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Posts Tagged ‘james hopes’

Kings XI Punjab
Punjab have been relatively quiet in the transfer market, having added only Jerome Taylor, Ravi Bopara, and the previously obscure Burt Cockley. Sarwan has departed – having apparently only been on a one-year contract – and a number of key players will only play part of the season (Shaun Marsh, Brett Lee and James Hopes are all likely to be called away by Australia).

As with last season, much will rest on the shoulders of Yuvraj, who will be expected to provide batting pyrotechnics every time he plays. If he can find form whilst the Australians are unavailable, and Marsh can continue his impressive form from last year, then the Kings XI are capable of mounting a strong challenge.

Kolkata Knight Riders
The KKRs build-up has been dominated by talk of multiple or rotating captains, but the unusual situation has partly arisen out of the fact that the side has so many top-class players at its disposal. Chris Gayle is made for Twenty20 cricket, as is Brendon McCullum (who should be available for the whole season). David Hussey, Ricky Ponting and Ajantha Mendis will probably only play cameo roles, but home-grown talents such as Cheteshwar Pujara will be available throughout.

Sole auction signing Mashrafe Mortaza probably won’t alter the balance of the side much, but Umar Gul’s bowling will be missed, putting a lot of pressure on Ishant Sharma.

Mumbai Indians
A disappointing start last time around saw Mumbai fail to make the play-offs, and the Sreesanth slapping incident stirred controversy. He’s out with an injury, so discipline may be less of an issue in 2009. Dwayne Bravo’s recent form has been impressive, suggesting that he will be a key player with both bat and ball, and the additions of JP Duminy and Graham Napier should boost the batting.

Zaheer Khan has also come in for Robin Uthappa, whilst a number of the overseas players can offer something with both bat and ball, leaving the side well-balanced in the middle order. Harbhajan has so far failed to impress in Twenty20 cricket, but is likely to feature throughout.

Rajasthan Royals
Rajasthan confounded a lot of people’s expectations with their victory last season, but key player Shane Watson could miss much of the 2009 season due to international call-ups. Tyron Henderson comes in as cover, but the lack of big-name players (Graeme Smith’s recovery from injury may also prove more costly for the Royals now that they have lost the element of surprise.

Rajasthan, of course, are nominally my team, so all the best to them.

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With the World Twenty20 fast approaching, two of the potential winners go head-to-head with a two-match Twenty20 series which starts tomorrow in Johannesburg.

South Africa are the world’s number one One-Day side, but don’t have a great Twenty20 record against Australia. JP Duminy and Albie Morkel (with a Twenty20 strike rate of 133.90) will be amongst the Test players expected to step up, but there could be some unfamiliar faces in South African colours as the home side look to test out various combinations ahead of the summer.

For the tourists, a number of slots for the summer may be open, and the likes of Shane Harwood and James Hopes will be hoping to ensure their places in the Aussie World Twenty20 squad with strong performances against South Africa. Meanwhile, Mitchell Johnson‘s recent batting form may mean he may be considered an all-rounder in the shorter format, lending Australia an extra edge.

In all, things look set for another close series between the two sides.

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The brief interlude of the two Twenty20 matches between the Test series and the ODIs, combined with the absence of Graeme Smith, seems to have taken the wind out of South Africa’s sails a little. As well as the two defeats, stand-in captain Johan Botha also has the headache of slow over rates to deal with – he was fined 10% of his match fee on Tuesday for Saffer tardiness in the field.

Botha can at least console himself with the knowledge that AB deVilliers and Jacques Kallis have both recovered from the injuries which kept them out of the second Twenty20 match, and with the good form of JP Duminy, who’ll be looking to make some big scores following a disappointing ODI series in England.

Australia, meanwhile, are brimming with regained confidence in the shorter form, and will be looking to capitalise on their Twenty20 success as the series moves on to 50-over matches. The two teams haven’t actually met in an ODI since the last World Cup, and Australia’s last defeat to South Africa was the celebrated run-fest in Johannesburg, when even 434/4 from 50 overs wasn’t enough to secure victory for the Aussies.

The most interesting sub-plot in the ODI series is the question of who will open the batting for Australia alongside Shaun Marsh. Michael Clarke is a strong possibility, as is James Hopes, but it’s also possible that someone could come out of left field to make the slot their own.

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