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Ranji Trophy – Bhuvneshwar returns to first-class cricket after six years with a five-for

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Opting to bowl on a green top after a delayed start, Uttar Pradesh’s first innings lasted just 20.5 overs in the opening session. India seamer Mohammed Shami’s younger brother Mohammed Kaif was the star for Bengal, claiming 4 for 14 in his 5.5 overs.

But what unfolded thereafter was a Bhuvneshwar masterclass as he marked his first-class return by claiming 5 for 25 from 13 overs, three of which were maidens. The 33-year-old, who last played a Test in January 2018 against South Africa, dismissed Sourav Paul (13) and Sudip Gharami (0) in the space of three balls. He then returned to take the wickets of Anustup Majumdar (12), captain Manoj Tiwary (3) and Abhishek Porel (12) in the same spell.

With the India’s five-match home Test series against England on the horizon and doubts lingering over Shami’s return, it remains to be seen if the selectors are prompted to reconsider Bhuvneshwar after Friday’s show. Bengal’s Mukesh Kumar, who is on national duty with the T20I team, remains ahead of him in the pecking order.

At stumps, Bengal were 95 for 5. Opener Sayan Ghosh, playing the lone vigil with a dogged 37 off 87 balls, was the last designated Bengal batter. He has Karan Lal in company, batting on 8.

Rahane bags a duck in Mumbai vs Andhra

Reddy dismissed Mumbai captain Rahane, who missed the Ranji Trophy opener with a stiff neck, for a golden duck and then denied Iyer a half-century by two runs in his comeback match. Returning to the Mumbai XI for the first time in the Ranji Trophy since the 2018-19 season, Iyer entertained with a run-a-ball 48 (7×4). Iyer, who struggled for form in the two-match Test series in South Africa, could not convert his start and became the fifth wicket to fall for Mumbai.
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David Warner’s helicopter to land on SCG outfield ahead of BBL clash

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David Warner touched down at the SCG in a helicopter ahead of Sydney Thunder’s BBL clash against Sydney Sixers on Friday.

Warner flew in from his brother’s wedding in the Hunter Valley and arrived at the ground just before 5pm. He landed on the outfield close to where the “Thanks Dave” logo was painted during his farewell Test.

The fixture, which will feature Steven Smith for Sydney Sixers, is a sellout.

“I’ve done my utmost best to get down here and hopefully put some runs on the board,” Warner told Channel 7. “I might look like a bit of a goose if I don’t get any runs but it’s my contribution to not just the BBL but Australian cricket. I want to be out here. I want to entertain. I want to try and help our team win the next three games.”

“He’s going to a lot of effort to come and play for us,” Thunder quick Gurinder Sandhu said. “We love having him here. Last year he was awesome for us, maybe didn’t score as many runs as he would have liked but around the group and passing on knowledge was awesome to have him around. He’s one of the better team men. All the fans get to enjoy him playing cricket.”

Sean Abbott of Sixers joked the day before: “He is a bit Hollywood, isn’t he, that’s very Davey. I got the Lime bike in today and I’ll be doing the same tomorrow night and riding out the gate as Davey lands.

“I’m glad they are making it happen because think everyone in the country who is a fan of cricket wants to see David Warner in the BBL and I’m really looking forward to coming up against him. One of the best players in the world and has been for a long time.”

Ahead of last season, Warner signed a big-money two-year deal with Thunder as Cricket Australia made a huge push to get international stars back into the tournament. He has indicated his desire to return next season although will fit appearances around his commentary work on the India Test series.

The game against Sixers is set to be one of three appearances Warner will make for Thunder this season following his Test retirement. The club only have a slim chance of reaching the knockouts but Warner would have been unavailable for those as he will head to the ILT20 in the UAE.

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SLC suspension – ICC CEO Geoff Allardice meets Sri Lanka sports minister, president

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ICC CEO Geoff Allardice has met with Sri Lanka’s new sports minister, as well as the country’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe, during a brief visit undertaken to gain a better understanding of the political situation in the country as it relates to cricket administration. In November, the ICC imposed a suspension on Sri Lanka Cricket’s membership, and subesequently stripped the country of its hosting rights of the Men’s Under-19 World Cup.

