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Tim Murtagh announces Ireland retirement, signs new Middlesex deal



Tim Murtagh has announced his retirement from Ireland duty after signing a two-year contract extension with Middlesex. The decision, forced in part by the change to ECB regulations that would have seen him classed as an overseas player had his continued his international career, means Murtagh’s final outing in an Ireland shirt was his honours board-worthy performance in their maiden Test at Lord’s.

Murtagh, 38, has instead committed to Middlesex, where he has taken almost 1000 wickets since moving from Surrey in 2007. He was first capped by Ireland in 2012, qualifying through his Irish grandparents, and went on to feature in all three formats, delivering their first ball as a Test nation at Malahide last year.

However, with Ireland’s rise to Test status came the ECB’s decision to revoke their status as non-overseas players. With that rule due to come into effect from next summer, Murtagh has lived up to his word after telling Middlesex’s director of cricket, Angus Fraser, that he would stick with the county if required to make the choice. Several Irish players have been forced to give up county contracts in recent times, including Paul Stirling at Middlesex.

“This is a day that I have known has been coming for a few years since the ECB changed their regulations, but it hasn’t made the decision any easier,” Murtagh said. “I’ve had eight great years playing international cricket and loved every minute of it. It’s sad that it has come to an end but a decision that I have made my peace with.

“I made a promise to Angus Fraser when I first started playing international cricket that if I ever had to make a choice between playing for Ireland or rewarding Middlesex for the commitment they’d shown to me over the years, that I would commit to finishing my playing days at Lord’s.

“Having been a member of the Middlesex family for over a decade now, I believe that with the additions we’ve made over the winter, we have one of the most promising squads here now that I’ve ever been a part of.

“I wouldn’t have committed my future to Middlesex unless I felt that the club shared my ambition to win trophies and we have a huge amount of young talent here to drive us forwards towards that goal. Under the new coaching regime, we’ve got a harmonious dressing room that is excited for the new season to get underway and a new captain that everyone is keen to impress.”

Murtagh made his T20I and ODI debuts within a few days of each other in July 2012, although his hopes of playing at the 2015 World Cup were dashed by a foot injury. He was part of the 2016 World T20 team, before making three Test appearances as Ireland rose to Full Member status at the ICC.

Each of them were memorable: he opened the bowling against Pakistan in 2018, taking six wickets as Ireland briefly threatened an upset; against Afghanistan, in Dehradun, he scored a maiden Test fifty batting at No. 11; and then at Lord’s earlier this year, his five-wicket haul saw England dismissed before lunch on the first day, although Ireland then collapsed themselves in the second innings as the wait for a first Test win went on.

“On behalf of the management and staff of Cricket Ireland I’d like to thank Tim for his eight years of service to Irish cricket,” Cricket Ireland’s performance director, Richard Holdsworth, said. “It only seems like the other day that we were organising the paperwork to allow him to declare for Ireland – while you always hope for the best when opportunities like that arise, little did we know the impact he would have on the international setup.

“Irish cricket has been on quite a journey over the last decade, and Tim has certainly played a key role in our rise. That the Lord’s Test will be his last game for us is very appropriate, and he certainly gave a lot of Irish fans great pleasure on that first morning having written his name on the honours board before lunch.

“We know how hard the decision was for him, but we wish Tim, Karina and his family well. I would also like to thank Angus Fraser and all at Middlesex Cricket for their support and flexibility in working with us on Tim’s availability for internationals and tours. Cricket Ireland and Middlesex have had a great relationship over many years, and it is always appreciated when club and country can work so well together for the benefit of the player.”

Murtagh is set to play on into his 40s with Middlesex, with the club aiming to push for promotion in the Championship next season. Middlesex finished a disappointing eighth in Division Two in 2019, with Dawid Malan resigning the captaincy and subsequently moving to Yorkshire; they will be led next year by Australia batsman Peter Handscomb.

Middlesex’s head coach, Stuart Law, said: “To have Murts commit to Middlesex for the future is really great news for the club. It has been a tough decision for him no doubt, but we are looking forward to seeing him continue to provide the team with quality and experience.

“A vital member of our squad, both on and off the field, I look forward to working with him again in 2020.”

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‘Nice to see things falling into place’ – Joe Root encouraged by Test team’s progress



Joe Root believes England have found a template that can help them win the 2021-22 Ashes in Australia. While delighted by the 3-1 victory over South Africa, Root was also encouraged that his team had found a method that could serve them well in future challenges.

In particular, England’s captain was thrilled by the prospect of taking two fast bowlers to Australia and the progress his side had made in adopting to a new approach to Test cricket. Jofra Archer and Mark Wood both claimed five-wicket hauls during the series to help the England attack bowl South Africa out twice in all four Tests – something they have historically struggled to do with the Kookaburra ball – while England’s batsmen, embracing a more cautious approach, posted totals of 400 or more in successive innings for the first time since March 2013. They also recorded three individual centuries, while South Africa’s batsmen didn’t make any.

“We’ve got a great template to work around and it’s nice to see it falling into place,” Root said. “We put things in place this winter about the way we want to play. It has taken time and it will continue to take time for us to stay consistent and adapt to different conditions but we are learning quickly.

