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Dale Steyn’s long, long record-watch

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It took Dale Steyn 10 years and 225 days – and 80 Test matches – to take 400 Test wickets. He was the third-fastest in the world to get there in match terms.

It has been three years since, and Steyn’s career has been punctuated with injuries. He has played only six Tests and added 19 wickets to his tally. He needs three scalps more to overtake Shaun Pollock as South Africa’s leading Test wicket-taker. It’s been a long wait and this is what it has looked like:

July 2015
Dale Steyn takes his 400th wicket in Bangladesh when he dismisses Tamim Iqbal on the opening morning of the second Test. Though Steyn takes two more wickets, there is no play possible on the remaining four days.

Wicket tally: 402

November 2015
Steyn goes wicket-less for only the second time in his career as India are bowled out for 201 in their first innings in Mohali. He is unable to take the field in the second innings after sustaining a groin injury, which rules him out of the rest of the series.

Wicket tally: 402

December 2015
A fit-again Steyn storms back at Kingsmead, dismisses Alastair Cook and Alex Hales inside the first seven overs and finishes England’s innings with 4 for 70. But in the second innings, with South Africa well behind the game, he manages just 3.5 overs before leaving the field with a shoulder problem that sidelines him for eight months.

Wicket tally: 406

August 2016
At the same ground he last appeared, Steyn takes two wickets against New Zealand in Durban in a low-key match where a wet outfield forces a draw under sunny skies. In the second match, Steyn shows shades of his best with eight wickets at Supersport Park to begin South Africa’s resurgence from No.7 on the rankings.

Wicket tally: 416

November 2016
A fired-up Steyn talks about cutting off the head of the snake as South Africa attempt a third successive series win in Australia. His warning is to Steven Smith and David Warner but he only ends up dismissing one of them, Warner, in Perth, just as things were getting away from South Africa. Steyn is so pumped up that he cranks up his pace and then goes down, clutching his right shoulder. The injury proves to be a rare break, the corricoid bone has snapped. Steyn has surgery, a pin inserted into his shoulder and spends 13 months in recovery, during which time he attempts several comebacks and tears a bicep and pec muscle.

Wicket tally: 417

January 2018
Against all odds and much retirement speculation, Steyn returns for a marquee series against India. He takes a wicket in his third over and bowls 17.3 in the first innings. Then he lands awkwardly in a foothold and a muscle in his heel separates from the bone. He spends another six months on the sidelines.

Wicket tally: 419

June 2018
Steyn signs for Hampshire in a bid to make an international return. In his first match, a fifty-over fixture, he concedes 80 runs in 10 overs. But he soon finds his rhythm and takes 5 for 66 in a County Championship game against Yorkshire and declares himself ready to try and break Pollock’s record, in Sri Lanka.



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First-class counties to compete for Bob Willis Trophy

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First-class counties in the UK will compete for the Bob Willis Trophy in a four-day competition as part of a shortened 2020 domestic season, the ECB has confirmed.

The ECB said on Friday that all 18 first-class counties had agreed to play in the same competitive red- and white-ball competitions, following a delayed start to the season due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As reported by ESPNcricinfo in May, the four-day competition will feature three regional groups of six teams who will each contest five first-class games with a five-day final expected to be played at Lord’s. The winner will claim the Bob Willis trophy, named after the former England captain who died in December. A shortened Vitality Blast competition will begin on August 27.

ALSO READ: County Championship could include Lord’s final with hopes for August start

Neil Snowball, ECB managing director of county cricket, said in a statement on Friday that the counties had “been united with a common goal to get back to our core function of playing cricket”.

“The commitment of the chairs and chief executives of the first-class counties to work together to achieve that ambition has been resolute and we will remain in close discussion as we continue to assess risk factors that need to be mitigated in order to ensure the safety and welfare of their players, coaches and staff,” Snowball said.

“We are all delighted that agreement has been reached across the game and we are now in a position to look forward to and prepare for a new men’s domestic season starting on 1 August.”

ESPNcricinfo understands that the counties voted by a narrow margin to play first-class and T20 cricket in the abbreviated season while some, including Hampshire, held safety concerns about hotel stays and voted to start the season with a 50-over competition and not play first-class cricket in 2020.

Venues would contact ticket holders for men’s domestic matches and first-class county members to inform them of the options available to them after a new fixture schedule has been announced, the ECB said.



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Stuart Broad ‘frustrated’ and ‘angry’ at being left out of England side for first Test

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Stuart Broad has described himself as “frustrated” and “angry” at having been left out of England’s side for the first Test of the series against West Indies.

Broad, the second highest wicket-taker in England’s Test history, said he found the decision “difficult to understand” and suggested he had sought clarification on his future from Ed Smith, the national selector.

