4/8/2019 0 Comments
By David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
The County Championship Season is underway, and with the stars on display as players look to get some much needed practise in before the Ashes - there were plenty of talking points from the opening game week of 2019.
In Division One, Joe Root faced up against England team-mate Stuart Broad in arguably the biggest game of the opening set of fixtures. The England Test Captain struck an unbeaten 130 to help salvage a draw for the White Rose at Trent Bridge after making 73 in the first innings to find some welcome form ahead of a big summer for English Cricket.
Root would no doubt be impressed by Joe Clarke as he watched on from slip as the former Worcestershire man struck a century in the first innings and ended 97 not out in the second as the Outlaws looked to force a win by declaring overnight. Clarke, who has toured with the Lions has been a name on the radar for the selectors and making runs in front of the on watching England skipper will have done his chances of an Ashes call-up the world of good.
Broad, meanwhile struck three times in the first innings as Yorkshire found themselves 117-runs behind on first innings. Half-centuries from Ben Duckett (61), Chris Nash (75), Steven Mullaney (57) and Clarkes brilliant unbeaten 97 meant the visitors were set an unlikely 446 runs to win on the final day.
Jake Ball (2-73) struck twice early to leave the Tykes wobbling a little on 24-2 but Root and Gary Ballance steadied the ship despite some hostile bowling from Broad to share an unbroken 253-run third wicket partnership to guide the visitors to a hard-fought draw.
Root finished with an unbeaten 130, striking 18-fours in his 189-ball stay at the crease whilst Ballance struck 17-fours and a six during his 224-ball innings.
Elsewhere, Hampshire thumped Essex at the Ageas Bowl by an innings and 87-runs to get Adrian Birrell's coaching regime off to a dream start.
After an uncontested toss, Hampshire racked up the runs on a pitch that offered surprisingly little on the opening day with Jamie Porter and Sam Cook particularly struggling to offer a threat. James Vince, looking to get his season off to a bright start opened the innings for the Hawks hoping to make an impression at the top of the order to force his way back into the England reckoning.
He made a typically stylish 40 before falling to the final ball before lunch on the opening day trapped leg before falling across his stumps off the bowling of Ravi Bopara. Aiden Markram, a late overseas arrival struck a half-century on debut sharing a 75-run stand with the impressive Sam Northeast - who finally started to show the Hampshire faithful his true potential with a magnificent 169.
The former Kent man shared solid partnerships with Markram and Rilee Rossouw before becoming the fifth man to fall in the innings, smashing 23-fours and a six during 255-ball inning. The Eagles continued to toil away in the Southampton sun as Liam Dawson (64), Gareth Berg (33) and Keith Barker (31 not out) took the Hampshire total up to a mammoth 525-8.
Essex lost wicketkeeper Adam Wheater, who damaged his thumb standing up to Sam Cook's medium fast to injury for the match leaving the visitors with just nine wickets to play with in both innings. The former Hampshire gloveman is expected to be missing for six weeks after undergoing surgery during the match.
Buoyed by having runs on the board, Hampshire ripped through the depleted Essex batting line-up to dismiss the Eagles for a disappointing 164 with Alastair Cook (50) top scoring for the visitors. Fidel Edwards, 5-51, was the pick of the bowlers for the hosts.
Predictably with a lead of 361 on first innings Hampshire asked Essex to have another go at reaching their first innings total. Browne (7), Cook (8) and Lawrence (6) all fell cheaply to give Hampshire a dream start in their pursuit of victory. Tom Westley and Bopara briefly offer respite for Anthony McGrath's men sharing a 67-run stand for the fourth wicket before Edwards enticed Westley to feather an edge through to substitute keeper Lewis McManus to leave the Eagles in trouble on 94-4.
No further wickets fell on the third day, but Essex knew the writing was probably already on the wall, particularly knowing they were a batter light, they were praying for a miracle, that or a deluge of rain overnight and throughout the morning.
The rain didn't come, and it was down to Bopara and skipper Ryan ten Doeschate to attempt to get the visitors out of the woods. The pair added 26-runs to the overnight total of 132-4 before ten Doeschate became Edward's second victim of the innings, edging to McManus behind the wicket.
