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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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BBL 2021-22 final – Adam Voges: ‘For Laurie Evans and Ashton Turner to be brave and take risks was outstanding’

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Sydney Sixers’ captain Moises Henriques says Scorchers had their measure “throughout the season”

As a jittery Perth Scorchers suffered a dramatic top-order collapse against a shorthanded Sydney Sixers, head coach Adam Voges decided to make a drastic change in a bid to spark his team in the BBL final.
An uncharacteristically reckless Scorchers repeatedly threw away their wickets to be teetering at 4 for 25 after being sent in at a closed-roof Marvel Stadium. It left Voges filling out the official form to insert young allrounder Aaron Hardie into the contest as the X-factor at the designated ten-over mark of the innings.
But Scorchers’ brains trust decided to wait on lodging the paperwork until a fifth wicket fell. It didn’t eventuate any time soon and Hardie was not required as Player-of-the-Final Laurie Evans and skipper Ashton Turner turned the match with a belligerent 104-run partnership to fuel Scorchers’ eventual 79-run victory and record fourth BBL title.

“It wasn’t the start we wanted,” Voges said. “We didn’t get the tempo right, went too hard. Fortunately, Laurie and Ashton changed the whole course of the game. For them to be brave and take risks was outstanding.”

English import Evans produced his best innings of his debut BBL season, where he smoked an unbeaten 41-ball 76 marked by aggression from the get-go against Sixers’ star spinners Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon, who had torn through the top order.

“We spoke to people in England about him,” Voges said of Evans who played with a broken toe sustained at the end of the regular season. “He’s suited to these types of wickets. He has gotten better and better and he saved his best for tonight.”

Evans had been overshadowed through the season by Scorchers’ big-hitters at the top of the order but his energetic batting made him an important part of their middle order. Given their usual strength at the top, Evans had mainly batted in the backend of innings but he showcased his devastating firepower after coming in at the end of the sixth over.

“It’s a do-or-die game, you come out swinging,” Evans said. “It was about managing risks and the game plan. I’ve played a lot of cricket and batted everywhere… I tried to add some experience and skill.”

Scorchers’ triumph might be the sweetest in their storied history having been the team to beat all season despite being on the road for 50 straight days due to being shut out of Western Australia’s closed borders.

“If we had lost today it would have meant nothing,” Evans said. “To dominate the way we did says a lot about the group and coaching staff. It was my job to put the cherry on top.”

The victory meant Scorchers broke the deadlock for most BBL titles with arch-rivals Sixers, who had limped into the final after being decimated by Covid-19 and injury.

Sixers captain Moises Henriques rued his attack leaking 38 runs from overs eight to ten as their bid for a historic hat-trick of titles ended after a fourth straight defeat to Scorchers this month.

“They put the pressure back on us,” Henriques said. “That was one of the better partnerships I’ve seen. I didn’t think they would take SOK [O’Keefe] on, and they kept going and took that momentum. It completely changes the mindset.

“Perth had a fantastic year. They had our measure throughout the season.”

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth



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Women’s Ashes 2022 – Heather Knight’s innings is among ‘top three’ performances, says Katherine Brunt

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Fast bowler praises competitive surface after picking up five-wicket haul on second day

Heather Knight‘s battling century in the Ashes Test in Canberra ranks among the “top three” performances in women’s cricket, according to her longest-serving team-mate Katherine Brunt, whose own five-wicket haul helped to keep England in contention after two days of a keenly fought contest.

By the close of the second day, Knight’s unbeaten 127 had rescued England from the prospect of the follow-on, after they had at one stage slumped to 169 for 8 in reply to Australia’s 337 for 9 declared. But with Sophie Ecclestone providing stout support with an unbeaten 27, England reduced the arrears to 102 with the prospect of further runs when play resumes on Saturday.

It was Knight’s second Test century, after a matchsaving 157, also against Australia at Wormsley in 2013, but Brunt – who has been critical of the quality of pitches used for women’s Tests – had no doubts that this was the superior knock, after withstanding a varied Australia attack on a surface offering turn for the spinners and carry for the quicks.

“It was massive, beyond a shadow of a doubt,” Brunt said, of an innings that spanned 249 balls, and was 100 runs more than England’s next highest scorer. “She’s resilient as ever, showing fighting spirit, and she’s 100% a leader. You want to lead by example, and that’s how you do it. I don’t know how she does it personally, but if she could teach me how, that’d be lovely.

“There was a bit more in this [pitch],” Brunt added, compared to the Wormsley match in which 23 wickets fell across the four days. “Both were equally brilliant, both really tough situations. But that’s what she’s made for. And none of us thought that she would go out there and not do it. We all believe that she can do it – she does, Australia do. She’s at that level [now], but unfortunately no-one could back her up which is the sad thing about it.

“I’ve been around a long time now, and seen some brilliant hundreds in World Cup cricket and a hundred here by Danni Wyatt in in a T20 [in the 2017-18 Ashes], but that [was in the] top three. Not one person has scored a significant score so she has taken the whole world on her shoulders and dug extremely deep to put a score on the board.”