“I’m not a particularly emotional person but I’ve found the last couple of days quite tough,” Broad told Sky Sports shortly before play resumed on the third day. “To say I was disappointed would be an understatement; you’re disappointed if you drop your phone and the screen breaks.

“I’m frustrated, angry and gutted. It’s difficult to understand. I’ve probably bowled the best I’ve ever bowled the last couple of years, I felt it was my shirt. I was in the team for the Ashes and going to South Africa and winning there.”

ALSO READ: Broad’s stock rises in lone spectator role

Broad was England’s leading wicket-taker in their previous Test series – he claimed 14 wickets at a cost of 19.42 apiece in South Africa – and in the Ashes series of 2019, when he claimed 23 wickets at 26.65.

“I spoke to Ed Smith [the national selector] last night, he said he was involved in picking the 13 and this side was picked purely for this pitch,” Broad continued. “I wanted clarification on my the future going forward and I was given pretty positive feedback going forward.

“So yes, I was frustrated in the fact that I felt like I deserved a spot in the team.”

ALSO READ: Broad faces axe as England ponder Wood and Archer for first Test

Despite that frustration, Broad accepted the bowlers picked in front of him also deserved their places and accepted that the current competition for places was probably a healthy thing for England.

“You can’t argue the bowlers walking on that field don’t deserve to play,” Broad said. “Everyone deserves to play. Chris Woakes, Sam Curran were bowling really well and probably deserve to be in the XI. It’s just annoying when it’s not you that’s in that XI. Very rarely do you get guys fit and available for each Test match. That’s where selection has been tricky.

“It’s great to see strength and depth in the fast bowling ranks. It’s the only way that England cricket moves forward and gets better. And with high competition in squads it keeps the standard high. Everyone is under pressure for their spots.”

Broad’s omission broke a run of 51 consecutive home Tests dating back to 2012.



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Curtis Campher, Jonathan Garth the new faces as Ireland name 21-man squad for England ODIs

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Ireland have left Stuart Thompson and Shane Getkate out while naming an expanded 21-man squad for a three-match ODI series against England this month, while David Delany is missing the trip as precaution following an injury.

Curtis Campher, the South Africa-born allrounder who was awarded an emerging contract earlier this year, has been included in a senior squad for the first time after having represented Ireland A against Namibia in February, while there is another new face in legspinner Jonathan Garth – whose sister Kim quit Irish cricket to take up a contract with Cricket Victoria last month.

Ireland will arrive in Southampton on a charter flight from Dublin on July 18, and play an intra-squad warm-up match and a fixture against England Lions before the group is separated into a 14-man squad and seven reserves. They will play three ODIs – the first game in the new ODI Super League – at the Ageas Bowl, before returning to Dublin on August 5.

“The selectors were delighted to have been able to meet once more to select a squad for international action. We have lost so much cricket this year, so to have a series – let alone such a major series as this – to look forward to is a great relief for all,” Andrew White, the chair of national men’s selectors, said. “This lack of on-field action since March – and the short lead-in programme to the ODI series – influenced our thinking on the broader squad. However, the unique circumstances of the situation has allowed us to involve more players than we would normally bring on such a tour.”

White also said that some players had been selected to “help our batters prepare for the type of opposition we’ll be facing”, which seemed like a nod to Garth’s inclusion. He is the only legspinner in the wider party, while England have named two in their 24-man training group in Adil Rashid and Matt Parkinson.

“While a number of players like Stuart Thompson and Shane Getkate are unfortunate to not to be travelling, the experience that will be gained on this trip by a number of the younger players will be invaluable in their development”

Andrew White

“The form shown by several players in the Caribbean in January, Wolves tour in February and the Afghan series in March really bolstered their case for selection,” White said. “We’re delighted that our top wicket-taker in 2019, Mark Adair, returns after recovering from ankle surgery, and feel we have the right squad balance for these important fixtures – keeping in mind that they are World Cup qualifiers.”

Thompson and Getkate’s exclusions might come as a surprise, not least given that both have central contracts for 2020-21 and that both have been regulars in white-ball squads in recent years.

“While a number of players like Stuart Thompson and Shane Getkate are unfortunate to not to be travelling, the experience that will be gained on this trip by a number of the younger players will be invaluable in their development,” White said. “Additionally, David Delany was not considered for selection this time. As a result of his previous surgery, and the subsequent extended lockdown period, we were not fully confident that he has had the time to complete the necessary amount of preparation in order to safely play in these matches.”

As well as the task at hand, several Ireland players will hope that strong performances in this series can provide them with a springboard towards contracts for the T20 Blast. Paul Stirling’s overseas deal at Northants is one of only a handful yet to be cancelled in the competition, and ESPNcricinfo understands that some names in this squad have been floated to counties in recent weeks as possible options to replace their bigger overseas names.



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