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High time resilient Rory doesn’t burn down his chances and reputation
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"There are no bruises left, not that I’ve seen” - Rory Burns.This is quite deep and gives an impression to have come straight out of a poet/philosopher's best of creative days. But, in essence, it pretty much symbolizes the brand of cricket Rory Burns has played over the years. Tough, full of grit, ample of resilience, resistance and self-denial. Just like in cinema there are different genres of heroes that evoke varied emotions, cricket also has different sets of artists that exist to elevate our life experiences and touch us with their unique blend.Cricket romanticizes not just a contest between bat and ball, but it’s also a vehicle to see a bigger picture in life. There lie hidden gems of parallels in small details. For Burns, he romanticizes struggle. He's not the most gifted. His stance, technique and idiosyncrasies surely ain't winning any aesthetics competition. But when he's getting hit by Pat Cummins on the same spot twice and still gutting it out, playing the patience battle, and weathering a gutsy and world-class Aussie bowling attack, he shows heart. This is Ashes. It's akin to a war going in the name of innocuous cricket. But Burns with his weird stance and battle-hardened mind is fighting. Standing on two feet, giving every inch of what he has got. The technique might be befuddling not the fight. And it connects. It gives us goosebumps. Hope. He's a character. Earning plaudits. Those who have followed English cricket from close quarters and are well versed with the country's history rate his toughness in the elite category of Ken Barrington, John Edrich and Graham Thorpe. This toughness and doggedness were central when he led Surrey to their first-ever County Championship triumph in 2018 after a gap of 16 long years. Or the reason that he was able to score runs persistently despite the tricky English tracks. The southpaw was successful in crossing 1,000 FC runs for five successive seasons between 2014-18 for his county. Or his many gritty knocks thus far in the career be it, the Edgbaston 133, Pallekele's 59 and 43, Bridgetown's 84, Hamilton's 101, Manchester's 81 or Centurion's 84. But just as these virtues of defiance, toughness evoke the human spirit and draw us closer to characters like Burns, there are certain frustrations that also creep in. Contrast is thrilling at times, and daredevilry more so, but only when it comes off. And this is the part of Burns that gives heartaches. Fast forward to the first session of the first Test between India and England. Burns is again back to his tough old school self. He has gone unscathed after the Bumrah-Ishant opening burst with his compact defense, precise off-stump judgement, and unflappable temperament. He's showing decisive footwork against spinners. He has already combined in a fifty-run-stand with Sibley, a feat that no other visiting opening pair has achieved since 2017 in India. It's a flat wicket and a chance to make it big and shine for Burns. To cash in on flat tracks after all the struggles that he has to put on tricky English surfaces. A chance to up his average. A chance to add to his centuries tally. But his tendency of gift wrapping wicket after a spell of perseverance is starting to creep up again. He's playing a fine sweep exposing his stumps. He's playing slog sweeps. Suddenly, the memories of the 2019 Oval Ashes Test have started resurface. Burns is quite a regular in not reaping the rewards for his hard work. The Oval Test. First innings, after getting well set, making 47 off 87 putting in the hard yards, a late and strange decision to pull gets him dismissed. In the second innings of the same Test, he weathers the storm in the first 15 overs and then gives his wicket on 20 to drag down from Lyon. Similarly, last year, Southampton Test, West Indies the opponent and it's the second innings. After getting well set on 42 off 104 seeing off 36 overs, he gifts wrap his wicket to Roston Chase's half-tracker. He has been guilty of playing aerial shots or the ones he shouldn't be playing unnecessarily. Getting back to the Chennai Test, after seeing off the tough phase, getting well-set, Burns who's more known for coming down the track to play spinners or employing conventional sweep tries to reverse-sweep R Ashwin in the first session of the first day of a Test. Now, such audacity would have been understandable if he was a good proponent of reverse-sweeps or it was his go-to-shot but as per CricViz, it was only the eighth reverse sweep Rory Burns had played in his Test career. No wonder he got out in a forgettable manner. He was in full control. Only 6% of his shots were bringing a miss or an edge – the average for all Test cricket is 15%, let alone the new ball period. He threw it away yet again. Period.Burns has played a substantial amount of cricket. In what is his 22nd Test, and after 39 innings, his average is 32.46, which is quite a fall from his FC average of 42.18. His biggest problem has been his inability to capitalize after seeing through the testing times, which is a little bizarre. Eight times he has made scores between 25 and 50 while only twice he has been able to convert the fifties into hundreds out of 10 times. These are the things that separate good players from great ones. And for someone, who's touted as a potential option to replace Root as England captain, there's even a greater need to push on in big tours like India where your mettle is tested to the core.There's no denying the fact that Burns has been a revelation after his initial struggles and has already shown that since Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook, Burns is the best possible option to open in a country, which struggled for openers in the last decade. But it's about maximizing his potential, given he has everything in him to be one of the best opening batsmen in the world only if he doesn't burn down his chances like in Chennai, Oval or Southampton. Follow us on Facebook hereStay connected with us on Twitter hereLike and share our Instagram page here .
