All up hosts make three changes in bid to save series
Toss: Sri Lanka opt to bat vs England
Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal won the toss and chose to bat in the second Test in Galle. Chandimal said he expected the pitch for the second Test to be better for batting than the surface for the first game. In any case, teams almost uniformly choose to bat first at this venue, as the pitch tends to crumble rapidly late in the Test.
England had confirmed their one change to this XI, omitting Stuart Broad, who was their best seamer in the first match, for James Anderson, their most-successful bowler. Their attack also features Mark Wood and Sam Curran, in addition to spinners Jack Leach and Dom Bess.
Sri Lanka, meanwhile, made three changes – bringing in Oshada Fernando for the out-of-form Kusal Mendis, as senior seamer Suranga Lakmal also entered the XI missing the last three Tests due to injury. He took the place of legspinner Wanindu Hasaranga.
Ramesh Mendis, the offspinning allrounder, makes his debut for Sri Lanka, displacing seam-bowling allrounder Dasun Shanaka from the XI. Mendis, 25, averages 43.46 with the bat in first-class cricket, and has produced several good performances for Sri Lanka A.
Sri Lanka must win this match to draw the series.
Sri Lanka: 1 Lahiru Thirimanne, 2 Kusal Perera, 3 Oshada Fernando, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (capt.), 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 7 Ramesh Mendis, 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Lasith Embuldeniya, 11 Asitha Fernando
England: 1 Dom Sibley, 2 Zak Crawley, 3 Jonny Bairstow, 4 Joe Root (capt.), 5 Dan Lawrence, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Sam Curran, 8 Dom Bess, 9 Jack Leach, 10 James Anderson, 11 Mark Wood
New Zealand-W vs England-W – Tammy Beaumont achieves career-best No. 1 ranking among batters
Natalie Sciver and Heather Knight also gained, as did NZ’s Amelia Kerr, Brooke Halliday and Hannah Rowe
England opener Tammy Beaumont has jumped five spots to become the top batter in the women’s ODI rankings following a fruitful tour of New Zealand.
Beaumont made a half-century in each of the three matches with 71, 72* and 88* to be the leading run-scorer for the series with 231. That gave her 49 points to overtake Stafanie Taylor of West Indies and New Zealand’s Amy Satterthwaite and move into the No. 1 spot. This is the first time in her ODI career, spanning nearly 12 years, that Beaumont has topped the rankings, bettering her previous best of No. 4 in July 2019.
Team-mate Sciver made multiple gains in the rankings by climbing up all three charts, for batters, bowlers and allrounders. She hit 96 runs in the series, including 63 in the second ODI to help England seal the series and moved to No. 10 among the batters. Sciver’s five wickets – the most on either side – helped her jump 12 places to No. 22 among bowlers. In the allrounders’ rankings, her efforts pushed her up to fifth position, gaining three places.
Knight and Jones also rose in the batting rankings to sit at No. 13 and joint-25th, respectively. Other England bowlers to have gained from their performances against New Zealand include Katherine Brunt, who moved up two places to ninth, Sophie Ecclestone, up one place to 14th, and Sarah Glenn, up three places to 44th.
Although New Zealand lost the ODI series, Amelia Kerr – with her all-round show – Brooke Halliday – with a fine debut series – and Hannah Rowe made gains. While Kerr’s 72 not out and figures of 4 for 42 in the third ODI took her to 13th among allrounders, she also moved up to No. 47 among batters and No. 11 among bowlers.
Halliday, who hit half-centuries both times she batted, also entered the rankings at No. 59, while Rowe reached No. 43 in the bowlers’ charts.
Covid-19 and cricket – English cricket anticipates Government bail-out in Wednesday’s Budget
English cricket looks set to be the major beneficiary of a £300 million government bail-out for summer sport, when Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveils the Budget on Wednesday.
The news will come as a major boost to the ECB, which announced losses in excess of £100 million in 2020 after the sport bore the brunt of the first Covid-19 lockdown.
“As a huge cricket fan I know there’s nothing that says summer more than watching your favourite team,” Mr Sunak told The Telegraph. “I can’t wait for sports grounds to be filled with fans with atmosphere again – this £300 million cash boost will help make that a reality.”
The 2020 county season, which had been due to get underway last April, had to be postponed until August with most clubs choosing to furlough their staff in the interim, while the ECB were forced to make 62 redundancies at the end of the season.
The board did manage to mitigate its losses – which had initially be projected to be in excess of £300 million – by ensuring that England’s men fulfilled their complete summer schedule against West Indies, Pakistan, Ireland and Australia.
However, all of those matches, as well as the rescheduled county and women’s season, had to take place behind closed doors due to the pandemic, and county chiefs have warned that a repeat of those circumstances in 2021 would be unsustainable for many clubs.
The Government funding – which is expected to be shared between tennis, horse racing, rugby league and women’s football – will be allocated by an independent committee, led by Sir Ian Cheshire, the former chairman of Barclays Bank, and run through Sport England.
The scheme is effectively an extension of the Sport Winter Survival Package, announced by the Government in November, which was also a £300 million investment, comprising “soft” loans lasting up to 20 years and grants.
