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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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West Indies must consign Ageas Bowl win to ‘history’ – Phil Simmons

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Phil Simmons, West Indies’ coach, has challenged his players to consign the events of the first Test at the Ageas Bowl to “history”, as they look to guard against complacency and close out their first overseas series win against a leading Test nation in more than a quarter of a century.

Speaking after his team’s return to Emirates Old Trafford ahead of Thursday’s Test, Simmons praised the resolve of his players in Sunday’s four-wicket win in Southampton – in particular Jermaine Blackwood for his decisive 95 on the final day of the contest, and Shannon Gabriel, whose haul of nine wickets across the two innings demonstrated his return to full fitness following ankle surgery.

The result means that West Indies have now won four of last six Tests against England – dating back to their famous run-chase at Headingley in 2017, and encompassing their 2-1 series win in the Caribbean in early 2019. However, they have not won a series in England since 1988, and Simmons acknowledged that it would be their duty to start from scratch in the coming days.

“For me it was a great win because I think that it signified a lot of hard work being done by the players over the last four or five weeks,” he said. “But you don’t come to England and just win a Test match. It was a top-class Test match, with good cricket played by both teams, and even coming down to the last hour, it could have gone either way.

“To come out on top. It’s been great for us, and it was important because you don’t want to have to chase England in England. So the chasing is from their point of view now. But you guard against complacency by just trying to do the same things you did before the first Test. Right now that Test match is history. We’ve got to be thinking about what we do from Thursday to Monday.”

West Indies successfully backed up their first-Test victory in Barbados last year with an equally impressive win in Antigua, but the challenge of replicating that form in an overseas campaign is rather harder.

Leaving aside their tours of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, they have only taken the lead in the first Test of an away series on three occasions since 1995. In that year’s tour of England, they were pegged back to a 2-2 draw after a crushing win at Headingley, and were then overturned 3-1 on their next visit to England in 2000, and 2-1 in South Africa in 2007-08.

ALSO READ: ‘When he crosses the line he gives his all’ – Holder on Blackwood

However, the circumstances of the current England tour are different in a number of key respects – firstly, the absence of a home crowd, which England arguably noticed during a flat day in the field in West Indies’ first innings, but perhaps more significantly, the extended preparation period, which may have been forced on the tourists by the Covid-19 outbreak, but which Simmons said harked back to his own playing days in the 1980s and 1990s.

“I think that has been the biggest influence on the performance,” he said. “I think the fact that we’ve been here for that period of time, we’ve had quality bowling in the nets because we’ve had nearly 11 seamers here, you can’t put a price on that.

“I think that’s something that we have to look at. I don’t like to go back into my [playing] days, but we would come to England and play something like three or four proper warm-up games before the first Test, and we would also have three-day or four-day games in between the Test matches. So I think that period of training goes a long way to how we performed in that first Test.”

One of the key beneficiaries of the lead-up time was Gabriel, who had not originally been named in West Indies’ first-choice 14, but was added to the squad after proving his fitness in both the nets and the intra-squad contests at Old Trafford. His hostility in both England innings echoed his crucial contributions to the win in the Caribbean last year, and Simmons took particular pleasure in his two-wicket burst on the pivotal fourth evening of the match.

“The hardest time for bowlers, after bowling from the morning, is that last session,” Simmons said. “To see him and Alzarri [Joseph] come up trumps in that session is so pleasing to us. With him coming back from that ankle surgery and working as hard he has worked since we’ve been here, it was a joy to see him successful in that period.”

Blackwood also proved his mettle, and not for the first time against England, against whom he now averages 55.00 in seven Tests. He withstood intense pressure on the final day – both from the scoreboard, which read 27 for 3 with John Campbell retired hurt, and from England’s fielders, with Ben Stokes in his ear from the outset as they attempted to goad him into a rush of blood.

“I think he must be commended because he has worked very hard on trying to get that temperament right for each part of his innings,” Simmons said. “As we saw in the first innings, it was still there a bit, but in the second he controlled it a lot better. And that helped him to bring home the game for us.”

Blackwood himself conceded that England’s words were “nothing bad, just cricket” and Simmons accepted that it was all part and parcel of the Test match battle.

“It’s what I would have done too,” he said. “Try to get him irrational, but I think he held his own. He looked at the situation and played it as well as he could have. So that shows that his mindset is improving, and that’s all you can ask for.”



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Mashrafe Mortaza recovers from Covid-19

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Former Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza confirmed on Tuesday that he is Covid-19 negative. His wife Sumona Haque, however, continues to test positive.

Mortaza, who is also a Member of Parliament representing the ruling Awami League party, was diagnosed with the virus three weeks ago, on June 20.

“I heard the results of the test this evening, which is negative,” Mortaza wrote on his Facebook page. “I am thankful to everyone who prayed for me, was beside us and showed concern during this time. But my wife is still Covid-19 positive after two weeks of being diagnosed. She is doing well. Keep her in your prayers.

“I got treatment at home. To those who are affected, stay positive. Keep faith in Allah and abide by the rules. Together we will keep fighting the virus.”

Nafees Iqbal and Nazmul Islam, who also tested positive three weeks ago, have also recovered after undergoing treatment at home.



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Ntini, Philander, Duminy, Gibbs sign letter supporting Lungi Ngidi’s #BLM stance

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Thirty-one current and former domestic and international South African players including Makhaya Ntini, Vernon Philander, JP Duminy and Herschelle Gibbs, and five current coaches including Justin Ontong, the national fielding coach – all people of colour – have signed a letter in support of Lungi Ngidi and the Black Lives Matter movement . The statement, released to the media and seen and verified by ESPNcricinfo, is a collective effort aimed at showing solidarity with the anti-racism campaigns sweeping across the world. It calls on Cricket South Africa and white cricketers to show their support for equality.

The letter comes after a week of racially charged rhetoric in the country’s cricket circles, and notes that, collectively, the signatories “are not surprised” by the criticism Ngidi has copped from former players such as Pat Symcox, Boeta Dippenaar, Rudi Steyn and Brian McMillan.

“We commend Lungi Ngidi for supporting #BlackLivesMatter – and we’d like to add our support for it too,” the letter states. “We note the criticism aimed at Lungi for expressing his views – and we hope that Cricket South Africa (CSA), together with fellow cricketers – both present and past – will come out strongly in support of #BLM.

‘We note too that the most outspoken criticism directed at Ngidi has come via former players such as Pat Symcox, Boeta Dippenaar, Rudi Steyn, Brian McMillan and others, and we urge that their views be challenged.

“We are not surprised at their comments.”

Signatories to the letter: Makhaya Ntini, Vernon Philander, Ashwell Prince, Paul Adams, JP Duminy, Charl Langeveldt, Mfuneko Ngam, Robin Peterson, Aaron Phangiso, Justin Ontong, Herschelle Gibbs, Roger Telemachus, Wayne Parnell, Monde Zondeki, Omar Henry, Alfonso Thomas, Victor Mpitsang, Henry Davids, Loots Bosman, Henry Williams, Alviro Petersen, Thandi Tshabalala, Rory Kleinveldt, Thami Tsolekile, Dane Piedt, Garnett Kruger, Shafiek Abrahams, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Eddie Leie, Imraan Khan, Ethy Mbhalati, Geoffrey Toyana, Wandile Gwavu, Rivash Gobind, Mandla Mashimbyi, Faiek Davids

More to follow



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