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Mark Boucher open to asking AB de Villiers to come out of retirement

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Mark Boucher, South Africa’s new head coach, would welcome the availability of Kolpak players and recent retirees, including AB de Villiers, as he plots the national team’s way forward.

Having worked in the franchise system for the last four seasons, Boucher has first-hand knowledge of the calibre of players available to the national side and acknowledged that the country’s talent pool could do with deepening. Asked whether he would like to be able to select players based abroad, Boucher said: “If I can answer from a coach’s perspective, absolutely. If you look at rugby, the way the Springboks won the World Cup, the experience they got from players playing overseas was invaluable. From a coach’s perspective, I’d love to have the opportunity to deepen and strengthen the squad. It will keep everyone on their toes and will bring more excellence into the game in this country.”

While Boucher is not in control of the regulations around Kolpak, he may be able to have a say among recent retirees, especially those whom he has a close relationship with. Boucher played with de Villiers and currently coaches him at the Tshwane Spartans, who will play in the Mzansi Super League final on Monday. De Villiers is fourth on the tournament run-charts and has demonstrated strong strokeplay and innovation throughout the tournament. His white-ball form remains consistent and his ability unmatched.

De Villiers retired from all formats of international cricket in May 2018, citing a heavy workload, but with a T20 World Cup 10 months away, Boucher was not averse to trying to convince de Villiers to come back. “When you go to a World Cup, you want your best players playing for you,” Boucher said. “If I feel he is one of your best players, why wouldn’t I want to have a conversation with him? I’ve only just got into the job, I might have conversations with quite a few players and see where they are.”

He also indicated players may be allowed greater flexibility if they can add value to South Africa cricket. “You want your best players playing in the World Cup and if there’s a couple of issues you need to iron out, with media, with team-mates, and if it’s for the good of South Africa, why not, let’s do it.”



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Ben Stokes to miss rest of England-Pakistan series for family matter

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Ben Stokes will miss the rest of England’s Test series against Pakistan after withdrawing from the squad for family reasons. He is set to travel to New Zealand, where his parents live, next week and will not be available for the two behind-closed-doors Tests in Southampton.

Stokes’ father Ged was hospitalised in South Africa during England’s winter tour, and has since been recuperating back home in New Zealand.

More to follow…



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Recent Match Report – Worcestershire vs Glamorgan Central Group 2020

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Worcestershire 309 for 3 (Libby 142*, D’Oliveira 123*) v Glamorgan

Jake Libby scored a hundred on his home debut for Worcestershire as he and fellow centurion Brett D’Oliveira dominated proceedings after an initial three-wicket burst by Glamorgan paceman Michael Hogan in the Bob Willis Trophy encounter at Blackfinch New Road.

The pair came together at 70 for 3 shortly before lunch and Libby, signed during the close season from Nottinghamshire on a three-year contract, completed the sixth first-class ton of his career from 205 balls with 11 boundaries. He ended unbeaten on 142 from 261 deliveries with one six and 14 fours.

D’Oliveira went to his century from 183 balls with 14 fours and the stand was worth an unbroken 239 in 64 overs – a new record for Worcestershire’s fourth wicket in matches against Glamorgan. He finished on 123 from 206 balls with one six and 15 boundaries as Worcestershire closed on 309 for 3 from 91 overs.

Libby followed on from his 77 in his first appearance for his new county in the eight-wicket success against Gloucestershire at Bristol. He had indicated a willingness to open when he signed for Worcestershire and fill the berth alongside Daryl Mitchell which has often been problematic in recent years.

Libby was Nottinghamshire’s leading run-scorer in the County Championship in 2018 but a flux of signings restricted his red ball opportunities last summer at Trent Bridge and he ended his six-year association with the club. Worcestershire are hoping the best years of the 27-year-old lie ahead in the same way as they have recruited Gareth Roderick for next season from Gloucestershire.

Libby had one slice of good fortune when dropped on 43 at second slip by Charlie Hemphrey off Timm van der Gugten but otherwise batted with great authority and received a standing ovation from his team-mates when he reached three figures.

D’Oliveira also played a sparkling knock which maintained his fine start to the truncated campaign after his unbeaten 91 versus Gloucestershire. He had struck 14 fours before he reached his hundred with a square drive for two off Hogan which then resulted in four overthrows. The 28-year-old was also grateful to Hemphrey for a spilled chance at slip when on 67 as he went to cut spinner Kieran Bull.

