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Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez back for Bangladesh T20s

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The experienced pair of Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez will return to the Pakistan side for the T20I series against Bangladesh next week. Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz have been left out, with pace bowler Muhammad Musa keeping his place in the shortest format, while batsman Ahsan Ali and fast bowler Amad Butt were called up.

For the second T20I squad in succession, head coach Misbah-ul-Haq rung in the changes as Pakistan look to break a streak of seven T20Is without a win. Pacer Shaheen Afridi returns to the side for the first time since May, having sat out the T20s against Sri Lanka and Australia as he recovered from about of dengue fever, while Usman Qadir keeps his place and may finally be in line for his debut. Haris Rauf has also been called up after his impressive season in the Big Bash League with the Melbourne Stars.

Squad: Babar Azam (capt), Ahsan Ali, Amad Butt, Iftikhar Ahmed Haris Rauf, Imad Wasim, Khushdil Shah Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Musa, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Usman Qadir

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Door opened for return of departmental teams to Pakistan domestic circuit

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There’s a possibility of departmental teams returning to the Pakistan domestic circuit, after the Iqbal Qasim-led PCB cricket committee discussed the recent changes to the domestic structure and tasked Haroon Rasheed, the director of domestic cricket, to try and find a window to potentially squeeze in a new tournament.

“The cricket committee recommended the PCB should explore a window in the 2020-21 domestic cricket to slot in a tournament for the departments,” the PCB said in a statement. “In this relation, Director – Domestic cricket operations, Haroon Rashid, has been requested to look into the potential window in the next season and update the cricket committee at the next meeting, which is expected in April.”

Imran Khan, the former Pakistan captain who is now the prime minister of the country as well as the patron of the PCB, has been a long-time advocate of having only regional teams in the domestic circuit, and even shot down a PCB proposal in March last year, which had suggested a system that included the departmental teams, like Habib Bank Limited (HBL), Pakistan International Airlines, and Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA). Based on Imran’s instructions, the 2019-20 season was contested by provincial teams – Balochistan, Central Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Northern, Sindh and Southern Punjab. There could, potentially, be a rethink on that, though whether the prime minister signs off on it remains to be seen.

Domestic cricket in Pakistan has been played among departments and regions since the early 1970s, when Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Pakistan’s first Test captain and then PCB chairman, encouraged organisations like HBL, Sui Southern Gas Corporation, WAPDA and others to provide employment opportunities for players. Since then, the top players have been contracted by the departments in question and given full-time jobs. The role of these departments in helping Pakistan cricket and cricketers has been significant, but it ended up depriving the regional sides from making use of their top players.

Till the 2018-19 season, 16 teams took part in the domestic circuit, playing the country’s premier first-class tournament, the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. Eight of these were from the provinces and the other eight from departments. After the revamp prior to the last season, most companies – WAPDA the exception – shut down their cricket teams, leaving many players without jobs. With the six regional teams in action, the number of players playing at the highest level domestically also went down significantly – from over 500 players to 192.

However, at the end of the first-class season, with the PSL around the corner, the PCB decided to look into the possibility of allowing departments back into the system. The matter dominated the discussions in the year’s first cricket committee meeting in Karachi, at the end of which the plan to look for a new window was suggested. ESPNcricinfo understands that the issue was discussed even last year, but implementing it wasn’t possible at the time. The Pakistan domestic season starts in October every year and runs until April.



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‘If something ignites…’ Quinton de Kock, David Warner ready for on-field reunion

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The short, sharp nature of the upcoming white-ball series between South Africa and Australia may rob the teams of the time required to recreate the drama of 2018, according to one of its chief protagonists, David Warner.

A little less than two years ago, when Australia toured South Africa for a four-Test series, Warner was involved in tense on- and off-field battles with the opposition and their fans, culminating in the ball-tampering scandal that saw him, Steven Smith and Cameron Bancroft hit with lengthy bans – but he doesn’t expect anything similar this time.

“It’s one-day cricket and Twenty20 cricket and you don’t really have much time over the short period of the time to get underneath each other’s skin or anything like that,” Warner said. “And you don’t go out there to do that. Obviously they [South Africa] had some heated exchanges with the English and that was during the Test matches. For us, our focus is moving forward and trying to get the wins on the board and send a message to everyone that the World Cup is in our backyard and we want to be a team to be beaten.”

