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Spring dawns as Ball sings the sweetest song

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Nottinghamshire 127 for 6 (Bailey 3-17) trail Lancashire 158 (Vilas 49, Ball 5-43) by 31 runs
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With the rain cleared almost everywhere, catch up with how the county championship got underway for most of the two divisions

“I dreamed that, as I wandered by the way, / Bare Winter suddenly was changed to Spring.” Unlike Percy Shelley, the cricketers had no need of a reverie to transform the seasons on the second day of this game; mere slumber had been enough. And immediately the game began on a bright morning, the players and spectators returned to that shared watchfulness for which some of them had waited six months. As if to mirror their mood, the sun returned by lunchtime, and with a far greater suggestion of permanence than Liam Livingstone’s batsmen managed against Jake Ball in the first two sessions.

Indeed, by the time a rather late tea was taken Lancashire had been bowled out for 158 with Ball hustling the innings to its close by taking four wickets in 14 balls to finish with 5 for 43 in 17 overs. The home supporters, who had congregated in decent numbers for their first day of Championship cricket, looked for a response from their four seamers and they received it thanks largely to Tom Bailey who took three wickets to help leave Nottinghamshire on 127 for 6 at the close. Against all odds, Lancashire can feel they had enjoyed fractionally the better of things.

One of Bailey’s wickets was that of Steven Mullaney who surely thought he was going to end this first day on the field as the more content of the two freshmen captains pitted against each other in this match. The Nottinghamshire skipper rotated his bowlers sensibly while Livingstone’s main contribution was to leave alone a booming inswinger from Luke Wood which duly knocked out his off stump.

By the time that third wicket fell Mullaney’s decision to dispense with the toss had been justified, Ball gaining the benefits from eventually bowling a fuller length when he had a hesitant Haseeb Hameed leg before for seven after 45 minutes play. Harry Gurney then had Jennings caught and bowled off a leading edge for 11 with his third ball and the tone of matters had been set.

Wood’s direction was awry in his first over and Alex Davies collected two boundaries with brutal cuts but the effervescent left-arm seamer then cleaned up Livingstone and another inswinger in the next over had Davies leg before for 23. The blonde-haired Wood’s joyous celebrations after both his wickets were reminiscent of the golden age of glam rock.

Lancashire’s best partnership was shared by the contrasting figures of Dane Vilas and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who put on 64 for the fifth wicket, most of the runs coming in the hour after lunch. Vilas took the lead with some dominant drive and pulls off Ball and Wood while Chanderpaul accumulated 11 runs in 53 balls. The latter’s patience put one in mind of a sculptor but given that he marks his guard by knocking a bail into the crease with his bat-handle, this was not inappropriate.

However, Chanderpaul was caught by Jake Libby at square leg for 11 when attempting a pull off Luke Fletcher and Vilas was bowled through the gate by Harry Gurney when one short of his half-century. Ball then took two wickets in two balls to account for Steven Croft and Tom Bailey and in his next over he had Jordan Clark caught at deep square leg by Wood for 19. The same combination removed Onions without scoring to leave Lancashire needing a fightback from their bowlers in the evening session.

The fine judgement of Nash and Mullaney in a second-wicket stand of 42 suggested this might not be forthcoming but Bailey’s removal of Chris Nash and Ross Taylor, both of them lbw, transformed the day. Joe Mennie’s first two wickets for Lancashire confirmed the change and the patience of home supporters had been justified. For the next five months they will be guests at the table of life.



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Scott Borthwick re-joins Durham after Surrey agree early contract release

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Durham have announced that Scott Borthwick will return to the club on a long-term deal next season after four years at Surrey.

Borthwick, who left Durham as a legspinning allrounder but has largely been used as a specialist top-order batsman at The Oval, was among a number of players to leave Chester-le-Street following the club’s demotion as part of an ECB bail-out at the end of the 2016 season.

Borthwick had one year left to run on his Surrey contract, but has been released early from his deal. His time at the club brought mixed returns: he was a County Championship regular throughout, and part of the title-winning side in 2018, but struggled to post the sort of numbers that had put him on England’s Test radar. Appearances in white-ball cricket were sporadic, despite him taking 18 Blast wickets in his final season at Durham.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Surrey, and I’d like to say a big thank you to all of the players, staff and members who supported me during my time there,” Borthwick said. “Durham is really close to my heart, it is a club which I have come through the ranks from Under-9s right through to the academy, so to get the opportunity and chance to represent Durham again was something which really excited me, and I can’t wait.

“Some of my proudest moments as a cricketer are winning games for Durham and I am desperate to do that again. I know I am 30 now but I still feel young at heart, but I am fit and still feel like my cricket has lots to offer and have some of the best years ahead of me, with both bat and ball. So now is a really good time to come back.”

Marcus North, Durham’s director of cricket, said that the signing of Borthwick “shows our intent to take this club forward”.

“Scott brings with him a wealth of experience across all three formats and provides us with options at the top of the batting order and as a spinner, which are both areas we need to strengthen,” North said.

“Having previously played for the club he knows what it means to be a Durham player and will fit straight into the dressing room. It is great to see another one of our homegrown players return as we continue to build towards a big summer for the club in 2021.”



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SASCOC refers Cricket South Africa investigation to sports ministry

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The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) has referred Cricket South Africa (CSA) to the country’s sports ministry, citing a lack of co-operation from CSA and absence of resources on its own part to deal with the organisation.

