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Steven Smith headlines Australia stars returning to Big Bash

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The majority of the Australia one-day squad will return to Big Bash action over the next few days for the backend of the regular season and then the finals for the teams that make it.

Of the players who were in India, only David Warner, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc – who don’t have BBL deals – will not be available.

Here is a rundown of who each team gets back:

Melbourne Stars

Peter Handscomb, who did not get a game in India, will return to bolster the middle order and will likely resume the wicketkeeping duties from Seb Gotch. Adam Zampa will be back as a key part of the spin attack for the Stars who are already assured of hosting the Qualifier on January 31 with the loser of that match earning a second chance to reach the final by playing in the Challenger on February 6.

Sydney Sixers

The Sixers are among the teams currently fighting for second spot to play the Stars and, for the first time in six years, will be able to call on Steven Smith who is available from the match against the Brisbane Heat at the Gabba. Josh Hazlewood will be given a few extra days rest after the India tour, but will likely be available for the Sixers’ final regular season game against the Melbourne Renegades and the finals. They remain unsure whether Sean Abbott will have recovered in time for the finals, by when they will have lost Tom Curran to England duty.

Adelaide Strikers

Alex Carey‘s return will bolster the Strikers’ middle order as they push for second place and for the first time this season they will be able to field their strongest possible batting line-up with Carey and Travis Head back in harness.

Perth Scorchers

Ashton Turner and Ashton Agar will be back in the fold as the Scorchers look to build on their handsome victory against the Sydney Thunder. They will hope that Turner’s lean time in India does not impact his form for the final stretch of the tournament. Morne Morkel will also play the final regular season match against the Thunder – which may well be a decider for qualification – in place of Chris Jordan so he is eligible for the finals.

Sydney Thunder

The Thunder did not have anyone in the one-day squad. Last season Cummins made one late-season outing for them but he will not play this year.

Brisbane Heat

Marnus Labuschagne is available to add to his seven T20 outings and he may well be seen as a key to stopping the sort of batting collapses – that reached new heights against the Renegades – which have left the Heat battling to reach the finals.

Hobart Hurricanes

It will likely be too late to save their season, but D’Arcy Short and Matthew Wade will be able to link up at last at the top of the order for the Hurricanes’ last two matches having not joined forces this season due to their respective international commitments. Short spent the three matches in India carrying the drinks after his late call-up to replace the injured Abbott.

Melbourne Renegades

It is officially all over for the Renegades after their horror run of nine defeats on the bounce ended any chance of defending their title. However, they have won their last two games – extraordinarily so against the Heat – and should have Aaron Finch and Kane Richardson back for the final two outings which could cause problems for opposition still looking to secure their finals berths.



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‘I don’t plan on letting anyone take my spot’ – Lungi Ngidi

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Lungi Ngidi knows a thing or two about making a comeback. In his short international career, which has just turned two years old, he has already had to recover from a stress fracture, a side strain and a slew of hamstring niggles, the latest of which kept him out of this summer’s Test series against England. He returned for the white-ball matches and he has now shown an ability to come back, on the field.

On Sunday, in the Pink ODI at the Wanderers, he dragged South Africa from a certain defeat to tense one with a final spell of 3 for 11 in four overs, after his first five overs had cost 52 runs. On Wednesday, in the first T20I at Buffalo Park, he turned England’s chase from flying to floundering with a death-bowling spell off 3 for 10 in two overs, after an opening spell of 0 for 20, and has proven his ability to play the big moments.

“I guess it’s a mental thing, to be able to finish off well in situations that require you to,” Ngidi said afterwards “It takes a lot out of your mental side. Physically, obviously I am trying as best as I can to get back to the pace that I was at and to hit the areas that I am known for hitting. But at the moment, it’s just trying to keep that confidence going of doing my job at the back end and closing out very well.”

Though Ngidi made his name for bowling fast, he demonstrated a different quality at the death in East London. On a slow pitch, Ngidi’s offcutter foxed Ben Stokes into fetching a wide ball and slapping it to long-on in the 18th over, with England 26 runs away from victory and 14 balls remaining. Top-scorer Jason Roy had been dismissed by a Beuran Hendricks slower ball three overs before that, while Dale Steyn, playing for the national side for the first time in 11 months, had also taken pace off the ball earlier to demonstrate the value of skill, rather than speed, in the shortest format.

The South African attack’s attention to developing the more nuanced areas of their game has been notable under the coaching of Charl Langeveldt, who was with the team under Russell Domingo and was headhunted from his role in Bangladesh to return in the Mark Boucher era. Ngidi credited Langeveldt with giving him the belief to bowl a variety of different deliveries and trust that the results can be effective.

“He has had a massive impact in terms of the mental side,” Ngidi said. “Having watched him and the way he used to bowl, he has given me a lot of confidence as a young player, knowing someone like that is now on my journey. He has made sure I back the skills that I am good at. Something like that on the back end, where maybe someone would say maybe a change of ball was needed or maybe a yorker, stick to what’s working and it worked out just well.”

