ICC give blessing to sport’s expansion into multi-sport games, with Olympics also on agenda
Cricket could be included at the 2023 Africa Games as the ICC increasingly looks to multi-sport events as a way to grow the game.
ESPNcricinfo understands the ICC Africa office have been in discussions with the local organising committee in Ghana with a view to including cricket at the event. A delegation, including officials from the ICC, the Ghana Cricket Association and the Ghana Ministry of Sports, has visited the proposed venues to ensure the requisite facilities could be provided.
The feedback is understood to have been overwhelmingly positive, though cricket’s inclusion has not been confirmed at this stage.
Whether it comes to fruition or not, the move underlines the ICC’s apparently new-found desire to embrace multi-sports games. The inclusion of women’s cricket has already been confirmed for the Commonwealth Games of 2022, while there is increasing momentum for a return to The Olympics. The new ECB chair, Ian Watmore, is understood to be a keen advocate of such a move and will shortly be placed in charge of an ICC sub-committee with a remit to explore the possibilities. Cricket’s inclusion as early as 2028, when the Olympics return to Los Angeles, remains possible.
There has long been a hunger among ICC Associate members to include cricket in the Olympics, in particular. It would, they argue, lead to greater exposure for the sport in their individual nations and open up new avenues of public funding. But there has been resistance from some full member nations who have expressed concern that the amount of time required for the Olympics would eat into the time available for bilateral series and various national T20 tournaments.
Increasingly, however, there has been an understanding at the ICC that multi-sport games would provide cricket with both a shop-window for potential new supporters and increase competition and commercial opportunities for its members. With the ECB, who believe it would provide impetus for the growth of the women’s game in particular, now broadly behind the idea, some of the impediments towards progress have been removed.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
Sri Lanka vs England, 1st Test, Galle
With tourists missing several players from 2018 whitewash, skipper senses ‘clear advantage’ for home side
England rested Ben Stokes for this series, left Keaton Jennings out, and have lost Moeen Ali to Covid-19. Although Dimuth Karunaratne sympathises with Moeen in particular, he’s pretty sure all this confers an advantage to his team.
Although Karunaratne did not mention them by name, England have also left Ben Foakes out of the first Test, and have not brought Adil Rashid on tour. All five of these players had made a substantial impact during England’s 3-0 whitewash over Sri Lanka in 2018. Stokes had played both key innings, and bowled incisive spells; Jennings had hit a second-innings hundred in Galle, and taken outstanding close-in catches; Moeen had taken 18 wickets; Foakes had top-scored in the series in addition to having kept wicket extraordinarily well; and Rashid had turned the Colombo Test with his legspin.
The England side set to take the field on Thursday, however, has several players on their first Sri Lanka tour.
“We have a clear advantage against this team, because they’ve got a few new players,” Karunaratne said. “From the last series they played against us, Stokes is not in their squad and Jennings is not in the team. And Stokes is the guy who balanced their team. The players in the current squad don’t have much experience in these conditions.
“That said, we shouldn’t take it easy. They’ve prepared well, and I’ve seen how well they’ve prepared. They’ve also been playing cricket and they were the first ones to start playing Tests again after Covid hit. Their fitness levels are still up there. We only started again against South Africa, and because of the injury concerns, we’ve lost players.”
Despite the overall confidence, Karunaratne was still wary of the threat England’s spin attack posed. Left-arm spinner Jack Leach, England’s best bowler from the 2018 series will play again. He took 18 wickets at 21.38 on that trip. Offspinner Dom Bess, who has 19 wickets from 15 bowling innings so far, will also be in the XI.
“I think their spinners are just as dangeorous this time. Leach is there, and he’s the man who did a lot of of work in the last series here. It’s unfortunate that Moeen Ali, who did a good job, can’t play the series. Dom Bess has done a good job for England as well, so we never underestimate their bowlers. We always knew what they are capable of in their bowling lineup.
“But we know what the conditions are, so we have a few plans against them. They’d played a practice game here before the last series, and we have that footage and everything. We are trying to play our normal, fearless game. We learned a lot of things in the past series, and we’re not going to make those mistakes again.”
Sri Lanka’s batsmen, though, are playing a Test at home for the first time in 16 months, and have returned from South Africa only eight days ago, having played on fast, bouncy pitches there. Karunaratne does not think readjusting to home conditions will be too big a challenge, even if rain has hampered what little preparation time they had in the approach to this Test.
