Former West Indies opening batsman, Philo Wallace, is confident the selection panel has made the right decision to omit struggling batsman Shai Hope from the WI squad for the upcoming tour of New Zealand.

The 26-year-old has long been touted as one of the region’s brightest prospects but has struggled mightily at the crease in recent years.  A quick look at the player’s statistics makes for jarring reading.  Hope has averaged 19.48 since December 2017 and just 14.45 since February 2019.  In the 2-1 defeat against England, he averaged below 18.  Such dismal form has seen his 34 Test average slip to 26.27.

Even so, the debate has raged on over the player’s continued inclusion in the team, with plenty of ferocity on either side.  His proponents will point to performances like Headingley when he steered West Indies to a famous win over England in August 2017.

“He’s a great talent but Shai Hope needs to go back to the drawing board.  What the selection panel has done is correct,” Wallace told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“He has struggled for three years in Test match cricket.  He looked out of sorts in England and he deserves to be in Barbados working on his game,” he added.

“The lead selector said that the coach has identified a program for Shai Hope.  We don’t know who will be working with him, but in Barbados, they have lots of good coaches…when we see Shai Hope again playing red-ball cricket, his physique should be different, his mentality should be different and obviously, his ability to bat and bat long should be back above even where he left off.”

Romario Shepherd, the Guyanese allrounder, has been selected to replace Dwayne Bravo in the West Indies T20 team to tour New Zealand next month.

This comes as all-rounder Dwayne Bravo has been ruled out of the upcoming tour due to a groin injury. The experienced 37-year-old sustained the injury on Saturday, October 17, while playing for the Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Bravo, the two-time T20 World Cup winner, will now return to Trinidad to continue his rehabilitation.

The 25-year-old Romario Shepherd made his international debut last year against Afghanistan and has so far played five One-Day Internationals and two T20 Internationals (T20Is). Shepherd said he intends to make the most of the opportunity.

“This is a great opportunity for me, and I want to take it with both hands. I was in the team before, last year and earlier this year, so I have a good feel of the game at this level. I’ve been training hard and working at all areas of my game so I’m ready,” he said.

Bravo, meanwhile, said he is disappointed that he will not be able to travel to New Zealand with the team.

“I was really looking forward to the tour of New Zealand as it has been so many months since I last wore maroon in Sri Lanka back in March and we are all so excited about building towards defending our T20 World Cup next year,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the injury I sustained on Saturday playing for CSK has not only ruled me out of the IPL but also the tour.  I’m making arrangements to return to Trinidad over the next few days where I will continue my rehab and treatment. I’m fully committed to representing the West Indies and I just need to get myself stronger again.”

The defending ICC T20 World Cup champions will visit New Zealand from November 27 to December 15.  They will start the tour with three T20Is, followed by two Test matches as part of the ICC World Test Championship.

 

FULL SQUAD:

Kieron Pollard (captain), Fabian Allen, Sheldon Cottrell, Andre Fletcher, Shimron Hetmyer, Brandon King,

Kyle Mayers, Rovman Powell, Keemo Paul, Nicholas Pooran, Romario Shepherd, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh Jr and Kesrick Williams.

 

MATCH SCHEDULE

November 27: 1st T20I at Eden Park, Auckland

November 29: 2nd T20I at Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui

November 30: 3rd T20I at Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui

December 3-7: 1st Test at Seddon Park, Hamilton

December 11-15: 2nd Test at Basin Reserve, Wellington

 

 

 

West Indies batsman Nicholas Pooran will have the chance to show off his Test cricket credentials in upcoming First-Class matches during the tour of New Zealand.

Recently, calls have grown louder for the 25-year-old batsman to be included in the team for the game’s longest format.  Pooran has put together a string of impressive performances in both the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) and Indian Premier League (IPL) convincing some, including legendary West Indian batsman Viv Richards, that some of that success can be translated to the four-day format.

The batsman was not picked on the Test squad for next month’s tour but was named as part of the team’s T20 squad.  Despite that, Cricket West Indies (CWI) chief of selectors Roger Harper recently revealed that the matter was being given some serious thought.

