World Cup Central: ODIs becoming ‘an extended version of T20 cricket’

May 29

Trent Boult returned with 4 for 50 in 9.2 overs against West Indies in a warm-up fixture on Tuesday, and New Zealand still ended up facing a target of 422. They were bowled out for 330 in the chase.

It’s one of the fears – or expectations – at the upcoming World Cup, where people are talking about a team (West Indies and England seem the top picks ) even going on to score 500 in an innings. It can’t be easy being a bowler in these circumstances as New Zealand saw in Bristol, being clubbed for 41 fours and 18 sixes.

“The way T20 cricket goes, it can come down to six or 12 runs at the end of it, and ODI cricket is becoming an extended version of T20 cricket in my opinion,” Boult said on the ICC website. “If you can make those big 17- or 18-run overs into 12-run overs, that can make a big difference in the end. If we’re clear on that, we can go a fair way in this tournament.”

Carlos Brathwaite wants West Indies to ‘show up and show off’

Carlos Brathwaite, hero of West Indies’ 2016 World T20 final win, feels the 2019 World Cup represents one of his team’s better chances to repeat the performances of 1975 and 1979.

“If we can win, we can be looked upon in the way that the team of ’75 and ’79 was looked upon, as heroes of sorts,” he was quoted as saying by the ICC. “Once we do the things we’re supposed to do, often we should go far enough in the tournament.

“It’s one of our better chances in the last 40 years or so to win the World Cup, so it’s time for us to show up and show off. On our day, in semi-finals and finals we have some guys who can win it on their own.”

One of those guys is Chris Gayle, the iconic figure at the top of the batting order playing his last World Cup, and one of the others is young Shai Hope, who has been scoring big runs of late.

“Obviously, Chris has done that in the Test and ODI format, and then he is ‘Universe Boss’ in T20s as well,” Brathwaite said. “The young guys like Shai Hope are aspiring to reach the heights that Chris has reached.”

‘Quite relieved seeing Mustafiz bowl at his old pace’ – Mashrafe

Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza has picked Mustafizur Rahman‘s opening spell as one of the most heartening takeaways from the team’s 95-run defeat to India in the warm-up fixture in Cardiff on Tuesday.

Mustafizur has not had a consistent run since the Asia Cup last September when he took 10 wickets in Bangaldesh’s runners-up finish. He picked up a four-wicket haul against West Indies, during the tri-series earlier this month, but has otherwise been expensive with both the new and old ball of late.

“I am quite relieved seeing Mustafiz bowl at his old pace,” Mashrafe said about the the 23-year-old left-armer, who took 1 for 19 from his first five overs, bowling more accurately than he has done since the New Zealand ODI series in February. “He bowled well too, and picked up his pace around 140kph at times. If he can bowl like he usually does, our bowling becomes a very different unit. I also got a lot out of Rubel [Hossain] and [Mohammad] Saifuddin. We expected to do better with the new ball after not having done well in Ireland.”

Bangladesh used their last opportunity before the tournament proper to test several things, including pushing bowlers out of their comfort zones. India piled up 359 for 7 in 50 overs as Mashrafe rotated nine bowlers in different segments of the innings. He underscored that despite being at the receiving end of such big hitting, Bangladesh remained confident about their spinners.

“Shakib [Al Hasan] had an off day but he has the experience to come back in a great way,” Mashrafe said. “I think he will do something big in this World Cup. [Medidy Hasan] Miraz, too, has been bowling well recently. In this game, we tried to give all our spinners difficult situations to bowl at, so that in the tournament proper they become mentally equipped to deal with a storm of big hitting.”

Mashrafe, however, added that set batsmen at the crease would be expected to convert their starts into hundreds, and that they cannot afford to lose wickets in quick succession if they are to chase big totals.

