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CSA calls off Pakistan tour citing players’ workload

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South Africa have withdrawn their interest from touring Pakistan for three T20Is considering their players’ workload following the India tour next month. The proposed tour will be rescheduled later after both boards find a new window this year.

South Africa’s tour to Pakistan was mainly facing logistical challenges and CSA was planning to send a security delegation to Pakistan next months during the PSL to assess security arrangements. As South Africa end their tour to India of three ODIs on March 18, the PCB intended to make them stay in Dubai – with the PSL ending on March 22 – and then fly them directly to Islamabad for the three T20Is in Rawalpindi.

South Africa are currently hosting England for T20Is with the tour ending on Sunday after four Tests, three ODIs and three T20Is. Within five days after the last game against England, they will host Australia for three T20Is and as many ODIs, stretching the last game to March 7. They have to then fly to India and play three ODIs starting March 12.

With the IPL expected to begin on March 28, fitting in three more white-ball games in Pakistan in a span of two weeks would have made it hectic for South Africa this year.

However, South Africa have not been the busiest team since the World Cup last year. They have played 13 matches across formats since then, 10th on the list among teams that play the three formats.

More to follow…



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Fantasy Picks: Alyssa Healy as captain, but don’t ignore the Sri Lanka allrounders

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February 24: T20 World Cup – Australia v Sri Lanka, Perth

Our XI: Hasini Perera, Chamari Atapattu, Alyssa Healy, Beth Mooney, Meg Lanning, Rachael Haynes, Ellyse Perry, Shashikala Siriwardene, Jess Jonassen, Ashleigh Gardner, Udeshika Prabodhani

Captain: Alyssa Healy

Healy, in her last three T20Is against Sri Lanka, has scored a staggering 212 runs in 97 balls. She also recorded the highest individual score in women’s T20Is (148*) against the opposition. Overall, Healy averages 74.66 and has a strike rate of 201.80 against Sri Lanka. She can get you points behind the stumps as well, making her the best captain choice, especially now that she is back in form.

Vice-captain: Beth Mooney

Since 2019, Mooney has scored the most runs (470 runs at a strike rate of 125.33) for Australia in T20Is. She has a terrific record against Sri Lanka in the format too – 184 runs at an average of 92 and a strike rate of 146 in four innings.

Hot Picks

Chamari Atapattu: Atapattu has scored 462 runs as an opener in T20Is since 2018, the most by a Sri Lankan. She has had a great couple of warm-up games as well, in which she scored 79 runs and picked up five wickets. Atapattu also scored a 30-ball 41 and picked up a wicket against New Zealand in their first game.

Meg Lanning: The Australia skipper is a middle-order superstar. Since 2018, no Australian middle-order batter (Nos. 3 to 5) has scored more runs (731) than her in T20Is. Lanning also has the highest average (52.21) for any middle-order batter with over 200 runs since 2018 in the format.

Rachael Haynes: She is a crisis manager for her team. For a middle-order batter, she has a healthy average of 25.86 and a strike rate of 117.35, and the last time she faced Sri Lanka in the format, she scored a 37-ball 41.

Value Picks

Shashikala Siriwardene: A bowling allrounder who bats in the middle-order, Siriwardene is probably the most important player in the Sri Lankan line-up after the captain. Her economy in T20Is is commendable for a fingerspinner (5.76) and she must be high on confidence after the four-for against England in the warm-up fixture.

Udeshika Prabodhani: Prabodhani has picked up 13 wickets in T20Is since 2017 – second-highest by a medium-pacer for Sri Lanka in the period – at an economy rate of 5.95. Her ability to swing the ball upfront and pick up wickets make her a valuable pick.

Points to note

  • In T20Is since 2017, Australia have scored at 7.67 runs per over against spin and 7.88 against pace.

  • Australia have faced Sri Lanka in the format five times and have won on all occasions, so it makes sense to have more Australians.



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R Ashwin hopes to get back to batting more instinctively

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At the end of 2016, R Ashwin had the batting record of a genuine allrounder: 1816 runs in 44 Tests at an average of 34.92, with four hundreds and ten fifties.

Since then, however, his batting returns have plummeted. In the 27 Tests he’s played since the start of 2017, he averages 17.78, and he’s only scored one half-century in that time.

