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Graeme Smith resumes director of cricket discussions with Cricket South Africa

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Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith has resumed discussions with Cricket South Africa over the director of cricket role, which he had shown an interest in before withdrawing last month.

Smith was interviewed for the post alongside suspended interim director of cricket Corrie van Zyl and former national selector Hussein Manack, and was understood to be CSA’s preferred candidate. But he then made himself unavailable for consideration, citing a lack of “the necessary confidence” in the board.

Following a report in the Sunday Times , which said Smith had had a change of heart and was on the verge of agreeing to a four-year deal, Smith confirmed he was still in communication with CSA, but acknowledged that he still had his reservations.

“Contrary to media reports I have not been appointed Director of Cricket by CSA. As previously advised I withdrew my application for the role. I am, however, in ongoing discussions with CSA, but I still have real concerns, which I have reiterated to them,” Smith tweeted.

ALSO READ: 2019 – South African cricket’s annus horribilis

ESPNcricinfo understands that Smith has been in conversation with CSA president Chris Nenzani and has conveyed that his main concern was about the CSA’s senior management. But even if Smith does get on board, it is unlikely to be in time to have an effect on preparations for the upcoming home series against England, which starts on Boxing Day.

With just 24 days to go before the first Test, South Africa have neither a confirmed director of cricket nor a selection panel, although interviews for a selection convener have taken place. Patrick Moroney has emerged as the frontrunner for that, but there is no indication on if or when he would be appointed or when a squad would be announced.

In an interview with Afrikaans newspaper Rapport on Sunday, CSA CEO Thabang Moroe said van Zyl and Enoch Nkwe, the interim team director, make up the current selection committee.

Moroe’s statement came four days after CSA spokesperson Thamie Mthembu had told Independent Newspapers that CSA had a “technical team” in place to select the squad; Mthembu, however, did not name anyone but Nkwe. Given that van Zyl remains suspended for alleged dereliction of duty following delayed commercial rights payments to the South African Cricketers Association, Nkwe could have a significant, if not unilateral, say on the make-up of the squad. Most recently, Nkwe took South Africa to India, where they drew the T20I series and were whitewashed in the Tests.

Those Tests are the only red-ball cricket some national players have featured in, which means the squad must be picked on the basis of those results, and the performances in the first four rounds of four-day franchise cricket played in October-November, and the single round of fixtures that will take place on December 19. Some players who picked up injuries in India, such as Keshav Maharaj (shoulder injury) and Dean Elgar (concussion), have made recoveries and are playing in the ongoing Mzansi Super League (MSL), which runs until December 16, ten days before the first Test against England. Others, such as Aiden Markram (wrist fracture), Dwaine Pretorius (hand injury), and promising young quick Gerald Coetzee (hamstring injury), are on the sidelines, which may make selection trickier.

Nkwe is not involved at the MSL this year after coaching the Jozi Stars to the title last summer. His position with the national team remains temporary until a director of cricket, who will name the long-term team management, is appointed. Since Smith withdrew from the race, CSA has dragged its feet on making an appointment. Sources suggested that the delay could run well into 2020, with some suggesting CSA will readvertise for the post and look for options overseas.

All that leaves South African cricket mired in uncertainty ahead of an important few months for all its national teams. The men’s side play England in four Tests, three ODIs and three T20Is, before facing Australia and India in white-ball internationals to prepare for the T20 World Cup in October-November 2020. The women’s team will play in the T20 World Cup in February-March and the Under-19 side will feature in the World Cup, to be played at home, in January-February. Though the coaching staff for the women’s and Under-19 team is in place, the director of cricket was expected to roll out an overall national strategy for all cricket played under CSA’s umbrella and ensure continuity in the structures. That will have to wait.





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

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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
Scorecard

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

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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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Adelaide Strikers hold off David Miller counter-attack to move second

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Travis Head played a superb innings before Peter Siddle and Wes Agar helped all but end the Hurricanes’ chances of reaching the finals



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