Bopara was turning into the key man, having survived the carnage of the first innings finishing on an unbeaten 37. He was seemingly playing on a different pitch to the rest of his teammates, seldom looking in any trouble as he began to build a partnership with the last recognised batsmen, and even Simon Harmer himself would admit to being a bowling all-rounder at best.
But alongside Bopara, the South African showed great resolve and battle to frustrate the hosts as the pair shared 111 for the sixth wicket, with Bopara reaching his well-deserved century during that century stand.
When Bopara fell though to Kyle Abbott for 107, the Essex hopes of stealing a draw dissipated. Harmer, who reached 62 fell two runs later to Edwards, and the Essex tail soon folded like a pack of cards struggling to resist Edwards and Abbott's new ball prowess.
Abbott bowled Sam Cook for 3 to collect his five-wicket haul and finish Essex off once and for all to seal an emphatic opening game victory with plenty of time to spare.
The final game in the top flight saw Somerset defeat newly promoted Kent by 74-runs.
After the first day's play was washed out, Somerset batted on the second day following the uncontested toss. The hosts could only manage 171 with Tom Abell (49) top scoring for the West Countrymen; Mitch Claydon bagged figures of 5-46 to impress on his first venture into Division One cricket.
Sean Dickson (43), Zak Crawley (37) and Daniel Bell-Drummond (33) helped Kent to a first innings lead and a batting point reaching 209 all out. Lewis Gregory finishing with figures of 3-26 to be the pick of the bowling for the hosts.
In this low-scoring affair, Somerset were hoping to set the Spitfires a challenging final day score to chase, and thanks to young George Bartlett's 63, they set Kent a tricky looking 205 for victory.
Unfortunately for Kent, their chase got off to the worst possible start losing Dickson to the first ball of the innings, caught by Craig Overton off the bowling of the ever-impressive Lewis Gregory. Worry not, thought the Kent faithful overseas star Matthew Renshaw, formerly of the Taunton Parish, will come to the rescue.
Renshaw, fell for a 6-ball duck to shoot fear through the Kent dressing room as Somerset new boy Jack Brooks removed the Aussie. Bell-Drummond, Kuhn and Crawley all soon followed to leave the visitors staring down the barrel on 41-5. Alex Blake and Darren Stevens threaten to take the game deep, with the veteran Stevens hitting an unbeaten 43.
Once Blake fell though for 20, with the score on 82-7, Somerset hurried to victory with Gregory bagging his fifth wicket when removing Matthew Milnes. Josh Davey finished things off for the hosts when he had Claydon removed caught by Hildreth to get Somerset off to a winning start.
7/5/2018 0 Comments
How do you solve a problem like Ian Bell? Last season he seemed like a player on the decline, with little chance of playing for England. Today there were echoes of the old bell. It may be a phantom ring that you get out at sea of villages long lost to mother nature.
This fixture was a replay of last season’s final which Nottinghamshire won on that occasion. Today they were mainly second best to Birmingham Bears (Warwickshire).
Chris Nash didn’t enjoy his finest day at the office as the was dismissed third ball, and then when fielding, he seemed to land awkwardly on his shoulder going for a catch.
Nottinghamshire lost a cluster of wickets, Samit Patel went first ball caught and bowled by Colin de Grandhomme. Dan Christian didn’t last much longer as Nottinghamshire started to become desperate.
Riki Wessels struck 41 from 29 balls to add impetus to the innings. The innings then began to falter and Billy Root while ticking over the strike could only score singles. It put pressure on the batsman at the other end. Stephen Mullaney with a brisk 22 from 12 balls, he fell for the unwritten rule of six and out.
Luke Fletcher with three sixes in one Jeetan Patel over gave Nottinghamshire some hope late on. It wasn’t until the final over that Root scored a boundary, as a four followed his maximum. It was enough to power Nottinghamshire over the 150 mark and to 155 for 7.
It soon looked far from enough as Ed Pollock hit two sixes in the first over. It was a brief show from Pollock but allowed Bell to settle in for the day.
Adam Hose also came and went for 17. In stepped Sam Hain and along with Bell set about the target with relish. Both traded in fours, Hain the heir apparent to the Bell throne. There were the trademark cover drives on show.
Bell finished with 82 from 57 balls and threatened to overshadow the young pretender Hain. If both had opened this game could have been over much sooner. Hain took only thirty balls to reach 45 not out and if anything deserved a fifty along with Bell.
