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senthils 23/08/2019
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CWC 2019 review: Kane Williamson and Shakib Al Hasan feature in best right-handed v left-handed teams

Alex Rea 22/07/2019
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Kane Williamson (l) and Shakib Al Hasan (r).

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It has been a week since the 2019 ICC World Cup drew to a close but the tournament continues to linger on in the minds of cricket fans around the Globe.

The tournament in England saw an even contest between bat and ball and was very much a throwback to ODI cricket of the 1990s. There was no dearth of stand-out performers in the World Cup with batsmen and bowlers alike making a mark.

Here, we compile the best possible right-handed and left-handed XIs from the tournament.

RIGHT-HAND BAT WORLD CUP XI

Rohit Sharma (India)

An unprecedented five tons in a single World Cup edition from the India opener who also finished as the top run-scorer with 648 runs at an average of 81.

Jason Roy (England)

Only twice did the England opener fail to register at least 50 runs in an innings over the course of the tournament. Registered a total of 443 runs which came at a strike-rate of more than 115.

Jason Roy.

Jason Roy.

Kane Williamson (c)

The New Zealand skipper was the tournament’s MVP with 578 runs at an average of over 82 and he led the Black Caps admirably before facing heartbreak in the final at Lord’s.

Joe Root

The England stalwart pips Virat Kohli to this slot after a stellar campaign where he registered two centuries and three fifties on his way to an aggregate of 556 runs. He finished as England’s highest run-getter in the tournament.

Babar Azam

The Pakistan stalwart would have ideally been batting much higher up the order but it is a stacked middle-order. Babar’s 474 runs at an average of 67 is the highest run tally by any Pakistan batsman in World Cup history.

Babar Azam.

Babar Azam.

Faf du Plessis

The Proteas captain should hold his head up high despite his team’s dismal display after registering one century and three fifties in the tournament.

Mushfiqur Rahim (wk)

The Bangladesh man pips Jos Buttler and MS Dhoni to the wicketkeeping gloves after a solid individual campaign for the Tigers where he averaged more than 52 with the bat.

Chris Woakes

The England all-rounder might not have set the world alight with the bat in the tournament but he was a major force with the new-ball with 16 wickets in total. He really came into his own in the business end of the tournament for the eventual champions.

Jofra Archer

It was some maiden World Cup campaign for Archer who added a new dimension to England’s bowling attack. Twenty scalps in total for the Barbados-born pacer who finished as the third-highest wicket-taker.

Jofra Archer.

Jofra Archer.

Lockie Ferguson

One of the biggest surprises of the tournament was the performance of the Kiwi pacer who finished only behind Mitchell Starc in the wicket-taking charts. 21 wickets at an average of under 20 for Ferguson.

Jasprit Bumrah

The No1 ranked ODI bowler in the world lived up to his reputation with a terrific campaign that saw him fetch 18 wickets while maintaining an outstanding economy-rate of just 4.41.

Jasprit Bumrah had a magnificent maiden World Cup campaign.

Jasprit Bumrah had a magnificent maiden World Cup campaign.

LEFT-HAND BAT WORLD CUP XI

David Warner

The Australia opener wasted no time in stamping his authority on his return to international cricket after a one-year suspension. Three tons and as many fifties saw him finish just behind Rohit Sharma.

Quinton de Kock

While he was a shade below his usual best in the tournament, the Proteas opener remained a potent threat at the top with three fifties and an average of nearly 40.

Shakib Al Hasan

The Bangladesh all-rounder became the first player in history to register more than 600 runs and 10 wickets in a single World Cup edition. He scored two tons and five fifties in eight innings while also chipping in with 11 wickets.

Shakib Al Hasan is in the form of his life.

Shakib Al Hasan is in the form of his life.

Eoin Morgan (c)

The World Cup winning skipper had a decent individual campaign as well with a total of 371 runs while slamming a record-breaking 17 sixes in his 158-run blitz against Afghanistan.

