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Four-day Tests loom in Australia’s future



A November 2020 home fixture against Afghanistan looms as a likely rehearsal for four-day Test matches in Australia, as the Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts declared the governing body and other nations needed to be more open to the concept beyond the end of the first two editions of the World Test Championship from 2019 to 2023.

Television ratings for the first Test against India in Adelaide, the inaugural home Test under the new dual broadcast deal with Fox Sports and Seven, spiked noticeably on the Sunday, a day that would likely become the consistent final day of matches should four-day Tests become more prevalent. The two networks gained a combined audience of 1.261 million during the third session, comfortably the largest of the match.

Roberts, who replaced James Sutherland as CA chief executive in October, said that the combination of audience sizes, easing of scheduling squeezes, and Test cricket’s own history of variable playing hours made the four-day question a serious one for all administrators, particularly for Tests played outside the championship locked into five-day matches.

“Outside the Test Championship that’s the opportunity,” Roberts told SEN Radio. “The Test Championship is five-day Test cricket out to 2021, so that doesn’t change, but outside of that there are other possibilities to consider and beyond that, beyond 2021 what it might look like. There’s a bit to be said for it isn’t there, and it’s certainly something I think we need to be open-minded to down the track.

“The average duration of a Test match is just a shade over four days and certainly without jumping to conclusions that that is the right solution, it is one possibility we’ve got to be open to. There’s been timeless Tests over the years, we know there were even three-day Tests, so Test cricket has not been five days in duration forever, and I think the concept of four days going forward is something we need to be open to without jumping to conclusions.”

Australia entered into discussions with Ireland about playing an inaugural Test ahead of next year’s Ashes series before being outmanoeuvred by the ECB, which scheduled a Test against Ireland at Lord’s by way of England’s own preparation for the same series. The Afghanistan Test, scheduled for November 2020 in the lead-up to the next home series against India, would provide an ideal chance to try the shorter match, probably played over around 100 overs per day.

A crowd of 20,641 turned up to Perth Stadium for the first day of the second Test against India, comfortably less than half the venue’s cavernous 60,000 capacity. While claiming that the crowd was greater than the capacity of the venerable WACA Ground across the Swan River – larger attendances were recorded for each of the first three days of last year’s Ashes Test – Roberts was unable to answer why the premium space behind the bowler’s arm at the Justin Langer Stand end of the stadium had been shut. This has meant that only members have been able to watch play from that vantage point.

“Good question and I don’t have an answer to that one right now,” Roberts said. “I’m not familiar with the specific details as to how level 5 operates and can you operate sections at a time. I don’t know the answer to that but it’s a good question as you look at it from the box here, a brilliant view down the wicket from where we’re sitting. They’re the sorts of things that we always need to consider, how many people can we get behind the bowler’s arm. So it’s a good question and unfortunately I don’t have a good answer for you.

“The facts are we had about 3,000-4,000 spare seats in the shade that were available for people who required them. In the event that those were used and we needed more we had plans to immediately open level five as well. We judged that based on need and there were enough seats in the shade based on need and in the event we ran out of those, then level five was being opened up, so there was a lot of talk about it. But in terms of the facts of that one, there were more seats available in the shade.

“I wouldn’t suggest that was an economic decision, it was a practical decision yesterday in terms of the most practical way to operate the stadium. In the event there was need then there was absolutely no opposition from a CA perspective to opening up level 5. There’s always a balance and we’re conscious that things will never be perfect for absolutely every individual at a stadium, but certainly we seek to optimise them as much as we can.”

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Kane Richardson and Mohammad Nabi set up comfortable Renegades win



Melbourne Renegades 3 for 116 (Cooper 49, Harper 31, O’Keefe 2-23) beat Sydney Sixers 9 for 115 (Curran 44, Nabi 4-25, Richardson 3-26) by seven wickets

The Renegades dealt the Sixers a thrashing at the SCG, taking only 13 overs to coast past the home side’s paltry total of 115.

Both sides arrived as part of the mid-table logjam with eight points each, and were met with a beautiful Sydney evening. On what appeared to be a flat pitch, the Renegades won the flip and elected to field. From there, they controlled the match from start to finish, seeing excellent contributions from Mohammad Nabi and Kane Richardson with the ball, while Tom Cooper and Sam Harper put the result beyond doubt with the bat.

