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ECB confident that summer schedule will survive despite India joining Covid-19 ‘red list’

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No immediate impact on IPL participants, but quarantine periods may affect future engagements

The ECB are confident they will be able to fulfil their home international fixture programme despite India being added to the ‘red list’ of countries from which most travel to the UK has been banned due to fears of a new Covid variant.

Under new regulations, most people who have been in India in the last 10 days will be banned from entering the UK from 4am on Friday. British or Irish residents, or those with residence rights within the UK, will be obliged to serve a 10-day quarantine period. There is, at present, no dispensation available to allow sportspeople to train out of their rooms while they serve that quarantine period.

There is a concern that a new variant of the virus, which appears to be relatively prevalent in India, could spread more easily and prove more resistant to vaccinations. The UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has cancelled a visit to India which was scheduled to take place next week.

India are scheduled to play in the World Test Championship final against New Zealand in June and a five-Test series against England starting in August. Pakistan, which is also on the red list, are also scheduled to play ODI and T20I series in England in the coming months, while India’s women’s team is also scheduled to play a series in June.

But although the ECB are likely to require dispensation from the UK government to stage such tours, they are optimistic that all games will be given the go-ahead.

Having fulfilled their full home schedule in 2020, the ECB feel they have the experience and capability to combat the demands of the situation. Crucially, they also believe they gained the confidence of the UK government by demonstrating their ability to build an effective bio-bubble and stage matches without compromising safety. England were able to host series against West Indies, Pakistan, Ireland and Australia in 2020 with players of all sides obliged to abide by strict protocols, including serving quarantine periods.

“We are currently discussing with Government the impact of countries being on the ‘red list’,” an ECB spokesperson said. “By working collaboratively we demonstrated how we can stage international cricket safely in the middle of a pandemic and hope to be able to do so again this year.”



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Recent Match Report – Glamorgan vs Yorkshire Group 3 2021

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Yorkshire 69 for 4 (Root 34*, Bess 16*) trail Glamorgan 149 (Brook 3-13, Patterson 3-27) by 80 runs

Anybody who googled “ Harry Duke” on May 14, 2021 would have found Prince Harry expounding on his newly-held belief in genetic pain. Search the scorecard and there was not a run, catch or stumping to be seen. It is fair to remark that Yorkshire’s debutant wicketkeeper has yet to capture the public eye.

But Harry Duke – that’s the teenage wicketkeeper from Wakefield and not the man sixth in line for the throne – can claim nevertheless to have made an immediate impact on his first day in the job, by playing a small but important role at the start of the Ashes phoney war.

“The battle that will decide the Ashes: Root v Labuschagne” was how one national newspaper billed Yorkshire’s visit to Glamorgan. Only Joe Root has made more Test runs than Marnus Labuschagne since he played in his first Ashes Test as a concussion replacement for Steve Smith at Lord’s nearly two years ago. If Ashes series can ever be determined by a single match-up, it’s a fair enough theory.

Root’s judicious unbeaten 34 was comfortably the outstanding innings on a taxing batting day in which 14 wickets fell, so enabling the game to stay “live” after the loss of the first day to rain. Yorkshire are still 80 behind on first innings with six wickets left, aware that the world could collapse around their ears at any moment. Kent were dismissed for 72 in the last match on this ground and conditions can’t have been much different.

Labuschagne, by contrast, only managed 10 from 18 balls for Glamorgan before he fell lbw to Ben Coad, displaying his frustration at his error with an incredulous shake of the head and a route march to short leg and back. But that error might not have happened had Duke not dared to stand up to the stumps to Coad, force Labuschagne to abandon his method of batting well outside his crease, and contributed to the malfunction.



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Recent Match Report – Surrey vs Somerset Group 2 2021

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Surrey 191 for 4 Burns 55) vs Somerset

On the sort of surface which might convince an opening batsman they should give it all up and become a plumber, Rory Burns made his fifth half-century in seven innings and fourth in succession. Nobody in the land has reached 50 more often this season.

But these are uncertain times for Burns. He lost his England place in India and is far from certain to win it back in the New Zealand series. With Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley seemingly assured of their places in the top three, Burns’ involvement may depend on where England decide to play James Bracey, who they appear to see as a utility player capable of fulfilling a role in the top and middle-order. In that light, Dan Lawrence’s eye-catching century for Essex might not be great news for Burns.

But, at his best, Burns’ batting has a phlegmatic quality that rises above such concerns. His maiden Test century, made against Australia in Birmingham, was in many ways a masterclass of mental strength overcoming every challenge. He was dropped often and beaten frequently but not for a moment did he lose his composure.

It was similar here. With damp conditions denying any chance of play before 2pm on the second day, this pitch had been under cover for a long time before Somerset’s bowlers took first use of it. Inevitably, the ball nipped around and edges were beaten.

But apart from one occasion, when Burns followed one he could have left, he refused to be drawn into pushing at the ball and was able to put any play-and-miss behind him. Eventually, as the ball softened and the bowlers tired, more poor balls were his reward. He failed to fully capitalise on his start but in terms of the basics of opening the batting, he looked in fine order.



