England's three-pronged spin attack proved to be the difference as the hosts squared the T20I series against Pakistan at Headingley with a 45-run win.

Jos Buttler returned to skipper England as captain Eoin Morgan sat out and he top scored with a stunning 59 from 39 deliveries at the top of the order.

Moeen Ali (36) and Liam Livingstone (38) supplied explosive middle-order contributions, but England lost wickets frequently and there was a suspicion their 200 all out in 19.5 was a touch shy of what was required in perfect batting conditions in a sweltering Leeds.

But a Pakistan batting line-up that posted 232-6 in a 31-run win at Trent Bridge on Friday were effectively shackled by leg-spinners Adil Rashid (2-30) and Matt Parkinson (1-25) and Moeen's off-spin (2-32), with paceman Saqib Mahmood the pick of the attack thanks to 3-33 that began with the vital wicket of visiting captain Babar Azam (22).

Jason Roy set the tone for England's innings with a huge six and a four off slow left-armer Imad Wasim (2-37) before holing out within the first over.

Dawid Malan scratched around for one off five deliveries – top-edging a sweep off Imad to be caught by Azam Khan – although there were no such problems for Moeen in his blistering 16-ball stay, nor Livingstone, who followed up his incredible century in Nottingham by bludgeoning two fours and three sixes. One of those remarkably cleared the grandstand at the Football Ground End.

Buttler was in typically sublime touch through extra cover and only fell to Mohammad Hasnain (3-51) with a thunderous hit straight to Babar at mid-off.

Jonny Bairstow, Tom Curran and Chris Jordan came and went without being able to produce anything of similar substance and the sense England had been slightly wasteful was heightened as Babar and Mohammad Rizwan (37) added 50 for the first wicket.

Babar skewed a cross-seam delivery from Mahmood to a diving Malan and, as Rashid and Parkinson got into their work, Pakistan were unable to regain their momentum.

A fine return catch from Rashid accounted for Rizwan, while Moeen had Mohammad Hafeez caught behind for 10 and bowled Fakhar Zaman with a beauty to scoop the player of the match award.

England captain Joe Root brought a commendable act of sportsmanship to one of English sport's oldest rivalries on Saturday – although plenty of Yorkshire fans might feel he let Lancashire all-rounder Steven Croft off lightly.

Chasing a meagre 128-7 to win in the T20 Blast Roses match at Old Trafford – Root having top scored with 32 for the visitors – Lancashire slumped to 64-5 in the eighth over.

Croft (26 not out) and Luke Wells (30) embarked upon a rebuilding job that left Dane Villas' side needing 18 from 15 deliveries, at which point Croft collapsed to the ground mid-pitch when trying to run quick single.

The batsman howled in pain and, under instruction from stand-in captain Root, Yorkshire opted not to run him out. After treatment for cramp, Croft was still in the middle when Danny Lamb hit the winning runs and Lancashire secured a quarter-final berth by four wickets.

"As a side we made a very difficult decision under pressure," Root said, as quoted by ESPNCricinfo.

"It looked very serious at first glance. In many ways it was a relief it was nothing serious. I am sure there will be many different opinions. Many people would have handled it differently."

Afterwards, Croft paid tribute to the England skipper and his team-mates, suggesting he'd have been able to have few complaints had he been run out.

"Two games in two days at 36 and a bit of sun has done me," he told Sky Sports. "I put the brakes on, they worked, and my legs just cramped up.

"I didn't know where the ball had gone. They could have taken the bails off and credit to them that they didn't."

West Indies Women’s team captain Stafanie Taylor is already considering a future beyond cricket and has hinted she could be tempted to put up her bat sooner rather than later.

The 30-year-old Taylor has been the most dominant force in West Indies cricket for over a decade.  In a 13-year career, the player has racked up some impressive stats. 

She is third overall on the all-time One Day International runs scoring list with 4908, behind Charlotte Edwards (5992) and Mithali Raj (7304).  In terms of ODI wickets taken she ranks 9th, the second West Indian in a top 10 that also includes teammate Anisa Mohammed.  In terms of T20 runs scored, Taylor has 3121 a figure that is surpassed by only New Zealand’s Suzie Bates.  The West Indian is, however, younger than those ahead of her, in the case of Edwards, by 11 years and the case of Raj by 8.  It’s not even a stretch to imagine the player eventually topping both lists.  She, however, may simply not play that long.

