Virat Kohli's chance to test India's bench strength and other talking points ahead of the final ODI against South Africa

Ashish Peter 15/02/2018
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Virat Kohli has the chance to give fringe players a chance on Friday.

Despite India having captured its maiden ODI series triumph in South Africa, there will still be a lot to play for when the two sides meet for the final tie at Centurion on Friday.

Virat Kohli’s men lead the series 4-1 after some excellent contributions from the skipper himself along with the wrist-spinners who have been on fire throughout.

Here, we look at the key talking points ahead of Friday’s clash.

REST ON THE CARDS FOR INDIA’S PACERS

Having sealed the series already, Centurion will provide an opportunity for Kohli to rest India’s pace duo of Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar after a long and taxing tour.

Both have been playing a lot of cricket, especially the former who has played every match on tour so far. As for the latter, he seems to be operating on fumes judging by his performances in the ODI series so far where he has only picked up two wickets.

The likes of Mohammed Shami and Shardul Thakur have been sitting on the sidelines throughout and could do with a game.

Bhuvneshwar looks in need of a rest.

Bhuvneshwar looks in need of a rest.

INDIA’S CHANCE TO TEST BENCH STRENGTH

While the pacers could well do with a rest, so could the skipper himself. Tuesday’s dead rubber could be the perfect occasion for India to test its middle-order batsmen. With the constant shuffling around of Kedar Jadhav, Manish Pandey, Ajinkya Rahane and now Shreyas Iyer, the visitors could be tempted to give the fringe batsmen a go in preparation for the ICC World Cup 2019.

If Kohli is indeed rested, one option could be to promote MS Dhoni to number four with the veteran wicketkeeper batsman struggling to up the tempo in the death overs.

Manish Pandey could do with a chance to bat.

Manish Pandey could do with a chance to bat.

PROTEAS BID TO SALVAGE SOME PRIDE

It has been a tough start to life as South Africa skipper for young Aiden Markram. Coming into the series just two ODIs old, the opening batsman has had to deal with injuries to stalwarts like AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock.

This is the first time they have not managed to win a bilateral series at home since Australia beat them 4-1 in 2014-15. With the Proteas’ proud record of 17 straight one-day home wins coming to an end in the form of an ignominious series defeat, Friday will be the chance to end on a high.

Its the last chance for the hosts to salvage some pride.

Its the last chance for the hosts to salvage some pride.

RECORD-BREAKING INDIANS AIM TO PUT ICING ON CAKE

The win over South Africa represents the ninth straight bilateral series win for the Men in Blue, second only to West Indies who won 14 in a row between 1980 and 1988. No matter what the outcome on Friday, India will end the series as the new No1 ranked side in ODI cricket, a mantle they already hold in the Test department.

However, the visitors would not want to relent in the final ODI and a 5-1 win would be the icing on the cake after a fantastic series.

India will want to carry the momentum into the T20I series to come.

India will want to carry the momentum into the T20I series to come.

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Bangladesh Cricket Board promise improvements after ICC brandishes Test venues 'below average'

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Test venues in the country have been criticised.

The Bangladesh’s Cricket Board have promised to improve pitches for international Tests after its two best venues were rated “below average” by the sport’s governing body following the Sri Lanka series.

The International cricket Council penalised the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Dhaka for its subpar pitch a week after rebuking Bangladesh’s other top venue in Chittagong for its shoddy ground.

The latest Test against Sri Lanka ended inside three days, with the visitors thrashing Bangladesh by 215 runs in a match that saw both sides all-out twice in less than eight sessions.

The Chittagong Test, however, saw batsmen plunder more than 1,500 runs, with Sri Lanka declaring at a colossal 713 for nine in their first and only innings.

ICC match referee David Boon – who issued a demerit point to both venues for below-average pitches — said the Dhaka ground was poor from day one.

“There was evidence of the ball breaking the pitch surface, which resulted in uneven bounce throughout the match, along with inconsistent turn, which was even excessive at times,” he said in a statement.

“This pitch produced a contest that was too heavily skewed in favour of the bowlers, and didn’t give the batsmen a fair chance to display their skills.”