Ashwin’s decline as a Test-match batting force has coincided with the rise of Ravindra Jadeja, who averages nearly 50 in that timespan. While Ashwin has largely remained India’s No. 1 Test spinner, he has occasionally lost out to Jadeja when they’ve played just one spinner overseas, and their contrasting batting form has been a factor when this has happened.

Ashwin has shown a tendency to tinker frequently with his set-up at the crease, and it’s hard to say if it’s a cause or a consequence of his declining run output. He admits, though, that his mindset at the crease has grown more circumspect, and that he wants to get back to batting more instinctively.

“In the past, the only secret to how I have got runs or how I was successful was by looking to be positive and that’s exactly how I played,” Ashwin said in his press conference after day three of the Wellington Test against New Zealand. “I personally feel I have been a little too watchful and a little too worried about getting out in the recent past.

“That’s something I have tried getting over even in the games that I have played at home. Hopefully I will try and put it to rest. Just see [the ball] and hit it. Far too much going in the head won’t work.”

Ashwin, preferred to Jadeja in this game, picked up three wickets in New Zealand’s first innings. He got the ball to drift during his spells from both ends, but it wasn’t easy to say if he did this with the help of the strong wind blowing across the Basin Reserve or despite it.

“Look, I am not the lightest but the wind was actually pushing me across, so it must be of significance,” Ashwin said. “Both days, from both ends, I have had to bowl from wherever the breeze has come against me. That has been pretty much my role in the game, but I thought personally the breeze was something that was way more than what a spinner would like, and I couldn’t really take benefit out of it.

“So I had to adjust and try see what I can best get out of what was available. I actually quite enjoyed the way I bowled in this [innings] and I personally thought the fourth innings might fetch a little bit more from the surface but we will have to wait and see how it goes.”

While Ashwin made some of New Zealand’s top-order batsmen look uncomfortable – Tom Blundell and Henry Nicholls, in particular – Kane Williamson didn’t allow him to settle, jumping onto the back foot at every opportunity and punching him against the turn, through the covers. Eventually, he placed a fielder in an unusual position for this shot, a deepish extra-cover two-thirds of the way to the boundary. He used that fielder against Colin de Grandhomme as well.

“I played India A games here [in New Zealand] and generally these guys, I think in terms of trying to use natural conditions and resources in their favour, this team is probably the best, because they are faced with it more often than not – heavy breeze and whatnot,” Ashwin said. “And they tend to hit [with] the breeze rather than actually doing anything else.

“If you look at Kane Williamson’s wagon wheel, I would have put [the deepish extra-cover fielder] right from the first ball if it was up to me, because Kane Williamson against an offspinner has always looked to hit through covers. He has not cut the ball and he doesn’t step out much either. Colin de Grandhomme, likewise, [played that shot against Australia’s] Nathan Lyon even from the rough.”

“They [New Zealand] really understand these conditions very well and use it to their advantage. They try and hit it with the breeze, they know what works and what doesn’t.”

R Ashwin

When New Zealand lost their seventh wicket, they were only 60 runs ahead of India’s first-innings total, but their last three wickets widened the gulf significantly, adding 123 runs to the home team’s total. India have come up against other frustrating lower-order stands as well, in the recent past, particularly overseas, with Sam Curran playing a hugely influential role in England’s series victory against them in 2018.

“I think sometimes we pay too much importance to saying we need to bowl out teams far quicker, and I am not saying we shouldn’t,” Ashwin said. “But batsmen don’t get out [easily] anymore. Lower-order batters do put a price on their wickets. If you were on two wickets [with only the lower order left] say 20-25 years ago, you would probably end up with a five-for.

“[Kyle] Jamieson has got a couple of first-class hundreds if I am not wrong (he has none, but scored a century against a touring English side in a warm-up match in 2018) and [Ajaz] Patel, he can bat as well. [Trent] Boult batted really well. You’ve got to give credit where it is due. Like I said, they really understand these conditions very well and use it to their advantage. They try and hit it with the breeze, they know what works and what doesn’t. That’s something we should quickly learn from them and try and compete with them.”

