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Darren Stevens to leave Kent but wants to play on

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Darren Stevens will leave Kent at the end of the current season after 15 years with the club but has no intention of retiring from the professional game.

Stevens, 43, joined Kent from Leicestershire in 2005 and has enjoyed an outstanding career with bat and ball, scoring 11,718 first-class runs and claiming 487 wickets for his second county.

He is currently on loan to Derbyshire for the T20 Blast, but had continued to be impressive with the ball in the County Championship with 28 wickets at 24.21 in eight matches although runs had been harder to come by with an average of 20.36.

“It’s been an amazing 15 years,” Stevens said. “So many wonderful memories both on and off the pitch and many strong friendships made along the way. This is not retirement for me as I think I still have a lot to offer on the pitch, both as a player and a coach and am excited by the next stage in my career.

“I believe I can still do it at the top level, as my recent form shows, and I am looking forward to the remainder of the T20 season with Derbyshire and finishing the season successfully with Kent. I will look back at my time with Kent with nothing but happiness and pride but must now look forward to the next challenge.”

Kent have an eye on the future and want to invest in their younger players while also hoping to bring in an overseas fast bowler next season.

“When you look at his record, it is a travesty that Darren Stevens did not receive the international call-up he so richly deserved whilst in his prime,” Paul Downton, Kent’s director of cricket, said. “It’s now time for a new chapter at Kent with a number of young bowlers, and hopefully an overseas fast bowler next year, all demanding the new ball as the club seeks to keep raising standards and compete for the Division One Championship title.”



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‘We may look pretty today, but it’s another day tomorrow’ – Rumesh Ratnayake

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Although Sri Lanka only have 135 runs to get, with all ten second-innings wickets still in hand, acting coach Rumesh Ratnayake is adamant the Test could still slip away from his team. History would suggest Ratnayake is right to be wary. Only on four previous occasions has a target greater than the 268 the hosts are chasing in Galle been successfully run down in Sri Lanka.

The venue they are playing at is known to be especially difficult in the final innings as well. The highest successful chase at Galle is 99. Wickets have been known to tumble in heaps.

“Even though we are 133 for no loss, it was hard work, and for the batsman who would go in next it’s going to be extremely hard,” Ratnayake said after stumps on day four. “As a batsman, anyone going in fresh would be vulnerable in the first ten minutes. But anybody who’s spent 20 to 30 balls is aware of the way the ball is bouncing and the spin of the wicket. Tomorrow is a fifth day, so it might be a different day entirely. And this 268 is huge. We may look pretty today, at 133 for no loss, but it’s another day tomorrow.

“But the boys are really determined. We are not going to be scared to fail. We are fearlessly going forward, trying to take smart options.”

If Sri Lanka win, it will be the third consecutive testing fourth-innings chase that they would have succeeded in. During Tests in South Africa, Sri Lanka were set targets of 304 and 197 and won both matches.

“We haven’t won this yet. Yes, in South Africa we did well in those two matches. But there’s belief as well, from having won those games. I think that will help us tomorrow as well. But it’s not an easy wicket.”

Ratnayake’s talk of the pitch being especially difficult for new batsmen is in line with what everyone – from both Sri Lanka and New Zealand camps – have been saying so far. In all three completed innings, wickets have been lost quickly, but even tailenders have found ways to survive once they’ve last the initial few overs. New Zealand, for example, went from 124 for 6 to a total of 285 in their second innings.

“As a coach of the bowling team, I would be disappointed in some of the ways in which we bowled – some of the lengths we bowled,” Ratnayake said. “Having said that, it was hard work. The reason being, when you’re set there, you score. Everybody, whether it was a tailender or whoever it may be, scored runs when set. That pattern continued today. New Zealand’s lower order did extremely well, with Tim Southee, Trent Boult, BJ Watling and Will Somerville.”



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Sri Lanka mull playing Test cricket in Pakistan

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Test cricket might just return to Pakistan later this year. Sri Lanka could be open to playing at least one Test in the country, after a security delegation visited Lahore and Karachi, and gave SLC “very positive feedback”. If everything goes to plan, Pakistan could host its first Test match since the Lahore attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus in March 2009.

