Lottery numbers, shoe sizes and dancing competition scorecards – England players and the ECB have been quick to make light of their use of coded signals sent from the dressing room to the field during their T20 series against South Africa.
England team analyst Nathan Leamon could be seen placing cards on the dressing room balcony showing a combination of numbers and letters during the third T20I at Newlands on Tuesday. England won the match by nine wickets after Dawid Malan‘s stunning 99 not out in a record 167-run partnership with Jos Buttler overhauled a huge target of 192.
Buttler, who scored an unbeaten on 67, joked after the game that the cards showed lottery numbers, before making a more serious comparison with tactical time-outs in the IPL.
“The lads were checking their Euromillions numbers,” Buttler told Sky Sports with a smile. “Eoin [Morgan] works closely with Nathan to work on the match-ups. In the IPL, you have two tactical time-outs for suggestions from analysts, but you have to be careful how you use it, there has to be an instinctive, intuitive side to the game.”
The ECB said the signalling system was being trialed and was “intended as a live informational resource that the captain may choose to use or ignore as he wishes”. It added: “They are not commands or instructions and all decision-making takes place on the field.”
The practice drew mention of South Africa’s use of earpieces to relay messages from the dressing room to the field during their 1999 World Cup match against India. At the time, the ICC said using earpieces did not break any rules but deemed it unfair and subsequently banned the use of such devices.
It’s not the first time that Leamon has used such methods to pass information from the boundary’s edge. After teaming up with Andy Flower at Multan Sultans for this year’s PSL, he set up a similar system with the on-field captain, Shan Masood – a practice which Flower later told ESPNcricinfo was about “maximising information”.
“Match-ups over a shortened game are very important, and so is getting your field and your bowling tactics right,” Flower said. “That sort of information would be covered pre-game, but that’s a lot of information for a captain, and obviously he won’t retain it all. [Favourable match-ups] would be an example: a gentle reminder of the flow of the game, the resources you have left in the attack, and just putting the right chess pieces in place at the right time.”
There is no suggestion England’s use of written codes breached any rules, although it did raise questions over whether it was ethical or in the spirit of the game. Mark Wood, the England quick, said the team had “cleared it with the match referee first”.
“Maybe this is part of the new way of cricket,” Wood said. “We’re always looking for ways to improve so maybe this is it, the analyst gets a hold of a scorecard like [Strictly Come Dancing judge] Craig Revel Horwood and then we’ve got a got a new game show.”
Speaking to the media via Zoom on Wednesday, Wood – who is hoping to feature in the three-match ODI series against South Africa starting at Newlands on Friday after being overlooked for the T20Is – played down the importance of the coded signals.
“I thought shoe sizes at one point,” Wood said. “I think it wouldn’t honestly bother me. Until this morning, I honestly didn’t even know about it. That’s how much notice I took.
“I think it’s good for the captain to have. Morgy’s a very instinctive captain anyway, so I’m not sure he needs that much but it’s great to have the information there. Nathan does a good job. So any little bit can help, but I’m not sure I’ll be taking that much notice of it, too busy worrying about other things.”
Live Report – Australia vs India, 4th Test, Brisbane, 1st day | Cricket
Welcome to our live report of the third day of the Australia-India Test from Sydney. Join us for updates, analysis and colour. You can find our traditional ball-by-ball commentary here
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9.49am local/5.19am IST: GOAT turns 100
Australia has always been the land of the legspinner but Lyon has shown the more conventional art can succeed, writes Daniel Brettig in his piece about Nathan Lyon who is set to play 100 Tests for Australia today. Lyon is four wickets away from 400.
“I have had a chance to reflect on it, because when I first made my Test debut I thought ‘jeez how amazing is this’ – I was very grateful and humble to play one Test for Australia, but after completing my 99th a couple of days ago, and looking forward to Friday, it’s been very exciting,” Lyon said. “I look at the 12 other guys who have played more than 100 Test matches of cricket for Australia and they’re pure legends in my eyes. Not just for Australia, but all around the world.
“I’m going to pinch myself each and every day to see my name up against those fellows and being the 13th player to do so, it’s pretty amazing. I’ve tried in the past not to look too far ahead, but I’m pretty excited about this one. I’m really hoping we can play the positive brand of cricket that we know we can play and walk away with a series win.”
9.35am local/5.05am IST: ‘Three Tests and 10 balls’
My colleague Gaurav Sundararaman has told the story of India’s attack with those words. That is the collective experience of India’s bowling attack today. Ashwin out with back spasm, Bumrah out as expected. Two debutants. India’s fifth, maybe sixth choice bowler in the fast bowling roster, is leading the pack today: Mohammed Siraj, all of two Tests old.
