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Pakistan bowling coach under spotlight after England drubbing

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Islamabad: It was after ages on Friday that fast bowler Hasan Ali finally managed to deliver an unplayable yorker — the first by a Pakistani pacer in the Nottingham ODI — to dismiss a well-set Tom Curran. Just why yorker is no longer a regular weapon in Pakistan fast bowlers’ armoury is a million-dollar question for the team management to answer.

England, of course, are on a roll ahead of the all-important World Cup. Brimming with confidence, they are belting Pakistan bowlers at will on placid batting tracks at home. It would be no surprise if the World Cup produces mountain of runs. Indeed, a Herculean task lies ahead for all bowlers.

The healthy-looking totals in the range of 330-360, and that too in England, do not appear safe anymore as the first three ODIs between England and Pakistan signified. England have done the job smartly if compared with Sarfraz Ahmed and his men. No doubt the English bowlers were smashed almost the same way as the Pakistan bowlers were thrashed by the home batsmen but the hosts have somehow managed to assess the target better than the tourists in all three ODIs.

 

Fingers crossed for the World Cup, one has to acknowledge that Pakistan batsmen have done fairly well in England so far. Scoring 340 or above in three consecutive ODIs was never expected from the Men in Green, and that too in England, no matter how easy the pitches are. So give them a break.

However, it’s the Pakistan bowlers — looking completely clueless at the moment – who need to shape up with less than two weeks left in the mega event. Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Faheem Ashraf along with a budding pacer Mohammad Hasnain, and spinners Yasir Shah and Imad Wasim have been absolutely toothless in front of the rampaging England batsmen. Adding to the woes of the Pakistan camp, the out-of-form Mohammad Amir who was tipped to lead the country’s pace attack a couple of years ago, is recovering from chickenpox and is currently not available.

And when the bowlers are put under the spotlight because of their consistently poor show, it is only logical that the report card of the bowling coach should be scrutinised.

Head coach Mickey Arthur and batting coach Grant Flower are often criticised whenever the team flops. And rightly so. But what about Azhar Mahmood, the bowling coach? It is only pertinent to ask just what has he achieved to improve Pakistan bowling department ever since his appointment in November 2016?


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Ben Stokes sorry for outrageous fluke on day of redemption

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London: His latest apology was to the people of New Zealand for one of the most outrageous sporting flukes that contributed to England winning the Cricket World Cup at the expense of the country of his birth.

Stokes had already broken New Zealand hearts by steering England out of early strife in the final at Lord’s, giving his adopted nation a fighting chance of victory heading into the last over.

His mighty six over midwicket left England needing nine runs to win with three balls left.

 

Smashing the next ball deep into the leg side, he set off to run two and ensure he kept the strike. As he sprinted back to the striker’s end, he dived and stretched his bat out in a desperate bid to reach the crease. The ball, thrown in by Martin Guptill, struck Stokes’ outstretched bat and deflected 90 degrees, rolling all the way to the boundary in front of the famous pavilion at Lord’s.

It was another six for Stokes two ran, as well as four for the boundary. He held up both hands in an apologetic gesture to New Zealand’s players.

“I said to Kane Williamson, ‘I’ll be apologising for that for the rest of my life’,” said Stokes, who was born in Christchurch and moved to England when he was 12.

Yet Stokes, who finished regulation play unbeaten on 84, wasn’t finished there.

He came back out with England wicketkeeper Jos Buttler for the World Cup’s first ever Super Over, required because the match was tied after the regulation 50 overs per side, and struck eight runs in the first four balls. One of them was a boundary.

With the Super Over also tied, England ultimately won using the tiebreaker of boundaries scored. Stokes hit eight of England’s total of 26 and was named man of the match.

“He’s almost superhuman,” England captain Eoin Morgan said.

It felt like a day of redemption at Lord’s for Stokes, often described as the bad boy of English cricket because of a rap sheet that recently included a court case for his involvement in a street brawl in Bristol after a one-day international against the West Indies in September 2017.

Stokes knocked unconscious a man who, according to the England allrounder, was verbally abusing two gay men outside a club.

He was found not guilty by a court of affray in August last year. He was, however, handed an eight-match suspension by the England and Wales Cricket Board and fined 30,000 pounds ($38,000).

“I have already apologised to my teammates, coaches and support staff for the consequences of my actions in Bristol,” Stokes said in a statement issued in December.


“I regret the incident ever happened and I apologize to England supporters and to the public for bringing the game in to disrepute.”

