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Ashes Scout: Warner ends IPL strongly as he faces moment of truth, Marnus tons up as another English quick goes down

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David Warner, as ever, could not be faulted for his sterling efforts as he concluded Delhi Capitals’ woeful Indian Premier League campaign with his best score of the season.

But once again, the Australian veteran’s half-century – his sixth of another fruitful campaign with the bat – proved nowhere near enough as Delhi, IPL strugglers all season, were hammered again in their final match by Chennai Super Kings on Saturday.

The Ricky Ponting-coached and Warner-captained Capitals are ninth of the 10 teams and could still finish bottom if Sunrisers Hyderabad win their final match handsomely.

Yet though he rarely found his best form all season and was badly let down by Delhi’s other main batters, Warner kept battling to the end, the 36-year-old finishing with one his best knocks of the season as wickets tumbled around him.

It was a day at Delhi’s Arun Jaitley Stadium to encapsulate Warner’s entire season.

Having to chase Chennai’s formidable 2-223, Delhi once again seemed too reliant on his batting, even though it as a huge ask for Warner keep up with the required rate as his teammates kept departing.

He reached his fifty off 32 balls and went after Ravindra Jadeja’s spin with relish to end up with a season’s-best 86 off 58 balls, featuring seven fours and five sixes, including one spectacular switch-hit. 

No-one could realistically have expected any more from him but, by the time he was the seventh man out in the 19th over, the game had already gone when he slogged Matheesha Pathirana to long-on. Delhi ended up losing by a humbling 77 runs.

“We lost wickets in clumps, lost a few close games we should have won, which hurt, so we’ll have to go back to the drawing board, regroup and come back stronger next year,” shrugged Warner, as he pondered Delhi’s campaign which featured only five wins in 14 matches.

Personally, though, he had been a model of perseverance, even when struggling in the power plays. He’s the sixth highest scorer in 2023 with a considerable tally of 516 runs – the seventh time he’d been past 500 – but of the top 20 run-scorers, his strike-rate of 131.63 is the lowest.

In contrast, Chennai’s New Zealand opener Devon Conway, who scored 87 to set the Super Kings on their way to the playoffs, has compiled his 585 runs at a rate of 138.62, while the IPL’s top run-getter Faf du Plessis has 702 at 153.94. 

“It’s about trying to be as consistent as you can at the top of the order, whether you’re striking at 150 or not, and give yourself a chance,” shrugged Warner. 

“Our power play wasn’t the best this year, so we have to think long and hard about that.”

His next stop will be the huge Tests that await in the world final at the Oval and then the Ashes, but his Australian colleague Marcus Stoinis will feature in the IPL playoffs after his Lucknow Super Giants eked out a one-run win over Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens.

Stoinis, who’s had a fine tournament, suffered a rare two-ball duck, but 58 from his teammate Nicholas Pooran helped Lucknow make 8-176, with Rinku Singh just failing to get KKR home on 7-175, despite his unbeaten 67 off 33 balls.

Marnus tons up in county clash

Australia’s batters are savouring prolific warm-ups as Test duty looms, with Marnus Labuschagne the latest to flex his muscles with a handsome county hundred.

After Steve Smith’s best score for Sussex on Friday and Marcus Harris compiling a couple of half-centuries in successive days, there was nothing more reassuring for Australia with the World Test final and the Ashes round the corner than a Marnus masterclass.

Hammering his second first-class century in three matches for Glamorgan, Labuschagne’s superb 138 led a fightback for the Welsh county which could leave his pal Smith facing an awkward final day at Hove on Sunday.

But if it was an encouraging Saturday for Australian hopes, there was much more concern for England when their in-form fast bowler Ollie Robinson failed to take the field after lunch for Sussex, suffering from a sore left ankle.

Sussex coach Paul Farbrace reported later: “Ollie has a sore left ankle and he will be scanned on Monday to see how bad he is. We knew it was sore yesterday.”

On Thursday, Robinson had dismissed Labuschagne with the first ball he’d bowled at him and went on to look mightily impressive with a four-wicket haul.

Yet on Saturday, with the crowd expecting a fierce rematch with Labuschagne who had battled to 15 not out overnight, Robinson didn’t look at his sharpest in an eight-over stint in the morning, failing to take a wicket, and then didn’t appear after the lunch interval.

“We’ll find out what the issue is on Monday,” said Farbrace.

“It was precautionary. There was no point in making it worse.”

The 29-year-old was included in England’s 15-strong squad to face Ireland at Lord’s from June 1-4 but is now a doubt for the one-off Test and, more worryingly, for the five-match series against Australia.

Jofra Archer was this week ruled out for the summer because of a recurrence of a stress fracture in his right elbow while fellow quick Olly Stone is currently sidelined with a hamstring problem.

James Anderson’s minor groin strain looks set to keep him out of the Ireland clash in a bid to be fit for the Ashes, with England captain Ben Stokes wanting at least eight fit fast bowlers to call upon, all of whom can be rotated to share the burden with five Tests in the space of six-and-a-half weeks.

It certainly made life easier for Labuschagne, who enjoyed his rearguard action, batting for 244 balls over nearly five-and-a-half hours as he compiled yet another Glamorgan hundred, decorated with 16 fours and four sixes.

He had the perfect accomplice in Glamorgan skipper Kiran Carlson, who put on a 288-run partnership for the fourth wicket with the Australian and went on to make an unbeaten 187, to leave his side 141 ahead with five wickets still standing.

It’s left the tantalising prospect of Smith getting the chance of a potential match-winning – or match-saving – knock on the final day.

Both the senior players’ form, though, is a boon for Australia. Since arriving in Britain at his Welsh “home-from-home”, Labuschagne has now scored 380 in his last six innings at an average of 76.

Harris is also thriving. Further pressing his claims to be in the team to face India in the world Test at The Oval next month, the left-hander held up Durham’s victory charge at Bristol with his second stubborn half-century of the match.

After his 52 first time around, Harris again showed most resistance in Gloucestershire’s second knock, ending the day 71 not out after a three-hour vigil in a total of 6-181.

It’s highly unlikely that he can steer the home side to victory, as they still need another 245 to win, but he’d like to finish another successful spell with Gloucester by scoring his second century of the summer.

The evergreen Peter Siddle chipped in with three second-innings wickets for Somerset to help them beat Middlesex by an innings and 13 runs at Lord’s.

Sean Abbott also completed a successful match for first division leaders and reigning champions Surrey, finishing with 2-17 to help them to a 10-wicket win over Kent at the Oval.

Ashes countdown: Days to go …

26

The number of times former Australia captain Allan Border reached 50 in Ashes Tests, converting seven of those into hundreds during his 42 matches, including an unbeaten 200 in his final series against England in 1993.

On This Day … 

May 21 – England captain Arthur Carr was born in 1893. He led his country to a 1-0 Ashes series win at home in 1926 despite missing one match with tonsillitis. He only averaged 13 for the series and was dropped from the team afterwards, only playing two more Tests against South Africa three years later.

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