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‘English pitches should be more biased’ – James Anderson

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England’s failure to reclaim the Ashes in a home series for the first time in almost two decades can in part be put down to unhelpful pitches, according to the team’s senior fast bowler James Anderson. While a calf injury limited Anderson’s involvement to bowling just four overs in the first Test at Edgbaston, he suggested that the playing surfaces have better suited Australia’s attack and said local groundsmen might consider being “a little bit more biased” towards England in future.

Defeat on Anderson’s home ground of Old Trafford last week left England 2-1 down in the Specsavers Test series and unable to prise back the urn from Australia. While Anderson gave a nod towards Steven Smith for his “phenomenal” batting – in three Test appearances Smith has scored 671 runs, almost twice as many as anyone else – he said England had been disappointed by the pitches served up and that more could be done to exploit home advantage.

“I think they’ve probably suited Australia more than us,” he said. “I would have liked to have seen a bit more grass but that’s the nature of the game here. When you’re selling out – like Lancashire selling out five days of Test cricket – it’s hard not to produce a flat deck but, you know, that’s one of the frustrations from a player’s point of view. We go to Australia and get pitches that suit them. They come over here and get pitches that suit them. It doesn’t seem quite right.

“I thought they were good pitches here against India [last year]. I thought they weren’t green seamers but I thought they suited us more than India. We as a country don’t use home advantage enough. When you go to Australia, go to India, Sri Lanka, they prepare pitches that suit them. I feel like we could just be a little bit more biased towards our own team.”

Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, in particular, have led the way for Australia, taking 24 wickets at 17.41 and 18 at 16.88 respectively – separated only by Stuart Broad (19 at 26.63) for England. It has been a bowlers series in general, with only two Australians (Smith and Marnus Labuschagne) and three Englishmen (Ben Stokes, Rory Burns and Joe Root) averaging above 30 with the bat.

In contrast to Anderson’s lugubrious take, Australia coach Justin Langer was perhaps unsurprisingly full of praise for the “bowler-friendly wickets” on which his team had prevailed in their mission to retain the Ashes.

“It’s most important for the health of Test cricket moving forward that you’re playing on competitive wickets,” he said ahead of the final Test at The Oval. “Great players make runs, games always moving forward, you’re on the edge of your seat. I think the wickets this series have been fantastic for that.”

Anderson’s frustrations have been compounded by being forced to watch from the sidelines after suffering from a persistent calf problem that saw him hobble through the first Test at Edgbaston, having being declared fit, then suffer a recurrence while going about his rehabilitation with Lancashire.

There is little doubt that not being able to call upon the most-prolific Test fast bowler in history has hurt England’s chances – despite the resurgence of Broad and a potent display from Jofra Archer in his debut series. However, Anderson has quietened any expectations he may be contemplating retirement, writing in his newspaper column that he intends to try and play on until he is 40.

He proclaimed himself “open-minded” to making changes to his diet and lifestyle in order to prolong his career; perhaps a chat about the benefits of veganism with old Ashes foe Peter Siddle is in order following the conclusion of the series?

“When I start this rehab, I’m going to try and investigate every possible avenue of what do I need to do at my age to keep myself in good shape,” Anderson said. “I feel in really good condition. I feel as fit as I ever have. It’s just the calf keeps twanging.

“I’m going to look at every possible thing I can to make sure I can play for as long as possible. I’ll look at how other sportspeople have done it throughout their careers to keep going into their late 30s. Whether there’s anything specific I can do, diet, gym programme, supplements, whatever it might be. Because I’ve still got a real hunger and desire to play cricket. I still love the game and still feel like I can offer something to this team and still have the skills and can bowl quick enough to have a positive effect.

“It’ll be an ongoing process through the rest of my career. I still feel like I can be the best bowler in the world. So as long as I’ve got that mentality I’m going to keep pushing myself. Keep trying to improve my skills with the ball, work hard at my batting, and try to find every possible thing to help me stay fit.”

“We as a country don’t use home advantage enough. When you go to Australia, go to India, Sri Lanka, they prepare pitches that suit them. I feel like we could just be a little bit more biased towards our own team”

Anderson’s first goal is to be available for the two Tests in New Zealand towards the back-end of November, after which comes a tour of South Africa. His desire to keep playing means he is set to feature under a fifth different England coach – depending on when the successor to Trevor Bayliss is appointed – and he suggested the new management needed to map out with Joe Root a pathway to rebalancing priorities between Test and limited-overs cricket.

“Going forward, it’s important whoever takes over has got the same sort of vision as Joe as captain, on how the team moves forward. Obviously the last four years has been a real focus on one-day cricket, trying to win the World Cup. We’ve now done that.

“I think we need to find a good balance. We’ve kind of been one or the other. In my career, it’s been Test priority in the first bit and then this last four-year cycle has been a push for the white-ball stuff. We need to find a balance, it’s as simple as that. We’ve got to try to give equal attention to both.”

