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Aus vs SA, T20 World Cup 2021

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Head coach also shows faith and confidence in Finch and Warner after Saturday’s performance

Australia scraped through their opening encounter after an outstanding bowling performance and some critical cameos with the bat from Steven Smith, Marcus Stoinis and Matthew Wade.

They made a bold decision to leave out both Agar and Richardson, who had been automatic selections for most of the last two years in a five-man attack, with Agar currently the highest-ranked Australian at No. 6 on the ICC T20I bowling rankings.

But Australia opted for four specialist bowlers only with Glenn Maxwell as the fifth bowler. Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins played together for the first time in a T20I despite the slow nature of the Abu Dhabi surface, with the plan working to perfection.

“It was a very, very difficult selection,” Langer said. “But because we went for the 7-4 set-up rather than the 6-5, and we felt that we were very well planned against South Africa, we knew that we wanted to try and make an impact in the powerplay overs, in the first six overs, we’ve seen that through the IPL. And we also knew the strength of South Africa upfront so, and thankfully it worked yesterday.

“I can’t emphasise enough how tough it was on Ashton Agar, his numbers are literally outstanding. Tough on Ash and really tough on Kane Richardson who’s probably, arguably our best death bowler, or a very good bowler in these conditions so it’s nice to have those selection headaches.”

Langer said the players are well aware that team selection will be dictated by the conditions as they had done in the 50-over World Cup in England in 2019.

“We’ve said from day one to the players and we did it in the last World Cup, we did it to a degree in the last Ashes in England, that we’ll just look at the conditions, we’ll look at the opposition, we’ll look at the match-ups, and we’ll make the call that we think is right for the team,” Langer said. “It doesn’t always work out that way, but with all the information we’ve got, we’ll work through that.”

One area where Australia are unlikely to make any changes is their opening partnership despite both Aaron Finch and David Warner struggling for form and runs. Both missed out against South Africa but Langer was confident his two most experienced openers would come good sooner rather than later.

“There’s some really good signs from Davey yesterday,” Langer said. “I think he pulled Rabada for four, he played a beautiful cover drive, he played a great cut shot, and then one held up on him a bit. But they’re good signs for me.

“He’s in as good physical shape as I’ve ever seen him so that’s a very positive sign, [I’m] really confident he’ll come good.

“And Finchy, I thought one, Finchy’s captaincy was brilliant yesterday. And he’s another one that, he had knee surgery, it might take a little bit of time for him to get moving. He’s working hard in the nets in his preparation. I don’t think it’s so much a mental thing for Finchy. I think it’s just getting back into some rhythm, getting used to his leg feeling good again.

“They have been and are a world-class opening partnership and I honestly believe when those two get going, that’s going to set us up for real success in this tournament.”

Langer admitted he had nearly chewed his fingernails down to the quick in Saturday’s last-over thriller. But he expects more close low-scoring games as the tournament moves on.

“We’re going to have to get ready for it, there’s going to be some very, very close games I think,” Langer said. “It’s usually what happens on these sorts of wickets.

“We go to Dubai today; our next game is in Dubai. West Indies were bowled out for 55 I think yesterday in those conditions. We’ll work it out and hopefully we’ll get it right more often than not.”

Australia face Sri Lanka in Dubai on Thursday.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo



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West Indies tour of India

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Bonner, Bravo and King strengthen batting for India tour after shock Ireland defeat

Desmond Haynes has marked his first squad since replacing Roger Harper as West Indies’ lead selector by handing Kemar Roach an ODI recall after two-and-a-half years out of the side for February’s series in India.

Roach is one of six additions to the squad that lost 2-1 at home to Ireland this month, with Roston Chase and Justin Greaves among the players dropping out of the squad after lean series with the bat.

Fabian Allen has recovered from Covid-19 and replaces Gudakesh Motie in the 15-man squad, while Nkrumah Bonner, Darren Bravo and Brandon King strengthen the batting group and Hayden Walsh Jr offers an extra spin option. Jayden Seales and Devon Thomas, neither of whom featured against Ireland, also lose their places.
Roach has not played any white-ball cricket – either List A or T20 – since his most recent ODI, against India in 2019 but Haynes said that he had been recalled with an eye on early wickets.

“Kemar Roach is one of our leading fast bowlers,” Haynes said, “and we believe we need bowlers up front to get early wickets. Kemar, with an economy rate of five, is certainly good enough to play.”

