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Bangabadhu T20 Cup: Skipper Mahmudullah leads Khulna to title win

The month-long T20 extravaganza in Bangladesh’s domestic cricket came to an end with Mahmudullah-led Gemcon Khulna beating Gazi Group Chattogram in a humdinger of a game by five runs at the Sher-e-Bangla cricket stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka. In a classic final, the Chattogram team had to find a different hero as all of its stars failed to shine on the day that mattered the most. 

Be it the tournament’s highest scorer Liton Das, big hitter Soumya Sarkar, or the 'Fizz' Mustafizur Rahaman. Even the skipper Mohammad Mithun and fancied young all-rounder Mosaddek Hossain couldn’t do much. However, it was an unlikely hero in Shykat Ali that took the fight to the opposition and challenged the Khulna team which was running away with the game initially. 

At one point in time, the men from the port city were struggling at 96-4 in 14.2 overs when Shykat decided to change gears and took the team as close as requiring 16 from the last six deliveries.  

However, experienced Shahidul Islam held his nerve and bowled some brilliant lines to defend the total. Even after getting hit for a six off the last ball, he was able to win the game for his team by five runs.  

Earlier, sent in to bat first after losing the toss, Khulna did not have an ideal start as they lost their opener, Jahurul Islam, for a golden duck. Wickets kept falling until skipper Mahmudullah joined Ariful Islam in the middle. The pair added 40 runs for the fifth wicket and gave some semblance to the innings. 

After Ariful’s departure, Mahmudullah partnered with all the lower order batsmen, including Shuvagato Hom and Mashrafe Mortaza, to take the team total a fighting 150. He was helped by Soumya Sarkar’s wayward bowling in the final over in which he scored 17 runs. In total Mahmudullah scored a brilliant 70* off 48 balls and was adjudged Man of the Match for his efforts. 

Mustafiz of the Chattogram team was awarded Man of the Series for his brilliant bowling throughout the tournament, in which he took 22 wickets in just 10 games. 

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World Test Championship and the chances of India reaching the finals

