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Spectators set for return to Australian cricket

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Crowds will return to international cricket for the first time since March later this month, with confirmation that a limited number of spectators will be able to attend the Australia-New Zealand women’s matches being staged at Allan Border Field in Brisbane, although those watching are encouraged to keep their cheering to a minimum.

The availability of tickets was announced by Cricket Australia on Monday for the T20I and ODI series which begins on September 26. Capacity at the venue will be capped at 50% under Queensland Government Covid-19 guidelines, while there are various other protocols and restrictions in place.

One of the specific recommendations Cricket Australia has put out involves shouting and cheering to cut the risk of droplet spread. “Try to keep shouting, singing, cheering or celebrating to a minimum to avoid transmission,” the guidelines state.

All tickets will have to be bought online, then spectators will swipe in using a mobile device with details stored in case contact tracing is required. The ground will be split into six zones with people not allowed to move outside of their designated area.

The range of Covid-19 measures which have become common over the last six months will be in place including social distancing. There will be no interaction with the players during the matches for things like selfies or autographs.

Members of Australia’s squad from New South Wales, Victoria, and the AC, along with the full New Zealand party, are currently in two weeks quarantine in Brisbane. They are able to train for three hours a day at Allan Border Field during this time with the rest of the Australia squad arriving next Monday. The two sides will play each other in a warm-up match before the internationals start.

Crowds of varying sizes have been able to return to watch the winter sports codes in Australia since July in all states and territories other than Victoria. One of the key elements of the men’s international season, whether the MCG can host the Boxing Day Test against India, hinges on if crowds are able to return at some level by then. A final decision is not expected on that until November as Melbourne works through easing its restrictions.

The last international match in Australia to have a crowd was the T20 World Cup final at the MCG on March, where more than 86,000 people watched the home side lift the trophy; globally, the last match with crowds was a T20I between Bangladesh and Zimbabwe on March 11. Two days later, the men’s ODI between Australia and New Zealand at the SCG was played behind closed doors amid rising cases of Covid-19. That was the last international match to be played until July with the series called off the next day.

The ECB is on the verge of completing a full men’s programme of international matches in a condensed season with all those games having taken place behind closed doors in biosecure bubbles at the Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford. The England women’s team will play West Indies in a five T20I series starting on September 21 in Derby without crowds. The recently completed CPL was also played behind closed doors in Trinidad.

There have been small-scale trials in the UK with fans briefly able to return to a handful of county cricket matches but plans for more have been shelved due to the rising Covid numbers.



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Recent Match Report – Essex vs Sussex South Group 2020

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Sussex 137 for 6 (Salt 42, MacLeod 40) beat Essex 136 for 9 (Walter 76, Garton 4-21) by four wickets

Sussex secured a home Vitality Blast quarter-final against Lancashire when they beat last season’s winners Essex by six wickets with 10 balls to spare.

Replying to a modest Essex total of 136 for 9 they recovered from 59 for five to claim a victory inspired by a partnership of 73 in 10 overs between George Garton and Calum MacLeod.

Garton hit an unbeaten 34, and earlier claimed figures of 4 for 21 as Essex, apart from Paul Walter, struggled to make progress in the way they wanted. Walter struck 76 with the help of nine fours and three sixes after arriving with his side 18 for 3.

Essex got off to a disastrous start; losing two wickets in the opening over from Garton without a run on the board. Cameron Delport was caught behind by Phil Salt while Feroze Kushi was bowled trying to turn the ball to leg.

Varun Chopra lightened the Essex gloom by driving Ollie Robinson for six but in the same over was bowled to leave Essex 18 for 3 in the fourth over. Worse was to follow when Mitchell Claydon joined the attack to breach the defences of Michael Pepper four runs later.

That left Simon Harmer and Walter attempting to repair the damage but they found it difficult to make progress against bowlers who gave nothing away, so much so that the halfway point of their innings arrived with only 47 on the board.

A reverse sweep to the boundary off left-arm spinner Danny Briggs brought up the 50 and in the same over Walter unleashed a superb drive for six.

A couple of boundaries by Walter off former Essex paceman Tymal Mills improved fortunes for the home side before the introduction of David Wiese ended the partnership after it had yielded 43. Harmer was the man to depart as he skied a top edge which Salt accepted with ease.

Much then depended on Walter if Essex were to post any sort of challenge and he responded by punishing Briggs for six and a four as he moved towards his half-century.

He reached it with a leg glance to the fence but immediately afterwards he lost debutant Robin Das who was caught at square leg to provide Garton with success in the 16th over.

While Walter continued to impress with two more boundaries he was to lose Jack Plom with the total on 109 as he was bowled by Garton to provide the seamer with his fourth success.

Following the departure of Aron Nijjar, a victim of Claydon, Walter’s fine innings came to an end in the final over when he was bowled by Robinson for 76. This effort spanned 44 balls and included nine fours and three sixes.

Sussex did not embark upon their target in a blaze of glory. Luke Wright’s stumps were left in disarray by Plom with the total on nine and Delray Rawlins provided Ben Allison with his first wicket at senior level when he was caught by Shane Snater.

Snater then joined the attack to have former Essex man Ravi Bopara caught on the square leg boundary by Allison to spark a collapse and leave Sussex nerves jangling.

Salt, having struck seven fours and a six in his 22-ball 42 was caught in the deep by Harmer, who then made an impact with his offspin by trapping David Wiese leg before to leave the visitors 59 for 5.

The total moved into the 70s in the tenth over to leave MacLeod and Garton to put the innings back on even keel.

Both were to collect boundaries at the expense of Harmer before the pair carried the total into three figures in the 15th over.