Following his meeting with Allardice, sports minister Harin Fernando posted on X (formerly Twitter) that the pair had had a “constructive discussion and a way forward for SLC”. Subsequent to that meeting, Allardice had also met President Wickremesinghe, with whom he is understood to have discussed potential changes to SLC’s constitution.

Allardice will now report his findings back to the ICC’s board, which is due to meet at the end of March, and are likely to have the matter of SLC’s membership on their agenda.

The ICC’s suspension of SLC had officially been predicated on perceived government interference. On November 6, previous sports minister Roshan Ranasinghe had sought to sack the entire SLC board, but another arm of Sri Lanka’s government – the judiciary – essentially reversed that decision on the following day, issuing a stay order on the minister’s gazette.

Several days later, however, the ICC’s board suspended SLC at the behest of SLC’s own officials, who were at the time at serious odds with then-sports minister Ranasinghe. They had requested the suspension as a means of staving off further interference.

With that minister now sacked, and a minister palatable to SLC now in place, board members have been internally confident SLC will be reinstated as a full member at the next board meeting.

This is the second trip to Sri Lanka by an ICC executive to discern the nature of Sri Lanka’s politics’ intersection with cricket. In mid-2023, ICC deputy chair Imran Khwaja came to Sri Lanka to investigate potential government interference. On that occasion Khwaja is understood not to have found immediate evidence to suspend the board.

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Hampshire confirm investment talks amid IPL links

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Hampshire have confirmed they are “fully engaged in some detailed negotiations” with prospective investors after the Telegraph reported that GMR Group, the co-owners of Delhi Capitals, are in advanced talks with Rod Bransgrove about buying his share in the club’s parent company.

Bransgrove, who saved Hampshire from insolvency in 2000, stood down as chair of the cricket club last year and has been succeeded by Nick Pike. But Bransgrove remains the chair of – and the majority shareholder in – Hampshire Sport & Leisure Holdings Ltd, the club’s parent company.

Upon buying the club, Bransgrove turned Hampshire from a members’ club into a public limited company, which is valued at over £100 million but carries a debt of £61 million. In the biography Back from the Brink by Ivo Tennant, Bransgrove said that he had turned down a substantial offer for the club in 2022 from “a very successful businessman”.

The Telegraph reported on Wednesday night that Bransgrove is “close to agreeing a deal” to sell his shares to GMR Group, who along with JSW Group run Delhi Capitals. GMR Group also own Dubai Capitals in the UAE’s ILT20 and are part-owners of Seattle Orcas in Major League Cricket.

“Hampshire Sport & Leisure Holdings Ltd has made no secret of the fact that it has been investigating a number of investment options for some time now and, in the course of these investigations, the Company has engaged with a number of parties under conditions of confidentiality,” a Hampshire spokesperson said.

“Whilst it is true that the Company is fully engaged in some detailed negotiations regarding investment, the nature and content of any such investigations are subject to formal Non-Disclosure Agreements which the Company is bound to observe.

“To date, we have concluded no formal binding agreements other than NDAs. We repeat, therefore, we can make no further comment about the status of our negotiations until such time as we have something to disclose.”

One proposal being discussed extensively around the Hundred involves the ECB transferring equity stakes in the eight teams to the clubs that play at their host venues. If that proposal is approved, Hampshire’s parent company would then take control of Southern Brave, who are based at the Ageas Bowl.

Hampshire were previously linked with Rajasthan Royals as part of a commercial tie-in named ‘Royals2020’ which launched in 2010 but proved short-lived. They spent four seasons playing as Hampshire Royals in T20 cricket but dropped the name in 2013 and have since reverted to being Hampshire Hawks.

Gordon Hollins, Somerset’s departing chief executive, outlined the background to support for private investment among several counties at a members’ forum late last year. “The big question that’s being asked around the [English] game is: in a world of flat income, high inflation and growing costs, how do we generate more investment in the game?” Hollins said.

