Cricket Corner: India and Australia entertain, Zimbabwe wane while Hardik heads home


Cricket Corner: India and Australia entertain, Zimbabwe wane while Hardik heads home

Matthew Wade plays a shot during the third T20I between Australia and India in Guwahati
Matthew Wade plays a shot during the third T20I between Australia and India in GuwahatiProfimedia
In this weekly feature, Flashscore's Pat Dempsey brings together the leading talking points from the increasingly sprawling universe of the world's second-most watched sport.

In a nod to the longest form of the game - Test cricket - the article is broken into three sections to mirror the main intervals in a day’s play: Lunch - the main course; Tea - something slightly lighter; and Stumps (the end of play) - something to ponder over a few drinks at the bar.

Lunch - Aussies and India keep up The Big Show

Perhaps unfairly, I dubbed Australia’s five-match Twenty20 (T20) series with India ‘the series no one wanted’ but I must admit, it has been fun. We are now three matches in and there have been two dramatic final-over finishes and a few outstanding individual performances along the way.

In game one, Australia's Josh Inglis smashed a 47-ball century in the first innings only to be outshone as India chased down 208 with one ball to spare. Rinku Singh smoked a six to seemingly win the match off what was thought to be the last ball of the over. Only, it wasn’t a six in the end as it turned out Sean Abbott had bowled a no-ball.

As a result, the six didn’t count as the penalty run from the no-ball won the game for India. In fact, according to the scorecard, there was no sixth ball in the 20th over, legally speaking. It makes you wonder - if a six is hit and nobody records it, was it ever hit?

Game two saw India’s top three of Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Ishan Kishan all score 50s as they set Australia a whopping 236 to win. It proved more than enough as the Aussies could only muster 191 for the loss of nine wickets.

In Tuesday’s game three, Gaikwad scored a massive 123 off just 57 balls as India posted another big first innings score (222). This time, however, the Aussies did get over the line thanks in large part to Glenn ‘The Big Show’ Maxwell scoring the series’ second 47-ball century.

Maxwell smashed 104 off 48 balls and, in the final four balls, hit a six followed by three fours to win the match in incredible fashion and keep Australia in the series. In the first innings, Maxwell conceded 30 runs off the final over with the ball so perhaps he was just making up for that...

For the record, Maxwell and Inglis have now both levelled with Aaron Finch for the fastest T20 international centuries by Australian men (47 balls). Gaikwad’s 52-ball effort wasn’t bad either. Maxwell and more of Australia's 50-over World Cup-winning side have now departed the series, with some further fringe players coming in for the final two matches - the fourth T20 is on Friday

Tea - Zimbabwe in real trouble

Forget the 50-over World Cup, it’s done. It’s time to focus on next year's T20 World Cup. It’s shorter but bigger! The next edition will have 20 participants in 4 pools of 5 teams before quarter-finals and so on.

More teams mean two things: Firstly, it's more exposure for more second-tier associate members and secondly, the 12 ICC full members really should qualify. However, it’s looking like Zimbabwe could miss out ingloriously.

To explain the makeup of the competition - the two hosts (West Indies and the USA) qualified automatically as did the top eight sides from the previous World Cup in 2022. Two further spots were handed to the next two best-ranked sides as of November last year. Adding to the hosts, that meant Australia, England, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Afghanistan and Bangladesh all qualified automatically.

The remaining eight spots were to be filled via continental qualifiers, all of which are now completed except for the African one which is currently underway. From Europe, Ireland and Scotland qualified; from Asia, Nepal and Oman; from the Americas, Canada; and from East Asia-Pacific, Papua New Guinea.

Zimbabwe are the only full member state in the African qualifier and just need to finish in the top two of the seven-team round-robin tournament to go through. Losing to the other favourite Namibia (who have secured top spot now) was forgivable but they were then toppled by Uganda leaving their hopes hanging by a thread.

Not qualifying would be a disaster for Zimbabwe, who also failed to qualify for the 50-over World Cup. However, for every Zimbabwe, there’s a Kenya or a Uganda that would be desperate and deserving to go in their place. It could well come down to the match between Zimbabwe and Kenya on Thursday.

Speaking of Kenya, if they qualify it will be their first T20 World Cup since the inaugural edition in 2007. It’s not that long ago that Kenya were being touted as a potential Full Member. Remember the 2003 50-over World Cup? They made it all the way to the semi-finals but never recaptured that glory. Could next year be their chance?

Stumps - Hardik heads home

It’s mega, it’s mad, it’s full of money! That’s right, it’s the Indian Premier League (IPL) and it’s not that far off. Even though the 2024 competition doesn’t start until late March, the IPL is back in the news cycle as the player auction looms. It is set to take place on December 19th in Dubai. Absurd amounts of money being blown on cricketers? Dubai feels like a sensible venue.

The 10 franchises had until November 26th to release their list of retained players, released players and make any pre-auction trades. The biggest story came from the Mumbai Indians who have purchased former player and Indian superstar Hardik Pandya from the Gujarat Titans and have sent Cameron Green to the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) to make the move possible.

The Indians first signed Pandya in 2015 before releasing him in 2022. The then-newly formed Titans picked him up in the mega auction before going on the win the title, under his captaincy, in their first season. They very nearly repeated the feat last season but lost in the final to Chennai Super Kings.

Speaking of Chennai, their true Super King, MS Dhoni, will be donning the canary yellow once again in 2024 at the ripe old age of 42. The fans simply adore Dhoni in Chennai - perhaps ‘adore’ isn’t strong enough of a term, ‘worship’ might be more apt. Considering they lifted the trophy last season, their demigod Dhoni is entitled to yet another ‘final’ dance. Just one more? Go on then!

The other big news was Mumbai releasing the forever-injured Jofra Archer. What’s more, England’s Ben Stokes and Joe Root have both opted out of the season while Australia’s Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc have opted in. Josh Hazlewood and Wanindu Hasaranga have both been released by RCB surprisingly and could attract big auction dollars… or should I say rupees?

We will no doubt have more from the IPL after the auction and there’s plenty of other cricket to touch on too as New Zealand take on Bangladesh in a Test series and England begin a tour of the West Indies. Alas, I’m out of room, so next week!



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