“The youngsters are good to watch. I’m currently here watching them in a series against Pakistan A and they are very vibrant, they seem to really enjoy what they are doing,” Taylor told SportsMax.tv’s InCaseYouMissedIT when quizzed about the future of West Indies cricket.

“It’s important for us too because when I look at myself, I’ll probably retire soon, and you want to know that you are leaving West Indies cricket in good hands.  These girls are the future.”

(Catch this week's episode below)

A second-string India side will start their ODI series in Sri Lanka as favourites, with the hosts heading into Sunday's opener in Colombo against a backdrop of multi-faceted chaos.

The start of the series was delayed by five days due to a coronavirus outbreak in the Sri Lanka camp, with batting coach Grant Flower and team data analyst GT Niroshan testing positive for the Delta variant.

Sri Lanka's squad were allowed to leave isolation and resume their preparations last weekend after returning negative PCR tests.

ESPNcricinfo reported team doctors believed Flower and Niroshan's infections stemmed from the recent tour of England, where the home team suffered a breach of their bio-secure bubble that forced them to name a reserve line-up for their subsequent ODI games against Pakistan.

Although Sri Lanka do not find themselves in quite such a selection bind, they remain without deposed captain Kusal Perera due to a shoulder injury and Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis and Danushka Gunathilaka remain suspended for breaking COVID-19 protocols during the England tour.

Dasun Shanaka will skipper the team, a previously bit-part white ball player having ascended to the role amid a stand-off between Sri Lanka's players and their board over playing contracts.

They will emerge from a troubled period to take on an India side captained by opener Shikhar Dhawan and with pace bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar second in command.

India batting great Rahul Dravid has been named as coach for the tour, with the first-choice side awaiting their forthcoming series in England.

Batsmen Devdutt Padikkal, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Nitish Rana, all-rounder K Gowtham and left-arm seamer Chetan Sakariya have all been handed maiden call-ups.

 

Bhuvi ready to put injury woes to one side

Kumar will be the leader of fast bowling unit also featuring Sakariya, Navdeep Saini and Deepak Chahar. Having been beset by injury problems over recent years, he was back to his best in the March limited-overs series against England. In the ODIs, he took six wickets at a miserly economy rate of 4.65.

Shanaka must show leadership class

Irrespective of how and why Shanaka became Sri Lanka captain, he is now the man in possession of a role that tends not to promise longevity for incumbents. He will need to improve upon 611 runs and 10 wickets from his 28 ODI appearances to date to turn some unhelpful conversations around.

Key Opta facts

- India are undefeated in their past 11 ODI series against Sri Lanka (W9, D2). Their previous defeat was a 3-0 reverse way back in 1997.
- India have won each of eight most recent ODIs in Sri Lanka, all versus the host country. It is a streak that began after a nine-wicket loss in 2012.
- Sri Lanka have at least won their past five ODIs at the R. Premadasa Stadium. The last time they enjoyed a longer winning run at the venue in this format was a six-match span from December 2001 to September 2002.
- Dhawan will become the 25th player to captain India in ODIs. He requires 23 more runs to become the 10th Indian player to register 6,000 runs in 50-over internationals.

Evin Lewis blasted nine sixes and the West Indies to a 16-run victory to complete a 4-1 T20I series triumph over Australia in St Lucia on Friday.

Batting at the top of the order, Lewis smashed 79 from 34 balls, including four fours and nine sixes to get the West Indies off to a flying start after captain Nicholas Pooran won the toss.

Lewis fell at 124-3 at the end of the 11th over, before Andrew Tye took three late wickets while Mitch Marsh impressed again with 12-2.

Pooran (31 from 18) and Chris Gayle (21 from seven) contributed as the West Indies amassed an imposing 199-8, although Australia started brightly in reply led by Marsh.

Marsh came to the crease after opener Josh Philippe fell for one, hitting five fours and one six, before falling off Andre Russell's first ball for 30 from 15 deliveries.

