Category Archives: Cricket

In first T-20, England wins thriller against Australia

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The first of three matches did not disappoint. England won, thanks to an outstanding fightback that saw Australia waste a position that seemed unbeatable. They had needed just 39 from 38 balls with nine wickets in hand – but lost by two runs. For England, it was a heist of the highest order.

After England, asked to bat first, wasted a wonderful start from Jos Buttler to only register a light looking 162 from their 20 overs, Australia were simply cruising. Aaron Finch and David Warner thumped their way to an opening stand of 98 in 11 overs, then Steve Smith got in on the act, too.

But some dozy batting – reminiscent of England’s effort earlier – turned the game on its head. Australia lost four wickets in 14 balls, with Smith caught in the deep and Glenn Maxwell chipping tamely to cover in Adil Rashid’s final over. Then Jofra Archer and Mark Wood, who had bowled with such pace but without incision in the powerplay, bowled Warner and Alex Carey respectively.

The game was alive and, after a good over each from Tom Curran and Chris Jordan, Australia suddenly needed 15 from the final over. It would have been 14 had Jordan not pulled off a smart run out of Ashton Agar from his final ball of the night.


Marcus Stoinis hit Curran for six second ball of the final over, but was left to rue two dot balls in a good performance from England’s death bowler, who held his nerve. In fact all England’s bowlers did – that was the only boundary Australia hit in the last six overs.

The crowd, so central to games between these teams, were missed. They would have particularly enjoyed Warner being hit amidships by Wood bowling 93mph, and certainly could have helped England, who spent minutes searching for the ball when Smith hit an enormous six towards the hotel. It was after that blow that Australia needed just 39 from 38. To lose from there was a monumental mess-up.

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For most of the contest, if you had to guess which of these teams had not played for six months, you would not have picked Australia. Until their late stumble, they had looked in strong working bowling, fielding and top order batting – looked in fine working order.

And until their ice-cool turnaround, England had not been at their best. Having been asked to bat first, theirs was a strange innings. They started brilliantly through Buttler, lost their way badly against spin, then recovered strongly thanks to Dawid Malan’s acceleration. Trouble was, apart from those two, only Jordan, from No8, reached double figures. They looked a batsman light; perhaps in the form of Sam Curran (who would also have provided left-arm bowling) or Sam Billings, a specialist finisher.


Buttler got England off to a flyer. He took 16 from Agar’s opening over, and dispatched crisp drives through the covers off the quicks. But from the moment Pat Cummins got one to rear at Jonny Bairstow, ending a 43-run opening partnership in just four overs, Australia were clinical in every respect: with their bowling, their bowling changes, their fielding, and their field placements.

Malan made a typically steady start, and was 11 from 11 when Buttler took a risk too many to Agar and was caught at deep square-leg. And Malan had 13 from 13 when Tom Banton – who had switch-hit Adam Zampa for four first ball – fell slogging Agar, too.

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Australia brought Maxwell on to target England’s left-handers, and it worked a treat. Eoin Morgan was caught taking on the straight boundary, and Moeen Ali went reverse-sweeping. 43 without loss had become 109 for five – and it was all on Malan.

For the eighth time in his 14-innings T20i career, he passed 50 and, as he tends to, began to really motor. There were some spectacular shots, especially through and over cover, while he demolished Zampa’s final over. He had led a decent recovery, and England had moved to 147 for six with two overs to go.

But as soon as that over ended, Malan holed out – with Smith taking another fine catch at long-off – and it was on Jordan to haul England to 162. Jordan, playing his 50th T20i, had a very fine night all round.

As Australia motored, few would have thought that 162 enough. Under Morgan, though, England are never quite out of games.

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Just in: Pakistan defeats England by five runs

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It was on June 28 that Pakistan arrived on these pandemic-plagued shores and entered the unknown of a biosecure bubble for the sake of cricket. Two months on, as they prepare to finally leave it, few could begrudge them this victory.

After a 1-0 defeat in a rain-decimated Test series, and trailing by the same scoreline in this T20 run, the tourists finally had something concrete to show for their sacrifice as they triumphed by five runs in a thriller at Old Trafford, which went down to the final ball.

Nineteen-year-old Haider Ali made a brilliant half-century on his international debut, but it was two old-timers, Mohammad Hafeez and Wahab Riaz, who were the match-winners.

Hafeez struck 86 as Pakistan scored 190/4 before Wahab, making his first appearance of the tour, bowled a brilliant, double-wicket penultimate over to halt England just as they looked set to complete another monster chase.

