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Pakistan’s return to training hits bio-security snag

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Pakistan’s plans to bring its cricketers out of lockdown and back to training next week has hit a snag with more time needed to prepare a bio-secure environment to ensure player safety.

Players and team management had already been briefed by the PCB’s medical panel about training under a controlled environment. The plan was to bring 25 to 30 athletes to the NCA in Lahore, where they would stay and train in pairs from early June onwards. Next, they would move across the road to Gaddafi stadium for a three-week camp that would include training in larger groups. Finally, those picked for the England tour would fly over in early July.

The problem, however, is that the NCA’s lodging facilities currently have only 21 rooms available, where as many as 40 are needed to implement proper social distancing. Additionally, no one will be allowed to enter or leave the premises.

The PCB remain hopeful of making it work and could look into splitting the camp between two venues. Another issue will be that some of the coaching staff are outside the country, such as bowling coach Waqar Younis is based in Australia and physiotherapist Cliffe Deacon, in South Africa.

The selection committee has finalised a list of probables for the camp but will only admit those who test negative for Covid-19.

The PCB is yet to reach out to the provincial and federal governments for support. But the board did come up with the return-to-training ground rules with help from various medical experts and guidelines put forward by the World Health Organisation.

Dr Sohail Saleem, head of PCB medical panel, has been in touch with the ECB to confirm Standard Operating Procedures on how to run camps in these unprecedented circumstances. The ICC’s guidelines have also been incorporated into these plans, a final draft of which will be submitted to the ICC for review.

All sport in the country has been on hold since March, and most of the cricketers were last active in the PSL. There have been reports of a few centrally contracted players going for nets but the PCB is believed to be unaware of those developments.

There are currently 76,106 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Pakistan and cases are on the rise. Restrictions in the country are starting to ease with Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday announcing the reopening of many businesses and industries, including tourism. However, all contact sports, indoor sports clubs, indoor gyms, indoor sports facilities; sporting tournaments/matches (indoors and outdoors) remain shut. In case the government refuses to allow any sporting activity in the country, then the PCB is likely to request a special permission to ensure the England tour goes ahead.



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Sachin Tendulkar lauds James Anderson’s ‘reverse’ reverse swing

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Fast bowlers are widely known to use three different methods to get the ball to swerve through the air: conventional swing, contrast swing, reverse swing. James Anderson, however, can lay claim to a fourth method: reverse reverse swing.

What’s that?

According to no less an authority than Sachin Tendulkar, who faced him in 14 Test matches and was dismissed by him a record nine times, Anderson has a way of confounding batsmen with his wrist position while delivering the outswinger with the reverse-swinging ball.

The conventionally swinging ball swings towards the rough side, and the reverse-swinging ball towards the shiny side. The ball’s orientation for the conventional inswinger, therefore, is the same as the one for the reverse outswinger. The two deliveries usually involve different wrist positions, but Anderson, Tendulkar noted in a chat with Brian Lara on the 100MB app, had the ability to deliver a reverse outswinger with the wrist position of a conventional inswinger.

“With reverse swing, Jimmy Anderson was possibly the first bowler who bowled reverse swing also reverse,” he said. “What I experienced, over a period of time, [is] that he would hold the ball as if he was bowling [a reverse] outswinger, but [at] the release point, he would try and bring the ball back in, and [a] number of batters would look at the wrist position, and what he has actually done, he’s shown you that he’s bowling inswing, but the imbalance between both sides of the ball would take the ball away from you.

“What he has done is, he’s got you to commit to play, for an [inswinger], and the ball, after covering almost three-fourths of the length of the pitch, starts leaving you. But you had already committed [to play], because you’ve seen that inswing position, and that is something which was new to me. Nobody had done that.

“Now, [a] number of guys, you see their shine, and what they’re trying to do – I spotted even Stuart Broad trying to do that at some stage, but Anderson started this [a] long time ago. So I rate him very very highly. One of the best exponents of reverse swing.”

One of Anderson’s best spells in reverse-swinging conditions came in Kolkata in 2012, when he took three wickets in each innings to help England take a 2-1 series lead. Anderson had Tendulkar caught behind for 76 in the first innings with a reverse outswinger, but it’s unclear whether that ball was a reverse-reverse outswinger.

Nonetheless, if other bowlers can master Anderson’s seeming ability to deliver reverse reverse swing, it gives batsmen one more thing to worry about, particularly when the ball is at that stage of its lifespan when it’s transitioning from swinging conventionally to reversing.





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Jason Holder: Taking the knee ‘meant the world to me’

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Jason Holder, West Indies’ captain, says that the unified display from West Indies’ and England’s players before the start of the first Test “meant the world” to him, as he thanked Michael Holding for his powerful exposition of the Black Lives Matter movement on the opening day of the match.

Speaking to Sky Sports after claiming six wickets in England’s first innings at the Ageas Bowl, Holder described his emotions after the players, officials and support staff of both teams took a knee for 30 seconds in solidarity with BLM before the first ball of the match was bowled.

Holder, along with his team-mates, wore a black glove on the right hand in an apparent echo of the Black Power protest from Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Mexico Olympics in 1968, after Holding, in a live segment during the morning rain delay that has now been viewed more than 5 million times on Twitter, declared that racism would not stop until we “educate the entire human race”.

“It meant the world to me,” Holder told Sky Sports, “just the support from everyone, everyone understanding the moment, everyone understanding the occasion. And to see both teams coming together the way they did, it sent a really strong message.

