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South Africa bat, bring in Hamza; three changes for Pakistan



Toss South Africa chose to bat v Pakistan

South Africa’s stand-in captain Dean Elgar won the toss and chose to bat in Johannesburg, with his team pursuing a 3-0 whitewash in the Tests against Pakistan.

There was one change to the South Africa team, with Faf du Plessis’ suspension for an over-rate offence handing a debut in the middle order to Zubayr Hamza. Opener Aiden Markram was passed fit after a thigh injury, leaving Pieter Malan waiting for a first cap.

Having enjoyed success with a four-man pace attack in Cape Town, South Africa stuck to the same gameplan, meaning no return for spinner Keshav Maharaj.

As expected, with the series already gone Pakistan made several changes to their team. The return to fitness of Shadab Khan has meant two allrounders coming into the team where there were none: Faheem Ashraf and Shadab taking over from the misfiring Fakhar Zaman and Yasin Shah.

There was also a change to the seam attack, with young left-armer Shaheen Afridi replaced by Hasan Ali, who sat out the second Test.

South Africa: 1 Dean Elgar (capt), 2 Aiden Markram, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Theunis de Bruyn, 5 Temba Bavuma, 6 Zubayr Hamza, 7 Quinton de Kock (wk), 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Duanne Olivier

Pakistan: 1 Imam-ul-Haq, 2 Shan Masood, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Asad Shafiq, 5 Babar Azam, 6 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt/wk), 7 Shadab Khan, 8 Faheem Ashraf, 9 Mohammad Amir, 10 Mohammad Abbas, 11 Hasan Ali

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Kurtis Patterson picked in selectors’ backflip



Australia’s selectors have added Kurtis Patterson to the Test squad at the last possible moment, to face Sri Lanka after the New South Welshman’s twin centuries in the Hobart tour match made his case undeniable.

Originally omitted from the group to play in Brisbane and Canberra, Patterson churned out unbeaten innings of 157 and 102 at Bellerive Oval before being informed on Sunday night he had been added to the squad and would join Tim Paine’s team in Brisbane.

Patterson’s inclusion means that he along with Joe Burns, Matt Renshaw and Will Pucovski are all vying for two spots in the Australian batting order, fitting in with Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head after Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh were dropped.

ALSO READ: Will Pucovski earns Australia call-up as Marshes and Handscomb dropped

Trevor Hohns, the selection chairman, stated that Patterson had done all that was asked of him to earn a late call into the Test squad.

“Kurtis has been pushing his case for selection for some time, he has been a consistent top-order player for New South Wales, was a member of the Australian A tour of India prior to the commencement of our summer, and was most recently selected to compete in the day-night tour match against Sri Lanka in Hobart,” Hohns said.

“We have been asking batters around the country to score hundreds if they want to be considered for selection, and given Kurtis’ consistent performances for NSW and his two unbeaten centuries in last week’s tour match against our upcoming opponent, Sri Lanka, we believe he deserves to be added to the Test squad.

“Kurtis has joined the squad in Brisbane today to commence our preparations for the first Test starting on Thursday.”

More to follow…

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West Indies’ interim coach Richard Pybus shrugs off criticism of comeback



There wasn’t much of a honeymoon period for Richard Pybus. No sooner had he been announced as West Indies’ interim head coach – even before he had been announced, really – the criticism started to flow. And if that was, in part, due to an allegation that due process had not been followed in making the appointment – an allegation rejected by CWI – it was also down to his history.

Whether Pybus likes it or not, he brings baggage to the role. Yes, his experience, both as a coach and in the region, is undeniable. But so is the fact that he was at the centre of the dispute that saw West Indies abandon their 2014 tour of India. As a result, several prominent figures in Caribbean cricket are sceptical about him and seem unafraid to vocalise those views. And, as Peter Moores found in his second stint as England coach, such baggage can drag a man down pretty quickly if results don’t go his way.

One of the more vocal critics of Pybus’ appointment has been former captain Darren Sammy. He responded to a CWI press release that referred to Pybus as “the architect of the West Indies trifecta of 2016 World Cup titles” – the men’s World T20, the women’s World T20 and the Under-19 World Cup – by saying the teams won “in spite” of him, not because of him. And, when Jimmy Adams, West Indies’ director of cricket, drew up a shortlist for the interim coaching position, Pybus was a noticeable absentee from the list of 11 names.

All in all, it seems an oddly incendiary appointment, and a distraction West Indies could do without. But Pybus is having none of it. Talking to the media at the Kensington Oval on Sunday, he insisted the team were “focused, positive and motivated” and that there were no issues within the West Indies camp.

“Darren Sammy is entitled to his opinion,” he said. You’ll have to ask him about that. Criticism is part of the game, part of the tapestry and the drama around sport. We’ve just got to get on with the job really. I don’t really want to unpack the past.

“The team are very focused, positive and motivated. You guys will write your stories, create a bit of an angle and drama but, from my side, I’m not really worried about that. The guys are focused on the series coming up. There are no issues.

“I don’t want to sound too ‘zen’ but I’m really focused on the first day coming up and making sure we’re ready for it.”