When Eoin Morgan won the toss and opted to bowl he would have been looking for two of the things that England’s white-ball displays have been missing this summer; powerplay wickets, and some, at any time, from Moeen Ali. In the second over he got both as Moeen bowled Fakhar Zaman with his first ball, and it would not be the last time the all-rounder showed signs of a timely return to form ahead of the upcoming series against Australia.

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That brought Haider to the crease and he immediately showed the kind of X-factor that lit up the Pakistan Super League this year and made you wonder how we hadn’t seen him earlier in this series as he walloped his second ball in international cricket for six.

Babar Azam was quickly into his rhythm, too, striking three boundaries off Saqib Mahmood’s second over, so it was a big relief when Tom Curran sent him on his way for 21 with a fuller delivery soon after his introduction to the attack.

By the end of the powerplay Haider had 22 off just 10 balls but the tempo needed lifting. Hafeez, who scored a terrific 69 in Sunday’s defeat, picked up where he left off and hit Lewis Gregory – already dropped for the Australia series – for a colossal six over the long boundary off the bowler’s first delivery.


Banton and Malan looking to stake a claim for regular England roles
Hafeez took the tourists to three figures with back-to-back slog sweep sixes to the short side of the ground off Rashid, before Haider became the first Pakistani to hit a half-century on T20i debut, reaching the landmark off just 28 balls. He was eventually bowled by a terrific yorker from Chris Jordan for 54 but by then Hafeez had reached a fifty of his own and kicked on again.

Haider’s fine start to life at this level may end up the most positive take away from the entire series for Pakistan, but Hafeez, 20 years his senior, made the most meaningful contribution in the short-term, eventually finishing on a career-best 86 not out.

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Jonny Bairstow was the only member of England’s top three assured of his place in the side ahead of Friday’s first T20 against Australia and it was just as well as he was bowled for a duck by a wonderful Shaheen Afridi yorker as the hosts began their chase.

That left Dawid Malan and Banton in the middle once more. The former stuttered out of the blocks but just looked to be finding his groove, striking a four through extra cover, when he was brilliantly caught on the boundary by Fakhar and had to walk for seven.


Banton on the other hand, wasted little time in unveiling his array of shots, including a couple of delightful reverse sweeps for four. He was motoring along until making his first error from the non-striker’s end, rejecting a committed Morgan’s call for a single as he spotted Babar make a terrific diving stop on the circle and instead barbecuing his in-form skipper. Just five balls later he was also trudging back to the pavilion, trapped lbw by Haris Rauf on review having racked up 46 off 31, as England were reduced to 69/4.

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Sam Billings and Moeen were charged with rebuilding and did so in sensible fashion, with a partnership of 57 before the former was caught down at third man.

Moeen had already moved into a gear we’d been yet to see from him this summer – his previous four innings had brought just ten runs in total – taking ten off Shaheen’s first two deliveries after the quick’s return to the attack.

But it was in the 16th over, bowled by Shadab Khan, that the Worcestershire man really brought England back into the game as he clattered three sixes. His half-century came off just 25 balls, and even as Lewis Gregory and Chris Jordan fell around him, he looked on course to take England home. That was until Wahab struck, snaring him caught-and-bowled for 61, and conceding just three runs from the 19th over.

That left England what looked an impossible task, eventually needing 12 off two, only for Haris to remarkably bowl a slower-ball with the penultimate delivery which Curran dispatched into the stands. There was no late twist though, as he recovered with a dot to send Pakistan home with a deserved win.

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England Vs Pakistan: Tom Banton and Dawid Malan seeks regular role

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Tom Banton and Dawid Malan will be desperate to enhance their claims for a regular England place when Eoin Morgan’s side look to wrap up a T20 series victory over Pakistan at Old Trafford this evening.

With Jos Buttler and Jason Roy unavailable, the pair have emphasised England’s top-order depth across the first two games, Banton striking 71 off 42 balls in Friday night’s washout before Malan’s half-century saw England home in Sunday’s five-wicket win.

The end of England’s Test commitments mean Morgan will have something nearing a full-strength squad to choose from for the first time this summer when the series against Australia starts on Friday and the three matches should provide a clearer indication of where his side are at a year out from the T20 World Cup.

Banton and Malan were yesterday named in a 14-man squad for that series, but even though Roy remains absent with a side strain, only one is likely to keep their place, with Buttler back in the fold and Jonny Bairstow sure to feature somewhere in the top three.

