Toss Australia chose to bat against New Zealand
Australia captain Tim Paine won the toss and chose to bat first against New Zealand in the day-night first Test at Perth Stadium.
Kane Williamson’s visitors were unable to choose Trent Boult as he continued his recovery from a side strain suffered against England, meaning a debut for the speedy Lockie Ferguson.
Australia’s side was unchanged for the third match in a row, leaving David Warner to open the batting with Joe Burns. They have not lost a series at home to New Zealand since 1985.
Temperatures for Perth are currently nearing 39C, though they will ease and cool as the day turns into night.
Australia: 1 David Warner, 2 Joe Burns, 3 Marnus Labuschagne, 4 Steven Smith, 5 Travis Head, 6 Matthew Wade, 7 Tim Paine (capt, wk), 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Josh Hazlewood
New Zealand: 1 Tom Latham, 2 Jeet Raval, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 BJ Watling (wk), 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Trent Boult/Lockie Ferguson, 11 Neil Wagner
Kieron Pollard joins Northamptionshire for Vitality Blast
Kieron Pollard will join Northamptonshire for the middle stages of the 2020 Vitality Blast.
Pollard will join the squad for eight games, beginning with the Steelbacks’ first home fixture on June 5 against Durham, subject to approval from his home board. He will then lead West Indies in their bid to defend the World T20 title in October.
“Now, visa criteria permitting, I see this as a wonderful opportunity to be back in England again playing in the action-packed Vitality Blast tournament,” Pollard said. “I want to thank Northants for welcoming me to their group of exciting players. I know they have some amazing fans and I look forward to entertaining them and bringing more success to the club.
“Of course as captain of the West Indies team and defending champions I have one eye on the ICC T20 World Cup later this year in Australia, but I can assure you my focus will be 100 percent on winning games for Northants when I arrive in June.”
Pollard is poised to become the second player behind Gayle to score 10,000 T20 runs with 9,966 at an average of 30.85 and with a strike rate of 150.40. With a highest score of 104 and 49 half-centuries, Pollard adds genuine firepower to the Steelbacks’ middle order.
Steelbacks captain Josh Cobb was looking forward to welcoming Pollard to The County Ground.
“His stats are unbelievable,” Cobb said. “We’ve actually won a trophy together before at the Dhaka Gladiators, though I’m not sure he’ll remember that, so hopefully we can get another one together this year in the Blast.” Cobb said.
The Steelbacks are Pollard’s 30th professional club and his first return to English domestic cricket since 2010, when he helped Somerset reach the T20 final.
Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Mark Wood shine on triumphant England tour
After an injury- and illness-plagued start to their campaign, England rallied impressively in the New Year to win three consecutive Tests for their first back-to-back series win in South Africa since the 1950s. It was a campaign notable for key performances from a series of familiar and not-so-familiar faces. Here are the marks out of ten:
Ben Stokes (318 runs at 45.42; 10 wickets at 22.00)
Immense. Having bowled England to victory in Cape Town – where he also made a brisk 72 to help set up the declaration – Stokes made a high-class century to help establish a match-defining position in Port Elizabeth. While he wasn’t always at his best in the field – he dropped several chances – he still finished with 12 and batted and bowled selflessly as the position of the match demanded. Invariably, he was the man to whom his captain turned when all he had no other answers. Invariably, he delivered. Only five other players have ever claimed 10 wickets, taken 10 catches and scored over 300 runs in a series: it’s a list that includes Sir Ian Botham and Sir Garfield Sobers. Stokes is in that company now.
Ollie Pope (266 runs at 88.66)
After missing the Centurion Test due to illness, Pope made an unbeaten 61 in Cape Town – adding 35 with Anderson for the tenth wicket – and a maiden Test century in Port Elizabeth. In doing so, Pope confirmed his status as England’s most exciting batting talent since Root. He also caught brilliantly at short-leg – he took six catches during the Port Elizabeth Test – and rounded off the series with another half-century in Jo’burg during which he out-shone Root.