Hogan had been the star performer during the morning session when two spells produced combined figures of 9-3-15-3. But he was unable to add to his tally during the afternoon or evening session to leave him still one short of 600 first-class wickets in his career.

The 39-year-old had dismissed Daryl Mitchell and Tom Fell in his opening spell and returned to account for Jack Haynes shortly before lunch.

Worcestershire brought back Dillon Pennington for rested paceman Josh Tongue while Glamorgan recalled Tom Cullen and van der Gugten at the expense of Marchant de Lange and the injured Ruaidhri Smith (hamstring injury).

Hogan dismissed Mitchell for a duck with the fourth delivery of the day after he flicked at a delivery down the leg side and keeper Chris Cooke held onto a fine catch away to his left.

New batsman Fell had a left off when Cooke failed to hold onto a difficult chance from another testing Hogan delivery – but it did not prove to be a costly miss. On eight, he nicked another ball from Hogan and this time Cooke made no mistake with a sharp low catch.

Libby and Jack Haynes attempted to rebuild the innings and experienced few alarms in adding 48 in 16 overs. But then Hogan’s return accounted for Haynes (21) when the England Under-19 batsman went for an ambitious hook and holed out to Dan Douthwaite on the backward square leg boundary.

D’Oliveira and Libby batted with plenty of fluency after joining forces. A straight drive for four off van Gugten completed a half century for Libby from 94 balls with seven boundaries. D’Oliveira cut Douthwaite for four to bring up his half century from 78 balls and also the 100 partnership in the 34th over.

The fourth-wicket pair both hit two boundaries apiece in successive overs from spinner Bull and accelerated in the final session as the milestones of a personal and team nature were clocked up.



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India’s domestic 2020-21 season: Only Ranji Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali for men?

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The BCCI is mulling a truncated domestic season in 2020-21, featuring only the first-class Ranji Trophy and the T20 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy for men, apart from the IPL. The tentative plan, seen by ESPNcricinfo, is yet to be ratified, but it would mean no 50-overs competitions – neither Vijay Hazare Trophy nor Deodhar Trophy – in a season that will run from November 19 to March 10. There is also no place for the first-class Duleep Trophy or Irani Cup in the proposal.

Senior women’s cricket will feature both the One Day League and the T20 League, albeit with fewer games than the 2019-20 season, and is scheduled between November 1 and April 12. Challenger Trophies across all categories – men and women, senior and junior – find no place in the proposal.

This news follows on from a board official telling ESPNcricinfo last week that a “priority list” of tournaments was being made with the Ranji Trophy on top.

As per the proposed plan, the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy will be held first, starting ten days after the IPL, from November 19, ending on December 7. The Ranji Trophy is then scheduled to begin from December 13 and will go on till March 10, just before the scheduled 2021 IPL.

Like in the past, the order of tournaments means that players could effectively be using the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament to impress the IPL franchises ahead of an auction, which in this case is scheduled to be held in December 2020 or January 2021.

A zonal system was originally being thought about for the Ranji Trophy, with one city from each zone hosting teams across four or five venues, but that format isn’t to be found in the proposal. There will be five groups. The top 24 teams of last season will be split into groups A, B, and C, with the top two from each qualifying automatically to the quarter-finals. Among the third-placed teams, the team with the highest “quotient” will also go through. The eighth quarter-final spot will be decided after a playoff between the winners of Group D, which will have up to eight teams, and Group E, which consists of the six teams from the north-east.

The bottom teams from groups A, B, and C will be relegated to Group D, with the top three teams from Group D going the other way. The bottom placed team from Group D will go down to Group E, and the winner from Group E will compete in Group D next season. Teams in each group will play on four grounds across two nearby cities and each team will travel “at least once, at most thrice” between venues.

In the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and the women’s T20 league, 38 teams will be divided into six groups and each group’s matches will be held on two grounds in one city.

A total of 2036 games, across various age groups in the men’s and women’s categories, were played during the 2019-20 season. In normal circumstances, the season would have started in July-August and run till around March. That number will fall to 1183 next season based on this new proposal, which is still contingent on how the pandemic situation plays out in India.



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