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New Covid-19 variant threatens to upset South Africa’s international cricket schedule

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Netherlands, who are already in the country, will play their first ODI today, but the fate of the next two games is up in the air

The Netherlands cricket team management will meet with CSA officials this morning to decide if the second and third matches of the three-ODI series will go ahead as planned after a new Covid-19 variant made its presence felt in the country this week. South Africa is due to be added to the UK’s red list and travel restrictions from other countries are expected to follow. Today’s ODI should go ahead as planned with the Dutch confirmed to be on the way to SuperSport Park in Centurion.

The new variant has more mutations and transmits more easily but it is not known whether it causes more severe illnesses than the Delta variant. South African scientists will meet with the World Health Organisation in an effort to find out more. Cases in South Africa have risen three-fold in the last week.

The fourth wave of the pandemic is expected to peak in the next few weeks and will coincide with a packed summer schedule. The Indian men’s team is due to play three Tests, three ODIs and four T20Is from mid-December, while the West Indies women’s team will tour the country in January ahead of the Women’s World Cup.

More to follow…

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent



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Australia news – Jhye Richardson content with decision to miss Pakistan Tests

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A long-term view is being taken with the fast bowler after his history of injuries

Pace bowler Jhye Richardson says he’s on board with the decision to rest him for the Test tour of Pakistan and backed Justin Langer to secure a new term as national coach.

Richardson’s three-year hiatus from the Test arena came to an end in December when he was part of the Australian unit that beat England by 275 runs in the day-night Ashes clash in Adelaide. He snared 5 for 42 in the second innings in a stunning display, but an injury to his left foot and shin kept him out for the rest of the series.

He has battled a series of shoulder injuries in recent years and selectors want to take a careful approach with him to avoid his body breaking down. Richardson has been selected for the upcoming five-match T20 series against Sri Lanka but he will be rested for the three-Test tour of Pakistan, which begins in March.

“These conversations have always been positive, there’s never been a negative word said regardless,” Richardson said. “It’s making sure we’re in the best place possible to play for the next 10 years, and making sure the body is right and 100 percent moving forward.

“It would be exciting to play Test cricket in the subcontinent, it’s a big challenge. But for me now the focus is most certainly on the Sri Lankan series with another T20 World Cup coming up.”

National selector George Bailey indicated he still expected Richardson to play a part during the winter with a Test tour of Sri Lanka also in the calendar. In the short term, though, it is unclear what cricket Richardson could play after the T20I series with the domestic schedule yet to be determined and Western Australia’s hard border adding to the complexity.

“He is a player that we we’ve got long term expectations for,” Bailey said. “He still hasn’t played a huge amount of cricket coming back from the injuries and things that he’s had over the past couple of years. So just making sure that he gets the opportunity to build up the way that he needs to build up is really important.”

Richardson will line up for Perth Scorchers against Sydney Sixers or Adelaide Strikers in Friday’s BBL final at Marvel Stadium. He will still have to manage the injury he suffered during the Ashes.

“I had a scan on it [the shin], and it showed the muscle was pulling on the bone a little bit, so there was a little bit of stress there, which is why it’s taken longer to settle down,” Richardson said. “But throughout the whole time it’s been functional. I’ve been able to play and bowl throughout that whole series, and then moving into Scorchers stuff.”

Meanwhile, Langer’s future is still uncertain despite helping Australia secure the T20 World Cup crown and a 4-0 Ashes triumph. Richardson, who played under Langer at WA, wants the veteran coach to be rewarded with a fresh deal.

“For someone to come and take the World Cup, to then win an Ashes 4-0, I can’t fault anything that JL has done,” Richardson said. “JL and I have always gotten along really well. What he’s been able to achieve recently has been absolutely amazing. And no doubt the guys from a playing point of view have full faith in him. He’s been awesome.”



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Aus vs SL T20I series

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“If I don’t get picked up this year not sure when I will,” he says of his IPL expectations after a bumper BBL season

Ben McDermott feels better placed to take on the challenges of international cricket after his prolific BBL season, and admitted that his earlier spells with Australia were difficult experiences.
McDermott earned a recall for the T20I series against Sri Lanka next month on the back of 577 runs for Hobart Hurricanes and it comes just a few months on from being overlooked for the T20 World Cup after struggling in West Indies and Bangladesh. Those two tours were not easy for McDermott, who twice picked up injures and missed the birth of his first child, and he currently averages 13.66 from 17 T20Is, but is now one of the frontrunners to replace the rested David Warner at the top of the order alongside captain Aaron Finch.

