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Burns, Head and Bancroft named in Australia squad



Joe Burns and Travis Head are set to fill the batting vacancies in Australia’s Test line-up after being named in the 14-man squad for the two matches against Pakistan.

Cameron Bancroft, who was dropped after two Ashes Tests, has also been called up after his late inclusion to the Australia A side while the uncapped Michael Neser has been included as another seam-bowling option for a squad that covers both a day Test in Brisbane and a day-night Test in Adelaide. It was announced earlier in the day that Will Pucovski had asked not to be considered for selection as he manages his mental health.

“We feel [Joe] was unlucky to miss the Ashes squad,” national selector Trevor Hohns said. “Joe’s record speaks for itself, he has Test hundreds on the board and has combined very well with David [Warner] in the past. We also like the feel of a right-hand, left-hand combination at the top of the order.

“Travis scored a hundred against a very good New South Wales attack just a few weeks ago and also offers the option of part-time off-spin. Matthew Wade was superb as a specialist batsman through last summer, had a solid Ashes series with two hundreds and strong start to the current domestic season.

“We anticipate Matthew and Travis will give us a strong middle order in support of the top four. Cameron Bancroft is someone who has the ingredients of what we believe makes a good Test cricketer and rounds out our batting group in the squad.”

Burns’ recall means Marcus Harris, who was the incumbent opener having played the last three Ashes Tests, loses his place while Usman Khawaja has paid the price for a poor start to the domestic season having been dropped in England.

Harris managed just 58 runs in six innings after replacing Bancroft during the Ashes and though he his form has been steady at the start of the domestic season with a century, which came on a featherbed at Junction Oval in Melbourne, and two half-centuries he has been cut.

Burns failed twice in the Australia A match against Pakistan in Perth but the selectors, Trevor Hohns and Justin Langer, have opted to return to a player who has four centuries in 16 Tests including 180 in his most recent outing against Sri Lanka in February. A stint with Lancashire was cut short by post viral fatigue syndrome and though he returned for the Australia A tour of England – and scored a century – he was left out of the Ashes squad.

Head, who will also be joint vice-captain with Pat Cummins, was part of Australia A’s collapse to 9 for 57, but a century in the previous round of Sheffield Shield has been enough for a swift return.

Bancroft has come up on the rails to earn his place after a lean start to the season for Western Australia and not initially being included in the Australia A side until Nic Maddinson withdrew for mental health reasons. However, after Australia A subsided on the second day in Perth he top-scored with 49 from No. 6 and has the versatility to bat in any position among the top order if required.

Neser, who was part of the Ashes squad, has been rewarded for a strong start to the season and will push for the third pace-bowling slot alongside Mitchell Starc, who has been in outstanding form for New South Wales, and James Pattinson although one of the latter two will be favoured to join Cummins and Josh Hazlewood at the Gabba. However, Neser’s impressive performance with the pink ball against Pakistan A in Perth could put him in contention for the day-night Test in Adelaide and he has effectively taken Peter Siddle’s position.

“We are blessed to have four of the best fast bowlers in the world challenging each other for spots and most importantly playing as a group,” Hohns said. “Cummins, Starc, Hazelwood and Pattinson are daunting pace prospects for any opposition, particularly at home. Michael Neser adds to that group with his ability move the ball both ways, giving the team another bowling option depending on the conditions.”

Mitchell Marsh, who took the No. 6 slot at The Oval in September and claimed a maiden five-wicket haul, was not in contention for this squad having broken his hand punching the dressing room wall at the WACA last month.

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Recent Match Report – England Women vs Pakistan Women, ICC Women’s Championship, 3rd ODI



Pakistan 145 for 8 (Nahida Khan 55, Glenn 4-18) v England – Match abandoned

Legspinner Sarah Glenn claimed a four-wicket haul in only her third ODI but rain ruined the prospect of a result in the final match of the series between Pakistan and England. Having been put in to bat, Pakistan were 145 for 8 from 37.4 overs before the weather intervened, meaning England took the series 2-0.

Looking for their first ODI win over England, Pakistan made an impressive start in reaching 96 without loss. Glenn then removed both openers in consecutive overs, dismissing Javeria Khan for 37 and Nahida Khan for a fluent half-century.

The spin pairing of Glenn and Sophie Ecclestone wheeled their way through 16 overs in tandem, as England dragged the game back their way. Pakistan captain Bismah Maroof was caught behind off Ecclestone and Glenn bowled Kaynat Hafeez and Nida Dar to give her figures of 8-1-18-4.

“I was really happy to get four wickets today, but it’s a shame the rain came and the game had to be abandoned,” Glenn said. “We came back really well with the ball after Pakistan had started on top. We kept it tight and we got our rewards.

“I’ve really enjoyed the three matches and it’s good to come out with a series win. The girls have been really welcoming and I’m looking forward to the T20s.”