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“I’m excited about the performances of both [players],” said national selector Ed Smith. “Tom Banton’s got an incredibly high ceiling as a player, that was clear a couple of years ago, and I think we’re now starting to see on the international stage what he’s capable of.


Morgan reveals key factors behind best England form after Pakistan win
Morgan blitz helps England take series lead over Pakistan
“What Dawid’s done outstandingly well is that very often, when he’s been given an opportunity, he’s made a real contribution.

“That’s exactly the right approach to the situation that he’s been in, because he has been behind some outstanding cricketers, the likes of Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy. Every time Dawid’s got a chance, he’s acquitted himself very well.”

It is a different story for England’s fringe bowlers, who have struggled to take powerplay wickets and barely managed to keep Pakistan below 200 on Sunday.

David Willey, Saqib Mahmood and Lewis Gregory could all be involved tonight, but have already been dropped for the Australia series, with Sam Curran, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood recalled following their Test exploits.

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Eoin Morgan reveals key factors behind best England form after starring in T20 win over Pakistan

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After Eoin Morgan lifted the World Cup last summer, he took time to consider whether he still wanted to be the man to take England forward.

The transformative, four-year road to white-ball glory had taken a lot out of the England captain, both physically and mentally, and whether or not to embark on another cycle, leading the team until at least the T20 World Cup, was not a decision he wanted to take lightly.

A year on – despite the tournament having been pushed a further 12 months down the line – it looks like he made the right call.

In 10 T20i innings since the end of the World Cup, Morgan has averaged 51, a run that included his highest-ever international score in the format (91) and three other half-centuries.

Sunday’s 66 off 33 balls, anchoring England to victory over Pakistan at Old Trafford, was the latest of them, and the 33-year-old believes he is hitting the ball better than ever.

“Definitely and the numbers back that up,” he said. “Even before this series started, certainly in T20 cricket, the last two years of international cricket and some domestic are my best numbers to date.


Morgan blitz helps England take series lead over Pakistan
“It’s nice that I’m feeling good but it’s actually replicated in the numbers as well.”

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The secret, he believes, is having ownership of where and when he bats.

“I think experience and confidence and actually the roles that I play I’m more comfortable with,” Morgan added. “Before I became captain, jumping up and down the order I didn’t feel that comfortable with, whereas now that it’s my decision I feel more at ease.”

More troubling over the coming 12 months may be working out exactly who should bat above and below him.


At the top of the order, Morgan’s problem is the proverbial ‘nice one to have’. With Jos Buttler absent on Test duty and Jason Roy out injured, Tom Banton has been given the opportunity to open in the current series.

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Tom Banton hit an impressive 71 in the first T20 against Pakistan on Friday (Getty Images for ECB)
A coming-of-age 71 off 42 balls in Friday night’s washed-out opener was followed by a powerplay partnership of 65 with Jonny Bairstow on Sunday, though his more experienced team-mate did most of the heavy lifting.

With Bairstow up the order, Dawid Malan has slotted in at three, and stroked it around nicely for his own 50 on Sunday, even if he had to play second fiddle to Morgan. His inability to start quickly may hold him back, but his numbers speak for themselves.

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“I think we’re in a period where there are a lot of good top-order batters available to us,” Morgan said. “I don’t know why that is. I know a lot of the guys who tend to score the majority of their runs for the counties bat in the top three or four, so that might be the case.

“It’s great to see those two coming in scoring those runs. Tom, the way he played the other day is exactly how we see him play in a Somerset shirt so that’s awesome. Dawid has just continued to score runs at a rate so his start to his international career is unlike many others.”

With so much depth up top, it has been suggested that the team might be better balanced by shuffling Buttler down the order, into the flexible finishing position in which several players have been given chances over the past few series, but that none has so far made his own.

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Should Jos Buttler be moved down the batting order? (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
That is, Morgan says, still an option looking ahead to the World T20, but he highlighted the key difference between Buttler, Roy and Bairstow – who lest we forget, have one global medal in their pockets already – and the likes of Banton and Malan, who are so keen to force their way in.

“When you’re trying to fine tune selection of the final XI – which is very hard to do a year out from a World Cup – the teams that you pit them against are the best in the world,” he said. “So, do they perform like that against the best in the world? Or do they just perform against a certain number of teams?

“The three guys at the top of the order in our strongest XI do it against everybody, which is one of our strengths. Whereas if you were to bring one of the younger guys in who was less experienced, with less runs under his belt, it might be a bigger challenge.”

For Morgan himself, of course, both experience and runs are in plentiful supply.

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