Steve Smith rubbishes ball-tampering allegations in Australia-England ODI

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Australian captain Steve Smith has shot down suggestions of ball-tampering after video of him using saliva from the corner of his mouth during Sunday’s one-day loss to England raised eyebrows.

Smith laughed off the reaction, after watching a replay of the video, saying it was his standard technique for helping shine the white ball with no assistance from any foreign substance.

“It was all spit. People said something about lip balm. If you look at my lips they are pretty dry. I certainly didn’t have any of that on,” he told reporters Sunday.

“It is just the way I get the spit into the side of my mouth and get some spit onto the ball. There was nothing in it.”

England last month blasted ball-tampering allegations against them as a “beat-up” after footage of England bowler James Anderson working the ball with his thumbnail drew suspicions during their Ashes test match in Melbourne.

England coach Trevor Bayliss slammed the accusations after former Australian test players Shane Warne and Michael Slater suggested it was not allowed.

“It’s a beat-up. As soon as I saw the headlines I raced into the umpires and that was their words: ‘Nothing to worry about, it was a beat-up, absolutely fine’,” Bayliss said at the time.

England sealed the five-match ODI series in Sydney Sunday when a stunning century from Jos Buttler helped the visitors to a unbeatable 3-0 lead — a remarkable turnaround after Australia had trounced them 4-0 in the Ashes Tests.

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Spotlight on Ben Stokes as IPL Player Auction list is released

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Ben Stokes is expected to attract a fierce bidding war.

The spotlight will be well and truly on England all-rounder Ben Stokes when the IPL player auction gets underway on January 27 after the final list of 578 players was released on Saturday.

Stokes is among the 16 marquee players picked for the upcoming auction in Bengaluru which will run across two days. India off-spinner Ravi Ashwin, Australian pacer Mitchell Starc, England Test captain Joe Root and Aussie all-rounder Glenn Maxwell are among the top players who will go under the hammer.

Initially, more than 1,000 players had registered for the auctions but the Indian board cut the list to 578. The players have been distributed across eight categories.

“A lot of strategising and number-crunching is involved before a cricketer is picked at the IPL Player Auction. The dynamic nature of the auction makes it unpredictable and exciting,” IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla said in a release.

“The eight franchises have given us an indication of what their core would be with their player retentions and IPL 2018 player auction will be an important step towards the creation of a successful team. The marquee list is full of star players, but I am also looking forward to the uncapped Indian players who have proved their mettle in the earlier editions of the IPL and are sure to attract high bids.”

According to reports, franchises will get to replace Stokes – who was charged with ‘affray’ over his brawl in Bristol last year – only if the all-rounder is not available for the entire tournament due to legal proceedings.

However, Stokes’ legal team is reported to have informed the England board that Stokes’ case is unlikely to impact his availability for the IPL.

Meanwhile, among the 16 marquee players in the ‘M1’ and ‘M2’ categories are India players Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane and veterans Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir. Interestingly, Chris Gayle finds himself in the M1 category even though his batting has lost a lot of its sheen.

Former India captain MS Dhoni has stated that his team Chennai Super Kings will go for Ashwin when his name comes up during the auction.

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'Claw' the latest mystery delivery in international cricket

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Mitchell Santner unveiled the 'claw' in the fourth ODI against Pakistan.

The margin of error in international cricket for bowlers is miniscule, especially in limited overs cricket.

Bowlers are constantly looking to develop ‘new’ deliveries that can deceive batsmen on flat surfaces as most players have developed a wide range of shots for ‘stock’ deliveries like the yorker or the traditional slower delivery.

Here are three ‘mystery’ deliveries currently used by bowlers at international level.

THE CLAW

The latest addition to cricket’s lexicon. New Zealand left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner unleashed the ‘claw’ to get Pakistan batsman Fakhar Zaman out bowled in the fourth match of the ODI series. Santner basically flicks the ball out of his fingers rather than rip it like a traditional spinner which means the ball floats the other way after pitching. While Santner said he tried out the left-arm version of the delivery mastered by India off-spinner Ravi Ashwin, the original offering was actually invented by Sri Lankan left-arm spinner Rangana Herath.

THE CARROM BALL

The ball that catapulted India spinner Ravi Ashwin into the ‘mystery’ league. Ashwin used the delivery extensively when he first started his international career. Using his fingers to cut the ball the other way like a half-hearted leg-spinner, Ashwin now uses it mainly to get tail-enders out. Interestingly, Ashwin has added another dimension to his bowling but is yet to unleash it on the international stage – proper leg-spin with all its variants. Can’t wait to see that.

THE KNUCKLE BALL

First brought to the international stage by South African seamer Charl Langeveldt, the knuckle ball is an import from the world of baseball. It’s a slower delivery in which pacers release the ball with their knuckle behind the ball instead of the ball resting just on the fingers with the palm for support. The ball basically swerves and dips in the air, deceiving unsuspecting batsmen.

India left-arm pacer Zaheer Khan mastered the delivery and famously bowled Australia batsman Michael Hussey with the knuckle ball during the 2011 World Cup quarter-final. Currently, India seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar uses the delivery regularly in limited overs cricket.

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