Fun fact: India haven’t had a left-arm seamer in their XI since Zaheer Khan retired in 2014.
9.26am local/4.56am IST: Debuts galore
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) January 14, 2021
So we have spotted T Natarajan and Washington Sundar being handed caps in the Indian huddle. A big day for the Tamil Nadu team-mates. Natarajan becomes the fastest man to get debuts in all formats after starting off in one – he made an ODI debut on December 2, having not been part of the plans for the series at all until Varun Charkravarthy – another TN player – was injured. He becomes India’s 300th Test player.
Washington Sundar is in the same boat – only around as a nets bowler on this tour but suddenly having to fill in. A decent batsman at the first-class level, apart from his primary skill at bowling offbreaks. We suspect he replaces Ravindra Jadeja in a straight swap.
9.05am local/4.35am IST
Good morning and welcome back to our coverage of the final game of an explosive, utterly dramatic series. There’s hardly been a day of this Test series that hasn’t been sustained quality all round. And perhaps the only argument against that is all the peripheral drama on the final day of the Sydney Test; but there have been arguments, non-stop and loud, around all of that for the last few days. Today is the chance to make it all about the sensational cricket again. And there will, perhaps, even a deliberate de-escalation from Tim Paine and his men who hold the advantage in many ways coming into this match; India’s medical table has continued to pile up, so much so that they had to let go of their new-found tradition of naming the XI a day prior to the start. It is touch and go for many big names today – Ashwin, Bumrah, Agarwal. Add to that the fact that his game is at the Gabba, where Australia haven’t lost since 1988. Their prime batsmen are in form again, and their bowlers will be have another crack at a softened batting line-up.
That isn’t to say India are completely out of it, of course. Each time they’ve been down this series, they have proved capable of bouncing back. At 1-1 coming into this game, they are still in possession of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. And 1-1 is all it’ll need to be for them to hold onto it till the next series. The top order’s getting starts, fifties, and occupying the crease solidly over the last couple of innings – will a century finally come from one of the top three? One of many intriguing questions for after we know the answer to the big one – do they have 12 men on their feet to put on a teamsheet today?
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
‘He was crawling on the floor. He couldn’t get up or bend down’
Prithi Narayanan reveals the extent of Ashwin’s back ache going into the fifth day of the SCG Test
R Ashwin was crawling on the floor in pain, and unable to get up or bend, on the morning of the fifth day of the Sydney Test. His wife Prithi Narayanan, writing in the Indian Express, said she had never seen him like this.
Ashwin ended the day on an unbeaten 128-ball 39 and, with Hanuma Vihari, put on an unbroken stand of 62 off 259 balls to help India save the Test. But he later revealed he had tweaked his back the previous evening and is a doubt for the final Test at the Gabba, which starts on Friday.
In the article, Prithi, who was in the same hotel with their two daughters, revealed the extent of his pain. “He has a high threshold for it, but I had never seen him like this,” she wrote. “He was crawling on the floor. He couldn’t get up or bend down. I couldn’t imagine how he was going to play…As he was about to leave, he said, ‘I have to play. I have to get this done’.”
She said the first signs of trouble had come the previous evening, at the end of the fourth day’s play. “I had seen him on television in some sort of pain a couple of times. ‘Are you fine, physically?’ I asked him and he shot back, ‘Didn’t you see me bowl?!’ and said he felt he had a tweak in the back that was beginning to hurt. He felt during warm-ups that morning that he stepped awkwardly and did something to his back. It had slowly begun to act up as the day progressed.”
Prithi wrote that on match nights she and their daughters stay in a separate room and when she woke up in the morning, Ashwin’s pain was “really bad”. He told her he “had to crawl to the physio room,” which was next door. “He couldn’t bend, straighten, or get up after sitting. I was shocked. I had not seen him like this before.
“‘What are you going to do? How can you bat?’ I asked. ‘I don’t know. I will figure out. Just let me get to the ground,’ he replied…Even after he left us, to be frank, I was half-expecting a call in a couple of hours from someone in the team that he had been taken to hospital for scans.”
The only light moments came from their daughters, both younger than six. The younger daughter, observing her father’s pain, told him: “Put leave, appa (take the day off).” Prithi said she joined in the jesting, telling him, “Ask for a snack break in two hours and come back – like kids do at school” and Ash went, ‘Overaaa Oturrey!’ (You are pulling my leg a bit too much!).”