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Recent Match Report – Essex vs Derbyshire Group 1 2021

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Derbyshire 35 for 3 (Harmer 2-12) trail Essex 412 for 3 dec (Lawrence 152*, Westley 106, Browne 59, Cook 58) by 377 runs

A day of sepulchral gloom in Chelmsford, pierced throughout by the ECG floodlights, was lit up by a blazing innings from Dan Lawrence, as Essex attempted to make up for lost time in their match against Derbyshire … and pretty much succeeded. Lawrence’s unbeaten 152 from 133 balls was the batting equivalent of a souped-up Vauxhall Nova revving its way up the main drag, and leaving tyre-marks over a series of beleaguered Derbyshire bowlers.

It was bad light that came to the rescue for the visitors, at the end of an over from legspinner Matt Critchley in which Lawrence slammed the first three balls for six and ended up lying on his front after an unsuccessful attempt to club a fourth down the ground. The ball still went for four and Lawrence acknowledged the applause from his team-mates for reaching 150 from his position in the dirt, even if six sixes was now out of the question. “I thought it was on,” Lawrence said with a grin afterwards.

Derbyshire’s respite was brief, however, as an Essex declaration followed by an improvement in the light allowed the home side the press their advantage – even while restricted to bowling spin from both ends. Simon Harmer removed Luis Reece lbw, not offering a shot, in his fourth over and Lawrence then bagged himself a wicket, too, as Billy Godleman turned the ball to short leg. Derbyshire’s captain briefly stood his ground, which was about as much resistance as his team put up all day.

Essex claimed a third before the close, Harmer having Leus de Plooy taken by Lawrence at gully, as the defending champions began to circle their prey. The threat of more bad weather, following a first-day washout, may still encourage Derbyshire hopes of an escape; those of a more darkly comic persuasion warned that it could all be done and dusted on Saturday.

That Essex were in such a commanding position come the close was largely down to a freewheeling third-wicket partnership of 221 in 36.4 overs between Lawrence and his captain, Tom Westley. Essex have not hit their straps yet in this campaign, as Westley acknowledged, but they have given themselves a chance of dodging the elements to record what would be only a second win in six games.

“It was disappointing not being able to get out there yesterday in a bit of a must-win game for us,” Lawrence said. “So it was very good from our openers to put me and Tommy in a situation to go and express ourselves. We knew we had to get ahead of the game as quickly as possible.”

Having scored three fifties in the opening five rounds of the Championship, with a high score of 90 on a deathly flat surface at Worcester, Lawrence had hinted at good form without making the sort of imposing scores that would guarantee his involvement in the upcoming Test series against New Zealand (selection is due to be announced next week). This was a bristling reminder of his kaleidoscopic talents – albeit against a Derbyshire attack featuring three players making their first appearances of the season – as Lawrence raced to his fastest first-class hundred before coming off in sight of a career best.

“It was quite a big thing for me to get to that landmark, because I’ve scored a few runs already without getting hundreds,” he said. “I’ve scored a few fifties – so it was nice to get there and then just play with some freedom. Every batter would know it’s the best feeling in the world batting after a hundred so it was brilliant to have licence.”

The first of Lawrence’s 16 fours was driven with a high front elbow through mid-off and he was soon signalling his intent to crack on, windmilling a cut against Fynn Hudson-Prentice over cover point and then taking the same bowler for three boundaries in five balls a few overs later. His half-century came from 66 balls, and he immediately went up a gear, nonchalantly mowing Dustin Melton over midwicket for his first six.

Billy Stanlake, who made an eventful Derbyshire debut, was casually flipped into the seats in front of the makeshift press box at deep backward square leg to take Lawrence into the 90s, and he brought up three figures for the first time this summer via a nudge off Critchley, the landmark acknowledged with a curled fist pump before turning to take the applause from his team-mates. Critchley was dealt with more severely as Essex rattled on towards five batting points, one slog-sweep over midwicket reminiscent of Lawrence’s hold-the-pose six on Test debut in Galle earlier this year.

Westley also scored a bristling hundred, his third of the season – in reaching three figures from 109 balls, he did so three deliveries quicker than Lawrence – as the pair built on a century opening stand during the morning session. Derbyshire hit back after lunch through Stanlake, playing his first first-class match since the 2019-20 Sheffield Shield season, but were largely left to wonder at the wisdom of their decision to bowl first, taken 24 hours earlier.

Essex had reached 132 for 0 at lunch, going at more than four runs an over despite a green tinge to the surface and a damp air to proceedings after persistent rain ruined any chance of play on Thursday. The scoring rate was aided by Stanlake’s trouble with front-foot no-balls during his opening spell, as Alastair Cook and Nick Browne took advantage of some insipid bowling to set a belligerent tempo in Essex’s attempts to overcome not only an opponent low on confidence but a poor forecast for the weekend.

The sight of Stanlake taking the new ball promised intrigue. The 6ft 7in Australian, capped in both limited-overs formats, had only played eight first-class fixtures across five years but came to Derbyshire professing an eagerness to work on his red-ball game. An initial four overs brought six no-balls and almost as many aborted attempts at running in, prompting the fear that Stanlake’s enthusiasm might be short-lived.

However, he discovered a much better rhythm from the River End when returning shortly before lunch, beating Cook with successive deliveries – one of which was too hot for Harvey Hosein to hold on to behind the stumps. He was rewarded for his perseverance after the interval, when Browne drove footlessly to be caught at slip (thus reducing his first-class average against Derbyshire to a mere 213.25). Cook then spooned a drive into the covers: Big Billy had landed Essex’s big fish, but there was the small matter of Lawrence and Westley to come.

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick



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