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Yorkshire racism row – Gary Ballance admits to racial slur against ‘closest friend’ Azeem Rafiq

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Former England batter regrets actions but insists he was support to former team-mate

Gary Ballance, the Yorkshire batter and former team-mate of Azeem Rafiq, has admitted that he was the player whose use of the slur “P**I” was deemed to be “banter” in a report into allegations of institutional racism at the club.

In a lengthy and emotional statement issued by Yorkshire on behalf of the player, Ballance said that he “deeply regretted” some of the language he had used in the past, but doubled down on the report’s findings, insisting that Rafiq had been his “closest friend and supporter in cricket”, and adding that he had once invited the player and his bowling coach to stay at his family home in Zimbabwe.

The report, which was compiled by a five-person panel in the wake of an investigation into Rafiq’s allegations, was finally passed onto the ECB last week, and included the detail, subsequently reported by ESPNcricinfo, that “P**i” was an equivalent term to “Zimbo”, the nickname that Rafiq was understood to have used for Ballance.

“It has been reported that I used a racial slur and, as I told the independent enquiry, I accept that I did so and I regret doing so,” Ballance said. “To be clear – I deeply regret some of the language I used in my younger years.”

Ballance, who played 23 Tests for England between 2014 and 2017, claimed that he and Rafiq had “supported each other greatly” through the highs and lows of their respective careers, adding that “I was there for him” when Rafiq was released from his original contract with Yorkshire in 2014, shortly after the tragic death of his infant son – a chain of events that Rafiq said, in an interview with ESPNcricinfo last year, had caused him to “lose faith in humanity”.

“On the pitch we supported each other greatly,” Ballance said. “We both captained Yorkshire at various times and we backed each other when we filled these roles.

“When he was first released by Yorkshire I was there for him during that tough time and I was delighted when he earned a new contract and a second spell with the club. He was very pleased for me when I was selected for England and I was delighted to receive his supportive messages during my time with England.

“Because we were such good friends and spent a lot of time together drinking and on nights out we both said things privately to each other which were not acceptable,” he added.

“I do not wish to discredit Rafa by repeating the words and statements that he made about me and others but I have to be clear that this was a situation where best friends said offensive things to each other which, outside of that context, would be considered wholly inappropriate.

“I regret that these exchanges took place but at no time did I believe or understand that it had caused Rafa distress. If I had believed that then I would have stopped immediately. He was my best mate in cricket and I cared deeply for him. To my knowledge, it has never been alleged that I reduced Rafa to tears.”

In a separate interview with the Daily Telegraph, Mesba Ahmed – one of three British Asians on the panel – insisted that he stood by the report’s findings, adding that the issue would become “crystal clear” if Yorkshire could agree to its full publication.

The developments come on a dramatic day for Yorkshire cricket, following the severing of ties of two of the club’s foremost sponsors, Emerald and Yorkshire Tea, and with the anticipation of further awkward revelations in the coming weeks, when Rafiq himself is expected to give evidence at a DCMS committee hearing, along with the club chairman Roger Hutton, and two senior executives in Mark Arthur and Martyn Moxon.



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South Africa vs Netherlands 2021

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Although Netherlands are unable to catch a flight out, it is understood the players have communicated they are not in the right mental state to play

The second and third ODIs between South Africa and Netherlands have been postponed after concerns around a new Coronavirus variant, Omicron. The first match in the series, which forms part of the World Cup Super League, was washed out on Friday, leaving the teams sharing five points each. That keeps Netherlands in last place on the points table, and South Africa in ninth, outside the automatic qualification zone.

Although Netherlands will be in South Africa for the duration of the series because they are unable to catch a flight out, ESPNcricinfo understands that the players have communicated they are not in the right mental state to play. On Friday, their coach Ryan Campbell tweeted that the team played with “unbelievable pressure hanging over their heads,” after travel restrictions began to affect the southern African region.

“We are disappointed by the unfortunate situation we find ourselves in, but the comfort of all visiting teams must always be paramount,” Pholetsi Moseki, CSA’s acting CEO, said. “The mental well-being of players is one of CSA’s top priorities, and we respect our visitors’ position and point of view.

