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Zimbabwe’s three-match ODI tour to Australia postponed

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Zimbabwe’s three-match ODI tour of Australia in early August has been postponed due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19.

Although the series had been included in the schedule put out last month it was always unlikely that the short series, which was set to be played in northern Australia, would be able to take place.

A range of issues have prevented the games from being played including the short length of the series, the significant bio-security measures that would need to be implemented prior to August, and concern for the health and safety of players, match officials, and volunteers.

Speaking earlier this month Justin Langer indicated the matches were not on his radar when he spoke about getting the players ready for a potential return to action in September with the possibility of a rescheduled limited-overs tour to England.

The matches were due to be played on August 9, 12, and 15 although only the third game had a venue confirmed with Townsville. It is the first full home series Australia have lost due to Covid-19 although the final two ODIs against New Zealand in March were cancelled after the opening game of the series was played behind closed doors at the SCG. Their Test tour to Bangladesh in June was also postponed.

Outside of the 2015 World Cup it would have been Zimbabwe’s first visit to Australia since taking part in a tri-series in 2004 and Cricket Australia said they were committed to finding a future slot for the matches. Since Covid-19 struck, Zimbabwe have also lost series against Ireland, Afghanistan and India.

“While we are disappointed to postpone the series, CA and ZC agree that in the best interest of players, match officials, volunteers as well as our fans, that this is the most practical and sensible decision,” CA’s interim chief executive Nick Hockley said. “We are committed to working with Zimbabwe Cricket on alternative dates to reschedule.”

Acting Zimbabwe Cricket Managing Director, Givemore Makoni, said: “We were excited about facing Australia but, given the circumstances, deferring the tour was the only option. We are, however, looking forward to the rescheduling of the series as soon as practically possible.”

There are ongoing discussions between CA and the ECB about Australia travelling in September for the ODI and T20I matches that were originally scheduled for July. The next scheduled home cricket for the men’s team is two T20I series against West Indies and India in early October although they are also likely to be moved if, as expected, the T20 World Cup is postponed.



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PCB: Saleem Malik’s response unsatisfactory and irrelevant

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Saleem Malik‘s ongoing quest to be reintegrated into Pakistan cricket has been pushed back once again by the PCB. The board believes Malik hasn’t again responded satisfactorily to the contents of a conversation 20 years ago in which he talked about fixing cricket matches.

While Malik insists he had submitted a response last month to the board regarding a sting operation by an English tabloid 20 years ago, the PCB does not believe his response appropriately addresses the matter.

After the Qayyum report was released in 2000 – in which Malik was banned for life – the now-defunct newspaper News of the World released a video in which Malik was allegedly caught offering to potentially corrupt players and games in exchange for money.

The reporter involved in the sting – Mazher Mahmood – was the same as the one that carried out the 2010 Lord’s spot-fixing operation. The revelations and allegations arising from the sting were not part of the Justice Qayyum inquiry; that inquiry took place in the year before this story and the report had been made public days before the sting.

While Malik remained out of the fold for a number of years, he has recently begun to appeal to the PCB to reintegrate him, and made himself available for coaching or mentoring roles. The PCB, however, remain adamant that will not be possible until Malik has substantively dealt with the questions that the sting raised.

Malik submitted his response in June, but the PCB’s statement on Friday makes clear they are not satisfied with its contents. ESPNcricinfo understands the board believes the response to be irrelevant to the issue at hand. “In the backdrop of the above, the PCB will be unable to proceed any further until such time you respond on the said matter,” the statement said.

Malik’s cricketing career was ultimately sullied by match-fixing scandals. In a judicial inquiry that began in 1998 and continued for 13 months, he was found guilty of bribing Australian cricketers Shane Warne and Mark Waugh to lose the 1994-95 Karachi Test. Malik was fined Rs 1 million and banned for life in 2000, but eight years later his sentence was overturned by a Lahore sessions court, allowing him theoretically to return to the fold. However, today’s statement from the PCB makes clear little progress has been made between the two parties since Malik began his latest attempt to completely rehabilitate himself.

The PCB accused the former captain of “denial and avoidance” with respect to the transcripts, and referred to an apology he had made in 2014 in which he appeared to “accept my wrongdoing, apologise to the fans and start my rehabilitation process”.

The PCB also addressed Danish Kaneria‘s recent appeals for rehabilitation. The legspinner was banned for life in 2012 by the ECB after a disciplinary panel found him guilty of corruption after a stint in county cricket in the UK, implicated during fellow player Mervyn Westfield’s criminal trial. The board told the player he was appealing to the wrong party, and was advised to approach the ECB, the board that had banned him in the first place.

