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

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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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Former New Zealand batsman Daniel Flynn announces retirement

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Daniel Flynn, the former New Zealand and Northern Districts left-hand batsman, has called time on his 16-year-long career, at age 34.

In an international career spanning a little over five years, Flynn played 24 Tests, 20 ODIs, and five T20Is, making a combined 1325 runs, including six half-centuries. He batted almost three hours in the second innings of his debut Test at Lord’s, his 118-ball 29 helping New Zealand salvage a draw. The early days of his international career are also remembered for him walking off Old Trafford with a mouthful of blood and two fewer teeth as a result of a vicious James Anderson bouncer that he copped during the opening day’s play. His last international appearance came in July 2013, during a Test match against South Africa where he made a pair.

Flynn played 135 first-class matches and scored 7815 runs, including 21 centuries, at an average of 35.04. He featured in 100 first-class matches for Northern Districts, leading them in 47 of them, aside from making 88 and a record 104 appearances for them in List A and T20 matches respectively. His 20 first-class hundreds for Northern Districts are the most by any batsman from the side.

Reflecting on his career, Flynn said: “Representing your country is the ultimate for any cricketer; it’s what you dream of as a kid, so to have achieved it is something I look back on with immense satisfaction.

“The people I’ve played alongside throughout my career stand out for me; they’re not just good cricketers, but good people, who I’ve learned plenty from both on and off the field.

“Winning trophies for ND alongside these guys was always special, and those are memories that I will never forget.”



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Tony Lewis, of Duckworth-Lewis rain-rules fame, dies aged 78

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Tony Lewis, the former university lecturer whose name will forever be synonymous with cricket’s convoluted Duckworth-Lewis rain rules, has died at the age of 78.

An unlikely star of world cricket, Lewis was propelled to fame in 1999 when his complex formula, devised in conjunction with his fellow mathematician Frank Duckworth, was officially adopted by the ICC to help calculate fair run-chases in the event of overs being lost to rain during that summer’s World Cup.

The impact that the two men had on the sport is best illustrated by the problems that rain delays had caused until they came forward with their algorithmic solution in the mid-1990s. Their calculations may have baffled generations of cricket lovers over the past two decades, but they have been universally recognised as the best solution yet devised to the sport’s most intractable problem.

Whereas first-class cricket, with its acceptance of the draw, had never previously given much thought to engineering results after rain delays, the growth of one-day cricket in the 1970s and 1980s brought with it a need to ensure a satisfactory finish, particularly in key knock-out matches at World Cups.

The sport’s initial solution had been to award victory to the side that had scored the highest average number of runs in the overs played – an approach that took no account of wickets lost. However, the nadir was reached at the 1992 World Cup, when the decision to discount the least productive overs of the team batting first resulted in a string of farcical finishes, most famously in the semi-final between England and South Africa at Sydney, where South Africa’s target was reduced from 22 from 13 balls to 21 from one.

After that, an appeal went out to cricket-loving stattos worldwide, initially via Christopher Martin-Jenkins on Test Match Special – can anyone, anywhere, devise a better solution?

Enter Duckworth, who had unveiled his prototype rain-rule in the 1980s but had been largely ignored on the basis of complexity. However, his subsequent presentation to a Royal Statistical Society conference in 1992, “Fair Play in Foul Weather”, caught the attention of Lewis, then a lecturer in management science at the University of the West of England in Bristol.

The pair began to work together on fine-tuning the calculation, and after finding the then-TCCB newly receptive to the idea, it was first used in a match situation on New Year’s Day 1997, when England were set a revised target of 186 in 42 overs after bowling Zimbabwe out for 200 in the second ODI – they fell short by seven runs.

While there is no simple way to explain the formula’s workings, it essentially treats overs and wickets in hand as “resources” available to a batting side, and makes proportionate adjustments to the target in the event of those resources being lost in rain interruptions.

The formula has not been without its critics, particularly after the advent of T20 cricket, when wickets in hand – a less critical factor in the shorter format – were deemed to have been given too much weight for sides batting second.

In 2014, the name of Steven Stern, an Australian professor, was added to what is now known as the “DLS” method, after he took over the day-to-day running of the formula, and made his own adjustments to reflect modern scoring rates.

Messrs Duckworth and Lewis were awarded MBEs in 2010 for their services to cricket and mathematics, and also lent their name to a cricket-themed pop group, founded in 2009 by Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy and Thomas Walsh of Pugwash.

“‘It is with much sadness that the ECB has learned of the passing of Tony Lewis MBE, aged 78,” read a statement from the board. “Cricket is deeply indebted to both Tony and Frank’s contributions to the sport. We send our sincere condolences to Tony’s family.”



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Eoin Morgan says England players are ‘open to helping in whatever way possible’

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Eoin Morgan has insisted England players are “open to helping in whatever way possible” as the game struggles to come to terms with the challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Morgan, the captain of England’s limited-overs teams, said he was “open to absolutely everything” that might be required to help the game through a crisis that Tom Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive, has warned could cost up to £300m if the entire season is abandoned.

And that help, Morgan said, could include a temporary pay cut. While such a cut has not been forthcoming as yet – Harrison sent an email to the PCA (the players’ union) requesting a voluntary cut on Sunday but revealed on Tuesday that the ECB were no longer seeking such a scenario – Morgan suggested conversations were ongoing.

ALSO READ: PCA stall on ECB request for players’ 20% pay cut

“I’m extremely willing to help where I know it will make a difference,” Morgan said. “So in the extremely uncertain times where no-one seems to have any answers on the actual impact it will have on international cricket or county cricket, I’m open to absolutely everything.”

“As players we are open to helping in whatever way possible. We want to hopefully make an impact. The difficult thing at the moment is to work out what the best way to help out as players is.

“Is it by social media? Is it to engage in other streams, sit back and let this pass and then hopefully play? They are answers we don’t have and can’t have at the moment.

“However, I think in the coming weeks when things become clearer, we can start putting in a strategy to implement. Getting back on the field seems quite a while away.”

Jos Buttler has taken things into his own hands. His offer to sell the shirt he wore in the World Cup final has, at the time of writing, attracted bids in excess of £65,000 with more than six days of the auction remaining. The money will be donated to the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals charity. Morgan was full of praise for Buttler’s generosity.

“It’s an incredibly kind gesture,” he said. “We’ve seen people donate during the Australian bush fires; we saw Shane Warne auction his Baggy Green cap for a million dollars or something absolutely ridiculous.

“The impact that can have on many lives as opposed to sitting in someone’s drawer as a bit of a trophy… personally it’s something I don’t understand.

“People have come out and said they would never do it. Justin Langer said he could never see a situation where he would do something like that but I find that hard to believe.

“Ultimately, when we find ourselves in such a crisis, things like that have absolutely no relevance to what is going on in the outside world. His shirt will go for a lot of money and it should do. But the gesture itself, to help buy new equipment, is absolutely outstanding.

Morgan also confirmed that even if the T20 World Cup is delayed, he intends to play in it. Morgan had considered retirement after England’s 50-over World Cup win in 2019 and had previously committed himself only until the end of the next T20 World Cup, which is scheduled to start in Australia in October.

“I’m looking to play both the next two T20 World Cups,” he said.

The tournament is scheduled to be played in India in October and November 2021.



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