“There was a lot of consideration given to Nicholas Pooran; we are still looking at it and I am sure as we move forward, Pooran will have an opportunity as well,” Harper said.

The pair of First-Class matches are expected to take place at the same time as the Test match.  The first Test is scheduled for Hamilton, between December 3-7, with the second booked for Wellington from December 11-15.  Harper indicated that the team will consist of some of the T20 players and Test reserves.

"He is in the T20 squad and he has expressed willingness to play in four-day games that will be available during the tour," Harper said.

So far, Pooran has only played three First-Class matches and he has a top score of 55.  In One Day Internationals (ODIs) he is considered as one of the most talented young batsmen. In 25 matches Pooran has scored 932 runs at an average of 49 with one century and seven fifties. In T20 cricket, he has 14 fifties and one hundred in 146 global matches.

West Indies offspinner, Rahkeem Cornwall, is determined to have an impactful performance on the upcoming tour of New Zealand, after coming up empty-handed on the previous tour of England.

The 27-year has claimed 13 wickets in three Test matches so far but failed to have a major impact in the team's 2-1 loss to England.  Cornwall was added to the bowling line-up for the third Test and had a spell of 27 balls for 85 runs but did not get a wicket. 

Having been included in the upcoming squad to New Zealand, Cornwall is dead set on making a much more telling impact with the ball this time around.

“I think I am prepared for the tour,” Cornwall told the Antigua Observer.

“I think that this one either makes me or breaks me. I think it’s about time I show what I am worth on the international scene.  I do have a ten-wicket haul in Test cricket, but I need to show a little bit more in terms of starting to get my performance together and make sure this New Zealand tour courts,” he added.

Cornwall's best Test match figures came against Afghanistan where he claimed an overall 10 for 121 and previously captured two wickets against India on his debut.

Caleb Clarke has made quite the impression at the start of his international career, forcing Australia captain Michael Hooper to use a rather unique method in an attempt to slow the wing down. 

After making his New Zealand debut off the bench in the Bledisloe Cup opener in Wellington last weekend, Clarke started in the second game between the trans-Tasman rivals in Auckland. 

Clarke capitalised on the opportunity too, earning comparisons to the great Jonah Lomu as his running game helped his side to a resounding 27-7 triumph at Eden Park. 

He beat 12 defenders during the course of the game – the second-highest number recorded by a player in a Test since the beginning of 2010. 

It was on one such burst that Wallabies back-row Hooper made contact with Clarke in a way that certainly caught his attention. 

"You know what, Michael Hooper grabbed my nuts just then," he told Sky Sport in an interview after the game. 

"They were really sore. I turned and tried to push his hand off." 

While watching a montage of his performance, Clarke – whose father, Eroni, played for New Zealand in the 1990s – also admitted that he tried to do the same to Hooper. 

"On this run, I tried to get him back," Clarke said while watching a replay. "Our physio said to get him back, so I tried to do it there." 

He certainly grabbed the attention of those watching on, with George Gregan praising a performance that belied the 21-year-old's lack of experience at the highest level. 

"We saw the makings of a wonderful player during Super Rugby with this man," the former Australia scrum-half said, per Fox Sports. 

"He comes from a pretty good lineage with his father, who we played against in Eroni Clarke, but today just reinforced how important power and precision are and he has the ball skills and went looking for work. 

"He was dynamic, it was a great example of a young man backing himself and his skill-set."

New Zealand head coach Ian Foster felt his side put down a marker for the rest of the series with Saturday's dismantling of Australia in Auckland.

The All Blacks triumphed 27-7, outscoring the Wallabies by four tries to one, in game two of the Bledisloe Cup.

Inspired by young wing Caleb Clarke, the hosts extended their unbeaten run at Eden Park to 44 matches in an impressive response to last week's 16-16 draw in Wellington.

Foster denied feeling relieved at the improved performance but accepts his side have now set a standard to which they must adhere.

"Relief is not something I feel at all," he said. "This is what Test matches are about. If we don't perform to the levels we want to, we know a lot of pressure comes on this team.

