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Sri Lanka’s England tour in jeopardy after players refuse to sign contracts

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Thirty-eight Sri Lanka players have signed a statement refusing to sign the tour contracts offered by SLC

Sri Lanka’s tour of England has been cast into serious jeopardy after the players expected to be selected refused to sign the tour contracts offered by Sri Lanka Cricket.

This is as part of the men’s cricketers’ larger resistance to SLC’s new annual contracts scheme, which they believe lacks transparency and does not adequately compensate senior players. Although players have not been centrally contracted since last October when the previous round of contracts expired, series since then have been played under a succession of temporary tour contracts. But the players have now dug their heels in and are headed for a serious confrontation with SLC over the next 72 hours. The team is due to leave for England at 12.05am on Wednesday (June 9).

Thirty-eight players have signed a statement refusing to sign the tour contracts – an increase from the 24 players who had previously made their resistance to the new scheme official. Primarily, the players’ contention is that the workings of the grading system devised by SLC to assign contracts of varying value to players have not been sufficiently made clear to them.

“Because of the problems with the transparency of the ratings system devised by SLC, the players will not sign the [tour contract],” the release signed by 38 top players said.

Their lawyer, Nishan Premathiratne, told ESPNcricinfo that in addition to refusing the tour contracts on principle, there was also a legal objection to these contracts.

“The tour contract also refers to matters of the annual [main] contract for 2021, which is yet unsigned,” he said. “In the event, the annual contract is not settled and a dispute is pending, the validity of the tour contract referring to an unsigned contract is also an issue.”



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Recent Match Report – Notts vs Northants North Group 2021

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Opener’s 136 single-handedly holds Notts together for first win of Blast

Nottinghamshire 214 for 7 (Clarke 136) beat Northamptonshire 200 for 7 (Cobb 62, Ball 3-58) by 14 runs

If you are England, then you habitually look away now. But perhaps the time has come when you shouldn’t. Joe Clarke, who has been easy to ignore since his career went off the rails, played one of the finest T20 innings ever produced in England, an innings so mellow in its destruction that birds might have fallen from the sky, or traffic outside the Northampton ground come to a halt in supplication.

Clarke’s 136 from 65 balls, with 11 sixes and six fours, was the eighth-highest T20 score in England and the best by a Notts batter. His 11 sixes have only been surpassed by three players – Graham Napier and Cameron Delport, both for Essex, and Chris Gayle for Somerset. Gayle might have possessed more awe, but surely none of them played with Clarke’s sweetness of touch. In this sort of form, very few do: he is the best England-qualified batsman without an international cap in the country.

He single-handedly took hold of Notts’ stuttering start to the Blast and guided it into winning territory at the third time of asking. Northants’ innings was the undercard, but they can feel good about getting within 14 runs. They retained slight hopes of chasing down Notts’ 214 for 7 with 87 needed off the last seven overs, and Josh Cobb on 55 from 24 balls, and going long at every opportunity, but then Cobb yanked a hamstring, the offspinner Matt Carter, who was excellent throughout, reasserted control, and from then on it was just a matter of how close they could get.

It is worth reminding ourselves after Clarke’s gentle demolition of Northants’ attack that there is not one England batter who is persona non grata but two. Alex Hales, he of the Johnny Ringo moustache, is the sharpshooter who will probably never escape those “Wanted: Alive of Dead” posters, and appeals for clemency are regularly lodged on his behalf. But Clarke, too, was once England’s golden child, only for his magical adventure to turn into the Golden Child, Eddie Murphy style, a mess of a film which ranks at 22% on Rotten Tomatoes.

He does not make light of his mistakes and he saw a psychologist to help him through last summer. More pertinent for his batting career, though, might have been a discussion with Peter Moores, Notts’ coach, who told him he was sort of a messed-up version of Marnus Labuschagne.

By his own admission, he has missed out on a coupe of Championship hundreds that were in the offing this summer, but If the ego of a talented youngster has given way to the substance that is found in true quality, then the runs may be about to flow. And England are not exactly drowning in that commodity, not in Test cricket at least. Forgiveness is given most readily to those who are most needed – that’s just how desperate life is.

Cold statistics illustrate how much Clarke dominated Notts’ innings. His 136 came off 65 balls at a strike rate of 209. The rest of Notts’ batting line-up managed 67 off 57 at a strike rate of 117. Clarke hit 11 sixes; the rest mustered only two more. It was a supreme one-man show.

