BBL 11 | Saqib Mahmood demolishes Heat on Big Bash debut

It was a dream Big Bash League debut for Englishman Saqib Mahmood as he destroyed the Brisbane Heat top order with his opening spell to hand his team Sydney Thunder an easy win in the 11th edition of the Australian premier T20 competition. 

Bowing his first over in his opening spell, Mahmood dismissed Chris Lynn and Ben Duckett in a span of just four balls to rock the Heat even before its chase of 197 really got underway. If that was to be seen as an anomaly and one-off experiences that a bowler on league debut picked two wickets in his first over, the Lancashire pacer made sure that it wasn’t anymore in his second over. 

In his second over and the innings’ third, the right arm pacer dismissed Sam Heazlett on the very first ball and, Max Bryant got run out on the second ball and then Mahmood removed skipper Jimmy Peirson on the fifth ball to sink Heat to the rock bottom. At the end of the third over, the team in ocean blue was under all sorts of trouble at 15-5 all thanks to the brilliant bowling from Mahmood. 

Thankfully a partnership developed between Tom Cooper and James Bazley and the duo steered Heat past the 50 run mark. However, spinners Chris Green and Tanveer Sangha removed both Cooper and Bazley in two consecutive overs to throw Heat under the rails at 60-7 where they were looking down at scoring their lowest ever BBL total in history. 

However, 79 runs stand for the eighth wicket, the highest ever in BBL history by Xavier Bartlett and Mark Steketee got the Brisbane side past 130. When the partnership was eventually broken at 139, Steketee was removed on 33 by Daniel Sams. The last two wickets fell in the next three balls as the team was all out on 143, losing the game by a huge margin of 53 runs. Bartlett who remained unbeaten on 42 was the top scorer for the Heat. 

Earlier in the evening, after winning the toss and asking thunder to bat first, Heat wasn’t really able to justify the call as Thunder openers Alex Hales and Matthew Gilkes got off to a decent start, putting on 55 for the first wicket within the powerplay. The batters to follow, Jason Sangha and Sam Billings too batted well with Billing going on to score a brilliant 64 off just 27 balls at a strike rate of more than 200. 

Thanks to those runs from the top four, Thunder scored 196-7 in their 20 overs. For Heat, Bartlett, Steketee and Mitchell Swepson picked two wickets each.

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Vijay Hazare Trophy | Deepak Hooda’s century only shining point in Rajasthan’s bashing by Karnataka

Deepak Hooda, who witched last season from his home state of Baroda to Rajasthan, played a fine inning for his new team in their Vijay Hazare Trophy 2021 pre-quarter-final against Karnataka. However, his century was not even near enough to get Rajasthan to a good total as he found no support whatsoever from the other batters. On the back of his 109 and a 33 from SV Joshi that Rajasthan could get past the 150 mark, but missed the 200 mark, eventually ending up on 199 in 41.4 overs. Hooda was the eighth wicket to fall on 193. For Karnataka, V Vyshak, who is playing his maiden domestic season, picked four wickets for 22 runs. Chasing 200 was just a cakewalk for the Karnataka unit which is full of dynamic batters. KV Siddharth was the top scorer with an unbeaten 85 while R Samarth and Manish Pandey struck individual fifties too. Brief scores here Akshdeep Nath and Rinku Singh lead UP to quarterfinals In another pre-quarterfinal match at the Jaipuria Vidhyalaya Ground in Jaipur, Uttar Pradesh, the last season’s runner’s up defeated Madhya Pradesh by five wickets to march into yet another quarterfinal. For the North Indian team, experienced batter Aksh Deep Nath and wicket-keeper batter Rinku Singh were the crusaders with the bat, both of them hitting compelling fifties. Chasing 235 set by Madhya Pradesh, the UP team didn’t get off to a good start and were two down for only seven runs. Venkatesh Iyer struck with the ball for MP to take the third UP wicket and the chasing team was under all sorts of pressure at 43/3 before Nath paired up with Sameer Rizvi for a 58 run stand to stabilise the innings. Omec Rizvi was removed courtesy of a runout, Rinku teamed up with Nath for a match-winning 97 run stand for the fifth wicket. Though Nath missed out on a golden opportunity to score a century, getting out on 78, Rinku made sure he not only reached his List-A fifty but also took his team home unbeaten, He was supported by India international Bhuvneshwar Kumar who scored 16*. Brief scores here Yash Thakur bails Vidarbha out In the third and last pre-quarterfinal Vidarbha bailed out of what could have been a devastating loss to them at the hands of Plate Group winner Tripura. Tripura after managing to restrict Vidarabha for 258/7 in the 50 overs, started well in their chase as their openers scored 96 for the first wicket. Even the second wicket partnership of 49 runs was in line with their target. At 145-1 after 33 overs with two set batsmen at the crease and only 113 runs needed of 102 balls, anyone would have backed Tripura to go all the way and cause an upset. But it wasn’t to be. Yash Thakur’s belligerent spell not only saw the back of the two set batters in Bikram Kumar Das and Samit Gohel but also removed Tripura skipper Pawan KB and was instrumental in the run out of RA Dey, bringing the Northeastern team down to 158-5 in the 38th over. From there onwards, the only thing remaining was formalities and it was completed by the remaining Vidrabha bowlers in Darshan Nalkande and Atharva Taide who picked three and one wickets respectively. Brief scores here Courtesy of these wins, the three teams have now made it to the Quarterfinals of the Vijay Hazare Trophy. In the first set of quarterfinals, Karnataka will face Tamil Nadu on December 21 at the K L Saini Stadium in Jaipur while on the same day, Himachal will face Uttar Pradesh at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur. In the next set of quarterfinals on December 22, Kerala will take on Services at the K L Saini Stadium while Vidarbha will be up against Saurashtra at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur.


