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Pakistan domestic cricket likely to start with T20 Cup in September

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The PCB has made a principle decision to start the domestic season this year in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic under a strict biosecure environment. The season is likely to start in the last week of September with a national T20 Cup in Multan or Rawalpindi. The premier tournament Quaid-e-Azam Trophy will be hosted by Karachi all along. There will be a 40-man squad for each of the six association teams this year to counter the worst scenario of anyone testing positive for Covid-19.

Since 1972, Pakistan hasn’t missed a single season of domestic cricket, though between 1953 and 1971, there were seasons (1955-56, 1965-66 and 1971-72) in which it wasn’t held for many reasons including two India-Pakistan wars.

There were considerable doubts for the upcoming season as well due to the pandemic, with the country presently having nearly 275,000 cases. That led the government to announce a lockdown despite the upcoming festival of Eid, with all retail shops, markets, shopping malls and plazas to remain closed until August 5. The curve in the country has gone down in the last one month but the government remains cautioned with cases expected to take another peak by the end of July and early August, according to prime minister Imran Khan.

The domestic season will eventually start with a delay, though of not more than a month. The calendar is being worked out to limit the matches of a single tournament to one venue to effectively manage the logistics between the hotel and the stadium.

The PCB hasn’t officially released the details, but unofficially it has been confirmed that the T20 Cup will be the first tournament to start the season, aiming at the Pakistan Super League players’ draft in November to allow franchises to witness players. The national Under-19 tournament will also be played in the October-November window.

ALSO READ: PCB chief Ehsan Mani wants to attract foreign talent in domestic cricket

The first-class season will be played in Karachi with a truncated schedule as teams previously had to travel inter-city. But in Karachi, which has over six venues, the gap between two games will be reduced. There are SOPs that are being chalked out adhering to the protocol being followed internationally. Players who test negative for Covid-19 will be allowed to enter the bubble; any player breaching the protocol will have to go through a quarantine period and face a penalty ranging from a fine to a ban from one or more games.

All competitions are marked as being played under unprecedented circumstances with strict health and safety protocols. The SOPs will most likely mirror the international norms but a few will be customised on a duty to care basis. The playing conditions will broadly be the same, but as witnessed in the Test series between England and West Indies, bowlers will not be allowed to use saliva to shine the ball. Umpires, referees and scorers, who often went back home on normal days, will have to remain in the bubble alongside the teams in the hotels.

The PCB had last month tried to bring its cricketers back to training but the idea was shot down amidst concerns of Covid-19. The senior Pakistan team, however, flew to England in advance ahead of their series to train in a biosecure bubble. A group has been undergoing conditioning camps and playing intra-squad matches to prepare for the Test series starting August 5.

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the PCB has been in a bid to mitigate the impact on domestic cricketers, offering all the selected players annual contracts from August 2020. Otherwise, after extensive structural changes to the domestic game last season, there would have been a steep fall in the earnings of several cricketers. But this year, the board enhanced the value of contracts while introducing a new grade-based system of monthly retainers and match fees.



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Ben Stokes to miss rest of England-Pakistan series for family matter

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Ben Stokes will miss the rest of England’s Test series against Pakistan after withdrawing from the squad for family reasons. He is set to travel to New Zealand, where his parents live, next week and will not be available for the two behind-closed-doors Tests in Southampton.

Stokes’ father Ged was hospitalised in days before the Boxing Day Test against South Africa during England’s winter tour, and has since been recuperating back home in New Zealand.

England’s Test vice-captain, Stokes has played a central role in the summer so far. He led the team in Joe Root’s absence for the opening Test against West Indies, scored a century and a fifty in the second, and has chipped in with 11 wickets despite more recently playing as a specialist batsmen.

ALSO READ: Dobell: England are lucky to have Woakes

“The England and Wales Cricket Board, along with the Stokes family, requests that all media respects the family’s privacy at this time,” an ECB statement said.

His absence will likely add to England’s selection headaches for the rest of the series. In order to compensate for the loss of his bowling, after he experienced a sore quad during the second West Indies Test, England have fielded a five-man bowling attack in the last two games, with Stokes batting at No. 4.

Although he scored 0 and 9 in the first Test against Pakistan, he again demonstrated his all-round value by coming on to bowl in the second innings and picking up 2 for 11, as England came back from conceding a 107-run deficit to take a 1-0 lead in the series.

Zak Crawley is the likeliest candidate to come into the top order, potentially returning at No. 3 and allowing Root to drop back down a place. The return to form of both Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes, whose 139-run partnership was pivotal in securing victory against Pakistan, may also help compensate for Stokes’ absence, with the allrounder understood to have told his team-mates of his decision after the conclusion of the Test on Saturday.

Buttler, whose form with bat and gloves had been under scrutiny, was also playing despite a health scare for his father, who went into hospital on Friday but was well enough to return home on Saturday.

The second Test against Pakistan begins at the Ageas Bowl on Thursday. England will have played six Tests in seven weeks, all under strict bio-security protocols as part of the ECB’s efforts to combat the effect of Covid-19, with only a short break in between the two series.