The need to improve: Pitches in Bangladesh.

The opposite problem prevailed in Chittagong last week, when Boon said the pitch provided no seam movement and favoured batsmen, who smashed five centuries and six half-centuries over five days.

The Bangladesh cricket Board said it would consider appealing the demerit points but promised to take more precautions in future.

“Since we received this rating, we will be more careful about preparing the venues,” said the board’s chief executive officer Nizamuddin Chowdhury.

Any ground that receives five demerits from the ICC over five years is suspended from hosting international cricket for a year.

In September, the ICC rated the outfield of the Dhaka ground “poor” after the hosts defeated Australia by 20 runs in a Test.

But a demerit point was not issued as ICC guidelines for pitch and outfield monitoring were revised in January, a spokesman for the council said.

Provided by AFP Sport

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England all-rounder Ben Stokes to fly to New Zealand ahead of ODI series

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Stokes leaves the Bristol court after his hearing.

Ben Stokes will fly out to join England‘s tour of New Zealand in the next 24 hours.

The 26-year-old all-rounder pleaded not guilty to affray at Bristol Magistrates Court on Tuesday morning and was granted bail before the next hearing in the case takes place on March 12.

Shortly after Stokes’ first court appearance, the England and Wales cricket Board issued a statement confirming his travel plans.

He is not expected to make an immediate return to the team in the next week, however, as he bids to resume his international career after more than four months of unavailability.

An ECB spokesman said: “Having entered his plea at Bristol Magistrates Court today, Ben Stokes will now travel to New Zealand to join the England squad.

“He departs tomorrow, Wednesday February 14, and will arrive on Friday February 16, ready to train with England team-mates in Hamilton.”

England, who lost the Ashes in Stokes’ absence this winter but hit back with a 4-1 victory in the subsequent one-day international series against Australia, are in danger of an early exit from the ongoing Twenty20 tri-series after defeat against New Zealand in Wellington on Tuesday.

The ECB spokesman added: “Any decision to include him in upcoming matches will be made by head coach Trevor Bayliss and the England management team. He is not currently being considered for the ongoing International T20 Tri-Series.

“(The) ECB fully respects his right to defend himself in court, and any obligations he has within the legal process will always take precedence over England commitments.

“It has been confirmed that he will not be required to return to the UK for the first hearing at Bristol Crown Court on Monday March 12.”

Stokes’ leave from court proceedings on that date perhaps suggests a feasible return to England colours for bilateral ODI and Test series against New Zealand which begin with the 50-over leg on February 25 and end in his native Christchurch on April 3.

It was confirmed at his Tuesday hearing that he will face a crown court trial over an altercation outside a nightclub in Bristol last September.

The Durham match-winner and England’s Test vice-captain – who was suspended from playing in the Ashes while he waited to hear if he would be charged – is accused of affray along with two other men.

Stokes appeared in court on Tuesday alongside Ryan Ali, 28, and Ryan Hale, 26.

It follows the altercation in the Clifton Triangle area of Bristol during the early hours of September 25 last year – several hours after England had played a one-day international against West Indies in the city.

It is alleged a 27-year-old man suffered a fractured eye socket in the incident, at which Stokes’ England team-mate Alex Hales was also present.

Stoke's crown court trial will begin on March 12.

Stoke’s crown court trial will begin on March 12.

Ali, Stokes and Hale spoke to confirm their names, dates of births, addresses and nationalities.

The clerk read out the charges, and all three defendants indicated not guilty pleas.

The full charge sheet shows that Stokes, of Castle Eden, Durham, is accused of affray on September 25 at Queens Road in Bristol.

He is accused jointly with Ali and Hale of using or threatening unlawful violence towards another.

The charge states that his “conduct was such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety”.

The other two defendants face the same charge.

Affray is an either-way offence, meaning it can be tried at the magistrates court or the crown court. But all three defendants elected to be tried by a jury at the crown court.

District Judge Simon Cooper told the three defendants: “I have decided that your trial will take place at the crown court at Bristol. The first hearing date will be March 12. You will be on

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