“CSA and KNCB will get into discussions around possibly rescheduling the tour within this cycle of the ICC Future Tours Programme ending in 2023.”

“We are saddened by these circumstances, but are grateful to Cricket South Africa for their assistance and understanding of our team’s position,” Jurgen Delfos, chairman of Netherlands cricket board, said. “

It must be made clear that the concerns are strictly over travel issues and how soon the team can get home and have nothing to do with the integrity of the Bio-Secure Environment (BSE) that CSA has successfully hosted. Our team has been pleased with every aspect of the organisation of the tour and have been well treated by our hosts.”

The United Kingdom, United States, much of Europe, Australia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand have all banned travel to and from countries in southern Africa, and imposed a quarantine on their own citizens returning from the region in response to Omicron.

News of a new variant was first made public on Tuesday, November 23 and cases in the Gauteng province of South Africa, where the Netherlands series is taking place, have increased severalfold since. Although South Africa is only reporting around 2,000 new cases a day, there are concerns this will rise exponentially and stricter restrictions are due to be introduced soon. South Africa is currently on Level 1 of 5 of its restrictions, the most lenient since the pandemic began, and the first ODI was the first time since March 2020 that cricket was played in front of a limited crowd, but the government is meeting on Saturday to discuss further measures.

As yet there is no indication of how this will affect the rest of the cricket calendar. India A are also in South Africa, playing first-class matches against South Africa A in Bloemfontein. So far, that series is continuing. India’s senior side is due to travel to South Africa for three Tests, three ODIs and four ODIs on December 8. India has not imposed any restrictions on southern African travelers to date, but has stricter testing measures for people from the region in place.

Last summer, South Africa’s season was severely impacted after England left the country early without playing the ODI leg of their white-ball tour and Australia pulled out of a four-Test series which was pencilled in as the marquee event of the summer. Sri Lanka and Pakistan both toured the country without incident in strict bio-bubble conditions, which Cricket South Africa will replicate for the India series.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent





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Recent Match Report – Scorchers Wm vs StrikersWmn Final 2021/22

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The home side finished strongly with the bat and started superbly with the ball in the powerplay

Perth Scorchers 5 for 146 beat Adelaide Strikers 6 for 134 by 12 runs

Marizanne Kapp, who had been ill all week in the lead-up to the WBBL final and barely left her hotel room, produced a critical all-round display to help Perth Scorchers claim their maiden title as Adelaide Strikers’ powerful late-tournament surge came to a halt at Optus Stadium.
In front of a crowd of 15,511, the highest for a standalone WBBL match, the defining passages of the match were how Scorchers finished their batting innings and then started with the ball: their final five overs brought 47 runs, with vital hands from Player of the Match Kapp and Alana King, then they restricted Strikers to 2 for 16 in their powerplay with Kapp’s first two overs costing just two runs and Sophie Devine producing a wicket maiden.

The middle order did their best to keep Strikers in the match with useful hands but it proved out of reach despite Madeline Penna’s best efforts with 30 not out off 21 balls.

Kapp produced some superb deliveries to build the pressure on Strikers’ openers and it was Devine who earned the reward when Katie Mack’s extraordinary run of scoring was halted as he she drove to cover. Before this match Mack had made 332 runs in her last six innings for just one out.

Without a run added van Niekerk also departed, edging Taneale Peschel down the leg side, and by the end of the powerplay the asking rate was above nine an over.

Laura Wolvaardt and captain Tahlia McGrath rebuilt with a stand of 65 in eight overs which was forming a base from where Strikers could have run down the target. However, both fell within the space of six balls carving catches to the off-side ring which meant new batters had little time to get set.

The prolific Scorchers opening pair of Devine and Beth Mooney made a solid if unspectacular start after being put into bat, reaching 0 for 37 after the powerplay. They were immediately aggressive against Amanda-Jade Wellington who conceded more in her first four balls than she did the entire record-breaking Eliminator spell, although she would fight back well.

Neither opener could really cut loose and Strikers started to chip away at the top order. Mooney picked out mid-off, Devine was run out by a direct hit by Dane van Niekerk from short third and Chloe Piparo edged Darcie Brown who was rewarded for some rapid outswing bowling.

