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New Zealand ‘quietly optimistic’ on Boult, de Grandhomme being fit for Australia



New Zealand are “quietly optimistic” that Trent Boult and Colin de Grandhomme will be fit to play in Australia.

Boult and de Grandhomme missed the second Test against England after sustaining injuries during the victory in Mount Maunganui. And while New Zealand coach, Gary Stead, admits it is too early to know for sure if the pair will be available for the Perth Test on December 12, he described progress so far as “encouraging”.

Both players will be obliged to step up their rehabilitation in the coming days. While they have had gentle bowls over the last couple of days, they will be pressed a little harder on Wednesday and then expected to deliver “a decent spell” on Friday. Only after that will a decision be taken on whether they fly to Perth on Saturday.

If either of them struggle to get through those sessions, Stead suggested a replacement would be called into the squad.

“Both Colin and Trent are progressing well, which is encouraging for us,” Stead said. “Colin could have kept bowling through the last Test so he’s probably just a little more advanced. But Trent actually rocked up really well today.

“Both have rolled their arm over at a very low level in the last two days. But both are going to have to prove their fitness a couple of days out from the first Test and bowl a decent spell of 10-12 overs at least over two or three spells.

“I don’t know if I’m really confident, but I’m quietly optimistic they’re tracking where we want them to be. But it’s a long way to go if we know they’re not going to play, so it’s likely we’d look at replacements.”

In an ideal world, New Zealand would probably have time to reflect on an excellent series victory over England – their fifth home series win in succession and their second over England in little more than 18 months – before heading into another Test campaign. But such are the schedules in modern international cricket that they will instead be obliged to go into a day-night Test in Perth without any sort of warm-up game. Instead, three training sessions – two of which are under lights – will have to suffice.

“It’s just another thing to adapt to,” captain Kane Williamson said phlegmatically. “Such is the international schedule. We fly out in a couple of days, have a bit of training and we’re straight into another match. So it is quite a quick turnaround.

“The conditions – the surfaces – are quite different. They will bounce a bit more. This was a brilliant series win for us, but we’re going to have to adapt quickly. We know it’s tough – a lot of the guys have been there before – and we know they’re very strong, clinical in their own [backyard]. We’ll look forward to the challenge.”

Williamson also confirmed that opener Jeet Raval, who endured a miserable series, would be retained for the Australia series. Raval made just 24 runs in the series falling to a couple of loose shots in his first two innings and failing to review a leg-before decision which replays show he hit in his third. His most recent seven Test innings have produced five single-figure scores – including two ducks – and a best of just 33.

But his long-term record is decent – he scored his maiden Test century only six Tests ago – and New Zealand have not lost faith in him at this stage.

“These things happen,” Williamson said of Raval’s grim series. “He has had a number of successful times at the top of the order with Tom Latham and he has been up against a really strong bowling attack here against England. He’s been playing well and he’s been very successful. He’ll be turning his focus to Australia now.”

A 213-run partnership between Williamson and Ross Taylor shepherded New Zealand to safety on the final day in Hamilton. Despite resuming with their side still in deficit, the pair both completed centuries – Williamson’s 21st at Test level; Taylor’s 19th – to ensure the draw. During the course of his innings, Taylor also became the second New Zealand batsman to make 7,000 Test runs (Stephen Fleming is the other) and passed 1,000 Test runs at Seddon Park. This was his sixth Test century at the ground in 12 Tests.

While Williamson admitted he had been fortunate to survive a remarkable dropped chance to Joe Denly – it really was as simple as they come at this level – such is his confidence at present, he hinted that he was a bit disappointed that the rain curtailed this Test denying New Zealand the chance to chase victory.

“It was a great effort form the guys after being slightly up against it after the first innings,” he said. “A lot of hard work went into saving the match in the end when rain didn’t allow us time to win it. But overall it was a really good effort. Ross’ record here is incredible.

