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Recent Match Report – South Africa vs England, ICC World Test Championship, 3rd Test

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South Africa 208 for 6 (de Kock 63*, Philander 27*) trail England 499 for 9 dec by 291 runs

Dom Bess became the latest of England’s young bloods to leave his mark on South Africa but the old foe of bad weather, coupled with some much-needed defiance from the home batsmen (plus a few dropped catches), prevented the tourists from maximising their advantage on day three in Port Elizabeth.

With Bess producing his most impressive display in an England shirt to secure a maiden Test five-for, the threat of the follow-on loomed large for South Africa. But they were able to recover from a position of 109 for 5 thanks to Quinton de Kock‘s third half-century of the series, as well as 136 balls of dogged resistance from the nightwatchman, Anrich Nortje.

De Kock was unbeaten on 63 at the close, having put on partnerships of 45 with Nortje and a further 54 alongside Vernon Philander. He might have been dismissed three times by spin but on each occasion Ben Stokes was unable to hold on to sharp chances at slip – and with another 26 overs lost due to rain, England’s prospects of capturing a series lead before the teams move on to Johannesburg looked to have taken a hit.

South Africa’s captain, Faf du Plessis, pronounced before the third Test that his team had made “huge steps in the right direction” against England, following a run of five consecutive defeats. While du Plessis could not extricate himself from his own run of bad form, falling to Bess for the second time in as many innings, the bloody-minded efforts of de Kock and, in particular, Nortje, gave his side something to rally around.

Although there was no doubting England were on top, they seemed likely to find themselves in a battle against time, the elements and an unforgiving pitch – with de Kock’s rearguard blocking their path to enforcing the follow-on, and 92 runs still needed for South Africa to take the decision out of Joe Root’s hands.

The morning session could scarcely have gone better for England, with Bess striking three more times to claim each of the five South African wickets to have fallen, before a delay of more than three hours began to impinge on hopes of a positive result in this match. When play was able to resume in mid-afternoon, de Kock succeeded in seeing off the fiery Mark Wood as he and Nortje combined to frustrate England further.

South Africa’s wicketkeeper produced a number of fine strokes during a counterattacking innings, although at times he lived on the edge. Root might have removed him twice, on 30 and 56, with Stokes the culprit on both occasions. Another chance came late in the day, when de Kock was cramped by Joe Denly’s legspin and top-edged a cut low to Stokes’ right – but again England’s most-reliable catcher could not cling on.

Stokes did have a more familiar impact with the ball, although the fact England waited until the 61st over to turn to his bowling – so galvanic in the victory at Newlands – raised questions about what might been after the allrounder proceeded to dismiss Nortje with his 10th delivery.

Nortje had already benefited from lapses in the field, Root putting down a simple chance at slip that would have given Bess his five-for. Having demonstrated his ability with the bat in South Africa’s victory in Centurion, Nortje dug in manfully in the face of Wood’s 150kph/93mph hostility – a half-chance to Ollie Pope at short leg the closest Wood came to getting his man. By the time Stokes drew an edge to slip, Nortje had played by far his longest first-class innings and kept England at bay for more than three hours.

Such fighting spirit seemed to be lacking as South Africa set about their attempts to build a convincing first-innings reply. Resuming on 60 for 2, after Bess had struck twice on the second evening, they lost Dean Elgar in the fourth over of the day, smartly taken by the diving Pope at silly point as the ball ricocheted off bat and pad.

Du Plessis seemed intent on taking the attack to England’s rookie offspinner, a 22-year-old playing in just his fourth Test, twice leaving his ground to stroke fours through mid-off. But Bess changed his line of attack to over the wicket, found some drift and grip and another inside edge plopped safely into the hands of Pope, at short leg this time.

South Africa had been left in a mess against Bess, whose fourth wicket ensured career-best figures. He was not to be denied a fifth – becoming the youngest England spinner to take a Test five-for since Pat Pocock in 1968 – as Rassie van der Dussen dragged the ball into his stumps to give the unexpected tourist an unexpected starring role. But the rain and de Kock meant the day was not simply about Bess.



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Sophie Devine’s form gives New Zealand hope of success

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Overview

With a T20I series win against South Africa, the return of their veteran quick Lea Tahuhu after a paternity break and a number of seasoned internationals in the side, New Zealand will be hoping to arrive at the big stage in a better shape than they did last time. It was a bitter exit for them in the 2018 edition, when they couldn’t get past the group stage after being beaten by India and Australia. They also have a number of stars in form this time, including their captain Sophie Devine who was the top performer at the WBBL and the Super Smash, which augurs well for the team heading into the tournament.

