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Adrian Birrell named as Hampshire’s new head coach

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Adrian Birrell, the former Ireland and England Under-19 coach, has been named as first-team manager at Hampshire, and joins the club on a three-year deal following the departure of Craig White last summer.

Birrell, who was South Africa’s assistant coach for four years from 2013 to 2017, was most recently in charge of Paarl Rocks in the inaugural Mzansi Super League, where he helped guide the side to the knock-outs.

After a long first-class career with Eastern Province, made his name as a coach during his successful stint with Ireland from 2002 to 2007, a run which culminated in their memorable progression to the Super Eights in the 2007 World Cup, following their famous win over Pakistan at Sabina Park.

He was then named England U19 Head Coach in 2010, before joining South Africa’s coaching set-up under Russell Domingo.

“I am honoured and delighted to be appointed as the Hampshire First Team Manager,” said Birrell. “While I was with the Proteas, we played at the Ageas Bowl in 2017 and I was very impressed with the world-class facilities.

“I am very excited to be working with such a talented group of cricketers and look forward to competing for honours in all three formats – it is a wonderful opportunity for me personally and I can’t wait to get started in the new year.”

Giles White, Hampshire’s director of cricket, added: “Adi is someone who is well respected throughout the cricketing world and has a reputation for improving individual and team performance.

“He brings experience, a sense of enjoyment and a genuine passion for the game and the people that play it – I’m looking forward to working with him.”

Birrell will join up with the Hampshire squad in March, leading the squad during their pre-season tour and friendly matches ahead of the commencement of the 2019 season in April.



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Disappointing that SL need to qualify for T20 World Cup – Lasith Malinga | Cricket

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Lasith Malinga found his rhythm early © Getty Images


Once the No. 1 T20 side in the world, Sri Lanka should “never have let things get so bad” that they are now forced to play in a qualifying tournament in order to gain entry to the T20 World Cup proper. So went the lament of Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka’s World T20-winning captain, and a great of the format.

With Sri Lanka having slipped to ninth on the T20 rankings after losing 12 of their 16 most-recent matches, the ICC announced earlier this month that they would not gain automatic entry into the “Super 12” round of next year’s T20 World Cup. Instead, they will have to finish in the top two in a group of four in the opening round of the competition, in order to progress into the part of the tournament into which the eight top teams gain automatic entry.

This fate is quite a fall for a team that had a history of performing extremely well at T20 global tournaments between 2009 and 2014. Three times they made the final of the event, losing to Pakistan and West Indies in 2009 and 2012 respectively, before finally going on to lift the trophy in 2014, defeating India in the final. They had also been the top-ranked T20 side between late 2012 and mid-2014, and had wielded one of the smartest attacks in the world, led by Malinga.

“It’s really disappointing to need to qualify, because having won the World T20 in 2014, inside five years we’ve slipped lower than No. 8,” Malinga said. “We have a chance to get into the World Cup by playing qualifiers, but we’re not a country that should ever have fallen that far. We’re a country that’s won two World Cups (including one in one-day cricket). We’ve gone wrong somewhere. But if the right people come into the right places, things can be put right quickly as well.”

Now tasked with turning the fate of Sri Lanka’s limited overs sides around, Malinga will captain in a T20 international for the first time since 2016, when Sri Lanka take the field against New Zealand in Auckland, on Friday. Malinga was hopeful the recent decline could be arrested.

“If you look at the players we have, we can build a good team, but we need to put effort into that,” he said. “We need to cultivate the skills necessary for T20. As captain, along with the team management, I’ve got a responsibility to try and help our players tune their existing skills to the T20 format. We need to know as a team which skills should be used in which match situations.”

The bowlers, in particular, could be cleverer in pressure situations, Malinga said. Reputed to be a quick thinker in the shorter formats, this is an area in which Malinga felt he had a role in helping improve.

“At some stages the bowlers are confused. We have so much variation in our attack, but bowlers have to understand how to set up an over. Every ball can’t get a wicket. Bowlers have to set up a batsman and take that wicket. They have skill, but they’re not comfortable using those skills while the over is going on, I feel. In the training sessions, they are really good. But in the match situations, they are lacking confidence. I want to help them learn how to improve that aspect of their game. They have a lot to learn.”