It will for Birmingham ring out a warning that they can go far in this competition.
Elsewhere, Sussex’s dynamic bowling attack proved far too strong for a weak looking Essex side. Debutant Rashid Khan had the Eagles batsmen's heads spinning as he collected excellent figures of 2-25 to put the brakes of the host’s pursuit of 181.
Earlier in the day, Sussex recovered nicely from 32/3 thanks to fifties from Laurie Evans and the impressive Michael Burgess, who struck a rapid 56 from 23 balls in just his second T20 game of his first-class career.
It was a curious display from the Eagles who picked four spinners but only bowled five overs of spin during the visitors' innings. Three of which came from new overseas signing Adam Zampa, who despite bagging a wicket in his first over, was comfortably outshone by his Afghan counterpart.
Burgess and Evans’ show alongside late hitting from Jofra Archer propelled the visitors total beyond 180, a decent total on a pitch that offered spin and swing for the bowlers. And so it proved as Essex struggled to get going throughout and the anchor that was Khan weighed them down even further. South African David Weise took five-wickets as he took advantage of the scoreboard pressure that was building on the hosts throughout as the Eagles strutted and stalled.
Only Varun Chopra threatened to take Essex close to their target with the former Warwickshire man striking 64 off 48-balls before he fell victim to Khan in the Afghans final over. That triggered the collapse with the hosts capitulating in spectacular style losing their final five wickets for just one run to fall to a 36-run defeat on opening night at ‘Fortress Chelmsford’.
There was plenty of excitement at Wantage Road though as over 440 runs were scored as Leicestershire’s excellent season continued with an opening night success over Northamptonshire.
Leicestershire won the toss and inserted their hosts clearly with half an eye on a chase later in the evening. But they didn’t account for the hitting of Ben Duckett, Josh Cobb and Alex Wakely who all helped themselves to fifties as the Steelbacks raced to 218/3 from their 20 overs.
Duckett, in particular, looked in fine form smashing 12 fours and three maximums on his way to 96, before he holed out to Neil Dexter off the bowling of Ben Raine. But the clean hitting of Alex Wakely ensured Duckett’s efforts wouldn’t go to waste as the hosts set a testing total for the Foxes to chase down.
But this Leicestershire side is a different animal to that of a few years ago; they have grit and steel under their new coach Paul Nixon. And they needed it to chase this total down, what will be please for Nixon and his coaching staff is the fact that everyone mucked in during this innings. With only really Tom Wells failing with the bat.
Colin Ackermann acted as the glue as he held the innings together with an excellent 66 from 31 balls, striking at well over 200. He smashed four sixes and five fours to guide the visitors’ home.
Whisper it quietly, but the Foxes could well be the dark horses from the north group.
Reports by Jamie Ramage (@famousstrauss) and David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
5/17/2018 1 Comment
By David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
The white-ball replaced the red-ball as the Royal London Day cup got underway on Thursday.
It meant power plays, field restrictions and boundaries galore as Colin Graves finally found his happy place away from the ‘boring scenes’ of County Championship cricket.
Let’s forget the fact that in the last round of Championship cricket we saw a 3-run nail-biter at Grace Road and a tight comeback win for Essex at New Road. A pair of games that had more twists and turns than any games of White-ball cricket could dream of having, but that’s a story for a different day.
One man who perhaps would’ve been pleased to see the boundary rope that much closer and the field that much more spread would be Essex’s Tom Westley. The Eagles number three has been enduring a torrid time with the bat in the early season but pulling on the coloured clothing rather than the white seemed to release the shackles. The Cambridge-born 29-year-old struck a match-winning 134 as the Eagles eased passed a poor Middlesex side at the picturesque Radlett.
