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New Zealand are in danger of being without one of their most valuable resources when the new Test summer begins in two days’ time after BJ Watling picked up a hamstring injury on Sunday. The medical staff are assessing the 35-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman and will take a final call on his availability tomorrow. In the meantime, Devon Conway has been added to the squad as batting cover as they prepare to face West Indies.

Watling would likely have been part of the XI that walked out onto Seddon Park in Hamilton if not for this mishap. Although four of his last 10 innings have brought single-digit scores, he has historically been the team’s lower-order batting leader. Last November, he came in at 127 for 4, after England had 353 on the board, and scored his maiden Test-match double-century.

“We have another injury cover here. Devon Conway is here as injury cover for BJ Watling,” head coach Gary Stead said at a press conference on Tuesday. “He has a hamstring niggle that he picked up yesterday or day before, whenever it was his last Ford Trophy match.

“He was being assessed as I walked across over here. So first time we’ve managed to get the physio in front of him. So once I hear more from that I will know but I’m guessing tomorrow we’ll make the call of whether he’s a chance or not.”

If Watling is ruled out, Tom Blundell will take the gloves, while sacrificing his position as opener and Will Young will be given a chance to play his first international match for New Zealand. The 28-year-old top-order batsman has been highly-rated prospect for a long while now and has recent form on his side, with three centuries in his last five first-class games, one of them against the West Indies A team, whose bowling attack included Alzarri Joseph and Jason Holder.

“You can correct me if I’m wrong but I think Will has scored four or five [New Zealand] A centuries now in the last couple of years,” Stead said. “Devon’s obviously done what he’s done in domestic cricket and put a lot of runs on the board as well. It’s healthy but it’s not only batting places but bowling places. We’ve all seen the emergence of Kyle Jamieson and we’ve all seen Lockie [Ferguson]’s pace and Matt Henry‘s on the sidelines as well, who I guess is sometimes a forgotten man. He’s been 12th man for New Zealand for a lot of time. It’s really healthy for us to have that competition for places and I guess if we have injuries, we have replacements that can step straight into the Test side.

“We are confident with the build-up that our guys have had with quite a bit of first-class cricket. I know some have come straight from the IPL but that was the reason for resting some of them – Trent [Boult] and Kane [Williamson] in particular – to ensure they got the red-ball readiness under their belt and freshness before the Test series”

There has been sharp focus on the World Test Championship and whether the current format is working after questions raised by the new ICC chairman Greg Barclay. Stead agreed that the system needed some tweaks but supported the idea of a working Championship.

“The advantage of having the WTC final every two years is there is something you can reset and focus towards that,” Stead said. “I know for our guys in the team here and we’re a pretty experienced team and they could think of nothing better than I guess go to Lord’s again, if it’s Lord’s, or wherever it may be in the Covid world at the moment and play in something like that.

“I think it definitely puts more context in the game. I still don’t think it’s perfect and I think Greg’s alluded to a few things around that. I would encourage the ICC to look at, I guess, having the same number of points spread over the same number of games. Perhaps if they play a five-Test series, then only the first two or the first three count towards it and I think that would add a bit more, I guess fairness across the whole thing.”

In an effort to keep the current cycle going despite the massive disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the ICC had announced that teams would now be ranked by percentage points. On that basis, New Zealand are fourth on the table and are looking to move up.

“I’ve done the calculations,” Stead said. “Things could change depending on the series and on who plays and who doesn’t. And I guess still with some uncertainty around some places in the world that you might or might not tour, there’s still some uncertainty, it’s hard to know. But I guess it’s pretty simple for us. We win four Tests and we give ourselves a good chance. We’d be at 70%. We’d still need some things to go our way but I think when you look at the likelihood of things happening I think that would give us a pretty good chance to be in the top two.”



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Ishant Sharma gets stitches on bowling hand, but ‘expected to recover in time’ for England Tests

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The fast bowler hurt himself while trying to stop a Ross Taylor drive on the last day of the WTC final

Ishant Sharma required multiple stitches on his bowling hand after sustaining an injury on the last day of the World Test Championship final against New Zealand, but the pacer is expected to be fit in time for India’s five-match Test series against England that starts on August 4.

Sharma tried to stop a drive from Ross Taylor in what turned out to be the penultimate over of the final. He left the field with his hand bleeding, having bowled only two balls in his seventh over, with Jasprit Bumrah completing it.

“Ishant has had multiple stitches on his middle and fourth finger in his right hand. However, it is not very serious,” a BCCI official was quoted as saying by PTI. “The stitches will be off in around ten days and with six weeks left for the first Test against England, he is expected to recover in time.”



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Eng vs SL 2021 – Jos Buttler ruled out of Sri Lanka white-ball series with calf injury

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Dawid Malan added to ODI squad after MRI scans reveal small calf tear

Jos Buttler has been ruled out of the rest of England’s white-ball series with Sri Lanka. Buttler sustained a calf tear in Wednesday’s first T20I and will now return home to commence his rehabilitation.

Buttler, England’s vice-captain and wicketkeeper, scored an unbeaten 68 opening the batting in the first T20I. According to the ECB, he “felt tightness and discomfort” at the end of the game and was sent for an MRI scan on Thursday morning, which revealed a small tear. He sat out the second T20I, which England won by five wickets.

England had already suggested they may use the Sri Lanka T20Is to experiment, with Jonny Bairstow moving up to open in Buttler’s absence – although he made a three-ball duck as England initially struggled in their chase of 112. Liam Livingstone, whose unbeaten 29 helped secure victory, regularly opens in T20 cricket and could also deputise.



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ENG vs SL 2nd T20I – Mickey Arthur on England and Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka’s head coach said he wants the batsmen to be more proactive against a world-class England attack

Mickey Arthur has urged his Sri Lanka side to stay patient after they slipped to a second defeat in as many nights in Cardiff, leaving them on a run of 11 defeats in their last 12 completed T20Is dating back to October 2019.
Opting to bat first in both games after winning the toss, Sri Lanka posted scores of 129 and 111, and while they came much closer to defending their total on Thursday night than in Wednesday’s eight-wicket pasting, they always looked a long way short of a par score, failing to hit a boundary in the powerplay for the first time in their T20I history. Arthur, Sri Lanka’s head coach, stressed at the start of the tour that he wanted to add a level of consistency to selection following a turbulent period of chopping and changing, and that it would be important to “nail down the guys’ roles” in this series.
Dasun Shanaka, with scores of 50 and 8 from No. 7, is their leading run-scorer in the series, with Danushka Gunathilaka and Avishka Fernando – backed as opening options for the long term – both struggling to make an impact at the top of the order. Their lack of attacking intent with the bat came under scrutiny on Thursday, but while Arthur suggested that they could be “more proactive” in future, he said that there had been limited opportunities to score against a “world-class” England side on a slow, two-paced pitch being used for the second night in a row.



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