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T20 World Cup 2021 semi-final – Eng vs NZ

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Decision will be based on Abu Dhabi conditions as new opening combo prepares to step up

England will make a late decision regarding the balance of their side for Wednesday’s T20 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand based on conditions in Abu Dhabi, their captain Eoin Morgan has revealed.
James Vince was added to the squad on Monday after spending the last three weeks in Dubai as a travelling reserve and is one of two spare batters, along with Sam Billings. Tom Curran and David Willey are the two spare bowling allrounders, while Reece Topley was brought into squad as an injury replacement for Tymal Mills ahead of the South Africa game.

Morgan said that the decision as to who replaced Roy in the side would come down to conditions in Abu Dhabi, suggesting that they would lean towards an extra bowling option if they expect the pitch to be conducive to high-scoring, but would pick a batter if it looks like it will offer assistance for bowlers. It is understood that Wednesday’s game will be played on Pitch 7 at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, which was previously used for South Africa vs Bangladesh and Pakistan vs Namibia in Super 12s fixtures and offered good bounce for seamers on those occasions.

“Replacing him [Roy] with another bowler would mean that you’d have 28 genuine overs on the field, and a lot of options,” Morgan said at his pre-match press conference before England’s optional training session at ICC Academy in Dubai. “If you were to go with a batter, it would mean a like-for-like replacement.

“When we turn up and look at the wicket, depending if it’s a really good batting wicket or predicting if going to be a really good wicket, you might need the extra bit of bowling, and if it’s not, we might need an extra bit of batting.”

Morgan also confirmed that England had decided who would open the batting alongside Jos Buttler, suggesting that it is likely to be a player who has already been part of the side rather than a late entrant in Vince. Jonny Bairstow, an opener for England in ODI cricket and Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL, is the probable candidate, with Dawid Malan offering the main alternative, and Livingstone and Moeen representing more left-field options.

“Within the group, we’ve made a decision,” Morgan said. “I’m not willing to share that unfortunately but the balance of the side will be determined on how the wicket looks and how we match-up against the Black Caps.

“I don’t think it is [a difficult call to have made]. I think we’re blessed with guys who can bat at the top of the order and actually want to bat at the top of the order. If you look around the highest run-scorers, the big-name players, they all want to bat or are batting in the top three in every team.

“We’re lucky we have guys that queue up and want to bat in the top three, which is great because they want to go head-to-head with the big-name players in the tournament – they want to go head-to-head with the big-name bowlers in the opposition. I think we’re in a very lucky position that we have a number of guys to choose from.”

Whichever option England choose, Roy will undoubtedly be a major loss: he is England’s second-highest run-scorer in this tournament and has been a key part of their white-ball set-up in the six-and-a-half years since their group-stage exit in the 50-over World Cup in 2015. Morgan said that he had been proud of his squad’s “resilience” in the absence of other key players in Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes, Sam Curran and Mills, and that reaching the final would be “a hell of an achievement”.

“If you look right from the very beginning of our selection process leading into the World Cup, we’ve got a number of big-name players missing from our squad and that’s continued both pre-tournament with Sam Curran and into the tournament with Jason Roy and Tymal Mills,” Morgan said. “Other guys have found something else within themselves to either try and fill that gap or contribute in a different way to the team.

“Like losing any of your experienced players, you can’t really replace that experience that Jason has: he’s played integral parts in our two previous World Cup campaigns. [But] of all the things we’ve done well throughout this tournament, probably our strongest point has been the resilience within our squad to be able to find a way to move forward and forge on.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98



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The Ashes 2021-22 – Australia vs England

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England’s Ashes campaign officially gets underway on Tuesday, according to Joe Root, the Test captain, with the emergence from quarantine of the multi-format players who featured in the recent T20 World Cup in the UAE, and the scheduled start of an intra-squad four-day match in Brisbane.

Jos Buttler, Mark Wood, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan and Chris Woakes, all of whom featured in England’s run to the semi-finals, will be available for selection in the fixture against England Lions at the Ian Healy Oval, after completing their 14 days of quarantine, with the tour’s coaching contingent of Chris Silverwood, Paul Collingwood, Jeetan Patel and James Foster also now able to link up with the rest of the squad.

But to judge by the weather that the main Ashes party has been encountering on the Gold Coast since their own arrival at the start of the month, it promises to be a soggy reunion, with Root admitting that the players may need to focus on their mental preparation to compensate for their limited time in the middle.

Only 29 overs were possible on the opening day of the initial three-day warm-up against the England Lions last week, meaning that the openers Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed, and the spinner Dom Bess – leant out to the Lions attack – are the only three members of the Ashes party to have had any match practice since the start of the tour.

And for that reason, Root said the proposed first-class status of the squad match had been downgraded, to allow enough flexibility to give the team’s key players sufficient time in the middle – among them Ben Stokes, who has not batted in a red-ball match since the tour of India in February.

