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World Cup final viewing figures compete with 2005 Ashes after free-to-air return

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Sunday’s World Cup final, the first England international on free-to-air UK television since the 2005 Ashes, attracted a peak viewership of 8.3 million.

The game was simulcast on several channels: Sky showed it on Sky One, Main Event, and their Cricket channel, while Channel 4 split their coverage between their main channel and More 4 during the British Grand Prix.

The peak audience was only marginally below that recorded during the 2005 Ashes, when 8.4 million people watched the culmination of England’s win at Trent Bridge on Channel 4. By contrast, the first Test of the 2015 Ashes, shown only on Sky, attracted a peak viewership of 467,000.

The World Cup final had to compete for attention with the men’s singles final at Wimbledon between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, as well as the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Cricket will return to free-to-air TV in the UK from next summer, after the BBC agreed a deal in 2017 to show ten men’s and eight women’s matches from The Hundred per year, as well as two men’s T20Is and one women’s T20I.

Liam Plunkett, the fast bowler who took three wickets in England’s win, had previously voiced support for the final to be broadcast free-to-air.

“Playing for England, you’re the pride of the country and you want people to be able to access that and watch that,” he said after the group stage win against New Zealand. “I’m not sure it’s going to happen but for the guys, you want as many people to watch it as possible.”

Sunday’s final was a sell-out, with unofficial resale platforms offering tickets priced at several thousand pounds. As well as the millions watching on TV, thousands of fans gathered in the fanzone in Trafalgar Square, first to watch and then to celebrate England’s win.

There was widespread support for Sky’s decision to allow the game to be shown on free-to-air TV, a move that the ECB encouraged but did not demand. But Ashley Giles, the director of cricket for England’s men’s teams, suggested that England might not have been able to win the World Cup without Sky’s investment.

When asked by BBC Radio 4 if it would have been impossible, Giles said: “Quite possibly, yes. The investment in the game from grassroots to professional has allowed us to do what we’ve done.

“Sky took the game on and have been fantastic supporters since. Thank you to them for allowing it on Channel 4.”

Channel 4’s chief executive Alex Mahon said it was “wonderful that the whole nation can come together to share these momentous British sporting events”.



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Highly-rated Tom Barber joins Nottinghamshire after Middlesex release

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Tom Barber, the highly-rated left-arm fast bowler, has signed for Nottinghamshire on a one-year deal following a successful trial.

Barber, 24, has previously had spells at Hampshire and Middlesex, and has regularly attracted high-profile admirers due to his ability to bowl genuinely fast – he once fractured the thumb of Eoin Morgan in the nets, and holds the record for the fastest delivery bowled at the national performance centre in Loughborough, believed to be around 97mph.

While Barber’s statistics in professional cricket are underwhelming to say the least – his economy rate in his 11 career T20s is an eye-watering 11.25 – he has long been considered an international prospect by the ECB. He was picked in the North v South series in 2018 and for an ECB XI to play India A in the same year, and has worked extensively with Kevin Shine, the former England and newly-appointed Nottinghamshire bowling coach.

“We’ve had the chance to take an extended look at Tom, and he’s fully earned his opportunity as part of our setup,” said the club’s head coach Peter Moores.

“His left-arm angle offers something different to our bowling attack and he bowls with genuine pace as well, which is an asset to any squad.

“He’s quickly gelled with the rest of the lads and has brought a work ethic that demonstrates his determination to make it in the professional game.

“I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in,” said Barber.

“Since I started training with the guys before Christmas, everyone has been really welcoming, and it’s going to be great to work with the likes of Paul Franks and Mooresy – as well as picking up with Shiney again.

“Trent Bridge is a really special place – it’s a Test ground, and plenty of great matches and performances have happened here, so I’m excited to hopefully get out there for Notts this summer.”



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Figy John century as UAE beat Canada; Bangladesh thump Zimbabwe

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UAE Under-19s 232 for 2 (John 102*, Lakra 66) beat Canada Under-19s 231 for 8 (Patel 90, Sharma 2-42, Lakra 2-39) by eight wickets
Scorecard

UAE opener Figy John scored this Under-19 World Cup’s first century, a thoroughly smooth, 101-ball 102 that helped his side beat Canada by eight wickets in Bloemfontein. The 18-year old, who had last year played with the senior team in ODIs, was at the crease from start to finish as a chase of 232 proved quite straightforward. UAE benefited from an all-round performance from their captain as well, Aryan Lakra picked up 2 for 39 in 10 overs and returned as opener to score a half-century as well.

