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What does Ben Stokes’ injury mean for the Rajasthan Royals?

One game into the 2021 season and things are already looking bleak for the Rajasthan Royals. Not only are they without first-choice fast bowler Jofra Archer for at least the first four games of the season, but they are also now going to be without one of the world’s best T20 players in the form of Ben Stokes.

2021 was already looking like a tough season for the Royals. Betway already had the Royals as the favourites for the wooden spoon at 21.00, and now this injury to Ben Stokes suffered during the opening game of the season against the Punjab Kings, puts further pressure on the Royals.

No luck for the Royals

After finishing the 2020 season at the bottom of the table, the Royals must have come into the 2021 season with renewed hope, with Archer and Stokes two of the leading lights in international T20 cricket.

With Archer already out for the opening four games, recuperating from an old injury, a lot of hope was placed on the shoulders of Stokes. 

After starting the game well, Stokes had bowled the eighth over of the Kings’ innings and was expected to come back to bowl at the death, however, an injury sustained in the tenth over meant he was not seen again with the ball as the Kings amassed 221 for 6 in their 20 overs.

He did come out to open the batting for the Royals, however, he only lasted three balls before top-edging a pull back to bowler Mohanned Shami to be out for a duck. It was unclear whether the injury was providing significant hindrance to Stokes, however, his early dismissal meant that it would not be put to the test.

The injury to Stokes, a broken finger on his left hand, was inflicted whilst taking a superb catch, running in from the boundary to catch Kings’ talisman Chris Gayle – a crucial wicket for the Royals with Gayle making 40 runs off just 28 deliveries.

The Kings went on to win the game by four runs.

Talisman Stokes to stay on

It’s no secret that Stokes loves to play in the IPL and he has been one of the shining stars since its inception. It is perhaps no surprise then, that he has elected to stay on with the Royals for the rest of the season to provide “support and inputs off the field’ as he looks to stay involved in the IPL 2021 season.

In the same week as Stokes suffered his injury, he was also named Wisden’s leading cricketer in the world for the second year in a row. He scored more Test runs than any other batsman in 2020, with 641 in seven matches, while also taking 19 wickets.

Whilst his presence in the changing room has been welcomed by the Royals and their owners, there is no doubt they would much rather see the world’s best cricketer out on the field as they try to avoid the wooden spoon for the second consecutive year.

What now for the Royals?

Without either Stokes or Archer, the overseas options for the Royals are limited. Both Jos Buttler and Chris Morris are first-choice picks, and for the other two slots, they have to choose from among Liam Livingstone, David Miller, Mustafizur Rahman and Andrew Tye. Rahman played in the first match and Livingstone – who can bat in the top order and turn his arm over for part-time off-spin – could be the most likely to fill in for Stokes.

Will Stokes be fit for England?

This summer is a huge one for England. They are scheduled to play a two-Test series against New Zealand, starting at Lord’s on June 2, just four days after the IPL final. Following the two-Test series with New Zealand, England is then due to face India in a five-Test series before heading to the T20 World Cup in India. They then head down under to Australia for the Ashes at the end of 2021.

It is understood that the ECB is working with the Royals to monitor Stokes’ fitness between now and the opening Test against New Zealand, however, it is unclear at this stage whether he will be fit to line up in that series or whether he will have to wait until the Test series against India before he will be able to represent the Three Lions in 2021.

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Should England Select James Anderson for the 2021/22 Ashes Series?

Ahead of the 2021/22 Ashes series, every cricket fan has their own predictions on who will be included. One popular possibility is, of course, James Anderson. Based on his record alone, his inclusion should be something of a no-brainer. However, with an action-packed schedule awaiting the 32-time Ashes winners over the coming months, form and fitness will likely determine who’s lining up for England in Australia on November 22nd. But will the selectors opt for Anderson?​

Anderson’s Record Raises Questions 

​While nobody can deny the Englishman’s ability, Anderson’s overseas form is perhaps the only weakness to his game. On home soil, the Burnley-born right-hander is undoubtedly one of the finest seamers in cricket. Outside of England, however, he’s struggled to replicate his success at home venues. 

​According to figures from HowStat, in 842 matches in England, the 38-year-old has taken 384 wickets. Away, on the other hand, his record sits at 222 in 592 games. While still impressive, there are drastic differences in his average and bowling strike rate. The same data platform states that, at home, Anderson’s average is 23.84, and his strike rate is 50.23. Overseas, meanwhile, those figures rise to 31.40 and 65.96, respectively.  ​

​Regarding Australia specifically, Anderson has often performed well Down Under. As per ESPN Cricinfo, the 38-year-old averages 29.3 against Australia, which is below his total overseas average. Not only that, but as of 2017, Anderson performed best when facing Justin Langer’s team. At that time, he’d taken 87 wickets against the Baggy Greens, which was five more than against the second-highest team, India.​

Good to Leave Behind? 

