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Ashes – Sheffield Shield 2021-22

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Ashes hopeful suffers low-grade hamstring strain less than a month out from the first Test

Queensland are hopeful Test aspirant Michael Neser will still be available for the first Ashes Test after suffering a minor hamstring strain on the opening day of the Sheffield Shield clash with Western Australia at the Gabba.
Neser suffered the strain during his ninth over on the first afternoon after taking the early wicket of Cameron Bancroft. He had a scan on Thursday morning that revealed a low-grade strain in his right leg. Queensland physio and former Australia Test batter Martin Love said he was optimistic Neser would be available for selection in the opening Ashes Test despite it being less than four weeks away.

“He will be assessed in the coming days to arrive at a suitable return to play date,” Love said. “At this stage, we are hopeful that, if required, he would be available for selection for the opening Test.”

Neser has yet to play a Test match for Australia but has been a regular member of Australia’s Test squads since 2018 and has come close to selection on a number of occasions. The retirement of James Pattinson has pushed him closer to the top of the queue of fast bowlers waiting in the wings behind Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc.

Neser is a certainty to be named in Australia’s extended squad, due to be announced soon, but his participation in the three-day intrasquad match to be played in Brisbane starting on December 1 is now in doubt. He has had an interrupted start to the season, having missed two of Queensland’s Shield matches due to the birth of his child.

Meanwhile, WA veteran Shaun Marsh is set for an extended period on the sidelines after suffering a bad calf injury while batting on the second day. Marsh was forced to retire hurt and did not return to bat or field on day two with his availability for WA’s next Shield game against Tasmania and his participation in the early part of the BBL season for Melbourne Renegades in severe doubt.
WA bowler Joel Paris also suffered a minor hamstring injury on day one at the Gabba. He was able to bat on day two but won’t bowl in Queensland’s second innings.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo



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BBL 2021-22 – Reece Topley sets sights on next year’s T20 World Cup in Australia

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England quick hopes to use BBL stint with Melbourne Renegades to build his case

Left-arm quick Reece Topley is hoping to use the Big Bash League as a launching pad to build his case to be in England’s first-choice squad for next year’s T20 World Cup in Australia.

Topley was a late addition to England’s squad halfway through the recent T20 World Cup in the UAE as a replacement for the injured Tymal Mills.

He has never played in the BBL before and has only played one England Lions List A game in Australia back in 2013, but he’s hoping a full season with Melbourne Renegades will put him firmly in the frame for next year’s World Cup.

“It’s obviously an opportunity and it’s one that I hope to take and hopefully try and impress the right people,” Topley said. “But obviously, being around in Dubai, I felt I was ready if the opportunity came. Unfortunately, it never did. But, you know, it was nice to have this lined up for when I left there. And it was going to be a great opportunity to get some playing time after being on the sidelines for a month or so.”

Topley found the experience in the UAE invaluable despite not getting the opportunity to play. He was particularly grateful for spending some time with Chris Woakes and new Surrey T20 captain, and Sydney Sixers recruit, Chris Jordan.

“Being around someone like Chris Jordan, trying to take things away from how he goes about it at the death and different stages of the game,” Topley said. “Even someone like Woakesy with bowling up top, why wouldn’t you if you’ve got those people around you in the changing room.”

Topley has joined Renegades for the upcoming BBL with a special connection to the club having spent two summers in Melbourne during his prolonged rehabilitation from his series of back injuries.

After making his T20I debut against Australia in 2015 in Cardiff and playing international cricket over the next year including at the 2016 T20 World Cup his career stalled. But a trip to Melbourne in 2018-19 provided a great opportunity for him to train with Victoria on an ad hoc basis while he continued his rehab and it remains a fond memory as Renegades won the BBL title that year.

“I know some of the guys from being in and around Melbourne and I trained with Victoria a few times and obviously there were a few Renegades players around that,” Topley said. “So I know a lot of the guys pretty well which is nice. Obviously, you’re arriving to this environment having already formed a relationship with a lot of guys.

“Honestly, I was just out here training, just bowling in the nets. Lucky I’m a bowler because everyone, you know, would love a net bowler. If I was a batter asking guys to charge in at me I don’t think I’d have been as popular. But I was always ready to bowl at anyone that would fancy having a net around here and it really helped me, especially while it’s cold in England getting outside here bowling in the nets is a lot better than bowling indoors where it’s freezing.”

Topley is excited to work with new coach David Saker and bowling coach Mick Lewis, particularly on finding the right lengths and variations in Australia.

But more than anything, he is simply happy to be fit and back playing regularly.