Canada had a solid performer in their top order as well – Mihir Patel scored 90 off 105 balls – but they couldn’t take advantage of it due to a couple of mini-collapses. Their score, after being put in, lurched from 133 for 1 to 137 for 4 in the middle overs and then from 220 for 5 to 226 for 8 at the end. Patel did his best, hitting nine fours in his innings and contributing nearly 40% of his team’s total, but it wasn’t enough.

Bangladesh Under-19s 132 for 1 (Emon 58*) beat Zimbabwe Under-19s 137 for 6 (Marumani 31, Shamim 1-23) by nine wickets
Scorecard

Bangladesh’s batsmen ran riot in Potchefstroom, Parvez Hossain Emon whacking an unbeaten 33-ball 58 and leading a nine-wicket victory over Zimbabwe.

Prior to their arrival in South Africa, Bangladesh had banked on their batting stars to perhaps go all the way to the final and they are certainly living up to their word. Having kept Zimbabwe to 137 for 6 in 28.1 overs – bad weather forced the first innings to end right there – Bangladesh came out with great purpose. Opener Tanzid Hasan hit six of the 10 balls he faced to the boundary, making 32 runs in the process and though he couldn’t carry on, his partner Emon ensured victory would be achieved in just the 12th over. Zimbabwe would rue their own batting performance with plenty of players getting starts but no-one making more than Tadiwanashe Marumani’s 31.

Match abandoned New Zealand Under-19s 195 for 2 (White 80, Mariu 51) v Japan Under-19s
Scorecard

New Zealand dominated the contest against Japan with openers Ollie White and Rhys Mariu scoring fairly quick half-centuries but the rain in Potchefstroom allowed for only 28.5 overs of play. The match was abandoned thereafter with both teams sharing a point each.



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Expect a Rashid storm against the Hurricanes

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January 19: Hobart Hurricanes v Adelaide Strikers

Our XI: Mathew Wade, Jake Weatherald, George Bailey, Ben McDermott, Travis Head, Jonathan Wells, Rashid Khan (capt), Qais Ahmed (vice-capt), Nathan Ellis, Micheal Neser, Scott Boland

NOTE: We might not always be able to tip you off about a late injury (or other relevant updates)

Captain: Rashid Khan

The Hurricanes have struggled with the bat and have a weakened batting line up. Rashid Khan is coming up against this opposition for the first time this season and would be looking to display his skills. Hurricanes have been the worst team against spin this tournament and one can expect Rashid to add to his 16 wickets.

Vice-captain: Qais Ahmed

Similar to the Hurricanes, the Strikers have also been struggling with the bat in the last few games. Qais Ahmed has 11 wickets at an economy of 7.91 and a best of 4 for 12. He could control the middle overs, which has been a bit of a problem for the Strikers.

Hot picks
Mathew Wade
Hurricanes desperately need a win and Wade is key to that. Wade scored 61 runs against the Heat but has failed in the other two matches. Wade’s foundation is vital in ensuring the likes of David Miller, George Bailey and Ben McDermott can regain some form and help the Hurricanes get past the Strikers at home.

Jonathan Wells
With 306 runs from 10 matches, Wells has been the best performer for the Strikers. In the absence of Alex Carey, it is up to Wells to take the Strikers to a good total. His average is 61.20, and his strike rate is 131.89. The strike rate could have been a bit higher, but is also a function of the situations he has come in to bat.

Value picks
Scott Boland
With Riley Meredith injured, the Hurricanes have struggled with the ball. Boland’s been the key for them having taken a wicket in every match he has played in. Boland has eight wickets from five matches at an impressive economy of 7.44.

Travis Head
Head is yet to start scoring in this season. The captain has played just two matches but has been dismissed cheaply on both occasions. One could take a punt on Head to lead by example, as the game against the lower ranked Hurricanes is key to the Strikers’ chances of qualifying.

Point to note The Match is being played at a venue that has not hosted too many games. Wait for the toss and pitch report before you choose your captain and vice-captain.



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