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Chris Morris to join Hampshire for Vitality Blast

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South Africa allrounder Chris Morris will join Hampshire for this year’s Vitality Blast.

The 32-year-old Morris was this week called into South Africa’s World Cup squad as a replacement for fast bowler Anrich Nortje, who was ruled out of the tournament because of a fractured thumb.

Morris will join Hampshire at the end of his World Cup commitments and will be available for the entire Blast season.

A fierce right-arm seamer and destructive middle-order hitter, Morris has made 63 appearances so far for his national side since his debut in a T20I against New Zealand in 2012. He averages 20.50 with the ball in T20Is with a strike rate of 130.39 with the bat.

Playing domestically for the Titans, Morris has also featured in several franchise competitions around the world, including the IPL and CPL, and he played for Surrey in the 2016 Blast.

“I’m really looking forward to joining Hampshire for the Vitality Blast,” Morris said. “It’s an exciting tournament and it’s an exciting summer coming up – I can’t wait to get there and play at the Ageas Bowl and express what I can do.”

Hampshire director of cricket, Giles White said: “We were delighted when Chris agreed early on to join us for the season. He’s a dynamic batsman in the middle-order and a handful with the ball both up front and at the death, so he’s a great fit for us and hopefully he’ll make a big difference this summer.”

Hampshire begin their quest to reach an eighth T20 finals day in 10 years on July 19 when they host Sussex.



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Heather Knight seeks new era as England hope to move on from Ashes drubbing

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England captain Heather Knight has heralded her side’s upcoming series in Malaysia against Pakistan as the start of “a new era”, and an opportunity to move on from this summer’s Ashes thrashing.

After being roundly beaten by a 12-4 margin against Australia, England parted company with head coach Mark Robinson, who had taken charge back in 2015.

Lisa Keightley, the former Perth Scorchers coach, has taken over, but will not start her new role officially until January, leaving only a matter of weeks to stamp her mark on the side before the T20 World Cup in Australia in February.

ALSO READ: Five things on Keightley’s to-do list as England coach

Ali Maiden, who served as Robinson’s assistant and will continue in the same job under Keightley, will coach the team in Malaysia, though Keightley is set to join up with the tour for the T20I leg.

“We’ve made a few changes with Robbo [Robinson] not being head coach [any] more,” Knight told the BBC’s Test Match Special, “and we’ve put a lot of hard work in as a group, and made a few changes from a team point of view as well.

“We’re really excited to get out and see if those changes have come to fruition.

“Lisa’s going to come towards the end of the tour and doesn’t take over officially until January. We’re all really excited to start a new era as a team and move on from what was a tough period for us in the Ashes.”

England have made several personnel changes since the summer, signalling a changing of the guard. Experienced allrounders Georgia Elwiss and Laura Marsh have dropped out of the squad, while uncapped legspinner Sarah Glenn, 24-year-old seamer Freya Davies, and 22-year-old spinner Kirstie Gordon come into the squad.

Mady Villiers, the 21-year-old offspinner who took 2-20 on T20I debut against Australia, is also expected to play a bigger role in the series, while Jenny Gunn and Sarah Taylor have both retired.

“We’ve picked quite a young squad actually,” said Knight. “We picked the squad with half an eye on the World Cup, which comes around in Februrary, and it’s a massive chance for these girls to impress.

“Some of them have had a little taste of international cricket, some of them have had no taste of international cricket [at all]. So it’s a chance for them to show what they’ve done in tournaments like the KSL and see if they can transfer it into international cricket.

“It is an exciting period – it’s also a time of a little bit of uncertainty with Lisa not starting yet, so it’s up to us as players to make sure we’re leading ourselves and being really clear on how we go about things and how we do things as individuals and as a team for the new coach to come in. It’s a really exciting time for people to reinvent themselves if they want to as well.”

England are clear favourites for both the ODI and T20I series, not least with Pakistan’s talismanic Sana Mir missing the series to “plan and reset my future objectives and targets”. The first ODI is on Monday, December 9 at Kinrara Oval in Kuala Lumpar.



