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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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Recent Match Report – Zimbabwe vs Sri Lanka 1st Test 2020

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Lunch Sri Lanka 124 for 2 (Mendis 43*, Mathews 14*, Nyauchi 1-26) trail Zimbabwe (Ervine 85, Embuldeniya 5-114) 358 by 234 runs

Sri Lanka advanced unconvincingly in the first session of day three, routinely playing and missing, as well as providing Zimbabwe with several run-out opportunities. That they lost only the wicket of captain Dimuth Karunaratne, however, will have them hoping that a first-innings lead – still 235 runs away – might still be established. At the break, they had Kusal Mendis batting on 43 off 103 deliveries, and Angelo Mathews on 14 off 44.

Zimbabwe’s bowlers posed a challenge from the very first ball of the day, when Kyle Jarvis got Karunaratne to push and miss at a ball outside off stump. Sri Lanka’s batsmen were quick to put away loose deliveries too – Karunaratne hitting a an overpitched delivery down the ground for four that same over, but the hosts were mostly disciplined, and their quicks appeared to be finding more lateral movement off this surface than Sri Lanka’s seamers had managed.

Although the experienced Jarvis and Donald Tiripano, who opened the bowling on Tuesday, set the tone for Zimbabwe’s bowling effort, it was debutant Victor Nyauchi that delivered the best spell of the morning, frequently moving the ball away from the right-hander. He had Karunaratne caught for 37, flicking uppishly to short midwicket, where another debutant Ainsley Ndlovu took an excellent low catch. Soon after, Nyauchi also raised a strong lbw appeal against Kusal Mendis, who was batting on 35 at the time. It certainly wasn’t a plumb lbw, but there could have been few complaints if Mendis had been given out.

Mendis could also have been run out shortly before lunch, had Prince Masvaure collected cleanly and thrown down the stumps, after Angelo Mathews had called Mendis through for a quick single that the non-striker was not keen on. The penultimate over of the session also saw Mathews struggle against Jarvis.

In the last over, Zimbabwe did sustain a worrying injury to Kevin Kasuza. Fielding at short leg, Kasuza copped a full-blooded pull shot from Mendis on the helmet. Although initially he seemed fine, he seemed groggy a few seconds after the blow was sustained, and exited the field with the physiotherapist.



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‘It hurts’ – Kagiso Rabada admits to letting his team down

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Kagiso Rabada has admitted that he had let the team down – again – after copping a one-match ban which will force him to miss the final Test against England in Johannesburg with his team trailing 2-1. Two years ago, Rabada had escaped similar punishment, conceding afterwards that he needed to re-evaluate his on-field conduct.

Rabada was charged with a Level 1 offence for reacting aggressively after bowling Joe Root in Port Elizabeth. It earned him one demerit point, taking his total number of active points to four over a two-year period, resulting in the ban.

While expressing his surprise at the punishment, he refused to comment on whether it was disproportionate keeping in mind the offence. “It’s something that I didn’t expect, whether it was the right thing to ban me or the wrong thing, the reality is that I am banned,” Rabada said in a press conference. “Obviously, it hurts, but I guess it gives me a chance to work on my game and gives me a chance to have a bit of a rest.

ALSO READ: ‘I hope ICC don’t take emotion out of the game’ – Mark Boucher

“I mean, it can’t keep happening, because I am letting the team down and I am letting myself down. It just can’t keep happening, that is why it hurts so much.”

South Africa find themselves under immense pressure having slumped to heavy defeats in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, after starting the series on a winning note in Centurion. They have now lost seven of their last eight Tests, four of them at home. Rabada conceded that the mood in the camp was downbeat, and stressed on the importance of getting into a good mental space before the decider.

“Not great (the mood), you know, we know haven’t played well, it really does hurt us,” he said. “Everyone in our change room, I am 100% sure, are strong characters, and we just need to bounce back. I think, mentally, we need to get into a clear space, so that when we get to Wanderers, we can really play without any second thoughts, and have a good idea about how we want to go about our situation.”

Meanwhile, South Africa are back to full strength – minus Rabada – for the final Test, with Temba Bavuma, Andile Phehlukwayo, Keegan Petersen and Beuran Hendricks rejoining the squad after domestic duty. Bavuma, in particular, comes with form behind him, having struck 180 in his last first-class innings, which could augur well for a struggling batting line-up, should he make the XI.

“We were all together as a squad before the Centurion Test, there was a really good vibe,” Rabada said. “Those guys are coming back now, there’s going to be good vibes again. We are familiar with everyone that was here in the squad, and now when they come back it’s going to be like we are reunited. Yeah, it’ll be good to finish off with the whole squad being around and finishing off with a win.”



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Shoulder injury rules Shikhar Dhawan out of New Zealand T20Is

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India opener Shikhar Dhawan has been ruled out of the upcoming five-T20I series in New Zealand because of the shoulder injury he picked up during the third ODI against Australia in Bengaluru on Sunday. Dhawan did not travel with the India squad that left for Auckland on Monday and the selectors have not named a replacement yet.

Dhawan fell awkwardly on his left shoulder while diving to stop a drive from Aaron Finch at cover-point in the fifth over of Australia’s innings in the series decider. He soon left the field clutching his shoulder, and didn’t come out to bat in India’s chase as he was taken for tests. He was later spotted in the Indian dressing room with his arm in a sling as India won by seven wickets.

The T20I series begins on January 24, and will be followed by a series of three ODIs from February 5. In case Dhawan doesn’t recover in time for those games, India have the option of picking up any of Sanju Samson, Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw, all of whom are already in New Zealand with the India A squad for a three-match one-day series that begins on Wednesday.

Of the three, Samson is the only one with a T20I cap, and even played a game against Sri Lanka earlier this month before being left out of the New Zealand series because of the return of Rohit Sharma, who was rested earlier. That should make Samson the frontrunner in case the need arises, but Shaw could also be in contention after his 100-ball 150 in a 50-over warm-up game against a New Zealand XI on Sunday.

More to follow…



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