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Heather Knight ‘pretty gutted’ at 2021 Women’s World Cup postponement

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England captain Heather Knight has admitted she feels “pretty gutted” about the ICC’s decision to postpone the Women’s World Cup from 2021 to 2022, and raised fears that boards will use it as “an excuse… to put women’s cricket on the back burner”.

The ICC made the decision on Friday, citing the need to maintain the “integrity of the tournament” by ensuring that all teams had sufficient preparation.

“We have taken the decision to move the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup to give players from every competing nation, the best opportunity to be ready for the world’s biggest stage and there is still a global qualifier to complete to decide the final three teams,” Manu Sawhney, the ICC’s chief executive, said.

“Moving the event by 12 months gives all competing teams the chance to play a sufficient level of cricket ahead of both the qualification event and leading into a Cricket World Cup so the integrity of the tournament is maintained.”

ALSO READ: Why the Women’s World Cup was postponed

But Knight expressed her fears that boards would not give sufficient attention to women’s cricket without a world tournament to prepare for.

Alyssa Healy, the Australia wicketkeeper, also expressed her frustration at the decision, which she labelled “remarkable” in response to a tweet from journalist Scott Bailey comparing the number of Covid-19 cases in New Zealand and India.

Knight’s England team were back in training this week ahead of their series against South Africa, which is due to start at the end of this month. It will be the first women’s international cricket to be played since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.





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Recent Match Report – Worcestershire vs Glamorgan Central Group 2020

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Worcestershire 309 for 3 (Libby 142*, D’Oliveira 123*) v Glamorgan

Jake Libby scored a hundred on his home debut for Worcestershire as he and fellow centurion Brett D’Oliveira dominated proceedings after an initial three-wicket burst by Glamorgan paceman Michael Hogan in the Bob Willis Trophy encounter at Blackfinch New Road.

The pair came together at 70 for 3 shortly before lunch and Libby, signed during the close season from Nottinghamshire on a three-year contract, completed the sixth first-class ton of his career from 205 balls with 11 boundaries. He ended unbeaten on 142 from 261 deliveries with one six and 14 fours.

D’Oliveira went to his century from 183 balls with 14 fours and the stand was worth an unbroken 239 in 64 overs – a new record for Worcestershire’s fourth wicket in matches against Glamorgan. He finished on 123 from 206 balls with one six and 15 boundaries as Worcestershire closed on 309 for 3 from 91 overs.

Libby followed on from his 77 in his first appearance for his new county in the eight-wicket success against Gloucestershire at Bristol. He had indicated a willingness to open when he signed for Worcestershire and fill the berth alongside Daryl Mitchell which has often been problematic in recent years.

Libby was Nottinghamshire’s leading run-scorer in the County Championship in 2018 but a flux of signings restricted his red ball opportunities last summer at Trent Bridge and he ended his six-year association with the club. Worcestershire are hoping the best years of the 27-year-old lie ahead in the same way as they have recruited Gareth Roderick for next season from Gloucestershire.

Libby had one slice of good fortune when dropped on 43 at second slip by Charlie Hemphrey off Timm van der Gugten but otherwise batted with great authority and received a standing ovation from his team-mates when he reached three figures.

D’Oliveira also played a sparkling knock which maintained his fine start to the truncated campaign after his unbeaten 91 versus Gloucestershire. He had struck 14 fours before he reached his hundred with a square drive for two off Hogan which then resulted in four overthrows. The 28-year-old was also grateful to Hemphrey for a spilled chance at slip when on 67 as he went to cut spinner Kieran Bull.

Hogan had been the star performer during the morning session when two spells produced combined figures of 9-3-15-3. But he was unable to add to his tally during the afternoon or evening session to leave him still one short of 600 first-class wickets in his career.

The 39-year-old had dismissed Daryl Mitchell and Tom Fell in his opening spell and returned to account for Jack Haynes shortly before lunch.

Worcestershire brought back Dillon Pennington for rested paceman Josh Tongue while Glamorgan recalled Tom Cullen and van der Gugten at the expense of Marchant de Lange and the injured Ruaidhri Smith (hamstring injury).

Hogan dismissed Mitchell for a duck with the fourth delivery of the day after he flicked at a delivery down the leg side and keeper Chris Cooke held onto a fine catch away to his left.

New batsman Fell had a left off when Cooke failed to hold onto a difficult chance from another testing Hogan delivery – but it did not prove to be a costly miss. On eight, he nicked another ball from Hogan and this time Cooke made no mistake with a sharp low catch.

Libby and Jack Haynes attempted to rebuild the innings and experienced few alarms in adding 48 in 16 overs. But then Hogan’s return accounted for Haynes (21) when the England Under-19 batsman went for an ambitious hook and holed out to Dan Douthwaite on the backward square leg boundary.

D’Oliveira and Libby batted with plenty of fluency after joining forces. A straight drive for four off van Gugten completed a half century for Libby from 94 balls with seven boundaries. D’Oliveira cut Douthwaite for four to bring up his half century from 78 balls and also the 100 partnership in the 34th over.

The fourth-wicket pair both hit two boundaries apiece in successive overs from spinner Bull and accelerated in the final session as the milestones of a personal and team nature were clocked up.



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