At 3 for 75 in the 12th the innings was at a tipping point and there was caution from Kapp and Heather Graham which threatened to leave Scorchers short. However, Kapp started to find the boundary and King made a dynamic late entrance with three boundaries in a five-ball stay.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Women’s World Cup Qualifier 2021-22 in Zimbabwe called off following concerns over new Covid-19 variant

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The tournament cannot be rescheduled, as the ODI World Cup is scheduled for March-April 2022

The women’s ODI World Cup qualifying event in Zimbabwe has been called off after travel restrictions were imposed on large parts of southern Africa following the detection of a new Covid-19 variant, called Omicron, in the region. With the marquee event scheduled to take place next year in March and April, the qualifier cannot be held at a later date, and the three remaining spots will be decided according to the ICC rankings.

Hosts New Zealand, Australia, England, South Africa and India have already qualified for the tournament. They will now be joined by Bangladesh, West Indies and Pakistan.

The news will be a disappointment to Thailand, who do not have a ranking at the moment, but beat Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in the tournament. Bangladesh were on top of Group B with wins over Pakistan and USA, while West Indies topped Group A after beating Ireland.

ESPNcricinfo has learned that the cutoff date for the women’s ODI rankings taken into consideration for deciding on the final three teams for 2022 ODI World Cup was September 30. Between the start of the pandemic and August 31, 2021, Pakistan played eight ODIs, winning two, West Indies played 10, winning three and having one tied, while Ireland, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh played none. Bangladesh, however, are understood to have been well ahead of Ireland and Sri Lanka on the rankings for more than a year.

Concerns over the future of the qualifier were raised on Saturday morning when the match between Sri Lanka and West Indies was called off without a ball bowled. ESPNcricinfo understands that the fixture could not be played because a member of the Sri Lankan support staff had tested positive for Covid-19.

“We are incredibly disappointed to have to cancel the remainder of this event but with travel restrictions from a number of African countries being imposed at such short notice, there was a serious risk that teams would be unable to return home,” Chris Tetley, the ICC head of events, said.

“We have explored a number of options to allow us to complete the event but it isn’t feasible and we will fly the teams out of Zimbabwe as soon as possible. Bangladesh, Pakistan and the West Indies will now qualify for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2022 by virtue of their rankings, whilst Sri Lanka and Ireland will also join them in the next cycle of the ICC Women’s Championship.”

There had already been a few positive Covid-19 tests in the Sri Lanka camp after reaching Zimbabwe, the last of which was detected prior to their match against Netherlands on Tuesday. That match did go ahead with Sri Lanka winning a rain-affected fixture by 34 runs.

On the whole, Zimbabwe’s caseload remains relatively low at under 135,000, with fewer than 5000 deaths. However, with travel in and out of the country becoming increasingly difficult, the qualifier had to be scrapped for logistical reasons. Emirates Airline, which flew the teams into Harare, is understood to be suspending the route in the coming days.

The variant was first discovered in Botswana and has infected several hundred people in neighbouring South Africa, which is on the brink of a fourth wave of infection. The UK, USA, much of Europe, Australia, Sri Lanka and Thailand have all suspended travel to and from countries in southern Africa, putting several international events in doubt.

The women’s World Cup qualifiers got underway on Sunday, November 21, amid low case numbers in southern Africa, but Papua New Guinea had been “forced to withdraw” from the tournament at the start of the month due to a slew of infections in the camp. News of a new variant was first made public on Tuesday, November 23, and cases in the Gauteng province of South Africa have increased several fold since. Although South Africa is reporting around 2000 new cases a day, there are concerns this will rise exponentially and stricter restrictions are due to be introduced soon. South Africa is currently on Level 1 of 5 of its restrictions, the most lenient since the pandemic began.
The Netherlands men’s team is currently in South Africa playing a World Cup Super League ODI series and have two matches left to play. A decision on whether those are going to go ahead will be taken today.

India A are also in South Africa, playing first-class matches in Bloemfontein. So far, that series is known to be on schedule, since the region is regarded as safe. India’s senior side is due to travel to South Africa for three Tests, three ODIs and four ODIs on December 8. India has not imposed any restrictions on southern African travellers yet, but has installed stricter testing measures for people from the region.



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