjab who needed 1 run of 3 balls with a set Mayank Agrawal playing a fabulous knock was batting, let the game drift into the super over first and then collapsed dramatically for just 2 in the Super Over bowled by the Super Over specialist Kagiso Rabada. Delhi polished off the required runs easily and got the much needed 2 points on the board. There was another controversy in the game when the on field umpire called a short run when Mayank Agarwal and Chris Jordan ran two in the 19th over. The replays showed that the run was completed and the umpire erred which eventually cost Punjab the match. Mayank Agarwal almost took Punjab home but it was Marcus Stoinis’s night who smashed a 20 ball half century and bowling the all important 20th over and got the game into the super over with scalping out the wickets of Agarwal and Jordan. R Ashwin was excellent with the ball before he went off due to injury. Punjab will be disappointed with their batting effort with the likes of Maxwell, Pooran failing to deliver. Delhi bowled well in patches but they will be looking for a much better effort with the ball. Earlier Delhi’s top order too perished early in trying to be too aggressive. Skipper Shreyas Iyer & Rishabh Pant looked to build the innings through a steady partnership before Stoinis’s carnage got them past 150. Punjab will be happy with the efforts of Shami and the talented youngster Ravi Bishnoi. Also Punjab’s death bowling was ridiculous as Jordan and Cottrell leaked far too many runs as Stoinis got under their skin. It was a nail biting finish in the end for the second day in a row and all the cricket fans will be craving for more such action.

IPL 2020 : MI v CSK, Match 1

They call CSK the Dad’s army, but they showed their class and experience in the opening game of this edition of the IPL. Ambati Rayudu and Faf Du Plessis stood tall stitching a century stand despite the early wobble. Sam Curran and Ravindra Jadeja then killed the chase with their cameos as CSK went on to beat the Mumbai Indians after 2 years and 5 matches. Mumbai Indians will be concerned about the form of Jasprit Bumrah who conceeded far too many runs. And with their spin bowling lacking quality and experience, they would hope Bumrah gets back into the groove as quickly as possible. The fielders of both the team’s struggled given the long layoff from cricket but with the exception of Faf Du Plessis who took some spectacular catches on the edge of the boundary line. Mumbai Indians will rue the fact that none of their batsman except De Cock and Saurabh Tiwary could capitalize on the starts they got. They played far too many shots and in pursuit lost too many wickets in the final overs. Chennai bowlers couldn’t find their line and length in the first few overs but they pulled the Mumbai Indians back nicely with Lungi Ngidi, Deepak Chahar, Sam Curran, Piyush Chawla and Ravindra Jadeja all contributing to the wickets column. It was a really exciting game to kick start the 2020 IPL and let’s hope for many more as such.

England v Australia , 1st T-20

It was once again proved why cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties as England came from nowhere to snatch victory by 2 runs from the jaws of defeat against Australia in the first T-20 match at Southampton. From needing 36 runs in the last 5 overs, the Aussie batting collapsed like a house of cards. England bowling was wayward in the first 10 overs as Finch and Warner started positively in pursuit of 163 runs, but then they strangulated the visitors once the duo was dismissed. Jofra Archer, Tom Curran and Adil Rashid were the wreckers in chief as they denied Aussies the win. Earlier England could only muster 162 in their 20 overs despite a good start provided to them by Jos Buttler. After he was dismissed, the Aussies continued to pick up regular wickets putting a lid on the scoring. Dawid Malan held the innings from one end and scored a valuable 66 runs which proved vital in the end. The Australian bowling was not upto the mark except for Ashton Agar , Glenn Maxwell and Pat Cummins. But the Aussies will be hurt after this loss while England will be buoyed after this come from behind victory.

Mahi..You will be missed

No. 7 officially retires from international cricket today. A true legend of the game, a great reader of the game will be missed in the international arena. Now there will be no commentary behind the stumps, no more guidance will be given to the Indian bowlers, you will be missed. The man who was the cornerstone behind winning the 50 over world cup after 28 years, you will be missed. The person who won all the ICC trophies, you will be missed. His lightening wicket keeping behind the wickets will be missed. Taking the game deep and keeping billions of Indians on the edges of their seats will be missed… Happy Retirement MS Dhoni..You will be missed…

England v Pakistan, First test, Day 4

England are slowly becoming a pro in chasing stiff targets in 4th innings of a test match. They did it against Australia at Headingley last year and now at Manchester against Pakistan. It seems they have developed a spirit of never say die attitude as they completed a sensational come from behind victory after being 107 runs behind in the first innings. Jos Buttler played an enterprising counter attacking cricket taking out sweeps and reverse sweeps against the leg spin of Yasir Shah. By virtue of this knock now we can say that Buttler has been able to keep his place in the side despite his dismal performance behind the wickets. At the other end Chris Woakes who joined Buttler when England were reeling at 117 for 5 too played aggressively and showcased his worth as a handy all rounder. Chasing 277 to win, England started steadily and despite losing Rory Burns early, were kept in the game by Joe Root and Dom Sibley. After the duo were dismissed after being set, Pakistan quickly scalped the dangerous duo of Stokes and Ollie Pope. Pakistan will be disappointed that after bossing the game for three days, they let this slip out of their hand. The horrific batting display in the second innings proved costly for them. The captaincy of Azhar Ali and his tactics were questionable as well. He was too defensive after having England under the floor at 117 for 5 spreading out the field which eased the pressure on Buttler and Woakes. But one thing for sure, it was a great test match which kept on swinging on both sides and we hope the remaining two test matches provide us with more exciting cricket.