After winning the toss, Middlesex elected to bat first hoping to make the most of the small boundaries in an attempt to create some scoreboard pressure. Indeed, things started swimmingly for the Londoners with Nick Gubbins striking the Essex attack to all parts of the Radlett outfield. Jamie Porter, Sam Cook and the returning Neil Wagner all finding it difficult to stem the flow of runs with the hard new ball. Stevie Eskinazi offered strong support to the hard-hitting Gubbins as the pair took the score to 79 without loss entering the 13th over. With the last ball of the twelve over though Wagner bagged his first wicket of the season to remove Eskinazi, Asher Zaidi taking a smart catch to dismiss the opener for 28. Paul Stirling came and went as Wagner again enticed a false shot to offer Ryan ten Doeschate a catch. That put the score on 86/2 and that soon become 86/3 as Gubbins, who had just reached his 50 lost his middle stump to Simon Harmer. Trouble was brewing in the Hertfordshire sun, and the hosts were in desperate need of a partnership. Tasked with doing just that was England’s Eoin Morgan and Australia’s Hilton Cartwright, and the duo started to steady the ship adding 57 for the fourth wicket. But just when the foundations were beginning to be set, ten Doeschate called Sam Cook back into the attack, and the youngster struck with his third ball pinning the Australian in front leg before. John Simpson offered brief support to Morgan, who by was beginning to hold the key for Middlesex. Simpson and Morgan added 37-runs before the Eagles went bang bang to leave the hosts in all sorts of strive. The pair fell within an over of each other and Essex were suddenly right back on top, Harmer and Bopara with the wickets. James Franklin and Tom Helm were the last hopes for the hosts, and they did offer some resistance to the Essex attack who now firmly had their tails up. The pair added a useful 48-runs to take the Londoners passed 200 and beyond. But an inspired Bopara soon ripped through the lower order after Porter removed Helm to keep the hosts down to a below-par 250. Bopara finished with impressive figures of 3-30, while Wagner on his Essex return also collected excellent figures of 3-40 from his nine overs of work.
That left Essex with 251 to get from their 50-overs. Adam Wheater, who has seen his first-team action limited, opened with Varun Chopra as the Eagles looked for a positive start. They didn’t get it, as the former Hampshire man edge through to keeper Simpson to fall for 1, Helm, the bowler. That brought the out-of-sorts Westley to the middle desperate to be rid of the rust that has been following him around. Indeed, he immediately looked to be positive flashing delightful cover drives to the boundary off Helm. He and Chopra continued to be busy at the crease finding the rope with regularity and rotating the strike nicely with quick ones. Although Westley dominated the score the role of Chopra mustn’t be underplayed, the former Warwickshire man offered vital support as he notched a half-century as Essex continued to move serenely to their target. The onslaught continued even when Chopra departed as the in-form Dan Lawrence fresh from his match-winning half-century at New Road kept the scoreboard moving with a typically fluent 35. But make no bones about it the day belong to Westley who had struggled to make double figures against the red-ball flayed the ball to all parts of the Radlett outfield on his way to his century. In the end, he departed with the Eagles just 5-runs short of victory having gone beyond his previous list A best of 111 and reached 134 before the impressive Ryan Patel removed him. The Essex number three had struck 17-fours, and a six during his 117-ball stay to help guide the visitors to a comprehensive six-wicket success in Hertfordshire winning with 44-balls to spare.
Elsewhere, Sussex smashed Kent at Hove in front of a good crowd bolstered by a busload of local school children. Those lucky youngsters saw a bowling masterclass by the hosts as they restricted the Spitfires to a disappointing 188 despite the best efforts of Daniel Bell-Drummond who made just under half his teams runs alone with a score of 90. The Kent opener struck six-fours and a six during his 115-ball stay but lacked the support required to really propel his side to a decent score, indeed only Alex Blake reached double figures as the pace attack of Ishant Sharma, and Ollie Robinson ripped through the top order. Danny Briggs was also dangerous with the ball claiming exceptional figures of 3-23 from his ten overs. Including the wicket of the wily old fox Darren Stevens who can be dangerous on his day. Robinson also impressed with the ball in hand bagging three wickets as the Sussex attack simply outclassed the Kent line-up.
A score of 188 was never going to be enough for the visitors even with the impressive Matt Henry in their ranks. Typically, the Kiwi took two wickets as he continues to shine for Kent following his winter arrival, but he just simply didn’t have enough runs to protect at Hove. Luke Wells and Ben Brown both struck half-centuries in the Sussex sun as the pair helped the hosts to a routine win with more than ten overs to spare. Brown hit six-fours on his way to an unbeaten 73, while Wells struck nine boundaries during his 89-ball 62.