Mark Wood (95 runs at 47.50; 12 wickets at 13.58)
A triumphant return. Wood was only able to play two Tests, but made an impact in both with his unusually sharp pace. While he had to play a supporting role on a slow surface in Port Elizabeth, his hostility appeared to unsettle batsmen and may well have led to wickets at the other end. Underlining his new-found robustness – well, relatively – he appeared again in Jo’burg a few days later and this time won more reward with a five-wicket haul in South Africa’s first innings. His match haul of 9 for 100 were the best overseas figures by an England bowler since 2012 (Monty Panesar) and the best by a seamer since 2008 (Ryan Sidebottom). He also thrashed quick runs – he hit eight sixes in his three innings – in an uplifting display.
James Anderson (9 wickets at 19.88; 4 runs at 4)
Off the pace in Centurion but immaculate in Cape Town, Anderson missed the final two Tests through injury. Hampered by illness and rust in that first Test, there were a few murmurs about his future before the Cape Town Test. But he responded by becoming the oldest seamer to claim a five-wicket haul for England in a Test since Freddie Brown in 1950-51. In obvious pain, he returned to the field even after it became clear he was injured to help in England’s bid for victory in the second Test. You’d be insane to write him off.
Joe Root (317 runs at 45.28; 4 wickets at 47.50)
A series that started with some demanding that Root be sacked as captain, ended with his team having won three Tests in succession in South Africa for the first time in more than a century. While Root would have wanted to convert more of his starts – he made three half-centuries and a 48 but never made more than 61 – he was only seven runs away from being England’s highest scorer of the series. He also showed the value of his off-spin in Port Elizabeth, too, where he claimed career-best figures (4 for 87). Most of all, despite the gripes about his captaincy, he has built a focused, united team who are committed to him and their shared goals. There’s little doubt he will be at the helm when England go to Australia.
Dom Sibley (324 runs at 54.00)
Something of a breakthrough series. While the highlight was undoubtedly a match-shaping century in Cape Town, he also made scores of 29, 34, 36, 44 and 44 to finish the series as England’s leading run-scorer and join a distinguished list of England openers – Geoff Boycott, Graham Gooch, Michael Atherton, Alec Stewart, Michael Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook – to have made six consecutive 25+ scores in Test cricket in the last 50 years. Crucially, he consistently helped see the shine off the ball and tire the South Africa bowlers and formed an assured opening stand with Crawley.
Dom Bess (8 wickets at 25.75; 1 run at 0.33)
No one could reasonably have asked for more from Bess than he provided during this series. Called into the squad as back-up for the ailing Jack Leach, Bess was thrown into the Cape Town Test without a match on tour and performed a valuable holding role (he bowled 60 overs across both innings for a cost of just 119 runs). He went even better in Port Elizabeth, claiming a maiden five-wicket haul and cementing his place in the squad for Sri Lanka, even though he was omitted in Jo’burg. For a man who was struggling to maintain a place in his county team a few months ago, it was a breakthrough tour.
Stuart Broad (61 runs at 15.25; 14 wickets at 19.42)
While there was none of the drama of four years ago – no match-defining spells such as his five-for at the Wanderers – Broad still finished the series as England’s top-wicket taker. Perhaps a little of the pace and menace has gone from Broad’s bowling these days, but it says much for his hunger to continue to contribute at this stage that he has reinvented himself as a relentless seamer prepared to bowl dry and support more explosive bowlers. No England bowler delivered more overs and no England seamer had a lower economy-rate. If this proves to be his final tour – and with Sri Lanka and India next, that is a possibility – it represents a memorable finale.
