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New Zealand cricketers could be on Covid-19 vaccine priority list

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Competing in events of “national interest” will be one of the criteria used to judge eligibility

New Zealand’s cricketers could be eligible for early Covid-19 vaccines after the government laid out its priority list with competing in events of “national significance” among the criteria.

The process will begin on March 31, so it will come too late for the players heading to the IPL but is likely to include those in the squad to tour England from late May.

Chris Hipkins, the minister responsible for New Zealand’s response to the global health crisis, said people would be eligible to jump the queue for the vaccine on compassionate grounds or to compete in major global events.

The latter category would include Olympians, Paralympians and the cricketers, who will be travelling to the UK to play India in the final of the World Test Championship in June along with two other Tests against England.

“The key yardstick here is people travelling in an official capacity and ensuring their participation is in our national interest,” Hipkins told reporters in Wellington. “They will have to make an application and it will depend on what sort of events they are participating in, to whether they fit the national interest criteria.

“But certainly, your expectation is that the Olympians would be eligible under the national interest criteria and a national sports team participating in a significant event would also meet those criteria.”

There was some controversy earlier this month when Dr Ashley Bloomfield, the Director-General of Health attended the final T20I between New Zealand and Australia in Wellington, where he spoke with NZC officials and spent time in the dressing room after the match.

David White, the NZC chief executive, raised the issue of vaccines for players before upcoming travel and Bloomfield said he would take the conversation back to the government for consideration but both parties insisted there was no direct lobbying.

However, Bloomfield later donated the value of the tickets to a Wellington charity. “It is important that I avoid any potential for perception of a conflict of interest or personal benefit,” he said.

New Zealand has been one of the most successful countries at containing the virus and started the second round of its vaccine rollout for border and quarantine workers last week.

International matches throughout the season have mostly been played in front of crowds except for a set of games in Wellington earlier this month involving Australia and the England women’s team when the alert level around the country was raised.



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Cameron Bancroft – ‘Self-explanatory’ that bowlers were aware of ball-tampering tactics in Newlands Test

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“All I wanted to do was to be responsible and accountable for my own actions and part”

Cameron Bancroft has conceded there had to be wider knowledge of Australia’s ball-tampering tactics against South Africa in the Newlands Test than the punished trio of himself, David Warner and Steven Smith.

Speaking to the Guardian interviewer Donald McRae in Durham where he is playing county cricket, Bancroft admitted under questioning that it was “self-explanatory” that bowlers in the Test team had to be aware the ball was being tampered with.

“Yeah, look, all I wanted to do was to be responsible and accountable for my own actions and part. Yeah, obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory,” Bancroft said. “I guess one thing I learnt through the journey and being responsible is that’s where the buck stops [with Bancroft himself]. Had I had better awareness I would have made a much better decision.”

When pressed further, he replied: “Uh… yeah, look, I think, yeah, I think it’s pretty probably self-explanatory.”

While levying extremely heavy penalties on Bancroft, Warner and Smith for their roles in the ball-tampering, Cricket Australia ring-fenced the matter away from the rest of the team, although head coach Darren Lehmann resigned a few days later after seeing the tearful press conferences of the players upon their early returns to Australia.

The lengthy bans placed on Bancroft (nine months), Warner and Smith (one year each, with Warner banned from holding any leadership positions for life) have left plenty of questions unanswered, even though CA has in the past called for anyone with further evidence about the affair to come forward. Former chief executive Kevin Roberts had this to say in March 2019 about that prospect, while defending the initial investigation conducted by the former CA head of integrity, Iain Roy, between the Cape Town and Johannesburg Tests.

“If they’ve got any concerns about ball-tampering or any concerns about any integrity issue in the game, we’ve invited them to report that through our anonymous integrity hotline or through other means that are available to them,” Roberts had said. “We haven’t had any such reports, so we won’t jump at shadows, but if anyone does report concerns about any integrity matter prior to ball-tampering or whatever it may be, we’re serious about addressing that, and we have a process to address it.

“We’re really serious about addressing any unresolved issues and we’re sincere in the way we’re going about that. So if there are any reports or allegations as opposed to innuendo, then we will investigate that thoroughly.

“Certainly the investigation needed to be conducted swiftly, we needed to fulfil our commitment to field a team against South Africa the following week, and we didn’t know whether we’d need to fly 11 new players in to fill that team or no new players. The ultimate answer was somewhere in between. So the investigation was absolutely fit for purpose, but we haven’t rested on those laurels. We’ve made repeated and extensive invitations to anyone to report any integrity matters or concerns about ball-tampering ever since.”

Though Smith and Warner have returned to the team, Bancroft is now a long way from international consideration, having played the first two Test of the 2019 Ashes series before being discarded and then struggling to recreate his best days in the Sheffield Shield in 2019-20. He performed better last summer but is not considered to be in the front rank of contenders for a place in the national side.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig



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England head coach Chris Silverwood to take time off during Sri Lanka, Pakistan ODI series

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England head coach will hand over to assistants Thorpe and Collingwood during busy summer

Chris Silverwood will miss the ODI series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan as part of England’s rest-and-rotation policy.

Silverwood, the England coach, was one of few ever-presents on England’s tours of Sri Lanka and India and accepts he will find it hard to switch off. But he also acknowledged the need for fallow periods amid England’s relentlessly busy schedule and said that without such breaks, he “won’t be providing the level of service” players deserve.

England’s assistant coaches, Paul Collingwood and Graham Thorpe, will each take charge of an ODI series in his absence.

“It is important we keep our personnel as fresh as possible,” Silverwood said. “It’s not fair on the players if I am operating at less than 100 percent and it is not fair on myself either. I won’t be providing the level of service that I need.



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Recent Match Report – Durham vs Worcs Group 1 2021

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Durham seamer draws level with Graham Onions after five-wicket haul

Durham 246 (Lees 99, Tongue 5-39) and 79 for 1 lead Worcestershire 213 (Fell 44, Leach 42*, Rushworth 5-56) by 112 runs

Chris Rushworth joined Graham Onions as Durham’s highest first-class wicket-taker after notching a five-wicket haul to dismiss Worcestershire for 213 in their LV= Insurance County Championship clash at Emirates Riverside.

Rushworth was at his imperious best to claim figures of 5 for 56 to put the hosts in a strong position and move level with his former team-mate with 527 first-class strikes for Durham. Brydon Carse and Ben Raine were also on point, although late resistance from Joe Leach kept Worcestershire in the game.

Although the home side lost Alex Lees early in their second innings, Scott Borthwick and Will Young held firm to leave the north-east outfit in control of the contest with a lead of 112 runs.

Durham made a strong start to day two through Rushworth, who began the day by dismissing Daryl Mitchell for the ninth time in his first-class career, pinning the opener lbw with an inswinger. Jake Libby performed well in tough conditions, mustering 24 before he was undone by a brilliant delivery from Raine.

The seamers were on the mark and did not allow Jack Haynes to settle. In his second spell, Rushworth removed Haynes lbw for 8 to reduce the visitors at 60 for 3. Brett D’Oliveira battled with Tom Fell to take Worcestershire into the lunch break, but the pressure resumed immediately after the restart.



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