ALSO READ: ‘Experiences like this are so valuable’ – Eoin Morgan

The yorker did make an appearance in Ngidi’s final over, when he bowled Moeen Ali with the penultimate ball of the match, with England still needing three runs for victory. That wicket, and the run-out off the last delivery meant that Ngidi successfully defended seven off the final over, which is not often heard of in T20 cricket. But in East London, Ngidi knew it was possible. “The game speeds up a lot at the back end here so even 10 runs can seem like a lot,” he said.

So can 178, a score that would be considered gettable in most T20 matches. While Ngidi will receive the bulk of the plaudits for restricting England to less than that, South Africa’s attack as a whole will be thrilled with the collapse they forced on an opposition that bats deep. England lost 7 for 44 in 5.4 overs as Tabraiz Shamsi, who went wicketless and Hendricks, who was only brought on to bowl in the 15th over, started the squeeze before Ngidi finished off.

With Andile Phehlukwayo and Steyn also among the wickets, Kagiso Rabada resting from this series and Sisanda Magala waiting in the wings, pending fitness, all that leaves South Africa with some healthy competition in the pace department, and Ngidi wants to make sure he stays ahead of the chasing pack. “We know that there are a lot of fast bowlers fighting for a spot so you’ve got to be on your A game,” he said. “If you’re not quite there, someone else is going to come in and do the job you’re supposed to be doing. I don’t plan on letting anyone take my spot so I am just going to keep playing as best as I can.”



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‘Experiences like this are so valuable’ – Eoin Morgan takes positives ahead of T20 World Cup

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Eoin Morgan, England’s captain, backed his team to learn quickly and come back stronger after a thrilling one-run defeat in the first T20I, but added that the pressure to which his players had been exposed was a priceless experience in the final countdown to the T20 World Cup in October.

After an erratic display with the ball, in which South Africa racked up 105 runs in the first ten overs before being restricted to 177 for 8, it was England’s high-octane batting that fell apart in the closing stages, as Morgan’s own dismissal for 52 in the penultimate over allowed Lungi Ngidi to power his side over the line with a brilliant death over that yielded three wickets and just five runs.

And while Morgan was disappointed with England’s failure to get over the line, he was delighted to have been left with so much to digest, with just nine more opportunities for fine-tuning before until the T20 World Cup gets underway in Australia.

“It was an outstanding game of cricket,” Morgan said in the post-match presentations. “Experiences like this, particularly with a World Cup around the corner, are just so valuable to the team.

“I think we learn more about both sides when they get put a little bit more pressure,” he added. “Today was a fine example of that. Both teams gave it absolutely everything and left everything on the field, but in all honesty, I thought in all three departments today we could make up more than that.”

Speaking on Sky Sports, Morgan went into greater detail. “We were always in a commanding position, and we never really looked flustered until Ngidi came on in the 18th over and then turned the game on its head,” he said. “Even in a position of needing seven off the last over, with new guys coming in, we expected to win that game, but it’s a great game to play in because you get a feel for where guys are at, what skill level they can produce, and how their temperament is. So in terms of actually improving [our team], I think it’s great for us.”

Whereas England went into the 50-over World Cup as a battle-hardened outfit that had risen to No.1 in the world over the course of four years of success, the T20 World Cup offers fewer opportunities for such team development due to the dearth of bilateral T20Is. Nevertheless, Morgan pointed out that the core of the squad still remembered the sickening circumstances of their final-over loss in Kolkata in the 2016 event, and he backed the class of 2020 to arrive in Australia well placed to go one better.

“In any given any circumstance, you’ve got to have the mindset of trying to win the game and trying to be as effective as you can,” he said. “You can say [this defeat] doesn’t really matter, but I actually think it does, because when you put in performances, it gives you a huge amount of confidence, and on the back of that confidence you win games of cricket.

ALSO READ: Ngidi holds nerve as England collapse to one-run defeat

“Looking back on the 2016 T20 World Cup, we were beaten in the final in a dramatic fashion, but we took a lot of confidence from that tournament because we went into it as a bit of an afterthought, and learnt as much as we could. This time around, [if we learn these lessons], we’ll be in a better position to counter anything that happens.”

On this latest occasion, Morgan himself seemed to have broken the back of the run-chase in East London with a flurry of two fours and a six to bring the requirement down to a run a ball. But he holed out to deep midwicket off the final ball of the 19th over to give South Africa an opening.

“With all the games I’ve played and the experience I have, I would have liked to seen it through and I didn’t manage to do that,” he said. “But the more games I play, the more I back myself to be there at the end. I’ll still continue with the method that I play and hopefully contribute to some more wins.

“But for the last few years I’ve been really enjoying my cricket, and the majority of that is down to the guys I play with,” he added. “They are a great bunch of guys, and we’re learning a huge amount from each other. The backroom staff contributes huge amounts, they are always provoking thoughts and are very inquisitive, so it’s been thoroughly enjoyable.

