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Tatenda Taibu set to return to competitive cricket in Sri Lanka



Tatenda Taibu, the former Zimbabwe captain and their convener of selectors until March this year, is set to return to competitive cricket, six years after retiring from international cricket. He has signed for Sri Lankan domestic side Baduraliya CC for the forthcoming first-class season, he confirmed to ESPNcricinfo, in response to an advertisement for an overseas player.

Taibu, the youngest ever Test captain, played 28 Tests and 150 ODIs for Zimbabwe before calling time on an 11-year-long international career in 2012 at age 29, stating that he wanted to focus on working for the church.

One of Taibu’s motivations behind his return to professional cricket was that his son had never seen him play the game.

“My son Tatenda Jr also often asks how I used to play, now that he has taken a liking to the sport,” Taibu said. “He didn’t really get the chance to see me as he was too young at the time. I have stayed extremely fit and healthy and feel I’m still one of the fittest cricketers around, so I thought maybe I can let him see for himself how I can perform.”

Since his international retirement, Taibu had been living in the UK, where, in 2016, he returned to cricket after signing for Liverpool and District team Hightown St Mary’s. He made his first foray into administration the same year, as Zimbabwe Cricket’s convener of selectors and development officer.

During his time in the UK, he also founded the Harare-based Rising Stars Academy, which received funding from Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) and private sponsors, and the academy collaborated with an English sports agency and secured club contracts for players picked as among Zimbabwe’s most promising.

Earlier this year, Taibu was sacked as ZC’s chief selector, along with coach Heath Streak and captain Graeme Cremer, in the aftermath of Zimbabwe’s failed 2019 World Cup qualifying campaign. Taibu later criticised ZC for its treatment of players and said he believed that part of the reason he was sacked was because, “I said all the things I should have said while I was in the organisation. That’s why I was ousted.”

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Hardik Pandya gathers momentum with fifty against Mumbai



The IPL has done funny things to Indian cricket, particularly the fan. How else do you explain lusty cheering for Mumbai Indians Baroda allrounder Hardik Pandya as he tried with all his might to thwart Mumbai’s chances of securing a vital first innings lead at Wankhede stadium? Sure, there is merit in the theory that he is an India player, but MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli apart, not many have such a hold over crowds across the country.

If it was a case of conflicted emotions – although there was no sign of it as the small crowd chanted his name like an anthem – they got the best of both worlds. Pandya obliged with a 137-ball 73 but Mumbai clung on to the cliff edge, securing a 29-run lead that may just keep them afloat in the Ranji Trophy.

Pandya may have missed a maiden Ranji Trophy hundred, but it was his first major contribution with the bat in red-ball cricket since a whirlwind 93 at the start of the year in Cape Town. (He’d made a fifty against Afghanistan in between, but that came after India’s total had already gone past 300)

Baroda had other heroes as well. Aditya Waghmode batted in khadoos mode to make 114 off 304 balls and Vishnu Solanki produced a more free flowing 133 to give Pandya the time he needed to find his feet, both literally and figuratively. At lunch he was batting on 3 off 29, struggling for rhythm but untroubled by the bowling as such.

Match situations, though, can be fickle, and after cruising for 121 overs and looking set to surpass Mumbai’s 465 by a significant margin, wickets fell, as though through a series of trapdoors. A comfortable 351 for 3 became 378 for 6 when tea was taken, and two overs post resumption Baroda had slipped to a precarious 379 for 7. At that stage, it seemed like they were running out of luck, exemplified by Solanki’s questionable lbw decision earlier in the day, but soon enough Pandya was bowled off a no-ball and it became a level playing field once again.

Reprieved on 41, he brought his side within 29 runs of Mumbai’s total before being pinned in front by Royston Dias as he tried to steal a single off the last ball of the over. It was not unlike the position he was in a few months ago at Edgbaston, when India needed 32 to win and Pandya was left with the awkward job of refusing singles when the field was spread, and scampering across when it came up. Eventually he was led to play a shot that wasn’t meant to fetch him runs or protect his stumps and he was dismissed.

The difference here is that there’s an innings left and Pandya could enjoy the perks of who he is – an allrounder – and influence the result. While Mumbai would have undoubtedly been the happier side, having taken the lead, given the lack of time left in the game, they were also the only ones left in a position to throw it away – a tendency common among teams batting without purpose on final days. With his two quick wickets before stumps, Pandya has stoked that possibility.