“Mushfiq[ur Rahim] remains consistent, which is important,” Mashrafe said. “Liton [Das] is doing his job. It would have been better had they both scored centuries. We would have reached 300 had [Mahmudullah] Riyad been there for a little bit longer. I think playing India’s high-quality attack in the practice match is going to help us [in the tournament proper]. But we can’t lose wickets in pairs. It makes chasing 350-plus very difficult. Liton and Mushfiq got out just when they were becoming aggressive, while Shakib and [Mohammad] Mithun got out first ball, although to good deliveries.”

Rashid Khan can leave you ‘shaking your head’ – Maxwell

Glenn Maxwell has admitted that Rashid Khan is a bowler who can leave a batsman “shaking your head” with his variations as he prepares to potentially face the legspinner in Australia’s opening World Cup match against Afghanistan.

Although Maxwell said he can pick Rashid “at times” and doesn’t usually feel like he’ll get out to him – in six T20 matches the pair of faced in each other, Rashid has never removed Maxwell – he conceded that scoring against him is mighty tough work but hopes that experience of facing him in the Big Bash will help.

“He’s very difficult,” Maxwell said. “He is probably one of the more difficult ones I’ve played against. He and Narine are probably the two you go through stages where you think you are going to hold them and then they bowl a ball that beats you. And you sit there shaking your head. I think for me I feel like I don’t think I’m going to get out to him but I don’t feel like I’m going to score much off him.

“It’s about targeting other blokes and making sure I’m putting pressure on him to change his lengths and I felt like I did that against him during the Big Bash at different times. I will be drawing on that experience a little bit. We’ve got a bit of footage to watch but it’s a different kettle of fish when you’re actually facing him.”

Maxwell said it was a balancing act between trying to be aggressive against Rashid – to force Afghanistan into a change of tactics – and the risk of giving him wickets.

“I probably try and pick my spinners I go hard against,” he said. “Whether it’s history against them or I have confidence against them, or I’ve got a good game plan against certain players. But I think for him because he is such a dangerous player for them – they rely and him and Nabi a lot to stop and get wickets just after the Powerplay – I think just putting pressure on them to bring back the medium pace and faster bowlers might be the way we go, I’m not really sure. But once we have that batting meeting during the week guys will come out with certain plans. Guys might target him, I don’t know.”

May 28

Shai Hope backs West Indies in race to 500

One of the big questions ahead of the World Cup is whether it will be the moment the 500-mark is breached in ODIs. It is certainly in range with England holding the current record of 481 for 6 against Australia last year and they are a team fancied to push it further, but Shai Hope is backing West Indies to be the team break the magical mark.

There is certainly no lack of power in West Indies’ line-up as they reminded everyone by piling up 421 against New Zealand in Bristol. Hope’s contribution was a skillful 101 off 86 balls with the early onslaught provided by Chris Gayle (36 off 22) and later Andre Russell (54 off 25 balls). The only players to strike below 100 were Evin Lewis – who still managed 50 off 54 balls – and No. 11 Kemar Roach.

“It is definitely a goal we can try to achieve at some point,” Hope said. “Definitely it would be great to be the first team to cross that 500 mark and I am sure we have the batting firepower to do it.”

One thing in West Indies’ favour in the quest for 500 is that two of their matches are at Trent Bridge – the venue where England flayed the record and its predecessor, 444 for 3 against Pakistan in 2016.

While the top order is packed with strokemakers – with Hope providing a classy and in-from anchor at No. 3 – it is Russell who could be the trump card when it comes to massive totals.

“He is just incredible – a freak of nature really,” Hope said. “I don’t really know what to say about Russ, he just hits it and once he hits it, it goes for six. He is a pleasure to be on the same team as him, I can tell you that. If you are on the field you are not sure what you are going to bowl at him. It is just nice to enjoy from the inside.”

We have that belief we didn’t have a few years ago – Adil Rashid

The pressure keeps mounting on the favourites and hosts England, but legspinner Adil Rashid believes that the side is well-equipped to deal with it. Rashid also felt that this level of confidence among group was something the side did not have a few years ago.

ALSO READ – The importance of Rashid and Moeen to England’s World Cup dreams

England didn’t make the knockouts in the 2015 World Cup, but following a revamp in their batting approach, they climbed to No. 1. They’ve won 16 of the 23 ODI series they’ve played since the last World Cup, and Rashid took pride in their recent success.