Pybus did suggest, however, that some of the structures he had put in place during his tenure as director of cricket – not least broadening the base of the professional game – were starting to pay dividends.

“I’ve done three years as director of cricket and what’s in the results bank is in the results bank,” he said. “We put programmes in place. It’s fantastic to see some of these guys come through the programmes. It’s the coaches who work with them, the support staff around them, it’s the system which supports to ensure we deliver on-field excellence.

“It’s very much a work in progress. Nobody involved in cricket in the Caribbean can say we’re where we want to be; the region has been playing catch-up. But we’re starting to have the depth to support the players properly.

“There’s two sides to it. The players in the past would have criticised delivery and support and there may be some truth in that. On the other side the board would be saying ‘we’re doing our best’ and there’d be some truth in that, too.

“I don’t know about trifectas. It’s the players on the park who deliver but I was satisfied at the time with how the programmes supported players.”

He also hinted that the character of West Indies cricket, with teams selected from across a wide region and several different counties, lent itself to a certain amount of debate, discussion and disagreement.

“It’s the Caribbean,” he said. “You’ve got 16 countries. It’s not like England, Australia or South Africa. With the internal politics there’s always discussion. It really is a unique part of the world. Unless you’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the region it’s difficult to understand quite how challenging it is. London to Birmingham is a couple of hours in the car; Antigua to Jamaica can be three days.”

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Stuart Broad deserves credit for putting in ‘hard yards’, says James Anderson



James Anderson has “not seen anyone work as hard on their game” as Stuart Broad over the last couple of years.

Anderson and Broad go into the Barbados Test with 998 Test wickets between them over the course of their careers. But while Broad, at 32, is four years younger than Anderson, it is his form that has caused more concern over the last couple of years.

While Anderson has gone from strength to strength, compensating for his somewhat diminished pace with his control and range of skills, Broad has, at times, looked as if he were in gradual decline. He has only taken one five-for since January 2016 and, in both the 2017 and the 2017-18 seasons, had a bowling average a fraction above 33.

Neither the decline in pace nor movement were dramatic but, somewhere along the way, the remarkable hot streaks of wickets that characterise Broad’s career disappeared. He was left out of the side for the first two Tests in Sri Lanka and is no longer guaranteed to take the new ball alongside Anderson.

ALSO READ: Seamers to the fore as WI put up their Dukes

Such is his desire to extend his career, however, Broad has recognised the signs and resolved to improve. After consulting Anderson and Richard Hadlee – a Nottinghamshire team-mate of his father, Chris – Broad has shortened his run-up by five yards in a bid to improve his rhythm and bowl with a higher action. Writing in the Mail on Sunday recently, he explained that “standing taller in delivery… should provide me with extra bounce”.

Alongside some alterations he had made to his wrist position, Broad hopes the changes will both make him more potent and extend his career by several years.

The early signs are promising. Despite not taking any wickets in the final Test of the Sri Lanka series in Colombo, Broad bowled with impressive pace and saw two chances put down off him in the slips. Both in Colombo and in the warm-up games in Barbados, he appeared to gain a little of the away swing that has been largely absent in recent times. He warns that the changes may not completely bed in for a few months – the Ashes remain his main target – but it will be intriguing to see how he fares in the Caribbean, where he has a Test bowling average of 31.22.

Certainly Anderson is impressed. “Probably since Australia, I’ve not seen anyone work as hard as he has on their game,” Anderson said. “It’s a credit to him. He’s put so many hard yards in, not just on his run-up but on his action and trying to swing the ball away again.

“I do think the run-up has looked really good here. He still has the same snap, the same momentum going through the crease. For me, it’s all about the last six yards, building that momentum up to the crease. He can definitely have the same oomph.

“And it might just get another couple of years out of him. I think part of him is thinking ‘why have I not done this sooner?'”

Both Broad and Anderson are likely to be offered more encouragement in the Caribbean than was the case in Sri Lanka. Anderson admitted he felt “like a spare part” in that series, struggling to extract any movement from the ball or life from the surfaces. He claimed just one wicket in the two Tests in which he appeared.

But, with a specially-designed Dukes ball and the prospect of pitches offering at least a little more assistance, Anderson feels the seamers should be “excited to bowl”.

“I think the bowlers have really enjoyed their first week here,” Anderson said. “The Dukes ball has been moving around a bit and swung for quite a considerable amount of time. So that’s encouragement.

“The wickets in Sri Lanka were flat and the wickets here could be flat, but at least there’s a glimmer of hope for us seam bowlers. There might be a little bit of swing through the air and that just keeps you interested. It feels you can actually make an impact on the game. It just makes you excited to bowl and really look forward to playing.”

There should be no danger of England underestimating West Indies, though. Having won only one series in the Caribbean in 50-years – the 2004 series in which Anderson was a non-playing squad member – they are under no illusions about the task in front of them; a factor Anderson believes is made clear in the eyes of the West Indies team once the games begin.

“Whenever we come here you get the feeling that West Indies really want to beat England,” Anderson said. “It’s something that’s been ingrained in them, especially in the past when England have suffered heavy defeats.

“You can see it in the players’ eyes when you play against them. And that means we’ve got to be on top form to be able to try and challenge them.”

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