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Moeen Ali to assist with England Lions camp ahead of Australia tour

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Moeen Ali will join an England Lions camp in Loughborough on Wednesday ahead of their upcoming tour to Australia.

Moeen, the offspinning allrounder whose most recent international appearance came in last summer’s first Ashes Test at Edgbaston, declared himself unavailable for the ongoing Test series in South Africa, writing in his Guardian column that he was hoping to “freshen up” while away from the side.

He is expected to remain absent for the two-Test series in Sri Lanka this March, having signalled his intention to “see out” his contract with Multan Sultans in the Pakistan Super League, but his presence at Loughborough suggests that his relationship with the ECB remains very healthy.

He will travel to South Africa for the white-ball leg of England’s tour at the end of the month, having been named in both the ODI and T20I squads.

Moeen will be joined at the Lions camp by Tim Bresnan, who played 23 Tests and 119 white-ball internationals for England between 2006 and 2015, with the pair asked to share their respective experiences of playing in Australia and adjusting to local conditions.

“I’d like to thank Tim and Moeen for their time this week at the camp,” ECB performance director Mo Bobat said. “I’m sure the information and experience they can impart will be very useful to many members of our squad as they look to hone their games to Australian conditions.”

The ECB has also confirmed that Lewis Gregory, the Somerset allrounder, will captain the Lions for both the 50-over and four-day legs of their tour, which starts later this month.

Gregory, who made his international debut during England’s T20I series in New Zealand in November, is Somerset’s T20 Blast captain, and has previously captained the Lions in white-ball cricket against Pakistan A last winter and in red-ball cricket against Australia A during the 2019 summer.

Tom Abell, his county team-mate, is vice-captain for the white-ball series, while Keaton Jennings – who is in line for a call-up to England’s Test squad for their tour of Sri Lanka – will be Gregory’s deputy in the four-day games.

Gregory said: “It’s an honour to be chosen to captain the Lions again and I’m looking forward to what will be a great challenge in Australia. I can’t wait to lead the team out at the iconic MCG against Australia A and try to lay a foundation for future England success Down Under across the whole tour.

“I’m fortunate to have some good experience around me, including Tom and Keaton – my vice-captains. It’s important to have reliable people to turn to for advice, as well as players who have experience of playing in Australian conditions, such as Mason Crane, Craig Overton and Richard Gleeson.

“It promises to be a tough but rewarding tour and one that will help all of us improve our games in unfamiliar conditions.”

Bobat added: “Lewis was an obvious choice to captain the Lions in Australia and I’m confident he’ll bring out the best in our two squads. His previous experience leading the Lions shows that he commands the respect of his team-mates. Tom and Keaton will provide great support in the white and red-ball formats respectively.”



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Melbourne Renegades chief to report to Melbourne Stars’ chief

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A restructure of Cricket Victoria’s (CV) Big Bash League teams for next season will see the Melbourne Renegades’ general manager reporting to the equivalent figure for the Melbourne Stars. This is a consequence of the clubs having to deal with major downsizing at the state association that has cost 60 jobs.

Both the Stars and Renegades have seen enormous upheaval since featuring in the BBL final in 2018 at Docklands in Melbourne. Both clubs had their boards dissolved and chief executives – Clint Cooper and Stuart Coventry respectively – moved on ahead of the previous season.

In their place, Nick Cummins, the former Cricket Tasmania chief executive, was initially assigned to a BBL head of commercial role that oversaw both clubs. Despite Cummins’ best efforts, it was an inherent conflict that is understood to have caused more than a few furrowed brows over the course of a season in which the Stars reached the BBL grand final once again but the Renegades’ men’s and women’s team results dropped off alarmingly.

Now, the clubs have been restructured once again in line with a raft of staffing cuts at CV, this time placing Cummins in charge of the Stars and the state association’s head of commercial, David Lever, in nominal command of the Renegades.

However, Lever will still report to Cummins, who retains overall control of BBL commercial activities. Commercial returns are another area of considerable concern for CV, as the departures of Cooper and Coventry in particular hastened the exits of the Stars’ major sponsor Optus, hot on the heels of the Renegades’ major sponsor Mars.

The Stars remain coached by David Hussey and the Renegades by Michael Klinger, but there has been a significant reshuffle too in the coaching ranks, as the Stars farewelled their women’s team coach Tim Coyle and the Renegades their women’s coach David Hemp, who had also been the head coach of the Victoria women’s team.

Lachlan Stevens has subsequently moved from a role as Victoria’s men’s assistant coach to head coach of both the Renegades women and the Victorian women’s state side, while Trent Woodhill, who has acted in numerous roles at the Stars, will now combine his post as the club’s list manager with coaching the women’s team.

