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Jos Buttler looks set to retain his role as England’s first-choice T20I opener, despite his job swap with Ben Stokes during their IPL campaign with Rajasthan Royals, but there’s unlikely to be an immediate recall for Joe Root, according to head coach Chris Silverwood, even though he restated his value as a short-form batsman during Monday’s intra-squad warm-up in Paarl.

Speaking to PA media in the lead-up to the first of three T20Is against South Africa, Silverwood admitted he had been intrigued by Rajasthan’s manoeuvrings in the UAE last month, in which Buttler was shuffled into the finisher’s role at No.5 with Stokes promoted to open – an experiment which paid dividends with one spectacular matchwinning performance, a 59-ball hundred against the eventual champions, Mumbai Indians.

However, the pair reverted to more familiar roles while facing off for Team Buttler against Team Morgan at Boland Park, and though neither produced a score of note at 1 and 3 respectively, Silverwood said that the rejig would not “muddy the waters” for England as they continue to build towards the T20 World Cup in just under a year’s time.

“It’s great that those two guys get experience of doing different things and I don’t think it ever hurts them as players to explore different options, but it doesn’t muddy the waters at all,” Silverwood said.

“We’re pretty certain about which way we want to go and we’ll do that. We are blessed with the batsmen we’ve got here, world-class players who are capable of doing a multitude of jobs in that order.

“I know Ben was keen to do it, he’s always keen to get up the order and give it a go. I wouldn’t say I was surprised, I’d say I was glad to see him do well.”

That wealth of options at the top of England’s order is one of the reasons why Root has been omitted from each of the last two T20I squads – against Australia in September and for this three-match campaign in South Africa. Given his workload as Test captain, and his integral importance to the ODI side, the selectors have felt it would be counter-productive to keep him in the T20I bubble on a regular basis when he is not currently a first-choice pick.

Nevertheless, Root was England’s player of the tournament when they reached the final of the last World T20 in Kolkata four years ago, and he seized a rare chance to restate his T20 credentials at Paarl on Monday, scoring an unbeaten 45 from 26 balls to ease Team Buttler to victory alongside Sam Curran (45 from 18).

Following on from an unbeaten 77 in a 40-over warm-up at the weekend, Root is arguably England’s form batsman on the tour, and while Silverwood seemed to acknowledge the possibility of a T20I recall on this trip, he also insisted that the team for the opening fixture at Newlands on Friday would be drawn from the first-choice squad.

“Never say never. Everybody that’s here is an option,” Silverwood said. “We’ve got a large group of players here but do have that squad that we’ll initially pick from. If guys are here and doing well, you never know, but we picked that squad and we’ll start there.”

Olly Stone is another player who impressed in the warm-up despite not being an official part of the T20I set-up. He claimed 3 for 12 in a high-class display for Team Buttler, and given that the series is set to be dominated by quick bowlers, with Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje lining up opposite Jofra Archer and Mark Wood, the re-emergence of an extra pace option is timely for the England selectors.

ALSO READ: Five things that England can learn from their T20I series in South Africa

“It’s been great to see guys who are not in the squad coming out and saying ‘we want to be in there’,” Silverwood added.

There may yet be plenty opportunities for Root, Stone, and other fringe candidates in England’s set-up, such as the reserve batsman Tom Banton, to make their cases for the T20 World Cup, with Silverwood acknowledging the likelihood of personnel changes within England’s bio-secure bubble, with tours of India and Sri Lanka also looming in the new year.

“I am looking at the moment, for players and staff, how do we get them in and out? Where can we make gaps for them?,” he said. “There’s uncertainty around family visits so it’s about how we make the best of what we’ve got available to us. It’s something I’m scribbling away in my notebook to try and find solutions and various options to get people home to see families and keep people mentally fresh.”

The build-up to the first T20I has been overshadowed by the news of two positive Covid-19 tests within the South African camp, but all of England’s results have so far come back negative, and Silverwood is confident that the measures taken to protect the team environment in their home summer will stand up to scrutiny on tour as well.

“Our main focus is on making sure everything in our camp is in order and that we observe the rules, regulations and protocols in front of us,” he said. “Hopefully that keeps us safe. We did pretty well in the summer with it. I’ll be led by the doctors but ideal scenario is no-one gets it.”



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Men’s Hundred – Eoin Morgan

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Middle order failing to fire, absence of three members of Test squad, Maxwell’s relatively late withdrawal hurt winless London Spirit

Few pundits backed London Spirit for the title in the inaugural season of the men’s Hundred but nobody whose memory stretched as far back as 2008 was willing to write them off. Playing in blue from head to toe, with Shane Warne as head coach and an unfancied squad? There were enough parallels with the Rajasthan Royals side that won the first-ever IPL to suggest they might just pull something improbable out the bag.

But five games into their first season, the Spirit have been the Hundred’s weakest side. They are the only side in the men’s competition yet to win a game, and were thrashed in their fourth and final home fixture (one was a washout) by Northern Superchargers on Tuesday night. The table is still tight enough that they are mathematically in the running, but any realistic chances of qualifying for knockout stages have dissipated.

Their first three defeats were all tight, with each game going down to the final set of five balls. At Edgbaston, they were just short of par in setting Birmingham Phoenix 145 to win, and in the home losses against Trent Rockets and Southern Brave, they were two boundaries away from getting across the line.



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Bangladesh vs Australia T20Is, 2021

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The 1994 tour to Pakistan was the last time a full series was not available to viewers in Australia

For the first time since 1994 a tour by the Australia men’s team will not broadcast into Australia after a last-minute deal failed to materialise for the rights to the T20I series in Bangladesh.

It had been hoped that in the absence of a traditional television deal the series would be streamed on YouTube but there was no live coverage into Australia.

Australia’s injured captain Aaron Finch, who is currently in hotel quarantine in Melbourne having left the tour with a knee injury, was among those caught out by the lack of coverage during the first T20I.

While the occasional one-off limited-overs match has not been seen in Australia over the last few years, it is not since the 1994 tour of Pakistan that an entire series won’t have been shown.



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IPL 2021 – Eoin Morgan to return to Kolkata Knight Riders for second half of IPL

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He says involvement of other England players in the tournament, scheduled in September-October in the UAE, was a matter of personal choice

Eoin Morgan has confirmed he will return to Kolkata Knight Riders for the rescheduled second half of the IPL in the UAE in September-October following the postponement of England’s limited-overs tour to Bangladesh.

England were due to play three ODIs and three T20Is in Bangladesh in September-October but the ECB and the BCB released statements on Tuesday morning confirming that they had “mutually decided” to postpone the tour until March 2023. The IPL is due to resume on September 19 after its postponement midway through the season earlier this year, with the tour’s postponement opening up the opportunity for England’s white-ball players to take part ahead of the T20 World Cup in the UAE.



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