Steve Smith's century of ODI appearances and other talking points ahead of India's clash with Australia in Kolkata

Ashish Peter 20/09/2017
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Steve Smith will play his 100th ODI at Eden Gardens.

With a 1-0 lead in the five-match ODI series under their belt, hosts India will take on Australia in the second match at Eden Garden in Kolkata on Thursday.

Led by some ferocious hitting from Hardik Pandya and a rearguard action by MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli’s men had overcome the visitors by 26 runs in a rain-curtailed one-dayer in Chennai.

Inclement weather could yet again make an appearance at the venue on Thursday with heavy downpours lashing the city in the past few days.

The forecast for the match-day does not look too promising at the moment with thunderstorms expected in the afternoon along with overcast conditions throughout the day.

Weather notwithstanding, the game should be a cracker with the defending World Champions expected to fight back hard after going behind in the series.

As such, we take a look at the three key talking points ahead of the encounter.

SMITH COMPLETES CENTURY OF APPEARANCES

The Aussie skipper will be making 100th appearance for Australia in the 50-over format come Thursday.

Arguably the best Test batsman amongst the current generation, the 28-year-old made his debut for his country more than seven years ago.

Closing in on 4,000 ODI runs, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the baby-faced assassin. Unique in his unorthodox style of batting, Smith’s first four years in the limited-overs format were a bit of a blur.

The right-handed batsman played 34 matches in that period scoring a combined total of 399 runs at a measly average of just 21.

A highest score of just 46 in the particular time-frame highlights the batting woes of a younger Smith.

However, since 2014, the Sydney-born batsman has played 65 games, scoring 2789 runs at an average of over 51. All of his eight tons and 17 half-centuries have come in this period.

After a slow start, the Aussie has really transformed his game to greater dimensions and as such, will remain a prize wicket for the Indians.

Smith's batting has been a revelation since 2014.

Smith’s batting has been a revelation since 2014.

PANDEY OR KL RAHUL FOR INDIA’S MIDDLE-ORDER?

While most of the bases in the Indian batting-order seem covered at the moment, one spot in the middle-order still remains up for grabs.

The number four slot has seen a tussle between KL Rahul and Manish Pandey but neither of them has been able to consolidate the position when given the chance.

Pandey was picked for the role ahead of Rahul in the Chennai game only to depart for a second-ball duck. In India’s recent 5-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka, Rahul was the preferred option for the first three ODIs but a combined score of 28 in his three innings meant he was dropped for Pandey in the final two games.

An unbeaten half-century along with a score of 36 by Pandey in those games meant he kept his spot for the opening match of the current series.

Rahul’s performances in the Test arena have been nothing short of great but the 25-year-old has not been able to translate the same form in the 50-over format despite scoring a century on his debut.

At the moment it looks like the Indian team management will persist with Pandey on Thursday but do not be surprised if Rahul is recalled into the starting line-up soon.

Will it be Rahul or Pandey in the number four slot on Thursday?

Will it be Rahul or Pandey in the number four slot on Thursday?

AUSTRALIA’S RECENT WHITE-BALL WOES

The winners of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup have not had the best of times on the road in the white-ball format.

The Aussies have won just once in their last 10 matches away from home in ODIs. That the sole win came against Ireland in 2016 highlights the current woes faced by the team.

Australia’s last two away series have been against New Zealand and South Africa. They were blanked 2-0 by the Kiwis and hammered 5-0 by the Proteas.

A winless run in the ICC Champions Trophy earlier this summer meant they did not progress to the knock-out stages as expected.

Former skipper Michael Clarke has already raised his concerns.

Former skipper Michael Clarke has already raised his concerns.

So dismal has been their form on the road that former skipper Michael Clarke has already voiced concerns about the captaincy of Smith in the limited-overs format.

“Smith’s batting has been outstanding for a long time but his captaincy is challenged now. He needs to define the way for his team to have success,” Clarke had said while presenting Don Bradman’s bat to Fanattic Sports Museum in Kolkata.

Another loss at Kolkata could lead to more ramblings in the media regarding Smith’s captaincy in the format.

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Joe Root redeems himself and other talking points from England's win over West Indies in the first ODI

Ashish Peter 19/09/2017
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Joe Root redeemed himself after dropping Chris Gayle early in the innings.

Hosts England took on the West Indies in the first of the five-match ODI series at the Old Trafford Cricket Ground in Manchester.

Eoin Morgan’s men ran out comfortable victors in the end courtesy a seven-wicket win after the returning Chris Gayle had given them an almighty scare at the start of West Indies’ innings.

The visitors had earlier shown why they are the defending ICC World T20 champions after they beat England by 21 runs in the lone T20I clash at Chester-le-street.

In a game which was delayed by over two-hours due to bad weather leading to the overs being curtailed to 42 for each side, West Indies skipper Jason Holder won the toss and elected to bat first.

His batsmen though failed to make the most of their opportunities as they could only muster 204-9 in their allotted overs.

In reply, the hosts chased down the target with consummate ease to take a 1-0 lead in the series.

In a match played under overcast conditions, we look at the three key talking points.

Root redeems himself after Gayle’s early onslaught

Gayle might have been returning to the West Indies’ ODI fold for the first time since the ICC World Cup 2015 but the Jamaican had given enough indications of the brute force he still possesses during the lone T201.