Lord Ian Botham told The Telegraph: “Everyone in the cricketing world will be delighted. It’s been a tough time for the sport. But this could give us the opportunity to get the fans safely back in the stadiums, which is the next step. Cricket is our summer sport and I’m pleased that it’s being looked after.”
Though the money will be targeted at the professional level of the game, the ECB is understood to have warned the Government that, without the trickle-down effect that gate receipts have on the finances of English counties in particular, the knock-on effects for grass-roots cricket and the women’s game would be significant.
Kent’s latest financial figures, released on Tuesday, support that concern, with the club reporting a drop in income of almost £2 million from all areas of the business outside of its ECB funding, including membership subscriptions, ticket sales and catering contracts.
“We are facing a critical year from a financial viewpoint,” said Kent Cricket’s Honorary Treasurer, Derek Taylor.
Warwickshire’s chief executive, Stuart Cain, has also welcomed the Government’s measures to safeguard the sport’s finances as “positive news”.
“Like most sports, cricket has taken a huge hit over the last 12 months and it’s only prudent financial measures and generous support from our Club Members that have seen us through,” Cain said. “The devil is in the detail so we look forward to more information on how to access the emergency funding after the budget.”
Limited capacity crowds are due to be allowed back into stadiums by mid-May, according to the Government’s recently announced road-map, although some county venues are hoping to put themselves forward for pilot events from the early weeks of the season.
Cain also confirmed that the club has been working with the ECB and Government on measures to permit larger crowds at Edgbaston during the venue’s first major event of the summer, the second Test against New Zealand in June.
“Using protocols such as testing, masks and vaccine certificates along with other social distancing measures, we’re confident that we can get a sizable crowd in to the game safely, setting sport up for when full crowds could potentially return after June 21.
“The professional game has been played behind closed doors and cricket clubs across the County have struggled with bars closed and restrictions stopping the game being played in the way we love,” Cain added. “Warwickshire Cricket Board have been excellent in the way that they have helped the recreational game through the pandemic.”
After Fawad Ahmed two overseas players and one support staffer test positive for Covid-19
A total of 244 test results are out, and results for 40-45 tests, all from one franchise, are awaited
Two more overseas cricketers and one support staff have tested positive for Covid-19 a day after the game between Islamabad and Quetta Gladiators had to be postponed aftter Fawad Ahmed, the Islamabad legspinner, had returned a positive test. The new positive tests include another player from Islamabad United, but that game is going ahead as rescheduled today, and all players and others to have tested positive have been isolated.
The three new positives came from a total of 244 tests carried out this morning, with one team’s results – about 40-45 tests in all – are still awaited. Rapid tests were carried out yesterday, and members of all franchises underwent another round of testing – the PCR test – today, and a special request had been made to process the results of the Islamabad and Quetta contingents first so that their game can go ahead as planned.
A second positive test in Islamabad is not yet a cause for concern with regards to their game; ESPNcricinfo understands that the status of a match is unaffected until five players in one squad test positive.
“We have a virtual meeting with franchise owners and team managements to give them the confidence, assurances, to take their support, reminding them of the protocols and the way forward,” PCB’s media director Sami-ul-Hasan Burney said at the National Stadium in Karachi on Tuesday. “The organising committee has already sent out a reminder to every stakeholder to exercise extra caution and nobody has been told to go into self-isolation, just a caution that involves using face masks, avoid wandering on the hotel floor, and members who have tested positive will remain in ten days’ quarantine. And since yesterday, now PCR tests will be carried out every fourth day.”
The 2021 edition of the PSL has had its share of Covid-19 scares, even before these latest cases. On February 21, Peshawar Zalmi captain Wahab Riaz and coach Daren Sammy had to go into a three-day quarantine, which was later relaxed, after meeting a person – later confirmed to be their team owner Javed Afridi – outside the bio-secure bubble.
Ahmed, it has emerged, tested positive three days ago and was in isolation, but the news became public only before yesterday’s game.
“It’s tough to find out how these cases have developed and we don’t know what are the causes,” Hasan said. “But life in a bubble is very difficult and managing it is also very tough. This is happening in other different sports in the world – NFL, NHL, Formula 1 or Australian open – breaches do happen but that doesn’t mean the bubble is weak or there are loopholes. So we are carrying out Covid tests all over again on Thursday, and then after every third day.
“It’s everyone’s responsibility, especially PCB, to protect the credibility of the event, its integrity and its reputation, and that is why we are taking all the measures. Other than this, we have taken some extra steps, making sure the groundstaff at National Stadium use gloves as well, and that we don’t reuse the balls that go into the crowd. If it is thrown back into the ground, it is properly sanitised.
“So we are doing every possible thing to make sure the event’s credibility isn’t affected. But we are operating in a very different environment, even the world is facing similar challenges. Every sports in the world is meeting these challenges and overcoming them and carrying on with their events. We are also putting our efforts with the help of franchises to carry on with the event in a good way, keeping all the excitement and quality and hoping to end it on a high note.”
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent
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