A visibly limping Aaron Finch was spectacularly caught by Fabian Allen with a diving left-hand effort for 34 from 23 off the impressive Hayden Walsh who took the most wickets in the series.

Wickets continued to fall with regularity as Andre Russell finished with a personal T20I best 43-3.

LEWIS PUSHES WORLD CUP CASE

Lewis was dropped after a duck in the opening T20I, before returning with 31 in Wednesday's dead rubber.

But the 29-year-old Trinidadian showcased his ability with a stunning knock on Friday setting the tone for the hosts.

The left-hander is one of the West Indies' players vying for a spot in their final T20 World Cup squad and did his hopes no harm, in a side missing several key players including Kieron Pollard.

Lewis said post-game: "I basically stayed still and watched the ball on to the bat. It's always good to score runs and contribute to the team to get the victory."

The Trinidadian's only two T20I centuries both came in 2017. He added: "I've been working hard from 2017 to now. Obviously, I want to keep scoring runs and cashing in at all times."

MARSH PROVES SHINING LIGHT

Australia lost the series 4-1 with Marsh their shining light from the five-game T20I series, producing another display of his quality in the shortest format on Friday.

Marsh took 12-2 from two overs and crunched 30 from 15, finishing the series with 219 runs at 43.8 with a strike rate above 150.

The big all-rounder also hit 10 sixes throughout the series, double the next best Australian, while he also hit a team-high 20 fours.

Marsh also chipped with the ball, taking a team-high eight wickets, including 24-3.

Finch said: "I think Mitch Marsh stood out with his first opportunity at number three consistently and the role that he did with the ball."

Stand-in West Indies captain Nicholas Pooran insists he is not very bothered by his form, despite a difficult time at the crease in recent matches.

  The Windies currently lead their five-match T20 series against Australia, 3-1. So far, Pooran has made a total of 65 runs in three innings. He was run out in the first game for just 17 from 16 deliveries and did not bat in game 2.  He had a better game 3 when he scored a responsible 32 not out from 27 deliveries to build a partnership with Chris Gayle that led the Windies to the series victory.

Despite that good performance in the previous game, Pooran was dismissed cheaply once again in game 4. With the West Indies chasing 190 to win, he was caught off the bowling of Mitchell Marsh for just 16 from 15 deliveries.

Pooran’s lack of form has been a concern for many West Indies cricket fans and analysts since the IPL earlier this year. The left-hander, who represents the Punjab Kings, only managed 28 runs from 7 matches before the tournament was halted due to the rising COVID cases in India. He was dismissed for a duck 4 times out of his 6 innings with his highest score being 19.

“I’m not worried about myself to be honest. You know I’m getting starts which is very important. A couple of months ago (during the IPL), I wasn’t even getting starts at all so I’m very thankful, very happy to actually be getting starts. So, I’m not worried about myself in all honesty,” Pooran told members of the media during a press conference on Thursday.

  The West Indies will play the final game of their T20 series against Australia tonight at the Darren Sammy National Stadium in St Lucia. They will then move on to Barbados for a three-match ODI series.   

Janneman Malan and Quinton de Kock both hit centuries as South Africa sealed a 70-run win over Ireland on Friday, tying the ODI series at 1-1.

Ireland enjoyed a famous first ever win over South Africa in international cricket last time out, with captain Andy Balbirnie playing a starring role with a knock of 102.

But they were unable to follow that up by clinching what would have been a maiden series triumph over a top-eight ranked team, as the Proteas this time managed to meet expectations by posting 346-4.

The opening partnership of Malan (177 not out) and De Kock (120) set the tone, with each recording impressive knocks. The latter was returning to action after being rested for the previous outings on the tour.

Ireland eventually ended the stand at 225 in the 37th over when De Kock was dismissed by Simi Singh (1-52), but South Africa piled on 100 runs in the final 10 overs to set a significant total.

Ireland were given a mountain to climb in reply after losing Paul Stirling and Balbirnie inside the first four overs. Andy McBrine also fell in the powerplay, while Harry Tector, George Dockrell and Lorcan Tucker departed in quick succession to suddenly leave the score at 92-6.

South Africa-born all-rounder Curtis Campher made 54 but it was Singh who was the star performer with the bat for the hosts, making a maiden ODI century.