Bransgrove and GMR Group were contacted for comment.

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Recent Match Report – Sri Lanka vs Zimbabwe 3rd ODI 2023/24

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Toss Zimbabwe chose to bat vs Sri Lanka

Zimbabwe have chosen to bat first in the third ODI against Sri Lanka, having won the toss under cloudy skies at Kettarama.

The visitors made three changes to their XI, strengthening their bowling by bringing in left-arm spinner Wellington Masakadza in place of offspinner Tapiwa Mufudza, swapping out Faraz Akram for Luke Jongwe, while Takudzwanashe Kaitano – who had played the first ODI – replaces Tinashe Kamunhukamwe at the top of the order.

Sri Lanka made two changes, meanwhile. Opener Shevon Daniel has been handed a debut, allowing captain Kusal Mendis to move back down to his more familiar No. 3 role. The batter making way is former captain Dasun Shanaka, who has had two unsuccessful batting outings this series, following a torrid several months in the national team.

The other change is the re-entry of a fit-again Wanindu Hasaranga, who strengthens the hitting lower down the order as well as providing a top spin option. This will be his first ODI since the World Cup Qualifier tournament in July last year. He’d missed the entirety of the Asia Cup and World Cup, as well as the first two games of this series, with injury. Legspinner Jeffrey Vandersay makes way for him.

Though Zimbabwe lost the second match, their bowlers had made a chase of 209 incredibly tough for Sri Lanka, even dominating at times. Their seamers – led by Richard Ngarava – were especially effective. They must win this match in order to square the series.

Both previous matches at Kettarama were rain-affected. The first match was washed out without a result, while the second saw a significant rain delay, though not long enough to see the number of overs reduced. It seemed likely at the toss that rain may play a part in this game too.

Sri Lanka: 1 Avishka Fernando, 2 Shevon Daniel, 3 Kusal Mendis (capt/wk), 4 Sadeera Samarawickrama, 5 Janith Liyanage, 6 Charith Asalanka, 7 Sahan Arachchige, 8 Wanindu Hasaranga, 9 Maheesh Theekshana, 10 Dushmantha Chameera, 11 Dilshan Madushanka

Zimbabwe: 1 Joylord Gumbie, 2 Takudzwanashe Kaitano, 3 Milton Shumba, 4 Craig Ervine (capt), 5 Sikandar Raza, 6 Ryan Burl, 7 Clive Madande (wk), 8 Luke Jongwe, 9 Blessing Muzarabani, 10 Richard Nagarawa, 11 Wellington Masakadza

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Australia news – Matt Renshaw reflects on ‘weird time’ after Test recall

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After being recalled to Australia’s Test squad, batter Matt Renshaw has been left musing on how the last six months has been “a weird time”, but also the best of times, for him.

Renshaw is not in the playing XI, but has been named in the 13-man squad as the spare batter for the first Test against the West Indies, starting in Adelaide on January 17, edging out fellow red-ball openers Marcus Harris and Cameron Bancroft who were also in the mix.

When David Warner announced in the middle of last year that he would retire from Test cricket after the recently concluded Pakistan series, the race was on to find his successor, with Steven Smith now confirmed as opener after being elevated from No. 4.

But the 27-year-old Renshaw is just happy to be back in the Test environment, after learning a lot about himself since last being part of the squad during the Test series in India last year.

“It is really nice and a lot of hard work has gone into that. It has been a weird six months since Davey said what he said but I have just tried to enjoy my cricket,” Renshaw explained. “That is the big one for me. As much as all this stuff has been looming over my head, I play my best when I am having fun.

“Obviously, people come and go. That’s the way cricket is but I’ve just tried to enjoy my cricket…whether that is for Australia A, Prime Minister’s XI, Queensland and in county cricket as well.”

Renshaw has scored 1566 first-class runs at an average of 52.20, with seven centuries, since July 1, 2022. They are impressive figures and reveal his consistency.

His selection is a message from selectors that he is the next cab off the rank if he can stay on his upward trajectory. The opening position that could have been his has been taken by Smith, rather than a regular red-ball opener.

