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Cameron Bancroft left out of settled Australia Test squad to face New Zealand

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Cameron Bancroft has been left out of Australia’s 13-man squad for the Test series against New Zealand, which starts in Perth next week, in an otherwise unchanged group from the one which swept Pakistan 2-0 with a brace of innings victories.

James Pattinson, who was ruled out of the opening Test against Pakistan after his code of conduct suspension, and the uncapped Michael Neser remain the support pace-bowling options.

Rotation was a theme among Australia’s pace attack in the Ashes but barring any injuries it would be a surprise if they changed the current trio for the opening Test against New Zealand. Mitchell Starc, who took 14 wickets at 17 in the two Tests, grimaced at times in Pakistan’s second innings in Adelaide, but Tim Paine was confident there was no significant concern.

“We’re lucky not only because of how good [the quick bowlers] are but they’re great athletes as well,” he said. “Starcy has a bit of a cut on his big toe, he did land awkwardly at one stage yesterday but that was fine. Most of his grimacing today…I think he’s waiting the nail to come off the big toe which happens to a lot of fast bowlers and until it actually happens it can be quite painful. He’s battling a little bit with that but nothing he hasn’t gone through before.”

Bancroft was the spare batsman for the Brisbane and Adelaide Tests and will remain a standby player, but has not been officially included this time. The selection chairman, Trevor Hohns, has left it open to add a player to the squad if conditions dictate which could be the case in Sydney where two spinners may be an option.

Bancroft was released ahead of the Adelaide Test to play in the Sheffield Shield match against South Australia where he made 12 and 23 to continue a lean first-class season, his first-innings dismissal seeing him caught at leg gully for the fifth time this summer.

Given the dominance of Australia’s top order against Pakistan – and the two innings wins – some of the batsmen have had limited time in the middle with Travis Head and Tim Paine batting just one in the series.

“As we said prior to the Pakistan series we are striving to maintain a core group of players,” Hohns said. “The performance of the team against Pakistan was very impressive across all areas, while there is always some room to improve

“We are backing the current batting line-up to continue their form across the next three Tests. Whilst not a part of this squad, Cameron Bancroft remains one of the standby players. Similarly, depending on conditions, we reserve the right to add a player to the squad at any time during the Series.

“Michael [Neser] will play for Queensland against New South Wales in the Marsh Sheffield Shield game at the SCG, as James [Pattinson] did last week for Victoria.”

The round of Sheffield Shield matches which begins on Saturday is the final one before the competition breaks for the BBL.

Squad David Warner, Joe Burns, Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith, Matthew Wade, Travis Head, Tim Paine, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson, Michael Neser



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England need ‘resilient cricketers’ in overseas conditions, says Graham Thorpe

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England batting coach, Graham Thorpe, has urged those players in the Test set-up to keep focusing on how to improve their games as Chris Silverwood and Joe Root seek to build a team that can challenge to win back the Ashes in Australia.

A rain-affected draw in Hamilton extended England’s poor away record under the captaincy of Root – they have won just four times in 15 overseas Tests since he took over in 2017. But pointing to the inexperienced nature of the squad in New Zealand, Thorpe suggested there was plenty of scope for England to improve their performances in unfamiliar conditions, saying they would need “resilient cricketers” for the Australia tour of 2021-22.

ALSO READ: England must raise fielding standards to help toiling bowlers to catch a break

The bowlers, in particular, faced some hard yards in Mount Maunganui and Hamilton. Sam Curran was England’s leading wicket-taker, with six at 39.66, while Jofra Archer, on his first overseas assignment, finished with two at 104.50. The decision to go into the second Test with a five-man pace attack also came under scrutiny, particularly after New Zealand batted their way to safety at 241 for 2 on the fifth day at Seddon Park.

“We’re still very much a developing team from a coaching point of view, we’re trying to identify those characters who can take us forward,” Thorpe said. “Jofra’s had a new experience; abroad, never been to New Zealand, first time he’s bowled with a Kookaburra ball, it’s a learning curve for him. As with more games under Sam Curran, the variety of our attack, what have we got? Have we got different performers which we can use abroad?

“Even playing without a spinner in this game, people might criticise it but you’ve also got to look at what you’ve got as well. Can you play differently from time to time? We’ve got to keep developing our players, no doubt about that. They have to ask themselves when they come away from a trip like this: where can I get better? Because the big picture is down the line in a couple of years’ time, we’ll need resilient cricketers going to Australia.”

England’s record with the Kookaburra ball remains a source of concern. Over the last four years, English seamers average almost 10 runs per wicket more in countries where the Kookaburra is used (Australia, Bangladesh, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the UAE), although their next assignment, in South Africa, may feature surfaces friendlier to pace bowling.