The three-match ODI series, which will be played in Ahmedabad on February 6, 9 and 11, is part of the ODI Super League which forms the pathway for the 2023 World Cup, which is scheduled in India in October-November next year.

After the shock series defeat against Ireland, which preceded the ongoing T20I series against England, West Indies captain Kieron Pollard had underlined that his team had a “batting problem”. Having successfully defended 269 in the first ODI against Ireland, West Indies struggled in the final two matches, scoring 229 and 212.

Greaves struggled in all three matches and has now been replaced by Bonner, who made his ODI debut in Bangladesh series last year. Haynes said that Bonner had come on “leaps and bounds” in recent years and that he deserves “an opportunity to play in the 50-over format” and stressed his desire for competition for places ahead of the 2023 World Cup in India.

“We want to have competition for places,” he said. “We want to reach a stage where we have a lot of players fighting for positions. We want to broaden the pool of players we have to choose from. The team we have selected is a very good side and we are looking at this tour as part of the preparations for the World Cup in India in 2023.”

While the India tour also comprises three T20s, which will be played in Kolkata on February 16, 18 and 20, Haynes’ panel has opted to wait for the England series to finish before picking the squad.

West Indies ODI squad: Kieron Pollard (captain), Fabian Allen, Nkrumah Bonner, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Brandon King, Nicholas Pooran, Kemar Roach, Romario Shepherd, Odean Smith, Hayden Walsh Jr



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England players deserve medals, not criticism after getting through Ashes series

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Paul Collingwood believes that the Ashes were “one step too far” and that he is genuinely concerned about the long-term implications on the mental health of players that Covid bubbles are causing.

Speaking in Barbados, where he is standing in for Chris Silverwood as head coach during England’s T20I series against West Indies, and on the island where he became England’s first ever World Cup-winning captain, Collingwood spoke explicitly on the realities of life in the bubble, and fears that the long-term impact of the pandemic on cricketers may be severely damaging.

“I don’t think people have understood the impact and the effects that these bubbles have had,” Collingwood said. “Going to the Ashes off the back of a tough bubble in Dubai, I think was literally one step too far.

“You can’t even explain what it’s like until you experience it. The simple fact is you cannot walk out of your front door and as soon as you’re told that you cannot do something as simple as going for a coffee, and you are penned in with the same guys. A lot of people will say ‘that must be fun’ and ‘you’ve got a lovely hotel’ [but] it hits you.

“Take someone like Chris Woakes, the most loveable and down-to-earth guy. I have seen him in some serious mental states. We have seen Ben Stokes, someone we consider to be the most mentally tough cricketer in the world, being hit by this. I just hope there are no ramifications moving forward because when they come, they won’t be obvious next week or the week after. These are things that might come out down the line. That’s what scares me.”

The England players underwent strict quarantine on the Gold Coast, and managed only two full days of match practice going into the first Test in Brisbane. Rory Burns’ golden duck set the tone for a dismal series as England were bowled out for 147 on the first day and went on to lose 4-0, hanging on for a draw in Sydney while nine wickets down.

Despite England’s hammering, Collingwood stressed that England were facing an impossible task. “I reckon if you had given us the best England cricketers in the Ashes from the last 100 years and put them in the same environment that those boys have lived in over the past two years with the preparation that we had going into this Ashes even they wouldn’t have had a chance,” he said.

Collingwood was part of the England squad that won the 2010-11 Ashes down under and understands precisely the physical and mental levels required to compete in Australia. He retired from international cricket after that winter and since then, England have failed to win a Test match in Australia, across 15 attempts.

Collingwood was part of a group alongside Silverwood, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Woakes and Mark Wood that spent six weeks in a bubble in the UAE, before flying to Australia for their quarantine period on the Gold Coast and insisted that the lack of meaningful preparation only compounded the situation.

And while he admitted that England made mistakes at the toss and in selection, he said that players should be praised for the efforts they had made in getting through the series in a strict environment, suggesting that Cricket Australia should have agreed to a compromise rather than packing five Tests into a short window during the pandemic.

“You are burnt out from the start after your team has been in the intense environment of a World Cup,” he said. “It wasn’t club cricket that these players were coming from. Then there’s just two days of preparation before going into the Ashes. Australia is the hardest place to go to when you’ve got your best team in form and everyone’s playing consistently. We’ve seen that from the past.