Rory Burns (93 runs at 46.50)
Batted impressively in making 84 in the second innings in Centurion – his sixth score of 47 or more in his most recent nine Test innings – but was ruled out of the rest of the series after suffering a freak injury while playing football ahead of the second Test. Great first touch, mind …
Sam Curran (130 runs at 18.57; 10 wickets at 31.10)
Preferred to Chris Woakes by virtue of his left-arm variation, Curran benefited from taking the new ball for much of the series and responded with career-best figures in Centurion. He probably bowled better at other times without rewards and, by the end of the series, also appeared to be bowling with greater pace. He showed with the wickets of de Kock (a slower ball in Cape Town) and Malan, who was deceived by the change of angle in the same game, that he could contribute even when the ball was not swinging. Although you sometimes wish he would give himself a bit more time with the bat, he thrashed a selfless 44 in Port Elizabeth and similar 35 in Jo’burg. It’s probably worth reminding ourselves that he is just 21.
Chris Woakes (32 runs at 16; 3 wickets at 28.33)
Probably unfortunate to appear in only one Test, Woakes still found a way to contribute with bat and ball. Belying a modest overseas record, he managed to gain appreciable movement with the Kookaburra ball and was unlucky to finish with only three wickets in Jo’burg. Batted in typically assured fashion in the first innings there, too.
Jofra Archer (7 runs at 3.50; 6 wickets at 27.83)
Claimed a five-for in Centurion – albeit an expensive one – but missed the three remaining Tests due to an elbow injury. Anyone doubting his desire to play need only have seen his obvious distress after he had to pull out of the final game.
Zak Crawley (163 runs at 32.60)
Taking advantage of the injury to Burns, Crawley helped give England some solid starts (70 and 33 in Port Elizabeth; 28 in Cape Town, 107 and 56 in Jo’burg) without going on to register the big individual score which might have made his place safe. He did, though, increase his own career-best score in five successive innings and top-score in the first innings in Jo’burg. The century opening stand in that final Test was England’s first since December 2016. For a 21-year-old who was taken on the tour largely to gain experience, it was an impressively assured performance. One for the future.
Joe Denly (210 runs at 30; 2 wickets at 37.50)
A series of diminishing returns. After a fifty in the first innings at Centurion, Denly made consistent starts (31, 38, 31, 25 and 27) but was unable to go on a register a significant personal score. He did play his part in adding some solidity to England’s top-order, however, and he did weigh in at Cape Town with two important wickets (the left-handers, Elgar and de Kock) with his leg-spin.
Jos Buttler (115 runs at 16.42, 14 catches)
Disappointing. Looked uncertain with the bat and managed a top score of just 29 in seven innings. Also kept untidily in Port Elizabeth. May well struggle to retain his place.
Jonny Bairstow (10 runs at 5)
Recalled at the last minute due to illness, Bairstow did little to show the improvement in his game after succumbing to yet another bowled dismissal in the first innings in Centurion. To be fair to Bairstow, the ball kept low and may well have dismissed many batsmen. He was more culpable for his second-innings dismissal, flashing at one outside off stump. He didn’t play again in the series, but remained cheerful and constructive as a sub-fielder and squad member.
Anrich Nortje the lone bright spot as South Africa lick series wounds
After a rousing start to their campaign with a memorable win at Centurion, South Africa’s lack of batting depth and bowling penetration was ruthlessly exposed in a trio of defeats at Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and the Wanderers. One man, however, showed fight with ball and bat to hint at a more promising future. Here are their marks out of ten.
Anrich Nortje (18 wickets at 27.11, 77 runs at 11.00 )
South Africa’s find of the series ended as the highest wicket-taker overall, ahead of his own team’s spearhead Kagiso Rabada and England’s Stuart Broad. Nortje bowled at a consistently high pace in the upper 140s throughout the four Tests, used the short ball to good effect and showed an ability to deliver long, pressure-building spells which bodes well for the future of South Africa’s attack. He collected his first five-wicket haul at the Wanderers and also put in two lengthy vigils as nightwatchman, one of which gave him his highest Test score of 40 and formed part of a match-winning partnership at SuperSport Park.