From the second ball, it felt as if he meant business as the left-arm spinner Graeme White was treated to the gentlest of inside-out blows over extra cover, a shot played as if he was carrying out an MOT on his timing. Dropped on 29, he exacted mean punishment. White and the swing (non-existent on this occasion) of Ben Sanderson were most harshly dealt with, with Sanderson conceding three sixes in succession in the 16th over.

The first of these blows left Sanderson with hands on hips, as he exchanged a few words of despair with the non-striker, Steven Mullaney. A shimmy across his stumps, followed by the laziest six over midwicket, left Sanderson with hands on knees. The next ball, with the bowler by then disorientated, was a full toss which was deposited over long-on. By then Sanderson didn’t know where to put his hands – or put the ball.

Only the South African Wayne Parnell, the one bowler of international quality, escaped punishment – or sixes – and, suitably, he almost pulled off a return catch, on 125, although he was probably just grateful he escaped with his hand intact. He was also caught off Brandon Glover’s waist-high no-ball on 127, a second blemish which saw Glover removed from the attack. He fell in the last over, a nine iron down the ground against Tom Taylor.

The rest of Notts’ much-vaunted batting line-up failed to fire, although Peter Trego, promoted up to No. 3 in the absence of Ben Duckett, who did not travel to Northampton as a Covid precaution, did share in an 82-run stand before he became one of a succession of batsman to slog to deep midwicket.

Clarke marked his hundred with a beating of his chest – although he did not appear to follow up with some appropriate verses from St Luke about requesting God to be merciful because he was a sinner. It is time for England to be merciful though and to contact him to state, in the clearest terms, that runs are now all that matter.

David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps



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WTC final – R Ashwin suggests neutral venues for matches that count towards WTC points

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India spinner also thinks New Zealand will come into WTC final ‘with an advantage’, having played England in England in the lead-in

A week before the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final in Southampton, India offspinner R Ashwin has suggested that one of the tournament’s potential evolutions could be that teams play the bilateral series that count towards WTC points at neutral venues to “add context”.

“If I may say this, it has to be the most exciting part of playing Test cricket. In all these years, it never happened – we’ve never played a team in a neutral venue,” Ashwin said on bcci.tv. “But I think going forward, maybe the WTC could add context this way, [by having] two teams playing away from their home and sort of bringing the whole ebbs and flows of the game.”

The WTC’s first edition ran a two-year cycle starting in 2019. As per the original structure devised by the ICC, each team was to play six bilateral series, three at home and three away. To make each match count, points were handed out for every match, with the top two teams on the points table contesting a one-off final. The final of the first edition between India and New Zealand will happen in Southampton, a neutral venue, and Ashwin said it could add more to the quality of the tournament if the associated bilateral series took a similar route.

Ashwin’s viewpoint was also shared by his India team-mate and fast bowler Mohammed Shami, who – also speaking to bcci.tv – said India and New Zealand squaring off in the final without either having a “home advantage” would make for good competition.
This is the second suggestion for potential improvements on the WTC coming from the Indian camp. Before their departure to England, head coach Ravi Shastri had said that a best-of-three series should be considered to crown the WTC winner, as opposed to a one-off game at the end of the two-year cycle. Shastri appreciated that conditions around the world may not be suited to such a series at the moment, but said it would be the “ideal” culmination to a two-and-a-half year tournament going forward.
‘New Zealand will come in with an advantage’
India will be heading into this WTC final with less game time in the lead-up than New Zealand, who are currently playing the second Test of a two-match series against England in England. While the first game was truncated due to the weather and multiple senior players have been rested for the second, the workout in English conditions should offer New Zealand an advantage.

“I expect a very well-planned and well-knit New Zealand team to come at us,” Ashwin said. “Obviously having played two Tests, they will definitely come in with an advantage. So we have to adapt to that.”



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Recent Match Report – United vs Qalandars 20th Match 2020/21-2021

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Qalandars surrendered from advantageous positions in both innings after dominating the first ten overs each time

Islamabad United 152 for 7 (Asif 75, Iftikhar 49, Faulkner 3-19) beat Lahore Qalandars 124 (Zaman 44, Musa 3-18, Shadab 2-14) by 28 runs

At first, the Islamabad United’s historic decision to bat first at the toss – for the first time in PSL history – seemed like a bad idea. Their top five were each out for single-digit scores against the Lahore Qalandars and the team was reeling at 20 for 5.
However, a 123-run partnership for the sixth wicket changed the game around. Asif Ali counter-attacked with six fours and five sixes in his 75, and Iftikhar Ahmed played Asif’s sidekick with 49. Together they neutralised Rashid Khan and posted a total big enough to give their bowlers something to defend.
That was successfully pulled off as Muhammad Musa, Shadab Khan and Fawad Ahmed produced a period of play where the Qalandars lost seven wickets for 14 runs. Musa collected three wickets, and both Shadab and Fawad took two each to seal a win that was eventually very comfortable.
The win took United to the top of the PSL points table, tied on points with their opponents of the night, and helped them achieve victory in a manner they had never done previously. And all that without Hasan Ali’s services.

