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Shaw, Bhuvneshwar back in action in contrasting styles

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The closing stages of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2019-20 were enlivened by a tight race for the Super League and two prominent names making a comeback in Prithvi Shaw and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Sunday was to be the last day of the league stages for all five groups – A, B, C, D and E – but reschedules have meant there will be seven matches from Groups C, D and E played on Monday. The top two teams from each group will qualify for the Super League, to be followed by semi-finals and the final.

Shaw smacks half-century on comeback

Having served out his eight-month ban for inadvertently consuming a banned substance, Shaw returned to action for Mumbai in the familiar environs of the Wankhede Stadium with 63 off 39 at the top of the order in a Group D match. Assam had to bear the brunt of a Mumbai side smarting from a shock defeat against Meghalaya in their last match.

Mumbai piled up 206 for 5 after being asked to bat, while Assam could muster only 123 for 8.

But while Aditya Tare, Shaw’s opening partner, was the game’s top-scorer, smashing 82 off 48, Shaw was the cynosure. It was his first knock at a representative level since the IPL 2019 Qualifier 2 for Delhi Capitals against Chennai Super Kings on May 10.

He came through the test well, though Assam’s bowling didn’t pose the greatest challenge, hitting six fours and three sixes in his knock. Shaw will now need to build on a successful start to his comeback to challenge for a spot in the Indian team again. In his absence, Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal have established themselves as unquestionably the first-choice openers in the Test team.

Bhuvneshwar makes a solid comeback

Injuries, and team dynamics, have meant Bhuvneshwar has slipped from being a three-format player to one who is looked at primarily for limited-overs cricket. Even with the white ball, Deepak Chahar‘s emergence as a swing bowler of considerable skill has meant Bhuvneshwar’s absence hasn’t quite been an unfillable void.

Before the T20I series against Bangladesh, chief selector MSK Prasad had said, “Bhuvneshwar Kumar might come in the next series.”

Bhuvneshwar took some strides towards an international comeback, making a steady if understated return to competitive cricket. He played his second match in three days for Uttar Pradesh, in Group B. His comeback game was against Manipur on November 15 in Thumba, where he took none for 13 in three overs. Against Kerala in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday, he bowled his full quota of four overs and took 1 for 23.

Kerala made 119 for 8 in 20 overs, but Uttar Pradesh, set a revised target of 44 in seven overs, ended up on 42 for 4, losing by one run. That result had significant ramifications for who ended up qualifying.

Karnataka, Baroda, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Mumbai Haryana qualify

Karnataka, Baroda, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan have qualified for the Super League, with Groups A and B having completed all their matches.

Some matches remain in Group D, but Mumbai and Haryana have already qualified in that group. Mumbai are on 24 points and impregnable. Haryana have 20, with a match against Meghalaya. Even if they lose, there is no other team on 20 points. Puducherry are on 16 and can equal Haryana on points if they beat Madhya Pradesh, but Haryana had won their head to head match against Puducherry.

Both Karnataka and Baroda finished on 20 points in Group A, having five wins and one defeat each, and sailed through comfortably. The going was more tight in Group B. Tamil Nadu were the group leaders with 20 points, but all of Rajasthan, Vidarbha and Kerala finished on 16 points each. They had all beaten each other once, which meant Rajasthan, with a net run-rate of 1.938 qualified ahead of Vidarbha (0.566) and Kerala (0.503).

Two matches that were decided by a margin of just one run in rain-affected games played a part in the Group B table. Vidarbha had beaten Rajasthan by a single run on November 12 despite Chahar’s heroics, and on Sunday, Kerala beat Uttar Pradesh by the same margin. If Kerala hadn’t won, there wouldn’t have been a three-way tie and in that case, Vidarbha would have gone through by virtue of having won their head to head against Rajasthan.

Meanwhile, Rajasthan did all they could to qualify, destroying Tripura in a nine-wicket win. They first restricted Tripura to just 69 for 7 in 20 overs, and then smashed their way to 74 for 1 in five overs, ensuring their net run-rate would be high enough to take them through in case of a three-way tie – which is what happened.

Group C currently has six out of eight teams on 16 points, making the race very right. Two Group C games are still remaining. The winner of Maharashtra v Punjab will straightaway qualify, since they are two of the teams on 16 points. Railways, also on 16, will join in if they can beat Himachal Pradesh in the other game. Himachal have only eight points though, so if they win, it could leave five teams on 16. Punjab have a net run-rate superior to all others, so if they lose to Maharashtra, they’ll still be in position to qualify – should Railways lose. The team with the second highest net run-rate right now is an unlikely one: Chandigarh. It will be quite a story if they qualify.

Jharkhand are on top of Group E, but both Delhi and Jammu & Kashmir are close behind, and the latter two have matches in hand. The next two teams are Gujarat and Odisha, who will also be in action on the final day, which makes Group E’s scenario uncertain till the end.



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Naseem Shah, 14-year-old Mohammad Shahzad in Pakistan Under-19 World Cup squad

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Pakistan have named at least four allrounders, including the 14-year-old Mohammad Shahzad, in their 15-man squad for the Under-19 World Cup in South Africa early next year. The in-form Rohail Nazir will continue to led the side, while 16-year-old quick Naseem Shah, who recently made his Test debut in Australia, also featured in the squad.