Quinton de Kock (380 runs at 47.50, 4 fifties, 23 catches)
A class above the rest of South Africa’s batsmen, de Kock finished as the leading run-scorer among both teams, 56 runs ahead of Dom Sibley, and scored a half-century in every Test. De Kock seemed to be operating on different surfaces to the rest, took the attack to the opposition bowlers and scored quickly. What he needs now is to develop the nous to switch gears and play the long game by batting time, which will help him convert his fifties into hundreds at a better rate. His work behind the stumps was tidy, apart from the occasions when he dived in front of first slip and catchable chances went a-begging. As South Africa’s new ODI captain and Test-captain-in-waiting, de Kock has shown he has the form to take on more responsibility.
Rassie van der Dussen (274 runs at 34.25, 3 fifties)
Van der Dussen enjoyed a satisfying debut series where he demonstrated composure and maturity in a batting line-up sorely lacking in experience. He scored fifties in three of the four Tests, including sharing in a match-winning partnership in Centurion and falling two runs short of a maiden century at the Wanderers. Most impressively, he coped well with being moved from No.5, where he played the first three Tests, to No.3 in the finale, where he made a career-best 98. His versatility has given South Africa’s top order options for the future. Though he dropped three catches, he took eight and proved himself a competent slip fielder.
Keshav Maharaj (10 wickets at 46.30, 94 runs at 14.66, 1 fifty)
Tasked with the often thankless job of holding up an end, Maharaj bowled more overs than anyone else despite being benched for the final match, and was mostly successful in his containing role. At Newlands, in particular, he allowed South Africa’s quicks to rotate while keeping runs down, but in all three matches, he struggled against Ben Stokes. After playing some rash shorts early in the series, Maharaj bedded in when it was too late in Port Elizabeth and scored a free-spirited second Test half-century to again show that he has something to offer with the bat.
Kagiso Rabada (14 wickets at 28.92 )
A fourth demerit point in a 24-month period meant that Rabada’s series was blighted by his ban from the finale at the Wanderers and highlighted his continued disciplinary issues, which have seen him miss a second Test in less than three years. Still, Rabada remains South Africa’s poster-boy and was their leading wicket-taker until his suspension. He showed glimpses of his best at SuperSport Park, where he took seven wickets in the match. His dismissal of Joe Root in Port Elizabeth, where his celebration breached the ICC Code of Conduct, revealed both how much he values big wickets and how big the burden on him has been in an attack that lacks the bite of old.
Beuran Hendricks (6 wickets at 29.16)
South Africa’s search for variation, particularly now that Vernon Philander has retired, may have found an answer in left-armer Hendricks. On his home ground, the Wanderers, he was fairly impressive on debut, especially in the second innings where he took 5 for 64. Hendricks has enough domestic experience to have gained a good understanding of his game, and how to vary his lengths, and could be a handy bowler for South Africa to keep around.
Dwaine Pretorius (7 wickets at 36.00, 83 runs at 13.83)
A dependable allrounder, who offers consistency with the ball and stoicism with the bat, Pretorius had a decent first series without offering anything exceptional. His economy rate of 3.15 speaks to the containing role that South Africa were looking to fill with a fourth seamer, and he played a part in some important lower-order partnerships. Whether Pretorius has all the skills to succeed Philander is doubtful, but South Africa deemed him important enough to stop him from signing a Kolpak deal on the eve of the series, so we can expect to see more of him in the future.
Pieter Malan (156 runs @ 26.00)
A resolute start on his debut, where Malan scored 84 in the second innings at Newlands, gave way to a forgettable final two Tests. Malan was out twice to spinners in Port Elizabeth, got a good ball from Mark Wood first-up at the Wanderers and then played a nothing shot off Chris Woakes in the second innings. All-in-all, it would appear Malan has wasted the opportunity to have a long run in the Test team, especially with South Africa desperate to find a permanent partner for Dean Elgar. On the evidence of this series, Malan is not it.