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf


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Mitchell Marsh illness opens ODI door for Ashton Turner

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Mitchell Marsh has been ruled out of Australia’s first ODI against India at the SCG after spending two days in hospital with the stomach illness gastritis. Ashton Turner, the Western Australia and Perth Scorchers batsman, has been called up as cover after showing impressive form in the Big Bash League with Australia coach Justin Langer lauding his running between the wickets and finishing skills.

Turner, 25, has previously played three T20Is against Sri Lanka in 2017 and has hit a timely run in the BBL with scores of 60 not out, 47 and 43 not out in his last three innings.

“I remember when Mike Hussey came into Australian cricket, what almost got him a shot in the one-day team was his running between the wickets,” Langer said. “That might sound like the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard but his [Turner’s] running between the wickets is unbelievable, he’s such a great athlete and one of the hallmarks of great Australian teams – think of Dean Jones, Michael Bevan, Michael Hussey – is the running, it’s a basic but he does that.

“We’ve also talked about getting players who can finish off innings and he’s shown that particularly in what we can go off in the Big Bash. He’s in great form. He’s an elite athlete in the field and he’s also a captain. You see the way he finishes innings that he’s a good thinker and a really good leader.”

For Mitchell Marsh, who was left walking gentle laps of the SCG on Thursday, it is another blow after he was dropped from the Test squad for the Sri Lanka series. His brother Shaun was also left out, raising the prospect of it being the end of his Test career, with Langer admitting they were tough decisions involving a family he is very close to, but calls that had to be made.

“Of course these decisions are tough but that’s what leadership is about,” he said. “You’ve got to make tough calls. I’ve known them since they were kids, Geoff Marsh is one of my best friends and he’s also been a coach with me in WA. At the end of the day we all know, the boys know and Swampy [Geoff Marsh] knows, that this a tough business and if you aren’t performing you don’t get selected.”

Mitchell Marsh will be assessed later in the series to see if he can take any part in the subsequent matches in Adelaide and Melbourne, but in the short term his absence could impact the balance of the side Australia field. Adam Zampa and Nathan Lyon have both been included in the squad but without Marsh’s medium-pace it may now be tricky to fit both into the XI.

Australia are keen to try and get two frontline spinners into their ODI team – a formula that has worked well for other teams – as they attempt to arrest the slump that has left them ranked sixth as they prepare for defend their World Cup title in England. It could be that the twin-spin attack now has to wait for the series against India and Pakistan that begin next month.

“There might be opportunities for them to play together,” Langer said. “It perhaps changes it a bit with Mitch Marsh; we could have had maybe the two medium-pace options as the extra quick. That might change a bit now. A lot of the teams around the world are doing it [playing two spinners]. There’s no doubt India will do it against us. It’s something we’ll have a look at. It would be good to have a legspinner and an offspinner – Glenn Maxwell bowls offspin as well. We’ll have some good combinations there.”

As well as searching for the ideal balance of attack, Australia are also trying to formulate a top order that can set and chase imposing totals above 300. David Warner and Steven Smith are inked in to return for the World Cup, but Australia’s problems in ODIs started when they were still available. In the current squad Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb have a chance to stake their claim after a shift from the selectors to go for more traditional batsmen in place of hitters such as D’Arcy Short and Chris Lynn.

“We have to look for scores at 300 or 350,” Langer said. “We have to do that to compete and in England, we have to do that. We’ve got the talent and now we’ve got to get the experience and the composure and ability to do it under pressure and to do it consistently. These are what we’re all aspiring to and that is one of the great lessons in the game.”



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Eyes on the Ashes: Australia’s Test squad talking points

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There was another Australia squad with plenty to digest as the selectors brought in a new-look top order to try and overcome the batting woes for the Sri Lanka series. Shaun and Mitchell Marsh, Peter Handscomb and Aaron Finch have been dropped – their Ashes hope now hanging by a thread – with Joe Burns, Matt Renshaw and the uncapped Will Pucovski taking their place. National selector Trevor Hohns addressed the media to cover various issues, both in terms of the immediate selection and the bigger picture, and here’s how he reacted to the major talking points.

The debate: Shaun Marsh has been dropped after making 183 runs in the series against India with one-half-century. He has been axed and brought back on many occasions during his career, but at 35 years old it feels like this could be it for a Test career that has occasionally promised so much.

