India make headway with the ball as England trail by 155 in Rajkot

By Sports Desk February 17, 2024

England gave India a leg-up in the absence of Ravichandran Ashwin as Joe Root and Ben Duckett gifted away their wickets on the third morning of the third Test in Rajkot.

Ashwin’s bombshell withdrawal from the Test the previous evening because of a family emergency meant India could only replace their premier spinner with a substitute fielder, depleting their bowling.

But they found their guests in obliging mood as Root’s patented reverse ramp, with which he has had success in the past, off Jasprit Bumrah was brilliantly caught by Yashasvi Jaiswal at second slip.

After Jonny Bairstow fell for a record-breaking eighth duck against India, Duckett, who had batted with panache in an incredible counter-attacking 88-ball hundred on day two, toe-ended a Kuldeep Yadav long hop to cover for 153 as England lurched from 224 for two to 290 for five at lunch.

Memories of England burning themselves in last year’s Ashes Test at Lord’s – when several batters were caught hooking despite the absence of injured Australia spinner Nathan Lyon – came flooding back.

Captain Ben Stokes (39 not out) on his 100th Test and Ben Foakes (6no) survived some testing moments but England still trail by 155 runs on a pitch that is offering more assistance to the bowlers.

India used just three bowlers for most of the morning with Ravindra Jadeja, back from a hamstring injury sending down an over before lunch.

Before that, Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj dovetailed at one end with Kuldeep operating from the other.

Wickets had fallen early in each of the two previous days but the breakthrough on Saturday owed more to a rash stroke from Root rather than skill from Jasprit Bumrah. The match situation did not require a bold gambit but Root’s attempt to up the ante merely allowed India to get their tails up.

Root’s dismissal for 18 means he has failed to pass 30 in five innings in this series while he has been dismissed nine times in 21 innings by Bumrah.

Root’s dismissal was put into harsher context when Bairstow was plumb lbw after Yadav found sharp turn, with the Yorkshireman burning a review. No other batter in history has made more ducks against India than Bairstow.

Duckett was not as authoritative as the previous evening and gave the slightest of chances on 149, with Rohit Sharma getting a fingertip to an edge, before the left-handed opener moved to 150 off 139 balls.

He added just another three off 12 deliveries, which perhaps contributed to his eyes lighting up when a short and wide delivery was offered by Kuldeep but Duckett horribly miscued.

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    A destructive spell of spin bowling by Bryan Charles ensured Trinidad and Tobago Red Force maintained a strangle hold on their final round West Indies Championship encounter against Jamaica Scorpions at Sabina Park on Thursday.

    Charles snared six wickets for 75 runs in 23.1 overs, including four maidens, as he proved most destructive for the Red Force, who pegged the Scorpions against the ropes at 159-9, after the vistors earlier ended their first innings at a daunting 432.

    Jeavor Royal, on 33, and Andrae Dennis, yet to score, will resume batting for the Scorpions, who are 273 runs behind heading into Friday’s third day.

    Scores: Trinidad and Tobago Red Force 432 all out (Joshua Da Silva 106, Terrance Hinds 79, Amir Jangoo 51, Kjorn Ottley 45, Khary Pierre 43, Navin Bidaisee 31; Jeavor Royal 3-113, Ojay Shields 2-61, Peat Salmon 2-83).

    Jamaica Scorpions 159-9 (Kirk McKenzie 57, Jeavor Royal 33 not out; Bryan Charles 6-75, Khary Pierre 2-46).

    Earlier, Red Force resuming on 308-7, added another 124 runs to their overnight total, thanks to Terrance Hinds and Khary Pierre, who put together 91 for the eighth wicket. Hinds, added 58 runs to his overnight score of 21, in a just over two-hour 118-ball knock that included seven fours and five sixes.

    Pierre, who resumed on one, had two fours and two sixes in his 99-ball 43, as the Red Force lower order built on the momentum left by captain Joshua Da Silva, who initially revived the innings with a well-played century.

    Royal was the most successful Scorpions bowler with 3-113 from 37 overs, while pacer Ojay Shields and off-spinner Peat Salmon took two wickets apiece.

    If the Scorpions were frustrated by Red Force’s prolonged innings, then their week got a bit worse, as they failed to contend with the skill and precision of spinners Charles and Pierre.

    Charles, 28, first removed opener Javaughn Buchanan (10), and later ripped through the middle order, erasing any hopes the Scorpions had of staging a fightback.

    In fact, only West Indies left-handed batsman Kirk McKenzie, who topscored with a patient 153-ball 57, including two fours and two sixes, offered some resistance, before Royal became the second batsman to pass 20 runs. Pierre had 2-46 in 21 overs.

    Elsewhere, at Frank Worrell Field in Trinidad and Tobago, Combined Campuses & Colleges Marooners lead Guyana Harpy Eagles by 142 with three second innings wickets intact.

    Scores: Campuses & Colleges Marooners 200 all out (Demario Richards 43, Romario Greaves 36, Avinash Mahabirsingh 23, Amari Goodridge 22, Jediah Blades 22 not out, Jarion Hoyte 21; Nial Smith 3-45, Veerasammy Permaul 3-51, Gudakesh Motie 2-40, Isai Thorne 2-45) and 165 for seven (Odaine McCatty 56, Shamarh Brooks 54 not out; Kevin Sinclair 2-29, Gudakesh Motie 2-42, Veerasammy Permaul 2-44).

