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Dhoni sees future for Jadeja the finisher

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After a third, frenetic, last-over, come-from-behind-to-scare-the-opposition finish, Chennai Super Kings fell short of Kings XI Punjab’s total by four runs and that narrow margin had people looking for reasons as to where things went wrong.

One of them seems to centre around Ravindra Jadeja‘s position in the batting order. He has been coming ahead of Dwayne Bravo, who, only last week, took the team from 118 for 8 all the way to their target of 169.

But the captain MS Dhoni wants to try Jadeja in the finisher’s role. “It’s a difficult one. And Fleming is in the dugout, so he needs to take that decision. And, we have confidence in Jadeja also, one of the reasons is that being a left-hander, it’s not easy to consistently bowl to a left-hander and also this is the time that we can give him that opportunity to express himself.

“If he doesn’t do [it]. Bravo is an experienced one, he can always go back and do the job for us. But overall, Jadeja is somebody who can do it for us and that’ll be really good because Raina at the top, one left-hander, and if you have Jadeja who can do the job as a floater, that really makes it difficult for the opposition to plan their bowing.

“Unless we give him an opportunity; so far we have never really given him the kind of opportunity that he really deserves, so I will definitely back him to come good in the coming games.”

Super Kings appear fairly happy avoiding the scenic route this IPL season. They’ve fallen behind in each of their three chases, to the point that they were left needing 69, then 75, and finally on Sunday, a whopping 85 runs off the final 36 balls. Bravo pulled off a miracle in the first game. Sam Billings bettered that in the second. And Dhoni was but one hit away from making it a hat-trick of hair-raising victories.

It looks like saving the fun for the very end – regardless of how tough the job becomes – will be the Super Kings way. When asked about where the team needed to improve, Dhoni credited the opposition bowlers’ execution for stifling his batsmen – noting that 17-year-old Afghanistan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman couldn’t be “hit at will” – and concentrated heavily on managing errors in the field. Super Kings are possibly the oldest side in the tournament and with that came certain limitations.

“Fielding, we can’t improve, so I won’t really say that,” Dhoni said at the post-match presentation. “So, we’ll be a safe fielding side; we won’t be an extraordinary fielding side. We’ll just have to make sure that when we are under the pump from the batsmen, what are the boundaries that we can omit, what are the easy deliveries that we are not supposed to give because good batsmen will hit you and throughout the IPL it is something they will have to go through. Just that if you keep cutting one or two boundaries here and there, at the end of the game, you’ll realise those were the six or eight runs that really made the difference.”

Dhoni suffered through a flaring of his back injury for most of the time he spent in the middle making an unbeaten 79 off 44 balls. “It’s bad; how bad it is, I don’t know. God has given me the power. I don’t need to use the back a lot, the hands can do the job. But overall, we’ll assess how bad it is. It shouldn’t be too bad because I know what really happened and once you know the kind of injury it is, it becomes slightly easy to get out of it and also we have three-four days now before the next game. I’m quite used to playing with few injuries, whether it is back, fingers, elbow or something else. You have to be tough and get on with the game.”

Super Kings have had to deal with Faf du Plessis being sidelined with injury, and Suresh Raina missed the Kings XI game with a calf complaint, although he said he should be ready for the next one against Rajasthan Royals on Friday. Their head coach Stephen Fleming was proud of the “character” shown in salvaging victory from the brink of defeat, but he is longing for an easy day at the office.

“I’d love love a game where we bowl a team out for 140 and chase it down. But the competition is pretty even. Wickets at the top is important. We’ve seen teams that do that so we have to reassess that and make sure we’ve got the right combination. But we’re not too far away, we’ve scrapped and been competing in each game so far and almost got across the line today. So there’s not much to moan about. The tournament’s still pretty early, so to have two wins out of three with injuries and a bit of drama with our home ground, we’ll probably take that.”