“One of the big things in our change room is that we learn quite quickly from each other,” he added. “We’re very open and there’s no massive egos around. It’s okay for guys to say ‘I struggled today, what did you look to do, and how were you effective? Teach me.’

“There will be a bit of a look back at the footage in the next 24 hours, but full credit to South Africa, they clawed their way back into a game that I thought we should have easily won, but we didn’t, so fair play. We’re going to have to try and negate Ngidi’s slower ball because it was very effective on this wicket.”

Morgan confirmed that England would continue to play their strongest available XI for the remainder of the series – unlike the mix-and-match approach they took to the ODIs – as they continue to fine-tune their plans before October.

“We want guys to get absolute clarity in their positions, particularly from one to seven,” he said. “In the middle, at the end, in the Powerplay, whatever the circumstance might be … we want guys to feel as comfortable as they can. And to be exposed a little bit as well.”



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Scheduling clashes set to reduce overseas player availability for the Hundred

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More than half of the overseas players in the inaugural season of the Hundred could require replacements for part of the competition due to availability clashes, after Cricket Australia confirmed that players selected for a rescheduled ODI series against Zimbabwe will be required to leave the tournament early for a training camp.

Ten Australians were picked up in October’s draft, including six top-band £125,000 picks: Aaron Finch (Northern Superchargers), Glenn Maxwell (London Spirit), D’Arcy Short (Trent Rockets), Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc (both Welsh Fire), and David Warner (Southern Brave). Australia used their most recent series involving Zimbabwe – a T20I tri-series in 2018 – to try out fringe players, and their selectors could take the view that pulling players out of a short-form competition soon before a T20 World Cup is counter-intuitive.

ALSO READ: The Hundred draft – full squad lists

But with England, West Indies, South Africa, New Zealand and Pakistan all playing international fixtures during the competition itself, it is likely replacement players will be a regular feature. The situation could have been even worse but for the cancellation of Ireland’s planned T20I series against Afghanistan, which was initially expected to clash with the end of tournament and thus rule Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Qais Ahmad out of the final few group games.

While the exact dynamics of the replacement process are unconfirmed, replacement players are initially set to be chosen from the pool of players unsold in the player draft, meaning Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Lasith Malinga could yet appear in the competition.

Domestic players without a Test central contract will also be replaced in the event of international selection. For example, if Ollie Pope is selected for England’s series against Pakistan, Southern Brave will be able to sign a replacement non-overseas player for the games that he misses in the second half of the tournament.

That could cause a headache for counties, who could face losing players from their One-Day Cup campaign at the last minute. Each Hundred team will pick one ‘wildcard’ player immediately after the Vitality Blast group stage to add to their squad, so counties could lose a handful of key players with little notice before the start of the 50-over competition in July.

Australia’s three-match series at home to Zimbabwe had initially been scheduled for mid-June, but has now been rescheduled for August. Dates remain unconfirmed, but players will be required to attend a training camp in Brisbane from August 4. While the ECB will hope that Starc, Smith and Warner are not pulled out of their new competition, the fact that the fixtures form part of the new ODI Super League could mean that Australia are unwilling to take them lightly.

Anticipated overseas player availability by team (as of February 12, 2020):

Trent Rockets:
Rashid Khan – available throughout
D’Arcy Short – will miss final three group games if named in Australia ODI squad
Nathan Coulter-Nile – will miss final three group games if named in Australia ODI squad

Southern Brave:
Andre Russell – will miss at least three group games if named in West Indies T20I squads
David Warner – will miss final three group games if named in Australia ODI squad
Shadab Khan – will miss majority of tournament if named in Pakistan Test squad

Northern Superchargers:
Aaron Finch – will miss final two group games if named in Australia ODI squad
Mujeeb Ur Rahman – available throughout
Chris Lynn – will miss final two group games if named in Australia ODI squad

Welsh Fire:
Mitchell Starc – will miss final three group games if named in Australia ODI squad
Steve Smith – will miss final three group games if named in Australia ODI squad
Qais Ahmad – available throughout

Oval Invincibles:
Sunil Narine – will miss at least three group games if named in West Indies T20I squads
Sandeep Lamichhane – available throughout
Fabian Allen – will miss at least three group games if named in West Indies T20I squads

Manchester Originals:
Imran Tahir – will miss final group game if named in South Africa T20I squads
Dan Christian – available throughout (last played international cricket in 2017)
Mitchell Santner – will miss first group game if named in New Zealand T20I squad

London Spirit:
Glenn Maxwell – will miss final three group games if named in Australia ODI squad
Mohammad Nabi – available throughout
Mohammad Amir – available throughout (retired from Test cricket)

Birmingham Phoenix:
Kane Williamson – will miss first two group games if named in New Zealand T20I squad
Shaheen Afridi – will miss majority of tournament if named in Pakistan Test squad
Adam Zampa – will miss final three group games if named in Australia ODI squad



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