At stumps on day three, India were four down, needing a further 39 runs to make New Zealand bat again. The odds are stacked against India, but they have a reasonably set pair of batsmen at the crease in Ajinkya Rahane and Hanuma Vihari, with some batting ability to follow in Rishabh Pant and Ashwin.

“I think we are not yet in a stage of the game where, from our perspective in the dressing room, we can look at it very far,” Ashwin said. “We will have to take it per session, per hour, or however [large] a target we can set, the better it is for us.

“It’s about getting away the morning session tomorrow. Since there’s so much time in the game, it’s very difficult to say what might happen, what we might foresee. It’s important to stay in the moment and continue the way [Rahane and Vihari] are batting. They are set and they know what the wicket is like, so we will look to cash in tomorrow morning once again.”



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Recent Match Report – England Women vs South Africa Women, ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, 4th Match, Group B

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South Africa 4 for 127 beat England 8 for 123 (Sciver 50, Khaka 3-25) by six wickets

In her 100th T20I, Mignon du Preez struck back-to-back boundaries in the final over as South Africa held their nerve to secure just a third victory over England in the format in what could be a very significant result early in the World Cup.

It was a thrilling end to a chase that South Africa won and lost on multiple occasions in the closing stages before it came down to needing nine off the last over bowled by Katherine Brunt. The first two balls went for singles before du Preez swung a six over fine leg then clubbed the boundary that set off wild South African celebrations.

The bulk of the chase was put together by a stand of 84 between captain Dane van Niekerk and Marizanne Kapp but both fell in the space if five balls as England threatened to turn it around.

However, it was with the bat where England really let themselves down as they labored to a total that, while not that far from being enough to win, was an unconvincing way to start their tournament except for Nat Sciver‘s half-century. South Africa, though, were outstanding with the ball and, in the end, it did not go waste.

A dramatic final five

South Africa needed 34 off 28 balls when England hauled themselves back into the match through their spin twins Sophie Ecclestone and Sarah Glenn. Glenn had Kapp caught and bowled and in the next over, without a run added, the pressure told on van Niekerk as she sliced Ecclestone to point. England squeezed to such an extent that the target blew out to 33 off 18 balls. The 18th over, from Sciver, went for 14 to reignite South Africa’s hopes and when Chloe Tryon, who had struggled to middle the ball, cleared the fence off Ecclestone it came down to nine off eight. Amy Jones then missed a stumping chance only for Ecclestone to spear one through Tryon (who would have been lbw without scoring had England reviewed in the 17th over) meaning Brunt had nine to defend in the last. The third ball of the over was dropped short enough for du Preez to get far enough underneath it to clear the rope. Finally, that was the game.

Allrounders stand tall

Although for a moment it appeared their fine work would come to nothing, Kapp and van Niekerk had outstanding days. Kapp got South Africa up and running by ending a lively start from Jones in an exceptional display which included 12 dot balls across her four overs. With the bat she produced the best shot of the match when she drove Brunt off the back through the off side on the final ball of the powerplay. van Niekerk had gone for just five an over in four overs, without conceding a boundary, and claimed the key wicket of the in-form Heather Knight. While her innings was never quite at the tempo to emphatically put the chase to bed, she twice sent Anya Shrubsole for six and at the end of the contest could reflect on one of the better wins of her captaincy career.

Pace and variety

Shabnim Ismail only managed one wicket, when Brunt carved to third man, but her performance was another reminder of the priceless commodity of pace she brings to the South Africa attack. She clocked in at 125kph and regularly pushed 120kph, forcing the England batters back in their crease. As a whole, South Africa’s attack was always offering something different to contend with. It was a surprise to see left-arm spinner Nonkulueko Mlaba bowl the first over – and it cost nine as Jones started positively – but although she was the most expensive there wasn’t a weak link, to the extent that Sune Luus wasn’t even required.

Sciver salvages England

For a significant part of her innings, Sciver found the going as tricky as the rest of the England batting but crucially fought through and was there to catch up towards the end. From having 24 off 29 balls, she then collected 26 off her next 12 balls which included the lone six of the innings when she deposited Mlaba over wide long-on. She also brought out the scoop – a shot favoured by a few of the England batters – and her half-century came up off 40 balls. However, she was defeated by an excellent slower ball from Khaka which prevented her taking advantage of the final two overs. In a match of such fine margins, that could well have proved crucial.



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