Smith volunteered to move up from No. 4 but Renshaw is not kicking stones. It is a move he understands.

“He averages 60 in Test cricket. He is the best player in the world. It gets Cam [Green] in the team as well and we all know what Cam is capable of,” he said. “Selectors talked about the top six batters in the country and there is no doubt those six guys are. It is just about me trying to learn from them while I am in the squad.

“We have got amazing players in the team but I’ve had a little nibble at Test cricket already. I know what it is like to score a hundred, and how that feels. I jut want to try and get that enjoyment and be myself around the Test team.”

Renshaw was just 20 when he scored 184, his sole Test century, against Pakistan in Sydney.

“I feel a completely different player. I look back at that and I think I was very naïve with cricket,” he said. “I came in wet behind the ears and hadn’t really had much experience with what the game can do. I’ve learned from that…tried to get better with that and tried to improve myself as a cricketer.

“That’s all-round with my game knowledge and probably some technical aspects. I look back at my technique then and it probably wasn’t that pretty. It is still probably not that pretty, but I feel like I have ironed out a few things I needed to.”

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Match Preview – India vs Afghanistan, Afghanistan in India 2023/24, 1st T20I

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Big picture: Final rehearsal for India

In less than five months, India will face Ireland in their opening game at the 2024 T20 World Cup. While there is the IPL before that, the three-match series against Afghanistan, starting in Mohali on Thursday, is India’s only T20I assignment in between. Incidentally, this is the first time India are playing a bilateral white-ball series against Afghanistan.

Rohit’s return also forces a change at the top. Head coach Rahul Dravid confirmed that Rohit and Yashasvi Jaiswal are India’s first-choice openers in T20Is. They also provide the left-right combination. Jaiswal’s ability to attack from the first ball also makes him a better prospect than Shubman Gill, who is the third opener in the squad.

While Gill has improved his six-hitting ability, his powerplay strike rate in all T20s since the start of 2023 is only 138.44 while Jaiswal’s is 163.69. In Kohli’s absence, Gill could slot in at No. 3 on Thursday but may have to sit out for the last two games.

Afghanistan will be keen to build on their gains from the 2023 ODI World Cup. They will play nine T20Is between now and the T20 World Cup. So there is time to finalise the first-choice XI, play it together, and fine-tune it if required.

With that in mind, they have picked a 19-member squad for this series. Rashid Khan is also part of the roster but will not play in the series as he continues to recover from back surgery. In his absence, Ibrahim Zadran will lead the side once again.

Afghanistan had a hiccup last month when Fazalhaq Farooqi, Naveen-ul-Haq and Mujeeb Ur Rahman wanted to be released from their central contracts and play franchise cricket. But all three are now back in the national team and are expected to play a big role.

Form guide

India WLWWL (last five completed T20Is, most recent first)
Afghanistan WLWWW

In the spotlight: Rohit Sharma and Najibullah Zadran

Rohit Sharma gave India blazing starts at the ODI World Cup, scoring at a strike rate of 135.01 in the powerplay. But it needs to be seen if he can translate the same into T20 cricket. In ODIs, a batter can take an over or two to get their eye in and then line up a particular bowler. T20, a different beast, has little breathing room. One-over spells are the norm here with bowlers’ primary goal being to stop runs. That is a challenge India would want Rohit to overcome.

Najibullah Zadran rarely gets the recognition he deserves. Among Afghanistan batters with at least 500 T20I runs, he has the highest average (31.85) and the highest strike rate (139.71). And only Mohammad Shahzad has more 50-plus scores for the country. Of late, Najibullah has been struggling with injuries and form. He was left out of the XI after just two games of the ODI World Cup, in which he scored 5 and 2. But he showed signs of a return to form with an unbeaten 13-ball 28 against UAE in the third T20I last week.

Team news: Samson or Jitesh?

With Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya out with injuries, Tilak Varma and Rinku Singh will get another chance to show their wares. The same holds for Arshdeep Singh, Avesh Khan and Mukesh Kumar in the fast-bowling department, with Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj rested. It will be interesting to see whether India pick Jitesh Sharma or Sanju Samson as wicketkeeper.