Like most things in the world in 2020, the inaugural World Test Championship also got the bashing of COVID-19. As a result, the points system, which was plain and simple, with each series containing 120 points and each team playing six series which would include three home and three away, had to be altered as well. Courtesy of this altering, the Indian team, which was cruising towards Lord's for the 2021 Grand Finale of the first WTC, got a scare with a 0-2 series loss at the hand s of New Zealand and then a humiliating loss at Adelaide to start the Australia tour. Since then it was all one way fro India with two wins and a draw to end that series. At the end of that series that table looks something like this. T S SW P W L Pts Draw PCT IND 5 4 13 9 3 430 1 71.7 NZ 5 3 11 7 4 420 0 70.0 AUS 4 2 14 8 4 332 2 69.2 ENG 5 4 17 10 4 412 3 68.7 PAK 6 2 11 3 5 226 3 37.7 RSA 4 1 10 3 7 144 0 34.3 SL 4 0 8 1 6 80 1 16.7 WI 3 0 7 1 6 40 0 11.1 BAN 2 0 3 0 3 0 0 00.0 To understand the logic behind the table, we need to go back to decision which was taken by the ICC after the covid-19 changed the schedule of a lot of series. Here is how the table works. POP System of Rankings Owing to the pandemic, the International Cricket Council (ICC) cricket committee - headed by Anil Kumble - recommended that the points for the WTC be counted through percentage method instead of the usual points system. The Percentage of Points or POP system meant that the number of points scored by the teams would be divided by the total amount of points available to be won and thus the result would be the percentage of points. For example, India has won 360 points in four series that it has played so far. Now, the four series according to the rule of each series having 120 points, had a total of 480 points. So India’s POP ranking at the end of those four series would be 360 divided by 480 which is equal to 0.75 and if it is converted into a percentage, then it is 75%. So on this pattern, all teams are being ranked. According to the previous system, India was at the top by the virtue of points - 360. However now, Australia because of their better POP ( 296 points from 360 maximum available, which gives them 82.2%) is at the top of the table. Now that New Zealand are through to the finals of the World Test Championship finals, courtesy Australia postponing thier tour of South Africa, the fight is now between India and England. Indirectly even Australia is in the fight. Here are the scenarios which could lead to the qualification of these three teams to the World Test Championship. Different scenarios for India to reach the WTC final The case of India is simple. If India wins two tests and gets a draw out in the series, it is simply through to the finals and England and Australia then have no chance of qualifying. This is because, with two wins and a draw, India would have 500 points out of a possible 720 which would translate to 69.4% in terms of POP, which would be more than Australia's 69.2% and England's 62.7%, and that's how they go through. This is the minimum that India needs to get to play the World Test Championship Finals at Lord's. But what if there are rains and a match gets washed out, in such conditions the points would be split, so each team would get 15 points in case of the India - England series as this contains 30 points for each game. Match getting washed out due to rain is a rare scenario, but even if that happens, Indis would still need to not let England win more than one game to make sure that they reach the finals. How's the road for others! Australia For the Kangaroos, the road has gotten tougher ever since they lost the home series against India. All the Aussie hopes would ironically be pinned England and they would wish for England to win more than one game in India to make sure that India does not cross the 69.2% barrier. If the English are not even able to win a single game then the Baggy Greens and their fans would want the Poms to at least make sure that India down not win more than one game. And even if India manages to win more than one game, then England goes on to win two as well. But there is another twist in the tale, which is, the Australians wouldn't want England to win more than two games either. So the progression of Tim Paine' men to the WTC finals is totally dependent upon both the teams not playing their best form of cricket and drawing the series 0-0 or 1-1. And if not, then both the teams playing their best form of cricket and drawing the series 2-2. The Australians can't afford one team to dominate the entire course of the series. England For England to go through the scenario is pretty simple, they have to win more than two games. With their unexpected but brilliant 2-0 series win against Sri Lanka, they have given themselves a chance to make it to Lord's for the all-important WTC finale. But for that to happen, they need to win the series either 3-1 or 3-0 or 4-0. losing more than one game could be fatal for their chances of moving ahead. They are at 412 points and can get up to a maximum of 532 out of 720, which equals to 73.8%. But even if they manage to win three games and lose one, they would reach to 502, which would take them to 69.72% and that would be more than Australia's 69.2 to go through to final. But if England manages to win just two games, their chances perish dramatically as they fall behind the 69.2% barrier. With two wins and two draws, they could get only up to 492 points, which is equal to 68.3% and less than 69.2%, thereby pushing the Aussies into the finals. Thus for them to qualify, more than two wins are required. But if they could not get more than one win in the first three Tests, they can always spoil India's chances of going ahead by either winning or drawing the fourth test, if they have had a win in the previous three.


Covid-19 and South Africa: Two players positive, domestic tourney postponed

If there is one cricket nation that has suffered the most from covid-19, it is no doubt, South Africa. In the latest update, two members of South Africa's Test squad to play Sri Lanka have tested positive for Covid-19. They will no longer be part of the preparations going into the first match to be played on teh Boxing Day, 26th December. The remaining 17 members will now be entering the bubble. Out of these, three were announced today, mostly as replacements for the two positive players. The new members of the squad include the U-19 skipper Raynard van Tonder, Lutho Sipamla, and all-rounder Dwaine Pretorius. Earlier Cricket South Africa had postponed the last round of matches before the break as many domestic players tested positive for the covid-19 as well as due to the second wave hitting the country. "The decision to postpone the upcoming round of four-day matches, which were scheduled from 20-23 December, comes in light of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic which is currently affecting South Africa. In addition, some of the host stadiums are in Covid-19 hotspots," a CSA statement read. Now that two players from teh squad have come positive, the doubt that 10 of South Africa's 16-man squad participated in matches where positive cases of coronavirus were detected, would affect the squad has been fully realized. Even after the positive cases keep on arriving and even after England canceling its tour mid-way, Graeme Smith, the former South Africa captain and currently Director of Cricket of the Cricket South Africa is positive that the board is capable of ensuring a full 2020-21 season. "CSA is committed to mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on the 2020-21 season, with the upcoming two-match Test series between South Africa and Sri Lanka being played in a bio-secure environment, which is a more controlled space than the domestic competition," he said


AUS vs IND: Ashwin rules out comparison with Lyon, calls it 'out of context'