“You were banned for life by the ECB’s Cricket Discipline Commission after it was established that you had ‘knowingly induced or encouraged Mervyn Westfield not to perform on his merits in the Durham match'” the statement said. “You subsequently challenged the decision before the Appeal Panel of the Cricket Disciplinary Commission, which was upheld. Then, you appealed before a commercial bench of the High Court in London, which was dismissed. Then, you appealed before the Court of Appeal (Civil Division), which was rejected. The PCB’s rehabilitation programme is offered to players upon conclusion of the respective periods of ineligibility and not for players who are serving life bans.”



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First-class counties to compete for Bob Willis Trophy

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First-class counties in the UK will compete for the Bob Willis Trophy in a four-day competition as part of a shortened 2020 domestic season, the ECB has confirmed.

The ECB said on Friday that all 18 first-class counties had agreed to play in the same competitive red- and white-ball competitions, following a delayed start to the season due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As reported by ESPNcricinfo in May, the four-day competition will feature three regional groups of six teams who will each contest five first-class games with a five-day final expected to be played at Lord’s. The winner will claim the Bob Willis trophy, named after the former England captain who died in December. A shortened Vitality Blast competition will begin on August 27.

ALSO READ: County Championship could include Lord’s final with hopes for August start

Neil Snowball, ECB managing director of county cricket, said in a statement on Friday that the counties had “been united with a common goal to get back to our core function of playing cricket”.

“The commitment of the chairs and chief executives of the first-class counties to work together to achieve that ambition has been resolute and we will remain in close discussion as we continue to assess risk factors that need to be mitigated in order to ensure the safety and welfare of their players, coaches and staff,” Snowball said.

“We are all delighted that agreement has been reached across the game and we are now in a position to look forward to and prepare for a new men’s domestic season starting on 1 August.”

ESPNcricinfo understands that the counties voted by a narrow margin to play first-class and T20 cricket in the abbreviated season while some, including Hampshire, held safety concerns about hotel stays and voted to start the season with a 50-over competition and not play first-class cricket in 2020.

Venues would contact ticket holders for men’s domestic matches and first-class county members to inform them of the options available to them after a new fixture schedule has been announced, the ECB said.



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Stuart Broad ‘frustrated’ and ‘angry’ at being left out of England side for first Test

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Stuart Broad has described himself as “frustrated” and “angry” at having been left out of England’s side for the first Test of the series against West Indies.

Broad, the second highest wicket-taker in England’s Test history, said he found the decision “difficult to understand” and suggested he had sought clarification on his future from Ed Smith, the national selector.

“I’m not a particularly emotional person but I’ve found the last couple of days quite tough,” Broad told Sky Sports shortly before play resumed on the third day. “To say I was disappointed would be an understatement; you’re disappointed if you drop your phone and the screen breaks.

“I’m frustrated, angry and gutted. It’s difficult to understand. I’ve probably bowled the best I’ve ever bowled the last couple of years, I felt it was my shirt. I was in the team for the Ashes and going to South Africa and winning there.”

ALSO READ: Broad’s stock rises in lone spectator role

Broad was England’s leading wicket-taker in their previous Test series – he claimed 14 wickets at a cost of 19.42 apiece in South Africa – and in the Ashes series of 2019, when he claimed 23 wickets at 26.65.

“I spoke to Ed Smith [the national selector] last night, he said he was involved in picking the 13 and this side was picked purely for this pitch,” Broad continued. “I wanted clarification on my the future going forward and I was given pretty positive feedback going forward.

“So yes, I was frustrated in the fact that I felt like I deserved a spot in the team.”

ALSO READ: Broad faces axe as England ponder Wood and Archer for first Test

Despite that frustration, Broad accepted the bowlers picked in front of him also deserved their places and accepted that the current competition for places was probably a healthy thing for England.

“You can’t argue the bowlers walking on that field don’t deserve to play,” Broad said. “Everyone deserves to play. Chris Woakes, Sam Curran were bowling really well and probably deserve to be in the XI. It’s just annoying when it’s not you that’s in that XI. Very rarely do you get guys fit and available for each Test match. That’s where selection has been tricky.

“It’s great to see strength and depth in the fast bowling ranks. It’s the only way that England cricket moves forward and gets better. And with high competition in squads it keeps the standard high. Everyone is under pressure for their spots.”

Broad’s omission broke a run of 51 consecutive home Tests dating back to 2012.



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