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BBL 11 | English players to leave early, teams search for combination as a consequence

Six English players of five major Big Bash League teams would be departing before January 07 as they will have to prepare at home to leave for the West Indies tour which begins on January 22. 

The six players are Sam Billings, Saqib Mahmood, George Garton, Tymal Mills, Reece Topley and James Vince who will be flying out with England's T20I squad to Barbados on January 15. They will take part in a five-match series that the Windies will host after their assignment with Ireland gets over. 

None of the England Test squad members who are currently in Australia for the Ashes series is part of the team that would be travelling to the West Indies.  Assistant coach Paul Collingwood, who left Australia prior to Christmas, will stand in for the T20I portion of the Caribbean tour.

While Thunder have signed Mohammad Hasnain to cover up for the loss of Mahmood, the Sixers have also roped in Pakistan all-rounder Shadab Khan as a replacement to Vince.  

Other teams such as Adelaide Strikers (Garton), Melbourne Renegades (Topley) and Perth Scorchers (Mills) are still in search of a perfect replacement which is hard to find given the rise in Covid-19 cases and subsequently the toughness of the quarantine.

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Rahul Dravid hails 'phenomenal' Kohli for keeping India's morale high despite 'noise' around him

Virat Kohli may well have lost the trust of the top brass of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and selectors after his decision to quit T20I captaincy and the series of statements in its aftermath, but he has not lost the trust of one of the most important voice which matters for the Indian team. India’s head coach Rahul Dravid has come out in the open to praise the intensity and commitment of Kohli and said that the Test skipper has been “phenomenal” in his efforts to lead the side despite all the “noise” surrounding him in the last few days. He hailed Kohli for keeping the morale of the side higher after coming to South Africa and reiterated the importance of keeping all the players in good mental space before a big series. Kohli has not scored a century since a Test century against Bangladesh in November 2019 but Dravid did not mark this as a point of concern and said that a big innings is just round the corner for him. He said that Kohli has been preparing really well for his batting challenges and that he will make it count once he clicks in the series. "I couldn't speak more highly about him and the way he has committed to his preparation and also just the way he has connected with the group, on and off the field," Dravid said. "Even personally, he is in a good space. Even though he hasn't been able to convert starts. I feel there is a big run of really good scores coming from him. Just observing him around the group, and looking at how relaxed and switched on he is, I do feel, we are going to see a big run of scores once he clicks. He has been a real credit to himself and the team despite the noise that has been around him. "I know there has been a lot of noise on other issues leading up to this particular Test. Honestly, keeping the morale high is not very difficult. It has been led by the skipper himself. Virat has been phenomenal over the last 20 days that we have been here, the way he has trained and connected with the group. As a coach, sometimes, leading into the series, there isn't too much you can do once the game starts. You are looking to prepare well and get the team into a good space," Dravid said in the pre-match press conference from Johannesburg. The world would have been waiting for Kohli to address the fresh set of revelations made by the chairman of selectors, Chetan Sharma over his decision to relinquish T20I captaincy. However, it has not been Kohli addressing the pre-match press conference as per tradition but Dravid has had to perform the duty. Dravid’s address to the media quashed the possibility of flaring up the controversy but the former India skipper downplayed the issue of Kohli not coming to the press conference and said that he will be up for it before his 100th Test match which will be the third and last Test of the series. “Nothing like that. I don't decide this anyway. But the BCCI media team have told me he is just being held back ahead of the 100th Test in Cape Town, you all can celebrate him in a big way then,” Dravid reckoned. India are 1-0 up in the series and they will be eager to win the second Test of the series to win their first-ever Test series in the rainbow nation.