He would end up unbeaten on exactly 100 from 91 deliveries as Ireland were bowled out for 276 at the start of the 48th over. Andile Phehlukwayo and Tabraiz Shamsi both claimed three wickets apiece for the Proteas.

 

Malan's the man

The pressure was on South Africa here after a disappointing showing last time, yet Malan – who was by no means in poor form after hitting 84 last time out – looked in control almost throughout. He had few near-misses en route to the best score of his seven-match international career, this his second ton in the 50-over format.

Singh on song

While Ireland's bowlers gave the batsmen too much work to do, Singh provided some positivity towards the end of the innings – without his efforts, it could have been a particularly ugly defeat. His knock included 14 boundaries, and he managed to reach three figures before running out of partners.

England have been drawn in the same group as rivals Australia for the T20 World Cup, while India have been placed in a pool with Pakistan.

The Super 12 stage of the 16-team limited-overs tournament will see England, Australia, South Africa and West Indies do battle in Group 1, along with two qualifying teams.

Group 2 will contain India and Pakistan, along with New Zealand, Afghanistan and an additional two qualifiers.

Eight teams are involved in round one of the tournament and will vie to fill those final four places in the Super 12.

Sri Lanka, Ireland, Netherlands and Namibia are in Group A, while Bangladesh, Scotland, Oman and Papa New Guinea make up Group B, with two from each pool to progress and join the highest-ranked nations.

A short round one stage will include 12 matches, starting on October 17 and the top two from each group progressing.

The winners of Group A joining the group involving England and Australia along with the runners-up of Group B. Bangladesh are favourites to win Group B - if they do, they will join the competitive group containing India along with the side who finishes second in Group A.

The Super 12 stage is scheduled to start a week later from October 24 and will consist of 30 matches, making up the bulk of the tournament.

Only four teams will emerge to contest the semi-finals, with the final then to be held on November 14.

It was confirmed last month by the ICC that the T20 World Cup will now be held in the United Arab Emirates and Oman rather than India this year.

Australia was originally scheduled to host the 2020 tournament ahead of India staging it this year. 

However, the pandemic forced the ICC to postpone last year's tournament, giving Australia hosting rights for 2022.

A second surge in cases of coronavirus in India then forced a major change to the 2021 competition, which will still be hosted by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

West Indies are the defending champions after defeating England in the final the last time this tournament was held back in 2016.

England and India are rated as the leading contenders to come out on top, ranked one and two in the world respectively by the ICC in the format.

Stand in West Indies captain Nicholas Pooran believes things are tying together nicely for the squad, following a 3-1 series win against Australia.

After a difficult series loss against South Africa, the West played their way to a 3-0 lead against Australia in a five-match series, before suffering their first loss on Thursday.

Even so, the affair was a closely contested one, with the Windies losing by just four runs in pursuit of the visitor’s target of 189.  So far for the series the West Indies has boasted an average of 167, up from the 157.4 average against South Africa.  

“I think we are getting close to where we want to be.  We are starting to get opening partnerships of 50 and above, we’ll take that any day,” Pooran told members of the media via an online press conference.

“In the middle overs, for the first three games we batted really well, that is something we adjusted.  After the first series we played that situation well, last time we kind of faltered there a little bit,” he added.

“All in all, I think we are getting there.  You can see in the end now Fabian Allen coming in to bat with Polly out, he’s played that role wonderfully for us and can actually lengthen our batting and we can depend more on Allen.  So from a standing captain's point of view, I believe we are getting there.”

West Indies stand-in captain Nicholas Pooran has backed Andre Russell’s decision to face all six deliveries of the final over of Wednesday’s T20 match that was bowled by Mitchell Starc and from which the home side required 11 runs to take a 4-0 lead in the series.

England's second string have "done themselves a world of good" with their performances in the ODI series against Pakistan, says captain Eoin Morgan.

Ben Stokes returned early from an injury lay-off to captain a hastily assembled side in the three-match series after England's first-choice squad were forced to isolate due to a coronavirus outbreak.

However, with Morgan and Co watching on from the sidelines, England's back-up brigade impressed in a 3-0 series triumph – James Vince scoring his maiden ODI century as he led a record run chase at Edgbaston to secure the third victory.