The series against Sri Lanka, Pakistan’s first of the World Test Championship, was originally supposed to be played at a neutral venue, but the PCB made SLC an offer to play in Pakistan. With the offer in mind, SLC sent a security delegation headed by Mohan de Silva to assess security arrangements.

The security report, ESPNcricinfo understands, was tabled on Friday in Colombo. “The feedback we got from the security team was very positive,” SLC CEO Ashley de Silva said. “We’ll be talking to the PCB about some alternatives before we arrive at a decision. The government will be consulted as well.”

The biggest concern is understood to be obtaining the players’ consent to tour Pakistan. A Sri Lanka team played one T20I in Lahore in October 2017, but did so without a number of its prominent names. Sri Lanka’s then T20I captain, Upul Tharanga, pulled out, along with Lasith Malinga, Niroshan Dickwella, Suranga Lakmal and Akila Dananjaya. The team was captained by Thisara Perera, and the then SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala and sports minister Dayasiri Jayasekara accompanied the side to Lahore. The brief tour was successful, and was a major stepping stone that paved the way for PCB to convince teams to play more international cricket in Pakistan.

If Sri Lanka do play Test cricket in Pakistan, it will be a reciprocal gesture of sorts. The PCB was the first board to send a team to Sri Lanka following the April 21 bombings in Sri Lanka this year, a Pakistan Under-19 team touring the island a month after the attacks.

There was no top-rung international cricket in Pakistan for six years, following the 2009 Lahore attack, but since 2015, the country has hosted limited-overs games featuring Zimbabwe (2015), World XI (2017), Sri Lanka (2017) and West Indies (2018) apart from a number of Pakistan Super League (PSL) matches. A number of high-profile players have been part of these tours; the World XI side, for instance, was coached by Andy Flower and included five players from South Africa – including Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla – three from Australia, two from West Indies and one player each from England, Bangladesh, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

These matches have made some headway towards changing the perception of Pakistan among potential visiting teams, and recently the PCB managing director Wasim Khan presented the country’s case before the MCC World Cricket Committee. He emphasised the importance of bringing international cricket back to Pakistan, and invited the MCC to visit.

“It was a very positive meeting with the MCC,” Wasim said. “Shane Warne, Kumar Sangakkara and Mike Gatting, the chair of the committee, were present there. They wanted to me to present on the current security in the country, along with what impact playing no international cricket here has had, and what can be done to restore it.

“I am very, very confident that we will have an MCC team touring us in the near future. But, there are some matters related to security that need to be covered before they send their team. We will work very closely with the MCC to make sure that the tour happens.”

The MCC World Cricket Committee, headed by Gatting, expressed its support to see the resumption of tours to the nation after 10 years, and said the MCC would be interested in sending a touring team of its own by way of re-opening the door – final security checks pending as ever.

With additional reporting by Andrew Fidel Fernando



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Mashrafe Mortaza asks BCB for time to ponder ODI future

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Mashrafe Mortaza has asked the BCB for two months to decide when he wants to retire from ODIs, according to board president Nazmul Hassan. On Saturday afternoon, Mashrafe was seen entering Nazmul’s BCB office, for what was probably his first official discussion with the board about his retirement. Other board directors were present during the meeting too.

“Because we don’t have any ODIs until next March, Mashrafe has said that he needs another couple of months to be fully ready for a decision,” Hassan said. “We will respect that.”

ESPNcricinfo understands that the BCB was exploring the possibility of holding a one-off ODI between Bangladesh and Zimbabwe next month, soon after the T20I tri-series.

There are also plans for a fitting farewell for the country’s most successful limited-overs captain, but those will now have to wait until March next year when Bangladesh are, according to the latest Future Tours Programme, scheduled to play a home series against Zimbabwe.

Speculation about Mashrafe”s retirement has been strong since he became a member of parliament in December 2018, but he has continued to lead the ODI side since then, in New Zealand, Ireland and then the World Cup in England. He missed Bangladesh’s last ODI series – in Sri Lanka – due to a recurring hamstring injury. Mashrafe has already retired from T20Is, while his injury issues have kept him away from Test cricket since 2009.



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