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Jack Leach signs Somerset contract extension

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Jack Leach, the England left-arm spinner, has signed a two-year contract extension with Somerset that will keep him at the club until the end of the 2022 season.

Leach, who was born and raised in Taunton, has been part of the club’s system since his childhood, and has been a first-team regular since the 2016 season, when his 65 wickets at 21.87 apiece nearly fired Somerset to a first Championship title.

He was perhaps unfortunate to miss out on a red-ball central contract with England – he has been given an incremental contract instead – and is currently in New Zealand, preparing to play in the first Test at Mount Maunganui on November 21.

“I’m very happy to sign this new contract,” Leach said. “I’m a Somerset fan at heart so I’m very proud to represent the county. I have a great relationship with the members and fans, and I can’t thank them enough for the support they give the team and me as an individual.

“I’d also like to thank Jason Kerr [head coach] and Andy Hurry [director of cricket] for the belief they have shown in me. I’m looking forward to the winter and can’t wait for next season.”

Hurry said: “Everyone at the club is delighted that Jack has committed his future to Somerset. He is an exceptional talent and a big influence in the dressing room. I can’t speak highly enough of him both as a player and as a man.

“He has a genuine passion for the game and in particular for Somerset. That shows itself every time he trains, in his diligent preparation and in his wholehearted performances every time he takes to the field. We feel that he has a major role to play for both Somerset and England over the forthcoming years.”

Leach’s extension is something of a blow to Dom Bess, the offspinner who played two Tests for England in May 2018 but found himself in the Somerset 2nd XI later that summer.

Bess – who twice went on loan to Yorkshire last summer – is contracted until the end of next season, and is unlikely to change clubs this winter despite Yorkshire coach Andrew Gale publicly registering his interest in making that move permanent. But having played only nine times for Somerset in all formats last year – seven in the Championship and twice in the One-Day Cup – another frustrating season may leave Bess with no choice but to look elsewhere given he retains ambitions of a long international career.



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Dhananjaya de Silva rates Rawalpindi hundred his second best in Tests

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Dhananjaya de Silva has rated his 102 not out in Rawalpindi the second-best of his six centuries, behind his maiden ton, against Australia in 2016.

Having arrived at the crease on the first afternoon, with Sri Lanka losing four wickets for 31 runs, de Silva steadied the innings alongside Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella, and Dilruwan Perera, with whom he forged 50-plus partnerships. Most impressively, he saw through gloomy conditions on successive days, with Pakistan’s quickest bowlers operating. The floodlights were switched on throughout his stays at the crease on the first, second and third days. He also applied himself despite having to repeatedly start over, given the frequent weather interruptions.

“I think this is my second-best hundred after my first one, definitely,” de Silva said. He has previously also struck a match-saving century in Delhi despite having been seriously affected by the smog during that Test. “It was very tricky in the first few days. All four Pakistan bowlers were brilliant in those conditions. It was very dark and seaming and gloomy. Everything was happening for the bowlers. Playing here and getting a hundred with my name on the honours board – I’m feeling proud about that.”

This is de Silva’s second century in successive matches, after he had also hit a hundred against New Zealand in the second Test in Colombo, back in August. De Silva’s 2019 run aggregate is second only to that of Dimuth Karunaratne. No other Sri Lanka batsman has hit more than one century this year.

“As the match went on it was very easy for me – I saw the ball very well,” de Silva said. “I don’t know why – I got a century back in Sri Lanka too. I think I saw the ball well because I’m in form. On day five it was the best wicket we saw across the five days. It was seaming in the first few days, but there was nothing on the fifth day.”

If de Silva is entering a more consistent phase of his career, it may be because he has finally been given a consistent role in the side. He has batted everywhere from No. 3 to No. 9 for Sri Lanka, but where he averages 35.22 overall, he now has an average of 49.81 from No. 6.

“I’ve now got three centuries at No. 6, so I think it’s a very suitable position for me,” he said. “I’ve batted in the lower order for a little while now, and because my position is settled it becomes easier.

“I have to bowl 10 or 15 overs in a Test innings as well, and it’s tough to do that and also open the innings, or bat at No. 3. No. 6 is generally a spot occupied by someone who bowls as well, and the team can use me as a bowler when I’m down there.”



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Australia ‘are moving in the right direction’ – Tim Paine

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Tim Paine lauded the efforts of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, plus the vital role of Nathan Lyon, after his three-man attack wrapped up a thumping victory against New Zealand in Perth.

He admitted he kept one eye on the workloads of his quicks after Josh Hazlewood went down in his second over of the match but was confident they would get through the hard yards. They did it with such effect that, across two innings, Australia only bowled 120.5 overs in the match and earned an extra day off to recover.

