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

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South Africa 209 (de Kock 63, Bess 5-51) and 102 for 6 (Root 4-20) trail England 499 for 9 dec by 188 runs

England went to South Africa barely sure of their first-choice spinner, but it was spin that took them to the brink of victory inside four days in Port Elizabeth. A morning blitz from the quicks saw South Africa made to follow on, and although Dom Bess was successfully repelled after his first-innings five-for, Joe Root took up the baton with a twirl to claim his best Test figures as England closed in.

The majority of the resistance met by England came in the form of the weather. With more than 50 overs lost to rain over the course of the match so far, and the possibility of more on Monday, South Africa’s task in attempting to save the game ought to have been that much simpler. But only Quinton de Kock and Anrich Nortje, in the first innings, and Faf du Plessis second time around managed to occupy the crease for any significant length of time as England’s varied attack repeatedly found ways to succeed.

There have been clouds of the metaphorical variety hanging over du Plessis’ captaincy, and although 36 from 123 balls represented his highest score in nine innings, as well as featuring some trademark stonewalling, it could not inspire a more concerted response. His dismissal to Root, deflecting an inside edge to short leg, was symbolic of the turnaround in fortunes since South Africa won their first Test in six attempts at Centurion.

The rain on the Eastern Cape continued to do its bit, but South Africa did themselves no favours during 66.4 overs of insipid batting. They started the day by losing their last four first-innings wickets for the addition of one run from 28 balls, and ended it hanging on six down – despite another lengthy rain break cutting a chunk out of the morning and afternoon sessions.

The delay backed up England’s decision to enforce the follow-on, the first time they had done so in an away Test since Wellington in 2013. With a patchy forecast for the final day, and the pitch still holding together reasonably well, it threatened to be nip and tuck – but a lead of 290 runs proved a convincing enough cushion for Root.

When the teams did get back on the field, at shortly after 2pm local time, Mark Wood put the wind back in England’s sails. A full, fast delivery defeated Dean Elgar’s attempt to work across the line and uprooted off stump via a faint leading edge; Wood had his second a couple of overs later when Zubayr Hamza, who has looked ill-equipped to deal with high pace, feathered a catch down the leg side hanging back against the short ball.

Du Plessis and Pieter Malan negotiated 15.2 overs – the longest partnership of the innings – and had all but taken South Africa to tea two down when Root bagged his first with a delivery that straightened on the stumps to win approval from Rod Tucker. Although Malan reviewed, the suggestion of inside edge was deemed to be inconclusive by the third umpire and South Africa were on the slide again.

With Rassie van der Dussen shaping up skittishly against Root’s low-slung offbreaks, England began to get itchy – twice triggering the DRS in the period after tea only to lose both of their reviews in the process. When Root did gain an lbw decision from Tucker against van der Dussen, again the review system went in the batsman’s favour. But there was no doubt about his eventual dismissal, caught by a soaring Ollie Pope at short leg off a ballooning inside edge, even if van der Dussen dragged himself reluctantly from the crease.

De Kock played his second poor shot of the day – having been bowled in the second over to end his doughty first-innings knock at 63 – to be caught by the leaping Wood at backward point, and when du Plessis departed well into the evening, Root had a four-wicket haul. There was time for Vernon Philander to be put down twice off Wood, valiant efforts both from Don Sibley and Ben Stokes, but England walked off confident of being able to beat both the weather and their hosts.

That they were in such an ascendant position was in large part down to South Africa’s profligate approach during the opening exchanges. Resuming will 92 runs still required to avoid the follow on, the lower order was blown away by Stuart Broad, who claimed 3 for 0, and Sam Curran with the second new ball.

Three times in as many overs saw loose shots punished with stump-rattling effect. Philander left a gap big enough to let a real-life kookaburra through, Broad’s fuller length rewarded as the ball seamed back to remove off stump; de Kock attempted to drive without getting forward only for Curran to hit middle; and Keshav Maharaj dragged an ill-advised pull down on to leg. When Kagiso Rabada chipped limply to mid-off, the Port Elizabeth breeze was blowing only in one direction.



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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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