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Joe Root – He came, he saw, he conquered
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Welcome to a Joe Root masterclass. Unlike AB de Villiers, who played his 100th Test amid much fanfare in India, Root's historic moment came in an empty stadium in the silence of Chepauk. But the delicious cover drives, reverse-sweeps, clips, flicks, pulls and punches - this was pure gratification.Somewhere in the world of Steven Smith's madman consistency, Virat Kohli's overpowering persona, Kane Williamson's gentlemanly class and Babar Azam's crazy potential, we forget Joe Root. And we are as guilty as his dwindling Test form over the last couple of years. But when he is in his element/trance, he's a different class altogether. The masterfulness and ease with which he dominates opposition sets him apart. Someone watching Joe Root for the first time today would be surprised to know that Joe isn't from India as he looked more at home than even the hosts. This was a massive test. Not only because the right-hander was becoming part of few elite men to have played 100 Tests from England, but a rampant Indian team needed a strong challenge from English talisman before the aura and grandeur of India took over in the head of England, which is often the case for visitors. It's a battle of mind as much as skills and stamina. Root was at the heart of England’s momentous effort today. The visitors despite a solid opening stand found themselves in a vulnerable spot as they were 63 for 2 when Root arrived. On the very first ball, Ashwin sent Root a gentle reminder that this ain't Sri Lanka and the challenges will be greater and the bowling tighter as he induced a leading edge with his well disguised drift. The fast bowling challenge was also never going to be as easy as Bumrah kept him at his toes with his in-dippers. The Pacers were getting a hint of reverse swing. The first 50 balls had eclipsed and Root's sweeps had still not seen the light of the day. For Root, sweeps in Asia are akin to cover drives for Kohli. It is that feel good factor that helps him get into his zenith. But you just don't play 100 Tests and average close to 50 sans top-notch quality. Root's plan was simple. He was baiting India with the silence before the storm. All that he needed was the introduction of inexperienced Washington Sundar and Shahbaz Nadeem as he was going to feast on them all day long. This is Test cricket after all. The longer you survive, the greater the chances of inflicting greater damage. For Root, he had a lot more on his head. Stokes and Pope were to come minus much match practice. India's ability to induce collapse is as known as England creating a hole. Well, he was also part of the 2016 Chennai Test where he had seen England go down like a pack of cards in the final two sessions of the Test. And this India had no net or tired bowlers. They had only grown in confidence as the team was coming after a high of back-to-back series wins Down Under. But Root wasn't going to gift wrap his wicket to Sundar like Steven Smith. Instead, he launched a scathing attack on him. He was back to sweeping the spinners. The reverse-sweep was out. So was the disdainful slog sweep off Shahbaz Nadeem in the 48th over when he fetched the ball from wide outside the off-stump for a dismissive four. It was a clear-cut statement that Nadeem is no Lasith Embuldeniya and was going to be treated accordingly. The Yorkshireman’s confidence in sweeps were at all-time high as he was coming after hitting 53 and 52 sweeps in the last two Tests against Sri Lanka with his sweep averaging a mind-boggling 299 runs per dismissal, as per CricViz. To add to that, had Joe Root only scored runs with sweep shots in 2021, he would still be the 12th highest run-getter in Tests.The sweep shot in essence opens up the whole field. And this is the checkmate moment for Root. Who said only bowlers set baits and trap batsmen? Top-class batters do the same to bowlers. They make bowlers bowl in their areas of strength, which they can second guess beforehand. The Ashwin vs Root battle was always going to be fascinating despite the English no.4 having a better record against the offie having scored 251 runs and losing his wicket only three times with Root's SR of close to 60 coming into the Test. But Ashwin is a master of his craft, who's always reinventing himself and evolving with time. Given how he had worked over Smith, there were similar hopes in this Test. A major question was how would Ash deal with Root's sweep assault? Right, after the first