The hosts should have sent the left-handed back to the pavilion in the third delivery of the match itself but Joe Root would squander a gilt-edged chance at second-slip after Chris Woakes had Gayle slashing wildly.

It looked like that vital miss would cost England dear as Gayle went on a rampage hitting three sixes within the first four-overs of the West Indies innings.

In the end though, Woakes would get his man and Root would redeem himself when Gayle would sky another attempt for a six high into the Manchester sky only for England’s Test skipper to complete a stunning running catch over his shoulder after running in from cover.

Ben Stokes halts West Indies rebuild with double-strike

After losing openers Elvin Lewis and Gayle within the first 10 overs, Shai Hope and Marlon Samuels had performed a rearguard action for the visitors as the duo dug in to form a 50-run partnership which took them the better part of 14 overs to complete.

Though a tad slow, the partnership was threatening to build a solid platform for the West Indies to launch from later in the innings before England’s superstar all-rounder Ben Stokes spoilt the party.

Stokes removed Hope first and will consider himself lucky to do so after the Caribbean batsman had absolutely nailed his pull short to the shorter-delivery only to see Jonny Bairstow pull off a stunner at deep-midwicket.

Stokes then returned in the next over to dismiss Samuels in what could be considered another lucky dismissal after the West Indies batsman went chasing to a wide delivery down the leg side. The delivery was initially called as a wide by the umpire but Morgan reviewed the decision and his move was vindicated when the replays showed Samuels had edged the wayward delivery.

Jonny Bairstow makes the opening-spot his own

Jonny Bairstow has struggled to hold-down a spot in England’s ODI line-up which has had a settled look for some time now. If there is one position which is still up for grabs is that of the opening batsman where the regular man Jason Roy has struggle to pass the 20-run mark in his last nine innings.

Bairstow was given a chance ahead of Roy to open the innings in England’s Champions Trophy semi-final defeat to Pakistan earlier this year where he scored 43 runs.

On Tuesday, the 27-year-old was given another crack as Alex Hale’s opening partner and this time Bairstow might well have ended any hopes for Roy to regain that spot.

The right-handed batsman was fluent throughout his innings laden with 11 boundaries as he notched up his maiden ODI century in style and remained unbeaten on 100 at the end to guide England home to a seven-wicket victory.

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Yuvraj Singh and Stuart Broad: A tale of two champions

Ashish Peter 19/09/2017
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10 years ago on this day Yuvraj hit Broad for six sixes in an over.

Exactly 10 years ago, India’s Yuvraj Singh took Stuart Broad apart in devastating fashion to hammer six sixes in an over at the ICC World Cup T20 in South Africa.

In a group-stage clash between India and England at the Kingsmead Oval in Durban, the fates of a 25-year-old Yuvraj and a 21-year-old Broad collided to create history and send the Indian supporters into delirium.

Yuvraj was already an established star in India’s batting line-up while a young Broad was just taking baby-steps in a career which has since then gone from strength to strength.

The 19th over of the Indian innings was when the destruction from Yuvraj’s bat would happen as he sent Broad packing to all parts of the Kingsmead Oval with six hits so aesthetically pleasing to the eye that no one cared to notice young Englishman’s plight at being on the receiving end of such a hammering.

The pacer would finish the match with figures of 0-60 in his four overs as his side would ultimately lose the battle by 18 runs while Yuvraj would go on to score the fastest half-century in international cricket taking just 12 deliveries to reach the mark.

Credit has to be given to the Nottingham-born Broad though. Countless youngsters would have crumbled under the pressure of being on the receiving end of such a once in a lifetime hammering.

Self-confidence is a fickle thing and for it to be shaken at such a young age at a crucial World Cup encounter with millions of fans watching would not have been easy for Broad.

But here we are, 10 years later, and the 31-year-old pacer is now a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to English cricket.

Arguably at the peak of his bowling prowess, the still baby-faced Broad  has gone on to form a lethal partnership with James Anderson in England’s red-ball pace-attack and currently sits with 388 Test scalps to his name.

Broad completed a famous hat-trick against India at Trent Bridge.

Broad completed a famous hat-trick against India at Trent Bridge.

He has two Test hat-tricks to his name and incidentally one of them did come against India in 2011.

That particular hat-trick came in the four-match Pataudi Trophy series in England where India were whitewashed 4-0. Broad would be adjudged the player of the series for his performance that summer where he ended up with 25 wickets.

Yuvraj meanwhile has gone on to have an illustrious career with India and was the major protagonist in the country’s triumph at the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup.

Yuvraj would end up as player of the tournament in India's WC win in 2011.

Yuvraj would end up as player of the tournament in India’s WC win in 2011.

A career which has seen the batsman beat cancer to make a storied comeback, now appears to be coming towards its inevitable end with the left-hander not being picked for India since the ODI series against West Indies earlier this June.

With 304 ODIs to his name which has brought 8,701 runs, Yuvraj has seen it all. Perhaps he will carry the disappointment of not making a bigger indent in Test cricket for India but few would argue that the man has been one of the greatest limited-overs players to have ever worn the Indian jersey.

There is no doubt that both Yuvraj and Broad have been champion cricketers for their respective teams ever since that fateful night in Durban. One of them is now winding up his career while the other is still going from strength to strength.

The scars from that hammering have long been erased by Broad through his showing ever since, while Yuvraj’s assault will forever remain one of his greatest achievements in a trophy-laden career.

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