“It’s an exciting feeling being in this team as you have world-class players all around you and the opposition might get 370, but there’s a belief in the dressing room we can chase it down,” Rashid told ICC. “There is no hesitation or someone going, ‘I don’t know about this’, we all have that belief and confidence we can do it. If the openers don’t [don’t do the job], number three, four, five six will instead. “It’s the same all the way down the order, we have that belief that a few years ago we may not have had. Now we’ve got that regardless or the score, 400 or whatever.”

Rashid ‘s legspin has been central to England’s rise, but he also explained the value of the other bowlers in the side.

“I’ll try my best and if I don’t take the wickets, a seamer will do the job, we’ve got another spinner in Moeen Ali who can take the wickets, we’ve got Tom Curran or Jofra Archer,” he said. “It’s obviously exciting, but I’ll still just focus on bowling to my strengths. I will continue to go through my processes, I can’t let that get to me and think about that. I’ve got to think about working hard, getting my variations in and enjoying the game.”

Malinga teaches Stoinis his bag of tricks

It is only a few days until teams will be going hammer and tongs against each other to win the World Cup, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time for passing on advice between opposition players.

After Australia had wrapped up a comfortable win against Sri Lanka in Southampton, Marcus Stoinis spent time on the outfield with Lasith Malinga picking his brains about how to bowl the slower ball that has caused so many batsmen problems over the years – most recently to clinch the IPL final in the final-ball thriller.

Even though they will face each other during the tournament – the two teams play at The Oval on June 15 – Malinga was happy to hand down plenty of advice.

“Stoinis asked me something about how I bowl the slower ball…variation is very important in the short format game,” Malinga said. “I want to give all the tips because I want to help whoever wants to know. I’ll give the tricks about how to bowl the slower ball and which situations to use them. I’m really happy to work with him.”

So will we see Stoinis bowling like Malinga over the next few weeks? “Not round-arm, but I expect him to bowl the dipping slower ball,” Malinga said.

The Maxwell factor

Much before ‘3D’ became a buzzword in cricket, Glenn Maxwell had embodied the phrase for several seasons. And for the 2019 World Cup, Maxwell’s multi-utility skills could well be the key factor to getting Australia a sixth World Cup trophy. That’s if vice-captain Pat Cummins’ words are anything to to by.

“I think the way he has turned games around for us in the last couple of months has been impressive with the bat, and then he is also an option to bowl ten overs,” Cummins said.

In the lead-up to the tournament, Maxwell smashed three half-centuries in Australia’s 5-0 series win in the UAE. He then plied his trade on the county circuit, playing seven List A games. He returns with the bat were modest – a top score of 35 – but he struck regularly with the ball, taking eight wickets in all and going wicketless in a match only once.

In Australia’s final warm-up match, against Sri Lanka, Maxwell hit a run-a-ball 36 and took 1 for 14 in five overs – further evidence of good all-round form. Throw in his athletic prowess on the field and he is the complete package.

“He is also able to get run-outs and take catches,” Cummins said. “You get all three facets out of him and he is always there in tough situations. He is probably our sixth bowler but on a good day he can get through all ten. He’s in good form.”

May 27

Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav return to training

Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav were both back at the nets ahead of India’s second warm-up fixture against Bangladesh in Cardiff on Tuesday. Vijay hurt his wrist in India’s first training session upon landing in England and underwent scans that cleared him of a fracture. Jadhav, meanwhile, is recuperating from a shoulder injury that forced him out of the last stages of the IPL. This was Jadhav’s first proper hit at the nets in England this summer, while Vijay too seemed quite comfortable facing up to the bowlers. Both players did not take part in India’s first warm-up fixture against New Zealand at The Oval.

Latham making encouraging progress

Tom Latham has returned to training following the fractured finger he picked up during the warm-up series against Australia in Brisbane earlier this month. However, it remains uncertain whether he will be able to take the gloves for New Zealand’s opening against Sri Lanka in Cardiff on Saturday.