India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Yashasvi Jaiswal, 3 Shubman Gill, 4 Tilak Varma, 5 Jitesh Sharma/Sanju Samson (wk), 6 Rinku Singh, 7 Axar Patel, 8 Kuldeep Yadav, 9 Avesh Khan, 10 Arshdeep Singh, 11 Mukesh Kumar

In the absence of Rashid, Afghanistan are likely to continue with fellow legspinner Qais Ahmad. However, Noor Ahmed may have to make way for Mujeeb.

Afghanistan (probable): 1 Hazratullah Zazai, 2 Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), 3 Ibrahim Zadran (capt), 4 Azmatullah Omarzai, 5 Najibullah Zadran, 6 Mohammad Nabi, 7 Gulbadin Naib/Karim Janat, 8 Mujeeb Ur Rahman, 9 Qais Ahmad, 10 Naveen-ul-Haq, 11 Fazalhaq Farooqi

Pitch and conditions: Win the toss and chase

Out of 40 T20s Mohali has hosted in the last two years, the chasing team has won 26. So the team winning the toss will be looking to bowl first, even though Afghanistan captain Ibrahim Zadran said he didn’t notice much dew in the past two days. At night, it could get slightly foggy with the temperature dropping below 5°C.

Stats and trivia: Will India get lucky with the toss?

  • India have now lost 11 tosses in a row. The probability of that happening is 0.0005.
  • Rohit needs 147 runs to become the second batter after Kohli to reach 4000 T20I runs.
  • Mohammad Nabi needs 123 runs and eight wickets to complete the double of 2000 runs and 100 wickets in T20Is. So far, Shakib Al Hasan is the only one to do so.
  • Axar Patel is five short of 50 T20I wickets.

Quotes

“Rinku Singh has made a good start in international cricket and he is playing really well. The role we have given him, the finisher’s role, he is fulfilling it. This is another opportunity for him to take his development further. As far as the selection is concerned, that will be decided later but when players perform well, they are always in the selectors’ minds.”
Rahul Dravid on if Rinku Singh could be a good pick for the T20 World Cup

“You see, we have one of the best spinners in the world, and we also have good fast bowlers in Naveen and Fazal. So our aim is to improve our batting skills and we will try to do more in that department.”
Ibrahim Zadran on the area Afghanistan are looking to improve the most in

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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No ghosts of 2018 ball-tampering: overlooking Cameron Bancroft ‘purely a cricketing decision’

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Australia’s chair of selectors George Bailey has shut down conspiracy talk around Cameron Bancroft being overlooked for the Test side as having anything to do with the 2018 ball-tampering scandal.
Bancroft has played Test cricket since his ban, featuring in two games against England in 2019, but comments he made in a 2021 interview about how the fast bowlers must have known what was going on led to them putting out a joint statement reiterating they had no knowledge of the plans.

“Categorically, no,” Bailey said as to whether there were any lingering issues from that time which impacted his selection. “I’ve shared this with Cameron on a number of occasions. It has never at any stage been discussed from the panel’s perspective. It’s purely a cricketing decision.

“There is not a member of the team that would have an issue with Cam playing, we certainly don’t have an issue with it. I’d be disappointed if people were looking to that as a reason. All I can do is reiterate to you and to Cam that’s not the case; never has been, and never will be.”

Bailey acknowledged that Bancroft had made a strong case through his weight of runs but at the moment they viewed Renshaw as the next best batter in line. He also said that Marcus Harris, who holds a central contract and was the spare batter through the Ashes, could count himself unfortunate.

“Cam’s record over the last couple of years has been phenomenal and it’s made this decision really challenging, a line-ball call,” Bailey said. “He is banging down the door. Think there’s a number of players who are banging down the door and that’s great.

“As excited as Matt Renshaw and Cameron Green are, you know there’s always guys on the other side of the coin who are shattered and who are working their backside off. All those guys know what it’s like to be part of that Test team, all of them are striving to get back there…and there will be opportunities going forward.