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Vernon Philander to miss Boxing Day Test against Pakistan



South Africa seamer Vernon Philander is set to miss the first Test against Pakistan on Boxing Day after sustaining a hairline fracture on his right thumb. With Lungi Ngidi out of action until February with a knee injury, South Africa will go into the first of three Test matches with just three fit frontline quicks in Duanne Olivier, Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn.

Philander had recently returned to action following rehabilitation for a recurring ankle injury, that had flared up during South Africa’s trip to Sri Lanka in July, and had played in one of the early season rounds of the domestic four-day competition, as well as turning out for Durban Heat in seven of their Mzansi Super League matches.

“I really don’t even want to think about what would happen should there be another injury,” said South Africa coach Ottis Gibson.

All three of the remaining fit quicks will be playing in Sunday’s Mzansi Super League final, but they will not be part of next week’s round of domestic four-day cricket.

ALSO READ: Gibson not worried about Amla’s dip in form

“If you look at where we are, Steyn, Rabada and Olivier become very important to us. We just want to manage them as best we can. We’ve seen how Dale’s been going. I don’t want to say we’ve seen a transformation because he’s always been a top player, but he’s back to full fitness and performing like the player of old. KG (Rabada) as always is very important to us.”

“We’ve looked at a few bowling options over the past 14 months and we’ve got what we feel now is a very good bowling attack and group,” Gibson said. “You’ve got Steyn, Rabada, Philander, Ngidi and Olivier, who’s been in-and-out, but always in our thinking. That’s the making of a good attack in any form of the game. My job now is to keep them fit and fresh for them to be at their peak at international level.”

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India ‘surprised’ by soft signal on Virat Kohli catch – Jasprit Bumrah



India’s players were “surprised” that Virat Kohli was given out on the field after Peter Handscomb claimed a catch off the bowling of Pat Cummins, according to Jasprit Bumrah.

A diving Handscomb appeared to scoop up a thick edge after Kohli drove hard at a full and wide delivery, but the decision was then referred to the third umpire, Nigel Llong. Llong was unable to find conclusive evidence, after extensively reviewing replays, to overturn the soft signal of out given by Kumar Dharmasena in consultation with Chris Gaffaney on the field.

But Bumrah said India were puzzled by the original decision.

“We were a little surprised by the on-field call,” said Bumrah. “Now it has been done, and it has been done. Now we will move forward with the game.”

Conversely, Nathan Lyon said there was no doubt in the minds of the Australian players that Handscomb had taken the catch cleanly.

“I wasn’t sure about the conversation between the umpires but, yeah, we thought it was out.

“Conversation was ‘great catch’.”

Kohli’s wicket fell at a crucial time in India’s innings, with India on 251 and trailing Australia’s first-innings total by 75 runs. The decision sparked a lively debate among fans and commentators alike and drew a strong reaction on social media in India.

ALSO READ: Bat, breathe, bat – the essence of Virat Kohli

Speaking on ABC radio, former Australia batsman Ed Cowan took an opposing view. “There is zero doubt in my mind that this catch has carried,” Cowan said. “Virat has made this a news story, and he shouldn’t.

“He should have the grace to walk off and say that was a fair catch.”

Kohli’s demeanour was animated through the day’s play. When he reached his century he held his bat up with one hand and made a talking gesture with his other hand. He encouraged the enthusiastic and noisy Indian contingent in the crowd and was front and centre for celebrations whenever an Australian wicket fell. There was also what appeared to be a colourful exchange between Kohli and Tim Paine as the pair walked off the field at the end of the day’s play.

Lyon played down the significance of the exchange.

“I think he just asked him where he was going for dinner that’s all,” Lyon said. “I’ve played enough cricket against Virat to know what he’s like.

“Virat’s Virat and I’m not worried about what he’s doing or what India’s doing.”

But Kohli’s animation throughout the day was enough to draw criticism from some, including former Australia batsmen, Michael Hussey.

“Virat Kohli is out of control out there,” said Hussey, speaking on Macquarie Radio. “He is revving up the crowd and he is going nuts when they take a wicket. I don’t like his attitude at the moment.”

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