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Australia vs England, 2021-22 – Ben Stokes added to England’s Ashes squad

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“I am looking forward to seeing my mates and being on the field with them”

Ben Stokes will return to cricket after a four-and-a-half month break in the first Test of the 2021-22 Ashes, in a major boost to England’s hopes of winning in Australia for the first time in 11 years.

Stokes has not played any competitive cricket since July 26, when he played through injury for Northern Superchargers in the Hundred. He missed England’s series against India, pulling out of the squad days before the first Test citing a need to focus on his mental wellbeing, and was not considered for selection for the T20 World Cup.

But after undergoing further surgery on his left index finger – which he broke during the IPL in April and did not fully recover after he first went under the knife – he has returned to low-level training in recent weeks which will ramp up ahead of England’s departure to Australia on November 4.

“I had a break to prioritise my mental wellbeing and I got my finger sorted,” Stokes said. “I am looking forward to seeing my mates and being on the field with them. I’m ready for Australia.”

Ashley Giles, England’s managing director of men’s cricket, said: “Following a very successful operation on his finger and several conversations over the last few weeks between Ben and I, our medical staff and his management team, Ben called me to say he was ready to return to cricket and was excited about the prospect of playing a significant role in the Ashes series.

“Time and time again, Ben has demonstrated how important he is to the England team and having him available for the Ashes series is excellent news for all of us and, in particular, Chris [Silverwood], Joe [Root] and the rest of the players. Having not played for some time, we will move forward cautiously over the next few weeks to ensure he is fully prepared across all facets of his game.

“Ahead of a very busy period of cricket, we continue to remain mindful of the stresses on all our personnel, and our primary focus continues to be the wellbeing of all of our players and support staff.”

Stokes last played for England in the ODI series against Pakistan in July, when he returned to captain the team at short notice after Eoin Morgan and the rest of the squad were forced into isolation by a number of Covid-19 positives. He batted twice and bowled a handful of overs, as England won the series 3-0, but only played twice in the Hundred thereafter before stepping away from the game indefinitely.

England announced their Ashes squad earlier this month, with Stokes absent and Chris Silverwood, the head coach, stressing that no timeframe would be put on a comeback. Stokes posted a picture of him gripping a bat handle on social media a day later, followed by video of his first hit in the nets since surgery. Last week he tweeted footage of himself bowling.

England’s Ashes planning had already taken a significant hit with the loss of two of their fastest bowlers – Jofra Archer and Olly Stone – to injury. Stokes’ return will strengthen the team in all departments, not least a callow batting group of whom only three have Test experience in Australia.

Stokes made his Test debut in Australia eight years ago, scoring a century at Perth in his second appearance, but missed the 2017-18 Ashes after his involvement in a fracas outside a Bristol nightclub.



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Injury-hit Sydney Sixers set to ask again for Steven Smith

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The defending champions picked up further damage during the Challenger final

It could be a case of third time lucky for Sydney Sixers as the injury-riddled BBL club prepare to send another SOS to Cricket Australia, asking for Steven Smith to return in Friday night’s final against the Perth Scorchers.

Sixers attempted to sign former skipper Smith for the entire finals series, only for CA to block the move after rival state associations raised objections. They tried again prior to Wednesday night’s Challenger final because Josh Philippe contracted Covid-19 but failed, having to send out assistant coach Jay Lenton instead.

Steve O’Keefe (calf), Jordan Silk (hamstring) and captain Moises Henriques (calf) suffered fresh injuries on Wednesday night, while Daniel Hughes (ankle) failed a pre-match fitness test. Philippe will miss the title-deciding clash with the Scorchers at Marvel Stadium.

Brothers Jack and Mickey Edwards will be on the final night of their isolation period, meaning they will also remain unavailable unless the Victoria government provide an exemption.

A glut of enforced omissions could potentially result in a CA rethink regarding Smith, who was expecting to be part of a limited-overs series against New Zealand that was ultimately postponed.

The issue is set to be discussed by powerbrokers on Thursday, when the depleted Sixers head south for their fifth title-deciding showdown with Perth.

Henriques, speaking to Fox Sports on Wednesday night, remained unsure whether he will be fit to face the Scorchers.

“I have no idea. It’s going to have to be a bloody bad calf for me not to play,” Henriques said. “Flight tomorrow won’t be amazing. We’ll see what happens. I’ll just hobble around like an old bloke. I’ve been doing that all year anyway.”



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Recent Match Report – AUS Women vs ENG Women Only Test 2021/22

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Megan Schutt is not part of the Australia line-up in Canberra

England won the toss and decided to bowl against Australia

Heather Knight gave her bowlers the chance to find some early help from the Canberra surface after putting Australia into bat in the one-off Ashes Test with both sides fielding a debutant.

Legspinner Alana King came into the Australia side and is part of an attack that does not feature the experienced Megan Schutt who is being carefully managed ahead of the ODI World Cup. Darcie Brown, Annabel Sutherland, Tahlia McGrath and Ellyse Perry are the pace-bowling options.

Schutt contracted Covid-19 late last year which has affected her conditioning and the selectors have an eye on the World Cup next month, but a CA spokesperson said she was medically fit for selection.

In an interesting batting-order tweak, captain Meg Lanning was listed at No. 5 with Beth Mooney, playing just 10 days after fracturing her jaw, due to come in at No. 3.

England have handed a first cap to offspinner Charlie Dean in a side with five specialist bowlers which was flagged yesterday by Knight. She will support left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone while the experienced trio of Katherine Brunt, Anya Shrubsole and Kate Cross make up the pace attack alongside allrounder Nat Sciver.

The opening day is set fair although there is the forecast of some storms over the weekend. The Test carries four points in the multi-format series – if Australia win they will retain the Ashes.

Australia 1 Rachael Haynes, 2 Alyssa Healy (wk), 3 Beth Mooney, 4 Ellyse Perry, 5 Meg Lanning (capt), 6 Tahlia McGrath, 7 Ashleigh Gardner, 8 Annabel Sutherland, 9 Jess Jonassen, 10 Alana King, 11 Darcie Brown

England 1 Tammy Beaumont, 2 Lauren Winfield-Hill, 3 Heather Knight (capt), 4 Nat Sciver, 5 Sophia Dunkley, 6 Amy Jones (wk), 7 Katherine Brunt, 8 Charlie Dean, 9 Anya Shrubsole, 10 Sophie Ecclestone, 11 Kate Cross

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy 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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