“The catch? It was fairly simply. No doubt Joe Denly is disappointed. The bowler, Jofra Archer, certainly was. I was very fortunate. You don’t get many opportunities like that.”

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Cameron Green ruled out of bowling due to stress fracture



Cameron Green, the Western Australia allrounder who has been tipped to soon feature for Australia, will be unable to bowl for the foreseeable future after suffering a stress fracture of his back.

Green, 20, has been lauded by Ricky Ponting and compared to Andrew Flintoff after starring for Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield with two centuries this season but has been unable to bowl in the last two matches and that will now extend at least throughout the Big Bash.

ALSO READ: Cameron Green dampens hype around Australia prospects

“Follow up scans this week on Cameron’s lower back have revealed the early stages of a lumbar stress fracture,” Western Australia sports science medicine manager, Nick Jones, said. “This will require an extended period of rest from bowling to ensure the fracture heals adequately.

“No timeframe has been set for Cameron to return to bowling, however we are not expecting him to be bowling during the BBL. He will continue to be available for selection as a batter.”

Speaking earlier this week, Green had been confident that his current back soreness had not been serious and viewed himself as a genuine allrounder in the future.

“Coming through as a junior I’ve always seen myself as a genuine allrounder,” he said. “At times for WA, I was definitely a bowling allrounder, batting nine or ten and not scoring too many runs. So I’m pretty happy I’m getting a couple of runs out the way but in the future, I’d like to be a genuine allrounder.”

Trevor Hohns, the Australia selection chairman, said that picking someone at a young age would not be an issue but Green’s back problem would be monitored.

“I don’t have an issue with his age, it’s more about whether his body can cope and what he can do bowling, particularly in the allrounder category,” Hohns said. “We know he’s a very good bat, he is a fine up-and-coming young player.”

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Trent Boult and Colin de Grandhomme cleared to travel to Australia



New Zealand have had a major boost ahead of the first Test against Australia next week with Trent Boult and Colin de Grandhomme both making good progress in their recoveries from injury.

NZC confirmed the pair would travel to Perth with the squad on Saturday having come through a training session in Mount Maunganui on Friday. Boult (side strain) and de Grandhomme (abdominal tear) had missed the second Test against England in Hamilton.

“Trent Boult and Colin de Grandhomme are both making good progress with their injuries and successfully trained today at Bay Oval,” NZC posted on Twitter. “The pair will travel with the team to Perth tomorrow.”

There still remains a question mark over their participation in the day-night Test at Perth Stadium which starts on Thursday, but the progress is encouraging.

Boult, especially, is vital to New Zealand’s hopes of pushing Australia with him potentially being a handful with the pink ball and his side strain was causing the most concern after he picked it up against England in Mount Maunganui.

“I don’t know if I’m really confident, but I’m quietly optimistic they’re tracking where we want them to be,” New Zealand coach Gary Stead said earlier this week.

In Boult’s absence, Matt Henry played the second Test against England but New Zealand will need to give serious consideration into introducing the extra pace of uncapped Lockie Ferguson. Tim Southee and Neil Wagner, who has yet to play a Test in Australia, were the other members of the pace attack.

De Grandhomme provides important balance to the New Zealand side. He averages 40.33 with the bat and 29.63 with the ball in 19 Tests. His injury handed a Test debut to Daryl Mitchell who made 73 but went wicketless in Hamilton.

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Captaincy inspires Jess Duffin and raises question of Australia comeback



There is someone playing in the WBBL finals this weekend who has been player of the match in a World T20 final and a World Cup final. Someone who has reached the highest level of two sports and still plays both concurrently at the domestic level.

The Melbourne Renegades captain Jess Duffin is one of the form players of the tournament making 500 runs at an average of 71.72 with five half-centuries including three in a row leading into the finals weekend. But Duffin can’t quite work out where her form has come from.

“It’s a good question,” Duffin told ESPNcricinfo. “I haven’t really thought about it too much to be honest. I went into the season the same way I have every other year but as I explained to other people in the past, it’s T20 cricket, anything can happen, it’s a bit up and down.”