“It’s been unusual,” Root admitted, “Having spent a period of time in quarantine and training within that quarantine phase, and then coming to Brisbane. We haven’t had that three-day game, as we would have liked, but it was always going to be the case that tomorrow was really the first day as a squad that we would get together, with those World Cup guys joining us.

“So we always knew that this next phase was going to be the most crucial part, in terms of getting tight, getting clear and readying ourselves, and that’s going to be the real test for us.

“We want that intensity to be as high as we can, as close to the Test matches as we can, and I expect it to be very competitive,” Root said of the four-day fixture. “The quality of the players will be there from both teams and, because of the lack of preparation that we’ve had in that previous three-day game, having that extra bit of flexibility to make sure we can get as many guys what they need throughout these four days is going to be crucial.

“But it might be that, in the next couple of days, we get some similar weather and we don’t get the time out there in the middle. But whether you play those games in your mind a little bit more, visualise a little bit more, it’s really important you find different ways of making sure that, when that first ball comes down at the Gabba, we’re in the best place possible.”

Stokes endured a dramatic 24 hours over the weekend, after briefly choking on a tablet that got lodged in his windpipe in his hotel-room, and then being struck on the forearm while facing throw-downs in the nets from the batting consultant, Jonathan Trott. And while Root was eager to downplay the latter incident, he acknowledged the blow would need to be monitored as he continues his return to action.

“It was a bit of a concern,” Root said. “The wickets, because of the weather, have been slightly spicy and guys have really had to get stuck in. There have been a few little knocks here and there. To see Ben get hit like that was obviously a scary moment. We all know how crucial he is within our squad but he seems to have come through it pretty well.

“He practised again today and again we’ll keep assessing, making sure it doesn’t have a prolonged effect on him. It’s going to be really important that he gets himself ready both physically and mentally for this series and to play a big part in it.”

Either way, England could still find themselves with more match readiness going into that first Test on December 8 than Australia, whose own lack of red-ball game-time has been compounded by internal upheaval, following the resignation of Tim Paine as captain, and the appointment of Pat Cummins in his place.

“It’s not really for us to worry about,” Root said. “For us, it is about readying ourselves as best we can. Playing against Pat, I know what a competitor he is and what he brings to their team. I expect him to do just that as a captain as well. But it is really important we focus on ourselves, get the most out of this lead-in and don’t get distracted by anything that Australia are doing.

“There’s a lot of people that will want to prove things, and will want to show that they deserve an opportunity for that first Test match,” Root added. “This is a really good chance for us to get ahead of things, maybe get ahead of Australia in terms of preparation and game-time ahead of the series, and it would be silly for us to just cosy our way through the four days. It has to be good hard proper cricket that we’ll benefit from, going into the first Test.”

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket



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‘Cricket has a huge amount of learning to do’

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England captain reiterates claim that he did not witness any instances of racism in the Yorkshire dressing-room

Root’s initial statement on the subject earlier this month led Rafiq to claim he was “incredibly hurt” by his former team-mate’s failure to back up his claims of discrimination during their shared time at Yorkshire. And though Root added that the pair had exchanged a “couple of messages” since, he doubled down on his position while speaking ahead of England’s four-day Ashes warm-up in Brisbane.

“I stand by what I said. I don’t recall those incidents,” Root said. “If they are an oversight on my part then that’s an area that we all have to learn from, and I have to learn from.

“Hopefully when we finish this tour, we will get the opportunity to sit down and talk about this whole situation,” Root said of his relationship with Rafiq. “Along with talking to Azeem, I mentioned in my statement that I want to talk to Lord Patel [the chairman] at the club – those dialogues have started. I think it’s important we keep finding ways of bettering the sport, finding ways how we can individually affect things for the better and make a real change in it.

“There is still education that I need to undergo to develop myself further, and I think everyone does,” he added. “There’s so much work that has to be done, so much energy that has to be thrown into this and there has to be a real drive to make a real difference.”

1:42

ICC chairman: 'Discrimination has no place in sport'

ICC chairman: ‘Discrimination has no place in sport’

Root said he was unable to comment, however, on Rafiq’s separate allegation that the nickname “Kevin” – a term he said had been coined by his former team-mate Gary Ballance to describe people of colour – had been an open secret within the England dressing-room. Rafiq’s testimony before Parliament also included the claim that Alex Hales had even named his dog “Kevin” as an in-joke, and the ECB has since opened an inquiry into the issue.

“That’s part of a live investigation and I’m currently not able to discuss matters on that because of that investigation,” Root said. “But clearly that is a phrase that should never be used whether in the dressing room or any part of society. I don’t think I’m in a position to comment more about that.”

Root did, however, insist that there had since been moments when “I feel like I have stepped in and called things out” – namely his on-field criticism of the West Indies fast bowler Shannon Gabriel, for making homophobic comments during a Test match in St Lucia in 2019.

