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Eng vs NZ 2021 – New Zealand’s wholesale changes show immense strength in depth

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Unprecedented six changes also highlight WTC’s impact on international cricket

New Zealand have never previously made six changes to their side within a series and that they did so at Edgbaston and still managed to take seven wickets after being asked to bowl on a flat pitch was evidence of two things: firstly, unprecedented strength in depth within their Test squad, and secondly, the extent of the World Test Championship’s impact on international cricket.

Tom Latham, their stand-in captain, insisted in his pre-match press conference that beating England was “higher on our priority list” than the WTC final, but that he was saying it in the first place was proof of the inverse: Kane Williamson was ruled out through elbow pain here but would surely be risked against India if he suffered the same ailment next week.
Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson and Colin de Grandhomme were all rotated out to manage their workloads ahead of the same fixture, and while BJ Watling’s stiff back and Mitchell Santner’s cut finger might well have caused them to miss out under any circumstances, the presence of ready-made replacements in Tom Blundell and Ajaz Patel and Trent Boult’s return meant only a limited drop-off in the quality of New Zealand’s side.

It has been clear for some time that the notion of teams knowing their ‘best XI’ is anachronistic in this era of international cricket but in the Covid era of enlarged squads, bubble fatigue, variety in conditions and a punishing schedule, squad depth is more relevant than ever. India proved as much during their improbable series win in Australia at the start of this year, and with New Zealand fielding 17 players across these two Tests, they are showing that the era of “Hadlee at one end, Ilford seconds at the other” is long gone.

The only time a team has used more than that in a two-match series was when Sri Lanka rested seven players after an innings-and-196-run win against a struggling Bangladesh in 2002, which led Sanath Jayasuriya to complain he had never seen some of his new side before and drew the disapproval of the government’s sports minister – though they still won the second Test by 288 runs.



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Katherine Brunt on Women’s Hundred pay row: ‘Equality doesn’t happen overnight’

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Katherine Brunt, the longest-serving member of the England women’s squad, has warned her peers not to lose sight of the huge progress made by their game, after a gender pay row threatened to overshadow Wednesday’s standalone opening fixture of the Hundred.

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, several of the more junior members of each of the Hundred’s eight city-based teams risk losing out on regular income for the duration of the tournament, due to heightened restrictions within the teams’ Covid-safe environments.

With salaries for the women’s game starting at £3,600, compared to the lowest men’s pay bracket of £24,000, this means that some of the participants may be required to choose between the tournament or their existing jobs.

However, Brunt – who made her Test debut as a 19-year-old in 2004, and went on to become of the ECB’s first centrally contracted female players a decade later – insisted that the women needed to remain mindful of the bigger picture, adding that the struggle for equality is never a smooth process, but that the prospects for their sport were better now than at any time in her career.

“I used to pay to play,” Brunt said. “I used to only get expenses for a good eight years of my international career. So when you look at it from that standpoint, with more women in cricket being paid than ever before, then we’re doing pretty well. We’re doing very well.

“The wages aren’t anything to turn your nose up at,” she added. “They’re good. Yes, they could definitely be better. And there’s gaps in it. That happens all the time in every different field, but it’s definitely going to get better. This isn’t going to go the other way, this is only going to go up.”



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The Hundred 2021 – England men’s Test players available for two Hundred games each

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ECB clarify availability amid fears that India series could be compromised by close contacts

England men’s Test players have been made available for two games each in the inaugural season of the Hundred, ahead of their five-match series against India.

With Covid-19 cases on the rise in the UK and the ECB desperate to ensure that the summer’s showpiece Test series goes ahead unaffected, there had been suggestions that England’s players would be pulled out of the new 100-ball competition altogether in order to minimise their risk of infection.

Instead, they will play two matches each for their respective teams before being ‘bridged’ into England’s secure team environment ahead of the first Test at Trent Bridge on August 4. The ECB had initially hoped that Test players would be available for three group games, and a decision is yet to be reached on their availability for the knockout stages, which take place between the second and third Tests against India.

While players participating in the Hundred have been asked to follow certain protocols aimed at minimising the risk of Covid infection – such as avoiding pubs and shops – and are being tested regularly, the involvement of England players does increase the risk of them missing the first Test due to self-isolation, either due to testing positive themselves or being a close contact of a positive team-mate.

It means Jos Buttler, Sam Curran and Rory Burns will all be available for the opening match of the men’s competition at The Oval on Thursday night, with Chris Woakes, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Mark Wood and Dan Lawrence involved in Birmingham Phoenix vs London Spirit at Edgbaston on Friday night.



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India in England – Injury concerns for India: Virat Kohli has stiff back, Ajinkya Rahane swollen hamstring

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BCCI says Rahane is expected to “fully recover” for the first Test

India’s Test captain Virat Kohli and his deputy Ajinkya Rahane missed the three-day warm-up against County Select XI in Chester-le-Street because of a stiff back and swelling in the left hamstring respectively.

The niggles, the BCCI said in a media release, would not hamper the availability of the senior pair for the first Test against England, which
starts at Trent Bridge from August 4.

In Kohli’s absence, Rohit Sharma led the Indians in the warm-up match, which has been classified as a first-class game. BCCI secretary Jay Shah said in the media release that Kohli, who was at the ground, “felt some stiffness in his back late Monday evening” and consequently was prescribed rest by the board’s medical team. However, the Indian team management would be more concerned by Rahane’s fitness, considering the first Test is about two weeks away. According to Shah, Rahane, too, was being “monitored” after he reported “mild swelling around his left upper hamstring” which “has been addressed by an injection.” Shah, however, said that Rahane “is expected to fully recover well in time” for the first Test.



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