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Sachin Tendulkar and Courtney Walsh to coach in bushfire relief match

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Sachin Tendulkar and Courtney Walsh will coach the Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne teams respectively in the Bushfire Cricket Bash on February 8.

The bushfire relief match will take place ahead of the Big Bash final with the venue to be confirmed on January 31 after the Qualifier is played with the winning team hosting the final. Before that double-header, the Australia and India women’s teams will play their tri-series match in Melbourne and it could be the city hosts the trio of matches if the Melbourne Stars secure the BBL final at the MCG.

ALSO READ: Shane Warne and Ricky Ponting to lead teams in bushfire relief match

Alongside Ponting and Warner, Justin Langer, Adam Gilchrist, Brett Lee, Shane Watson, Alex Blackwell and Michael Clarke have confirmed they will take part in the match.

“We are absolutely honoured to be welcoming Sachin and Courtney back to Australia where they both enjoyed a lot of success as players, and we can’t wait to have them involved in what is going to be a special day,” the Cricket Australia CEO, Kevin Roberts, said.

The Bushfire Cricket Bash is one of a range of initiatives the sport has undertaken to raise funds for those impacted by the devastating bushfires around the country over the last few months. They have included auctioning Test and BBL shirts and players donating money for sixes hit and wickets taken in various competitions.



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Spectators set for return to Australian cricket

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Crowds will return to international cricket for the first time since March later this month, with confirmation that a limited number of spectators will be able to attend the Australia-New Zealand women’s matches being staged at Allan Border Field in Brisbane, although those watching are encouraged to keep their cheering to a minimum.

The availability of tickets was announced by Cricket Australia on Monday for the T20I and ODI series which begins on September 26. Capacity at the venue will be capped at 50% under Queensland Government Covid-19 guidelines, while there are various other protocols and restrictions in place.

One of the specific recommendations Cricket Australia has put out involves shouting and cheering to cut the risk of droplet spread. “Try to keep shouting, singing, cheering or celebrating to a minimum to avoid transmission,” the guidelines state.

All tickets will have to be bought online, then spectators will swipe in using a mobile device with details stored in case contact tracing is required. The ground will be split into six zones with people not allowed to move outside of their designated area.

The range of Covid-19 measures which have become common over the last six months will be in place including social distancing. There will be no interaction with the players during the matches for things like selfies or autographs.

Members of Australia’s squad from New South Wales, Victoria, and the AC, along with the full New Zealand party, are currently in two weeks quarantine in Brisbane. They are able to train for three hours a day at Allan Border Field during this time with the rest of the Australia squad arriving next Monday. The two sides will play each other in a warm-up match before the internationals start.

Crowds of varying sizes have been able to return to watch the winter sports codes in Australia since July in all states and territories other than Victoria. One of the key elements of the men’s international season, whether the MCG can host the Boxing Day Test against India, hinges on if crowds are able to return at some level by then. A final decision is not expected on that until November as Melbourne works through easing its restrictions.

The last international match in Australia to have a crowd was the T20 World Cup final at the MCG on March, where more than 86,000 people watched the home side lift the trophy; globally, the last match with crowds was a T20I between Bangladesh and Zimbabwe on March 11. Two days later, the men’s ODI between Australia and New Zealand at the SCG was played behind closed doors amid rising cases of Covid-19. That was the last international match to be played until July with the series called off the next day.

The ECB is on the verge of completing a full men’s programme of international matches in a condensed season with all those games having taken place behind closed doors in biosecure bubbles at the Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford. The England women’s team will play West Indies in a five T20I series starting on September 21 in Derby without crowds. The recently completed CPL was also played behind closed doors in Trinidad.

There have been small-scale trials in the UK with fans briefly able to return to a handful of county cricket matches but plans for more have been shelved due to the rising Covid numbers.



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England v Australia, 2nd ODI, 2020

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This time last year David Warner was about to be dismissed by Stuart Broad for the seventh and final time in his horror Ashes series. His other three dismissals during the five Tests were at the hands of Jofra Archer and it is a duel which has resumed over the last couple of weeks in T20Is and now the ODIs with Archer claiming Warner every innings.

In Warner’s defence, he had a half century to his name in the first T20 before giving himself room against a rapid yorker and the two deliveries to remove in the ODIs at Old Trafford have been beauties: one that nipped past his bat to take off stump and then a rearing shorter delivery which nicked the edge through to Jos Buttler.

However, with seven dismissals of Warner in just 10 matches against him, Archer is already at No. 7 in the bowlers to dismiss the left hander most frequently – a table unsurprisingly headed by Broad. There is one more chance on Wednesday for the pair to go head-to-head, with the one-day series on the line, then Covid permitting there is the tantalising prospect of them perhaps meeting each other at next year’s T20 World Cup and then almost certainly in the Ashes.

Here’s a reminder of a battle that, so far, has gone the way of the England quick:

2nd Test, Lord’s, 2nd innings: c Burns, b Archer 5

3.3 got him! Length ball, doesn’t do much off the pitch but Warner dangles his bat – prods at it really – and the ball flies off the outside edge into the gully where Burns takes a sharp low catch. What a start for England…

3rd Test, Headingley, 1st innings: c Bairstow b Archer 61

31.4 finds the edge this time! Precision engineering from Archer, he recalibrates by a couple of millimetres and rips out Warner to get the crowd on their feet! Touching 90mph, straightening off the pitch as Warner felt for it on off stump – not much he could do to play a ball like that, bar miss it. Bulls-eye from Archer to remove the Bull!