Tom Blundell, who is uncapped in ODIs, kept wicket in the warm-up match against India and is set to continue in the role against West Indies.

“It’s good to see him hitting and catching again,” Blundell said of Latham. “It’s going to be good for our team and hopefully he can get back as soon as possible.”

Blundell earned a late call into New Zealand’s World Cup plans after being preferred to Tim Seifert in the 15-man squad. He made 77 in the first match against the Australians at Allan Border Field.

Sri Lanka’s ocean-plastic colours

Sri Lanka’s World Cup kit is made from recycled ocean-waste plastic materials. According to Lasith Malinga, the eco-friendly kit feels very similar to those made of other materials and is both comfortable and allows the skin to ‘breathe’. The jerseys, which have a satin-like feel, have a secondary purpose; to promote awareness of ocean pollution.

“With all the beaches in Sri Lanka, and the plastic around the sea, people have realised they can clean the beach and make the shirts for us in this World Cup,” said Malinga. “It’s a good thing for Sri Lanka, and we are very happy to support them.”

Sabbir wants to be Bangladesh’s enforcer

In a World Cup that is expected to be high-scoring, Bangladesh will look to the senior trio of Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim to provide the steel to their innings, but the onus of quick scoring at the death will fall on Sabbir Rahman and it’s a role he is prepared for.

“My role is to play No. 6, 7 or 8,” he was quoted as saying by the ICC website. “I like to score quickly and I will try to make sure we can put runs on the board as a team in the later overs. I think I want to bring some momentum to our innings.

“We expect Tamim to bat for 40 overs and if there’s a good wicket, I can make it a bigger score.”

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Bangladesh, who have hit only six scores of over 300 since the last World Cup, will be eyeing stronger finishes. They will also be looking to improve their strike rate in the last ten overs – among the ten teams in the current edition, only Sri Lanka have a poorer run rate in the last ten overs (6.63), compared to Bangladesh’s 6.66.

With their first warm-up against Pakistan washed out, Bangladesh have only one practice match – against India on Tuesday – before they open their campaign against South Africa on June 2 in London.

Australia ‘have turned a corner’ – Allan Border

For a change, Australia are not the runaway favourites at the World Cup, but Allan Border, who led them to the first of their five titles back in 1987, feels “things have turned around for our team after some really good performances in India and against Pakistan in the UAE; I just think they’ve turned a corner”.

Writing on the ICC website, Border said that the return of Steve Smith, David Warner and Mitchell Starc have made a big difference to the team, to go with the winning run in India and the UAE.

“The key will be having a mix between pace and spin, but legspinners are going to play a big role in this World Cup. Good spinners are going to be like gold dust, and how you bowl is going to win or lose you games,” Border wrote, while picking Adam Zampa as a potential game changer.

That said, like many others, Border picked England as the most formidable outfit out there as “they have changed the game”. “There’s no score that they couldn’t get or target they couldn’t achieve. The rest of us are playing catch-up to a certain degree,” Border said, adding that up to six of the ten teams in the fray are capable of winning the tournament.

May 26

Smith boos ‘add to the game’ – Carey

Steven Smith brushed off the boos he received during the warm-up match against England as “water off a duck’s back” and team-mate Alex Carey said the atmosphere “adds to the game”.

Australia were well aware of the reception they were likely to get in Southampton so the reaction of the crowd came as little surprise with Smith and Warner facing England for the first time since their ball-tampering bans. Smith made a statement, however, with 116 off 102 balls as Australia secured a 12-run win.

“We knew it was going to happen, it’s one way to answer it – and Davey got 40-odd as well,” Carey said. “I think it’s a great atmosphere and adds to the game. The guys handled it really well.”

Carey batted alongside Smith and dominated a sixth-wicket stand of 42 which gave Australia late impetus after the innings had threatened to stall. Carey, not one of Australia’s big hitters, struck 30 off 14 deliveries with some excellent placement to show it is not always about how far you can strike the ball that matters.