Nicholas Pooran

The Windies youngster showed why he is so highly rated with some excellent innings including a fine ton against Sri Lanka. Averaged more than 52 with the bat.

Alex Carey (wk)

The Australia wicketkeeper was arguably the revelation of the tournament with 375 runs at an average of more than 62 while also effecting 20 dismissals with the gloves.

Alex Carey

Alex Carey

Ben Stokes

The star all-rounder was England’s man of the tournament from start to finish and registered 465 runs in total with the help of five fifties. Always got stuck in for the hosts when they were in trouble while also chipping in with seven wickets and some outstanding catches in the deep.

James Neesham 

The Kiwi all-rounder had a superb tournament and made important contributions with both bat and ball. His seamers fetched 15 wickets while he registered a fine unbeaten 97 in his side’s loss to Pakistan.

Mitchell Starc 

The Australia pace spearhead broke compatriot Glenn McGrath’s record of the most wickets in a single World Cup edition and finished with 27 wickets. Starc has now finished on the top of the wicket-taking charts two World Cups in a row.

Starc broke his compatriot Glenn McGrath's record.

Starc broke his compatriot Glenn McGrath’s record.

Mohammad Amir 

The senior Pakistan pacer more than vindicated the selectors’ faith in him by picking up 17 wickets an average of nearly 21. He also registered his maiden five-wicket haul in ODIs in the clash against England.

Shaheen Afridi 

The Pakistan teenager left a last impression in England after claiming 16 wickets in  just five games including a memorable Lord’s five-wicket haul in the win over Bangladesh.

Afridi was flying against Bangladesh.

Afridi was flying against Bangladesh.

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Ronaldo, Champions League pressure and other ripple effects of Matthijs de Ligt to Juventus

Matt Monaghan 22/07/2019
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A dream was made real on Sunday when Juventus fans witnessed prodigious Netherlands centre-back Matthijs de Ligt don the Bianconeri colours.

Debutant De Ligt, 19, watched on helplessly deep into injury time as the ball flew over his head for Harry Kane’s staggering first-time winner from just inside the opposition half. This stupendous strike by the Tottenham Hotspur superstar produced a frustrating footnote to a half-hour run-out for the coveted teenager at Singapore National Stadium, less than a week since his €75 million switch from Ajax was confirmed.

The cameo role in the 3-2 loss for head coach Maurizio Sarri’s first game in charge gave few solid hints for the route ahead. But here we analyse the ripple effects from Juve’s emphatic transfer coup at Allianz Stadium:

GRAND EXPECTATIONS

Juve have possessed Serie A’s meanest defence for the last seven seasons – from each one, the title has been theirs.

Domestic dominance has become quotidian. Not even the existence of combustible former tactician Antonio Conte on the Inter bench should change that for next term.

De Ligt’s capture, in the midst of intense competition, had little to do with maintaining top-flight glory. Juve and current custodian Andrea Agnelli aspire to far more.

This searing ambition is exemplified by the Allianz’s September 2011’s inauguration, 2017’s introduction of a strikingly modern new badge, 2019/20’s iconoclastic ditching of the kit’s fabled stripes and their philosophy shift from “winning isn’t important, it’s the only thing that matters” to the ‘Sarri-ball’ attraction, in an effort to shamelessly appeal to North America’s mass market

De Ligt is another facet of this ceaseless drive beyond Italy’s borders.

At the heart of this scheme is the pain provided by 23 years of Champions League frustration.

De Ligt’s header deflated hopes in 2018/19’s quarter-finals, as did Portugal phenomenon Cristiano Ronaldo in the previous edition’s semis.

Both conquerors were snapped up, partly, in reaction.

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First game ??

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Recent final appearances against Barcelona and Real Madrid ended with chasings. AC Milan triumphed on penalties in 2002/03’s showpiece, Predrag Mijatovic grabbed the only goal for Los Blancos during 1997/98’s decider and Borussia Dortmund’s Lars Ricken enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame in the prior campaign’s finale.

