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Jack Leach to return home from South Africa to aid recovery from illness

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Jack Leach is to fly home from England’s tour of South Africa after failing to recover from illness. Leach, who arrived in the country as England’s first-choice spinner, has not been able to bowl a competitive delivery on the tour after being taken ill ahead of the first warm-up match in Benoni in mid-December.

Leach was also taken ill in New Zealand in November. Originally described as a bout of gastroenteritis, it now transpires the episode deteriorated to the extent that he was suffering from sepsis. He was hospitalised for several days in Hamilton and has not bowled a ball in anger since the Mount Maunganui Test, which ended on November 25. He will leave South Africa on Thursday.

Leach’s situation is complicated by his long history of Crohn’s disease, which requires him to take immune suppressant medication. The England management are keen not to push him too hard in his recovery phase and risk any long-term health implications. While Leach currently appears healthy, and has been able to play a full-part in the last couple of training sessions, his fitness levels have not recovered to the extent where he could be considered for Test selection.

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The England management remain hopeful that Leach will be available for England’s Test tour of Sri Lanka – the first Test starts in Galle on March 19, the first tour game on March 7 – but he must be considered a doubt at this stage.

“It has been an unfortunate time for Jack with illness and since the Test series in New Zealand six weeks ago, he hasn’t been able to get 100% fit,” England head coach Chris Silverwood said. “This has hampered his preparation in South Africa and despite his best endeavours he is not in a position to make himself available for selection for the final two Test matches.

“He is a great lad to have around the squad and his infectious personality and popularity will be missed. However, his focus has to be getting himself better and receiving the optimum levels of recovery and treatment, which is best served back in England without any distractions.

“I have no doubt that he will return to full fitness in the medium-term and hopefully he will recover in time for our tour of Sri Lanka in March.”

Leach is the third member of the tour party to return home. Rory Burns left as the second Test started after sustaining ankle ligament damage, before James Anderson suffered a fractured rib in the Cape Town Test. At least 11 members of the playing squad – and around half-a-dozen of the non-playing tour party – have also suffered from a sickness bug that decimated the team during the first Test and resulted in Ben Stokes referring to this, only partly in jest, as “the cursed tour”.

England are unlikely to call for further back-up for Leach. They still have two specialist spinners in the squad – Dom Bess and Matt Parkinson – and there is a possibility neither will play in the final Test in Johannesburg. Bess, Leach’s deputy at Somerset, performed a good holding role in Cape Town.

Looking ahead to Sri Lanka, though, this episode may further incentivise the England management to repair the relationship with Moeen Ali. Moeen, who is currently taking an extended break from Test cricket, has previously intimated that he was minded to “see out” his PSL contract, which would exclude him from the Sri Lanka tour, but there is little doubt the England management will try to coax him back to the Test team.

He is understood to maintain a good relationship with both Silverwood and England captain Joe Root, and has been invited to take part in some mentoring an England Lions training camp at Loughborough this week.

Moeen and Leach were the equal highest wicket-takers when England won in Sri Lanka little more than a year ago but, at this stage, there seems a possibility that neither they nor Adil Rashid, who was the third member of the spin attack, will return.



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ICC ODI Rankings – Chris Woakes moves to second among allrounders, fourth among bowlers

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England’s Chris Woakes has jumped to a career-best ranking of fourth in the latest ICC ODI rankings for bowlers. Ahead of Woakes on the bowling charts are Trent Boult – who leads the rankings with 722 rating points – Jasprit Bumrah and Mujeeb ur Rahman.

On the back of his six wickets and 89 runs in the series against Australia, he has also moved to second on the list of ODI allrounders, going past Imad Wasim, Ben Stokes and Colin de Grandhomme. The man ahead of Woakes on the allrounders chart is Afghanistan’s Mohammad Nabi.

Woakes’ team-mate Jonny Bairstow, the highest run-scorer from the ODI series, moved into the top 10 for ODI batsmen once again while Jofra Archer – who had a Player-of-the-Match performance in the second ODI – moved 18 positions to a career-best ranking of tenth for ODI bowlers. Also making a move up on the bowling charts was Australia’s Josh Hazlewood; he jumped from 15th to eighth after his four-wicket return in ODI series.

The other significant movers were the Australian trio of Glenn Maxwell and Alex Carey in the batting rankings and legspinner Adam Zampa in the bowling rankings. The match-winning centuries from Maxwell and Carey in the third ODI have moved them up to 26th and 28th respectively. Zampa’s ten-wicket haul in the series moved him to 21st.