time the Englishman swept him, it was set to be an alluring battle. Next two deliveries, Root defended the ball off the backfoot. Root is as nimble and decisive with his footwork. He can come forward and defend and also go back and block the ball as well. No wonder he’s a complex nut to crack for spinners.After that Ash delivered two loose half-trackers, which was Ashwin's way of staying one step ahead of Root as he was expecting the cross batted sweep. But it was not to as Root pulled and punched the premier Indian offie for back-to-back boundaries. After that, the battle was as good as dead. At the end of the day, Root had collected 26 off 38 against Ashwin at a SR of 68.42.After that he was creaming the ball past cover, kneeling down to sweep, slog sweeping, playing dabs, even switch-hitting, the late cuts, the flicks, the punches, it was a Joe Root exhibition. There wasn't even one area where the English skipper didn't score runs. The sweep remained his most productive shot as he collected 26 runs off it. He played arguably his best Test knock in his 100th Test to make it truly memorable. Root finished the day unbeaten on 128. He came, he saw, he conquered. The way he annihilated the Indian bowlers had inkling of the Kevin Pietersen's 2012 Wankhede epic as such was the way he forced the Indian bowlers into submission at their own backyard in one of their most loved venues to set up the tone for the series, which has certainly sent India the warning signal that this is England side ain't any pushover, especially as long as Joe Root is at the forefront of the side. Follow us on Facebook hereStay connected with us on Twitter hereLike and share our Instagram page here .
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ENG vs IND | England need to cash-in and score 600 or 700, asserts Joe Root
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England skipper Joe Root, who scored a ton in his 100th Test match today, insisted that it was important for his side to cash in on the start and maximize the advantage by scoring close to 600 in the first innings. After winning the toss, England finished Day 1 very strongly, at 263/3.Playing India in India is always a daunting task but Joe Root’s England side had a near-perfect start to the tour as the Three Lions ended Day 1 on 263/3. Winning the toss and batting first, Rory Burns and Dom Sibley put on a 63-run opening stand to set the tone for the visitors, but it was a 200-run stand between skipper Root and Sibley that put the Three Lions in the driver's seat. Sibley perished for 87, but Root ended the day unbeaten on 128*, scoring a third consecutive Test ton. At 263/3 England are in prime position to take control of the Test, but Root knows that the batsmen’s job is far from over. Speaking in the aftermath of his marathon effort, the England skipper insisted that his side, tomorrow, need to cash-in on the start and try to boost the total up to 600 or 700 to take full control of the contest. The last time England visited India, they suffered an innings defeat in Chennai despite racking up 477 on the board in the first innings. "I think we've got to look to try and get as many as we can - 600, 700 if we can, really try and make the most of the first innings while it's good," Root told reporters at the end of Day 1. "Those footholes are starting to wear quite quickly. So, if we can bat the whole of tomorrow and maybe into day three then things could speed up quite quickly for us and you never know what can happen from that point onwards, but ultimately we've got to try and back up today."The century Root struck today was his third on the trot, after having already posted scores of 228 and 186 in Sri Lanka last month. The England skipper, in fact, remarkably has a 100% conversion record this year, having gone the entirety of 2020 without striking a single ton. The 30-year-old revealed that he made technical adjustments to ensure that he makes starts count and scores big hundreds to help the side."I certainly feel like I'm in some good form and I need to make sure I cash in on it I think over the course of my career, I've not always gone on and made really big scores so to be going and doing that currently is really pleasing."I've worked on a few technical things I've looked at a few areas of my game. I've looked at certain trends of how I was getting out at certain types of my innings, and tried to eradicate it."Root's impeccable ton today was the 20th of his Test career. Follow us on Facebook hereStay connected with us on Twitter hereLike and share our Instagram page here .
