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Pakistan vs South Africa – Abdullah Shafique among 3 dropped as Pakistan cut squad to 17

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Agha Salman and Kamran Ghulam are the other two players dropped from the original list

Agha Salman, Abdullah Shafique and this year’s leading first-class run-scorer in Pakistan, Kamran Ghulam, have been dropped from the original 20-man for the first Test against South Africa. The PCB insist they are very much part of the larger squad but won’t be considered for selection for the opening Test starting January 26 in Karachi.

The 20-man squad, named on January 15, was always meant to be whittled down to 16 two days before the Test but the PCB ended up naming 17 instead. ESPNcricinfo understands that the board wrestled with the choice between Haris Rauf and Tabish Khan but ended up retaining both, even though neither is expected to make their Test debuts in Karachi. The squad now has four spin options and five fast bowlers including Mohammad Nawaz and Faheem Ashraf as allrounders.

With Shafique now out of contention, the team has only two potential openers – Abid Ali and Imran Butt – who is set to be handed a debut. The spot was left vacant after Shan Masood was dropped from the larger squad following a dismal run. Saud Shakeel – who holds the second best first-class average (48.81) in Pakistan over the last five years – has been retained. He was also the second leading first-class run-getter this season with 970 runs at 57.05. Agha, who accumulated 924 runs at 48.63 missed out.

Head coach Misbah-ul-Haq said his side is “fully ready”. “Understanding how poor we were in the field on our previous New Zealand tour, we have given fielding much importance while preparing,” said Misbah. “We are having extraordinary training sessions, with dedicated sessions to bring improvements. We are overall ready and looking forward to taking on South Africa.”

The PCB, for once, have relayed a sense of empowerment for the captain Babar Azam, giving him a much stronger say in choosing the starting line-up. Misbah downplayed concerns his role with the side had been reduced, but said the captain needed to independently develop his strategies and ideas.

“Even when I began, like everyone else, I started from zero,” said Misbah. “You have to start somewhere and the important thing is that when we did some scenario practice, there were discussions with me, the coaches, the bowlers, about what plan we take forward and how we execute it. Babar is an intelligent cricketer and if anyone who scores runs like he does at this level, they should understand cricket mechanics and how to deal with the opposition . Babar should be given a free hand to plan, so he learns how to handle things on the field and hopefully he will learn and improve his captaincy along the way.”

The series holds a major significance as this is South Africa first tour to Pakistan since 2007 and the result from it can directly reflect on Misbah’s future as head coach. The PCB had already intended to bring about changes in team management after the New Zealand tour but the cricket committee recommended a stay of execution, opting against making a knee-jerk reaction and resolving instead to meet again after the home series against South Africa. The committee believed a series in home conditions can have “no points for second place”.

Misbah knows the pressure is on him but he cut a relaxed figure at the press conference. “Nothing really matters right now, I played cricket under pressure, my whole life” he said. “Here [in Pakistan] it’s not like you have the certainty and security so the most important thing I have learnt is that you have to do well with the job in hand in the moment. I am not thinking about what is going to happen ahead and the only focus right now is to perform and learn from our mistakes.”

Pakistan: Abid Ali , Imran Butt, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam (capt), Fawad Alam, Saud Shakeel, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Yasir Shah, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Tabish Khan

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent



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Recent Match Report – South Aust vs West Aust 14th Match 2020/21

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Travis Head earlier completed his maiden first-class double century in a huge South Australia total

Western Australia 2 for 192 (Bancroft 106*) trail South Australia 8 for 510 dec (Head 223, Hunt 10) by 318 runs

Cameron Bancroft scored his second Sheffield Shield century of the season to lead a strong Western Australia reply to a huge South Australia total based around Travis Head‘s maiden first-class double hundred.

Bancroft, who made the most of a life on 13, reached his hundred shortly before the close as he and Cameron Green guided the home side into a position from where they will feel comfortable avoiding any potential follow-on then closing in on the Redbacks’ score.

The third-wicket stand was worth 120 at stumps and ensured Western Australia did not suffer further setbacks after Sam Whiteman was caught at slip off a beauty from Dan Worrall then Shaun Marsh clipped a full toss from the part-time offspin of Will Bosisto to midwicket on the stroke of tea. That would be Bosisto’s only over of the day.

