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West Indies batting form a ‘worry’, admits Estwick

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Roddy Estwick, West Indies assistant coach, has admitted he is slightly troubled by the top-order’s form ahead of the Test series against England but insists there is no concern over captain Jason Holder‘s form.

While many have made scores of substance in the two intra-squad matches at Emirates Old Trafford in the last couple of weeks, there was some alarm when their frontline batsmen capitulated to the first-choice bowlers on Wednesday.

A top-five of Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shamarh Brooks, Shai Hope and Roston Chase subsided to 9 for 3 and 49 for 5 in their final competitive innings before next week’s first Test at the Ageas Bowl.

ALSO READ: Holder’s lean run continues as Simmons rejoins squad

“I would have loved to see the batsmen spend a little bit more time in the middle,” Estwick told the PA news agency. “That would be one of the biggest worries, that none of the batsman in the Test squad got a score in this innings.

“In the first game players got scores so it’s not a major concern but I would love to see a couple getting scores in this match. They’ve still got a little bit more time.

“In England you’ve got to get used to leaving the ball, especially early on. The ball’s obviously going to nip around so you’ve got to be able to know where your off stump is, know what to leave and what to play at. We’re obviously going down to a different surface at Southampton, we’ve got to assess that surface as quickly as possible and hit the ground running.”

Holder’s woes with the bat continued on Thursday after his move to open the innings backfired when he was dismissed for 2 off 15 balls, leaving one from Anderson Phillip that nipped back in and clipped his off bail.

That means he has scored just seven runs and faced fewer than 30 deliveries in three innings while he has bowled only five overs across the internal matches after an ankle niggle. Estwick, though, believes Holder, No. 1 in the ICC Test allrounder rankings, will not be undercooked at Southampton.

“Anybody that knows Jason Holder well wouldn’t be worried. He is a strong and tough competitor and he’s mentally very, very strong as well. Jason knows how to prepare for Test match cricket, he’s been the number one allrounder for a number of years so he’ll be ready come July 8, no worries at all.”

Joshua Da Silva was the star performer with the bat for the Holder XI in the drawn four-day contest against a side led by Brathwaite, the 22-year-old following up his unbeaten first-innings century with 56 not out in the second dig as he amassed 189 runs without dismissal.

It will not be enough to be catapulted into the Test squad from the reserves but Estwick has been impressed by the youngster. “He played very well in the game and I’m sure that his time will come,” Estwick said.

Estwick had been leading the side this week as head coach Phil Simmons was self-isolating in his hotel room after recently attending his father-in-law’s funeral. Simmons was back presiding over the warm-ups on Thursday morning after testing negative for coronavirus for a third time, allowing him to link up with the rest of the touring party.

Estwick added: “We’ve missed him, obviously. But he’s back now with us and everything is good to go. It wasn’t a disruption because it happened in the game. You tend to miss more hands on deck in practice but if there’s a game going on, you’ve only got to monitor preparation and the odd person going into the nets.

“But as our leader, we’re happy to have him back and it’s very important that he’s back for us because now we can sit down, plan and prepare. We’ve been here now for three weeks so it’s all about good, solid planning and letting the players execute properly.”



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Recent Match Report – Pakistan vs England 1st Test 2020

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Pakistan 139 for 2 (Azam 69*, Masood 46*) v England

Babar Azam and Shan Masood lifted Pakistan on a day punctuated by shifting fortunes on the field and above it as the first match in the three-Test series against England began.

A moment of silence to remember those who have lost their lives in the Covid-19 pandemic before play began under heavy skies put the match in perspective and emphasised the efforts of both countries to stage this contest behind closed doors at Emirates Old Trafford.

Having been in England for a month, preparing in the relative anonymity provided by England’s series against West Indies, Pakistan arrived to their first Test since February as questions swirled over their readiness to face an opposition which has three matches’ worth of competition fitness in them.

By the time rain brought about an early tea and delayed the evening session by nearly three hours, it was batsmen Azam and Masood who looked to be in a groove against a bowling attack that seemed to have turned rusty at lunch.

After his captain, Azhar Ali, won the toss and elected to bat first – opposite number Joe Root said he would have done the same – Pakistan opener Masood withstood a tricky period against Stuart Broad and James Anderson first up, accompanied by Abid Ali in a partnership that was approaching fifty when Jofra Archer entered the attack.

Having rounded off his first over with a couple of steepling bouncers which were evaded well by Abid, Archer struck with the first ball of his second over when he bowled Abid with a beauty through the gate and into off stump, thus ending a patient start by Abid and the partnership on 46.

After a brief rain interruption, Masood settled, guiding Archer through the bare gully region with smart, soft hands for four.

But then Chris Woakes, who had relieved Anderson after five overs, struck with a full delivery that thwacked Azhar Ali on the pad in line and sent him on his way for a six-ball duck, despite his swift call for a review, which only confirmed the lbw decision.

That brought Azam to the crease and he showed his class, somehow escaping a testing first delivery from Woakes that narrowly missed the outside edge and off stump and negotiating the ever-challenging Archer.