“I’ve had a lot of experience through maybe [being selected] prematurely; I don’t think I wasn’t ready to play for Australia but I do feel ready now,” he said after being named the BBL Player of the Tournament. “I feel like I’m on top of my game whereas in previous years I have sort of been in and out through player bans, Covid, all that sort of stuff, that’s how I’ve got my opportunities.

“I feel like I’m more ready than ever to play for Australia and I’ve developed a lot of learnings through those experiences. They haven’t been good ones, I won’t shy away from that, but definitely learnt and come back better.”

The lean tours of the Caribbean and Bangladesh put paid to his chances of being in the World Cup squad but he has come to see that as a benefit. It allowed him to play domestic cricket for Tasmania before the BBL, although his Hurricanes campaign did have a delayed start after he edged a delivery into his groin during training and required surgery on a ruptured testicle.

“It’s always tough to miss out on squads but nice to be playing domestic cricket instead of running the drinks”

Ben McDermott on missing out on the last T20 World Cup

“In a way I was glad I was left out because you saw with a player like Josh Inglis, who took my spot, he went over there and didn’t play a game and missed a lot of the domestic cricket,” McDermott said. “I was very disappointed when I heard I wasn’t going to be part of that squad, that would have been awesome to experience, but at the same time, think I developed a lot this summer and through that West Indies and Bangladesh series.

“It’s always tough to miss out on squads but nice to be playing domestic cricket instead of running the drinks.”

His Hurricanes team-mate Matthew Wade remains the incumbent wicketkeeper in Australia’s T20I plans – despite McDermott having the gloves in the BBL – and while Inglis is ahead of him in the pecking order when time comes for a change, it is a role he is eager to keep improving.

“It doesn’t hurt you to have that extra string to the bow,” he said. “I’ve been working hard at it, I really enjoy wicketkeeping when I do get the opportunity. I’ll definitely be working hard on it and keep doing it for the Hurricanes if I get the opportunity.”

He is also hoping that his BBL success will attract interest at the IPL mega auction coming up on February 12 and 13. “If I don’t get picked up this year not sure when I will,” he said. “There’s not too much I can do now, it’s all up to those people in charge.”

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Australia news – Ben McDermott and Travis Head earn T20I call-ups for Sri Lanka series

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David Warner and Mitchell Marsh are rested while head coach Justin Langer will take time off

David Warner and Mitchell Marsh, who both starred during Australia’s T20 World Cup triumph in the UAE, will be rested ahead of the Pakistan tour while head coach Justin Langer along with other support staff will miss the five-match series meaning Andrew McDonald will take charge of the squad. Josh Hazlewood returns after the side injury that restricted him to one Test during the Ashes.

McDermott, who made 577 runs for Hobart Hurricanes in the BBL, and Sydney Sixers’ captain Henriques were part of the squad which toured West Indies and Bangladesh last year before missing selection for the World Cup.

Head, who was Player of the Series in the Ashes, is in line for his first T20I appearance since 2018 having previously played 16 times in the format where he made his international debut in 2016.

Richardson is included in a T20I squad for the first time since the tour of New Zealand last February. He featured in one Ashes Test, taking a five-wicket haul in Adelaide, before picking up a lower leg injury.

The remainder of the bowling attack is made up of first-choice names with Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, the latter who has opted out of the IPL auction, both included alongside white-ball specialists Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa.

“This squad will begin preparation for the ICC T20 World Cup defence at home later this year and includes several players who have an early chance to impress in these five matches against a quality opposition,” national selector George Bailey said.

Legspinner Mitchell Swepson is the only other member of the 15-player T20 World Cup squad not included for this series. Dan Christian, Nathan Ellis and Daniel Sams were travelling reserves for the tournament. Ellis has missed the second half of the BBL through injury.

Squad Aaron Finch (capt), Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Josh Inglis, Ben McDermott, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo



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