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IND vs ENG | Chepauk Day 1 Talking Points: England’s solid opening, sweeping tactic and an Indian team caught off-guard
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Dom Sibley and Joe Root felt more like at home in a hot Chennai as they further turned up the heat than India who seemingly missed being in Australia as they suffered greatly on a flat deck. English openers set the tone for the day and after that, the team led by Root swept their way to success. Sibley-Burns and a solid opening standThe odds were stacked up against the opening pair of Dom Sibley and Rory Burns when they walked out to bat on day one of the Chepauk Test. The last 12 Tests in India had yielded 249 runs for visiting openers with an average of 10.3, highest stand of 32 and the last fifty partnership coming as long back as March 2017. Add to that the fact that England's first wicket had added 10, 3, 4, and 17 in the Sri Lanka series. It was considered as one of England's weakness.But the pair of Burns and Sibley put up a patience masterclass on a flat wicket. They were solid in their defense early on against a seasoned Ishant Sharma and a magnificent Jasprit Bumrah. As per CricViz, England's false shot percentage in the first ten overs was 7%, the lowest of a match since February 2009. But the trial by spin awaited them. There as well, they showcased the most important thing against spinners - decisive footwork. You don't want to be caught in between or picking the lengths poorly.The English openers were able to play off the back foot well and that helped them open up many areas to score for them. As a result, they put up a good 63-run-opening-stand. Rory Burns was coming off after missing the Sri Lanka Tests, but it didn't have even an iota of impact as he batted as solidly as ever. Sibley, who was horrible in the first three innings in Sri Lanka, also took from where he had left after a gritty display in the second innings of the last Test and combined in a great start for the visitors. Root-ed England sweeping their way to success Statistically, in the class of Ken Barrington, Geoff Boycott and Wally Hammond, Joe Root is one of greatest players of spin in English history that kick-started as long back as 1877. One of the hallmarks of Root's success in Sri Lanka was unleashing different types of sweeps as a bread and butter shot. As per CricViz, the English skipper who made 426 runs in two Tests in Sri Lanka, had played 53 and 52 sweeps in first and second Test respectively, most sweep shots since data has been recorded. Not for nothing, it's said that how a captain does, it rubs on the team. Today, we saw that the English team tried to model their game against spin using the Root way in a subtle manner if not more and tried sweeping more than we saw they did in Sri Lanka. Playing sweeps is one of the most common ways of countering turn and low bounce. Not only bowlers create doubts in the head of batsmen when they alter lengths but batsmen too, when they play sweeps or come down the track, they play with the head of spinners. There were two consecutive fours hit by Root of short balls in the 55th over that too off R Ashwin. He's a relentless bowler. But that's what Root had done to him having played a lot of sweeps.Rory Burns had also played a sweep shot though it was a risky shot against Ashwin but it was a clear show that the team was more than willing to follow in the footsteps of Root. Also, Dom Sibley was great in terms of using his feet against spin and also employing sweeps sometimes, if not many, exhibiting he can play the cross-batted shots and didn't let bowlers get stuck on a line and length. An out planned, tired Indian team not up for the challengeIndian team on the first day of the Chepauk Test was like a team or a group that turns up after a big success party to work. It can be complacency but given what transpired in Australia, India was not taking England lightly. So what went wrong? Firstly, a batting side won't get a better and flatter pitch to start a series than this. There was nothing for pacers or spinners and the heat only made it tougher