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Jack Leach to return home from South Africa to aid recovery from illness

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Jack Leach is to fly home from England’s tour of South Africa after failing to recover from illness. Leach, who arrived in the country as England’s first-choice spinner, has not been able to bowl a competitive delivery on the tour after being taken ill ahead of the first warm-up match in Benoni in mid-December.

Leach was also taken ill in New Zealand in November. Originally described as a bout of gastroenteritis, it now transpires the episode deteriorated to the extent that he was suffering from sepsis. He was hospitalised for several days in Hamilton and has not bowled a ball in anger since the Mount Maunganui Test, which ended on November 25. He will leave South Africa on Thursday.

Leach’s situation is complicated by his long history of Crohn’s disease, which requires him to take immune suppressant medication. The England management are keen not to push him too hard in his recovery phase and risk any long-term health implications. While Leach currently appears healthy, and has been able to play a full-part in the last couple of training sessions, his fitness levels have not recovered to the extent where he could be considered for Test selection.

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The England management remain hopeful that Leach will be available for England’s Test tour of Sri Lanka – the first Test starts in Galle on March 19, the first tour game on March 7 – but he must be considered a doubt at this stage.

“It has been an unfortunate time for Jack with illness and since the Test series in New Zealand six weeks ago, he hasn’t been able to get 100% fit,” England head coach Chris Silverwood said. “This has hampered his preparation in South Africa and despite his best endeavours he is not in a position to make himself available for selection for the final two Test matches.

“He is a great lad to have around the squad and his infectious personality and popularity will be missed. However, his focus has to be getting himself better and receiving the optimum levels of recovery and treatment, which is best served back in England without any distractions.

“I have no doubt that he will return to full fitness in the medium-term and hopefully he will recover in time for our tour of Sri Lanka in March.”

Leach is the third member of the tour party to return home. Rory Burns left as the second Test started after sustaining ankle ligament damage, before James Anderson suffered a fractured rib in the Cape Town Test. At least 11 members of the playing squad – and around half-a-dozen of the non-playing tour party – have also suffered from a sickness bug that decimated the team during the first Test and resulted in Ben Stokes referring to this, only partly in jest, as “the cursed tour”.

England are unlikely to call for further back-up for Leach. They still have two specialist spinners in the squad – Dom Bess and Matt Parkinson – and there is a possibility neither will play in the final Test in Johannesburg. Bess, Leach’s deputy at Somerset, performed a good holding role in Cape Town.

Looking ahead to Sri Lanka, though, this episode may further incentivise the England management to repair the relationship with Moeen Ali. Moeen, who is currently taking an extended break from Test cricket, has previously intimated that he was minded to “see out” his PSL contract, which would exclude him from the Sri Lanka tour, but there is little doubt the England management will try to coax him back to the Test team.

He is understood to maintain a good relationship with both Silverwood and England captain Joe Root, and has been invited to take part in some mentoring an England Lions training camp at Loughborough this week.

Moeen and Leach were the equal highest wicket-takers when England won in Sri Lanka little more than a year ago but, at this stage, there seems a possibility that neither they nor Adil Rashid, who was the third member of the spin attack, will return.



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Dawid Malan, James Vince should give high yield

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February 22: Islamabad United v Multan Sultans at Gadaffi Stadium, Lahore

Our XI: Luke Ronchi, Dawid Malan, Colin Munro, James Vince, Rilee Rossouw, Ravi Bopara, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Sohail Tanvir, Imran Tahir, Mohammad Ilyas

Captain: Dawid Malan

This highly-rated batsman from England showed great promise in the BPL 2020. Malan scored 444 runs in the tournament at a strike rate of 145, including three fifties in and a hundred. He started off his PSL campaign with a fluent 64 against the Gladiators.

Vice-captain: James Vince

Vince is coming off a very good Big Bash League season, where he scored runs in crucial games. In a wicket that is two-paced, he could be your man to get the runs. Vince has a healthy strike rate of 132.84 to go with his average of 30 in the format.

Hot Picks

Colin Munro

Munro continued his good form in T20s and took it to the 50-over format. He scored a 60-ball 104 in the Ford Trophy final in his side’s win last week. In 2020 so far, Munro has scored 332 runs in 11 innings across limited-overs formats.

Rilee Rossouw

Rossouw has not been in form lately but his record in T20s around the world makes him a must-have. The top-order batsman was the highest run-scorer in BPL 2019, scoring 495 runs at an average of 45 and a strike rate of 155.17.

Imran Tahir

The legspinner can be relied on to provide crucial breakthroughs. He has picked up 90 wickets between the 7th and 15th over in all T20s since 2018, making him second in the list behind Rashid Khan (100 wickets).