Whether or not he develops a craving for bananas, Anderson’s appetite for cricket remains strong – though he grimaces wearily at the idea of resuming battle with Smith once again in 2021-22. There is an acceptance that he won’t go on forever, an understanding that one day, perhaps not too far in the future, he will be able to inspect a flat pitch with a shake of the head before heading towards the media facilities rather than the dressing rooms.

“I’m realistic. If I’m not good enough and feel I’m detracting from the team and I’m too slow, or whatever it might be, then I’m not going to embarrass myself or drag the team down. I’ll only keep playing if I think I can be one of the best bowlers in the world and if I think I can help this team win games of Test cricket. I’m not just blinkered thinking I’m going to just drag out as many possible games as I can.”

James Anderson was speaking on behalf of ‘The Test Experts’ Specsavers, Official Test Partner of the England cricket team ahead of the final Test of the Specsavers Ashes Series at The Oval



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DJ Rabada in the house: Kagiso Rabada is on song again – with help from Dad

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When Kagiso Rabada earned his fourth active demerit point in a 24-month period and was suspended from the final Test against England last month, his father sent him a little something to make him feel better and it’s not what you might expect.

“I sent him a song about the ICC. To cheer him up,” Dr Mpho Rabada said, at the launch of his new track, Ska Chechella Morago, a collaboration with family friend and music student Motswedi Modiba at the Red Bull Studios in Cape Town.

The song was inspired by the idea of being able to take flight and its message of positivity is quite unlike the one Rabada senior composed on the fly when he heard that his son had fallen foul of the game’s governing body again. Neither of the Rabadas would share the content but Mpho Rabada said it was “quite hilarious,” and hoped that “maybe one day,” his son would release it. Judging by the look on Kagiso Rabada’s face it will be a long time before that happens. But, asked if he could sing something to the ICC, Rabada brightened up and offered a few chords. “Please don’t judge me,” he started, before the room gave way to giggles.

At least everyone could see the lighter side of what has been a tough summer for South African cricket and Kagiso Rabada, who, at 24 years old, is already five years into his international career. In that time, injuries to more experienced quicks meant that he was quickly elevated to leader of the pack while he was trying to find a level of aggression that intimidated opposition but did not tip him over the ICC’s code of conduct edge.

It’s little wonder he needs an outlet off the field and he has found it on the turntables. “Music has always been a part of me and my family. It’s something to get away and just think about something else,” Rabada Jnr said.

His father shares a passion for the beat and the pair spend time together experimenting with sounds, mixing tracks and seeing what happens. That’s where Modiba comes in. She is the daughter of Mpho Rabada’s best friend and an aspiring singer, who is influenced by gospel music. While Modiba and Mpho have taken the step up and released a single, Kagiso has been working with DJ Da Capo on some house music, which the pair have yet to put the finishing touches on, given their busy schedules.

So for now, music remains a hobby for Kagiso Rabada, and a motivator as he goes about trying to get the South African team and his own performances back on track. Like many sportsmen, he can be spotted with headphones on when he gets off the team bus; most of the time, he is listening to traditional tunes. “For me to get inspiration, that comes from tribal music, African tribal. That gets me going, the different sounds, the chants, it’s like I am bonding with my ancestors,” he said.

With music such an important part of his process, it’s not a surprise that he bonds with the crowd at St George’s Park, famed for their brass band. Last Sunday, when South Africa beat Australia in a tense T20 to square the series and Rabada bowled a decisive penultimate over, he could feel the fans acting as a 12th man.

“The atmosphere was really electric. That was the first time in a while where I actually felt the crowd, other than being at the Wanderers,” he said. “The Wanderers is my favourite ground because of the electrical atmosphere. Yesterday was similar to what I felt at the Wanderers, it was a sell-out and the band came out and we were in it together.”

That is a rarity in South Africa, especially this season, when most of the spectators were traveling English supporters. During the white-ball games that changed, with capacity crowds of mostly local supporters and it is set to stay that way for the deciding T20 against Australia on Wednesday and the three ODIs that follow.

Generally, though, South Africans don’t fill out cricket grounds and Kagiso Rabada thinks the team’s performances have something to do with it. “We have to win and we have to entertain the crowd,” he said “People need to feel an interest towards the game, even more of an interest than they feel already, to want to go the stadium and witness international cricket. If they realise that the skill level is going up, the professionalism is going up and they are going to be entertained, they might come.”

Though South Africa’s results have been poor of late, even when they were No.1 in the world Test crowds were thin, which could be attributed to anything from lack of interest to lack of time to lack of marketing. Cricket South Africa has been embroiled in various crises since the failed T20 Global League almost three years ago and has lost major sponsors. At best, they have appeared out of touch with their audience, at worst, uninterested.

Kagiso Rabada spent time last week experiencing the opposite when he traveled to the NBA All-Star game. While his highlight was seeing LeBron James because he “admires watching other sportsmen doing well in their craft,” he also saw first-hand how a sport can speak the same language as its supporters.