The holistic procurement of De Ligt was a show of might, grasp for the globe’s attention and cure for continental exasperation. Pressure is already growing to see these desires fulfilled.

DEFENSIVE SHAKE-UP

Juve’s in-situ centre-backs are about to discover the ramifications of simple mathematics.

Sarri will not deviate from his dogmatic 4-3-3 formation, no matter the wealth of fresh options.

If it is taken for granted that skipper and talisman Giorgio Chiellini is a lock once declared fit, this leaves a single centre-back spot available.

Sarri demands that one of them builds from the rear. See Senegal’s imposing Kalidou Koulibaly at Napoli and rejuvenated ex-Brazil international David Luiz at Chelsea.

A straight choice in Turin presents itself between the 32-year-old Leonardo Bonucci and teenage landmark addition from the Netherlands, De Ligt.

Judged by WhoScored.com statistics from the 2018/19 Champions League, the rarefied Italian boasted compared to his potential usurper; more long balls per game (6.6/3), vastly superior long-ball pass-success percentage (57.4/40.7), better overall pass-success percentage (87.6/84.7) and greater key passes per game (0.5/0.1).

Stylistically, the Chiellini/Bonucci axis should endure. But this does not tell the whole picture.

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1️⃣5️⃣esima in ⚪️⚫️ #FinoAllaFine

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De Ligt led in several key defensive barometers; aerials won (4.2/1.5), tackles per game (1.5/0.7), clearances per game (4.2/2.6) and interceptions past per game (1.4/1.2). The prospect of De Ligt regularly connecting with Miralem Pjanic set-pieces is also tantalising.

Sarri’s exacting and rigorous work on the training pitch can only lift De Ligt further.

“He was one of the reasons that I wanted to join here,” the defender said at his unveiling.

“I spoke to Sarri on the phone before coming just to get to know each other.

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about him and I like his footballing philosophy and how he prepares his defence.”

A word must also go out to Daniele Rugani. The 24-year-old’s patience has not been rewarded.

Sarri tried to sign him at Chelsea last summer. He is, however, fourth-choice centre-back at best under his former suitor now they are together in Turin.

CHANGING TIMES

It proved to be the summer’s telling interaction.

Ronaldo’s brazen approach to De Ligt in the wake of last month’s Nations League showpiece proved both prescient and illustrative. The five-time Ballon d’Or would only do this to entice the rarest of talents.

“Agent Ronaldo”, as De Ligt would subsequently joke to the world’s media.

The Portuguese has been a centrifugal force in three of football’s grandest clubs; Manchester United, Madrid and now Juve. His actions and achievements demand top billing.

It will be intriguing to witness how the dynamic between De Ligt and his exalted new team-mate develops.

Argentina forward Paulo Dybala wilted in Ronaldo’s presence, going from 2017/18’s high-water mark of 26 goals in all competitions to last term’s miserly 10.

De Ligt became Ajax’s youngest-ever captain in March 2018. Also by the age of 18, he was unmovable in the Netherlands XI.

Will these preternatural characteristics shine through in a new environment and language?

Will a remarkable sense of responsibility need to be curbed among such lauded senior team-mates? And if so, what impact will this have on De Ligt’s game?

Scrutiny can only increase. Repeats of the costly slip against England in the Nations League semi-final, and failure to stem rampant Spurs at the same stage in Europe, will be amplified.

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Happy to be back #finoallafine

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De Ligt is not the only new face. Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot have been tasked with revitalising a stagnant midfield, while the lionised goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is back at his spiritual home.

None, however, come with the Dutchman’s expectancy levels.

Success, or failure, is not guaranteed.

Exalted countryman Dennis Bergkamp made the journey from Ajax to Inter Milan in 1993 and flopped. Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit became legends at AC Milan.

Significant tests of character, temperament and technique await.

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