“Something I’ve been working on is that if I’m not clearing the pickets with the biggest hits then I’m finding the gaps, it’s something I’ll build on. It was nice to go out there with Steve and put on a little partnership at the end. He’s fantastic to bat with.”

‘The dream for me started that day’ – Karunaratne on SL’s 1996 World Cup win

Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne was only eight years old, and Angelo Mathews was nine when Arjuna Ranatunga led Sri Lanka to the World Cup title in 1996.

For Karunaratne, Sri Lanka’s victory was an inspiration for him to play cricket. “I remember the game and watching with all our family and friends,” Karunaratne told the ICC. “I recall we had a very, very small television, so I had a pocket radio with me so I could listen to all the commentary and not miss anything.

“It was a very special time for Sri Lanka as a country, I just remember how excited all my friends were and how it inspired me to play cricket. The dream for me started that day.

“Those players are still an inspiration to everyone in Sri Lanka and the lesson we take now is how they played as a team and worked for each other.”

Mathews though doesn’t remember the details of Sri Lanka’s winning campaign but said that the success changed the cricketing scene in the island nation.

“We are very grateful to that team and we are who we are today because of them,” he said. “I was a bit too young to remember the match in too much detail, I just remember how proud everyone was, who would have thought Sri Lanka could become world champions.

“That team made such an impact to the sport in our country. It changed the entire set-up overnight, every kid wanted to be a cricketer. People were always talking about cricket after that.”

Mathews, who warmed up with 64 against South Africa on Friday, said the current tournament format posed a different challenge though.

“We know it’s going to be challenging but we’re looking forward to it. The new format where you play everyone is great but it means you can’t get lucky. To win this World Cup you need to beat all the best and be consistent – that is how it should be.”

England players turn out to support Ruth Strauss Foundation fun run

England put their World Cup preparation – and its last-minute concerns – aside on Sunday as the entire squad turned out for the Ruth Strauss Foundation Family Mile in central London.

Wearing bright red t-shirts emblazoned with the foundation’s logo, the England players were photographed at the event behind a banner which read “Run With Ruth” as part of the 2019 Vitality Westminster Mile. Participants could run, jog or walk from The Mall to Buckingham Palace and several players – including skipper Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow – wore race numbers, taking part in the event alongside former England captain Andrew Strauss.

England head of team communications Danny Reuben posted the photos on Twitter, saying: “Fantastic turnout for the @RuthStraussFdn at the #WestminsterMile – all the squad in attendance.” Several players, including Morgan, Stokes and Chris Woakes, publicised the event on their own Twitter accounts and called for donations.

Ruth Strauss, Andrew’s wife, died in December aged 46 after battling a rare form of lung cancer. The foundation aims to raise awareness and funds for research into the disease and support services for sufferers and their families. Strauss said: “Ruth loved families spending time together and it will be wonderful to see so many families come together on Sunday May 26 to celebrate her life.”

The team’s participation came a day after their 12-run loss to Australia in a World Cup warm-up match in Southampton, during which fast bowlers Mark Wood and Jofra Archer and spin-bowling allrounder Liam Dawson were injured. Wood’s problem was of most concern as he awaited the results of scans on his left foot. Morgan missed the match with a finger fracture and Root was a late inclusion as a substitute while mourning the death of a grandparent.

Gayle ‘an inspiration’ as Taylor looks towards 2023

Ross Taylor comes into the World Cup at his absolute peak as an ODI batsman. Since the start of 2017, he averages 70.96 in the format, and only Virat Kohli has done better among batsmen with a minimum of 1000 runs in this period.

For how long can Taylor keep going, though? The New Zealand batsman is 35 now, and he admits 2019 could be his last World Cup, but he isn’t ruling out another one four years down the line. He counts Chris Gayle, who’s as old now as Taylor will be in 2023, as an inspiration.

“My approach to the World Cup is not necessarily a mindset of going out there just to enjoy it,” Taylor told ICC. “You always put a lot of pressure on yourself in big tournaments – pressure comes with it whether you think about it or not, so it’s about managing those moments.

