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South Africa T20s good preparation for World Cup 



by Rex Clementine 

Sri Lanka have to qualify for next month’s T20 World Cup in UAE and the three match T20 series against Proteas starting today will be a fine preparation for the former World Champions.

Sri Lanka have blown hot and cold in the shortest format of the game although they won the event seven years ago.

South Africa will start as favourites with Kehav Maharaj, who skippered them in the last two ODIs standing in for the T20 series too.

A competitive series against a quality South African side is what Sri Lanka will be hoping for more than wins.

There will be lot of excitement among fans after Dasun Shanka turned around the fortunes of a young team.

Sri Lanka will have some experience with the return of Kusal Janith Perera.

KJP was axed as skipper after barely one month in the job. He missed the home series against India due to a shoulder injury and then tested positive for covid. His explosive batting top of the order would be handy. It remains to be seen whether he also keeps wickets.

The opening combination of KJP and Avishka Fernando, another player who throws caution to wind, is a match winning one for Sri Lanka.

There are some other exciting talents who are set to take the cricketing world by storm. Certainly, good times are ahead.

South Africa will be also be pleased with the return of Quinton de Kock and David Miller back into the side. They are two dangerous players in the shortest format of the game.

The final ODI that Sri Lanka won was played on a rank turner; it resembled a fifth day Galle wicket. Dasun Shanaka was lucky to win the toss.

Sri Lanka can take their chances by preparing tracks that turn square. They might even end up with a series win. But they also need to look at the bigger picture; which is the World Cup. They will be getting flat tracks in UAE and they will be better off playing this series on good tracks.

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Bairstow ruled out of IPL 2023; Australia’s Matthew Short named replacement



Jonny Bairstow swivels for a hit

Jonny Bairstow will not play IPL 2023 as the England wicketkeeper-batter, who plays for Punjab Kings, continues to recover from the freak injury he picked up last September. ESPNcricinfo has learned that uncapped Australian batter Matthew Short will be Bairstow’s replacement for the 2023 season.

Kings, via the BCCI, had been waiting for Bairstow’s exact fitness status from the ECB after he had resumed training in late February as part of his rehab. It is understood the BCCI informed Kings on Saturday to go ahead with the replacement, and the franchise confirmed the news later that day.

This week, Bairstow started batting in the Yorkshire nets and it is understood that he will aim to play a couple of games in the County Championship in May – potentially while keeping wicket – as he aims to reach full fitness in time for England’s next Test on June 1, against Ireland at Lord’s. The ECB are happy with Bairstow’s progress and are confident he will return in time to play a full part in the Ashes, which starts on June 22.

Bairstow broke his left leg and dislocated his ankle on September 2, days before the third and final Test of England’s home series against South Africa. He was playing golf with friends when he slipped and suffered multiple fractures in his fibula, which required a plate to be inserted when he underwent surgery a few days later, and also sustained ligament damage.

He has since missed all the cricket England have played, including the T20 World Cup where he was meant to open with his captain Jos Buttler. He has also missed tours to Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand and Bangladesh, as well as the ILT20 where he was due to play for Abu Dhabi Knight Riders.Brendon McCullum, England’s Test coach, has previously indicated that Bairstow will come straight back into the side when fit, though finding a role for him will not be straightforward since Harry Brook, his replacement at No. 5, has made a stellar start to his international career, with four hundreds in his first six Tests.

Zak Crawley and Ben Foakes appear to be the most vulnerable players in the side, but leaving either out would necessitate a rebalancing of the side and McCullum has also warned against trying to “crowbar people in”.

Recognised as one of the world’s leading all-format batters, Bairstow’s absence is bound to have an impact on Kings’ strategy. Last IPL, Bairstow scored 253 runs in 11 innings, averaging 23.00 with a strike rate of 144.57, with two half-centuries. Initially, it may mean Bhanuka Rajapaksa is given an opportunity. For Short, this will be his first IPL experience. He was the Player of the Tournament at the recent Big Bash League where, opening for Adelaide Strikers, he scored 458 runs – the second-highest in the tournament – at an average of 35.23 and a strike rate of 144.47.

His best performance was an unbeaten 100 in a chase of 230 to beat Hobart Hurricanes. Athletic in the field, Short also is a handy offspinner.He kept his head high while bowling in the powerplay during the BBL and took 11 wickets in all, at an economy of 7.13. An all-format player, Short scored three centuries across first-class and List A cricket during the second half of Australia’s domestic season where he plays for his home state of Victoria.


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Argentina rename national training base after Lionel Messi



Lionel Messi scored his 800th career goal in Argentina’s victory over Panama on Thursday.