There were a pair of centuries at Edgbaston as Derbyshire beat Warwickshire by 57-runs. In this high-scoring encounter, both Billy Godleman and Sam Hain went big as over 650-runs were scored in a day. Godleman hit 137 striking 12-fours and three sixes during his 116-ball stay before the former Essex man was run out by Adam Hose. But by then the damage had already been done with Godleman with the excellent support of Ben Slater (69) and Wayne Madsen (58), and Daryn Smit and Matthew Critchley latterly had gone beyond 330 by the time the opener was dismissed. Jonathan Trott did his best to stem the runs with his aim of taking regular wickets hoping to slow down the tempo. The former England man bagged four wickets for 60 runs during his 10-over stint. Smit added late runs with Duanne Olivier as the visitors pushed their total beyond 350 to finish on 357-8.
In pursuit of their lofty target, the Bears lost a couple of quick early wickets as Derbyshire’s South African paceman Olivier bagged the wickets of Trott and Ed Pollock to leave the hosts in early trouble on 20/2. Sam Hain and Ian Bell stung to tails of the Falcon bowlers by adding a 78 for the third wicket with Bell contributing just 18 of that with the dominant Hain taking centre stage for the hosts. Another decent partnership then took place this time between Hain and Hose as Warwickshire looked to attack. The pair knew that they had to grab the bull by the horn and start to chip away at the visitors total, the duo shared 75-runs in ten overs before Hose became Ravi Rampaul’s only victim of the day. But with the total on 173 just past the halfway mark, the Bears were well and truly still in the game, and Derbyshire knew that the wicket of Hain would be crucial for their hopes of victory. Tim Ambrose and Aaron Thomason came and went, and while Hain had reached his deserved century by now hitting 11-fours and a six in the process he was acutely aware he was running out of partners. And to his 101st ball, the visitors finally had their man as the centurion went for one big shot too many and found the hands of Rampaul to fall for a quite brilliant 108. His departure left the hosts in the perilous position on 210-7 and staring down the barrel, suddenly it was down to the tailenders to see the job through, and Derbyshire could almost taste success on the tips of their tongue. The ever-reliable Keith Barker had other ideas though; the Bears stalwart frustrated the visitors and even threatened to take the hosts to victory at one point. He shared 59 with Olly Stone for the 9th wicket as Warwickshire edged closer to the 300 mark, but when Stone went for 16 the game was up, and Barker was left stranded on 48, and the Bears were 57-runs short. An excellent advert for 50-over cricket at Edgbaston.
Meanwhile, Olly Stone’s former employers Northamptonshire miserable start to the season continued at Wantage road as the Steelbacks fell to a 72-run defeat at the hands of Leicestershire. The Foxes veteran opener Paul Horton was the hero for the visitors striking a magnificent century to guide Paul Nixon’s men to a competitive 265-7. Horton was the only man to capitalise on a good start as a number of batsmen got going but failed to kick on with five of the Leicestershire top order made 25 or more. The 35-year-old opener though underpinned his sides total hitting nine-fours during his 126-ball stay at the crease sharing decent partnerships with Michael Carberry (25) and Colin Ackermann (30). Ben Raine (32) and Ned Eckersley (25 not out) added vital late runs to help the Foxes set a decent looking total against a team bereft of any real confidence. True to form, the Steelbacks were dealt an early blow when Carberry ran out key man Ben Duckett for just 2, and the wickets continued to fall in clusters as the hosts found themselves in an all too familiar situation at 95/6. Gavin Griffiths (4-30) and Raine (3-31) the men doing all the damage of Leicestershire continue their rebuilding process under Nixon in fine style. Josh Cobb (56), Rob White (38) and Brett Hutton (34 not out) were the only Northants batsmen to show any real fight and resistance of the Griffiths and Raine show ripped through the top and middle order. It was another humbling defeat for the hosts who fell to another heavy defeat, but for Leicestershire, it is another progression box ticked off for Nixon and his coaching staff.