“That comes from growth and learning and understanding and education,” he added. “Discrimination in general is something we have to look to stamp out as much as we can. If there are mistakes, maybe we call them out straight away, and we find a way to keep improving the environments we are playing and working in.

“I’m not saying we’ve always got things completely right, we haven’t, but we clearly have to look to keep getting better and better the sport as much as we can and have those difficult, uncomfortable conversations sometimes. Hopefully that makes a game better for everyone.

“I look at the group of players that are around this team right now and the other two England men’s teams,” Root added. “We have spent a lot of time talking about these topics and what’s happened, and how we can make a real difference.

“I certainly feel like there are a lot of good conversations happening which hopefully can follow into action and we can start to drive the game from our position at the spear point of the sport. That will only come in time from proving it and actually delivering on some of the things that we’ve discussed as a group.”

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket



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South Africa domestic 4-day franchise series

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He is the favourite to join Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje in the Test squad to face India in December

Duanne Olivier has made himself available for an international comeback but is not allowing himself to think too far ahead. Olivier, who returned to South African cricket following the end of the Kolpak system earlier this year, is the leading wicket-taker in the domestic first-class competition and has had contact from the national selectors but wants to focus on the Lions, who are the top of the points table.

“I am open to everything but I am trying to think of the present and not the future at the moment. Victor Mpitsang (convener of selectors) phoned me and asked me if I was open to playing for South Africa again and I said of course I am. It’s up to the selectors if they want to include me,” Olivier told ESPNcricinfo.

Olivier’s eight wickets in their match against the Knights included his second five-for of the season and second in successive matches as he bowled the Lions to a big win after a brave declaration. After knocking the Knights out for 124, the Lions declared on 193 for 3, 69 runs ahead and then dismissed the Knights for 103, leaving themselves a small target of 35 to win. “There was loads of rain around in this match and we thought it was going to be quite difficult to get a result. We made a risky declaration and luckily it paid off,” Olivier said.

The Lions, led by Olivier, are the only team to have dismissed all their opposition twice so far, taking 80 wickets from four matches. Although he credited the whole attack for their efforts, he also indicated his time in the county circuit had made him a more skilful seamer. Specifically, Olivier has adjusted his length in order to challenge batters more. “I am bowling a bit fuller here in South Africa, which is something I worked on in the UK. At the Wanderers, you can easily bowl a touch shorter, that normal South African length but that may not be that effective and I really believe you should make the new ball count,” he said. “It’s a bit of a risk and reward playoff. If you bowl a bit fuller you might get hit for a few boundaries but you’re testing the batter’s technique. You’re not just allowing him to leave and get himself in.”

Olivier has also had the opportunity to perfect the fuller length on his new home ground, the Wanderers, where, if all goes well, India will play the first of their three Tests from mid-December. With Lungi Ngidi severely lacking match practice after missing the white-ball tour of Sri Lanka for personal reasons, not playing during the T20 World Cup and contracting Covid-19 ahead of the matches against the Netherlands, Olivier is the favourite to join Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje in the Test squad.

But at the moment, he is not setting his sights that far. “For now, I am enjoying being back, enjoying the warmer weather and playing cricket in South Africa again. The quality and standard of the cricket has been very good and it’s nice to be back.”

In other results

  • The Warriors beat Western Province inside two days to remain in second place on the points table and leave the Cape Town based side winless after four matches. Matthew Breetzke scored a century and Rudi Second 76 as Warriors totalled 366. Then, they bowled Western Province out for 79 to force the follow-on and bowled them out again for 173. Left-arm spinner Tsepo Ndwandwa finished with 5 for 46.
  • With the third day lost to rain in Potchefstroom, the Dolphins and North West played out a draw. Honours were shared between several players. Marques Ackerman scored 123 and Delano Potgieter took 5 for 85 in the first innings, which the Dolphins declared closed on 400 for 9. In response, North West had a second-wicket stand of 169 with Lesego Senokwane scoring 91 and Shaylen Pillay an unbeaten 156. They were 313 for 2 when no further play was possible. The big runs allowed North West to sneak above Western Province on the table, with a 0.78 point advantage.
  • An exciting clash between Boland and the Titans was also curtailed early, with no play on the fourth day. The Titans were well placed after captain Neil Brand‘s 111 helped them to 308 in their first innings and he was unbeaten on 32 as they reached 96 for 3 in their second. That gave them a 170-run lead after they bowled Boland out for 234 with Isma-eel Gafieldien top-scoring with 97. Simon Harmer and Ayabulela Gqamane claimed three wickets each. The match also marked a return for allrounder Chris Morris to the domestic set up. He played his first red-ball match for the Titans since October 2019, scored 36 in the first innings and bowled 17 overs with a return of 0 for 40.
  • Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent



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