"In some ways, they're great weeks. There's nowhere to hide. There's no way anyone can get complacent. And if we thought we were in the house last week, we got a reminder we weren't.

"This week we got a reminder it wasn't good enough – from ourselves and everyone around us.

"It's a pleasing feeling. We've put a marker down, that's the level we need to start at and we've just got to climb because it's a tough series. This is a better Wallabies team than I've seen for a while. They want to stay in the fight, so we had to fight for 80 minutes."

Clarke, 21, earned comparisons with all-time great Jonah Lomu with some powerful running, with one burst forward taking him through five tackles before setting up Ardie Savea to score.

"He just wants the ball and wants to run hard, and it's quite a good thing for us to give him the ball and let him run hard," said Foster.

Indeed, Australia coach Dave Rennie summed up the difference between the two teams as "tackle execution".

"We missed too many tackles and we got put under the heat for it," he said.

"You can't give the All Blacks that much ball, they have too many athletes that can hurt you. But the boys are working hard and I'm pretty confident that in two weeks we will be a better side."

New Zealand preserved their Eden Park fortress after outplaying Australia 27-7 in game two of the Bledisloe Cup on Sunday.

The All Blacks and Wallabies could not be separated in last week's memorable stalemate in the Bledisloe opener in Wellington, however, there was a winner this time around in Auckland.

New Zealand ran in four tries to one as they extended their unbeaten record at Eden Park to 44 matches, while maintaining their undefeated run against the Wallabies at the stadium, which dates back to 1986.

It was a lively start by the Wallabies, who pressed New Zealand back early, but the efficient All Blacks struck first via Richie Mo'unga's penalty.

Beauden Barrett – back in the line-up after sitting out the series opener due to an Achilles tendon problem – almost found younger brother Jordie Barrett with a kick through and while it did not end in a try, the All Blacks did not have to wait long as Aaron Smith crossed over in the 22nd minute after Australia were unable to hold out from close range.

The Wallabies, though, responded as they carved open the All Blacks – a great line break and quick hands seeing Marika Koroibete cut inside two opponents to score the try before James O'Connor converted to reduce the deficit to 10-7 heading into the break.

New Zealand, who have lost just 10 of their 87 Tests at Eden Park, took control in the second half – young winger Caleb Clarke putting on a show to and taking centre stage to help the hosts make the perfect start within three minutes of the interval.

Clarke's pace and power proved too much as space opened up for Jordie Barrett to cross over for a 15-7 advantage and the All Blacks were in again three minutes later.

Another unstoppable run from Clarke, who smashed through Australia's defence, resulted in a New Zealand overload and Ardie Savea added the five-pointer, however Mo'unga missed back-to-back conversions.

The Wallabies – carrying a 16 per cent win rate at Eden Park into the contest, only Great Britain and Scotland have been worse of the teams to have played at least five games at the stadium – thought they had a try in the 50th minute but were held up by some desperate New Zealand defending, while Australia had a try ruled out for a double movement moments later.

New Zealand then went up the other end and extended their lead courtesy of captain Sam Cane, who made light work of Australia's backline following a sweeping move as Ian Foster celebrated his first victory as All Blacks head coach.

Injury, concerns over safety and a need for a clear head are the reasons behind Evin Lewis, Lendl Simmons and Andre Russell’s decisions not to accept invitations to join the West Indies’ tour of New Zealand starting next month.

The West Indies on Friday named a 14-man squad that is expected to play three T20 Internationals in New Zealand later this year that included Andre Fletcher who was making a return to the squad after a two-year absence as well as Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo. However, it was noticeable that Russell, Lewis and Simmons were absent.

Chief selector Roger Harper explained during a press conference Friday morning that the three batsman gave different reasons why they opted out.

Simmons, he said, decided against travelling after discussions with his family. Lewis, he said, also discussed the issue with family but was also concerned about a injury that needed more time to heal.

Russell, who is currently playing for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League, said he needed time to clear his head after being in quarantine situations in the Caribbean Premier League and IPL competitions.

“Lendl Simmons and Andre Russell are two very experienced T20 players who performed very well on the last tour of Sri Lanka and their absence will surely be noted,” Harper said in a release from CWI.