Thorpe highlighted the example of Neil Wagner, New Zealand’s Man of the Series and an expert at creating openings with short-pitched bowling, as something for England to keep in mind as they seek a sharper edge on their travels.

“Generally you’ve got a few plans as bowlers,” Thorpe said. “When guys first go to the crease, they’re vulnerable for a period of time and you need bowlers who can carry out different strategies at different times throughout the course of a Test match. Maybe it’s some different angles, some different styles of bowling. Wagner bowls in a certain way, [Ben] Stokes tried that, and it was against two good batsmen, and all of a sudden they can become a little ruffled in the way they play. That’s a style.

“How much can we do with the ball? We’ve got to work very, very hard to go off-straight as well, so taking care of the ball. South Africa has slightly different surfaces, a little bit more carry so again our players have got to look ahead.

“There have been some challenges, players might say they’ve been flat pitches but we know that on flat pitches there is pressure on batters to make sure they put big runs on the board and then there’s pressure on bowlers to make sure they find a way of having sometimes three tactical ways of getting batsmen out: one when they’re first in, one when they’re set and another one in terms of what can we do with the ball? Maybe to be able to get some movement with that Kookaburra ball. There’s plenty in the mix.”

One obvious positive for England was in the performance of their captain at Seddon Park, as Root recorded his first hundred in 15 innings and highest score overseas.

“It’s great to see Root come back and scoring some runs and how he is in the dressing room as well, that’s great for his confidence. He was already held in very esteem in the dressing room, so he’s just confirmed that and also that he’s a world-class player as well. Everyone goes through little dips in their career so it’s great to see him back up and running with the bat.”



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‘That was abject, Charles, absolutely pathetic’ – Bob Willis’ best quips

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A legendary fast bowler and a great of the English game in his own right, Bob Willis developed a reputation for his dry, acerbic and generally scathing verdicts during his punditry career working for Sky Sports. Here are a few of his best quips…

“The standard of journalism in this country has gone down the nick completely. People have to rely on small-minded quotes from players under pressure for their stories – where they used to write about cricket, they don’t seem to be able to do that anymore.”
Willis – himself the son of a BBC journalist – launches into the press pack after wrapping up a stunning turnaround at Headingley in 1981.

“Well I’m very flattered, Joe, that you likened me to Albert Einstein – quite a good impression of the late Brian Clough, I thought. But, young man, when your little purple patch comes to an end… I’ll have you back in the dock!”
With a grin on his face, Willis responds to Joe Root’s impersonation of him following England’s Ashes win in 2015.

“Once the onslaught came he didn’t have an answer: short, wide, full, half-volley, wide… this is garbage.”
Narrating a highlights package, Willis gives his verdict on Chris Morris’ performance against England in January 2016.

“Now what bird brains over there thought that Ben Foakes wouldn’t score more runs than Jennings, Sam Curran wouldn’t score more runs than Jennings, Chris Woakes on one leg hopping around wouldn’t score more runs than Jennings, and Jack Leach wouldn’t score more runs than Jennings? That excruciating innings by the left-handed opener just was… embarrassing, absolutely embarrassing. Why the guy was anywhere near the team… he looked as if he was embarrassed being out there.”
After Keaton Jennings’ 43-ball 8 against West Indies in February 2019, Willis questions the batsman’s place in the side.

ALSO READ: Willis, legendary fast bowler, dies aged 70

“Would I have liked to have played T20? Not half, only four overs a day? Wouldn’t mind getting smashed around for the sort of money these guys are earning these days.”
Never one to take himself too seriously, Willis suggests he would enjoy life as a modern cricketer.

“Let’s be honest, England was the only country that had decent umpires. We heard all about Indian umpires, Pakistan umpires but I can tell you: Australian umpires were cheats, there was no doubt about that, and you ask Michael Holding about New Zealand umpires. They were absolutely shocking as well: bias in the extreme.”
After England get the rough end of the stick during their 2012 tour against Pakistan in the UAE, Willis recounts the standard of umpiring during his own playing days.

“If you look closely, Charles, Ishant Sharma [is] a great student of the game, and that black-and-white archive back in India, and he’s quaking in his boots just at the sight of this action. And the very next ball, what happens? Cook mops him up!”
Responding after Alastair Cook’s only Test wicket, when he had Ishant Sharma caught behind while mimicking Willis’ distinctive action.

“England are careering headlong into those dark, dismal days of Hussain being booed at the Oval and Duncan Fletcher being appointed to come in and rescue the team. It’s just getting worse and worse. We thought perhaps that Auckland, 58 all out, might have been a blip but it’s not looking that way now. I think complete structural change is needed in the English game to try and produce better cricketers.”
Following defeat to Pakistan at Lord’s in 2018, Willis sums up his feelings towards the current crop of England internationals.

