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

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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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Teams get a shot at glory as they meet in whites

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Barring the possibility of a draw, one of these teams will become the joint-quickest to their first Test win besides Australia back in 1877



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‘It’s about believing we’re good enough’ – Aaron Finch

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A matter of weeks ago, Australia’s touring team arrived in India with quiet optimism but little else. There had been scarcely a break since a draining home summer, and in the case of Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis, all participants in the Big Bash League final, only a few snatched hours of sleep before they were on the plane to India.

Benefiting from the rare format continuity, the T20 side emerged victorious in the two-match entree, but after a pair of opening defeats in Vizag and Bangalore, the second from a position where the Australians really should have won, it appeared that both the ODI sides; time in the wilderness would be continuing.

Finch’s side had other ideas however, and over the ensuing three matches something notable emerged. Suddenly, Australia looked to be balanced, confident and capable, able to win game on three different pitches and in a variety of scenarios. Ashton Turner’s fireworks in Mohali were undoubtedly the highlight, taking the team coached by Justin Langer into the sort of territory that will cause even the World Cup fancies England to be worried, but there was much to savour in Ranchi and Delhi also.

Most importantly, the Australians have emerged from India with belief in their plans and their ability, whether it was in putting runs on the board beyond the opponent’s reach or chasing down a mighty total in Mohali that was also kept within reach by the excellent late innings bowling of Pat Cummins. Spin bowling has also been a feature: both Adam Zampa and Nathan Lyon can expect World Cup inclusion on the strength of their displays here.

“The resilience and fight that we showed being down 0-2, it would have been easy to roll over in those small moments in the game, just let them drift away and India win the series,” Finch said. “But the fight that we showed, we’ve had our backs against the walls for quite a while now so I’m really proud of the group.

“From 2-0 down to win 3-2 is pretty special. I’ve been coming here for a while now trying to win and haven’t, so have a lot of Australian players, so it’s a special moment. People have written us off for quite a while now. We always knew that the plans and the style that we wanted to play are all there, can win us the World Cup, win us big series against great teams and India are definitely a great team.

“It’s about ourselves believing we’re good enough and sticking to our game plan. We did that for four of the five games and India were too good in a close one in Nagpur. To get over the line in three of them was a great series all round.”

Reflecting on how Australia had found the right balance, albeit with a combination of circumstances dating back to the bans on Steven Smith and David Warner, and then more recently an injury to Marcus Stoinis that allowed Turner his chance, Finch reflected on the fact that the selectors had looked for a better combination of heavy hitters and strike rotators, namely Peter Handscomb and Usman Khawaja.

“If you go in with all attacking players in these conditions you’re going to struggle, because we know the wickets slow up and the quality of Chahal, Kuldeep, Jadeja these guys they’re too good to just walk out and blast them out of the park,” Finch said. “You need good batsmanship on these wickets and guys who know how to play situations.”

Another man with something to prove was Cummins, who did not enjoy being bullied by England’s top order in the home ODI series a little more than a year ago and has subsequently pointed out that he needed more time to hone his white-ball skills. In India, Cummins was granted the new ball for the first time in some years and used it expertly before returning to the crease later in the innings with equally strong effect.

“I’ve played a little bit of one-day cricket before but it felt like I hadn’t really clicked in this format,” Cummins said. “It felt like I bowled well in the Australian summer, so glad it keeps on clicking. Hopefully it continues for the World Cup.

“We always seem to peak around the World Cup. I wouldn’t want to be a selector, it’s going to be a tough job whittling the team down to 15 and there are obviously a few to come back as well. Especially the batsmen, I thought the way they played the spin let alone the quicks, to get those scores on these kind of wickets, they made it look a lot easier than they were.”

As far as selection is concerned, Cummins isn’t wrong. From a time a few weeks ago when Australia looked forlornly towards the returns of Smith and Warner. The success of the India tour now means that the suspended pair will have to do something many have wondered about in the 11 and a half months since they were ruled out: actually earn their places.



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Luke Woodcock announces retirement from cricket | Cricket

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© Getty Images


Wellington and New Zealand allrounder Luke Woodcock will retire from cricket at the end of the ongoing season. Woodcock, 36, played four ODIs and three T20Is for New Zealand from 2010 to 2011 and is currently playing the Plunket Shield. He told his Wellington team-mates about his retirement decision after their match against Otago on Tuesday, a release said.

“It just feels right at this stage to move on,” Woodcock said. “You always get told that you’ll know when things are coming to an end and in all honesty, I never really believed that. But over the last six to nine months things have started to kick in around that final stage of my career and the decision not to play in the Ford Trophy this year was probably a sign it was time to call it a day.”

Woodcock made his international debut in a T20I against Pakistan in Hamilton and played only two more matches but didn’t get to bat in any of those. He did, however, pick one wicket in T20Is. He played four ODIs in all and ended with 14 runs and three wickets in those.

His domestic career was much more celebrated. Woodcock made his Wellington debut at the age of 19 in 2001 and racked up 10,594 runs and 339 wickets in 384 appearances for them across formats. In November 2017, he broke the record for most first-class appearances for one team by any player in New Zealand when he played his 128th first-class match for Wellington. With them, he won the four-day State Championship in 2004, the Ford Trophy in 2014 and two T20 trophies in 2015 and 2017.

He also played over 100 matches for Wellington in each of the three formats. “To reach 100 games in all three formats is pretty special and won’t probably sink in until the season’s done, but I’m really proud of being able to do that for Wellington,” he said. “Cricket Wellington means a lot to me and has been a big part of my life for the last 17 years and I can’t thank them and the Johnsonville Cricket Club enough for helping me have the career that I’ve had.”

Wellington head coach Bruce Edgar said Woodcock had been a “great giver to other people”.

“Woody’s impact on cricket in Wellington has been felt at local level all the way through to the Firebirds,” Edgar said. “He’s always been committed and passionate to play club cricket and be part of the community and he has represented our values strongly.

“He’s been a great giver to other people, not just himself, a lot of players have really looked up to him as a person and as a player, so he’s really epitomised everything we stand for.”

Woodcock said he’ll miss the banter, among other things.

“Winning four-day matches is extremely difficult so it’s a pretty satisfying winning those. I’ll miss the banter too – I’ve copped a bit and given a bit in my time!”

His final appearance will be against Canterbury starting Sunday at the Basin Reserve.

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