All too easy for India against Sri Lanka but that’s not ideal preparation for South Africa tour

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All too easy: Plain sailing for India.

The Test series against Sri Lanka was less about results and more about preparing the India team for the tour of South Africa that begins early next year. Test cricket is hardly the place to ‘prepare’ for future assignments but the packed calendar and the absence of substantial warm-up matches in South Africa meant the team had to improvise at home and ‘create’ conditions that would test the players.

It doesn’t reflect too well on the Sri Lanka team that their opposition were willing to play around with team combination and nature of the wickets. Even the fact the Sri Lankans had just beaten Pakistan 2-0 in the UAE had failed to stop Virat Kohli and Co from experimenting. India’s 9-0 win across formats in Sri Lanka earlier in the year was probably the deciding factor in their thought process.

However, as the third Test started in Delhi it became clear the Indians were not going to get the preparation they had hoped for.

The first Test in Kolkata was, as coach Ravi Shastri would say, just what the doctor ordered. The pitch was injected with as much grass and life as it could possibly hold and the hosts found the going tough in the first innings. They were shot out for 172 and conceded a massive 122-run lead.

But once the initial shock dissipated, and captain Kohli hit back with a second innings century, the Indians regained their touch and never let go the initiative. India were about an hour away from a stunning win in the first Test where rain took away nearly two days’ worth of play.

The second Test in Nagpur didn’t pose such issues and despite attempts to spice up the pitch, it turned out to be a walk in the park for the Indian batsmen. They piled on 610 with four batsmen smashing tons, an innings win becoming a formality.

Nagpur wasn’t quite Newlands, Cape Town – the venue of the New Year’s Test. And if the team management did send instructions to prepare a green track, the memo surely didn’t reach the Delhi curator.

It was a typically flat Kotla deck that allowed the Indians to score at more than four runs an over throughout the day with only a couple of stumping dismissals close to the end providing the Sri Lankans something to cheer about.

The management wanted the batsmen to be tested against the moving ball but that scenario played out only in the first innings of the first Test. Since then, the Indians have batted whichever way they have wanted, pumping up their batting averages. The fifty scored by Cheteshwar Pujara in the first innings in Kolkata is the only real ‘success’ for the Indians this series when considering the targets they had set for themselves.

Admittedly, Sri Lanka aren’t the most challenging bowling unit in five-day cricket and you can’t blame the batsmen if there are cheap runs – despite it being Test cricket – to be had.

However, that’s exactly the situation the Indians wanted to avoid and if the target at the beginning of the series was to have a line-up ready for the South African challenge, the Indians have missed the mark, so to speak, despite being outstanding in every department.

The Indians wanted to put themselves in uncomfortable positions during the series but the pitches in Nagpur and especially Delhi have prevented them from simulating anything remotely as nasty as what awaits in the Rainbow nation. It looks they will have to cross that bridge when they reach there.

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South African batsman hits fastest 300 in first-class cricket

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Hit 35 fours and 13 sixes in his 300 not out: Marco Marais

Marco Marais slammed the fastest triple century in first-class cricket to become the second South African in just over a week to claim a world record.

Marais, 24, went on a hitting spree to smash 300 not out off 191 balls for Border against Eastern Province in East London in South Africa’s three-day provincial competition, the country’s second tier of first-class cricket.

The previous fastest recorded triple century in terms of balls faced was off 221 deliveries by Charlie Macartney for the touring Australians against Nottinghamshire in 1921.

Denis Compton made 300 for MCC against North-Eastern Transvaal in 181 minutes in 1948/49 but the number of balls faced was not recorded. The England batsman went in at 61 for two and the total innings lasted for 71 eight-ball overs.

The previously unheralded Marais hit 35 fours and 13 sixes after arriving to bat with his side in trouble at 82 for four.

He and Bradley Williams (113 not out) added an unbeaten 428 runs before Border declared. Rain interfered with the match, which ended in a draw.

Like Shane Dadswell, who set a ‘minor’ cricket world record by smashing 490 not out in a limited overs club match in Potchefstroom recently, Marais is hoping his feat will provide a step up to franchise cricket, the top tier of South African domestic cricket.

“I didn’t go overseas to play club cricket this year,” he said. “I sacrificed and I worked the whole off-season on specific things and areas I thought I could improve on.”

Provided by AFP Sport

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Centuries from Ihsanullah and Rahmat Shah give Afghanistan strong start against the UAE

Denzil Pinto 29/11/2017
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Afghanistan could not have asked for a better start to their ICC Intercontinental Cup match against the UAE as Ihsanullah and Rahmat Shah both scored centuries on the opening day in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

Batting first at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Afghanistan displayed their batting strength that has put them to the top of the standings by closing play 321-3 after 96 overs.

Much of that was down largely thanks to a mammoth 197-run second wicket stand between Ihsanullah and Shah. Having lost Javed Ahmadi for six, the pair frustrated the UAE with Ihsanullah smashing 124 off 242 deliveries (13 fours and one six), while Shah hit 103 (12 fours) from 191 balls.

Both fell to pacer Mohammed Naveed and spinner Ahmed Raza but captain Asghar Stanikzai’s unbeaten 67 saw the team pass the 300-mark.

This will be the last four-day match that Afghanistan will play after being awarded Test status, along with Ireland by the ICC in June.

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