Faulkner, other pacers breathe fire
It was meant to be a long, hot afternoon in the sun for the Qalandars unit after United chose to bat following the toss – more so as Colin Munro and Usman Khawaja came in on the back of a ten-over partnership of 137 runs against Quetta Gladiators. But that wasn’t to be, as Shaheen Afridi had Khawaja caught behind for a duck on the third ball of the first over after getting a full ball to move away and forcing the opener to flick down the wrong line. Next ball, Rohail Nazir was pinned lbw via a yorker, only to survive as Afridi had overstepped.

However, Nazir could not make the most of his reprieve. He was trapped lbw by a James Faulkner ball that moved into him in the second over. Two overs later, Faulkner earned another wicket through an lbw, when Munro did not pick a cutter and looked to defend down the wrong line, only for the ball to strike his pad in front of the stumps.

With Faulkner’s military medium still getting sideways movement, he was given a third over where Hussain Talat’s flick went straight to deep midwicket. Haris Rauf, Shaheen’s replacement at first change in the seventh over, then struck first ball when a quick delivery that was angling in had Shadab Khan edging behind to Ben Dunk. After 6.1 overs, Faulkner had three, Afridi and Rauf had one each, and the Qalandars were 20 for 5. In the last match, the Qalandars had posted their highest ever powerplay score; in this game, they posted their lowest ever.

The counterattack
The early blows aside, it remained a batting-friendly track, and that was proved by the next period of play. For United, Ifthikar and Asif had their backs against the wall after Shadab’s wicket, but they clawed their way back with every passing over.

Asif struck two fours off Faulkner to bring the Australian’s spell to a close and then used Rauf’s pace to hit back-to-back boundaries. Ahmed Daniyal then bore the brunt of Asif’s onslaught as he cleared long-on for six, after which he deposited a flighted Rashid Khan ball for another maximum. More boundaries off Daniyal took Asif to 49, and a single next ball gave him a 28-ball fifty in the 13th over.

All this while, Iftikhar was scoring at a strike-rate of less than a hundred but he changed gears in the 15th over. After striking Daniyal for a four, he brought up United’s hundred before depositing a full-toss and a slower ball off Rauf for consecutive fours. Together, Rashid and Daniyal conceded 82 runs in eight overs for no wickets, and with two overs to go, United had reached 135 for 5.

The 19th from Shaheen began with the bowler being hit for a six by Asif, but a few balls later he was hit-wicket after going too deep in his crease while expecting a yorker, thus ending their 76-ball stand of 123. But his 43-ball 75, together with Iftikhar’s 49, ensured United went into the break with the momentum as they finished on 152 for 7.

Qalandars crumble after Akhtar departs
Sohail Akhtar took the early charge in the powerplay during the Qalandars’ chase of 153 as he helped take 11 runs off Mohammad Wasim’s first over. He then walked across his crease multiple times to explore the fine-leg region with boundaries off Ali Khan and Wasim. However, Shadab introduced Fawad for the final over of the powerplay, and he struck off the last ball of the over when Akhtar failed to pick a googly. His 19-ball 34 had helped the Qalandars raze down 55 runs already, but his dismissal started a massive collapse that the Qalandars simply could not arrest.

A run out of the No. 3 Zeeshan Ashraf in the seventh over didn’t help when they just needed to settle into another partnership after Akhtar’s wicket. But a brilliant piece of fielding near cover from Shadab sent Ashraf back.

Musa, usually expensive but with the habit of taking crucial wickets, then took two – of Mohammad Hafeez pulling to deep midwicket and Dunk caught behind – to tilt the balance United’s way. Musa then added a third as Fakhar Zaman fell for a laboured 37-ball 44, top-edging one to third man.

Then came the spin onslaught. Tim David was out trying to clear long-on off Shadab, while Rashid failed to pick Shadab’s googly. From the other end, Fawad’s quick thinking had Shaheen run-out before he bowled Faulkner through his defenses. At 100 for 9, the Qalandars had truly lost the plot, and despite an entertaining tenth-wicket stand, they fell 28 runs short. Apart from the openers and the No. 11 Rauf, no other Qalandars batter reached double digits.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx



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