SA vs IND | 2nd Test Preview: Proteas face uphill task to stop Virat Kohli and men's juggernaut

Team India justified the title of ‘Boxing Day Test” by landing a real hard punch on South Africa in the first Test of the series and are just waiting to get on with their course to add a new chapter in the new year to their ever so growing legacy. Between two Boxing Day Tests, they have had remarkable success and their mastery of the format has been exemplary. If anything that the year 2021 showed about them, it went established their dominance in the format and over other teams that were always expected out of them. They were always a slow-starter, at least on the overseas tours but in the year they showed that they have become a side who have covered all their bases and they don’t put the foot off the pedal to allow the opposition any chance. They were not favourites to start the series against South Africa but that was only due to their inglorious past in the country. All the honest followers of the game would have expected them to be a superior side than Dean Elgar’s side in the three-match long series, and like they have been doing in the past year or so, they emerged superior side over the course of four days of the Tests. Former England skipper and now a venerable voice of the game, Michael Atherton rates Test cricket with India as an arm-wrestling where he says the men in blue keep on fighting bout by bout before the opponent run out of will and ammunition and then the Kohli-led side pounce on them to conquer the moments. The first Test in Centurion was a highlight of those assertions about India. They were challenged by a course-correcting bowling lineup on the third day but their bowlers brought them back in the game. Then, Dean Elgar and Temba Bavuma challenged them on the final day of the Test before Jasprit Bumrah found a magical delivery to end Proteas skipper’s resistance. South Africa were in the game on many occasions but they could not defeat the Virat Kohli-led side in a long-term contest spread across various moments and situations and hence fell way short, in the end, to make the victory look like a comprehensive one for the tourists. The fact is that they were in the game but were outclassed by a formidable opponent who have all the ammunition and they came firing all cylinders at the right time to seize their opportunities. Now, having conquered South Africa’s fortress in Centurion, can Kohli and his men repeat their heroics at a venue where they have a commendable history to create a never-been-done-before piece of history? India have landed their first punch on the hosts and it’s the hosts who are under pressure to respond in the series, which is quite a new phenomenon for India in Test cricket overseas. They put Australia (in 2018-19), England and now South Africa in the same situation and Dean Elgar will have his tasks cut out to rally his troops to bring their best at the Wanderers. Match Details South Africa vs India Match number- 02 Venue: The Wanderers, Johannersburg Date and Time: 03 Jan to 07 Jan, 01:30 PM IST, 08:00 AM Broadcast in India: Star Sports and Hotstar Pitch and weather The pitch in Centurion offered plenty of pace and bounce to the fast bowlers and Wanderers has always been one of the fastest venues in South Africa. The trend is likely to sustain during the second Test of the series as South Africa wouldn’t be comfortable in playing on a flat surface because that will nullify their pacers and bring Ravichandran Ashwin into the game. Batsmen on either side of the fence should be ready for another round of examination around the off stump and should also be ready t face the sweet chin music in the second Test. Like the first Test, the team that will score most runs in the first innings will have an upper hand considering variable bounce on offer on the final days of the game. The weather god is unlikely to be any kinder than they were in Centurion with three of the five days of the game expecting to be affected by persistent spells of rain. The first Test would have been impacted by the rain if not for the bowling-friendly surface and the second Test should also offer the same sort of contest between bat and ball. Team News South Africa South Africa played Marco Jansen in the first Test in a move that appeared the Proteas preferred him over Duanne Olivier but the clarifications came about his unavailability later on. It is expected that the right-arm pacer would make his way back into the playing XI but Jansen could well have done enough both with the bat and ball to complicate things for the hosts. They could very well go for the route other sides have opted against India on seaming tracks and drop Keshav Maharaj to accommodate Olivier while keeping an eye on Jansen’s control as a left-arm pacer. He created a lot of difficulties for the batsmen on a bouncy surface at the SuperSport Park and with the surface at Wanderers likely to throw up a similar challenge, it would be tempting to retain him for the second Test. If they don’t want to drop Maharaj, Olivier could also come in for Wiaan Mulder, who doesn’t have bright performance in either department to be confident of his chances to play the second Test. Quinton de Kock announced an abrupt retirement from the format but his decision is unlikely to create any sort of difference to the Proteas side as he was anyways supposed to miss the last two Tests of the series. Kyle Verreynne should wear the wicketkeeping gloves in his absence. Probable XI Dean Elgar (C), Aiden Markram, Keegan Petersen, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma, Kyle Verreynne (WK), Marco Jansen, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier, Keshav Maharaj India India have the same conundrum going into the second Test that they had to deal with before the start of the first Test and it revolves around the perpetual question over the form and length of rope given to the duo of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane. Pujara got a golden duck in the first innings and did not shine in the second innings either while Rahane appeared to be in brilliant touch with the bat in both innings before getting out in manners which have become a frustrating trend of his career in the last few years. India did not opt for an in-form Shreyas Iyer and a prepared Hanuma Vihari and backed the experienced duo to their jobs. Now, they chose to continue putting their faith in them, dropping them from the next game would be an inconsistent selection call. However, Dravid has hinted of some “tough conversation” and they could find themselves warming the bench. Rahane seemed to be in good touch and could well have done enough to sustain himself in the race while the time is running rapidly out of Pujara’s hands. Probable XI Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammad Shami, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah CE Fantasy XI Rishabh Pant, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Aiden Markram, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammad Shami, Kagiso Rabada, Jasprit Bumrah, Duanne Olivier Captain – KL Rahul Vice-Captain – Dean Elgar


