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Liam Livingstone chooses County Championship over IPL in bid for England recall

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Liam Livingstone has decided against entering the upcoming IPL auction in a bid to return to England’s Test squad by impressing in Division One of the County Championship.

Livingstone, who is yet to win his Test cap but was part of the squad for the New Zealand series in 2017-18, played four games for Rajasthan Royals last season, but has left the franchise by mutual consent and will not put his name forward for the 2020 edition of the tournament.

While it is two years since his only taste of international cricket – a pair of T20Is against South Africa in 2017 – Livingstone is still only 26, and hopes that a strong start to the Championship season will put him back on England’s radar.

“I loved the experience of playing in the IPL,” Livingstone said, “but I have decided to put a renewed focus on first-class cricket next summer.

“I am committed to improving my game in all formats and I still have hopes of playing Test cricket; the best way to achieve that is by impressing in Division One.

“I hugely enjoyed being part of the County Championship side last season. The lads played some exceptional red-ball cricket and I am optimistic about what we can achieve together moving forward.”

After a lean 2018, in which he scored just 336 Championship runs at 24.00 and failed to reach 50 as Lancashire were relegated from Division One, Livingstone enjoyed a better first-class season in 2019 after relinquishing the captaincy, making 599 runs at an average of 46.07.

“To have Liam available for the start of the season is welcome news,” said Paul Allott, Lancashire’s director of cricket. “He is a senior member of the changing room and undoubtedly improves our side in first-class cricket.

“With an enhanced focus on County Championship cricket in the early months of the 2020 season, we need to ensure we hit the ground running on our return to what will be a competitive Division One. Liam’s availability will help us to achieve this.”

Livingstone will be available to play for Lancashire for the whole of the County Championship and T20 Blast seasons, though will miss the One-Day Cup due to his commitments in the Hundred. He was widely expected to be picked early in the draft for the tournament by Manchester Originals, but was instead snapped up in the first round by Birmingham Phoenix.

Livingstone is currently playing in the Mzansi Super League, South Africa’s domestic T20 tournament, and has entered the draft for the Pakistan Super League. He will also appear in the Big Bash as one of Perth Scorchers’ overseas players, signalling that his hopes of making England’s squad for next year’s T20 World Cup are still alive.



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Australia ‘are moving in the right direction’ – Tim Paine

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Tim Paine lauded the efforts of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, plus the vital role of Nathan Lyon, after his three-man attack wrapped up a thumping victory against New Zealand in Perth.

He admitted he kept one eye on the workloads of his quicks after Josh Hazlewood went down in his second over of the match but was confident they would get through the hard yards. They did it with such effect that, across two innings, Australia only bowled 120.5 overs in the match and earned an extra day off to recover.

Hazlewood had already made one breakthrough before he pulled up after eight deliveries on the second day and Paine conceded he glanced around the field at the options he had up his sleeve. In the end, he dipped into Matthew Wade, Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head at different times but the majority of the work was done by his remaining big three who are now the three leading wicket-takers for the year.

“I thought, gee, I wish we had an allrounder,” Paine said of the moment Hazlewood went down. “I was very surprised Josh got injured because he hasn’t for a little while. But I know that Starcy and Pat and Josh are great athletes. So I knew we could handle the load particularly when we have Nathan in our side who can bowl lots of overs. I think Marnus coming in and playing in our side also gives us another option which is lucky.

“The conversation was around making sure we had those two big boys fresh come five down in the second innings. And I thought we managed it really well so that when we were bowling to their tail they still had a bit of energy and speed up their sleeves.”

“There were times where we just bowled a bit of spin or let Wadey go for a few overs and used Heady for a bit today to break up time so we could make sure that Mitch and Pat were getting the rest. We certainly weren’t going to bowl them into the ground. We thought we could still get the job done with those conditions in our favour with Nathan in our side and not have to flog them to death. Because they are obviously hugely valuable for the rest of this series and in all three formats for Australia we wanted to make sure we managed them correctly and didn’t ruin their series.”

“Granted we have some players back which is helping, but there’s been improvement in the guys who were given a chance 18 months ago.”

Tim Paine

Australia are forging a very impressive home season following their two innings victories against Pakistan with this 296-run victory against No. 2-ranked team in the world. Paine picked out the second-innings collapse, where they lost 7 for 58, as the one period where they slipped from their high expectations but, as had before the match, referenced the strides made since he took on the captaincy.

“Certainly over the last 18 months there’s been drastic improvement in this team. Granted we have some players back which is helping, but there’s been improvement in the guys who were given a chance 18 months ago and the experienced players have come back and put some icing on the top. We are moving in the right direction.”

