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Mitchell Marsh joins Middlesex for 2020 Blast

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Middlesex have signed Australia allrounder Mitchell Marsh as one of their overseas players for this year’s Vitality Blast. Marsh is expected to be available for the duration of the competition, including the knockout stages if Middlesex qualify.

Marsh enjoyed a productive 2019-20 Big Bash League, scoring 382 runs in 14 games at a strike rate of 145.24, and subsequently being recalled to the Australia T20I set-up for their tour of South Africa. He has also featured for three different teams in the IPL, but this will be his first Blast stint.

Middlesex reached the Blast quarter-finals last year and have retained Afghanistan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman, but Marsh’s signing means that AB de Villiers will not be returning.

“It’s great to have Mitch with us for the Blast this season,” Middlesex’s head coach, Stuart Law, said. “The experience he’s had in different T20 competitions around the world will be a real plus for our dressing room.

“Mitch is a hard-hitting batsman, steady medium fast bowler and athletic in the field. I’m looking forward to seeing the big man contribute to our season in a positive way. As a tremendous team man and such a loveable character, I’m sure he’ll fit in well with our group.”

Marsh, 28, has plenty of experience of playing in England, as part of two Ashes tours and also during the 2013 Champions Trophy. He was due to play county cricket in 2018, having signed for Surrey, but had to pull out of the deal in order to undergo ankle surgery.

“I’m very excited to play for Middlesex in this year’s Vitality Blast,” Marsh said. “The opportunity to play at this great club with an exciting list of players is something I’m very proud of and hopefully we can play some great cricket and entertain the fans along the way.”



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Darren Gough, Wasim Akram join charity fundraising efforts

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Wasim Akram and Darren Gough are among the latest cricketing personalities attempting to combat the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pair have both promised items of memorabilia to be auctioned on behalf of the Centre for Disaster Philanthropy who have set up a COVID-19 Response Fund.

Akram, Pakistan’s highest wicket-taker in both Test and ODI cricket, has pledged a signed bat and ball while Gough, England’s second-highest wicket-taker in ODI cricket, has pledged a signed ball.

Stars from other sports involved in the fundraising include Jack Nicklaus, Mike Tyson, Nick Faldo, Rory McIlroy, Martina Hingis, Stephen Curry, Michael Phelps and Rose Lavelle. To enter the competition, visit athletesrelief.org

Akram and Gough join a long list of cricketers who have made charitable efforts to help out during the crisis, including Jos Buttler, who is auctioning the shirt he was wearing when England won the World Cup.

Ravi Bopara has offered free chicken from his restaurant in London to NHS staff, the umpire Aleem Dar has offered free food from his restaurant in Lahore to those who have lost their jobs, and Kent’s Sam Billings has offered to shop for vulnerable people in his area.

England women’s captain Heather Knight and the Surrey allrounder Rikki Clarke and are among those to have signed up as NHS volunteers, while Sam Curran has launched a fundraising campaign.



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‘Scheduling clashes’ force West Indies Under-19s tour of England to be postponed

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West Indies Under-19s’ tour of the UK, slated to run from August 16 to September 3, has been postponed due to “scheduling clashes”. The initial schedule had included one T20, three List A games and two youth Tests.

“The situation is an unfortunate one as we had planned for the tour to be the end of a two-year development cycle for this group of U-19 players,” Jimmy Adams, CWI’s director of cricket, said. “This tour to the UK, added to the recent World Cup in January, and the tri-series that we hosted in December of last year would have given this cohort an excellent competitive component to cap their two-year U19 program.

ALSO READ: ECB draws up COVID-19 contingency plans

“That said, we will continue to follow up on the cohort, especially those not contracted to franchises, through our Emerging Player program, which has so far facilitated many of our upcoming players who fall in the 19-23 category. Thankfully, while the tour to the UK will not proceed [sic] this year, the ECB are committed to hosting our U-19s at a mutually convenient time in the future.”

Mo Bobat, the ECB’s performance director, said it was the right decision to postpone the tour in the “current climate”. The COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic has brought sport to a standstill across the world, but the ECB hopes to salvage something from the 2020 summer.



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Two small windows to reschedule PSL 2020 knockouts – Wasim Khan

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Wasim Khan has said that the PCB’s “first point of call” is to ensure that the knockout stages of the 2020 PSL can be played at some point, following speculation that Multan Sultans might be awarded the trophy after topping the group stage.

Speaking to ESPNcricinfo’s Stump Mic podcast, Wasim, the PCB’s chief executive, said that the fifth edition of the competition had been a “resounding success” and that the board has identified two possible windows for the knockout stages of the competition to be played later in the year, after the tournament was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, Multan Sultans co-owner Ali Khan Tareen tweeted that it would be “ridiculous” for his franchise to be handed the trophy, and that the knockouts should be rescheduled for later in the year “so our local players get more opportunities to shine”.

Last week, franchise owners seemed divided upon the issue, with Multan’s other co-owner Alamgir Tareen urging the PSL not to reschedule the unplayed fixtures but stakeholders in the other semi-finalists – Lahore Qalandars, Karachi Kings and Peshawar Zalmi – hoping a window could be found for the games to be played.

“We’re currently looking at when we can reschedule the remaining matches to be played, and we’re confident we’ll get those done at the back end of the year, subject to obviously all things going well,” Wasim said.

“From our point of view, the first point of call is to try and ensure that we get the remaining matches played. There are two small windows that we have identified at the back end of the year.

“Ideally, you probably need no more than three or four days. So we’re just working that out. We’re going to be taking the views of the franchise owners into it, get their views on it, look at what potential format we can play.

“If you remember, initially it was based on qualifiers, eliminators and then the final, and then we moved to semi-finals and a final based on the shorter window because of safety reasons around the coronavirus. We are looking at that, and we are confident that we can get that done.”

Elsewhere, domestic competitions have been abandoned early, with the team topping the table awarded the trophy: New South Wales were declared Sheffield Shield winners, Weillington were given the Plunket Shield title, while Lions and Dolphins were named as first-class and one-day winners in South Africa.

But Wasim pushed back against the idea that Multan, who topped the group stage with 14 points, should be given the trophy.

“There’s no fun, right, in just handing it over to Multan Sultans at the moment? Although they’ll probably be pushing for that. Our first point of call is to make that happen.

“If it can’t happen then as other leagues around the world have done is to then declare a winner. Them [Multan] being on top, that would probably be the case.”

While Alamgir Tareen had pushed back against the idea of playing a knockout stage, saying he did not consider it to be “practical”, Ali Khan Tareen tweeted that he had “differing views on the way forward” to his co-owner.

“Finishing at No.1 means we were the most dominant/consistent team, but it doesn’t mean we won,” he tweeted. “It would be ridiculous for the PCB to just give us the trophy. All 4 teams have the same chance of winning. Trophies should be won, not given.

“And as I’ve always said, trophies are not important. Helping players develop, giving them a platform and watching them excel is so much more rewarding. So that’s why I want the remaining games to be played later in the year so our local players get more opportunities to shine.”

While the destination of the trophy remains unclear, Wasim said that the PSL’s first full season in Pakistan had been a “massive, massive success”.

“For the first time we’d brought the whole of the PSL back to Pakistan. It was a huge undertaking to do that, and to see close to 600,000 fans turn up at four venues across 26 matches… for us, that was a huge success. The PCB staff worked day and night to make that happen.

“Despite the fact we had to postpone at the semi-final stage, we felt it was a massive, massive success, particularly based off the feedback we’ve had from round the world.”



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