Dean Elgar (244 runs @ 30.50, 1 fifty)
Elgar has escaped a certain degree of scrutiny because the other end of the opening partnership has been so problematic but it won’t be long before the spotlight turns to him. Although he scored 88 in Cape Town, the shot he played to be dismissed (a mow to mid-off against Dom Bess which Elgar described as a “brainfart”) was a microcosm for a serious flaw in his game. Elgar’s shot selections were not those of a senior player – from his playing across the line in Port Elizabeth to him flashing a short, wide ball straight to point and then pulling like a No.8 in Johannesburg – and underline what has become a problematic period in his career. South Africa needs players of Elgar’s ilk to do better and overall, he had a disappointing series.
Vernon Philander (8 wickets at 26.62, 160 runs at 22.85)
Philander bowed out with South Africa at an all-time low but at the right time for himself. Though his 4 for 16 at SuperSport Park made it seem as though he still had years left in him, a disappointing performance in Port Elizabeth, where he went wicketless and only bowled 16 overs, made it clear that his time was up. He finished 10th on the overall wicket-takers’ list in the series. In his final outing, Philander took two wickets in the first innings and then send down nine deliveries in the second before tearing his hamstring. He was also fined 15 percent of his match fee for giving Jos Buttler a send-off and a further 60 percent as part of South Africa’s slow-over-rate penalty. Philander again showed with the bat that he had what it took to contribute more to the line-up, and he may look back on that as potential unfulfilled.
Dane Paterson (4 wickets at 41.50)
His new-ball performance in Port Elizabeth can best be described as flat, which did not give Paterson the best start to his Test career. An honest trier, Paterson does not appear quick enough to merit a place in the attack long-term, unless he can bring in some of his other much-talked about skills to the table. At domestic level, Paterson is known to move the ball off the seam and is vaunted for his accuracy, some of which we saw in the second ininngs at the Wanderers.
Faf du Plessis (151 runs @ 18.87)
In what could prove to be his last series, du Plessis was under immense pressure and it showed. His poor form from the India series bled into this one and he top-scored with 36, making it a year and 11 innings since he last scored a half-century. Usually, du Plessis has been to hide poor form behind strong leadership but even that let him down. His captaincy in the first innings in Port Elizabeth and during the tenth-wicket partnership in the first innings at Wanderers left him looking strategically wanting and has only increased questions over his future. Du Plessis’ usually pleasant media mannerisms became visibly tetchy as the matches wore on, and he notched up a third successive series defeat.
Zubayr Hamza (78 runs at 13.00)
An eye-catching 39 at SuperSport Park suggested Hamza has the technique to develop into a strong No.3 for South Africa but perhaps not quite yet. He appeared tentative against teasing lengths in Cape Town and visibly afraid of the short ball in Port Elizabeth, where Mark Wood had his number. Hamza was left out of the Johannesburg Test and will need to find form domestically before he can be reconsidered.
Temba Bavuma (33 runs at 16.50)
The most-talked about man in the series, especially when he was not there, Bavuma was unable to repeat the heroics of four years ago, when he scored his only Test hundred to date against England. But he dominated the conversation nonetheless. He was injured for the first match and dropped for the next two, but made a career-best 180 to force his way back in for the finale. He was out for 6 in the first innings but struck a positive 27 off 29 balls in the second before receiving a snorter from Stuart Broad. Curiously, Bavuma’s social media throughout the last four weeks has suggested he feels hard done by and has a point to prove. Now we have to wait for him to do that.
Aiden Markram (22 runs at 11)
After recovering from a broken hand (the result of punching something in the change-room during the India tour), Markram was strangled down the leg-side for 20 at Centurion, then struck on the pads for 2 before fracturing a finger and being ruled out for the rest of the series. The injury is not his fault but his lack of form is cause for concern. Markram has not scored fifty in seven innings and last scored a century almost two years ago. South Africa have big plans for him but they can’t be fulfilled if his trajectory continues like this.
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