England's star names have returned for the T20I series, which starts on Friday, though Saqib Mahmood, who was named player of the series, and Lewis Gregory have been rewarded for their performances.

"They've done themselves the world of good, to be honest," Morgan said when asked of the players who stepped up to fulfil the ODI series.

"The one thing you look at when guys come in and out is a marked improvement from the time they [first] get the opportunity to the time the next opportunity arrives. The two guys mentioned [Mahmood and Gregory] and Vince were outstanding.

"I think everybody within the group was extremely proud to watch them play like they did, simply because it's the biggest compliment you can pay to anybody who played in the World Cup group, and the way we've played in the last five years has had such an impact on the game.

"Guys recognise that opportunities are few and far between but, when they do come, the method that the team plays is starting to resonate with people around the country, which is great.

"Over the last six years, with the amount of cricket we play, you don't get to enjoy the cricket as much as you'd like. But sitting back and watching the guys [and] the way the guys played was hugely satisfying. They played an exciting brand of cricket, they really enjoyed themselves, and the result came with that. It was hugely beneficial."

 

England have triumphed in five of their past six T20I home outings, and finished 2020 with three successive wins, meaning a victory at Trent Bridge will match their longest winning run on home soil in the format.

However, Pakistan won the most recent meeting between the teams last September, a five-run victory in Manchester in a series which finished 1-1.

One player Morgan will be unable to call on is Stokes, who has been rested as he recovers from the finger injury which had been set to keep him out of white-ball action this month.

"He dug us out of a huge hole coming back early from his injury and I think leading the way he did is a huge compliment to the leader he is within our side, how mature he has been as a leader and now a captain," Morgan said of Stokes.

"We gave him every chance to be fit. He hasn't played a lot of cricket and he's had some 'R and R' at home and feels quite fresh.

"The finger hasn't come along as he and the medical team would have liked, so it's important it's as good as it can be for the Test matches against India."

England will be aiming to continue their fine T20I form on home soil when they take on Pakistan in a three-match series, starting on Friday in Nottingham.

Fresh off a 3-0 sweep in the ODI games against the same opponents, England switch to a format in which they have triumphed in five of their past six outings in their own back yard.

Indeed, they finished a 2020 season hampered by the coronavirus pandemic with three victories on the spin – another at Trent Bridge in the opener against Pakistan will match their longest winning run at home in 20-over action, having previously enjoyed a four-match streak from September 2014 to July 2016.

However, Pakistan won the most recent meeting between the teams in September of last year, a five-run victory in Manchester making sure that series finished level at 1-1.

The tourists will hope a change to T20 action can help them turn around their fortunes on this trip, considering they were outplayed by a makeshift England 50-over team that had been hastily put together due to COVID-19 protocols.

Eoin Morgan was among the regulars forced to isolate following positive coronavirus cases within the group that had been on duty for the ODI games against Sri Lanka, but the captain is back to lead a more familiar squad this time around.

Saqib Mahmood is included again after impressing in the one-day arena, while Lewis Gregory is also selected and there is a return from injury for Jos Buttler, too. Ben Stokes – captain of the 50-over side in Morgan's absence – is left out, however, having only just made his comeback following surgery on a broken finger.

Chris Silverwood will also be missing for the home team, with England's head coach taking a break from his duties. Paul Collingwood has been placed in temporary charge.

As for Pakistan, Imad Wasim has been recalled to a squad that also includes batsman Azam Khan, son of former national team captain and coach Moin Khan.

England are at home, but Trent Bridge has not been regularly used for T20 international fixtures in the past. The home side won by seven wickets against West Indies at the venue back in June 2012, having lost by the same margin when taking on South Africa there three years earlier.

 


In the (Mah)mood for more wickets

With England opting to leave out Sam Curran, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood – three likely selections for the upcoming Test series against India – Mahmood has an opportunity to stake his claim ahead of this year's Twenty20 World Cup.

The Lancashire pace bowler finished with nine wickets at an average of 13.66 in his three ODI outings against Pakistan, all while going at just 4.39 runs per over.

Brilliant Babar to lead the way?