However, the respective decisions to decline the invitations to tour will not factor in the selection process to future teams, CWI said.

 

A fortress for the All Blacks, and a luckless venue for the Wallabies, Australia face a daunting task at Eden Park on Sunday.

New Zealand are unbeaten in their past 43 matches at the Auckland venue, and the Wallabies' record there is abysmal.

The Wallabies and All Blacks played out a thrilling 16-16 draw in the Bledisloe Cup opener in Wellington.

But New Zealand have held the Bledisloe Cup since 2003 and if history is anything to go by, they will almost certainly head to Australia for the final two games of the series with a 1-0 lead.

We take a look at some of the numbers behind the All Blacks' record at Eden Park.

 

Complete dominance

Not only are the All Blacks carrying an unbeaten run at Eden Park into the clash, it is a ground at which they have been completely dominant.

New Zealand have lost just 10 of their 86 Tests at the ground, winning 73 and drawing three to go at a win rate of 85 per cent.

They have scored 2,449 points and conceded 1,113, those averages sitting at 28.5 and 12.9 respectively.

Beauden Barrett, who is returning from an Achilles injury on Sunday, has scored the most points (100) at Eden Park of any active player. The star has reached that figure in 12 games, but is well adrift of the 202 put together by the great Dan Carter in 14 Tests at the venue.

Barrett may, however, get to the record for most tries scored in Tests there. He has seven of his 36 career tries at the ground, with Stu Wilson (nine) having crossed the most times.

 

Wallabies' woes

Australia are winless against the All Blacks at the stadium since 1986, and their record at Eden Park makes for dismal reading.

The Wallabies have lost 27 of 32 Tests at the ground, going at a win rate of 16 per cent. Of teams to have played at least five games there – against all opponents – that rates as the third worst. Only Great Britain (one win in 11) and Scotland (0 in six) have been worse.

Wallabies assistant Geoff Parling insisted Eden Park was not scary and labelled it "just a rugby pitch" ahead of the clash, but it has proven to be anything but for Australia.

Australia have scored 418 points in their 32 games at the ground at an average of 13.1 per game, while conceding a whopping 809 – an average of 25.3.

But it is the recent record that has been even worse for the Wallabies, who have been on the end of six thrashings since they beat Wales 21-18 at Eden Park to secure third place at the 2011 Rugby World Cup. In those six meetings against the All Blacks, the Wallabies have been outscored 227-55.

That highlights just the enormity of the turnaround the Wallabies need to cause an upset in Auckland.

World champions South Africa have withdrawn from the 2020 Rugby Championship in Australia, prompting the return of a Tri-Nations tournament.

The South African Rugby Union (SARU) cited factors including travel restrictions, player welfare, safety concerns and the ongoing effect of the coronavirus pandemic for pulling out.

The Springboks' absence leaves Australia, New Zealand and Argentina to challenge for this year's title.

It is a blow ahead of the tournament, and means the Tri-Nations returns eight years after Argentina joined to extend the competition to a four-team event.

SARU chief executive Jurie Roux said: "SANZAAR [the competition organisers] and Rugby Australia have bent over backwards to make the tournament happen and it would have been unfair on them and their partners and state government to delay a decision any longer.

"This is a hugely disappointing outcome for supporters and commercial partners but the ongoing impacts of the pandemic in multiple dispensations mean we are unable to deliver a Springbok team without seriously compromising player welfare, apart from other logistical challenges."

With a Tri-Nations return, six international matches will be played in Australia across six consecutive weekends.

The Tri-Nations will see each nation play each other twice, with games to be held in Sydney, Brisbane and Newcastle – starting on October 31 between the Wallabies and All Blacks at ANZ Stadium.

The first two matches involving Australia and New Zealand double up as the final two Bledisloe Cup matches.

SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos said: “COVID is just a gift that keeps on giving! Naturally, it is extremely disappointing that the Springboks, due to the continued complexities of operating in and around this COVID environment, cannot fully compete in the previously planned six-round Rugby Championship.