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No total big enough if you field like that – Virat Kohli

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India captain Virat Kohli said his side couldn’t expect to win matches if they continued to slip up in the field. West Indies beat India by eight wickets in the second T20I on Sunday to leave the series 1-1 going into the decider. While the margin eight wickets with nine balls to spare appeared comprehensive, West Indies benefitted from three dropped catches in their chase. That followed from the first T20I, which India won despite five dropped chances.

In the second game, two catches were put down in the fifth over, bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, benefitting openers Lendl Simmons and Evin Lewis.

Washington Sundar dropped a straightforward chance at mid-off when Simmons was on 6 – he would go on to make 67* off 45 – while Rishabh Pant put down a more difficult chance two balls later, having to dive to his left after following the batsman by moving to his right. Lewis was on 16 then and the initial pressure built by tight bowling quickly dissipated.

ALSO READ: Low floodlights in Hyderabad made catching tricky – KL Rahul

Later on, the returning Nicholas Pooran was also put down by Shreyas Iyer in the 17th over when he was on 18, and West Indies hunted down India’s 170 for 7 comfortably.

“We had to get those 15 extra runs to defend, but look, if you field like that, then no total is big enough,” Kohli told Star Sports after the match. “Last two games we have been below par in the field. We were good with the ball, in the first four overs we created enough pressure… and then you drop two chances in a T20 game in one over, that’s going to cost you. If they lose two wickets in one over, the pressure’s on them. I think it’s a game of margins and we need to understand where we went wrong. It’s pretty evident. It’s there for everyone to see and for us to improve on. I think fielding is something we need to be more brave about, and not worry about dropping catches.”

“It’s there for everyone to see and for us to improve on. I think fielding is something we need to be more brave about, and not worry about dropping catches.”

Virat Kohli

Kohli himself pulled off the most difficult catch of the match, sprinting to his right at long-on to hold onto a hard, flat Shimron Hetmyer hit. “It was one of those catches that just stuck in the hand. It came out of the lights a little bit, but I just committed to the ball and put both hands out, and luckily it came into my hand,” Kohli said. “Last game I put one hand out and I dropped it. It’s about putting in the effort when you can and sometimes they stick and sometimes they don’t.”

Going with two hands instead of one was not the only thing Kohli changed from the first game to the second. He pushed himself down the order to No.4, and sent in the raw Shivam Dube at No.3.

“Well we knew the pitch is going to offer something to the spinners. They were going to start with a spinner, so we thought why not Shivam goes up and tries and attacks the spinner,” Kohli explained. “Because the batting line-up that we have will probably go unused if two guys at the top fire. That was the plan behind it, worked pretty well.

“We were really good for the first 16 overs – we were 140 for 4 [144 for 4]. From there on I think you expect to get about 40-45 runs in the last four overs and not 30. I think we lacked there a little bit, so we have to focus on that more. I think Shivam’s knock is what propelled us towards 170 because the ball wasn’t coming on to the bat so well in the first half. To be honest, West Indies assessed the pitch really nicely and they bowled enough cutters and changes of pace to not let us get any momentum.”



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Playing again would ‘almost be like a debut’ – Fawad Alam

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It has been over ten years since he played the last of his three Test matches, and nearly five years since he played any international cricket, but Fawad Alam hasn’t been sitting twiddling his thumbs all this while.

Year after year, he’s continued to press for national selection with remarkable performances on the domestic circuit, particularly in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Pakistan’s premier first-class competition. No player has scored more runs in the tournament than Fawad’s 3105, which have been achieved at an average of 56.45. There have been near misses; he was called up to a training camp ahead of the tour of England in 2018 and named in a couple of squads without getting a start. But off the back of a double century in the QeA and a dismal outing for the Test side in Australia, this time feels different.