“Playing in Sri Lanka is difficult anyway, but we’ve all been playing in Sri Lanka since we started cricket, and I don’t think the fact that we’ve been abroad for a month will make it too difficult to come back to these conditions. Yes, we haven’t played for a while, but there was a domestic tournament last year as well as the LPL. We can’t give the excuse that we were playing in different conditions and found it hard to switch. These are our conditions.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf
Recent Match Report – Thunder vs Sixers 38th Match 2020
Half-centuries by Alex Hales and Daniel Sams were not enough for the Thunder who suffered a middle-order slump
Sydney Sixers 5 for 132 (Philippe 64, Sams 2-25) beat Sydney Thunder 6 for 166 (Hales 54, Sams 50*, O’Keefe 3-15) by five wickets (DLS method)
Sydney Sixers stayed top of the table with a convincing victory in the first derby of the season against Sydney Thunder as Josh Philippe‘s 24-ball half-century ensured they were always ahead in a rain-adjusted chase.
Alex Hales provided the Thunder with a flying start as he made a 29-ball half-century, but they lost their way against Steve O’ Keefe, who claimed career-best figures for the second time this season, and it needed a measured half-century from Daniel Sams to ensure the innings did not completely fall away.
After a heavy shower at the change of innings, the Sixers were left with a 14-over chase and Philippe put them on course by taking 23 off the second over from Jono Cook. During his innings, he became the leading scorer for the season, a tag that changed hands twice during the evening with Hales briefly in pole position.
Although things had slowed after a Hales-inspired charge, the Thunder were well placed at 2 for 85 in the tenth over. That changed in the space of three balls as Sam Billings picked out long-on and Hales clubbed to deep midwicket against O’Keefe. It meant there were two new batsmen in at the midway point, forcing the Thunder into a period of consolidation and they would end up holding back the Power Surge for the final two overs. O’Keefe then added Alex Ross, lbw missing a sweep, and finished with 3 for 15 from a spell that conceded just one boundary and included 12 dot balls. Jackson Bird’s role was also noteworthy; he picked up 1 for 23 in his four overs which meant the eight between him and O’Keefe went for just 38.
Philippe looks ready
After a couple of single-figure scores, it was normal service resumed for Philippe as he launched the Sixers’ chase by tucking into Cook with four fours and six in five deliveries. By the end of the reduced three-over powerplay, he had 31 off 11 balls and the Sixers were 0 for 41. After the six-over mark, he started to lose some of the strike as the chase got a bit tighter but was able to bring up a 24-ball fifty – the fastest of his BBL career. There are a lot of people wanting to bat at the top of the order for Australia in T20Is but it’s becoming difficult to see how much Philippe can be denied his chance. Perhaps the series against New Zealand in late February?
Last chance dropped
The wickets of James Vince and Daniel Hughes in the space of five balls gave the Thunder some hope and when Jordan Silk fell to the first delivery of the Power Surge – which was limited to one over – as he spliced Sams into the leg side the Sixers needed 32 off 23 balls. Two balls later, Dan Christian skied his first delivery into the off side but Ross could not hold over his shoulder as he ran back from inside the ring. In the next over from Nathan McAndrew, Christian launched two sixes and the game was done.
Hales starts, Sams finishes
It had all looked so promising for the Thunder early on as Hales showed his destructive power by taking 21 off the third over against former England team-mate Jake Ball which included two leg-side sixes. After briefly consolidating following the loss of Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson, another six, a skimming sweep off Lloyd Pope, took him to a 29-ball fifty. After the stuffing had been knocked out of the middle order, Sams nursed the innings to a stage where they could push hard in the final few overs although 24 from the last two – which were the Power Surge – was manageable for the Sixers. Sams’ resurgent batting form continued with his second fifty of the season, brought up with a boundary off the final ball after Carlos Braithwaite had managed three consecutive dots in the last over.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
Match Preview – Sri Lanka vs England, England in Sri Lanka 2021, 1st Test
If form in South Asian conditions is difficult to discern ahead of this series, with so little Test cricket having been played here in the past year, Sri Lanka are throwing predictions into further disarray with their wounded and their injury returnees. A day out from the first Test, (there’s still time to get injured), Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal look likely to be in the top order. But although batsman Oshada Fernando, and fast bowlers Suranga Lakmal and Lahiru Kumara have technically recovered from their injuries, they may not quite be match-ready enough to make the XI.
Sri Lanka also lost both Tests against South Africa by large margins, so in normal circumstances you would expect them to be turning up low on morale. And yet, they don’t seem to be beating themselves up about those losses much. At the end of that series, captain Dimuth Karunaratne was essentially of the view that when you have the appalling volume of injuries Sri Lanka suffered on that tour, losses such as those were bound to happen. It is what it is. Tomorrow is a new day. This – their first at home since August 2019 – is a new series.
England, despite being tourists, have arguably had the better preparation leading up, though. They’ve been in the country for longer (Sri Lanka only arrived on January 8 from South Africa, England had come six days earlier). But in the age of quarantine and bio-bubbles, superior prep only means so much. For three of their days on the island, England’s players couldn’t leave their rooms. When training did begin, they couldn’t play a tour match or two as they normally might, so they tried an intra-squad two-dayer, only for one of those days to be rained out.