Hazlewood had already made one breakthrough before he pulled up after eight deliveries on the second day and Paine conceded he glanced around the field at the options he had up his sleeve. In the end, he dipped into Matthew Wade, Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head at different times but the majority of the work was done by his remaining big three who are now the three leading wicket-takers for the year.

“I thought, gee, I wish we had an allrounder,” Paine said of the moment Hazlewood went down. “I was very surprised Josh got injured because he hasn’t for a little while. But I know that Starcy and Pat and Josh are great athletes. So I knew we could handle the load particularly when we have Nathan in our side who can bowl lots of overs. I think Marnus coming in and playing in our side also gives us another option which is lucky.

“The conversation was around making sure we had those two big boys fresh come five down in the second innings. And I thought we managed it really well so that when we were bowling to their tail they still had a bit of energy and speed up their sleeves.”

“There were times where we just bowled a bit of spin or let Wadey go for a few overs and used Heady for a bit today to break up time so we could make sure that Mitch and Pat were getting the rest. We certainly weren’t going to bowl them into the ground. We thought we could still get the job done with those conditions in our favour with Nathan in our side and not have to flog them to death. Because they are obviously hugely valuable for the rest of this series and in all three formats for Australia we wanted to make sure we managed them correctly and didn’t ruin their series.”

“Granted we have some players back which is helping, but there’s been improvement in the guys who were given a chance 18 months ago.”

Tim Paine

Australia are forging a very impressive home season following their two innings victories against Pakistan with this 296-run victory against No. 2-ranked team in the world. Paine picked out the second-innings collapse, where they lost 7 for 58, as the one period where they slipped from their high expectations but, as had before the match, referenced the strides made since he took on the captaincy.

“Certainly over the last 18 months there’s been drastic improvement in this team. Granted we have some players back which is helping, but there’s been improvement in the guys who were given a chance 18 months ago and the experienced players have come back and put some icing on the top. We are moving in the right direction.”

This was also a victory with a limited contribution from Steven Smith who made 43 and 16, falling to Neil Wagner’s short ball on both occasions. With Head scoring a half-century in the first innings Smith is now the only one of the top six not to pass fifty in Test so far this season.

“It’s been great, we touched on that at the end of the Ashes that we needed other guys to stand up and can’t be reliant on Steve,” Paine said. “We are really pleased with Marnus, he’s been unbelievably good, Davey [Warner] and Joe [Burns] have been scoring runs and that’s what we’ll all have to be doing if we are to one of the better teams in the world which we want to be. Guys have got to stand up, we can’t rely on too few. We are really happy with the way our batting has developed.”

Hazlewood’s replacement will be named later this week with Justin Langer suggesting Peter Siddle was in line for a recall with the potential for further tweaks ahead of the Sydney Test where the pitch could favour spin.



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Why the PCB had to pick Rawalpindi to host Sri Lanka

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Day 1: 68 overs of play
Day 2: 17.5 overs
Day 3: 5.2 overs
Day 4: Called off without a ball (teams remained at hotel)
Day 5: Predictable draw

Nine sessions of the Rawalpindi Test were effectively washed out but a full house still turned up for the final day’s play and they were treated to a remarkable innings from Abid Ali. The 32-year old became the first male cricketer to score a century on both his Test and ODI debuts but even his performance couldn’t distract from the fact that the return of Test cricket to Pakistan – the end of 10 years of exile – literally turned into a washout.

No ground outside of Rawalpindi and Karachi was considered to host the Sri Lanka Tests, although originally the series itself was expected to take place in October, the best time for cricket in Pakistan.

So, over the last four days as rain doused the prospect of an outright result, the PCB has been under the spotlight for their choice of venue. The last 10 Test matches played in northern Punjab in the month of December have all failed to produce a result with an exception of one game against Zimbabwe in 1993. There was one Test in Faisalabad which was abandoned without a ball bowled. Another, in Gujranwala, had weather that was good enough for only 36 overs of cricket.

Even so, Rawalpindi was the best option available to them. Multan, Faisalabad and Peshawar have not been upgraded well enough to host international cricket again. Lahore and Karachi do but one city is experiencing heavy smog and the other will host the second Test on Thursday.

In the aftermath of the 2009 attacks, logistics – direct flights in and out – and security clearances play a huge part in any match that is played in Pakistan. PCB had prioritised getting Lahore and Karachi ready first and had only recently invited ICC security consultant Reg Dickason to assess the state of affairs in Rawalpindi. Multan is next on the list; it is currently being considered to host four games in PSL 2020. Peshawar is already under renovation. Faisalabad, however, is yet to receive much attention.



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