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Buttler, Stokes and Archer back for South Africa T20Is, no room for Root



England have named four uncapped players in their ODI squad to face South Africa, while recalling the likes of Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer for the T20I series to follow. Moeen Ali and Jason Roy return in both white-ball formats after being rested for the New Zealand tour, but there was no room in the T20I squad for Joe Root.

Tom Banton, Pat Brown, Saqib Mahmood and Matt Parkinson have all been picked in 50-over cricket for the first time – though only Brown and Parkinson retained their T20I spots. Of the group that beat New Zealand 3-2 last month, Sam Billings, James Vince and Lewis Gregory also miss out.

The three-match ODI series, starting on February 4 at Cape Town, will be England’s first involvement in the format since lifting the World Cup in July. Eoin Morgan remains as captain, with Dawid Malan winning a recall after his excellent T20I form and Chris Jordan and Sam Curran also included, having last won ODI caps in 2016 and 2018 respectively.

The squad contains eight members of the World Cup-winning group. Mark Wood is also rested, alongside Buttler, Stokes and Archer; Liam Dawson has once again been overtaken by Joe Denly as the spinning allrounder; and England appear to have moved on from Vince and Liam Plunkett.

The four new faces were all involved, to varying degrees of success, in New Zealand. Banton scored 56 runs in three innings, at a strike rate of 164.70, Parkinson claimed a four-wicket haul in his second game, while Brown and Mahmood picked up three wickets each. In List A cricket, Banton scored two hundreds as Somerset won the 2019 Royal London Cup; Lancashire’s Mahmood was the competition’s leading wicket-taker with 28 at 18.50.

England will also play three T20Is in South Africa and they have prioritised the shortest format ahead of next year’s T20 World Cup. The absence of Root suggests his chances of involvement are receding, with England well-stocked for top-order batting options.

“These two squads were selected with an eye on the T20 World Cup in Australia in 2020,” England’s national selector, Ed Smith, said. “In the T20s, a number of players who were rested for the successful 3-2 victory in New Zealand return to the squad: Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and Jason Roy.

“We want to expand the pool of players who can perform successfully for England, while also helping the team to peak for major tournaments.”

England ODI squad: Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Tom Banton, Pat Brown, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Joe Denly, Chris Jordan, Saqib Mahmood, Dawid Malan, Matthew Parkinson, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Chris Woakes

England T20I squad: Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonathan Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Pat Brown, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Joe Denly, Chris Jordan, Dawid Malan, Matt Parkinson, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Mark Wood

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‘Totally incorrect’ – Wasim Khan denies deal with Bangladesh over hosting Asia Cup



It is “totally incorrect” that the PCB had brought Bangladesh to Pakistan by promising them hosting rights for the Asia Cup later this year, board CEO Wasim Khan has said, adding that it’s for the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) to figure out what would happen if India refuse to travel for the tournament.

The PCB had earned the Asia Cup hosting rights for the first time in over a decade for the 2020 edition, but at the time of the allotment of the tournament in 2018, it wasn’t clear whether it would take place in Pakistan or in the UAE. Now, after successfully hosting a number of international series and Pakistan Super League matches – the entire tournament is scheduled to be played at home this year – on their soil, the PCB wants to organise the Asia Cup in Pakistan in September this year too.

But there could be a question mark over India’s participation then – the 2018 edition was supposed to be held in India but was moved to the UAE to ensure Pakistan’s participation in it.

“When we are supposed to go to India for the 2021 ICC T20 World Cup, we also might face a reverse situation because of the safety and uncertainty on players’ visas”

Wasim Khan

“This is totally incorrect and we haven’t spoken with Bangladesh about the Asia Cup at all,” Khan told reporters in Lahore when asked if the PCB had used the Asia Cup as a bargaining chip for Bangladesh to travel to Pakistan.

The BCB was initially apprehensive about travelling to Pakistan but, after lengthy negotiations, agreed to play a series of three T20Is, an ODI and two Tests in three parts. “This is ACC tournament and the hosting rights were allotted to us by them, and we can’t change it,” Khan said. “It’s in our mind and it’s our wish to host the Asia Cup in Pakistan.”