Earlier, Brunt did her utmost to keep England afloat, claiming her third Test five-for, and her first since 2009. She picked off both of the Australia wickets to fall on the second morning, prior to Meg Lanning’s declaration, including an outstanding delivery to pick off the top of Annabel Sutherland’s off stump.

“It’s been a while,” Brunt said. “I think someone said maybe 16 years [sic], which is absolutely ridiculous, but we don’t often get to play on wickets that have a little bit of something in it for the bowlers. So I’m just really happy that the conditions suit.

“No-one wants to play on a pitch where you don’t get a result,” Brunt added. “No-results are just sad, you always want it to go one way or the other. A result means an exciting game of Test cricket and, with it being viewed on air, we want to be able to showcase our skills bat and ball, not just the bat. It’s a breath of fresh air to have something to get excited about and be happy to run in on.”

England’s position could have been stronger but for a mixed display in the field. Knight dropped Lanning on 14 before lunch on the first day, while Nat Sciver reprieved Rachael Haynes off Brunt’s bowling, allowing Haynes to recover and post a key innings of 86.

“I can’t scream at my fiancée, can I?” Brunt said of Sciver’s spill. “Screaming and shouting gets you nowhere, I’ve found that over the years. It only makes people feel worse, then they are stressing about the next one coming. It’s heart-wrenching, but everyone’s trying their best. I’m really fiery and passionate and want the best, but stuff like that happens, so you can’t let it destroy you.”

Addressing the match situation, Brunt insisted that England “can win from anywhere” – and they need to as well, with Australia leading the series 4-2 on points after a win and two washouts in the T20Is.

“Had we taken our opportunities, they might be 100 less on the board and we’d be sitting in a really good position. But we’ve been clawing that back since, and the fight that we’re showing should be an example of what it means to us, and what we’re trying to achieve in this Test.”



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Recent Match Report – Gladiators vs Zalmi 2nd Match 2021/22

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Ahsan Ali 73, Will Smeed 97 in vain for Quetta Gladiators

Peshawar Zalmi 191 for 5 (Talat 52, Malik 48*, Nawaz 3-44) beat Quetta Gladiators 190 for 4 (Smeed 97, Ahsan 73, Qadir 2-20) by five wickets

Quetta Gladiators opened sensationally, while Peshawar Zalmi kept the fireworks going right through the chase. In a match that didn’t dignify either bowling attack or fielding performance much, a straight power-hitting shootout between the two sides ended with Zalmi hunting down 191 with two deliveries and five wickets to spare.

If 42-year-old Imran Tahir was the hero in the opening game, 39-year-old Shoaib Malik played a starring role on Friday night. Alongside Hussain Talat – whose sensational 29-ball 52 helped drag Zalmi back into a chase they had begun to falter in – he took the game deep, and waited for his moment to strike. It came in the 19th over, with James Faulkner the hapless target. Malik and Sherfane Rutherford plundered 22 off it, and all of a sudden, the game had been killed off.
It all began swimmingly for Gladiators after being sent in to bat, with Will Smeed and Ahsan Ali amassing 155 for the opening partnership in 15.3 overs. They capitalised on some ordinary powerplay bowling from Sameen Gul and Sohail Khan – and even worse catching – to ride their luck and play their shots. Smeed was put down early twice, and thereafter combined sumptuous timing with masterful power-hitting to make his debut PSL game a memorable one, finishing with 97 off 62 deliveries.

Ahsan, at the other end, was not to be outdone. He came into this tournament in fine domestic form and launched an assault that matched Smeed’s destructiveness. The 28-year-old excited Gladiators and Pakistan fans alike, scoring a blistering 46-ball 73. It was perhaps telling that when he finally holed out (a shade contentiously; Rutherford’s body language suggested he had touched the rope with his foot) Gladiators’ momentum stalled, and what should have been a score in excess of 200 ended up at 190.

But Sarfaraz Ahmed’s men appeared to lack sufficient intensity at the start of the second innings, perhaps cocooned in a false sense of security surrounding the size of the target. A lusty little cameo by Yasir Khan brought him 30 off 12 balls and got Zalmi ahead of the asking rate early. Mohammad Nawaz pulled things back, and seemed to put his side back in control once that opening partnership was broken, striking three times in his first three overs.

But Zalmi continued their onslaught, thanks to a knock of relentless belligerence from Talat, aided by some bowling decisions that seemed to fly in the face of analytical match-ups. The decision to bowl out Nawaz’s final over with a warmed-up left-handed Talat on strike seemed an odd one, and was duly punished with 17 in the 12th over to bring the asking rate back down under 10.

After Naseem Shah bowled a splendid 18th over to turn the equation into 26 needed off two overs, Malik lay in wait against the medium pace Faulkner, timing his assault to perfection against the Australian. It left Naseem with just three to defend off the final over in which Zalmi completed a remarkable heist.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000



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