for India as they looked out of depth and were going through motion once Root and Sibley started batting at their best. Dom Sibley has an unorthodox technique, and plays with a close face and gives an idea that he is the last one to spare anything straight or on the middle-leg-stump line. Now, on a flat pitch, India went for control rather than attack like in Australia. They kept bowling straight and leg-stump to the English opener and he kept on cashing in, flicking the ball with ease. At one point, almost half of his runs had come off the flick shot with his control in the 90s. India missed a trick, especially spinners by not trying to make him drive the ball and their plan played to his strengths. For Joe Root, he simply put up a masterclass. But were India expecting any less after he was coming off century in each of the last two Tests with a prolific record in Asia? So, the question is why didn't India continue to persist with their plans against him once he got on a roll? Lack of conviction? Pretty much. Also were they short on plan B or C? Perhaps. Root toyed with Indian bowlers with impunity. And as the third-wicket partnership grew, India's fielding started getting poorer, shoulders started falling down, the body language was anything but a side believing it can take wickets or was even in the game fighting.Follow us on Facebook hereStay connected with us on Twitter hereLike and share our Instagram page here .
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Friday Fights | The Big ODI Fight – Andrew Flintoff vs Shaun Pollock 
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Two mavericks of the game, Andrew Flintoff and Shaun Pollock were the go-to-bowlers for their respective countries and on their day, could contribute in an efficient manner with the willow in hand as well. Today, these two resilient cricketers will lock horns in an epic boxing bout.Those who have seen the princely peak of Andrew 'Box-Office' Flintoff still can't stop but gush at his maverick ability to change games of cricket with his power packed performances.  6 ft 4 inches tall, ability to clock 90mph, reverse the ball at high pace, get the big fishes out, unleash powerful batting performances at the biggest of stages, Flintoff was a revered artist in the world of cricket. If Flintoff was an artist, Shaun Pollock was a machine. Hailing from a cricketing family with some big names, yet being able to turn out the best of all, pressure was something that he always created than succumbed to. One of the premier new ball bowlers during his heydays, he was a match-winner with his impeccable accuracy that he used to perfection to make batters dance to his tunes. Also, he was a very solid lower-order batsman, who could chip as and when the team required. Today, these two phenomenally gifted players will don the boxing gloves and take on each other in a head-to-head boxing battle to go one up on each other and emerge as the ultimate champion. Let's get started, folks:ROUND 1 -BATTING AVERAGE: Flintoff hits Pollock outta parkFlintoff is off to a flyer. Known as a quick starter, he gets on to the front foot, and creams his punch like a cricket ball to down Shaun Pollock in the opening round of the much anticipated battle. The English showman's batting average of 32.02 is too hot to handle for Shaun, who averages 26.46Flintoff- 10 Pollock- 7ROUND 2 -BOWLING AVERAGE: So close yet to so far Shaken up by Flintoff's punch in R1, Pollock shows he’s a resilient man. This time, he takes the initiative and goes for a series of attacking punches on the Englishman. But, Freddie was no muck with the white cherry in hand, and with an average of 24.38, he takes all the punches in his stride before unleashing an aggressive hook to win the round over Pollock, who averages 24.51 with the ball in a close clash.Flintoff- 10 Pollock- 9ROUND 3 -WICKETS PER INNINGS: Freddie, the PRO BOXER turns up One of the most critical aspects of boxing or cricket is how you use aggression to your advantage. And Flintoff, who has been a pro boxer himself, apart from being a cricketer, surely knows how to translate aggression into uppercuts. And this