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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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Behrendorff considering same surgery as Pattinson as back issues plague him

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Australia fast bowler Jason Behrendorff has been ruled out of action indefinitely due to ongoing back issues as he considers all options including the same lower spine surgery that James Pattinson underwent to prolong his career.

Behrendorff, the 29-year-old left-armer from Western Australia, was forced home from a short stint with Sussex in the T20 Blast in England in late August after experiencing some back soreness and scans confirmed it was connected to the repeated stress fractures he has suffered in the past. He had been managing his back problems over the past couple of years, which included stepping away from first-class cricket completely to play limited-overs only.

He will miss the Marsh One-Day Cup and the Western Australia and Cricket Australia medical staff are considering all options, which includes exploring surgery as well as just an extended rest before the BBL. ESPNcricinfo understands Behrendorff is set to speak to both Pattinson and former New Zealand fast bowler Shane Bond about the spine surgery both men had to fix similar issues.

If surgery is a more viable option Behrendorff could head to New Zealand soon to consult with Christchurch-based surgeon Grahame Inglis, who performed the surgery on both Bond and Pattinson, to see whether he can undergo the procedure that could help prolong his career and potentially get him back playing all three formats. The recovery time for such surgery would be between nine and 12 months and next year’s T20 World Cup in Australia in October 2020 would be factored into the equation as to whether surgery is the correct route.

Bond, who was Behrendorff’s bowling coach at the Mumbai Indians during this year’s IPL, first had the surgery in New Zealand in 2004 and it extended his career by six years. The surgery involves fusing screws and a titanium cable into the lower spine to stabilise the stress fracture which would not heal conventionally.

Pattinson had the same surgery in New Zealand in 2017, having also consulted with Bond, as a last resort after fears his career might end prematurely aged 27. He has made a remarkable recovery to play Test cricket again for Australia, featuring in the recent Ashes series having last played Test cricket in 2016.

New Zealand paceman Matt Henry, who was a key contributor to New Zealand’s World Cup campaign, also had the same surgery in 2012.

Behrendorff, who is the same age as Pattinson, has not played a first-class game since November 2017. After a lengthy recovery he made the decision to step away from long-form cricket to manage his workloads. After a successful time in Australia’s ODI and T20 teams last summer he was selected in the World Cup squad and took 5 for 44 against England at Lord’s.

Behrendorff does have an excellent first-class record for Western Australia having taken 126 wickets at an average of 23.85. He took 40 wickets in the 2013-14 Sheffield Shield season and was named Australia’s domestic player of the year in January 2015. He claimed a career-best 14 for 89 against Victoria in 2017 including 9 for 37 in the first innings.



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Iftikhar Ahmed and Mohammad Nawaz return to Pakistan’s ODI squad

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Batsman Iftikhar Ahmed and spin-bowling allrounder Mohammad Nawaz have made comebacks to Pakistan’s ODI squad. Both were part of the first squad announced by Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s new coach and chief selector, ahead of the three-match series against Sri Lanka that is due to take place later this month in Karachi.

Fast bowlers Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali are forced absentees from the squad. Shaheen is out with dengue, while Hasan has been suffering from back spasms. Of the other members of Pakistan’s squad for the World Cup, their last international assignment, Mohammad Hafeez has been left out, and is currently playing for St Kitts and Nevis Patriots in the Caribbean Premier League, while Shoaib Malik has retired.

Iftikhar, who made the last of his three ODI appearances in November 2015, returns on the back of impressive displays in the Pakistan Cup 50-overs tournament, where he made back-to-back hundreds for Punjab. Nawaz made a pair of half-centuries in the same tournament, playing for Federal Areas.

Pakistan ODI squad: Sarfaraz Ahmed (capt), Babar Azam, Abid Ali, Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Hasnain, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan, Usman Khan Shinwari, Wahab Riaz

More to follow…



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Live Report – Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, 2nd round

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ESPNcricinfo’s Live Report will bring you all the analysis, stats, news and reaction from the second round of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Pakistan’s premier first-class competition. Please refresh the page if it doesn’t load immediately for you





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