“Yes, we made mistakes, 100%. We made selection mistakes, we made toss mistakes, but the fact we actually turned up and agreed to a five-match Ashes series, the guys should be given medals for that. It would’ve been much better if we’d done two matches and then three next year. That would’ve been a great compromise.

“But no, Australia were not bothered that they were going to receive an England team who were mentally fatigued, they just wanted to get the product out there. They just wanted the Ashes. These guys deserve medals, not criticism. They should be told ‘well done’ for even going. It’s the equivalent of the England football team being asked to go to a World Cup, then from that bubble into the Euros. Would you expect a performance from that scenario? It’s ludicrous.”

Ahead of another hectic schedule for England in 2022, which includes tours to West Indies, Netherlands, Pakistan and Australia, as well as a jam-packed home summer and another T20 World Cup in October, Collingwood hopes that at least in England, they can operate without bubbles, but fears that the damage may already have been done – not just for England players but also for cricketers around the world.

“I almost think it is too late to get these messages across,” he said. “These sorts of things should have been brought out in the middle of last summer. We saw the signs then when boys were fading, and it is not healthy for the game. This isn’t just us. We have obviously played the most amount of cricket, but it will catch up with other teams as well.”

Aadam Patel is a freelance sports reporter who has written for BBC Sport, the Daily Mail, ESPNcricinfo, the Cricketer and other publications @aadamp9



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Under-19 World Cup – UAE get past Uganda in low-scoring thriller in Plate quarter-final

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le Roux stars for Ireland in their win over Canada

United Arab Emirates 127 for 9 (Smith 25, Musinguzi 3-21, Baguma 3-29) beat Uganda 123 all out (Lutaaya 25, Shetty 4-29) by one wicket

A 12-run last-wicket partnership took UAE over the line in a tense contest against Uganda in the first Plate quarter-final in Port of Spain. Legspinner Adhitya Shetty played a crucial role in the win. First, his legspin yielded figures of 4 for 29 to bowl Uganda out for 123. Then, he made an unbeaten 11 from No. 10 to take his side over the line.

Shetty was among the wickets early in the game when he got the first wicket of the day, dismissing Uganda opener Ronald Opio for 12. Nilansh Keswani struck from the other end, and the three wickets had reduced Uganda from 30 for no loss to 39 for 3. Ronald Lutaaya (25) and Uganda captain Pascal Murungi (23) then added 35 for the fourth wicket, but once Shetty broke the partnership, the rest of the wickets quickly followed. Shetty himself took two more, while Aayan Afzal Khan took two lower order wickets to set themselves a 124-run target.

A 43-run opening stand for between top-scorer Kai Smith (25) and Dhruv Parashar gave UAE a solid start in the chase, but Uganda spinners Joseph Baguma (3-29) and Matthew Musinguzi (3-21) ran through the UAE batting line-up to have them reeling at 82 for 7. Aayan, the No. 9, scored a 38-ball 22 to take UAE closer to the target, but when the ninth wicket fell, the side was still nine runs away from victory. However, Shetty and Jash Giyanani (4*) held on to pip Uganda in a low-scoring thriller.

Ireland 179 all out (le Roux 83*, Gibson 3-36) beat Canada 85 all out (Wilson 3-18, Forbes 2-2, McGuire 2-13) by 94 runs

Le Roux made an unbeaten 83 in 107 balls for Ireland, a clear outlier in the match where the second-highest score from either team was 25. His innings of 12 fours lifted Ireland to 179, after which a combined Irish bowling performance left Canada all out for a sub-100 score.

Ireland seamer Reuben Wilson pegged Canada back early in the chase when he dismissed both openers cheaply. Liam Doherty then reduced Canada to 12 for 3, and by the time Nathan McGuire removed Gurnek Johal Singh, Canada were 41 for 5. Kairav Sharma displayed brief resistance in his 30-ball stay of 19 but two wickets for Jamie Forbes and Wilson’s third scalp ended Canada’s innings on 85 in the 30th over.

Le Roux, the Ireland No. 5, walked in at 34 for 3 in the first innings and stayed unbeaten right till the end. He put on 33 with the captain Tim Tector for the fourth wicket, but a flurry of wickets at the other end had Ireland struggling at 90 for 7. However, a 48-run eighth-wicket stand between le Roux and Forbes (25) took Ireland closer to 140, and a 37-run ninth-wicket stand with Muzamil Sherzad (13) took Ireland to 179.



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