BBL 11 | Covid-depleted Stars thrashed by Scorchers

With their 10 players having tested Covid positive, Melbourne Stars and its captain Glenn Maxwell didn’t really have much of a choice to field a playing xi. It was always going to be a tough battle for a below-par Stars side against Perth Scorchers one of the top-notch sides in the league. It turned out to be the same as they were thrashed by 50 runs to suffer their fourth loss of the tournament. The chase of 180 was started in great fashion by Stars openers Joe Clarke and Tom Rogers as they added 78 for the first wicket in only 51 balls. However as both of them fell in consecutive overs, it was difficult for the rest of the batters to keep up with the asking rate especially as Maxwell failed to make any significant contribution with the bat. Apart from Clarke’s 52 and Rogers’ 32, only Charlie Wakim and Hilton Cartwright could get into the double figures as the entire team got all out for 130 in the 19th over. For Scorchers, Tymal Mills, Andrew Tye and Peter Hatzoglou picked three, two and two wickets respectively. Leg spinner Hatzoglou was given the Player of the Match award for picking two crucial wickets of Maxwell and well set Rogers. Earlier in the evening, after winning the toss and choosing to bat first at the Junction Oval, Melbourne, Scorchers didn’t really have a good start as they lost Cameron Bancroft early on in the innings. However, two in-form batters in Colin Munro and Kurtis Patterson paired up to add 68 runs for the second wicket. While Munro was dismissed for 40 off just 20 balls, Patterson completed his fifty, scoring 54 off 39 balls. However, post that they lost quick wickets until skipper Ashton Turner scored 27 off 19 balls and Ashton Agar made 19 off 16 balls to take Scorchers to 180-8 in their 20 overs. With this win, the Scorchers have now reached the top of the table having accumulated seven wins out of eight games. They are 2.5 points ahead of second-placed Sydney Sixers.


SA vs IND | 2nd Test: Amla believes laser-like focus from batters only way for Proteas to come back

After going down to India by 113 runs in the first Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion, the South Africans would be looking to start a new in the new year and what better way to do that than have one of the greatest batters to put on the Protea cap advise you. Hashim Amla, a legend of the game with more than 9000 Test runs to his kitty in 124 Tests believes that batters have to take up the onus upon them, especially Temba Bavuma, who looked in good touch in the first game. “There’s certainly a way back but it’s going to take laser-like focus for extended periods and a touch a fortune,” said Amla in a press release by Cricket South Africa. “Our two best batters in the middle are Temba and Quinton (de Kock). Now that Quinton has opted out of Test cricket, this cripples the batting line-up further and really, now more than ever, it makes it imperative for Temba to bat higher. Be it three or four, allow him time to play a solidifying role as opposed to a recovery one,” he added. Amla also went on to say that openers Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram are class players and they need to bring on their ‘A’ game to the fore if South Africa are to keep their record of not losing a home Test series to India alive. “Dean and Aiden are class players with a pedigree for hundreds and if they get momentum, it would certainly ease the nerves and give much-needed confidence for the younger guys,” said the 38-year-old. The second Betway Test takes place from 03-07 January at Imperial Wanderers in Johannesburg. India lead the series 1-0.