“It’s a great opportunity and one I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to. I’ve been involved with the Stars for many years now and know the environment and the ethos well,” Woodhill said. “We’re backing ourselves to bounce back from some of the results in recent WBBL seasons. The competition is only getting stronger and we need to be stronger too. I’d certainly like to see a maiden finals appearance this season and win the title but there is plenty of work to do first.”

Andrew Lynch remains list manager of the Renegades and CV head of selectors. Lynch and Woodhill also report into the CV general cricket manager Shaun Graf. “Trent is well known to everyone at the Stars and in the Big Bash more broadly. I’m pleased he’s accepted this opportunity to move into a Head Coach position with the WBBL squad,” Graf said.

“Trent brings a deep understanding of the game and has demonstrated an ability to think differently and outside the box in the way we prepare elite teams to deliver on the field. I know Trent will be working hard with the current squad and any future new signings to deliver a highly competitive squad ahead of this season.”



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Rachel Priest loses New Zealand central contract

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Rachel Priest has been omitted from New Zealand’s central contract list, while keeper-batter Natalie Dodd and seamer Jess Kerr have been awarded their first deals.

Priest, 34, won back her national contract last year after impressing for Western Storm in the Kia Super League and Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash, having been dropped by former head coach Haidee Tiffin after the 2017 World Cup in England, who cited fitness issues for her omission.

ALSO READ: Rachel Priest travels and plays cricket everywhere (but it’s not her choice)

But after a return of 60 runs in four T20 World Cup innings and no half-centuries since her recall, she has not been offered a contract for the 2020-21 season.

Priest’s fellow keeper-batter Bernadine Bezuidenhout has also made way, after being left out of the T20 World Cup squad, with Dodd – who debuted in 2010 and last played international cricket in 2018 – winning her first full deal following a year on a development contract.

Kerr, whose younger sister Amelia has been a New Zealand regular for nearly four years, has also been offered a national contract for the first time on the back of her tournament-record 20 wickets in last season’s Super Smash, which helped Wellington Blaze to the title. She was part of the squad for the T20 World Cup, playing in New Zealand’s opening game against Sri Lanka.

Bob Carter, New Zealand’s head coach, said that Kerr and Dodd’s contracts were “an acknowledgement of hard work and perseverance”.

“I’m happy the majority of our group can remain stable as we look for continual improvement and application from our players,” Carter said. “We have an experienced core of White Ferns and want to ensure our younger, less experienced players have the chance to learn from them over the next 12 months.”

New Zealand contract list, 2020-21: Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine, Natalie Dodd, Lauren Down, Maddy Green, Holly Huddleston, Hayley Jensen, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Jess Kerr, Rosemary Mair, Katey Martin, Katie Perkins, Anna Peterson, Hannah Rowe, Amy Satterthwaite, Lea Tahuhu.



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South Africa cricketers could resume training next week after government nod

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Subject to government approval, South Africa’s national and franchise cricketers could be back in training from next week, and may be involved in an exhibition event at the end of the month. The country moved to Level 3 of the five-stage lockdown today, which allows non-contact professional sports training and matches to take place, after consultation and approval from the sports ministry.

That means national sporting bodies are required to present the ministry with their return-to-train and return-to-play protocols which should include details around social distancing. Cricket South Africa (CSA) hope to submit their plans this week, with a view to resuming training next week.

In its first stage, the return-to-training plan will see franchise cricketers training at their home grounds, in accordance with set guidelines. That includes a prohibition on the use of saliva on the ball as well as regulations around the use of changing rooms – which will not be allowed – and the number of players and support staff who will train at the same time.

ALSO READ: South Africa’s June tour of Sri Lanka postponed

At a later stage, CSA will look into whether it is possible to obtain permits to allow for players to travel across provincial borders for camps and eventually matches. Currently, South Africans cannot move between provinces for any reason other than a funeral or the transportation of children between parents or to schools and even those trips require a permit. Inter-provincial travel will be allowed at Level 2 of the lockdown, but there is no indication of when that will be.

However, CSA still hope to be able to put on some live action at the end of June. An insider told ESPNcricinfo that the plan is to put on “something which we have not seen before,” which rules out a T20 festival or any other kind of franchise competition. CSA intend to reveal more in the next few weeks.

South Africa are not in a rush to return to training or playing as they enter the winter period. Their next assignment is a two-Test and five-match T20 series in West Indies in July-August, which is set to be postponed with West Indies due to be in England until the end of July. CSA and Cricket West Indies remain in talks about when to schedule the series and are considering all options, including playing it in South Africa later in the year.

South Africa are also due to host India for three T20s at the end of August and are looking at creating a bio-secure bubble for the series, which will take place behind closed doors. That series is particularly important for CSA finances, as it will help bolster their bank balance, amid forecasted losses of R645 million (approx. US $36.9 million) over the next four years. With South Africa’s Covid-19 cases expected to peak around July, it is possible the India series will have to take place later in the summer but CSA are confident it can happen before the end of the financial year in February 2021.



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