5th Test, The Oval, 1st innings: c Bairstow b Archer 5

1.5 flash and miss trying to cut. There’s a shout from England, given not out, and they review! They thought he hit it. Looks to be a gap between ball and bat on the replay. Ultra Edge says … there’s a tiny spike! He’s given out! Decision overturned. Wow. Legitimately looked like he missed it

1st T20, Ageas Bowl: b Archer 58

15.2 bowled him! Warner gives himself room for an inside-out drive, Archer follows him from round the wicket, and the ball cannons off the pads into the leg stump! Now then … it’s a big ask for England, but there are two brand-new batsmen at the crease…

2nd T20I, Ageas Bowl: c Buttler b Archer 0

0.3 given caught behind, and Warner has reviewed straight away! He made the call in the instant he was given. Another cracking delivery, short of a length, nips back at Warner and beats the inside edge, but the replay shows that glanced the glove!

1st ODI, Old Trafford: b Archer 6

3.1 ripper, Archer gets Warner again! 90mph/144kph, bit of late movement to beat Warner’s defences, and Archer pegs back the top of his off stump! That’s an absolute beauty, and England have a breakthrough. Warner’s stunned facial expression tells the story – as close to unplayable as it gets

2nd ODI, Old Trafford: c Buttler b Archer 6

3.4 got him again! Archer has the wood on Warner. This was a scorcher at 91 mph, back of a length and moves across, has Warner poking at it in the channel. Awkward height too, with the ball near rib-cage. Takes a thin edge through to Buttler.



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England v Australia, 2nd ODI, 2020

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Pat Cummins admitted a sense of concern remained among Australia’s middle and lower order even as Aaron Finch and Marnus Labuschagne were taking the tourists to within touching distance of an ODI series victory over England at Old Trafford, foreshadowing a hellish collapse to allow Eoin Morgan’s team to square the ledger.

On a used pitch that Cummins described as being more like a “day four or five Test wicket”, the Australians had failed to finish off the England tail, allowing them to wriggle from 149 for 8 with 59 balls of the innings remaining to 231 for 9. That meant that even as Finch and Labuschagne were hoisting the visitors to 144 for 2 in the 31st over of the chase, plenty of anxiety remained in the Australian viewing area.

Morgan clearly sensed it too, as he brought back Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer, tightened the field and let the pressure of the pitch and the scoreboard take its course. The loss of eight wickets for 63, including the first four for three in 21 balls, duly fulfilled the prophecy.

ALSO READ: Eoin Morgan’s gambler instincts engineer England’s remarkable comeback

“I think having fielded 50 overs on that wicket, we knew it was going to be really hard work,” vice-captain Cummins said. “We were really happy when Marnus and Aaron were going along nicely, but I think I heard at one stage the commentators saying ‘they’re going along beautifully here, they’re walking it home’, whereas none of us were thinking that.

“We knew the last 80 or 90 runs were going to be hard work on that wicket, especially as the ball got a little bit softer and older. The mood was pretty good, everyone I’m sure came up with their plans and their ideas, there was no real nervousness or anything, we’ve all played a lot of cricket, so it was a tough finish in the end.

“It was a really tough wicket especially to start on, and unfortunately we just couldn’t get through that period and couldn’t finish it off. It was more like a day four or five Test wicket where it was a bit up and down. You saw some guys still bat quite well on it, once you’re in you can get there, but also it felt like you could really squeeze [the run rate] and not that true bounce you expect over here.”

Clearly crestfallen by the manner of the defeat, Finch had spoken similarly at the post-match presentation of how it was possible Australia had overthought things while waiting to complete the task. “Guys will have their own plans but at times we might not be 100% committed,” Finch said. “I think at times we might overplay the situation in your head. We have to get better at that, obviously.

“We knew it was always going to be tough for new batters to start on a wicket like that. England squeezed, they bowled really straight, it was hard to take them on down the ground, hard to hit boundaries in that middle period but still very disappointed. We knew we’d be playing on a used wicket, it was getting more difficult as the game went on. Still no excuse for that collapse. Probably not the most view-friendly one-day game but it provides an even contest between bat and ball which at times in one-day cricket I think is missing a bit.”

Looking back to the period in which Tom Curran, Adil Rashid and Archer scrounged 82 runs from the last 10 overs of England’s innings, Cummins said that on pitches such as this one, the bowlers and captain needed to be open to changing plans, as opposed to how truer pitches more often prepared for limited-overs games generally left bowlers with only a couple of options.

“On that wicket for 40 overs it felt like good-length bowling was the hardest to hit, and then suddenly they started hitting them quite nicely. We’ll have a review for sure. I think we went for 80-odd runs in the last 10 overs,” Cummins said. “We’re suddenly only chasing 200 and it’s a different game. Adil and Tom are both really good batsmen, they might be batting nine and 10, but when they walked out we knew they could still hold a bat.

“On a really good wicket for your death bowling you go to yorkers, you might go slower balls or bouncers. Here it’s about tossing up what’s the hardest ball to hit. Is it a yorker or maybe it’s the top of the stumps, maybe keep the fields in for longer, spinners might have more of an impact. I really enjoy it, it makes you think differently, come up and try and problem solve.”



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