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



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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Shikhar Dhawan picks up shoulder injury, doesn’t open for India



India are yet to take a call on Shikhar Dhawan after he left the field clutching his left shoulder during the ODI series decider against Australia in Bengaluru on Sunday.

Dhawan was immediately sent for an X-ray, with a BCCI spokesperson saying “a call on his availability for the game will be taken once he is back and assessed”.

Dhawan fell over on his left shoulder in the fifth over of the match as he dived to stop an Aaron Finch drive at cover point. Nitin Patel, the team physio who attended to him, took him off the field. He spent the rest of the innings off the field, and didn’t come out to open the batting in India’s chase of 287.

KL Rahul, who made a match-winning 52-ball 80 from No. 5 in the second ODI in Rajkot, opened instead of Dhawan. His partner Rohit Sharma, incidentally, had also bruised his shoulder while fielding during the Rajkot ODI.

In the same game, Dhawan had bruised his ribcage after trying to negate a Pat Cummins delivery, but continued to bat on and make 96 in India’s series-levelling victory. He spent the entire duration of the Australia innings off the field to nurse the injury.

Dhawan has hit a purple patch in recent times, scoring 52, 74 and 96 in his three most recent international innings. In November, he picked up a freak injury – “a deep cut on his left knee” – during a Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 game for Delhi against Maharashtra. Originally picked for the series against West Indies, he was later withdrawn as the medical staff felt he needed more time for his stitches to come off and the wound to heal.

As things stand, Dhawan is part of India’s T20I squad for the tour of New Zealand starting January 24. India are set to fly out of Bengaluru early on Monday to Auckland via Singapore.

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Pace trio sets up Pakistan’s seven-wicket rout of Scotland



Pakistan Under-19s 77 for 3 (Irfan 38*, Naylor 1-12) beat Scotland Under-19s 75 (Uzzair 20, Wasim 5-12, Tahir 3-23, Afridi 2-32) by seven wickets

It was all rather one-sided in Potchefstroom as Pakistan steamrolled Scotland to get their Under-19 World Cup Group C campaign off to a rousing start.

Medium-pacers Tahir Hussain, Mohammad Wasim and Abbas Afridi first shared all ten wickets between them to bowl Scotland out for 75, and Irfan Khan then led the way in a straightforward chase, the target coming up in just 11.4 overs with seven wickets in hand.

Angus Guy, the Scotland captain, won the toss and opted to bat, but was bowled by Tahir off the second ball of the innings for a duck, his opening partner Ben Davidson suffering the same fate two balls later to leave the scoreboard reading 1 for 2 after four balls. Tomas Mackintosh got going, but became Tahir’s third victim when he was caught behind for an 18-ball 17.

Once Tahir was done, Wasim – who came into Pakistan’s squad as Naseem Shah’s replacement – and Afridi took over. Apart from Mackintosh, Uzzair Shah was the only other batsman to get to double-digits as Wasim returned 5 for 12 in 75 overs, to go with Tahir’s 3 for 23 and Afridi’s 2 for 32. The Scotland innings lasted just 23.5 overs.

The reply didn’t start well for the 2004 and 2006 champions, as openers Haider Ali and Muhammad Shehzad were dismissed with just four runs on the board. That was as good as it got for Scotland, though, as captain Rohail Nazir and Irfan scored quickly in a 47-run third-wicket stand and, after Rohail was sent back for a 23-ball 27, Irfan took Pakistan home in the company of Qasim Akram, finishing unbeaten on 38 off 37 balls.

Pakistan next play Zimbabwe on January 22, while Scotland take on Bangladesh a day before.

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Recent Match Report – Auckland vs Wellington, New Zealand Domestic Twenty20, Final



Wellington Firebirds 168 for 7 (Conway 49, McClenaghan 3-32) beat Auckland Aces 146 for 9 (Guptill 60, Cachopa 25, van Beek 3-28, Bennett 3-34) by 22 runs

Wellington did the double at Basin Reserve on Sunday, with both the Firebirds (men’s team) and the Blaze (women’s team) securing the 20-over Super Smash titles. The Firebirds are also the reigning 50-over Ford Trophy champions, having defeated Otago in Dunedin in 2018-19.

Fast bowler Hamish Bennett, who had starred in that final, was at it in the Super Smash final, his 3 for 34 thwarting Martin Guptill and helping the Firebirds defend 168. Bennett, who now holds both domestic white-ball titles, could well make his T20I debut against the visiting India side next week.

