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South Zone battle to a draw after mistaken early declaration



South Zone escaped with a draw against Central Zone to book a place in the Bangladesh Cricket League final. They will now take on East Zone to have a shot at their fifth title, and third in a row, in the five-day final at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, in Chattogram from February 22.

South Zone, who had erroneously declared their first innings on 114 for 4 – 121 runs behind Central Zone’s 235 all out – in a bid to deprive them of a bowling bonus point, had to bat out the final day and a half in Cox’s Bazar to ensure that they at least drew the game. South Zone had thought they would deprive Central Zone from getting points for taking five wickets, which led to the declaration. However, when Central Zone took a massive lead, South Zone ended up having to bat for 144 overs to draw the game, since a loss would have not only given Central Zone more points, but also an additional bonus point for having won two matches in a row.

After Shamsur Rahman made 133 and Anamul Haque and Nasum Ahmed got out in the eighties, it was down to the last pair of Farhad Reza and Shafiul Islam to bat out the remaining 9.4 overs to ensure survival. South Zone finished on 386 for 9 in 144 overs, with Shamsur hitting 18 fours and a six in his 230-ball innings.

After South Zone’s declaration on the first day, Najmul Hossain Shanto struck his maiden double-century to give Central Zone a massive 506-run lead. Shanto made an unbeaten 253 off 310 balls, with 25 fours and nine sixes. The match also saw Marshall Ayub reach 8,000 first-class runs during his 116 on the first day.

At the ground next door, Mushfiqur Rahim struck his eleventh first-class hundred but couldn’t prevent East Zone from beating North Zone by eight wickets.

Batting first, North Zone were restricted to 272 runs with Nayeem Hasan taking 8 for 107, the second eight-wicket haul in an innings in his first-class career. Yasir Ali‘s 165 then gave East Zone a 59-run lead, and perhaps won him a place in the Bangladesh side for the upcoming one-off Test against Zimbabwe.

Left-arm spinner Sunzamul Islam took 7 for 115, the fifth time he has taken seven or more wickets in an innings. North Zone were then bowled out for 269 runs, with Nayeem taking a second five-for, which gave him his best match bowling figures of 13 for 208.

Yasir then struck a second century on the fourth day, taking his team to a comfortable victory.

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Chandrakant Pandit moves from Vidarbha to MP as head coach



Chandrakant Pandit, the former India player and one of the most successful coaches in Indian domestic cricket, has decided to move from Vidarbha to Madhya Pradesh for the 2020-21 season. Pandit had coached Vidarbha to back-to-back triumphs in the Ranji Trophy and Irani Trophy in 2017-18 and 2018-19, having earlier achieved Ranji Trophy success with Mumbai too.

Pandit, who has also been in charge of Maharashtra and Kerala in the past, said he would always have fond memories of his time with Vidarbha and the support he received from the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA), but it was time for him to embrace a new challenge.

“I have coached Vidarbha for three years. Normally I always do my coaching stints for two years or three years. The idea is to always move forward. It’s good to take a new challenge,” Pandit told ESPNcricinfo. “There is no doubt I was very happy with Vidarbha – the way the team has played, the way I got support from the association. From Prashant Vaidya (VCA vice-president and chairman of the cricket development committee) and Anand Jaiswal (VCA president). So it is not anything else, but just to move forward and take a new challenge. I was very happy with Vidarbha. I respect the support I received, and that will always be part of my life.

“I had played for MP for six years in the past. So when they contacted, I accepted. Because I was not going to continue with Vidarbha. It was purely my call, nothing untoward (had happened).”

This year, MP were coached by Abbas Ali – the grandson of Mushtaq Ali – with Devendra Bundela being the batting coach and Harvinder Singh Sodhi, who has been the coach of the team previously, doubling up as bowling coach and manager.

An official with the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association said that it was too early to take a call on whether any of last season’s coaches would continue to be with the team, but confirmed that Pandit had been given a letter of intent to be the MP coach from next season. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown in India, Pandit has not been able to sign the contract formally yet.

ALSO READ: Chandrakant Pandit: Less of a general, more of a 12th man

“We’ll have to wait till things improve definitely,” Pandit acknowledged. “Ultimately it’s for the good of everyone (staying indoors for now). We have to take care of that. I’ll definitely be contacting players and drawing up plans. It’s like people who are working from home, I’ll have to do that for now till things get better. I’ll have to start planning for the MP team. Though I may not be able to get in touch with the players personally, but definitely, communication with the association, the secretary is there. I can put forward my plans so they can be ready with that. I’ve been talking to them and they have already told me that let things get better and then we’ll start. At the same time I’ll be trying to figure out what are the things I can do.”

Pandit’s departure from Vidarbha comes on the heels of Wasim Jaffer also announcing his retirement, leaving a bit of a void in terms of experience in the Vidarbha think-tank. Pandit, however, was confident that the processes put in place would hold the team in good stead.

“See whatever we have done in the last three years, we have developed a good, young team,” he said. “There was very healthy competition created. So I hope they maintain that and continue it. I’m sure the young boys coming through – the Under-23 side has won the CK Nayudu Trophy – they will be able to take it forward with whoever takes charge.

Vidarbha had come into this Ranji Trophy season as double defending champions, but although they began well, they faltered midway through, and ended up finishing seventh on the combined Groups A and B table, where only the top five teams make it to the quarter-finals. A loss against Delhi in the middle of the season hurt them particularly. Vidarbha declared on 330 for 3, with the lead being 347, to set Delhi a steep chase. It was a declaration made with the intent of going for full points rather than playing safe and getting only first-innings lead points, but Delhi had an inspired fourth-innings chase led by Nitish Rana’s 105* off 68 balls and they hunted down the target.