​Regarded as an all-time great, Anderson cemented his legacy as an icon of the modern game after becoming England’s leading wicket-taker. Along with proudly holding that status, he’s also the first fast bowler in the sport’s history to reach 600 Test wickets. Given his record, it’s somewhat baffling that his inclusion for the 2021/22 Ashes series is in question. Anderson himself has stated his desire to play in the tournament, but Peter Siddle believes that Stuart Broad should get the nod ahead of the 38-year-old.  ​

​Currently, England’s pace bowling attack is formidable, with Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer, and Mark Wood also available for selection. Siddle states that his preference to select Broad over Anderson relates to the pitch conditions, with the Burnley-born right-hander historically struggling to get the ball swinging

Talking about his progression, Anderson declared that he’s better now than he was eight years ago. That, combined with his experience, makes him a valuable asset to England, and he could be the key to success at the highly-anticipated competition. As of February 2nd, England are 11/4 in cricket betting to win the 2021/22 Ashes series, but only time will tell if Anderson plays a leading role in their pursuit of glory.​

If Selected, Anderson Can Hurt Australia  

Recently, Australia lost to a second-string Indian side on home soil. As such, their confidence won’t be at an all-time high. Should their dip in form continue into the Ashes, Anderson has the ability to punish them further. The Baggy Greens’ top order has struggled for consistency of late, and if the 38-year-old is selected and can ask questions of them in the opening overs, then England may reap the reward of his inclusion.

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Player Profile: Brett Lee

Former cricket player Brett Lee is an Australian cricketing icon known as one of the game’s quickest ever bowlers and a nightmare for opposition batsmen.

In what was the golden-age of Australian cricket, Lee stood as a tall pillar in what was the county’s greatest ever bowling lineup. Lee joined Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath as an Australian attacking onslaught during the early 2000’s.

Making his Test debut in 1999 vs India, Lee’s international career was off to a flyer, taking his maiden wicket in his first over for Australia, dismissing Sadagoppan Ramesh. Lee also managed to take the scalp of Indian great Rahul Dravid and ended his first innings with a five-wicket haul of 5/47 from 17 overs.

Lee quickly became a resounding fan favourite in rapid time, taking 13 wickets in his opening two test matches for an absurd average of 14.15.

The paceman went on to win the Donald Bradman Young Layer of the Year Award for Australia, capping off a brilliant beginning to a long, illustrious career.

The boy from Wollongong had soon become a world-renowned bowler, both with the new and old ball, and quickly made a name for middle as the most feared attacker in the game.

Lee transitioned fittingly into the One Day format and won Player of the Series in back to back years between 2003 and 2005, a period where he won A World Cup and was a member of the ICC’s ODI Team of the Year.

Lee was one of Cricket’s star to benefit the biggest from the introduction of the T20 format, with his menacing attack with the ball and ability to quickly add runs to the tail making him one of the game’s best.

It seemed each time Lee was able to adjust to a new format or tactic, it would soon compliment his ability elsewhere, with a stunning individual display in Edgbaston during the 2005 Ashes Test almost taking his country to what would have been an astonishing victory.

Lee won his first and only Allan Border Medal in 2008, a year that saw him collect 57 wickets and six five-wicket hauls across 117 innings in Test matches alone. He also added another 24 wickets across the One Day and T20 formats.

Lee’s resilience was unparalleled with in the game. The paceman struggled to find his place in Australia’s Ashes Test side of 2009 as part of the English Summer tour after coming back from injury.

After missing out on the series, Lee was selected in Australia’s ODI side and was soon back to his ruthless best, taking the most wickets for his country with 12 and added a five-wicket haul – becoming the first player to take two 5WI at Lords in ODI’s.

Unfortunately, patterns persisted with Lee being sidelined due to injury and eventually making miraculous returns to the ODI and T20 squads and thriving in the One-Day formats as his place in the Test side faded.

Lee’s focus on the newer formats prolonged his successful career in the game, becoming the second fastest Australian to tale 100 ODI wickets and was the first ever player to take a hat-trick in a Twenty20 International match.

Domestically, Lee was a prominent figure across the globe, starting his career as a young starlet for New South Wales before stints with Kings XI Punjab, Wellington, Kolkata Knight Riders, Sydney Sizers and Otago.

Lee announced his retirement from Test cricket in 2010, ending his career with 310 wickets across 76 tests, sitting fourth highest for Australian wicket takers behind Warne, McGrath and Dennis Lillee.

After 221 ODIs and 25 T20Is, Lee called time on his International career as tied McGrath on 380 ODI wickets, the highest by any Australian.

Lee continued his career shortly with a number of domestic clubs and soon moved into a media role as an analyst and game caller.

The spiky-haired youngster from the ‘Gong will forever be known as one of the greatest cricketers Australia has ever seen and one of the world’s best bowlers in the history of cricket.