Duffin’s sporting resume is quite remarkable. In an era where female cricketers are becoming national icons, Duffin appears, at times, to be persona non grata. In part, it is because her international cricket career came to a sudden halt four years ago and it came under a different name.

Jess Cameron, as she was known prior to getting married, had a stellar international career for Australia. She has played in three World T20 triumphs for Australia and was player of the match in the 2012 final against England scoring 45 off 34 balls.

Her ODI record was even better. She made 75 from 76 balls in the 2013 final against West Indies.

But she hasn’t played for Australia since 2015, stepping away from international level by choice at just 26. While still playing domestic cricket in the WBBL, she has instead been playing Australian Rules Football, starring in the AFLW for North Melbourne, earning a place in the All Australian team, the league’s team of the season, earlier this year.

Duffin has made the WBBL team of the year this season as captain after leading the Renegades to another semi-final. Of the eight players to have made 400 runs or more, she has the highest strike-rate, 140.05, by some margin and is the only player who doesn’t currently play international cricket.

After years of worrying about her own form and her own performance she has discovered that the captaincy, which was thrust upon her due to Amy Satterthwaite’s pregnancy, might be the secret to success.

“In the past couple of years I probably haven’t really backed myself in terms of trying to get the team over the line,” Duffin said. “But this year with the captaincy…I don’t get time to think about myself because I’m trying to help them in the situation we have in front of us. So it’s probably been a good thing not focussing on myself too much.

“I think it’s just more about understanding the game of T20 cricket. I haven’t really had to think about it in the past because we’ve had other captains do all that sort of thinking for us. So I’ve had to do a lot of work behind the scenes in terms of looking at footage and watching other people play.”

Studying vision of opposition to gain a competitive advantage has helped Duffin guide her young middle order through some tricky chases. She admitted it was something she didn’t do enough of in her six-year international career.

“We used to do it as a group when we were sitting in batting and bowling meetings and stuff like that but I didn’t go the extra mile and have a look myself,” she said. “So that’s probably one area I’ve probably been a bit better at, just in terms of my research. But I think that’s because I’m captain and I kind of need to know what these players are doing. I’ve tended to watch a bit more than normal.”

Duffin’s form has now raised questions about a recall to the Australia side for the T20 World Cup next February. But her availability is complicated. She declined the opportunity to play for Australia A against India A in an upcoming series and the 2020 AFLW season clashes with the T20 World Cup in March.

Complicating matters further, Duffin doesn’t even know what she would like to do.

“Not really,” Duffin said. “I haven’t really thought about it to be honest. I know there’s been a lot of talk about my selection and stuff and I haven’t had any contact with the selectors at all and you look at that [Australian] line-up and think ‘well, where am I sitting?’. There’s some really good players in there at the moment and my sole focus this weekend is to make sure we come out on top on Sunday.”

For now, Australia, North Melbourne, her personal training work, her husband and her dogs all run a distant second to leading the Renegades to victory and atoning for last year’s heartbreaking semi-final loss against the Sydney Sixers in a super over.

The Renegades have been shorn of their two England stars Danni Wyatt and Tammy Beaumont, but they have gained Chamari Atapattu who made a century against Australia in October in Brisbane.

“Hopefully she can do what she did the Australians a couple of months ago and dominate on Saturday,” Duffin said. “With the ball, we’ve obviously got Lea Tahuhu upfront and Molly Strano has been doing a really good job for us throughout the middle so we can throw the ball to anyone at any time and anyone can step up.

“We do match up well against [the Brisbane Heat]. I think it’s about going in with a pretty clear plan and obviously we know they like to score big so it’s just trying to restrict that. They’ve got Beth Mooney and Jess Jonassen up the top who are in some really good form so it’s just having the right plans for them and just obviously going out and executing.”

The Heat will need their own plans for the unassuming Duffin, who has reminded everyone this year just how good she is.

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