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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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Ellyse Perry to continue rehab in hope of being fit for WBBL

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Ellyse Perry, who has been aiming to return from major hamstring surgery, has been ruled out of the remainder of Australia’s limited overs series against New Zealand – not that the team’s performances in the opening two T20Is indicated she would be needed anyway.

The world’s best allrounder, Perry suffered from hamstring tightness after running drills as she reached the final stages of her return from an injury that kept her out of the closing stages of the T20 World Cup back in March.

She will now aim to make her return to playing for the Sydney Sixers in the WBBL next month. Australia’ captain Meg Lanning said that Perry would remain with the squad to continue her rehab work, ahead of the third T20I in Brisbane on Wednesday, which will be followed by three ODI fixtures.

“Unfortunately she had some hamstring awareness and has got a low grade strain, so she won’t be available for the rest of this series,” Lanning said. “She’ll remain with the team to continue her rehab and training in the hope of being available at some point during the WBBL. So she won’t be playing any part in this series. It’s the same hamstring but a different muscle within the hamstring. It’s on the minor end, so hopefully doesn’t delay it too much.

“It was just during a running session at training that she was doing, she was progressing through her plan, so unfortunate that it’s happened but it’s on the minor end and she’s doing everything she can to be able to make herself available.

“I think she’s doing everything she can to be available as soon as possible, it’s a very complex injury, and hard to get the timing on when certain things will happen. So hopefully at some point, she’s doing the best she can and it’s really important to get it right and take the time before we do put her out on the field. Hopefully it’s sooner rather than later, but we’ll just have to see how it pans out.”

In beating New Zealand comfortably in both the opening two matches on Saturday and Sunday, Lanning’s team showcased impressive depth, not only to cover Perry but also to find bowling and batting options from beyond the likes of Megan Schutt, Jess Jonassen, Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney. Sophie Molineux, Georgia Wareham, Delissa Kimmince and Nicola Carey have all shone at various times, adapting nicely to the slow and sometimes spinning Allan Border Field.

“I think we’ve developed that over a period of time, we don’t rely on one or two players and as we saw in the first game, Ash Gardner was able to step up and make a winning contribution, so that gives us a lot of confidence that if your top order with the bat for example doesn’t fire, that we’ve still got real depth to be able to get us over the line,” Lanning said. “Even when things don’t go our way the whole game, we’re able to fight through and I think it’s a really important quality to have.

“At different times throughout the first two games, people have stepped up and contributed but we don’t feel like we’ve played our best game yet, still a fair bit to work on with both bat and ball, which is really exciting for this group. New Zealand are going to come back hard at us, they’ve got some real match winners within their side, so we do need to step it up again and hopefully we see that tomorrow.

“With the bat we don’t rely on one or two players and I think with the ball as well we’ve developed that real depth. Delissa Kimmince has been great for us over the last few years, and Sophie Molineux, a young player coming through, is very calm under pressure and certainly for me it’s nice to be able to go to her at different points. The other one who hasn’t bowled a lot of overs in the series, Nic Carey has really bowled some important overs and it’s not easy sometimes to come on and bowl one or two overs at critical points, but I think she’s done an excellent job.”

Australia’s cricketers have exhibited plenty of drive to improve and over the next 12 to 18 months have a clear goal in terms of regaining the ODI World Cup after falling short in England in 2017 when eliminated by India in the semi-finals.

“As a group what we have spoken about is continuing to improve and get better, because if we don’t do that, teams will catch up pretty quick and there’s a lot of really good teams out there who are trying to push the boundaries and become better as well,” Lanning said. “We can’t stand still and expect to keep performing and dominating, we need to keep improving our side.

“I think we’ve done that by bringing people in, but also those players who’ve been in for a period of time who improved their games – Alyssa Healy speaking about some shots she’s introduced to her game. The drive for us to get better is still there, which is great to see, especially given the success we’ve had over the last few years. So we need to keep getting better and we’ve got a year now to continue to do that before we get to 2022, which is going to be massive for us. So it’s really exciting that’s ahead of us.”



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