Lastly, in the Sky Live day-nighter at Old Trafford, holders Nottinghamshire edged past Lancashire in a thriller. Scores from Chris Nash (52), Tom Moores (47), Ross Taylor (58) and Steven Mullaney (70) led the Outlaws to the commanding total of 318 from their 50 overs. Mullaney looked mightly impressive indeed against his former employers striking eight-fours and a six during his 54-balls stay. In the grand scheme of thing though, perhaps the six and the four hit late on by big Luke Fletcher was the most crucial moment in the match given how the game panned out. With the ball young Matt Parkinson impressed for the hosts with the young spinner bagging figures of 5-68. In response, Keaton Jennings’ excellent recent form continued as the England hopeful smashed eleven-fours on his way to 136 in front of the sky cameras. He dominated his side’s score of 309-9 with the lack of partners the real reason why the hosts fell agonisingly short. Indeed, only Dane Vilas, Liam Livingstone and Steven Croft offered the opener any semblance of support with scores of 41, 33 and 33 respectively. A cluster of wickets from the 40-over mark onwards also didn’t help matters as the visitors fought back superbly with the ball with Jake Ball and Harry Gurney particularly impressive with the ball for the Outlaws. Gurney bagged the vital wicket of Jennings who held the key to success throughout and when he went in 47th over with 30-runs still required, so did the game and remember those 12 runs that Fletcher hit late on, boy did they prove crucial in the end. Lancashire fell just 9-runs short of victory to give the defending champions the ideal start to the season.
10/8/2016 0 Comments
County Championship Review: The County Championship started slowly for Northamptonshire drawing 7 of their first 8 matches. However, once the white ball cricket was out the way, Northants finished well with 4 wins from the last 6 games giving the club a 5th placed finish in Division 2; which will be a cause for optimism for Alex Wakely’s men going into next season.
One-Day Cup Review: Northants played some superb cricket to win the North group of the One Day Cup. Northants faced Surrey at the County Ground at the Quarter Final stage and were agonisingly beaten on the last ball of Surrey’s run chase of 279-9, which included a glorious 130 from Kumar Sangakkara.
T20 Review: Northants have enjoyed T20 cricket of late and hopes were high this season, having won the T20 Blast in 2013, and reaching the final last year in 2015. Northants came 2nd in the North group with 7 wins from their 14 games with scores of 160 plus a regularity. At Finals day, Northants beat Notts in the semi-final with an explosive 84 from star man Ben Duckett. In a tense final, Northants collapsed to 9-3 chasing 154 against Durham, but an 110-run stabilising partnership from Josh Cobb and skipper Alex Wakely secured a glorious victory at Edgbaston.
Moment of the Season: Winning their 2nd T20 trophy was undoubtedly the highlight of the season for Northants. Additionally, part-time spinner Rob Keogh getting 9/52 in the innings and 13/125 in the match against Glamorgan was extraordinary and the best match figures for the club for 40 years.
MVP: Without any question, the MVP for Northants this season has been Ben Duckett, is there any limit to this man’s ability? 1,338 runs at an average of a shade over 58 in Championship cricket, including 282 against Sussex has seen England come calling for the Bangladesh tour this winter – not to mention becoming the first cricketer to win both the PCA Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards in the same year.
Low point of the season: In a largely successful season for the club, there were not too many low points. Losing on the last ball in the Quarter Final of the One-Day Cup was tough. Although the injury suffered by Olly Stone which ruled him out for the season whilst celebrating the wicket of Moeen Ali was a huge blow for the club.
Ones to watch for next season: In addition to Ben Duckett (who may find himself occupied on England duty), Ben Sanderson has impressed everyone in his return to professional cricket after playing in the minor counties league. Sanderson took 55 wickets at an average of 21 in the championship, including career-best figures of 8/73 in the victory against Gloucestershire, form which earned him a new three-year contract with the club.
Where do you need to strengthen next season?: With the loss of Olly Stone to Warwickshire, Northants look light in pace bowling without having to rely on the all-rounder Rory Kleinveldt to get through so many overs. The recent addition of Nathan Buck from Lancashire is a brilliant signing, but one more addition to the bowling attack could push Northants on to taking 20 wickets more regularly.
Hopes for next season?: For next season, I’d like to see Northants really push to turn more of the 9 draws they had this season into more wins and to compete near the top of division 2. The County ground has always been spin friendly so White, Keogh and Panesar may be the key to success next season. It is notoriously difficult to defend a title, but Northants will aim to once again be in the knockout stages with the white ball next season.
Describe your season in a sentence: Northamptonshire have once again proven the worth of good coaching, leadership and team spirit.
Review by Harry Hill (@HarryHill96)
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