Playing his first test of this year, a lot was stacked against Ravichandran Ashwin while a lot of India’s chances of getting to a good total was riding on his bat. Turned out, the day started on a horror note and it was the wicket of Ashwin who was undone by a jaffa from Pat Cummins that prevented tourists from reaching a total Chesteshwar Pujara had hoped at the end of the first day’s play. Ashwin could not be blamed for the collapse of the lower batting order as it was beyond his pedigree to contain Cummins in full rhythm but India’s long tail was exposed and their vulnerabilities were capitalised by the Australian bowlers and Ashwin was not to be spared either. Although Ashwin has good batting credentials, a lot more was riding on him when the team walked out to fled and defend the Australians from marching ahead with the game and there, Ashwin put his hands up and made his performances counted for the team as the hosts got bundled out in deficit on 191. Australian spinner Nathan Lyon had got assistance from the pitch on the first day and a similar performance was expected off Ashwin when he was brought into the attack when the best Australian batting pair of Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith were at the crease. Ashwin enjoyed the big wicket and celebrated vigorously and at the end of the day’s play, he outlined the value of Smith’s wicket in the context and the phase of the game he got better of Smith. "With regards to the wicket of Steve Smith, obviously it's a big wicket. You know how much time he bats. In the context of the game, and where it was placed, I felt it was a really important wicket so I really enjoyed it,” Ashwin said on his efforts to dismiss Smith with a delivery that went on with the arm and flummoxed Smith who was waiting on the backfoot for it to turn into him. Ashwin had seen Lyon getting overspin on the ball to trouble Indian batsmen on the first day but backed he understands his own game and backed his own set of skills to get the better of Steve Smith in his very first over. There have been discussions about the similarity in skills and dissimilarity in the style of his bowling with that of Lyon’s bowling style, but the off-spinner called all those discussions ‘out of proportions.’ He said that his approach to bowling is different from Lyon’s and that he relies more on consistency with tight line and lengths to control the flow of the game in order to induce false shot out of batsmen. "At times things can get blown out of context on how one approaches their trade. Even in this particular Test, Nathan and I bowl very differently. We are different bowlers and successful in our own way. For me, it's not so much about the trajectory. It's about trying and changing it up and trying to making it difficult for the batsman to be able to defend or score,”: Ashwin added. He also came hard at suggestions that he should watch and learn lessons from Lyon on how to bowl effectively on Australian pitches. He said that expectations of players replicating one another with respect to different playing conditions are unfair expectations to make. "Nobody asks batsmen to go and watch how Steve Smith bats and replicate that all the time when we tour Australia. Nobody does that to Alastair Cook or Joe Root the way they play. We are all aware that everybody skins a cat very, very differently. You can learn, there's no stoppage to what you learn from people. You can always learn all the finer things, how they go about their business, how they set their fields, the passage of play,” Ashwin added while weighing in the thoughts about how differently he approaches a game than many other spinners like him. Ashwin ended up being the most successful bowler for the Indians on day two, picking up four wickets that included big wickets of Travis Head and Cameron green, apart from the popular wicket of Smith in the middle session. However, Ashwin is not going too far ahead with his successful outing on day 2 and reinserted that his role in overseas tests is to hold one end up to give the captain breathing space where other bowlers such as the pacers can be rotated around. He fulfilled that role perfectly as he bowled continuously from one end in the session between the dinner break and tea interval while Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami kept charging in from the other end. "When you are playing abroad, my mindset is to just hold one end up and allow the captain to rotate fast bowlers from the other end. I also go for wickets if there is enough assistance or enough early wickets. For me it's all about making it as difficult as possible for the batsman," Ashwin added. Although Ashwin’s role was to hold one end up, the wickets he picked brought tye momentum backing India’s favour and the Aussies could not quite get back the flow of the game in their favour. Now, India have a lead of 62 runs and have nine wickets in hands. He would hope that batsmen would be able to replicate the resistance they put forward in the first innings and also translate those into big innings to set up a big total for the hosts to chase. Australia will bat last on this pitch and deep down his wise head, Ashwin would be the first one to know that in the second innings his role will not be limited to holding one end up, rather he will have to match his first innings performance if not better it if India have to win this crucial first test to start off the series on a dominating note and put all the pressure they were under onto the host Australia.