Stokes spent a night in a prison cell in 2011 after being arrested for obstructing a police officer. He apologised but was still sent home for going out drinking with a teammate until the early hours during an England Lions tour of Australia in 2013.

He also missed the Twenty20 World Cup in 2014 after injuring his hand punching a dressing-room locker following a golden duck against the West Indies.

Indeed, Stokes hasn’t had much luck at the T20 worlds. In 2016, he was hit for four straight sixes by Carlos Brathwaite in the last over of the final against West Indies as England slumped to an improbable loss at Eden Gardens in Kolkata.

“I thought, ‘I’ve just lost the World Cup’,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

But all is forgiven after what he produced at Lord’s.

“It was almost written in the stars for Ben Stokes,” England batsman Joe Root said. “He’s had such a tough time, I’m so proud of him and pleased for him and his family.”

Stokes said that experience from 2016 meant there was no way he was going to put his hand up to bowl in the Super Over.

“But there was no chance I wasn’t going to bat,” he said.

“It’s fantastic,” he added. “Without the lads in the ODI team and the test team and the support from my family […] that’s all gone now.”

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Kiwis praise team but query ‘cruel’ rules

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London: Heartbroken New Zealanders expressed pride on Monday in the Black Caps’ fighting spirit after defeat to England in the Cricket World Cup final, but also bemusement at the obscure rules that cost them the match.

The Black Caps lost even though scores were tied at the end of both regular play and a Super Over shootout, with England’s superior boundary count giving them victory.

As Kiwi fans absorbed a second straight loss in the tournament decider, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was concentrating on the positives.

 

“That was undeniably an incredible game. I think as a nation we all aged a year in that Super Over,” she posted on social media.

“Congratulations to England. And to the Black Caps, I feel nothing but pride. What a team.”

But her sports minister Grant Robertson questioned the tie-break method.

“What an extraordinary game. Not sure Super Over is the right end,” he tweeted.

“Whatever, NZ you can be so, so proud of this team.”

Former Black Cap Scott Styris labelled governing body the ICC “a joke” over the rules but congratulated both teams on a stunning efforts.

Former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming’s one-word reaction to the result was “cruel”, while even the father of England’s Kiwi-born match-winner Ben Stokes felt the Kiwis were hard done by.

Gerard Stokes, a former New Zealand rugby league international who took his son to England as a boy while he pursued his career, said honours were even.

“It’s a shame there has to be a loser,” he told the New Zealand Herald.

“They could have shared the trophy but that doesn’t seem to be how things are done these days.”

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Rift between Kohli and Rohit after WC semi exit? BCCI mulls split captaincy

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Mumbai: Ever since India’s ouster in the semi-final of the 2019 World Cup, there have been a lot of talks about the areas where the team lacked and also how it was too reliant on the duo of skipper Virat Kohli and his deputy Rohit Sharma when it came to scoring runs.

While this has been an area that is also highlighted from the scoring charts of the World Cup, another factor that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is keen to discuss is the idea of split captaincy.

Speaking to IANS, a board functionary said that good teams start preparations immediately after one campaign ends and the biggest result of that is England winning the World Cup on Sunday. So, keeping an eye on the next campaign, India too could look at the option of having Rohit lead the team in the shorter format while Kohli continues in Tests.

 

“This would be the right time for Rohit to take over the mantle of the captaincy in the 50-over format. There has been immense support to the present captain and the management and it is time to plan ahead for the next World Cup and for that the existing ideas and plans need a fresh look. We all know some areas need a relook. Rohit would be the right man for the job,” the functionary said.

But as per the functionary, the biggest concern that has come up post the exit is the talks of different camps and rumours of a rift between the Kohli and Rohit.That could be detrimental for Indian cricket as the team looks to move forward and the matter is set to be discussed when the review meeting takes place with coach Ravi Shastri, captain Kohli and chief selector MSK Prasad in the presence of the Committee of Administrators (CoA).

“You are aware that Vinod Rai (CoA chief) has already mentioned that a review meeting will take place. This will have to be ascertained when the review takes place and it is important to get to the bottom of these rumours,” the functionary added.

While Rai has claimed that a review meeting will take place to assess the performance of the team, there are clearly more problem areas that need immediate attention.

Interestingly, the last time there was a meeting where the CoA members had met the senior players and coach – during the Test against West Indies in Hyderabad last year – Kohli and Rohit’s difference of thought was visible when it came to resting players in the IPL keeping the World Cup in mind.

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