South Australia’s pace attack toiled hard during the final session on a surface that has not offered much for the seamers. Green, as is his style, took time to get his innings up and running – he was 2 off 31 balls early on – but had collected seven boundaries by the end of the day.

South Australia had resumed handsomely placed on 4 for 368 and Head went to his double hundred in the second over of the day with consecutive boundaries off Liam Guthrie. His 245-ball innings was eventually ended when he was superbly caught at slip by Marsh.

The visitor were taken beyond 500 by Worrall and Jake Lehmann, the former hitting 39 off 41 balls before his dismissal brought the declaration.



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India v England 2020-21 – Chris Woakes flies home from India tour after lengthy spell on England’s sidelines

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Allrounder to return for ODI series in March, having played no matches in three countries

England will not be able to call upon Chris Woakes for next week’s fourth Test against in Ahmedabad, after he left the tour on Thursday for his pre-arranged break from the team’s bio-secure bubble.

Woakes, 31, has endured a frustrating winter with England, having been involved in squads in South Africa, Sri Lanka and now India without playing a single game.

He travelled to South Africa for England’s white-ball tour in December, but having sat out the T20I leg (his last such match came in 2015), the ODI series was then cancelled due to concerns over the implementation of Covid protocols in the team hotel.

Next, Woakes’ chances of pushing for a place on the Sri Lanka leg of England’s Test tour were kiboshed from the outset, after his Birmingham-based travel companion Moeen Ali was diagnosed with Covid-19 on arrival in the country in January, meaning that both men were required to undergo an extended period of quarantine.

Woakes was then left out of the first three Tests against India, including this week’s pink-ball Test – which might have been his one realistic shot at involvement, given England’s belief that the conditions may have favoured seam bowling.

However, his prowess with the bat was overlooked in favour of a reunion of England’s old guard, James Anderson and Stuart Broad, neither of whom took a wicket as spin dominated for both teams in the two-day finish.

In keeping with the ECB’s policy for all of their multi-format players, Woakes now returns home to be with his wife Amie and their two young daughters, Ella and Evie-Louise, who was born in October.

Already this year, Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes have missed the Tests in Sri Lanka, as did Rory Burns, who was on paternity leave, while Jonny Bairstow and Mark Wood flew home for the Chennai leg of the India tour.

Jos Buttler, Sam Curran and Moeen are also unavailable for the remainder of the series, but will return to the squad next week to prepare for the five-match T20I series that starts on March 12.



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Charlotte Edwards unveiled as first female president of Professional Cricketers’ Association

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Former England captain and record run-scorer replaces Graham Gooch at helm

Charlotte Edwards, the former England captain, has become the first female president of the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA) after being elected as Graham Gooch‘s successor in the role.

Edwards, who captained England Women between 2005 and 2016 and is their all-time leading run-scorer across formats, is head coach of both Southern Vipers and Southern Brave, and will continue in both roles alongside her PCA duties.

She was elected to the role by the players’ committee at the PCA’s annual general meeting on Thursday, and is set for an initial two-year role. Her election comes soon after the introduction of 41 new female PCA members, who signed full-time domestic contracts as part of the ECB’s revamped domestic structure.

“I’m hugely honoured to be given such a prestigious title in being the President of the PCA,” Edwards said. “It’s an exciting time for women’s cricket and I’m really excited about what I can bring to the role. I think the introduction of 41 new female members to the PCA has shown it’s the right time to have a female PCA President, but I’m passionate about looking after the interests of the men’s game as well in order to help cricket thrive as a whole.

“I’ve done a lot of work with the PCA, on and off the field, and it’s been quite the journey from being an amateur, to becoming a PCA member in 2011 and now helping to support the next generation of players in this role.

“I’ve always followed what the PCA are doing for the game, and in particular the work of the Professional Cricketers’ Trust, and I really do want to be as involved as I can be. The game has given me so much and now this is the perfect opportunity for me to give something back.”

The PCA’s members also ratified the election of James Harris as chair and Anuj Dal as vice-chair at Thursday’s AGM, and added four new female reps to the players’ committee: Sophie Luff, Tara Norris, Alex Hartley and Naomi Dattani. A new women’s players’ committee has also been created, which will include the four new reps and three other players, who will have voting rights on “specific women’s only issues”, according to a press release.



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