Pakistan captain Babar Azam made up for two low scores with a sensational 158 in the third one-dayer, albeit his efforts came in a losing cause. His innings did at least strengthen his grip on top spot in the official ODI batting rankings.

He is just as prolific in T20I cricket, too. Since the beginning of 2019, the right-hander is the only player to reach 1,000 runs in the format (1,004), while no other has managed more scores of 50 or more across that period (11).

Key series facts

- Pakistan will be aiming for back-to-back wins in men’s T20Is against England for the first time, following a five-run victory in their most recent meeting (September 1, 2020).

- England are undefeated against Pakistan from their five multigame bilateral T20I series (W3, D2); their most recent such series in 2020 ended in a draw.

- Three of the four players with the best batting averages in T20I cricket (25+ innings) could appear in this series: Dawid Malan (47.4), Babar Azam (47.3) and Mohammad Rizwan (44.4). Only Virat Kohli (52.7) has a better average in the format than the trio.

- England have the second-best batting strike rate (148.9 runs per 100 deliveries) of any Test-playing country in T20I action since the beginning of 2019 (New Zealand – 151.5).

- Fakhar Zaman (948) is 52 away from scoring 1,000 T20 runs at international level; he would be the seventh man to achieve the feat for Pakistan, and the fourth fastest to do so (45th innings) if he achieves the milestone in the first match (Babar Azam – 26 innings, Mohammad Hafeez – 41 and Ahmed Shehzad – 42).

- Pakistan pace bowler Haris Rauf has taken 25 wickets in T20I action since the beginning of 2020; only two players have taken more in that time (Tabraiz Shamsi – 26 for South Africa and Ish Sodhi – 26 for New Zealand).

Mitchell Starc held his nerve at the death to guide Australia to their maiden win of the T20I Series by four runs after the West Indies almost blasted their way to victory from an improbable position on Thursday.

Chasing 189-6, the West Indies needed 57 from 24 balls with five wickets left after Mitch Marsh took two wickets in an over, before fireworks from Fabian Allen (29 from 14) and Andre Russell (22* from 13) turned the game on its head in St Lucia.

The pair combined for four sixes from five balls in the penultimate over from Riley Meredith, needing 11 off the final over but Starc sent down five dot balls to Russell in the last to earn Australia a win which makes the series 3-1.

Australia captain Aaron Finch had won the toss and elected to bat, starting strongly with the skipper making 53 from 37 balls alongside Mitch, who top scored with 75 from 44 deliveries, in a 114-run stand.

The tourists stumbled in the middle order again, losing 40-5 with Hayden Walsh taking three wickets, before some late hitting from Dan Christian and Starc lifted them to a strong total.

The West Indies flew out of the blocks in their pursuit with Lendl Simmons posting 72 from 48 before the outstanding Marsh (24-3) dismissed him, along with Nicholas Pooran in quick succession.

All seemed lost for the hosts at 132-5 but Allen and Russell offered hope, before Starc's clutch final over.

Veteran West Indies batsman Chris Gayle has hailed the influence of team captain Kieran Pollard following a return to form against Australia.

The 42-year-old scored an enterprising 67 from 38 balls as the Windies took an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match T20 series.

The half-century would have come as a relief for the under-pressure batsman who had struggled to make an impact since being recalled to the team.  In eight matches, against Sri Lanka, South Africa, and Australia, Gayle has averaged 12.71, with a combined 89 runs, and has a highest score of 31.  In addition, the batsman has a strike rate of 94.68, well below his career average of 139.71.  In fact, the score was the highest for the player since March 2016. 

“It’s good to be among the runs.  Yes, it’s a relief, any batter who hadn’t been among the runs for quite some time now would definitely want to be back among the runs…but it wouldn’t have been possible without my teammates,” Gayle said.

“He told me that he was backing me to go out there and play the cricket that Chris Gayle is accustomed to playing.  So, getting the backing from my teammates, senior guys like Dwayne Bravo as well, Nicholas Pooran. 

“It gave me goosebumps when Pollard was speaking in the dressing room.  Me being a leader and I used to captain Pollard and I tried to help him excel in his career, now’s he’s the captain and for him to stand up and say ‘hey Chris’ and give me a reminder of how good I am.  It’s fantastic.”

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