Lionel Messi has been honoured by the Argentina Football Association who have renamed the national team’s headquarters after him.Messi, who captained Argentina to as they lifted the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, has made 173 appearances for the Albiceleste since making his debut in 2005.The Paris Saint-Germain forward, along with Argentina FA president Claudio Tapia and national team manager Lionel Scaloni, unveiled a plaque outside the Albiceleste’s training centre on Saturday.

“We experienced a historic day in our Casa de Ezeiza, which from today will be renamed Lionel Andres Messi, in tribute to the best player in the world,” Tapia tweeted.

Argentina’s headquarters are located in Ezeiza, which is 40 minutes away from Buenos Aires city centre.Messi, who scored his 800th career goal in Thursday’s 2-0 friendly win over Panama, was moved by the recognition.

“I’ve been coming here for 20 years, and I have always felt a very special energy,” the former Barcelona star said. “This is very exciting for me. I’m very happy. It’s a very, very special recognition.

“This place is something sensational. Even at the worst times, which I’ve had very bad moments, I would go in and forget everything. I would arrive and feel happy for being in this place and I still feel it. That’s why today I feel very happy that, after so long, this is going to bear my name.”

Messi, 35, had lost three straight finals with Argentina before lifting the Copa America in 2021 after defeating bitter rivals Brazil in the title game.The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner was sensational in Qatar and was voted the player of the tournament after his seven goals and three assists in seven appearances helped Argentina win their first world title in 36 years.

“I think that the tributes have to be done while one is alive, and this is a very special recognition for what this place means,” Messi said. “That it [training centre] bears my name is something very nice.”

Messi, who is one strike shy of scoring his 100th international goal with Argentina, will be back in action with the Albiceleste in Tuesday’s international friendly against Curacao. (ESPN)

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It’s high time cricket regulated its pace of play



Umpires must be empowered to enforce rules such that players don’t waste time on the field needlessly

by Ian Chappell

I have often wondered, “Who really loves the game of cricket?”

Is it the first-class player like myself, who had his pads and boots cleaned by the room steward, and whose matches are played on well-manicured fields with meticulously prepared pitches? Or is it those who play in the park on boiling-hot Saturdays, having pegged down a matting pitch, then chasing balls around a tinder-dry outfield?

I’ve come to the conclusion that first-class players love the game in a calculated manner. Although it may change with the money in cricket, you basically have to love the game to play it decently. Nevertheless it’s a calculated enjoyment, as first-class players are always chasing trophies, prize money and contracts.

However, the people who have a real love for the game are those who perform in the park even when it’s parched and the only reward is a cold drink at the end of play. Maybe I could do that for a week, two at the most, but then I’d be looking for other pursuits.

Those dedicated cricketers also regularly attend big matches. When both types mutter in unison, “Get on with the bloody game”, it’s time to evaluate top-class cricket’s speed of play.Using timers is one way to speed up the game. However, it’s better if umpires are empowered by the administrators to ensure cricket keeps moving at an acceptable speed.Other sports I watch, like baseball, rugby league and tennis, now have a timer. The timers are designed to speed up games where administrators are acutely aware that spectators want to see plenty of playing action.

Surely people don’t switch on their devices or go to a ground to watch cricketers adjust their gloves every ball, chat with their batting partner in the middle of an over, change gloves regularly, or down unofficial drinks. These can possibly be decreed health measures or might be purely down to superstition, but they often completely ignore the etiquette of the game.

If a bowler is about to begin his run-up, a batter must be in position to receive the delivery. That used to be, and still should be, part of the etiquette of the game.It’s pretty obvious when players deliberately waste time to avoid another over leading into a break. In that case the player should first be warned, and if they transgress again, then there have to be consequences.

Players are lucky I’m not an umpire. If a batter deliberately wasted time and wasn’t ready to face up, I’d let the bowler deliver and if he hit the stumps, I’d give it out. There would be a huge outcry, but drastic action would ensure that batters don’t cause a problem in the future.

The time captains take talking to bowlers about field placings – I’m not including T20 cricket – is sometimes inordinately long. The captain should be spoken to by an umpire and told to keep the game moving.Umpires must be given license to insist that players don’t purposefully waste time. In turn, the umpires should be backed to the hilt by the judicial system. All players should be made aware of their obligation to the public; they deserve a fair day’s play for what is often an expensive outing at the cricket.

It’s easy to conclude that either most administrators don’t understand the angst slow play causes, or that they are only concerned by the bottom line. Either way the pace of play is not being properly administered.Test matches being completed inside the allotted time frame should not be an acceptable excuse for tardy over rates.

Administrators themselves are guilty of slowing the game. The DRS, replays to decide boundaries, and sight-board advertising are three obvious cases, but there are others like the front-foot no-ball law that are poorly thought out.

There’s a place for pageantry to enhance the importance of games but it should never impinge upon play. The pace of play and over rates are crucial issues where the paying spectator deserves consideration in producing an entertainment package. (cricinfo)

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