Sixers undone By seam

The Renegades got the jump, restricting the Sixers to 3 for 20 after the Powerplay. with Daniel Hughes the first to depart after under-edging Richardson through to keeper Sam Harper, before new recruit James Vince chopped on attempting a booming off-drive from the bowling of new Renegades recruit Harry Gurney.

Matters got worse for the Sixers after captain Moises Henriques spliced a pull to a diving Tom Cooper at midwicket, leaving opener Jack Edwards and Jordan Silk to repair the damage to the Sixers’ innings. Both soaked up numerous dot balls before Edwards shovelled one to Cameron White, just one ball after being dropped by the same player in the same position.

As is common after a flurry of wickets, the ensuing period was relatively quiet. Save for some audacious flips over leg from Josh Phillippe, the Sixers were content with batting conservatively. Despite the caution, they still continued to lose wickets. Richardson shaped as the chief destroyer; having already accounted for Hughes and Henriques, he had Silk comfortably taken at third man. Soon after it was Phillippe’s turn to go, bowled by Nabi for an enterprising 20 after exposing his stumps trying to sweep.

Curran resists; Nabi cleans up the tail

At 6 for 72 after 15, the SCG DJ summed up proceedings for the home side by spinning Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time.”

Tom Curran, meanwhile, attempted to march things forward with some lusty blows, including one back-foot six over extra-cover that will be worthy of any BBL highlights reel. He then managed to strike two long balls into the Members’ pavilion off Nabi from the final over of the innings, though Nabi had the last laugh, accounting for Curran with the final ball of the innings to go along with the scalps of Philippe, Sean Abbott and Ben Dwarshuis.

That said, Curran’s efforts at the death managed to provide the Sixers with some impetus, and a small ray of light heading into the innings break.

Renegades edge toward finals

Whereas the Sixers laboured from start to finish, the Renegades flew from the off. They were 1 for 58 after the Powerplay courtesy some fine strokemaking by Cooper. That figure was their best result in the Powerplay this tournament, and from there they didn’t look back.

If Cooper was the mainstay, Sam Harper was the bright spark. Tonight’s innings of 31 from 24 showcased his class, as he regularly took bowlers through point and over midwicket, once again showcasing an array of shots that permits him to “play 360,” as they say in the biz.

Along with Cooper’s, his hand allowed the Renegades to find some breathing space on the BBL table. They now move to 10 points, and can reflect on a team with contributions all around the park. Richardson set them going tonight, and his haul propels him to equal top of the BBL wicket-takers. Gurney was impressive tonight too, as was Nabi. The Renegades’ top order is looking increasingly settled, and with Aaron Finch set to return, they could pose a genuine threat as we move deeper into tournament.

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Vinay Kumar’s last-wicket heroics give Karnataka the lead



Halfway into their Ranji Trophy quarter-final against Rajasthan, there’s a familiar face on top of Karnataka’s charts for the season. Except, Vinay Kumar is heading the wrong chart. He’s got the highest batting average in the team, a quite stunning 62.40, nearly ten points higher than Manish Pandey’s 52.80, the next best.

Vinay’s bowling returns are 11 wickets in six matches at 31.09. If he was a batting allrounder, these numbers would mark a legendary season. But for a man whose primary suit is bowling, the returns with the ball are underwhelming and the runs are a bonus.

The bonus could save Karnataka in their quarter-final, though. On day two, Vinay came in 152 for 7 after Rajasthan had made 224 in their first innings. Karnataka quickly slipped to 166 for 9 and Rajasthan were looking at a decisive lead, with Karnataka to bat last. Vinay ended the day 83 not out and had put on 97 with Ronit More for the last wicket, giving Karnataka a lead of 39. More’s contribution was 10 off 59 balls, while Vinay made 77 off 128, farming the strike expertly. Even the 10 runs More made were far more than a career first-class average of 4.14 would have led anyone to expect. And the 59 balls he faced were unprecedented, his previous highest being 37 balls. Egged on and cajoled by Vinay, More outdid himself.