But more than that, they are missing some of the players who propelled them to their 3-0 win on their 2018 tour. Ben Stokes is being rested. Adil Rashid wasn’t picked in the squad. Moeen Ali was probably going to play, but contracted Covid-19 and can’t. And despite being Player of the Series in that whitewash, Ben Foakes has been edged out of the wicketkeeper’s spot by Jos Buttler.
So here are two deeply flawed and unpredictable (yes, we say that about England now too) sides, who are being served an extraordinary set of circumstances by this pandemic. England-Sri Lanka series have generally produced outstanding cricket this century (the past two series notwithstanding, perhaps). As there are no clear favourites here, there is no reason this one can’t be a thriller too.
(completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: : LLDWL
Players to watch
Angelo Mathews played the innings of his life against England (his 160 at Headingley), as well as another hundred and a handful of fifties, so he will almost certainly be the Sri Lanka batsman who commands the most respect among England’s attack. And yet, in the years since that incredible Leeds innings, Mathews has not been a particularly consistent batsman. In three of the past five years, he’s averaged less than 30. Though once he seemed destined to be a 10,000-run batsman, that is no longer a certainty. Much of his inconsistency has stemmed from the injuries that have kept him out for months at a time over the past few years, and he is returning yet again from a hamstring strain. Having trimmed down early last year, Mathews seems motivated to make what may be the last few years of his career productive ones. If he has a good series with the bat (he will not bowl), Sri Lanka will go a distance to winning it.
Jos Buttler only averages 33.93 with the bat, but it is his batting that is keeping Foakes (who by the way averages 41.50 but hasn’t played a Test in almost two years) out of the XI. The theory is that Buttler, such an accomplished limited-overs batsman, and a man who can send a team innings soaring when the mood strikes, will see long-term improvements in his batting output eventually. Late in England’s summer, he provided a hint of the player he could become, hitting 67, 75 and 152 in the space of three innings. While on that form he commands a place in the batting order, it is with the gloves that he perhaps will be tested most in Sri Lanka. The spinners will likely have to bowl the majority of overs in this series. It is unfair to expect him to be as magisterial as Foakes was in 2018, but can he be good?
Pitch and conditions
Generally, Galle pitches are decent for batting on on the first two days, before they switch suddenly – and almost violently – into dustbowls from day three onwards. This time, there are two reasons why the Galle track may stay good for batting longer than normal. First, as the venue is to host both Tests, they can’t afford to start the square off too dry. Secondly, with Sri Lanka having just come back from South Africa, where they played on that nation’s fastest pitches, the hosts are likely to want a more even track than a severe examination by spin.
There’s also a bit of rain around, because even though it’s January (generally one of the driest months in the southwest), these things tend happen when a cricket tour starts. Despite the rain, though, Sri Lanka hasn’t seen a draw on its surfaces since 2014.
Will Sri Lanka play Kusal Mendis, who has collected three ducks in a row in South Africa? He is in a dead heat for the No. 3 spot with Lahiru Thirimanne. Sri Lanka hope Suranga Lakmal can make the XI, but if he doesn’t Vishwa Fernando is likely to play.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Dimuth Karunaratne (capt.), 2 Kusal Perera, 3 Kusal Mendis/Lahiru Thirimanne, 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 7 Dasun Shanaka, 8 Wanindu Hasaranga, 9 Dilruwan Perera, 10 Lasith Embuldeniya, 10 Suranga Lakmal/Vishwa Fernando
England have some decisions to make on the bowling front. It seems as if they will go in with two frontline quicks, with Mark Wood and one of either James Anderson or Stuart Broad alongside allrounder Sam Curran. Batsman Dan Lawrence looks set for a debut.
England (probable) 1 Dom Sibley, 2 Zak Crawley, 3 Jonny Bairstow, 4 Joe Root (capt.), 5 Dan Lawrence, 6 Jos Buttler 7 Sam Curran, 8 Dom Bess, 9 Jack Leach 10 Mark Wood 11 James Anderson/Stuart Broad
Stats and trivia
- Each of the last 26 Tests in Sri Lanka have had a result. The home side has won 14 of those.
- Buttler’s Sri Lanka record is better than his overall record. He scored 250 runs in the country on that previous tour, at a strike rate of 72. He crossed fifty twice and was never dismissed for less than 16.
- Angelo Mathews needs 19 more to get to 6000 Test runs. He’d be the fifth Sri Lanka batsman to that milestone, after Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva.
- Even since the start of this century, England have won six matches in Sri Lanka and lost only four.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf
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