Value Picks

Faheem Ashraf

Ashraf is more of a bowler but he can pitch in with some late cameos. With the ball, he is an accurate bowler who swings the ball upfront. He has an economy of a touch over 8 and a strike rate of 17.8 in the format. Ashraf scored 129 runs at a strike rate of 159 and picked up 21 wickets (second highest) in PSL 2019.

Ravi Bopara

Bopara is one of the few allrounders with a positive average difference (batting average – bowling average) among all players with a double of 500-plus runs coupled with 25-plus wickets in the format since 2019. Bopara has 721 runs at an average 40.05 with the bat and has picked up 25 wickets, averaging 25.2 with the ball.

Points to note

Five out of seven T20s in Lahore have been won by the team batting first since 2018. Choose your captain from the team batting first and make the other player your vice-captain.



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Recent Match Report – Sri Lanka vs West Indies 1st ODI 2020

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Sri Lanka chose to bowl v West Indies

Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to field first at the SSC, expecting a little movement in the air and off the surface early in the day. The track itself appeared a good one-day pitch – suited to batting – and may settle down as the game wears on.

West Indies named a largely predictable XI, asking Sunil Ambris to open alongside Shai Hope after Brandon King’s two failures in the practice matches this week. Nicholas Pooran has also sufficiently recovered from the back complaint he had picked up in the first of those games to be available for this match.

Legspinner Hayden Walsh has been preferred to left-arm spinner Fabian Allen. Walsh took 2 for 52 and 1 for 44 in the warm-up matches, which were comparable numbers to what Allen had registered. However, Sri Lanka have generally been less comfortable against wristspin than fingerspin in recent years, which may have influenced this selection.

Sri Lanka, meanwhile, named two wristspinners in Wanindu Hasaranga and Lakshan Sandakan. This means Isuru Udana and Nuwan Pradeep are the only specialist quicks, though they will have support from allrounders Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera. Thisara claimed a place in the XI ahead of Dasun Shanaka. According to coach Mickey Arthur, this was down to Thisara’s superior bowling.

Sri Lanka: 1 Dimuth Karunaratne (capt.), 2 Avishka Fernando, 3 Kusal Perera (wk), 4 Kusal Mendis, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Dhananjaya de Silva, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Wanindu Hasaranga, 9 Isuru Udana, 10 Lakshan Sandakan, 11 Nuwan Pradeep

West Indies: 1 Sunil Ambris, 2 Shai Hope (wk), 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Roston Chase, 5 Nicholas Pooran, 6 Kieron Pollard (capt.), 7 Jason Holder, 8 Hayden Walsh, 9 Keemo Paul, 10 Alzarri Joseph, 11 Sheldon Cottrell



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Recent Match Report – Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe Only Test 2020

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Toss Zimbabwe chose to bat v Bangladesh

Zimbabwe opted to bat on the first morning of the one-off Test in Mirpur. With Sean Williams missing this Test to be present for the birth of his first child, stand-in captain Craig Ervine called correctly and gave Zimbabwe’s batsmen first use of a track that has an uncharacteristically full covering of grass and could well encourage the seamers with the new ball. They also handed an international debut to medium-pacer Charlton Tshuma on the back of consistent returns in the Logan Cup.

As expected, Bangladesh fielded two seamers in Abu Jayed and Ebadat Hossain alongside two frontline spinners in Nayeem Hasan and Taijul Islam. Bangladesh will also hope to be buoyed by the return of Mushfiqur Rahim to the middle order after he missed the Test in Pakistan due to security reasons.

Bangladesh dropped Mehidy Hasan for the first time in a home Test since he made his debut against England in 2016. Mehidy has been off-colour since taking 15 wickets against West Indies at home in 2018, after which he took six wickets in four Tests last year. He missed the Rawalpindi Test earlier this month due to an injury. Nayeem comes on the back of taking 13 wickets last week in a first-class match, with 8 for 107 and 5 for 101 against North Zone in the Bangladesh Cricket League.

The preference is a significant decision within the senior team where there has been strong hints of change after Bangladesh’s sixth successive defeat since last year.

Timycen Maruma slotted into Zimbabwe’s middle order in place of the absent Williams, while the visitors opted for a seam-heavy attack; Ainsley Ndlovu is the only specialist spinner in Zimbabwe’s XI.

Bangladesh: 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Saif Hassan, 3 Najmul Hossain Shanto, 4 Mominul Haque (capt), 5 Mushfiqur Rahim, 6 Mohammad Mithun, 7 Liton Das (wk), 8 Taijul Islam, 9 Abu Jayed, 10 Nayeem Hasan, 11Ebadat Hossain

Zimbabwe: 1 Kevin Kasuza, 2 Prince Masvaure, 3 Craig Ervine (capt), 4 Brendan Taylor, 5 Sikandar Raza, 6 Regis Chakabva (wk), 7 Timycen Maruma, 8 Ainsley Ndlovu, 9 Victor Nyauchi, 10 Donald Tiripano, 11 Charlton Tshuma



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