“That said, this now presents us with a unique opportunity, in this our 25th year, to close off 2020 with a Tri-Nations competition."

Australia have made four changes to their team for Sunday's Bledisloe Cup clash with New Zealand at Eden Park.

The Wallabies and All Blacks played out a thrilling 16-16 draw in the series opener last week.

But Australia head coach Dave Rennie has still made four changes as Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Ned Hanigan start, and Liam Wright and Jordan Petaia move onto the bench.

After starting in Wellington, Folau Fainga'a and Pete Samu have dropped out of the team, while Rob Valetini and Noah Lolesio are not in the matchday squad

"We've got a group of 44 men who are all working hard and pushing for selection," Rennie said.

"We've had massive support from back home and as a team we definitely feel that and it's something we'll draw on on Sunday afternoon.

"We know that New Zealand will step it up another level this weekend, we're excited by the challenge ahead."

The All Blacks, meanwhile, have made five changes to their starting side, while prop Alex Hodgman is set to make his Test debut from the bench.

Sam Whitelock is out after suffering a concussion, while in a boost, Scott Barrett returns following a four-month injury absence.

All Blacks star Beauden Barrett also returns, having withdrawn from game one due to an Achilles tendon problem.

"Our preparation this week has been really good," All Blacks head coach Ian Foster said.

"It was our first Test together last weekend and while there were some aspects of our game that we were pretty excited about, especially around our set piece, we didn't get the performance that we wanted, so there has been plenty for us to work on. We need to be smarter with our ball and more focussed defensively.

"The Bledisloe series is back to square one and starts again this weekend, which is exciting. It's the last Test at home for us so there will also be massive excitement amongst our fans. There is everything to play for and we can't wait."

Holders of the Bledisloe Cup since 2003, the All Blacks are unbeaten in 43 consecutive games at Eden Park.

 

New Zealand: Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett, Anton Lienert-Brown, Jack Goodhue, Caleb Clarke, Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Ofa Tuungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tupou Vaa'I, Shannon Frizell, Sam Cane, Ardie Savea.
Replacements: Codie Taylor, Alex Hodgman, Nepo Laulala, Scott Barrett, Hoskins Sotutu, TJ Perenara, Rieko Ioane, Damian McKenzie.

Australia: Tom Banks, Filipo Daugunu, Hunter Paisami, Matt To'omua, Marika Koroibete, James O'Connor, Nic White; James Slipper, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Taniela Tupou, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Matt Philip, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper, Harry Wilson.
Replacements: Jordan Uelese, Scott Sio, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Liam Wright, Jake Gordon, Jordan Petaia, Reece Hodge.

Cricket West Indies (CWI) chief of selectors, Roger Harper, expects the team’s batting to once again be placed under the microscope when its tour of New Zealand begins next month.

The team’s batsmen faced plenty of criticism in a 2-1 loss to England, earlier this year, and a quick look at the recent batting statistics suggests they may well deserve it.  For the series, the team averaged close to 27.86 and it was one of the best batting performances in a series in recent years.

In fact, it is the fourth-best for the West Indies’ batsmen among all the series consisting of two or more matches since 2017.  Their highest batting average in a Test series consisting of at least two matches since 2017 is 34.66; which came in Zimbabwe in 2017.  Harper knows they will need to do much better to have a chance against the Blackcaps.

  “New Zealand are very competitive, in their own backyard especially.  They play very well as a team.  They plan well and they execute well. We have to be at the top of our game,” Harper told the Mason and Guest radio show.

“Again, a lot of questions will be asked of our batting and that’s the department that needs to step up for us in order for us to have a real chance of getting a positive result in the series,” he added.

The historic England tour ended on a bit of a sour note for the regional team, not only because of a 2-1 loss to the hosts but the manner of the defeat, which represented somewhat of a collapse by the Jason Holder-led unit. Things began brightly with the team putting in a strong all-around performance to secure a four-wicket win in the first Test.

“I’m looking for the team to build on its performance in England.  Winning away Test matches hasn’t been something we have done consistently.  We won one in England and we were positioned to really draw that series comfortably, if not win it, and I’m looking for us to build on that in New Zealand.”