When asked about India’s participation in the Asia Cup later this year, keeping in mind the strained political relationship between the two countries, Khan suggested that the ACC would take the final call and that Pakistan would try to work out a plan including holding the tournament across two venues.

“Maybe two venues for these circumstances,” Khan said. “When we are supposed to go to India for the 2021 ICC T20 World Cup, we also might face a reverse situation because of the safety and uncertainty on players’ visas. But we are confident that things will ease out over the period of time.”

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Faf du Plessis under scrutiny after Jos Buttler ‘barge’



Faf du Plessis, South Africa’s captain, could be in trouble with the match referee after appearing to make physical contact with Jos Buttler on the fourth afternoon in Johannesburg.

With du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen batting together for more than 30 overs on a brutally hot day, England appeared to be growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of movement they were generating from the ball and, it seemed, du Plessis’ habit of picking the ball up after playing a stroke and returning it to the fielders.

At one stage, du Plessis was hit on the pads by a throw from Sam Curran, who was fielding at mid-on. That appeared to lead to an exchange of words between du Plessis and several of the fielding side. As the players converged, du Plessis appeared to deliberately walk into Buttler before continuing his verbal altercation with Stuart Broad.

After the game, with South Africa beaten by 191 runs, du Plessis played down the incident, saying he was just trying to show fight and did not realise he had come into contact with Buttler.

“It’s part of my character,” he said. “I am always involved in a little bit of something somewhere in the game. Trying to show that fight as the leader the team, that you don’t stand back. It’s not like I am looking for it. It just happens. He said something to me and I said something back.

“I don’t think we knew we touched each other. It was just myself and Broady having a go. He [Buttler] was just trying to get between myself and him. There was no malicious thing. He was trying to diffuse the situation. He didn’t do anything wrong there. It was just words from Broady.”

While the contact was far from violent, the ICC’s code of conduct states that “any form of inappropriate physical contact is prohibited in cricket. Without limitation, players will breach this regulation if they deliberately, recklessly and/or negligently walk or run into or shoulder another player or umpire.”

Such an incident is considered either a Level 1 or Level 2 offence and carries a maximum penalty of four demerit points, which would also bring an automatic suspension. It may not help du Plessis’ case that he is an experienced player and his side’s captain. As such, the match referee may expect him to set an example.

England’s captain, Joe Root, was sympathetic, however, describing it as a moment of “handbags”.

“I thought Faf was trying to use it as an opportunity to get himself going and get himself in the contest and my worry was that it was going to work in his favour,” he said. “There was absolutely nothing. It was handbags. Given what’s happened in this series, it may become a big thing but it was absolutely nothing.”

Moments after the incident, du Plessis’ miserable series was ended when a delivery from Ben Stokes kept horribly low and ricocheted into the stumps of a bottom edge. It meant du Plessis had failed to reach 40 in the entire series and took his side close to a 3-1 home defeat. Speculation is rife that this will be du Plessis’ final Test as captain and possibly his final Test as a player.

“It happens, that’s not me outside my bubble,” du Plessis added. “It just got a bit heated. That’s not out of my character. If you say something towards me, I will say something back. It doesn’t cause me to concentrate less. They got a ball to stay low.”

Buttler attracted the ire of the South Africa players for abusing Vernon Philander earlier in the series. Buttler was fined 15% of his match fee and received one demerit point for the episode. Philander, Stokes and Kagiso Rabada have also been punished for disciplinary issues during the Tests.

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Chris Silverwood savours ‘good headaches’ as new-look Test team takes shape



Chris Silverwood, England’s head coach, has praised his young squad for finishing a rollercoaster Test winter on a high, but insisted that the gains made during a come-from-behind series win in South Africa are only the first step in a “two-year project” that culminates with the next tour of Australia in 2021-22.

Victory in Johannesburg capped a dramatic upsurge in form for England’s Test team, which endured a 1-0 series defeat in New Zealand before Christmas before touching rock-bottom in the Boxing Day Test at Centurion, where an illness-ravaged squad were beaten by 107 runs to fall behind in their four-Test series in South Africa.

But from that moment on, and as the Benoni sickness bug was gradually shaken out of their systems, Joe Root’s men found their poise with three wins in a row at Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and the Wanderers, where Mark Wood excelled with nine wickets in a fast and furious Player-of-the-Match performance.