Aakash Chopra: None of R Ashwin’s Test centuries compare to today’s innings
She said she watched the day’s play on TV and understood her husband’s physical state. “I could see Ashwin standing in the dressing room corridor or pacing up and down on television. I knew it must be the pain because he feared if he sat down, he couldn’t get up. That racked my worries a bit. ‘So, he isn’t better. Haven’t the painkillers kicked in yet? Why can’t they be more effective?’ – such thoughts flitted through my head.”
Watching him bat, though, she could see he was in the zone, was as fraught for her because he was hit a couple of times, on the chest and the hands. He began to respond to Australia captain Tim Paine’s comments, which she said was unusual for him. But as the match progressed and Ashwin and Vihari took charge, she smiled as she heard them converse in Tamil.
When Ashwin returned to his room that evening, match saved, she said they laughed and cried. “And we howled. It wasn’t an euphoric cry – that was after the Melbourne win in the second Test. That had a different feel. I had rarely seen him that light, that bouncy, that delirious. This was something different. We were howling. It was utter relief – a draining out of emotions from our system.”
Then, two minutes later, she wrote, he was gone, back to the physio’s room.
BBL 2020-21 – Marcus Stoinis ready to bowl again for the Stars, Haris Rauf happy to return to the site of his hat-trick
Allrounder cleared to bowl against the Adelaide Strikers on Friday night after recovering from a side strain
Marcus Stoinis is ready to bowl again for the Melbourne Stars having not delivered a ball in the BBL so far this season coming off a side strain.
Stoinis injured his side while bowling for Australia in the first ODI against India on November 27.
He missed the rest of the ODI series and played just one game in the following T20I series as a specialist batsman while still injured, as Australia were severely undermanned due to the loss of both Aaron Finch and David Warner.
Stoinis has played every game of the BBL so far but only as a batsman due to his side issue, but he is set to be available to bowl if called upon by captain Glenn Maxwell when the Stars host the Adelaide Strikers at the MCG on Friday night.
“My body is good,” Stoinis said. “I’m hopeful to be bowling this game. I’m actually fit. I just haven’t been able to bowl at training. We’ve been travelling quite a lot and it’s sometimes hard to get the facilities to bowl. Hopefully, it’s this game, in fact, it will be.”
Stoinis had been given the all-clear to bowl 10 days ago but the strict nature of the BBL hubs has made it difficult for him to gain access to nets in order to get his bowling loads up.
The BBL teams and players have not had the freedom to use practice nets and facilities like they would in a normal season due to the Covid-19 restrictions. Stoinis had to get clearance to book a net for bowling session on the Gold Coast the day after the Stars’ loss to the Heat on January 7. The team then had to travel to Adelaide and play on January 11.
The inability to get several solid bowling sessions in over that period has meant he could not return to bowl in a game until now.
“I have bowled a couple times but that’s what holding me back,” Stoinis said. “I’ve been fit for a week or 10 days but actually having the chance to bowl in the nets hasn’t been an option at the moment. We’ve had that the last couple of days. I’ll have a bowl today, and then everything going well I’m pretty sure I’ll play as a bowler next game.”
Stoinis also suffered side strains during the 2019 World Cup but he is confident the recurrence is nothing more than coincidental.
“It’s different parts of the side,” Stoinis said. “I’ve done both [sides] now. It’s quite a typical bowling injury, I guess.”
Perth Scorchers allrounder Mitchell Marsh also suffered a side strain during the Scorchers win over Hobart Hurricanes on Tuesday and is now unable to bowl for the remainder of the tournament.
The Stars are excited to return to Melbourne having played their first nine games of the BBL season on the road.
No one is more thrilled about the Stars’ return to the MCG than Pakistan quick Haris Rauf after he lit up the ‘G with a spectacular hat-trick in the Stars’ win over the Sydney Thunder win over Sydney Thunder last season.
“I’m so excited to play at the MCG,” Rauf said. “There’s good memories at the MCG, the best game in my life [was when I took] the hat-trick. I [will] remember that, always.”
Rauf has had a tough start on his return to the BBL this season after arriving from New Zealand where he toured with the Pakistan side.
But he is grateful for the opportunity to come back to BBL, which played such a big part in his propulsion to the international stage.
“I’m [still] learning,” Rauf said. “Last year was a good experience in the Big Bash League. After the Big Bash , I had success playing for [my] country.”
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne
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