“Certainly not. I don’t go with all this ‘resting players’. You know, Stokes and Buttler were in the IPL, weren’t they, filling their wallets in April and May – why are they ‘resting’ during a Test match?”
Willis rebuts the suggestion that England’s struggles in their Test against Ireland this summer could be put down to a World Cup hangover.

“That was abject, Charles, absolutely pathetic. Apart from Joe Root and Ben Stokes, these guys cannot bat, it’s as simple as that. The Ashes have now gone, it’s going to be all over inside three Test matches, and if the penny hasn’t now dropped with England’s cricket administrators about the programme of four-day cricket… if they want the primary of Test-match cricket, if they want to keep the best form of the game alive, they’re going to have to do something about it and pretty damn quick, because this was totally unacceptable.”
No holds barred after England are bowled out for 67 in the third Ashes Test at Headingley this summer… they wrapped up a one-wicket win two days later.

“There should be three sets of stocks in the town square in Leeds: one for Andy Flower, one for Alastair Cook, and one for Jonathan Trott. And a great big barrel of rotten tomatoes to hurl at them.”
Normally one to encourage Test teams to dig in and bat properly, Willis launches into England’s negative tactics in their painstaking victory against New Zealand in 2013.



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SACA to discuss strike over commercial rights

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The South African Cricketers’ Association will discuss the possibility of a player strike at its board meeting on Friday, after a second breach of commercial rights by Cricket South Africa. On Wednesday, the SACA commenced a formal process against CSA for using the names and images of players in a fantasy league game related to the Mzansi Super League (MSL), without acquiring the rights to do so.

This follows a dispute last month when the SACA launched a dispute into CSA’s delay in paying commercial rights fees from the inaugural edition of the MSL in 2018. The money, understood to be around R 2.4 million (USD 165,000 approx), was paid more than a year late and three CSA employees – interim director of cricket Corrie van Zyl, COO Naasei Appiah, and head of sponsorship and sales Clive Eksteen – were suspended for alleged dereliction of duty in not handling the payment more efficiently. The SACA insisted CSA CEO Thabang Moroe was also involved.

Now, with a second commercial rights infringement, SACA members will be asked to consider what the organisation calls a “very last resort”, in taking industrial action against CSA.

“SACA has called a meeting of its Players Executive Committee and its Management Board for Friday 6th December 2019,” Tony Irish, the SACA CEO, said in a statement. “At this meeting, we will again be discussing the manner in which SACA and the players are being treated by CSA. This discussion is likely to include the possibility of the players taking some form of industrial, or protest, action.

“SACA has always considered strike, and other similar forms of industrial action, to be a very last resort and in SACA’s 17 years of dealing with CSA to date not one day of cricket has ever been lost to industrial action.”

“SACA has requested CSA to obtain clearance from its anti-corruption unit to ensure that this use of players in a pay-to-play game does not in any way constitute an association of the players with gambling, or encouragement of betting practices, which are not permitted under CSA’s anti-corruption code. As far as we know this request has been ignored by CSA.”

Tony Irish, SACA CEO

Irish said the SACA made repeated attempts to engage CSA over the fantasy game, including requesting CSA to consult with its anti-corruption unit to ensure the players are distanced from any association with betting. Their efforts, according to the SACA, have been ignored.

“SACA has requested CSA to obtain clearance from its anti-corruption unit to ensure that this use of players in a pay-to-play game does not in any way constitute an association of the players with gambling, or encouragement of betting practices, which are not permitted under CSA’s anti-corruption code. As far as we know this request has been ignored by CSA,” Irish said. “This is yet another instance, in a growing line of instances, where CSA has flagrantly disregarded our agreements and, over the last week or so, failed to address SACA’s resulting concerns. We now feel that enough is enough.”

The SACA’s relationship with CSA has never been more strained with disputes dating back to early 2018. CSA delayed the negotiations of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the SACA, which essentially lays out the terms and conditions for player contracts, and the old MOU expired three months before a new one was completed. The SACA also claims CSA did not consult it about a proposed restructure to the domestic system which will see the six-team franchise set-up done away with and 12 provincial teams installed in their place, effectively removing an entire tier of domestic cricket. The SACA believes around 70 cricketers will lose their jobs and have taken CSA to court, demanding the organisation shows cause of the restructure. The case is ongoing.

Also on Friday, the SACA will decide on a new CEO, with Irish’s last day at the organisation scheduled for December 13. Irish is relocating to the UK, where he will head up the Professional Cricketers’ Association, and leaves after 17 years with the SACA, at a time when South African cricket is in crisis.

Events of the last few weeks have seen widespread calls for the CSA board and CEO to step down following issues ranging from revoking the accreditation of journalists without cause, to the delay in appointing a director of cricket, and to CSA’s financial woes. CSA previously said it is planning for a R 654 million (USD 45 million approx) loss in the next four-year cycle but SACA put the figure closer to R 1 billion (USD 69 million approx).



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