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South Africa faces shorter domestic season as CSA looks to cut costs | Cricket



CSA acting chief executive Jacques Faul © Getty Images

South African domestic cricket will face a slightly shorter 2020-21 season with a reduction of fixtures for the franchise competition as Cricket South Africa seeks to cut costs following a tough 12 months. The organisation is forecasting losses of millions of Rands after sponsor withdrawal, an inability to sell two editions’ worth of broadcast rights for the Mzansi Super League (MSL) and loss-making incoming tours in the 2018-19 summer and the pinch is being felt in the local game, which depends on CSA finances to operate.

The two-tier system, of six franchise teams and 15 provincial affiliates, will remain in place with fewer matches and discussions on a possible restructure ahead of the 2021-22 season are ongoing while flagship T20 competition, the MSL is likely to continue, but may also see a curtailed fixture list.

CSA, while still under suspended CEO Thabang Moroe, had initially planned to eliminate the franchise set-up for the 2020-21 season and create a domestic system of 12 teams. The South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) challenged that motion in court, claiming they were not consulted about the changes and that around 70 players would lose their jobs.

The matter dragged on for several months during which time Moroe was temporarily succeeded by Dr Jacques Faul, who was able to re-engage SACA. On agreement that the domestic structure would be retained for the coming summer, SCA withdrew legal action against CSA and the two parties remain in discussions about the best way to structure domestic cricket.

For the 2020-21 season, the status quo largely remains. The six franchise will play a four-day first-class and fifty-over competition while the provincial teams will play three-day cricket, which will also be classified as first-class for all teams apart from Mpumalanga and Limpopo, and a fifty-over one-day competition.

However, instead of each franchise playing 10 first-class and 10 fifty-over matches per season (home and away games against each of the other five teams) as was the case in previous seasons, they will be divided into two groups of three and will play seven matches each. This will include home and away matches against each of the teams in their own group, for a total of four matches, and only one match against the three teams in the other group.

Both competitions will be decided by a playoff match between the top two teams in each group to decide the title. Previously, the first-class competition trophy was awarded to the team at the top of the points’ table after all 10 rounds of competition, or eight in the case of this season, with the final two rounds suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. The reduction of fixtures will enable CSA to save money on transport and accommodation costs, which is particularly important in the case of the first-class competition that has been without a sponsor for two seasons.

The provincial teams remain divided into two groups of eight and seven teams and will play a single round of fixtures. They will also feature in a new 40-over knockout competition which will include the 15 provinces and the South African under-19 side. While there is no T20 competition at the provincial level, CSA will introduce a Super Club T20 competition which will be contested by the top six university teams and three teams from the community cup.

South Africa’s domestic season is expected to start in September and squad and fixture lists are currently being planned. Although all cricket in the country was put on hold for 60 days last week as a response to Covid-19, CSA is hopeful that play will be possible when the summer starts, in about six months’ time. There have already been some significant player signings with Cobras’ quick Thando Ntini moving upcountry to the Titans and white-ball international Lutho Sipamla leaving the Warriors for the Lions. Final squads are expected to be released by the end of the month.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Lions and Dolphins crowned domestic champions on Graeme Smith’s recommendation



The Lions and Dolphins have been crowned champions of South Africa’s first-class and the one-day competition respectively after both events were suspended as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The two franchises each finished at the top of the points’ tables of the respective competition and acting director of cricket, Graeme Smith, recommended the titles be awarded based on log-standings.

His suggestion was endorsed by CSA’s board and member’s council, a body made of the 13 provincial presidents. That means the only franchise competition which ran to conclusion in the 2019/20 summer was the Mzansi Super League (MSL), a twenty-over tournament which was won by the Paarl Rocks.

But, the fate of the MSL remains unclear, after CSA were unable to sell television rights for the first two editions of the tournament and footed the full bill, amounting to approximately R120 million (US$6.8 million) per year. ESPNcricinfo understands that the MSL is unlikely to take place if it continues to be a drain on CSA finances and that talks are ongoing in the current off-season to decide on the next steps.

So too is the search for sponsors after the country’s flagship four-day competition took place without a corporate backer for the second season in succession. Eight out of the 10 rounds of matches were played this season and the Johannesburg-based Lions remain champions of the format, despite losing their head coach Enoch Nkwe to the national side in September 2019.

Nkwe, who now works as South Africa’s assistant coach, was succeeded by Wandile Gwazu at the Lions, who has enjoyed a successful first season. His team won four of their eight matches, double the number of victories of any other franchise, and finished 8.46 points above their neighbours, the Titans.

The one-day cup, which was scheduled to have playoffs last week and the final at the weekend, finished before it reached the crunch stage. The Dolphins were on top with seven out of 10 victories. Their successful campaign also came under a new coach with one-time Test opener Imraan Khan in charge for the first time. They will be awarded 40% of the prize money, sponsored by financial services company Momentum, with the rest split 30-15-15 between the other three teams who would have played in the semi-finals, the Lions, Warriors and Knights.

At provincial level, the first-class three-day competition and provincial one-day cup titles have been awarded jointly to the two teams that finished on top of the respective pools. Easterns (Pool A) and Kwa-Zulu Natal (Pool B) share the three-day cup and Free State (Pool A) and Northern Cape are joint one-day cup winners. Easterns, however, did not actually end the season on top of the table but played one fewer match than their rivals and earned the victory through an average points calculation.

“This is undoubtedly the fairest way to decide the various winners, Smith said. “In the provincial competitions where some teams have played more games than others, we have taken the average number of points per game to decide on final log positions.”

The women’s provincial T20 league was won by Western Province, who finished on top of the “Top 6,” group with seven victories from eight matches. They missed out on the fifty-over competition title by one point, after finishing behind North West, who claimed the cup.

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