time, he doesn't even let Pollock to lay his finger on a bull like Freddie as with 1.42 wickets per innings, he's too big an impact bowler to even get challenged by Pollock's 1.32 wickets per innings. Flintoff- 10 Pollock- 8 ROUND 4 -ECONOMY RATE: Sigh! Pollock is finally on board Much to the relief of the crowd present in the stadium, who have come to witness an enthralling battle, Pollock is finally off the hook. Flintoff, with an ER of 4.40, gets a tad too aggressive and as a result, in a bid to repeat his uppercut from the last round tries to replicate the same and gets imbalanced. All that Pollock with an economy of 3.68 needs to is to connect his punch accurately which he does with the ease of a master as such was his ability with the ball too. Flintoff- 9 Pollock- 10 ROUND 5 -BOWLING AVERAGE IN ICC TOURNAMENTS: This is Freddie's world Big ticket tournaments, pressure, box-office environment, the world is watching, and it's hardly a surprise that Flintoff turns up the heat and packs a punch. It's a no-contest as Pollock lives up to the 'C' tag and turns out to be an underperformer in the ICC tourneys. Flintoff's bowling average of 21.47 is far better than Pollock's 27.46 in big ticket ODI events. Flintoff- 10 Pollock- 7 ROUND 6 -NO. OF BALLS BOWLED PER GAME: IT AIN'T OVER YETShaun Pollock has largely under performed in this fight thus far, but he makes a comeback with a thumping win this round. This turns out to be the last man standing sort of contest. Both the fighters go hard at one another. No one is ready to give up. But Pollock with 52.9 balls per game lasts longer as Freddie with 47.2 balls fails to keep fighting and loses the round. Flintoff- 9 Pollock- 10ROUND 7 -BOWLING AVERAGE AT HOME: Jeez, Pollock is up and running nowThat's the beauty of fights between two talented boxers. No matter how dire the situation becomes for any of them, they keep gutting it out till the last ounce they got. And that can be said for Pollock too who at one stage was trailing 1-4, as he registers back-to-back wins. Making full use of the momentum that he gained after R6 win, Pollock brings up a surprise move- THE RIB CAGER. With an average of 20.20 at home, he tears into the rib-cage of Flintoff, who loses the round with an average of 21.32.Flintoff- 9 Pollock- 10ROUND 8 -BATTING AVERAGE AWAY: You can't keep a pro boxer out for longNow, this is where the experience of being a pro boxer once comes into play. Flintoff knows how to turn the tide, be it with the bat in hand or the boxing gloves. Pollock, buoyed by his last two round wins, with an average of 24.34, tries to hook Flintoff to the ground but the Englishman ducks and later with 27.11 overpowers him with a killer uppercut. Crowd goes berserk, what a move Freddie boy.Flintoff- 9 Pollock- 7ROUND 9 -BATTING STRIKE RATE: And the big man Flintoff knocks out PollockThis was always coming. Pollock, after a great R6 and R7 lost the last round, which meant he had to fire with all his guns blazing in R9 to fight for another day. But Freddie was always a great striker of the cricket ball with his hand-eye coordination and that is what he uses to perfection in boxing as well. With a strike-rate of 86.7, Pollock tries a half-hearted punch but Flintoff, with a strike-rate of 88.82, steals the thunder with a HOOK to down Pollock for once and all. Flintoff- 10 Pollock- 9WINNER BY KNOCKOUT - Andrew Flintoff FINAL SCORE: Flintoff 85-77 Pollock   Let us all admit that we did expect Andrew Flintoff to turn up the heat in this bout but could anyone anticipate the fight not even being a close one? I, for one, didn't as such were these big names and the stature and respect that these two command. But Flintoff was like a relentless machine and kept taking his game to the next level with every subsequent round. Pollock did try to find his feet later on but it was too little and too late. But one thing which we all learnt today is how good Andrew Flintoff is, as he emerged as the ultimate champion in this clash of titans. Follow us on Facebook hereStay connected with us on Twitter hereLike and share our Instagram page here .
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