“I happened to be on social media last night, and I saw a few Aussies posting the same pic of everyone on the knee, and it just shows the cricket world is actually unified. But I think we could come a lot closer, we could do a lot more for cricket in general.”

With Holding listening in on the live interview, Holder added: “I must say, I saw the interview with Mikey yesterday, and I felt in my veins, to be honest. To me it was powerful, I think he hit the nail on the head, he was spot on.

“For me it’s more of an education. Guys need to make themselves aware of what’s in front of us. There’s a bigger picture sometimes in sport, but in the grand scheme of things, I just think we just need to be aware, we need to educate ourselves, and we need to have a level playing field for everyone.

“Hopefully the message that you sent out yesterday can be viewed by all, and people just really need to understand and divulge it for what it was. And hopefully we can all get the systemic quality that we’re looking for.”

Responding to Holder’s tribute, Holding, 66, added: “I don’t think you need to thank me, Jason. I think you guys need to just take the baton and keep on running with it.

“My days are almost gone. They say the Lord gives you three score years and 10. I’m only four years away. You guys have a lot of years ahead of you, and not just in the sport. It’s about life, it’s about teaching people around you, because when you’re finished playing sport, you have to go back into society, you have to go home.

“That’s what it’s all about, outside of the cricketing arena, outside of the sporting arena, that’s where we need equality.”



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Recent Match Report – England vs West Indies 1st Test 2020

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West Indies 57 for 1 (Brathwaite 20*, Hope 3*) trail England 204 (Stokes 43, Holder 6-42, Gabriel 4-62) by 147 runs

West Indies captain Jason Holder took a career-best haul of 6 for 42 to roll England for 204 at the Ageas Bowl, before their top order saw them through to the close one wicket down.

Holder came into this series with an injury cloud over his head, having bowled only five overs across West Indies’ two intra-squad warm-up games while nursing an ankle complaint. He admitted that he felt “a little sore, a little stiff” after play on the second day, but that pain will be lessened thanks to the knowledge that he has put his team into the driving seat in this series.

Holder had no hesitation in answering “discipline” when asked at the toss what he was looking for from his bowlers, and followed that message himself after Kemar Roach had set the tone. Shannon Gabriel was given license to attack, snaring another three wickets to add to that of Dom Sibley on the first day, and while Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Dom Bess offered some resistance with the bat, England’s total of 204 looked a little light after a dogged start from West Indies.

While it would prove to be Holder’s day, it was Gabriel who made the early breakthroughs after Rory Burns and Joe Denly had come through the first half hour. Denly was the first to go, his stumps splattered as a vicious nip-backer burst through a hefty gap between bat and pad and crashed into the top of off. Then, after hanging the ball outside Burns’ off stump from round the wicket, Gabriel fired one in full at his pads, striking him in front of leg stump. Richard Kettleborough concluded it was missing leg stump, but Holder disagreed and was vindicated by a successful review.

In his second spell of the day, Holder started by teasing Zak Crawley with a series of outswingers, nibbling away and probing on a length in the channel outside his off stump. After Crawley’s streaky boundary through the slips ruined a maiden from his eighth over, Holder decided the time was right to bring one in at the start of his ninth, finding a hint of seam movement from wide on the crease which Crawley played around. Again, Kettleborough said no; again, Holder was convinced, and was proved right. Ollie Pope started with a pair of boundaries off him, but was soon back in the hutch after fencing at an away-nibbler, which Shane Dowrich gobbled up behind the stumps.

Buttler and Stokes led a counter-attack, putting on the only stand of 50 or more in the innings, but Stokes rode his luck. Before lunch he had miscued a hook shot to long leg, where Roach shelled a difficult chance after making his ground, and after looking to impose himself in the afternoon, Stokes chipped a low catch to Shamarh Brooks, who put down a sitter at short cover. Buttler looked a million dollars from the moment he arrived at the crease, with a back-foot punch through the covers the pick of his shots, but both fell in the space of two Holder overs.

First, having sensed Stokes using his feet, Holder pushed the ball fuller, first beating the bat and then drawing a faint edge through to Dowrich. The pair’s battle had been built up before this Test, with Holder suggesting he might not have been given the credit he deserved; there can be little doubt that he will be today. Buttler feathered his own edge behind which Dowrich took sharply, before Jofra Archer was trapped on the pad for a third overturned lbw. Mark Wood provided Holder with his sixth, driving loosely and edging to gully, before James Anderson‘s stumps were rattled by Gabriel after some late resistance from Bess for the 10th wicket.

In reply, England bowled with good pace but failed to make as many breakthroughs as they would have hoped. Anderson was the most threatening bowler. Three times he wrapped John Campbell on the pad and had him given lbw; on the first two occasions, Richard Illingworth’s decision was overturned as the ball had pitched outside the leg stump, but on the third, the on-field call was upheld.

Wood and Archer, playing alongside one another for the first time in Test cricket, both bowled with real pace. Wood regularly broke the 90mph/145kph barrier and even hit 95mph/153kph but drew few false shots, as Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope – batting at No. 3, having come in below Shamarh Brooks in the warm-up fixtures – managed to dig in until the close.

It was easy to wonder whether Stuart Broad, tweeting his thoughts on the game from his hotel room balcony, might have made an impact in conditions that seemed perfectly suited to him.

There was widespread frustration at another couple of stoppages for bad light, as the clouds rolled in and brought play to an early close for the second night in a row, but thankfully the forecast is set fair for the rest of the Test.



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