“And there’s no doubt that part of cricket selection is being in the right place at the right time, playing at close to your best at the right time. In that respect I certainly feel for Marcus Harris as well, whose been on a number of tours, in some respects was unlucky to get dropped last time he was playing Test cricket. I imagine it’s hollow for those guys at the moment, but it’s the age old thing of you have to keep doing what you are doing.”

Speaking a few days ago, Bancroft admitted he would be “disappointed” if Australia opted for a non-traditional opener to replace Warner. “Cricket means the world to me and I’ve put my heart and soul into developing my game as an opening batter,” he said.
Renshaw’s call-up puts him as next in line should another vacancy arrive in the top order – and there is a thought he is viewed as Usman Khawaja’s eventual replacement – although Bailey also namechecked Western Australia’s Aaron Hardie and South Australia’s Nathan McSweeney as two players pushing for higher honours, an indication they may be considered for the New Zealand tour in March if an extra batter is taken for the two Tests.
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Australia news – Cameron Green in Test XI with Steven Smith to open Matthew Renshaw in squad

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Steven Smith has been named as Australia’s new Test opener, with Cameron Green slotting in at No.4 for the first Test against West Indies as the team begins life after David Warner.

Barring injury, Australia’s selectors confirmed Green will come into the XI as the only change for Warner for the first Test starting on January 17 while Matt Renshaw has been added to the 13-man squad as the spare batter with no room for Cameron Bancroft or Marcus Harris.

Chairman of selectors George Bailey confirmed Green would slot in at No.4, with Smith, who has publicly stated his desire to move up, set to open the batting for the first time in not only his 114-match Test career but also his 16-year first-class career.

“Steve’s obviously motivated and energized and keen to do it,” Bailey said. “There were plenty within the team who were pretty keen to go on record and say that they weren’t keen to do it. So it was refreshing that Steve had come forward and said he wanted it and it was something that we’d been chatting about in the background as a selection panel with the coaches as well.

“It’s selfless that someone who’s had such success in one position or a couple of positions in the middle order that he’s open and willing and hungry to go and have a crack at something new and something different, which provides that opportunity to slot Cam into a position where he’s had so much success at first-class level and we think ultimately, is a great spot for him to be in the Test team.”

Bailey also noted that Smith’s move to the top of the order was not a short-term decision and that Smith had confirmed he would not request a move back down the order if he had some trouble adjusting to the role early on.

“No. That’s been part of the discussions I believe with Steve, that he’s keen for this to be a significant chapter in his career,” Bailey said. “As far as the panel goes, I think we’ve been pretty consistent in saying that we don’t look too far ahead. We’ve obviously got these two Test matches against the West Indies. We go to New Zealand, different conditions, different challenge. We’ll have more information then. We’ve clearly got a big gap between Test cricket and then India over the summer. But for all intents and purposes, this is where Steve wants to stay.”

Renshaw has been added as the spare batter in case of an injury or concussion. Scott Boland remains in the squad as the spare fast bowler but is unlikely to play given the fitness of Australia’s main three fast bowlers.

Bailey confirmed that his panel had chosen the “best six batters” in Australia rather than picking an experienced opener, something the panel had long been planning to do, with Renshaw confirmed as the seventh best in the selectors’ eyes ahead of Bancroft and Harris.

“I think ultimately you can mount statistically some strong cases for a number of players,” Bailey said.

“As it currently stands, the panel sees Matt Renshaw is our next best batter.

“We’ve gone back 18 months or so and I think if you take into account all first-class cricket I think across that time, those guys have played Shield cricket, some county cricket, some Australia A cricket, and PM’s XI games. Matthew’s played a couple of Tests in Australia and in India across that period and his numbers stack up as well as anyone’s across that time.”

Bailey was also categoric in denying that Bancroft’s non-selection, despite being the leading run-scorer in Shield cricket over the last two years, had been for anything other than cricketing reasons, in reference to his infamous interview in England in 2021 following the Sandpaper incident in 2018.