“We have planned extensively and tried our best to form a fine team,” Saleem Jaffar, the Pakistan junior team head coach, said at a press conference in Lahore. “Probables selected for the World Cup will give both coach and captain full options to form a balanced side. I hope this team will go good. But whoever is left out shouldn’t be disheartened because they are on a path that will take them to the professional cricket and this isn’t the end of world.”

Shahzad, a batting allrounder from Southern Punjab, caught the selectors’ eye at the ongoing Under-16 domestic tournament, where he scored 175 runs in two games and picked up six wickets.

“Shahzad is a good package; [he can] bat in the opening slot and bowl at medium pace, so we are also eyeing to tap someone who can be a good prospect in future like [Abdul] Razzaq,” Jaffar said. “This is the cricket that actually take players forward. He is young on the Under-16 circuit and has done really well recently. For us, winning is equally important but at the same time we are also giving them an international feel. This Under-19 circuit is an exciting cricket and such players are the future.”

Aside from Shahzad, the allrounders’ contingent comprises Abbas Afridi, Fahad Munir and Qasim Akram, who made it to the squad on the back of his impressive returns of 296 runs and three wickets and 260 runs and 15 wickets in the PCB Under-19 one-day and three-day tournaments respectively. Akram also made a mark at the recent Emerging Under-19 Asia Cup, and the tours of South Africa and Sri Lanka, where he scored 77 and 124 runs respectively.

Three out of the 28 probables – Ammad Butt Jr, Akhtar Shah and Saim Ayub – were not considered for selection because of injuries.

The 2020 Under-19 World Cup will be held from January 17, in South Africa. Pakistan, the 2004 and 2006 champions and three-time runners-up, are slotted in Group C along with Bangladesh, Scotland and Zimbabwe in the 16-team competition. They will kick off their campaign against Scotland on January 19 in Potchefstroom.



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South Africa lose title sponsor as freefall continues

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South Africa’s men’s team will lose their major sponsor, Standard Bank, who have opted not to renew their deal when it expires on April 30, 2020. This ends an association with cricket that dates back to 1998. Standard Bank sponsored South African cricket between 1998 and 2011, when it ended its sports associations with both cricket and football. The company then returned to cricket in 2016 and signed a four-year deal with Cricket South Africa (CSA) which is understood to be to the tune of R400 million (approx. US$ 27.3 million). Currently, they are only the title sponsor for the men’s team and their withdrawal is a direct result of administrative and governance problems at CSA which Standard Bank believes is tarnishing its reputation.

“Standard Bank is committed to upholding the highest levels of leadership, integrity and governance. In light of recent developments at CSA, which are a culmination of long-standing problems which have damaged Standard Bank’s reputation, it has decided not to renew its partnership with CSA,” Thulani Sibeko, Standard Bank Group Chief Marketing and Communications Officer said in a statement released on Friday morning.

Cricket South Africa’s protracted problems, which include a court battle against the South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA), projected financial losses of at least R654 million (approx. US$44.7 million) in the next four-year cycle, and the suspension of six staff members – three of whom were given notice of their suspension on Thursday – came to a head last weekend when five journalists’ accreditation was revoked during the Mzansi Super League (MSL).

On Monday, CSA CEO Thabang Moroe confirmed CSA made the decision because they did not approve of the way these reporters were writing about the organisation. That same day, Standard Bank expressed its “grave concerns,” about the situation at CSA and demanded a meeting with CSA to “know about developments within CSA, especially those that relate to governance and conduct.”

Sources told ESPNcricinfo that Standard Bank had been severe on CSA officials at the meeting and demanded they “clean up their act”. On Tuesday, Standard Bank issued a statement expressing its satisfaction that the meeting was “productive” and that they were left with the assurance that CSA would “urgently take the South African public into its confidence about the state of governance at the cricket administrative body”. It also said CSA had agreed to “urgently implement remedial actions to address stakeholder concerns, including the unacceptable manner in which it treated members of the media”.

However, just three days later, Standard Bank has confirmed it will not renew the sponsorship deal. Between Tuesday and Friday, three independent directors, Professor Shirley Zinn, Iqbal Khan and Dawn Makhobo, have resigned from the CSA board, and there have been calls from all quarters for the CEO and President, Chris Nenzani to step down.

Among the chorus has been former UCB managing director Ali Bacher, who was involved in mediating an agreement between Moroe and Graeme Smith, which would have seen Smith become director of cricket on October 1. Critiques have also emerged from development sponsors The Willowton Group and, last night, the Gauteng Cricket Board, the biggest provincial affiliate of CSA. In addition to the voices of dissent, CSA also faces allegations of credit card abuse from Khan, and a second commercial rights dispute with South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) in as many months.

Now, CSA has also lost its only major team sponsor after deals with Sunfoil and Momentum ended last year.



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Crisis in South African cricket – full coverage

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Crisis in South African cricket – full coverage



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