The next landmark was the 50 stand, it arriving in the same number of deliveries and the sixth wicket pair continued to keep pace with the required run rate until MacLeod departed for 40, made from 40 balls, with the score on 132 in the 18th over. He was caught in the deep off Plom.

Garton then square cut Delport to the boundary in the next over to carry his score to 34 from 30 deliveries and take Sussex to victory.



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Australia Women vs New Zealand Women 2020 – Alyssa Healy eyes 360-degree strokeplay

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Bowlers beware. Alyssa Healy might be about to bring out even more shots. The Australia wicketkeeper-batter could unveil some new strokeplay in the series against New Zealand which starts on Saturday, having used the extended Covid-19-enforced break from the game to look at how she can become a full 360-degree player.

The last time Healy picked up a bat in a match was the T20 World Cup final at the MCG on March 8 where she plundered 75 off 39 balls against India to give Australia a position from where they never threatened to lose the match.

That performance, in front of more than 86,000 people, capped a tournament where Healy had bounced back from a rare lean run of form leading into the event where she had made five single-figure scores in a row during the tri-series, involving England in India, which followed a world-record 148 not out against Sri Lanka last October.

ALSO READ: Healy: ‘Opportunity to play four big events in 2022 daunting but also exciting’

That run of low scores, which followed a WBBL that was below her typical high standards, was very much a blip in what had been a dominant two years from Healy where she had transformed her game to become one of the leading batters in the world – her ODI record since 2018 boasts an especially prolific average of 58.70.

“I don’t want to give away too many secrets to the Kiwis but have been preparing for a few things in particular. Stay tuned.”

Alyssa Healy

However, while not wanting to give too much away to New Zealand, Healy said that there were parts of the ground that she wanted to be able to score more freely in and has been trying out some of the new skills during the two weeks of training she and the other quarantined players have undergone in Brisbane.

That fortnight elapsed on Monday and the rest of the Australia squad arrived in the city to prepare for the three T20Is and ODIs apiece which will all be played at Allan Border Field.

“After celebrating the World Cup for about a month, I sat down with my batting coach and discussed a few different things we could work on, not necessarily to jump to another level but prepare as best as I could for this New Zealand attack,” Healy said. “I don’t want to give away too many secrets to the Kiwis but have been preparing for a few things in particular. Stay tuned.”

“You might see some new things from me in this series. It was a great opportunity for me to go back and work on things that I hadn’t really touched for a while. I’d made some technical changes a couple of years ago and they paid off beautifully but you never want to be standing still; you want to keep learning, growing and developing and there’s always areas of your game that you want to work on.”

Despite having driven some of her bowling team-mates to distraction during training over the last two weeks, the internationals may come a little too soon for Healy to show off the full new range but she promised that if they don’t come out in Brisbane they’ll be on show in the WBBL next month.

“I’ve driven all the bowlers a little agro over the last two weeks trying a few things in the nets,” she said. “We’ll have to wait and see if they come out in the game; [I am] not sure if I’m confident enough to do it yet but the ultimate goal in cricket is to be able to play 360 [degrees] and for me there’s some areas I haven’t quite been hitting so have been trying a few things. We’ll have to see if they come out this series, if not you’ll definitely see it in the WBBL.”

ALSO READ: Cricket for some, not for all – where does the women’s game stand?

Healy added that she did not see a lot of rust among the players who had been quarantining over the last two weeks despite the long absence from competitive cricket. Although the tour to South Africa after the T20 World Cup was postponed due to Covid-19 the team had been due an extended break over the winter, albeit some players would have been overseas in the UK, playing in the Hundred, under normal circumstances.

“Form-wise, I’ve been really surprised with everyone around the group in the last two weeks of training, seeing the Victoria and New South Wales players go about it, there’s not a lot of rust around which is amazing,” she said. “I’m excited to see what this group can achieve with six months rest; every time we come back from a major tournament we are straight back into something else, so for us to have the ability to have some downtime will hopefully do some really good things for the Aussie women’s team.”

And while Healy could see the bigger picture of how important it is for the women’s game to be up and running again – England and West Indies began their five-match T20I series on Monday in Derby – she said that the competitive instincts mean that the will to win would be as strong as ever come the weekend.

“We want to win, and the Rose Bowl [one-day] series in particular is a really big one which we want to keep our hands on. Yes, I see the greater importance of having cricket back up and running here in Australia, but for us we are out there to win.”



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Bangladesh player shows ‘classical Covid-like symptoms’, isolated from training camp

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A Bangladesh men’s player, who was among the 27 to participate in the skill-training camp ahead of the Sri Lanka tour, has been isolated after showing “classical Covid-like symptoms”, according to the BCB. Those who came in close contact with him have also been isolated, following the latest Covid-19 tests conducted by the board ahead of the camp that began in Dhaka on Sunday. Their next set of tests will be on September 22.

The BCB said two players were identified as “borderline negative” in the tests conducted on September 18 and 19, including the one with Covid-19-like symptoms. The players in question did not participate in the camp.

“Out of the 27 cricketers for the Bangladesh team skill camp tested on September 18 and 19, two cases have been identified as ‘borderline negative’ with one of them showing classical Covid-19-like symptoms,” the BCB said in a statement. “As per the Covid-19 management guideline and to maintain Bio-Secure Environment standards, the symptomatic individual along with all the players who have been in close contact with him recently, have been isolated until the next test on September 22.”

The BCB, however, didn’t say what would happen to the other player who it called “borderline negative”.

Saif Hassan, too, is scheduled to be tested for a third time, on September 22. Hassan is currently quarantined at home after two recent positive results, although he is part of the 27-man training squad. These players have been isolating at a city hotel, from where they are expected to go to Mirpur every day for the next six days, starting Sunday.



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