Auckland Aces’ New Zealand internationals Guptill and Colin Munro had given their team a sound start in pursuit of 169 by adding 33 for the opening stand in four overs. But one run and three balls later, Bennett had Munro tickling one behind, and TV umpire Ashley Mehrota ruled the opener out although Munro wasn’t pleased with the decision, suggesting that he hadn’t touched the ball.

Then, immediately after the powerplay, Jimmy Neesham marked his return from a quadricep injury when he had Glenn Phillips dragging a catch to deep square-leg for a run-a-ball 7. Neesham combined with left-arm fingerspinner Rachin Ravindra and Netherlands international Logan van Beek to pin down the middle order. All three bowlers conceded just one boundary each, sharing five wickets between them.

Guptill, though, stood tall even as the Aces sank to 104 for 5 and then 113 for 6. Guptill, who was on 23 off 22 balls by the end of the powerplay, set his focus towards taking the chase deep. He brought up a 45-ball half-century in the 16th over, when then slapped seamer Ollie Newton behind point four.

Auckland now needed 59 off 29 balls, with the in-form Bennett still with one over in his bag. Van Beek, too, did some significant damage, getting three wickets, including two in one over.

Guptill gave Auckland more hope when he lined up the returning Bennett in the 18th over and thumped him over midwicket for six. However, Bennett responded strongly, getting Guptill to hole out for 60 off 53 balls. Van Beek produced a game-changing moment, pulling off a stunning hokey-pokey catch at the edge of the deep-midwicket boundary. A fierce whip from Guptill seemed destined to fly over the boundary… until van Beek himself took flight and caught the ball at the edge of the rope. He then lost his balance and jumped beyond the rope, but had the presence of mind to toss the ball into play and retrieve it in the end.

It was only fitting that Bennett and van Beek closed out the game for the Firebirds. The two men had moved north from Canterbury, playing crucial hands in the Firebirds’ third T20 title victory.

Earlier, it was Black Cap-in-waiting Devon Conway who had set up the win, with a 37-ball 49 at the top. Conway lit up the Basin by crunching beanpole quick Kyle Jamieson for three fours in the first over of the game, including a drilled cover-drive. Michael Pollard, the other opener, wasn’t as fluent at the other end, and was dismissed by left-arm quick Mitchell McClenaghan.

Conway continued on his merry way and lashed left-arm fingerspinner Mark Chapman for back-to-back boundaries to push the Firebirds to 80 for 2 in ten overs. McClenaghan then returned to the attack and had Conway splicing one to extra cover, where Craig Cachopa pulled off a blinding one-handed catch. Conway capped the season as the top run-getter, with 543 runs in 11 innings at an average of 67.87 and strike rate of 145.18.

The South Africa-born top-order batsman will qualify to play for New Zealand soon, just before the T20 World Cup, but coach Gary Stead is already so impressed by him that he called him into New Zealand’s winter camp last year.

Jamieson nailed his yorkers and mixed it up his hard lengths at the death while Munro gave little away with his cutters and rollers as the Firebirds’ innings threatened to spiral out of control. However, charming cameos from a fit-again Neesham (22 off 13 balls), captain Michael Bracewell (23 off 17 balls), and van Beek (15* off eight balls) ensured they reached 168. Van Beek, in particular, was the only Firebirds batsman to get the measure of McClenaghan, taking him for 11 off four balls. Bennett and van Beek then made that total look a whole lot bigger with the ball and in the field, thrilling the home crowd.

Sophie Devine sets up victory in seven-over shootout

Sophie Devine was in complete control after poor weather meant only a seven-overs-a-side contest would be possible in the women’s final.

Devine and Rachel Priest dealt in boundaries to start with, the first 20 runs coming in fours, to take Wellington to 20 after two overs. Once Priest fell, Devine switched to smashing sixes, hitting three in the fourth over of the innings, bowled by Anna Peterson, and reached her half-century in just 22 balls. She couldn’t carry on, though, Bella Armstrong sending her back for a 23-ball 54. Though only eight runs came off the final over, Wellington had a strong 81 for 2 on the board thanks to their captain.

Devine came back to bowl a fine first over, conceding just five runs, and that set the tone for the Auckland reply, as they struggled to find the boundaries, lost wickets, and could only manage 45 for 5, going down by 36 runs.

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