ALSO READ: ‘Play along with the crowd and have fun’ – Smith on SA return

South Africa’s new white-ball captain, Quinton de Kock was not quite so sure of the same.

“If something ignites, maybe if a player decides to take on another player, then maybe the fierceness from both of teams will reignite again,” de Kock said. “Who knows? Maybe not. Maybe we just play the game hard but not with you know…”

De Kock was the catalyst for the “you know” last time, when he said something to Warner as they walked off the field for tea during the Kingsmead Test. By then, de Kock had taken sustained abuse from Warner about everything from his appearance to his weight, in silence, until at the last moment, he lashed out. De Kock’s comment was never fully made public but the Australian camp said it was personal and the South African crowd believed it had to do with Warner’s wife, Candice, and a previous liaison.

As the matter snowballed, de Kock is understood to have wanted to seek out Candice Warner to personally apologise, but didn’t get the chance.

Has he done so since, to either of the Warners? “We haven’t really had any conversations. Me and him have moved on from there,” de Kock said. “We look to just play cricket. We both love to play the game really hard. I don’t think anything will happen. We will just carry on. We won’t worry too much about it.”

Warner expects an equally cordial relationship with de Kock. “I don’t have his number and I speak to a few of the South African guys but I’ve never played in the same team as him or anything like that,” Warner said. “Obviously it’s a little bit different. I’m sure if I see him on the field and that we’ll just treat each other how we normally would as respectful opponents.”

Ultimately, respect is what Warner wants from all involved, chiefly the South African fans who were very much part of the 2018 fracas. Their taunting of Candice was condemned as sexist. Asked if he expects more of the same, Warner hoped that would not be the case and reminded spectators that they have responsibilities as well.

“For me, it’s about you’ve got to have some form of respect as well,” Warner said. “It was poor and from my behalf, it’s about moving forward. If people want to go to the game and carry on like that, then it’s upon themselves, and they’ve got to look at themselves in the mirror and if they want to act like that, so be it.

“It doesn’t bother me but it shows at the end of the day. They’re representing their country as well, they’re spectators watching a game of cricket, I’m pretty sure you don’t want to be walking away here with teams criticising the way that their fans are acting, it’s up to them. We’ve got to come here and put our best foot forward and try and win the game.”

So far, though, Warner’s experience of being back in South Africa has been positive, despite the painful memories. “Obviously echoing Steve’s words yesterday, about walking into first the airport and then walking into here, obviously the memories weren’t great,” he said. “But the last few days, every single person that we’ve come across that’s asked for a photo, or that we’ve come into contact with or spoken to, have had nothing but great words to say and welcoming us to the country and being really, really polite.

“It’s been incredible how much support we’ve had from people in the public. I just played golf and they went over and above to make us feel more welcome. It’s actually a great feeling.”



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Recent Match Report – New Zealand vs India, ICC World Test Championship, 1st Test

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New Zealand opt to bowl v India

On a drizzly, windy Wellington morning, New Zealand got off to a good start to the two-Test series by winning the toss and asking India to bat first. They were missing their enforcer Neil Wagner away on paternity leave, who was replaced by the tall right-arm fast bowler Kyle Jamieson. Having named their XII on the eve of the match, New Zealand made the call to go in with a more orthodox combination, which meant Ajaz Patel made it and not medium-pace allrounder Daryl Mitchell.

India were more orthodox too than their edgy experimental selves on away tours. They went in with six specialist batsmen, the more accomplished spinner, and most importantly Ishant Sharma, who made a near-miraculous return to full fitness after tearing an ankle ligament in December. Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal were the chosen openers, and Hanuma Vihari the No. 6 batsman. Rishabh pant got the nod ahead of Wriddhiman Saha for his batting prowess. R Ashwin pipped Ravindra Jadeja, presumably because he can use the breeze better.

New Zealand 1 Tom Latham, 2 Tom Blundell, 3 Kane Williamson (capt.), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 BJ Watling (wk), 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Ajaz Patel, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Kyle Jamieson, 11 Trent Boult

India 1 Mayank Agarwal, 2 Prithvi Shaw, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt.), 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Hanuma Vihari, 7 Rishabh Pant (wk), 8 R Ashwin, 9 Ishant Sharma, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Jasprit Bumrah



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