“I’m real happy with where I’m at,” Topley said. “To play consistently for I think three years now like summer, winter, summer, winter, it’s obviously a big ask but I’m happy that I’ve been able to answer that with playing consistently and staying relatively injury-free. Obviously, as a bowler that’s probably the biggest battle you face most of the time is just being fit, but I think being fit and available and then playing is definitely helping me with developing.”

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Men’s Ashes 2021-22 – Western Australia Premier’s hardline stance adds further doubt to Perth Ashes Test

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Players’ wives and girlfriends would not be able to make the trip while broadcast crews are also an issue

Perth’s hopes of hosting the fifth Ashes Test have taken another big hit after Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan reiterated his hardline stance on quarantine rules and banned players’ wives and girlfriends for the trip west.

The 60,000-seat Optus Stadium is slated to host the Ashes finale from January 14. Earlier this month, McGowan said he was “very confident” the Test match would go ahead, despite it coming just five days after the conclusion of the SCG Test.

At that stage, it was believed McGowan was considering relaxing the Covid-19 quarantine rules that players would have to adhere to given the Test match would be played just weeks before WA was due to throw open its borders.

But in a dramatic turn over the past week, the emergence of the new Omicron variant has complicated matters.

On Saturday, WA Cricket chief executive Christina Matthews said the prospect of Perth hosting the fifth Test had gone from 97 percent to 50 percent. Matthews said one of the major stumbling blocks was the sheer size of the broadcast team and the subsequent quarantine complications that would bring.

Any chance of players being able to complete a shortened quarantine period instead of the regular 14-day stint was rejected by McGowan on Tuesday. The same hardline rules will also apply to any staff members or broadcast workers coming across.

That means all members who fly to Perth will be under strict quarantine conditions throughout the entirety of the Test match – a situation that may not be feasible.

“We have put in place very strict rules,” McGowan said. “So we’ve said to them, ‘you need to have 14 days quarantine’. And that has to apply to all the broadcast staff, the cricket staff.

“They can’t just bring wives and girlfriends with them – same rules as we put in place for the AFL. It’s up to them whether they want to adhere to those rules or not.”

The MCG is the frontrunner to host the fifth Test – possibly under lights – if Perth is stripped. But the SCG is ready and willing to host the Test if required.

“We’ve said to Cricket Australia that we’re here to help if they need it,” NSW minister for tourism Stuart Ayres said. “I would love to see Perth host a Test match. That community over there has had to live behind a very closed border for a long time. So they deserve to have some fantastic sporting content.

“But if the West Australian government doesn’t want that to happen, then NSW is ready to help Cricket Australia.”



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Ind vs NZ, 1st Test, 5th day, 2021 – Rahul Dravid

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Too early to decide on Iyer’s place in the next Test, says India coach

India’s captain for the Kanpur Test must still have been processing the tight result with India falling one wicket short of what would have been an incredible win on a slow, low surface when his coach Rahul Dravid was being asked about his lack of runs. Ajinkya Rahane now averages 24.39 over his last 16 Tests, including one century in the Boxing Day Test nearly a year ago. With scores of 35 and 4 in this Test, his career average has now dipped below 40. At home he averages 35.73.

Dravid was asked if he was worried about Rahane’s lack of runs. “I don’t get worried, you don’t get worried,” Dravid said. “Of course you would like more runs from Ajinkya. I am sure he would like a few more runs. He is a quality player. He has done well for India in the past. He is one of those guys who has that quality. He has the experience. Hopefully it’s just a matter of an innings, a matter of a game where he can turn it around. Certainly he would like to score more runs. He knows that. And we know that.”

The lack of runs became stark when full-time captain Virat Kohli rested and his replacement Shreyas Iyer responded by becoming the first India player to score a century and a half-century on Test debut. Usually you see the replacement player make way for the one returning, but when there are others struggling in the side, the question is asked: how can you drop a debutant centurion when others are not scoring runs? Dravid was asked, too, if Iyer would be retained in the side.

“We haven’t decided the playing XI for Mumbai,” Dravid said. “It will be too early to talk about it. We have only been thinking about this Test till now. When we get to Bombay, we will look at the conditions, the pitch. We will look at the guys’ fitness. Virat Kohli will also join us so there will be consultation with him. Then we will decide who will be in the playing XI.”

Apart from Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara has been short of runs too, having last scored a century in January 2019. Even Kohli has gone two years without a century, but he has played fewer Tests than the duo, missing three Tests in Australia and one now. An interesting first selection awaits the Kohli-Dravid captain-coach team.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo



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