“What fascinated me the most was how it’s marketed and how it’s really fresh and they keep with the times,” he said. “It’s got everybody talking about it. It doesn’t have an age barrier. If you are older, you can go there and feel young because that energy is electrifying. Music and sport go together in America, the in-thing is trap music and the hip culture. It just feels as if the culture is so inviting and they are always staying on top of it. There is tradition, yes but they keep with the times.”

Sounds like a message to cricket to get the DJs in and they know the Rabada household has a few they can start with.



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Recent Match Report – Australia A vs England Lions Only unofficial Test 2020

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Australia A 176 (Wildermuth 50*, Carse 3-50, Robinson 3-66) and 5 for 180 (Maddinson 52) trail England Lions 428 by 72 runs

England Lions closed in on a convincing win in their four-day game against Australia A, enforcing the follow-on as their seamers continued to impress at the MCG.

Resuming on 5 for 103, Josh Inglis continued to hold proceedings up alongside Jack Wildermuth before he was bowled by Ollie Robinson, and the wickets then came easily for the Lions, Brydon Carse and allrounder Tom Abell taking two apiece as the lower order offered limited resistance. Wildermuth did complete a 10th first-class fifty, but was left stranded as wickets fell around him.

Keaton Jennings did not hesitate to enforce the follow-on, and his faith in his attack was immediately rewarded as Craig Overton trapped Usman Khawaja lbw in the first over. Nic Maddinson, the Sheffield Shield’s form batsman, made a quickfire 52 before falling to the same bowler, and then offspinner Dom Bess struck twice in as many overs to leave the hosts teetering at 4 for 85.

Robinson removed Inglis for the second time in the day before rain brought proceedings to an early close, and despite Kurtis Patterson’s resistance, the stage was set for the Lions to wrap up a win on the final day.

“We’ve had another good day in the field but we know there’s still work to be done tomorrow if we’re to win the game,” said Jennings. “Patterson and Wildermuth are good batsmen and I’m sure they’ll do everything they can to frustrate us and take the game as deep as possible.

“Our bowling throughout the day was generally good and even when decent partnerships started to form we held our nerve to take advantage of any breakthrough and put the Australian batsmen under pressure. Winning any game in Australia is difficult, so hopefully we can push on to victory tomorrow.”



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No ‘official complaint’ from Quetta Gladiators over alleged Peshawar Zalmi ball-tampering – PCB

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Peshawar Zalmi will have no case to answer for alleged ball-tampering during their game against Quetta Gladiators, after the PCB confirmed that Quetta had failed to formally make a complaint. Quetta captain Sarfaraz Ahmed‘s claim they had reported what they perceived as ball-tampering by Peshawar has been refuted by the PCB, who in a press release stated Quetta had not filed the complaint through the “correctly stated procedure”.

Following the conclusion of the match between Quetta and Peshawar on Saturday, Sarfaraz said his side believed Peshawar had altered the condition of the ball, and they were taking the matter up with the match referee and the PCB. “As far as ball-tampering is concerned, we have followed the protocols of [the] PCB and submitted our report on the matter,” he said. Team manager Nabeel Hashmi, who was with Sarfaraz at the press conference, appeared to clarify the comment, suggesting a formal complaint had not been made.

The procedure to file a formal complaint was never followed though. Quetta wrote their complaint on the match evaluation form, which is not the platform to lodge formal complaints. Instead, the PCB pointed out, “all Reports must be completed on Form “Rep 1″ (or such other form as may be made available for such purpose by the PSL from time to time). All Reports must be signed and dated by the person lodging the Report.”

That needed to be done within 48 hours of the conclusion of the game, which Peshawar won by six wickets. With that time having now lapsed, the window of opportunity available to Quetta to make a complaint has closed.

“The Pakistan Cricket Board today confirmed match referee Roshan Mahanama has not received an official complaint from Quetta Gladiators against Peshawar Zalmi for changing the condition of the ball…” the PCB media release said.

The PCB made clear they will not recognise Sarfaraz’s public comments as an official complaint, and were not happy with the manner in which Quetta had handled the matter.

“We are aware that a statement on changing the condition of the ball has been made without providing any concrete evidence or lodging a formal complaint through the correctly stated procedure,” Wasim Khan, the PCB CEO, said.

“In this case, this should have been submitted to the match referee by 6pm on Monday, 24 February. Such irresponsible statements without formal follow-up will only effect the integrity of the event and cast doubts on international cricketers, and, as such, I request the players to use caution and show responsibility.”

A source at Quetta Gladiators told ESPNcricinfo that they had no intention to formally complain, insisting Sarfaraz’s comments had been misinterpreted. Quetta merely wanted to raise awareness of the issue, and to ask umpires to pay more attention to the ball’s condition, which would explain why they included their remarks on the umpire evaluation form instead of lodging a complaint to the match referee.

The PSL resumes in Multan on Wednesday, where Multan Sultans will take on Peshawar. Quetta next play in Rawalpindi against Islamabad United.



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