“I’m 35 but you never really know what’s to come. Chris Gayle is probably an inspiration – he’s 39 in this World Cup and I’m 39 at the next, so it’s not a simple matter. You never know, this will probably be my last World Cup but if these hamstrings and calves hold together then maybe I can be back in a few years.”

Taylor had a relatively quiet time at the 2015 World Cup, scoring 221 runs at an average of 31.57, even as his team made the final for the first time. New Zealand played all but one of their matches – the final – at home four years ago; now Taylor feels it will be a more difficult task to get that far or better that performance.

“I think you have to pace yourself in a tournament like this, it’s a long time and the way our schedule is, there are a lot of games at the start and a bit of a break in the middle,” Taylor said. “The way you rest and train between games is going to be very important.

“When it comes to a warm-up you just treat it as that and then get out of the game what you want to get out of it. For us, we haven’t played as a team for two or three months, so it was about going out there and testing our skills out against the best.

“It’s going to be a lot tougher, making the final four years ago we played a lot of games at home and we knew our conditions very well. If you get off to a good start and get onto a roll, you can get into those semi-finals and suddenly you’re only two wins away from winning it.”

The other side of Mashrafe

In the five months as a member of parliament from his native Narail, Mashrafe Mortaza has already created a stir with his straightforward approach. His surprise visit to a local hospital led him to discover that the doctors weren’t present, and the message from Mashrafe was clear: wrongdoing won’t be tolerated. He also directed Narail’s local administrator to buy paddy directly from the farmers after many of them in other parts of the country protested not getting a fair price for their produce. This attitude has struck a chord with the local people.

Now, however, Mashrafe’s focus is entirely on the World Cup. “I am just concentrating on cricket,” he told ESPNcricinfo. “My involvement in politics isn’t at that level yet. I don’t have to give it a lot of time, apart from particular issues. I am still very comfortable to recognise myself as a cricketer. Politics is not full-time at the moment.”

Bangladesh play their first game of the World Cup against South Africa at the Oval on June 2.

“The younger players, some of whom have played in the previous World Cup, are giving us confidence,” Mashrafe said. “If all of them continue in their good form, we can expect to have a good match [against South Africa]. The likes of Shakib, Tamim, Mahmudullah, Mushfiq and Mustafiz have delivered under pressure.”

‘If we start getting on a roll, no one will relish facing us’ – Kemar Roach

West Indies might not be on many people’s list of favourites for the World Cup 2019, but their fast bowler Kemar Roach is least bothered about that. In fact, he feels the side performs better when the focus is not on them.

“We love being underdogs, going under the radar and surprising people, that is our game plan,” Roach told the ICC. “We like not having to deal with the hype. The format is ideal, whoever wins this World Cup won’t have got lucky – they’ll have had to play everyone. If we start getting on a roll, no one will relish facing us.”

Prior to the 2019 edition, England have hosted the World Cup four times, and on three of those occasions, West Indies made it to the finals. They won the first two editions, in 1975 and 1979, and were the runner-ups in the next in 1983. While the current West Indies team may not be of the same pedigree, Roach said they were up for the challenge to make history of their own.

“It’s a great feeling to follow those guys that won here all those years ago,” Roach said. “We know the history we have in this tournament when England host it and that’s inspiring to us all. What those guys did means we still get amazing support in this country, we know the fans here love the West Indies and we want to put on that show they expect.

“However, we also know we have to make our own history, that’s our challenge and the guys are ready for it.”

‘Versatility makes me an asset’ – Brathwaite

You ‘remember the name’, of course you do. And the four consecutive sixes that won West Indies the T20 World Cup. Now Carlos Brathwaite is set to play his first ODI World Cup, and the allrounder warmed up by hitting 60 in a game against Australia. Brathwaite is confident his versatility will help West Indies make a deep run in the tournament.

“When chosen, my skill-set suits bowling very tight in the middle, offering some support at the death and then with the bat picking up the slack,” Brathwaite said on Saturday. “If I need to come in the last three or four overs to give us a boost to the total then fine… or the odd game where I can come in and play a longer knock, so I think it’s about working on all facets of my game so my versatility makes me an asset that can be chosen at any point during the tournament.