Squad

Sophie Devine (capt), Suzie Bates, Lauren Down, Maddy Green, Holly Huddleston, Hayley Jensen, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Jess Kerr, Rosemary Mair, Katey Martin, Katie Perkins, Anna Peterson, Rachel Priest, Lea Tahuhu (coach: Bob Carter)

Group fixtures

February 22: Sri Lanka, WACA

February 27: India, Junction Oval

February 29: Bangladesh, Junction Oval

March 1: Australia, Junction Oval

T20 World Cup history

They were runners-up in the first two editions of the tournament, following which they underperformed in the next four editions with two semi-final exits (in 2012 and 2016) and two group-stage exits (in 2014 and 2018).

Form guide

New Zealand were handed a 3-0 drubbing in the recent ODI series against South Africa at home where their bowlers and their middle order struggled, but they turned it around in the T20I series that followed. They came back strongly against a solid India line-up in a T20I series at home in January 2019 following the T20 World Cup, thrashing them 3-0.

Key players

Captain Devine’s rich run of form puts her among the players to watch out for in the tournament this year. Suzie Bates, the top run-scorer in women’s T20Is, will be integral to New Zealand’s top order. They both have played in every T20 World Cup so far and can be relied on for spectacular starts. The returning Lea Tahuhu could also make an impact in suitable conditions in Australia. Another senior player who is likely to be key is wicketkeeper-batter Rachel Priest, who returned to the international side after nearly three years for the South Africa series, following her stellar domestic and KSL performances. Apart from them, youngsters Amelia Kerr, Jess Kerr and Rosemary Mair, who have all emerged as real talent, will be looking to showcase their skills at the big stage.

What would be a success at the tournament?

They have the chance to reach final stage of the tournament but all that would depend on how they handle pressure in the big games. “Our goal is to make the final on March 8 at the MCG but we understand that we’ve got tough opposition and that the tournament is long,” captain Devine wrote in a column for the ICC. Moreover, they must look not to be over-dependent on the likes of Bates and Devine. A number of players in the squad, including the star duo, were part of the 2019-20 edition of the WBBL. The side will be hoping the learnings from the tournament, including the familiarity of the Australian conditions, should work to their advantage.



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Oshane Thomas escapes serious injury after motor accident

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West Indies fast bowler Oshane Thomas has escaped serious injury after being involved in a motor accident in Jamaica late Sunday.

According to a statement by West Indies Players’ Association, he was involved in a two-vehicle collision and was taken to a hospital. Jamaica Observer quoted Thomas’ agent, Mark Neita, saying he was “at home resting” after he was discharged following treatment and scans.

“The West Indies Players’ Association (WIPA) extends best wishes to West Indies and Jamaica fast-bowler Oshane Thomas who was involved in a motor vehicle accident on Sunday, February 16 in Jamaica,” an official statement said.

“Thomas was reportedly involved in a two-vehicle collision on Highway 2000 near Old Harbour in St. Catherine and was taken to hospital. WIPA’s executive and staff would like to extend our sympathies to Oshane. We wish for him a speedy and full recovery.”

Thomas, who turned 23 on Tuesday and last played for West Indies in an ODI against Ireland last month, was left out of the squad for the tour of Sri Lanka. He has played 20 ODIs and 10 T20Is, picking up 27 and nine wickets respectively in the formats.



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James Pattinson ruled out of day-night clash against England Lions

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James Pattinson‘s pace and fire will be missing from Australia A’s day-night match against the England Lions at the MCG from Saturday due to a back complaint, after he pulled up sore from bowling in cub cricket.

The Queensland pace bowler Mark Steketee has been called in to replace Pattinson, while Cricket Australia medical and fitness staff deliberate over whether Pattinson will require scans on his troublesome back.

In a worrying sign for Pattinson following his long and arduous return from radical back surgery in New Zealand to take his place on the 2019 Ashes tour alongside Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, he complained of back and hip soreness following club games for Dandenong.

In the round 13 Victoria Premier Grade match between Dandenong and Monash Tigers on February 8 and 9, Pattinson claimed 2 for 48 from 18 overs. He was then selected for the following round’s game between Dandenong and Melbourne, which was abandoned without Pattinson either batting or bowling.

In addition to Steketee, the NSW swing bowler Harry Conway has also been added to the Australia A squad. Michael Neser, Jackson Bird and the wristspinner Mitchell Swepson are the other members of the bowling attack.

The likes of Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Nic Maddinson, Kurtis Patterson, Marcus Stoinis and the Australia A captain Moises Henriques will be among those jostling for potential batting positions in the Australian Test squad to travel to Bangladesh later this year, while also putting down a marker against an England Lions squad that is gaining experience ahead of the next Ashes series in Australia in 2021-22.



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