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T20 World Cup 2nd semi-final

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The two had missed training on Wednesday after coming down with “light flu and low fever”

Mohammad Rizwan and Shoaib Malik have been declared fit by Pakistan’s medical team to take part in the T20 World Cup semi-final game against Australia in Dubai on Thursday, after they had stayed away from training on the eve of the game with mild flu and fever.

The two, both first XI regulars at the tournament for Pakistan, have tested negative for Covid-19 twice in three days. Both woke up on Wednesday morning with what a team official described as “light flu and low fever”, and were advised to stay back in the hotel and remain under observation. The rest of the squad members and support staff went ahead with their usual pre-game plans, including a full-fledged training session at the ICC Academy premises. ESPNcricinfo understands that all of them had cleared their regular Covid-19 tests throughout the tournament, including the last one a couple of days ago.

There was no Covid-19 scare in the team anyway, and it is understood that the team management had expected Rizwan and Malik to be available for the game. Despite that, medical professionals travelling with the team continued to assess them at regular intervals through Wednesday and Thursday.

Both players, especially Rizwan, have been key to Pakistan’s plans and performances in the tournament so far, where they have run up a 5-0 record, having swept the Group 2 matches on their way to the semi-final.

Rizwan, one half of a tremendous opening pairing with captain Babar Azam, has scored 214 runs in five innings so far, his runs coming at an average of 71.33 and a strike rate of 127.38. Earlier in the tournament, he also went past Chris Gayle’s record of most T20 runs in a calendar year; he now has 1676 runs in 2021, at an average of 57.79 at a strike rate of 132.59.

Pakistan have so far fielded the same playing XI in all their matches. With Rizwan and Malik now available for selection, they could well do the same in the knockout fixture too.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent



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Travis Head wins the race to be Australia's No. 5 in the Ashes

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Mitchell Starc will complete the fast-bowling trio alongside Josh Hazlewood and captain Pat Cummins



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Mithali Raj – We have had ‘good preparation’ for 2022 World Cup by playing SA, England, Australia this year

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“We are getting to play in New Zealand before World Cup which is also good,” she says

India Women are scheduled to play only one ODI series – against New Zealand – before the World Cup early next year but captain Mithali Raj feels the team has had “good preparation” so far in 2021.
This year, India hosted South Africa for five ODIs before playing a three-match series in England and Australia each. They lost all three series but made Australia, the No. 1 team, work really hard for their 2-1 win and also ended their 26-match winning streak in the third ODI there.

India will play World Cup hosts New Zealand for five ODIs before the World Cup in March-April.

“We have played three best teams since March and it has given us good preparation,” Raj said after a partnership between KFC and Indian Deaf Cricket Association in Delhi on Wednesday. “Players have played domestic cricket and also in the Women’s Big Bash so they are getting game time which is the most important thing.

“We are getting to play in New Zealand before World Cup which is also good.”

India, who were unable to post 250-plus scores regularly earlier, did that twice in the Australia series and chased down 265 in the final ODI.

“When you play against a strong team in its backyard you try to give your best,” Raj said. “Though we lost the series, the matches were very close. We scored 270 (274) and chased 270-odd, if we can do that consistently we will be among the best sides in world cricket.”

India’s middle-order batting needs improvement but Raj said all departments must fire as a unit if they are to win the World Cup.

“We bat as a unit so you can’t pinpoint one area,” she said. “There are times when the top order failed and the others performed. As a unit if we look to post a good total then it will help. If we focus on one area like middle order then it becomes too much of a burden for that particular slot.”

India finished runners-up in the 2017 World Cup in England when not many expected them to but expectations will be higher this time.

“There were not enough expectations back then,” Raj said. “Now in 2021, players have got experience and got a lot of exposure with the T20 leagues. Overall we have young players but they have got enough exposure. It is just of matter of gelling well as a team.

“Every match will be different there. The quicker we read our opponents the better it will be for us.”



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The Ashes 2021-22 – Michael Vaughan stood down from BT Sport Ashes coverage after Azeem Rafiq allegations

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Channel to adopt a “hybrid” approach with Vaughan’s stints on Fox Sports to be overlaid

Michael Vaughan, the former England captain, will not be heard by UK audiences during this winter’s Ashes in Australia, after BT Sport followed the BBC’s decision to remove him from their TV coverage of the series.

Vaughan, 47, was last week stood down from BBC Test Match Special’s coverage for “editorial” reasons, following allegations from Azeem Rafiq, the former Yorkshire cricketer, that he had said “there are too many of you lot” following the selection of four players of Asian heritage in a county fixture in 2009.

Vaughan, who denies the allegations, apologised last week in an interview on BBC Breakfast for the “hurt” caused to Rafiq during his time as a player at Yorkshire, and will still be involved in this winter’s Ashes coverage through his commentary role with Fox Sports, the Australian host broadcaster.

However, BT Sport – who are due to take the Fox Sports feed after choosing not to send a bespoke commentary team to Australia – announced on Tuesday that they will be taking a “hybrid” approach to their coverage, with Vaughan’s on-air stints to be overlaid with studio analysis.

“As a result of Covid and travel restrictions BT Sport had made the decision to take our commentary feed from the Australian host broadcaster,” the channel said in a statement. “The recent report presented to UK Parliament uncovering institutional racism within cricket and specifically Yorkshire County Cricket Club is extremely disappointing and a concern for all.

“Given these recent events and the controversy with the situation we have taken the decision that including Michael Vaughan within our Ashes coverage would not be editorially appropriate or fit with BT Sport’s values. We are still finalising plans but we are assessing the option of taking a hybrid approach, using Fox commentary where possible with the aim of putting our own commentary team in place if necessary.”

Vaughan’s troubled build-up to the series continued on Tuesday, when he announced on Twitter that his arrival in Australia had been delayed by a week due to a positive Covid test. “[It] is frustrating,” he wrote. “But at least I’ll avoid the rain in Brisbane for a few days!”

However, his hopes of being retained by the BBC after the Ashes have received a boost, after the corporation confirmed that they had been in “regular contact” with Vaughan since his suspension, and had held “positive conversations with him in recent days”.

“Our contributors are required to talk about relevant issues, so Michael’s involvement in a story of such significance means it’s not possible for him to be part of our Ashes coverage or wider cricket coverage at the moment,” the statement added. “We’re pleased with how our conversations are going and expect to work with Michael again in the future. He remains on contract to the BBC.”

The BBC’s stance was criticised this week by his former England team-mate Monty Panesar, who wrote in a column in the Daily Telegraph: “This feels deeply unethical — a classic case of someone being tried and convicted without any form of due process being undertaken.”



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