But it was against Anderson after lunch that Azam settled into his stride, finding the boundary three times in as many overs to bring his spell to a swift end.

Anderson even became the first bowler to be called for a front-foot no-ball – a rarity for him – by the third umpire in Tests under the new system being trialled during this series when he over-stepped bowling to Azam in the 31st over.

Meanwhile, Masood was enjoying almost as good a time against Broad and, by the time Root turned to Archer and the offspin of Dom Bess, the batsmen were in a decent flow. They put on 78 runs together and, as Azam brought up his half-century off just 70 balls with a punch into the covers off Bess and then passed it with two runs behind square off Archer, the rain hit.

By that stage, Masood had moved to 45 not out, Pakistan had recovered from 43 for 2 to 121 for 2 and the players faced a long stay in the dressing rooms.

Manchester was eventually bathed in bright sunshine but, by the end of mopping-up operations, play resumed under lights with the dim skies back overhead.

Archer, who had bowled one ball before the lengthy stoppage, finished his over with plenty of short stuff, which meant Root was forced to turn back to spin, bringing himself on with Bess.

Masood added just one run, having faced 152 balls – more than any other visiting opener in England since 2016 – for his 46 not out before bad light forced play to be abandoned for the day.

In the course of his innings, Masood had two lives, both from Jos Buttler off the bowling of Bess. On 45, he survived an edge through to the keeper, and he hadn’t added to his score when, after the rain break, he charged at Bess, attempted to hit the ball to the leg side but missed, only to be saved when the ball bounced out of Jos Buttler’s gloves. At the other end, Azam had moved to an unbeaten 69 off 100 balls in a third-wicket stand of 96.



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Vivo pulls out as IPL 2020 title sponsors

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IPL title rights holders Vivo have pulled out of this year’s tournament, ESPNcricinfo understands. The development follows a public outcry over the tournament’s association with Vivo, a Chinese company, following clashes at the India-China border in June.

Neither the BCCI nor Vivo were available for comment on the issue.

In June, the BCCI had said it would “review” the sponsorship deals concerning the IPL, but did not name any brand. “Taking note of the border skirmish that resulted in the martyrdom of our brave jawans, the IPL Governing Council has convened a meeting next week to review IPL’s various sponsorship deals,” BCCI said in a tweet posted on June 19.

According to India Today Vivo would return as IPL’s title sponsor for the 2022 and 2023 editions. It also has reported that the BCCI will issue a tender in the coming days to find a title sponsor for the 2020 IPL season.

Two days ago, the BCCI’s formal announcement – signed by secretary Jay Shah – of the IPL being played in the UAE between September 15 and November 10 mentioned Vivo as the title sponsor.

The decision is not likely to significantly affect the franchises financially. ESPNcricinfo spoke with several franchises, each of whom said that while the IPL was yet to inform them of the development, they were not fussed at the news. It is understood each franchise gets approximately Rs 20 crore per year from the Vivo contract. As far they are concerned, as long as the BCCI can rope in a replacement for Vivo, this development will not have any impact on them.

Vivo had bagged the title sponsorship for two years initially in 2015, and retained the rights signing a five-year contract (2017-22), paying about USD 341 million.



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Wasim Khan calls on England to tour Pakistan before 2022

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Wasim Khan is hoping England will send a T20 team to Pakistan ahead of their next scheduled visit in 2022.

England have not toured Pakistan since 2005-06 due to security concerns. But, before the Covid-19 pandemic, hopes had risen that they would return to the country in two years’ time.

Now, however, with Pakistan having helped England fulfil their international fixtures at significant inconvenience to their own players – they have already been in the country for a month and remain in lockdown – Wasim, the PCB chief executive, is hoping England can return the favour.

“England are due to tour in 2022 and we’d love to have them coming over well before then for a shorter tour,” Wasim told Sky Sports. “It’s something that we’ll speak to the ECB about. But it’s baby steps. There’s a lot of cricket still left to play. But we’re hoping in the near future England will definitely come.”

Wasim subsequently confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that he hoped England could send a T20 side to Pakistan. He accepted that “finding time in the FTP (future tours programme) could be the challenge at this stage” but suggested that a Lions tour, something he was calling for ahead of the dawn of Covid-19, would be “excellent as an alternative”.

ALSO READ: Jason Holder calls for reciprocal tour of Caribbean as West Indies fly home

While the ECB clarified there was no specific on-going discussion on the subject at present, it is not inconceivable the present global situation and the backlog in international fixtures could accelerate the usage of separate squads in red and white ball cricket.

England used something close to an A team for their recently concluded ODI series against Ireland – the final game featured four of the England XI that won the World Cup final – and they could potentially satisfy more requests for tours if they were to do so more often. West Indies have also expressed hopes England will tour in the coming months as they grapple with the financial ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Whether such tours take place or not, England’s schedule is likely to prove hectic in the coming months. A limited-overs tour of South Africa is currently pencilled in for December, while they hope to return to Sri Lanka in January to fulfil the Test tour that was called off in March. They are then expected to play a five-Test series against India which may well take place in the UAE. The IPL runs from September 19 to November 8.



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