Earlier this month, SASCOC, the governing body under which all sporting federations in South Africa operate, instructed CSA’s board and executive to stand down in order for SASCOC to launch an investigation into CSA’s administrative and financial affairs. SASCOC also asked for full access to CSA’s recently-completed forensic audit, which it used to fire former CEO Thabang Moroe. CSA refused on both counts.

In a letter to sports minister Nathi Mthethwa, SASCOC said it had met “serious resistance,” from CSA over the report and that CSA has made it “abundantly clear,” it will “not readily cooperate with SASCOC.” As a result, SASCOC has asked the minister to either provide it with the resources to enter into litigation (SASCOC can compel CSA to comply with it by law) against CSA or to “take whatever action in your powers you deem necessary to restore the dignity of the game of cricket in this country.”

SASCOC’s letter, dated September 25, 2020, implied that the impasse between itself and CSA is ongoing. On September 17, CSA confirmed it would only allow SASCOC board members to view its forensic report if they signed a non-disclosure agreement. CSA Board Members who have seen the report also had to agree to keep its confidentiality but SASCOC want the report to be made public. CSA said it was keeping the report under wraps, under legal advice, to ensure any further action it may take against existing staff or board members is not compromised. SASCOC has indicated that some board members and executive “must have been implication in the forensic report,” and “remain in office and refuse to step aside pending finalisation of the investigations to be carried out by the independent task team.”

The SASCOC task team was due to appointed earlier this month but that has not happened yet. SASCOC has also declined further meetings with CSA, insisting that it will only be willing to engage in discussion once it has access to the full report. With the deadlock in place, cash-strapped SASCOC have had no choice but to ask the minister to intervene.

The minister’s actions, if any, could attract the attention of the ICC, whose constitution forbids government interference in member bodies. SASCOC has written to the ICC confirming its actions do not constitute a government intervention, because it operates as an independent body, but it’s appeal to the sports minister crosses that line. SASCOC has made it clear that the only reason it is asking for the minister’s assistance is because it does not have the resources to act but that if provided with such it “will gladly take all appropriate steps to intervene in its (CSA’s) affairs.” If not, SASCOC wishes the minister “with your efforts in dealing with very serious issues plaguing CSA.”

Meanwhile, CSA remain without a permanent CEO after firing Moroe last month and without an elected president after Chris Nenzani stepped down three weeks before the AGM, which was postponed. No date has been set for a rescheduled AGM and no fixtures for the upcoming season have been released, with the only confirmation around matches that the Mzansi Super League, the country’s flagship T20 tournament, will be postponed.



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Pakistan to tour New Zealand for two Tests and three T20Is in December

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The schedule for Pakistan’s second overseas tour since the Covid-19 pandemic has been finalised, with their visit to New Zealand over Christmas set to go ahead with virtually no deviation from the original FTP. The two teams will play three T20Is and two Tests from December 18 to January 7, with each international played at a different venue. In accordance with Covid-19 protocols mandated by the New Zealand government, the Pakistan squad will enter a two-week quarantine period in Lincoln once they reach New Zealand in the last week of November.

While New Zealand Cricket’s chief executive David White had already confirmed both Pakistan and West Indies would tour the country as previously planned, the schedule for the Pakistan series is only now out. Auckland, Hamilton and Napier will host the three T20Is to be played on December 18, 20 and 22, while Mount Maungunui hosts the Boxing Day Test. The Hagley Oval in Christchurch will be the venue for the second Test, which begins on January 3rd.

“It’s always a pleasure to host the Pakistan cricket team in New Zealand and I know there will be a lot of interest in the Test and T20 series,” NZC chief executive, David White, said. “Pakistan touring sides have been coming here since 1965 and many New Zealanders have grown up watching the likes of Hanif Mohammad, Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, and of course, the great Imran Khan in action. I’m sure the squads coming out here this summer will be similarly steeped in talent and class and will continue the great legacy that is Pakistan cricket.”

“New Zealand boast some outstanding cricket facilities with supportive and knowledgeable crowds,” PCB director international cricket, Zakir Khan said. “Pakistan have always enjoyed touring New Zealand and have performed well there, and we look forward to similar performances from our side on this tour.”

“New Zealand series will be our penultimate series in the ICC World Test Championship with the last series against South Africa at home following this tour. We remain optimistic and committed to finishing on a high in the Championship as it is our endeavour to become one of the top-performing Test playing nations.”

The relatively low rate of Covid-19 transmission in New Zealand means the bio-secure bubble need not be maintained following the expiry of the quarantine period. Aside from the largest city, Auckland, the entire nation is operating under what are known as Level 1 conditions, which effectively mean no restrictions on movement besides border control. At one point, the nation went over 100 days without an officially recorded positive Covid-19 case, and a second wave that saw a few hundred further cases has been all but extinguished. By contrast, when the Pakistan side toured England for three Tests and three T20Is over the summer, the bio-secure bubble was strictly maintained throughout the tour.

A press release from the PCB revealed the Pakistan Shaheens, effectively the “A” team, would also travel to New Zealand, with details on their departure to be announced in due course.

Pakistan were last in New Zealand for a limited-overs tour in 2018, with the hosts sweeping the ODI series 5-0, while Pakistan triumphed in the T20I leg 2-1 to rise to the No. 1 ranking in that format. The last time the two sides played Test cricket in New Zealand was in 2016, with New Zealand winning both Test matches.



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