“I’m glad you asked that because I wanted to touch on it. It’s categorically no,” Bailey said. “And I’ve shared this with Cameron on a number of occasions. That has never at any stage been discussed from the panel’s perspective. It’s purely a cricketing decision. There is not a member of the team that would have an issue with Cam playing. We certainly don’t have an issue with it. I think a lot of people tend to forget the fact that Cam’s actually played Test cricket since returning from the ban. It was a long time ago. We’ve all moved well past that. I’d be disappointed if people were looking to that as a as a reason. All I can do is reiterate to you and to Cam that’s not the case. Never has been and never will be.”

Australia squad for first Test vs West Indies

Pat Cummins (capt), Scott Boland, Alex Carey (wk), Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Matthew Renshaw, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc

Alex Malcolm is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo

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New Hampshire chairman says Hundred expansion ‘makes good sense’

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Hampshire’s new chairman believes that expanding the Hundred “makes good sense” for English cricket and is open to speaking to prospective investors as the ECB and counties continue to debate the competition’s future.

The Hundred will remain unchanged in 2024, taking place in a four-week window from late July to late August, but the ECB hope to resolve discussions over its long-term future in the spring, ahead of potential expansion or private investment in time for the 2025 season. The competition will continue in some form until at least the end of 2028, when the ECB’s current broadcast deal with Sky Sports expires.

Hampshire were prominent advocates of a city-based, short-form competition in English cricket under their long-serving chairman Rod Bransgrove, and that stance will be maintained by his successor. Nick Pike, an original investor in the club’s parent company in 2001, formally took over from Bransgrove at the start of the year and said: “The Hundred is clearly important to the game.”

Pike told ESPNcricinfo: “Expanding it in a way that is profitable is important: it is good for the watching public and for the brand itself. We’ve got to be honest, there are quite a few pressures on the forms of cricket within the English game, and indeed at the global level. There are more and more short-form competitions around the world.

“We need to have strong venues to deliver that type of quality of product quickly, and we need to have the best players playing in it. Rushing to a solution that doesn’t retain those two things, I think would be wrong. I do think expansion makes good sense as long as it’s managed and thought through from those points of view.”

Tim Bostock, Durham’s chief executive, said last month that he is “100% committed” to hosting a team and hinted at the possibility of investment from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in a potential north-east Hundred team, following their takeover of Newcastle United Football Club in 2021.

Both Gloucestershire – who are exploring the possibility of relocating away from their existing ground in Bristol to an out-of-town venue – and Somerset would be in contention to host a prospective south-west team. Pike said that all counties must consider how the Hundred can fit into cricket’s changing global landscape.

“To me, it’s like any business: you want to seize that opportunity and to consider potential change. We need to understand income streams, the demands of the public and everything else around the game. So how do we then make that work, given those changes? I think we are well positioned not only to cope with, but maybe be the driver of some of those changes.”

Hampshire were part of a short-lived tie-up with Rajasthan Royals back in 2010, a harbinger of the recent exponential expansion of IPL franchises’ global footprints. “The concept was a good one,” Pike said. “There’s significant money in the game now, particularly in the subcontinent. If we don’t recognise that, then we’re playing with our eyes and ears closed.

“The Hundred has gone well: the obvious reason is the success [of Southern Brave] on the pitch, but I would also point to the public, families, and new watchers of cricket coming in, which has been very strong. With the talk about ownership of teams… could there be linkages across countries? I’m sure there could well be, yes, but I just don’t know how that is going to shake out.”

The majority of counties operate as members’ clubs but Hampshire – along with Durham and Northamptonshire – are an exception. “That means we have control of our destiny and the opportunity to determine which way we go,” Pike said, “but ironically, I think we’re a lot closer to our members than many members-run clubs.

“Hampshire have always, in the 20 years I’ve been here, been a progressive club. It’s not a ‘who owns what?’ type of thing: if there are opportunities to change the ownership structure [of Hundred teams] then it is only good if it leads to developing and growing the game. I’d like to think that, at Hampshire, we are very well positioned for whichever way we might move forwards.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98