“It’s another challenge and whatever situation presents itself is for me to use that versatility again and to adapt to it. We may need another knock like against Australia or we may need a knock where they only have three overs and I’m supporting one of the batters that is in, so it’s another good challenge for the team and puts us one step closer to the ultimate goal which is winning the tournament.”

May 25

Pretty crazy to see 350 being chased down – Boult

Trent Boult has played only one World Cup, but he left a deep impression. Boult took 22 wickets in 2015, the joint highest alongside Mitchell Starc, as New Zealand marched to their first ever final.

However, Boult knows that in 2019, bowlers are likely to have a tougher time than they did in 2015, given the prodigious scoring seen in England in recent times. “With the ball we want to be as aggressive as we can. We know that taking wickets can stump that run rate,” Boult said ahead of new Zealand’s first warm-up match, against India. “Without giving away our gameplan, I think it’s obvious that all teams are trying to take early wickets and put the pressure on the batting team. To see these 300-350, 400 even being touched, and then being chased down is pretty crazy in my opinion.”

New Zealand’s pace attack has Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, James Neesham and Tim Southee besides Boult, and he acknowledged that with very little help from the conditions, finding new ways to take wickets would be a challenge.

“Not just for me, but the attack we possess, we’re all kind of new-ball bowlers,” Boult said. “We’re swing bowlers. If the conditions suit, then obviously we’ve got the skills to put the opposition to the test there, but the balls haven’t really been swinging so we’re not really coming here and expecting it to be around like it did four years ago. The test of the bowling group is that there’s other ways to find wickets and I think that’s going to be the challenge over the next couple of weeks – to try and find wickets when the pitches are flat. It’s not swinging and they’re kind of batsmen-friendly conditions, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

May 24

The ‘still relevant’ Dinesh Karthik

‘Love him or hate him, you can’t ignore him.’

That’s not quite what Dinesh Karthik said, but he pointed if people were still talking about him – either for or against – he had managed to stay ‘relevant’.

Despite being overlooked for India’s final ODI series – against Australia at home – before the World Cup, Karthik pipped Rishabh Pant to the back-up wicketkeeper spot for the global tournament. It divided opinion, but Karthik felt he was satisfied as long as he remained in the conversation.

ALSO READ: Restless rookie to calm finisher: Karthik’s evolution

“I wouldn’t still be playing if it weren’t for the blessings of my friends and family,” Karthik told PTI before leaving for England. “Good or bad, if people still talk about you it means that you have managed to stay relevant. It is extremely satisfying that I have managed to stay relevant all these years and still trying hard to be part of the team.”

Karthik, however, also admitted that he was surprised at his exclusion from India’s ODI squad for the Australia series, but felt that his successes over a long period contributed to his selection.

“I was a bit shocked (on missing out), but I had faith that you know if it is meant to be, it is meant to be,” Karthik said. “In the end, I was picked for my performances over the last two years.

“I have batted in various positions (over the last 24 months) and I have had decent success in those positions. But the key is not for me to look back at the last two years, the greatest tournament is going to happen and I now have the opportunity to play there.”

‘Asghar Afghan is still my captain’

Asghar Afghan’s removal as Afghanistan’s ODI captain less than two months before the World Cup had garnered criticism from some of the team’s senior players, but his replacement Gulbadin Naib quelled any murmurs of disharmony within the team, saying he still considered Asghar as his captain.

Asghar Afghan is still my captain,” Naib told ICC. “We played our last few games against Ireland and Scotland, and he helped me a lot. He guided me. He’s not just another player for me, he’s still my captain right now.

“I want support from him. Not just him, but [Mohammad] Nabi, Rashid [Khan] and all the guys who have a lot of experience. All of us have one goal: we want to play for Afghanistan and play as a team, whoever the captain is.”

Afghanistan have warm-up games scheduled against Pakistan and England before they open their campaign on June 1 against Australia.

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