This was also a victory with a limited contribution from Steven Smith who made 43 and 16, falling to Neil Wagner’s short ball on both occasions. With Head scoring a half-century in the first innings Smith is now the only one of the top six not to pass fifty in Test so far this season.

“It’s been great, we touched on that at the end of the Ashes that we needed other guys to stand up and can’t be reliant on Steve,” Paine said. “We are really pleased with Marnus, he’s been unbelievably good, Davey [Warner] and Joe [Burns] have been scoring runs and that’s what we’ll all have to be doing if we are to one of the better teams in the world which we want to be. Guys have got to stand up, we can’t rely on too few. We are really happy with the way our batting has developed.”

Hazlewood’s replacement will be named later this week with Justin Langer suggesting Peter Siddle was in line for a recall with the potential for further tweaks ahead of the Sydney Test where the pitch could favour spin.



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Why the PCB had to pick Rawalpindi to host Sri Lanka

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Day 1: 68 overs of play
Day 2: 17.5 overs
Day 3: 5.2 overs
Day 4: Called off without a ball (teams remained at hotel)
Day 5: Predictable draw

Nine sessions of the Rawalpindi Test were effectively washed out but a full house still turned up for the final day’s play and they were treated to a remarkable innings from Abid Ali. The 32-year old became the first male cricketer to score a century on both his Test and ODI debuts but even his performance couldn’t distract from the fact that the return of Test cricket to Pakistan – the end of 10 years of exile – literally turned into a washout.

No ground outside of Rawalpindi and Karachi was considered to host the Sri Lanka Tests, although originally the series itself was expected to take place in October, the best time for cricket in Pakistan.

So, over the last four days as rain doused the prospect of an outright result, the PCB has been under the spotlight for their choice of venue. The last 10 Test matches played in northern Punjab in the month of December have all failed to produce a result with an exception of one game against Zimbabwe in 1993. There was one Test in Faisalabad which was abandoned without a ball bowled. Another, in Gujranwala, had weather that was good enough for only 36 overs of cricket.

Even so, Rawalpindi was the best option available to them. Multan, Faisalabad and Peshawar have not been upgraded well enough to host international cricket again. Lahore and Karachi do but one city is experiencing heavy smog and the other will host the second Test on Thursday.

In the aftermath of the 2009 attacks, logistics – direct flights in and out – and security clearances play a huge part in any match that is played in Pakistan. PCB had prioritised getting Lahore and Karachi ready first and had only recently invited ICC security consultant Reg Dickason to assess the state of affairs in Rawalpindi. Multan is next on the list; it is currently being considered to host four games in PSL 2020. Peshawar is already under renovation. Faisalabad, however, is yet to receive much attention.



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Lungi Ngidi injury deals a blow to South Africa ahead of Tests against England

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South Africa have suffered a blow ahead of their Test series against England after fast bowler Lungi Ngidi was all but ruled out of the opening match starting on Boxing Day with a hamstring injury that has also sidelined him for the Mzansi Super League final.

Ngidi is in doubt for the four-Test series against England after he suffered a “significant Grade 1 hamstring muscle tear” while warming up for Tshwane Spartans before the MSL play-off against Nelson Mandela Bay Giants in Port Elizabeth on Friday, in which Spartans won a place in Monday’s decider against Paarl Rocks.

South Africa now face the prospect of beginning their four-Test series against England a bowler short, starting with the opening match at Centurion on December 26 with Cricket South Africa Chief Medical Officer Dr Shuaib Manjra saying Ngidi’s rehabilitation program would be geared towards a return to action in January.

“Lungi Ngidi sustained an acute hamstring muscle injury during the warm-up prior to the MSL T20 play-off on Friday,” Dr Manjra said. “Scans done on Saturday showed a significant Grade 1 tear of his hamstring muscle and therefore he has been ruled out of the MSL T20 final.

“He will commence his rehab and return-to-play program with the aim of getting him fit to play for the Momentum Multiply Titans in January 2020 and based on his progress, a decision will be made regarding his availability for selection for the Proteas team.”

Ngidi had begun the MSL season with the aim of remaining fit throughout his home summer after a run of injuries over the past two years.

He suffered a hamstring strain during South Africa’s defeat to Bangladesh at the World Cup and missed the next three games, although he recovered in time to play two more matches at the tournament. Ngidi’s most recent Test appearance was during South Africa’s tour of India in October, where he played only the last of the three matches.

The Spartans are surprise MSL finalists after half of their pool matches were washed out. They edged into the final three and then denied the favourites, the Giants, the chance to challenge for the trophy with a 22-run victory in the play-off. Initially, Ngidi missing last Friday’s match was seen as a precautionary measure ahead of a busy international summer before scans revealed the extent of the damage.



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