    Guyana Harpy Eagles 223 all out (Raymond Perez 62, Tevin Imlach 55, Kevin Sinclair 37, Kevlon Anderson 27; Avinash Mahabirsingh 17.4-2-51-8).

    At the Coolidge Cricket Ground in Antigua, Barbados Pride lead Cricket West Indies Academy by 21 with seven second innings wickets in hand.

    Scores: Barbados Pride 155 all out (Jonathan Drakes 35, Kevin Wickham 27, Shian Brathwaite 26, Demetrius Richards 21 not out; Johann Layne 3-23, McKenny Clarke 3-26, Joshua Bishop 2-25, Ramon Simmonds 2-43) and 109 for three (Kraigg Brathwaite 49 not out, Shian Brathwaite 21; Joshua Bishop 2-11).

    CWI Academy 243 all out (Ackeem Auguste 76, Carlon Tuckett-Bowen 49, Johan Layne 38, McKenny Clarke 30; Akeem Jordan 4-76, Raymon Reifer 2-32, Jair McAllister 2-40, Shaquille Cumberbatch 2-75).

    Meanwhile, At Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad and Tobago, Leeward Islands Hurricanes were 232 runs ahead of Windward Islands Volcanoes, with eight second innings wickets intact.

    Leeward Islands Hurricanes 300 all out (Mikyle Louis 100, Jewel Andrew 68, Jeremiah Louis 43, Jahmar Hamilton 34; Ryan John 3-67, Gilon Tyson 2-33, Daren Cyrus 2-70) and 111 for two (Mikyle Louis 33, Kieran Powell 31).

    Windward Islands Volcanoes 179 all out (Johann Jeremiah 41, Shamar Springer 33, Kavem Hodge 29, Stephan Pascal 25; Daniel Doram 16-5-34-6, Hayden Walsh Jr 3-21).

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    The move away from the current regional setup to a fully professionalised top flight from 2025, aligning with first-class counties in the process, is a major step forward for women’s cricket but not everyone has made the initial cut.

    Durham, Essex, Hampshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Somerset, Surrey and Warwickshire were all successful, but eight other proposals were not. Yorkshire have been approved alongside Glamorgan to be elevated in 2027 and a further expansion to 12 teams is planned.

    Yet that delay represents the latest setback for a proud cricketing county after several years mired by the Azeem Rafiq racism scandal and financial pressures which saw them reappoint the divisive Colin Graves as chair earlier this year.

    However, ECB chief executive Richard Gould made it clear there was no sense of re-litigating those issues in a process that was focused entirely on elevating women’s cricket to fresh heights.

    “It’s certainly not (about) being punished for past sins, that’s not our role. Our role is to promote the game, not punish,” he said at the launch of a new national tape ball competition, aimed at further broadening the sport’s appeal.

    “It will be disappointing for those venues that either haven’t been selected for tier one at this point or who have been, but perhaps not quite as quickly as they expected.

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    “We were so relieved by the amount of focus, attention and frankly, love, that was being put into the women’s game in those bids.”

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    “It sounds like there’s some counties disappointed which is a shame but also pretty cool,” she said.

    “When I was playing a long time ago, a lot of counties weren’t interested. So that disappointment is a sign of the progress that has been made.

    “The regional structure has been super successful in professionalising the game and this is the next logical step.

    “It has been a problem with regions, mine (Western Storm) has three different counties, and sometimes you feel you don’t have a home or a bit all over the place with facilities, not getting the same equal access as the guys do. Hopefully that will change with this coming in and counties will be accountable. That’s the whole idea: one club, two teams.”

    Yorkshire, who have hosted the Northern Diamonds and can now expect their top players to head elsewhere in search of the best – and best-paid – cricket opportunities, had earlier tabled their own statement.

    “Yorkshire County Cricket Club are surprised and disappointed not to be awarded one of the initial Tier 1 women’s teams,” it read.

    “The news is especially frustrating and upsetting for the players and staff at the Northern Diamonds. Our focus is on supporting them through this difficult period and gaining as much clarity on what the future looks like.”

    Simon Phillip, speaking as chair of a Kent side who have hosted the South East Stars in recent seasons, was similarly aggrieved.

    “As the most successful county team in the history of Women’s Cricket, offering the only dedicated women’s performance centre at Beckenham and based in a highly diverse south-east London population of 1.2 million people, the decision is difficult to swallow,” he said.

    “Whilst this decision will take some getting over, we remain committed to women’s and girls’ cricket and are determined to not let it hamper our long-term ambitions.”

    Leicestershire were also vocal about their feelings on missing the boat, claiming “a missed opportunity by the ECB” and saying the club was “crestfallen” not be included.

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    Bassarath's declaration follows that of West Indies T20 captain Rovman Powell, who has led the charge of trying to get Narine back to the regional setup ahead of the June 1-29 global showpiece.

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    Bassarath, the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB) president Bassarath also revealed that he reached out to Queen’s Park Cricket Club president Nigel Camacho – Narine’s domestic club – for help.

    “I have also spoken to the QPCC president, and he indicated to me that he will also reach out to Sunil to see if he can change his mind to come on board," he shared.

    West Indies are set to open their T20 World Cup campaign against Papa New Guinea in Guyana, on June 2.  Afghanistan, New Zealand, and Uganda are the other teams in the group.

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