Anya Shrubsole returned from an expensive opening spell to pick up three wickets, with only Umaima Sohail’s unbeaten 27 offering much in the way of middle-order resistance for Pakistan. There was also an economical performance with the ball from Freya Davies, making her ODI debut, but England’s chances of claiming a third consecutive win were ended by the rain.

The result means England finished their ICC Women’s Championship campaign with 14 wins from 21 games, placing them second on the table behind Australia. Pakistan moved up a spot to fourth, level on 16 points with South Africa, but having played three games more. The top four teams qualify automatically for the 2021 World Cup.

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‘They can execute it for a long period’ – Burns on New Zealand’s short-ball tactic



New Zealand’s eyes are still firmly fixed on trying to save, or even win, the opening Test in Perth but if, as is very likely, Australia come out on top they may have won a few little battles late on the third day.

Their short-ball tactics, led by Neil Wagner and this time implemented by Tim Southee as well, are so well telegraphed yet still continue to reap considerable reward. “The five men out on the pull gave it away,” Joe Burns said with a smile.

Burns was one of the five Australia second-innings wickets to fall to the short delivery, when he gloved Southee to gully, the odd one out being Tim Paine who was cleaned up second ball.

Significantly, the plan worked for the second time in the match against Steven Smith, who picked out deep square leg having been given a working over by Wagner which included a painful blow on the gloves. It meant that for the first time in his career, Smith had gone three Tests without a half-century.

David Warner miscued a pull to mid-on, Marnus Labuschagne picked out midwicket (although not until he had scored another fifty and become the first batsman to 1000 Test runs this year) and Travis Head flicked straight to leg gully, his second poor dismissal of the match. Those moments are unlikely to have much bearing on this game, but they are little markers for the Tests to come.

“First and foremost it’s to try and get through this match but we have wait and see what the wicket’s like in Melbourne,” Ross Taylor said. “It’s definitely a tactic we’ve used in New Zealand to good effect and Neil has been a fantastic exponent of doing that. The match-ups throughout this whole series, not just this match, will be key and we’ll get a lot of confidence from that.”

Burns acknowledged that knowing the plan was coming and play it are two different things, highlighting the fact that the pace of New Zealand’s – around the low 130kph-mark without the injured Lockie Ferguson – presents a different challenge to when the ball is fired down at 150kph.

“We spoke it, they’ve done it to us and all sorts of different teams in the past,” he said. “We spoke about being clear how you want to play. It’s always disappointing when you lose wickets but credit to the New Zealand bowlers, to get through the overs they’ve done and get executing the short ball for long periods of time. It’s probably why they are No. 2 in the world

“It’s easier said than done to say you’ll come round the wicket, or for Wagner to bowl long periods of the short ball to that field, there isn’t much margin of error if you miss. If you bowl bad balls you’ll leak a lot of runs. Credit to them, it’s a big part of their bowling plans. As a batter you just try to wear them down, pounce on bad balls, but they didn’t miss too many times.

“It’s awkward because you feel like you can play it. At the speeds they bowl it’s challenging, different because they are asking you to play the shot to get off strike and you are bringing in all their catchers. Credit to them because they can execute it for a long period of time. They find a way to keep creating wickets when they flatten out.”

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BCB chief positive about getting security clearance for Pakistan tour



BCB president Nazmul Hassan is hopeful that the Bangladesh team will get security clearance from the government to tour Pakistan next month for a series comprising three T20Is and two Tests. However, he also said that there remained a couple of more steps that needed to be taken before a final decision could be arrived at.

Last week, BCB chief executive Nizamuddin Chowdhury had said that the board was expecting a decision from the government imminently, but that time was running out. However, Hassan struck a more positive tone on Saturday.

“We had written to the government about our security clearance for Pakistan,” Hassan said. “We had sent a women’s team and an Under-16 team previously. We don’t have the clearance for the senior men’s team yet. Security is paramount even if it is for an Under-12 side. It is going to be the same for everyone, which is why I believe that we are likely to get the security clearance.”

Bangladeshi sides have toured Pakistan in the recent past, but the men’s team haven’t done so since 2008. Seven years ago they were close to deciding on a tour to Pakistan, only for the AHM Mustafa Kamal-led BCB to pull out shortly after the decision to tour was taken.

Hassan has said that after the government announces their decision, it would be up to the BCB to speak to the players who could decide for themselves whether they were keen to tour or not. BCB director Akram Khan has already suggested splitting the tour so that the Tests could be played later.

“The government had sent their security team, so once we get the clearance we can tell you our decision. After the security clearance, we also must ask the cricketers, whose opinion is important.

“We also have to consider the board’s decision, but we are at the final stages of our decision. I think we will know about it in the next 4-5 days,” said Hassan.

The tour comprises of three T20Is, scheduled to be held in Lahore on January 23, 25 and 27, and two Tests, which are slated to be held in Rawalpindi and Karachi.

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