“It would have made a big difference to have Jofra and Woody in Australia last time, I do believe that. It’s something you feel that you need in those conditions.

“One of our big learnings as a team is that we have taken 20 wickets in every game. That is something we have struggled with in the past when abroad with a Kookaburra ball.

“There’s still a huge amount of Test cricket to be played before the Ashes. But this does give us confidence and it also gives us knowledge about how to perform on wickets that might be similar.”

Most of all, though, Root was proud of how his side reacted to the adversity they experienced in the opening weeks of the tour and the manner in which young players had come into the side and “taken their chance”. England lost four players who could reasonably be described as first choice – James Anderson, Jack Leach, Rory Burns and Archer – to illness and injury for most of the tour, while their performance in the first Test was hindered by the sickness bug that swept through the camp. But Dom Sibley and Ollie Pope scored maiden Test centuries, while Dom Bess claimed a maiden five-wicket haul. All three are aged 24 or younger.

“It has been a huge effort by the players, the support staff and the management,” Root said. “We have had to dig deep collectively. It would have been very easy for us to go off the rails after that first game but we stuck tight together. Even losing Burnsy and Jimmy we made sure it was not going to change how we went about things and it gave opportunities for young guys to take their chance.

“I’m really pleased not only that the young guys have stood up on this tour, but that the senior players have created an environment that allows that to happen. Young guys are coming into a very good environment and succeeding. The senior players are providing that environment and delivering as well. I am really proud of everyone.

“The last afternoon in Cape Town was probably the turning point of the series. For us to finish off that game was fabulous. We caught very well and we took our opportunities with time running out through just sheer hard work and determination. I think that gave us a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence.

“A big part of our three teams is our three pillars: courage, respect and unity. We have shown those in abundance throughout this trip and it has made a massive difference to our performances on the field.”

Despite his joy, Root accepted England had a long way to go before they could considered themselves the finished article.

“We’ve done extremely well in the last three games but in the last three years we’ve not been consistent enough,” Root said. “We’re very open about that.

“We go to Sri Lanka next and then we have three big games at home against West Indies. So it’s a great opportunity to string a number of good performances together. We’ve got to keep looking to get better and keep developing.”

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Glamorgan appoint Chris Cooke, David Lloyd captains for 2020



Glamorgan will be led by Chris Cooke and David Lloyd next season after a captaincy reshuffles. Cooke continues as Championship captain while also taking charge of the T20 side, while Lloyd will step up for the Royal London Cup, when Cook will be absent at the Hundred.

Cook, 33, oversaw Glamorgan’s best Championship campaign since 2015, as the club kept alive promotion hopes until the final weeks before finishing fourth. He adds the Blast captaincy for 2020, with Colin Ingram relinquishing the role.

“It was an honour to lead the club last year and I’m delighted to continue in the role,” Cooke said. “We saw a lot of improvement in our County Championship performances last season and it’s something we want to take into the Vitality Blast.

“It’s going to be an exciting season and we can’t wait to get started and hit the ground running in April.”

Allrounder Lloyd, 27, has been a regular member of the List A side since 2014 and took charge in one Royal London Cup game last season.

“I thoroughly enjoyed stepping in as captain and it’s a really proud moment to be asked to lead the side in the Royal London Cup,” Lloyd said. “We have a great bunch of lads at the club and a lot of talent in the squad, so there is no reason why we can’t build on last season’s improvement and reach the knockout stages of the competition.”

Cooke will be absent with Birmingham Phoenix during the Hundred, which will also feature Ingram, who was signed as a ‘local icon’ by Welsh Fire.

Glamorgan’s director of cricket, Mark Wallace, said: “Chris did a fantastic job in his first season in charge and led the side with a great deal of enthusiasm and skill. He commands a lot of respect in the dressing room and deserves the opportunity to carry on his good work from last year and take the club forward.

“It’s also great news for Glamorgan that David is taking over the 50-over captaincy. He showed many leadership qualities last year and did a good job under tough circumstances when he deputised for Chris.”

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South Africa docked six WTC points, fined 60% match fees for slow over rate



South Africa have become the first team to be docked World Test Championship (WTC) points for a slow over rate after were fined 60% of their match fee after falling short of their target in the fourth Test of their series against England at the Wanderers.

After leaving frontline spinner Keshav Maharaj out of their side, South Africa did not bowl a single over of spin in the Test, leaving them three overs short after time allowances were taken into consideration.

ALSO READ: What’s new? WTC playing conditions

In line with Article 2.22 of the ICC’s code of conduct, players are fined 20% of their match fees for every over their side fails to bowl in the time allocated to them, and in accordance with Article 16.11.2 of the WTC’s playing conditions, a side is penalised two points for every over they are short.

Faf du Plessis, South Africa’s captain, pleaded guilty to the offence and accepted the proposed sanction, meaning there was no need for a formal hearing following the levelling of the charge by the match officials.

South Africa sit seventh out of nine teams in the inaugural WTC, with 24 points after seven matches.

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