And for Fawad, it feels like a second debut. “I said the other day it will almost feel like a debut, and that’s true because it’s been such a long time since I last played,” Fawad told reporters in Karachi. “Whether I get a game or not depends on the management and selection committee. I’m just happy I was able to make it in the final 15. Where they feel I can deliver, they’ll give me a chance and I’m confident I’ll perform. The way the conditions and wickets shape up will determine whether I get a chance or not, obviously.”

He waved away concerns that the pressure of playing at home – particularly in his hometown of Karachi, where the second Test will be played – would become too overwhelming. “When a player is playing a club match or a domestic game, there’s still pressure on you. The pressure of performance always remains with you so it’s not like it’s a new psychological thing. That will be there but my job is to overcome it and try to deliver.

“I should try and enjoy the opportunity I’ve been given right now and think positively. If I allow negative thoughts to cloud my mind my focus will be adversely affected. My aim is to make the most of this opportunity and try to perform to the best level I can.”

It would have been easy for Fawad to feel down on his luck and wallow in self-pity; indeed, much of the nation seemed to be doing that on his behalf. For all the runs he compiled, for the scarcely believable consistency on offer from the left-hander on the domestic circuit, multiple management and selection regimes would overlook him for the national side. They may well have had their reasons, but when players with significantly inferior records were called up and given repeated runs in the side even as Fawad sat out, there were suspicions there was something less honest than cricketing strategy behind Fawad’s continued exile.

Fawad, though, did not allow himself that negativity, believing it would be detrimental to his game. “If you surround yourself with people who tell you you have been badly treated and fill your mind with negative stuff, then you may feel that sense of injustice. But that’s not what my friends and family were like; they motivated me to perform year after year after year. They kept me going and urged me to continue knocking at selectors’ doors. My father always said I must not be upset, to act like a fighter and continue to fight for my place in the side.”

The straight bat he uses to such good effect in domestic games across the country was in evidence at the press conference, too, where Fawad was eager to ward off any controversy. He was questioned about Inzamam having reportedly jibed about “seeing better players than Fawad” and having compared him to Mark Ramprakash, who, despite a glittering career in the county game, couldn’t quite nail a place in the England side for long enough. Fawad, though, wouldn’t be drawn on Inzamam’s comments, and called it a “matter of honour” to be compared to a “great” like Ramprakash.

“It’s a matter of honour for me to have my name tied to Mark Ramprakash. He’s just a great player and done so much for his country. The number of runs I’ve scored is puny compared to how many he’s scored. He’s scored over one hundred centuries [114] and I’m nowhere close to that either. I’m just here to perform to my best and prove doubters wrong.

“As for Inzi bhai, he is a legend of ours; I’m nowhere near him. I’m not worthy of snapping back at Inzamam in anyway, and that is not the way I was brought up. I was taught to respect my elders, and Inzi bhai is entitled to his own viewpoint. I don’t feel it is appropriate to respond to him because I have too much respect for him.”

You don’t plug away thanklessly on the domestic circuit in Pakistan without being somewhat daftly in love with the game, and that is what Fawad wished to speak of most of all. The excitement in his voice was most evident when speaking about Sri Lanka visiting to finally break the Test drought inflicted on the country since the terror attack on this week’s visitors, and his commitment to ensuring this would be a positive, memorable series.

“It’s a very good thing to see Test cricket back in Pakistan after such a long time. It’s a good omen for Pakistan cricket, and for the entire country. We all need to make the event successful. Because how this goes will be relayed by the Sri Lankans to countries around the world so the better this goes, the more advantages it confers to Pakistan. I think the message is everyone should come here. The people have supported all the teams that came previously and had a good time. The fact that Test cricket is returning after such a long time means all true cricket lovers will want to get down to the stadium and support their team as well as Test cricket.”

In those moments, Fawad Alam was a fan once more. If indeed he does get the fourth Test cap that he’s waited a decade for on Wednesday, he will need to switch back to being the ruthless accumulator we have become used to seeing on grounds across Pakistan. Except this time it won’t be Central Punjab or Northern Districts he’s looking to grind into submission, but a Sri Lankan cricket team looking to exorcise demons of its own in Pakistan.



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