“It’s been quite a journey since we arrived in South Africa,” Silverwood told Sky Sports. “Obviously to go from the build-up to the first Test, and the result of that first Test, to get to where we are now, is really pleasing.

“[The illness in the squad] was tough but you can’t use it as an excuse,” he added. “The one thing it did do, was it pulled us together as a unit. We had a good chat in the dressing room after the first Test, and you could see the determination on the guys’ faces. So I wasn’t surprised when they came out and played as well as they did, but I’m obviously very proud of them.”

Given that Silverwood had also flown home early from New Zealand due to a family bereavement, he might have been entitled to wonder what he had signed up for, after taking over from Trevor Bayliss at the end of the English season. But, he insisted, the groundwork that England laid on those flat decks in Mount Maunganui and Hamilton was integral to England’s subsequent success.

“We started something in New Zealand, and you can see the blueprint that we said we wanted,” he said. “Big first-innings runs, and we were also learning to take 20 wickets with the Kookaburra ball. So to see it come to fruition – to see some of the youngsters come through and put their hands up, and for the older guys to do the same – is obviously really pleasing.”

The success of England’s core of new players was the clear stand-out feature of the series. Dom Sibley‘s century at Cape Town helped turn the series, while his opening partnership with Zak Crawley went from strength to strength; Ollie Pope and Dom Bess played integral roles in the Port Elizabeth win, while Sam Curran chipped in with key runs and wickets throughout.

But Silverwood was particularly pleased with how England’s variety of batting styles helped to ensure regular 400-plus totals.

“To get a batting order that has the ability to get big first-innings runs, you need to create a variation in how they are going to play,” he said. “So you can see the one, two, three we’ve got [Sibley, Crawley and Joe Denly] go about things in their way, which is completely different to how Rooty, [Ben] Stokes, Pope and [Jos] Buttler will go about their business.

ALSO READ: Wood’s nine-wicket haul seals England’s 3-1 series win

“I think there’s a nice mix of skills in there, which allows us to have a top seven to build big totals, and equally we’ve seen how the lower order can then be entertaining as well. You saw Woody and Broady here [with an 82-run stand for the tenth wicket]. If you build the platform, anything can happen.”

Wood’s raw pace was England’s big find in the final two Tests. He managed to play back-to-back matches for the first time since 2017, and gave the impression that a new, extended run-up has taken some of the strain out of an action that previously seemed to invite regular injury setbacks.

Silverwood, however, said that England would continue to monitor his fitness on a game-by-game basis, to help ensure that he is able to give his best efforts on the field more regularly. He even hinted that Wood and Jofra Archer, currently labouring with an elbow injury, might be used on a rotational basis in future Test outings.

“We will make to make decisions based on what’s best for him,” Silverwood said of Wood. “We will look at how he trains as well, making sure he’s not wasting all his best deliveries in the nets. Whatever he does, he does it 100 percent. So can we tailor his training to make sure that his best effort goes out on the pitch for us, and equally when he needs to rest, we’ll know we’ve got a backup with Jofra and others to come in.”

“It’s a great headache to have for Rooty as captain and me as head coach,” Silverwood added. “In an ideal situation, we’d like to have two or three fast bowlers kicking around but we don’t have to play them every game. In this Test, Woody comes in and makes an impact, but another day, we can give him a day off because we’ve got Jofra coming in now.”

With England’s next tour of Australia looming in just under two years’ time, Silverwood earmarked Jamie Overton and Olly Stone as the types of 90mph back-up with which England will be looking to augment their squad, and compete with the established names, such as James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes.

“We’ve got these guys to nurture and bring through in a two-year project, for when we get out there [to Australia],” Silverwood said. “But also we’ve got to look after the guys we’ve got.

“As we’ve also seen in this series, your Andersons, your Broads, your Woakeses. I wouldn’t want to dismiss them lightly. Chris has trained so hard all trip. He got his opportunity here and showed once again he’s a class act.”

Three members of the victorious squad will get an immediate chance to test themselves in Australian conditions, with confirmation from the ECB that Sibley, Crawley and Bess have been retained in the Lions’ four-day party for games in Hobart, Melbourne and Wollongong next month, ahead of England’s Test tour to Sri Lanka in March.

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