In recent times, the West Indies have not had the best of fortune in New Zealand, where they have lost three of the last four T20 series, with one draw, while losing four of the last five-Test series again managing one draw.

South Africa have been given a 48-hour deadline to decide whether they will compete in the Rugby Championship.

The Springboks are due to start the defence of their title against Argentina at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on November 7.

Rugby South Africa (RSA) last week said "several hurdles needed to be cleared" before the organisation can confirm that the world champions will feature in the four-nation competition.

Concerns have been raised over a lack of playing time for South Africa players due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tournament organisers SANZAAR on Wednesday stated that a decision must be made within two days.

A SANZAAR statement said: "The SANZAAR member unions have agreed to provide South Africa Rugby with an additional 48 hours to finalise its internal stakeholder discussions.

"This will now delay the scheduled departure of the Springboks from South Africa to Australia.

"SANZAAR will provide an update on the resolution of these discussions and a timetable for the Springboks participation in the Rugby Championship when available in the coming days."

New Zealand have withdrawn from next month's friendly against England at Wembley due to complications caused by the coronavirus.

The All Whites were due to face Gareth Southgate's side on November 12 but have pulled out because of issues over travel and player availability amid the pandemic.

New Zealand Football chief executive Andrew Pragnell said: "It is with deep regret that we have been forced to cancel our participation in the upcoming match against England at Wembley

"It is not an action taken lightly, this is a match we all wanted to play, however, as it stands of the last All Whites squad selected for the November 2019 tour, even excluding the New Zealand-based players, a significant number of the team would be subject to quarantine or restrictions on their return home. 

"This would heavily disrupt their domestic seasons and potentially jeopardise their professional careers.

"The shifting nature of travel restrictions and commercial flight availability under COVID means that we do not have certainty we could assemble a squad at Wembley on this day and defaulting on this fixture at the last minute is not an option. 

"Prior to COVID we had a full calendar of fixtures planned for the All Whites, and we have been proactive in seeking out matches for the team since the disruption, but unfortunately it just isn't possible to make the new games we have scheduled this year happen.

"We are now looking forward to the March 2021 international window as we begin our qualifying campaign for the FIFA World Cup 2022."

All Blacks head coach Ian Foster insisted Rieko Ioane's botched try was not to blame for New Zealand's wild stalemate against Australia in the Bledisloe Cup opener.

The All Blacks and Wallabies played out a dramatic 16-16 draw in Wellington, where a long-range kick from Australia's Reece Hodge sensationally struck the post in additional time on Sunday.

New Zealand had led 8-3 at the interval through Jordie Barrett's ninth-minute try before Aaron Smith extended the lead early in the second half, but Australia rallied as Marika Koroibete and debutant Filipo Daugunu crossed over.

The All Blacks should have led 13-3 heading into the break, however, Ioane's try on the stroke of half-time was chalked off after failing to ground the ball.

Australia eventually hit back as James O'Connor and Barrett traded penalties during the closing stages before an extra nine minutes were played without a winner, but Foster defended Ioane.

"It would've been useful," Foster told reporters post-game when asked about Ioane's disallowed try, following his first Test as All Blacks coach.

"He's feeling pretty frustrated with himself but that's one of those little lessons players have to go through and I thought he had a reasonably strong game besides that.

"That's why they call it a Test match - you've got to take those little moments and when you get a little bit sloppy in those moments, it can come back and bite you."

Asked if Ioane's error cost the All Blacks who denied Australia first win in New Zealand since 2001, Foster – Steve Hansen's replacement – replied: "Not at all.

"We had a chance to win the game in the last 10 minutes and we weren't good enough to execute on it," Foster said.

"You don't dwell on errors in Test matches - there were a lot of errors before that and there were a lot of errors after that.

"It certainly would've been nice but it's not the reason we drew.

"You make an error, you move on. He's confident young man but he's got to learn from that one little thing."

The All Blacks made 202 tackles against Australia – the second successive match they have been forced to make 200-plus tackles (206 against Wales in November 2019) after not even reaching that mark in any Test prior since 2010, per Opta.

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