“It was very important for me to be there, as the senior. We discussed adding runs in blocks of five to ten and building a partnership,” Vinay said at stumps. “I needed to plan according to the match situation. I know Ronit can defend, but if the ball keeps low he might have played across. That was there in my mind.

“The opposition will definitely look to bring fielders in in the last two balls and not give a single. I was ready to hit a boundary off the fifth ball and take a single off the sixth. That was the plan and it came good for us. But see, how much ever I perform, the same credit goes to Ronit. If he wouldn’t have stood there, we couldn’t have got a 97-run partnership.”

Vinay, who has two first-class centuries, said he had been taking his batting ‘more seriously’, but reproached his team’s top order for not lasting long enough to capitalise on run-scoring opportunities.

“I’ve always maintained batting is very important (for bowlers). Especially nowadays, the lower middle order and the bowlers have to perform for the team,” he said. “Adding those 40-50 runs at the end always has value for the side. You can see nowadays, for any team if the bowlers contribute 50-60 runs it makes a big difference. I was working on my batting. When I started my cricket I was a batsman and then I became a fast bowler. Nowadays, seeing all the competition, I’m taking batting more seriously.

“We could have batted a little better. It was not doing that much, but odd balls were doing a bit. If we could have stayed for that initial period when bowlers were coming hard at you, after that, when I was batting it became a bit easier. As a bowler, you can bowl 18-20 overs in a day normally, after that your energy will lessen. If we could have tackled those first 10-12 overs, we would have done better.”

Vinay’s runs could prove crucial in the second half of the match, with Karnataka having to bat last. And though the former captain said the pitch at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium wasn’t one where 20 wickets should have fallen in two days, he admitted it wasn’t always playing true.

“The cracks are a bit wider now and if you hit the cracks it can keep low,” he said. “Definitely it will be difficult. If bowlers can keep it wicket to wicket, and keeping it back of length, the odd ball will keep low. If you can bowl in those areas, it is going to be difficult.”

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Right-handed David Warner swats Chris Gayle for 14 off 3 balls



Ever since his involvement in the sandpaper scandal at Cape Town last year, not much has gone right for David Warner in his year spent in exile from the Australian team on the T20 franchise circuit. That is until the left-hand batsman went right. Literally.

Warner turned heads when he took guard right-handed against Chris Gayle midway through the 19th over of the Sylhet Sixers innings against Rangpur Riders on Wednesday. Judging by the resulting performance, he may be tempted to do it more often.

The Australian captain of Sylhet was on 45 off 32 balls at the time and had started the over on strike to Gayle with a two, but then couldn’t get either of the next two balls away. Ahead of the fourth ball, he swapped stance at the crease and, with Gayle coming around the wicket, smashed the fourth ball with a golf-style straight drive over Gayle’s head for six to bring up his half-century.

Gayle countered by going over the wicket but Warner stayed right-handed for the fifth ball and reached out to sweep a low full toss behind square for four. For the last ball, Warner reverse-swept Gayle, not middling it but still getting enough of it to go to the boundary. Warner celebrated during the sequence by doing a hip-shimmy dance and appeared to exchange a few words with Gayle at the end of the over. Warner ended the innings unbeaten on 61 off 36 balls.

“It was one of those things [batting right-handed] at the back of my mind as I couldn’t get Chris [Gayle] away because of his height and the lengths that he was bowling,” Warner said at the post-match presentation. “I play golf right-handed, so I thought I might as well come and swing and clear the ropes. It came off.”

Warner, who is naturally right-handed with his throwing arm and initially batted right-handed as a child, has made a habit at training sessions of spending time batting right-handed. Gayle perhaps should not have been totally surprised at Warner’s method since the Australian attempted to employ the right-handed stance in a T20I against the Gayle-captained West Indies in 2010.

However, Warner was denied by the on-field umpires, who allegedly told him at the time that it was against the spirit of the game and that it could produce a lengthy stall because the fielding side would need to adjust their field settings to comply with regulations. But Warner would not be denied in Sylhet, as he pulled out all the stops in an effort to get the Sixers out of last place on the BPL table.

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