India’s Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma still hold the top two positions in the ODI batting rankings. After them comes Pakistan’s Babar Azam at third. The Australia openers Aaron Finch and David Warner are seventh and eighth respectively. With less than a hundred runs each in the ODI series, Joe Root slipped to 13th while Bairstow’s opening partner Jason Roy dropped to 18th.

Click here for the full ICC rankings.



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Ricky Ponting, Delhi Capitals’ coach, expects UAE pitches to ‘offer a bit more bounce’

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Delhi Capitals head coach Ricky Ponting expects the UAE pitches to offer a bit of extra bounce in the first half of IPL 2020, despite being on the slower side. And that, he said, will suit the Capitals pacers’ style of bowling.

The pitches in the UAE are expected to be on the slower side and deteriorate further as the tournament progresses, with the whole tournament being played across only three venues. Ponting feels his side has got a “very experienced” spin line-up as well, to cover for that.

Before the 2020 auction, the Capitals had traded R Ashwin from Kings XI Punjab, while retaining legspinners Amit Mishra and Sandeep Lamichhane, and left-arm spinner Axar Patel. With Chris Woakes and Jason Roy not available for the season, the Capitals further shored up their fast-bowling attack, which already had Ishant Sharma and Kagiso Rabada, with Anrich Nortje and Daniel Sams.

“We saw how damaging Rabada was last year at the Kotla and that was a slow, low pitch,” Ponting told Indian Express. “I think these wickets will probably be on the slower side but will offer a little more bounce. That actually suits guys like Rabada, Nortje, Ishant Sharma, Avesh Khan, Daniel Sams.

“And as the tournament goes on, the wickets will probably change. They might spin a bit more in the back half and we have got a very well-balanced and very experienced spin-bowling group as well, with Ashwin, Mishra, Axar Patel and Lamichhane. We think we have come up with a really well-balanced squad.”

The Capitals are scheduled to play seven matches in Dubai, four in Abu Dhabi and three in Sharjah. However, teams won’t get a proper idea of the conditions in the Dubai stadium till the matches begin as practice in the city has been at the ICC Academy and not the stadium.

“Right now, we have almost had three weeks of practice so far,” Ponting said. “We have moved around the venues as well. We have trained in Sharjah. We have trained in Dubai, at the Academy ground. So, we haven’t actually been to the main ground in Dubai yet. We don’t really know exactly what the wickets are going to be like.

“Whenever you are going to an auction, it’s generally picking a squad of players that you think will serve you well in your home conditions. But I think we have got most bases covered.”

The Capitals will kick off their campaign on September 20, against Kings XI in Dubai.



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IPL 2020 – BCCI signs up Sportradar to detect betting irregularities

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Edited PTI copy

The BCCI has roped in UK-based company Sportradar to detect betting irregularities during IPL 2020.

“As part of the agreement, all matches in IPL 2020 will be monitored by Sportradar’s Integrity Services to detect betting irregularities,” a statement released by the company on Thursday said. “Sportradar will also provide a risk assessment to the BCCI, driven by intelligence and data-driven insights. Furthermore the BCCI will be able to call upon Sportradar’s Intelligence and Investigation Services during the term of the partnership, if required.”

An IPL source, who confirmed the development to PTI, said: “Sportradar has very recently red flagged at least half a dozen games in the Goa football league that came under a fixing cloud. They have also worked with FIFA, UEFA and various leagues across the globe.”

The BCCI Anti-Corruption Unit has, in recent times, tracked unusual betting patterns during state T20 leagues, including the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL), as a major betting company stopped taking bets after unusual bets were being placed.

According to Sportradar, its Fraud Detection System (FDS) “is a unique service that identifies betting-related manipulation in sport. This is possible due to the FDS’s sophisticated algorithms and constantly maintained database of odds, which are leveraged for the purpose of detecting match-fixing.”

It is believed that the company tracks the odds and movements of at least 600 independent bookmakers to detect anomalies in betting patterns. It processes around 5 million data sets per day.

How Sportradar’s fraud detection works

As part of Sportradar’s fraud detection, a mathematical algorithm is used to study betting patterns. It is a “sophisticated model”, which monitors live betting during an event.

“There are 25 live alerts, which instantly identify irregular betting in the marketplace,” The Sportradar website says. “The mathematical model uses calculated odds, which runs alongside bookmakers’ odds, in order to highlight if the odds during a specific minute or time is out of line, and therefore, potentially suspicious.”

There are also “44 detailed pre-match alerts, which are based on odds movements observed at betting operators”.

“An alert is generated in FDS when odds at a bookmaker changes greater than pre-defined parameters.”



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