Hohns: “Shaun hasn’t done what we’d like him to have done over the last period and I am sure he would say the same thing. As far as the Ashes go that’s a long way off, he now has the opportunity in one-day cricket to get some form back. But the door is certainly not closed

The debate: Burns and Renshaw were much-discussed since they were parachuted in following the ball-tampering scandal at Newlands. Renshaw looked set to play against Pakistan in the UAE before suffering concussion and has been on the sidelines since. He has endured a lean Shield season to date (199 runs at 19.90) while Burns has been solid, averaging 47.20, with a strong school of thought his three Test centuries should have seen him in long before now

Hohns: “Joe Burns has a good record in Test cricket and has been in good form leading up to when the Big Bash started. Matt Renshaw on the other hand is very, very highly regarded young player, he’s scored a lot of runs in England when he went over there and played county cricket. With the Ashes in mind it’s probably time now to get him back and around the group.”

The debate: Despite Australia’s batting being at an historical low, missing David Warner and Steven Smith, there has been a sense that the selectors have ignored strong Sheffield Shield numbers by some players – favouring potential over performance. Matthew Wade is the Shield’s top scorer with 571 runs at 63.44.

Hohns: “With Matthew Wade it’s fantastic to see him scoring a lot of runs. It wasn’t long ago that he was in our Test squad, he struggled and we dropped him. He was wicketkeeper at that stage, he’s playing as a wicketkeeper-batsman for Tasmania and it just so happens we have a wicketkeeper-batsman in our Test side who is the captain. If Matthew wants to be considered as a straight out batsman it would be nice to see him batting a little higher up for Tasmania and that conversation has been had.”

The debate: A continued omission from the Test side is Glenn Maxwell who last year was told not to take up a county deal, which we wanted to play more red-ball cricket, because he would be on the A tour to India with a chance to secure a place in the Tests against Pakistan. He has played two first-class games since then because of white-ball commitments.

Hohns: “We’ve had several conversations with Glenn about all this and right now he is just content to focus on one-day cricket and white-ball cricket. However, he makes it very clear he would like to play Test cricket, there is no doubt about that. Glenn has chosen to go and play country cricket again this year and a lot of that is one-day cricket leading up to the World Cup. He has also chosen not to put his name in for the IPL so that’s all credit to him for doing that.”

The debate: Australia have long been vexed over how to balance their Test side. Mitchell Marsh’s return against India was brief, dumped after a poor batting performance in Melbourne. There was a bit of talk about Marcus Stoinis (largely from Shane Warne) but in the current squad any extra overs from the top order will be mostly in the hands of Marnus Labuschagne‘s legspin.

Hohns: “There’s always talk about having an allrounder in your side. My only answer to that is if the allrounder isn’t performing and you don’t have a good allrounder, well maybe we shouldn’t have one and go back to the stock standard six batsmen, four bowlers. But if you have a match-winning allrounder, they’re like gold. If we can unearth one, that’d be fantastic.”

The debate: Going into the India series it was at least considered that Australia had a world-class bowling attack. They still do, but it now has a few questions hanging over it after being ground down by Cheteshwar Pujara. It has remained intact for Sri Lanka, as was to be expected, with Peter Siddle retained as the back-up.

Hohns: “They are definitely our best three fast bowlers, I don’t think anyone would argue that. Whether they are operating as the best unit, I’m sure there’s some improvement that can be had there. There are fringe bowlers there’s no doubt about that and three of those are in the CA XI squad. We also have Jhye Richardson who is seen as a very bright prospect. But we think it’s essential that we have Pete around. He’s such an experienced campaigner and he’s great around the group.”

The debate: So, inevitably, there is an eye on the Ashes. It may be that there are three batting spots up for grabs in the final squad while it seems as though there will be some jostling for the support bowling. But will things be any clearer after the two matches against Sri Lanka?

Hohns: “Of course a lot will depend on the availability of Smith, Warner and Bancroft for that matter as well. Our players right now and through the Indian series had a great opportunity – we saw it like that and we hoped that they would see it like that – to make it difficult for us if and when these players come back and are available. There are still positions available of course, particularly given the revamp of the squad for now. So these guys now have the opportunity to cement a place or at least make it difficult for us to leave them out going forward.”



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