The Ashes | Day-Night Test: England's batting woes continue as hosts pick crucial wickets on Day 4

England’s struggle with the bat continued in the second innings of the second Ashes Test in Australia after they were reduced to 82/4 on the penultimate day of the clash with the likes of in-form batsmen Dawid Malan and Joe Root back in the hut. The visitors have been handed a target of 468 runs in the second innings of the Day-night Test and the Joe Root-side has once again failed to find any form with the willow. England had a disappointing start to chase as the lost opener Haseeb Hameed early in the innings after he was removed for zero by Jhye Richardson. Rory Burns was then joined by Dawid Malan and the two batsmen tried to steady the ship for the side and stitched a partnership of 48 runs before Malan was trapped in front of the stumps by Neser and was sent back for 20. Burns followed Malan after some time for 34 as Steve Smith held on to a good catch in the slips to give Richardson his second wicket of the innings. But England’s misery didn’t really stop here. Captain Root along with Ben Stokes once again tried to provide the resistance but some good bowling from the Australians fetched Root’s wicket eventually as the right-hander was sent packing for 24 by Mitchell Starc, leaving England struggling at 82/4. While Richardson had a couple of scalps at the end of the day, Starc and Neser picked up one a piece. Earlier, in the day, the English bowler showed some determination and mettle in the first session of the play and picked up early wickets to reduce the hosts to 55/4 with stand-in captain Steve Smith also dismissed. But Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head had some different plans. The two batters didn’t just bring the team back on track but also scored individual fifties during the course of the second innings. Apart from them, Cameron Green also chipped in with an important 33 to help Australia put 230/9 (D) on the board and continue the dominance in the match. Root, Malan and Ollie Robinson picked up two wickets each while James Anderson and Stuart Broad had one each to their names. Richardson later talked about Root’s dismissal at the end of play and also lauded Green after he scored some crucial runs for the side. “Nicely set up from Lyon from one end. Ruffled Root there and drew the false shot. I didn't think I bowled too badly in the first innings. The wicket has quickened up a little bit today. It was nice to see him (Green) get some runs as well,” he said. The Australian side is presently leading the five-match series 1-0 and would look to tighten up the grip with another win.


Super Smash | Canterbury Kings blow away Wellington Firebirds to avenge Final’s loss

Canterbury Kings avenged last season’s final of Super Smash by serving a 6-wicket drubbing to Wellington Firebirds on Sunday, 19 December. Chasing a tricky total of 152 runs, Kings wasted no time in attacking the Firebirds’ bowling attack and put them out of shape very early in the game. The charge was led by Chad Bowes, who put first three balls of the innings for boundary, pushing back Hamish Bennett straight away. The 34-year-old New Zealand national team star was taken off the attack after just two overs having spilled 22 runs. Things were looking quite comfortable at the end of the powerplay with Kings scoring 61 runs having lost just one wicket of their opener K McClure. However, things got a little tricky in the middle with Kings losing two more wickets in quick succession inside the next four overs, although that seemed to do little to stop Bowes who kept on attacking the bowlers whenever he could. Wicket-keeper batsman Cam Fletcher walked in at number four in the fag end of the ninth over and started off cautiously. As Bowes crossed his personal milestone of 50 runs in the 11th over, Fletcher looked to tee off. From eight runs off 11 balls, Fletcher went on a rapid counter attacking spree to score 52 runs off just 28 deliveries. The last wicket to fall was of Bowes in the 16th over, but the game was done at that point. Kings chased down the target in 16.3 overs with six wickets remaining. Earlier in the first innings, the pace duo of Ed Nuttall and Matt Henry were on the money against Firebirds and picked up regular wickets to damage any possible moment the Firebirds could fetch. If it were not for the death overs spree from Logan van Beek and Peter Younghusband, Firebirds would not have been able to cross 150 runs. As the charts stand, Canterbury Kings are ranked second in the list having won two out of their first three games. Central district lead the charts with 10 points from four matches.