Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ehsan Mani is confident Australia and England will tour the country in the coming years as they prepare for a first Test on home soil since 2009.

Pakistan face Sri Lanka - the last team to visit over a decade ago - on Wednesday in Rawalpindi, the opener in a two-game series that also includes a Test in Karachi.

Mani insists Pakistan are not planning to play future series on neutral grounds, with England "very supportive" ahead of a possible tour.

"We are due to play England in 2021-22 and we are in serious discussions with them about coming to Pakistan," Mani told ESPN Cricinfo.

"So far, they've been very supportive, so I fully expect they will come and play their cricket in Pakistan. 

"Similarly, Australia, their chief executive has been to Pakistan and he's gone back with a totally different perception from what he thought it was like."

Pakistan Test captain Azhar Ali, meanwhile, has said the series opener against Sri Lanka is a huge moment for the country.

"It's a moment to rejoice, not only for the players but the whole Pakistan nation," he said, in quotes reported by Sky Sports.

"We had a tough series in Australia and the way we lost there was disappointing. Moving forward, we see this home series as an opportunity and advantage to turn things around.

"We will try our best to fix our mistakes and improve wherever we had been lacking.

"We have outstanding talent in our squad. They have potential and, if we implement it, results will be good."

Ben Stokes has revealed he should be fit to bowl during England's tour of South Africa after scans confirmed he had not sustained a knee injury.

Stokes complained of a knee problem during the first day of England's second and final Test against New Zealand in Hamilton,.

However, he did bowl 25 overs during the Test, which was drawn as England lost the series 1-0.

The all-rounder - a star of England's Cricket World Cup and Ashes campaigns - has now confirmed he will be fit to bowl against the Proteas, with England's four-Test tour to begin on Boxing Day.

"It's alright," Stokes told talkSPORT. "I got some scans when we got back [to] England and there's nothing really showing up on the MRI scans, which is good news.

"I just need to toughen up I guess but it's alright and it's just treatment now. I will be fine to bowl [in South Africa]."

After a difficult Ashes series and a poor performance with the bat in the first Test in New Zealand, Joe Root returned to form in style in Hamilton, scoring 226 in the first innings, and Stokes claimed he backed the England captain to hit a double century ahead of the tour.

"Rooty is one of the best players in the world. He obviously went through a little bit of a dip in performance but that is natural, he’s human. The old saying is form is temporary and class is permanent," Stokes added.

"It's obviously great for English cricket to see Joe go out in his last innings before a big tour and hopefully we can see Rooty scoring runs like he normally does.

"Being Test captain is one of the toughest jobs and one of the most criticised and how people speak about you is dependent on how well the performances on the pitch individually and as a team.

"It's unfair most of the time that when things don’t go well the captain gets it all. I actually called Joe to get a double hundred on day one of our first warm-up game to Rory Burns. I think I was stood at slip and I said, 'Joe is going to get a double hundred this tour'."

England will face Italy in the first of four warm-up matches for Euro 2020, with Gareth Southgate's side set to host the Azzurri on March 27.

The Three Lions secured qualification for next year's finals in style with a 7-0 thrashing of Montenegro in November, before rounding off their campaign by defeating Kosovo 4-0.

Southgate's side will face Croatia, victors in the 2018 World Cup semi-final meeting between the teams, and the Czech Republic - who inflicted England's only defeat of the qualification campaign - in Group D, with Scotland, Israel, Norway or Serbia set to complete the pool.

Four-time world champions Italy have won 11 straight games under Roberto Mancini, their longest run of consecutive victories, and will play Turkey, Switzerland and Wales in Group A, with all of the Azzurri's group matches to be played in Rome.

England have also lined up friendlies against Denmark on March 31, Austria on June 2 and Romania five days later, with their Euros campaign set to kick-off at Wembley on June 14.

James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow and Mark Wood have all been recalled by England for the Test series with South Africa.

Seamer Anderson, his country's leading Test wicket taker, has not appeared on the international stage since tearing his calf in the first Ashes match at Edgbaston in August.

He and Wood have been taking part in a fast bowling camp in Cape Town, the latter reduced to the role of spectator for the Ashes and the recent tour of New Zealand due to a left knee injury and side strain sustained in the World Cup final in July.

Wood is not expected to be available for the "earliest matches" of the tour, with Bairstow – who also travelled to Cape Town to work on his batting – restored to the 17-man squad after being omitted from the squad for the Black Caps series.

Bairstow endured a disappointing Ashes, scoring 50 just once in the five-match series. Moeen Ali, who had been tipped for a possible return to the squad having been dropped after the Edgbaston loss to Australia, is still unavailable for the selection. The all-rounder elected to take a break from the longest format in September.

Saqib Mahmood is the only player to lose his place. The Lancashire seamer did not feature in either Test in New Zealand.

Moeen's continued absence means Jack Leach and Matt Parkinson will provide the spin options for the four-Test series.

National selector Ed Smith said: "It is not predicted that Mark will be available for selection for the earliest matches. However, he will travel with the team and continue his rehab work with the medical staff on tour.

"There is no exact date given for his return, but the medical team is working towards him becoming fully available for selection during the tour.

"With that in mind, and given the extended period that James and Mark have had on the sidelines due to injury, it was sensible to have a 17-man squad."

England play a pair of warm-up matches before the first Test, which begins on December 26 at Centurion.

England assistant coach Graham Thorpe wants players to use their experience of the 1-0 Test series defeat in New Zealand to develop a harder edge.

Joe Root's side are back in action in South Africa later this month, with the first of four Tests starting on Boxing Day at Centurion.

James Anderson, Mark Wood and Jonny Bairstow are expected to return to the squad having sat out the trip to New Zealand, where a draw in Hamilton meant the tourists were unable to overturn an innings defeat in the first Test at Mount Maunganui.

Nevertheless, Thorpe acknowledges there is a bigger picture to consider when it comes to England developing their Test game under new head coach Chris Silverwood – namely the next chance to regain the Ashes in 2021-22.

"We've got to keep developing our players, no doubt about that. They have to ask themselves when they come away from a trip like this: where can I get better?" said Thorpe, as quoted by The Guardian.

"Because the big picture is that down the line, in a couple of years' time, we'll need resilient cricketers going to Australia.

"It’s down to our players to be honest and for us to be honest with them.

"If we are going to keep trying to go up that Test ladder and really compete abroad then we have to keep challenging the players along the way."

Chelsea are seemingly eager to sign Jadon Sancho, but they may have to wait until the end of the season.

The Borussia Dortmund star, 19, has been heavily linked with a move away from the Bundesliga club, with numerous Premier League sides reportedly interested.

And Chelsea could be ready to spend big to land the England international.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA READY TO BREAK TRANSFER RECORD FOR SANCHO

Chelsea are prepared to break their transfer record to land Sancho, according to Goal.com.

Sancho has been linked to the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City after impressing at Dortmund.

Chelsea broke their own transfer record last year, when they paid Athletic Bilbao a reported £71.6million (€80m) for goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

The Premier League club are appealing their transfer ban, at this stage unable to buy players in January.

That may not be such a problem when it comes to Sancho, though, with Sport Bild reporting the attacker may not want a January move.

ROUND-UP

Edinson Cavani is struggling for game time at Paris Saint-Germain and the 32-year-old forward could be set for a move. AS reports the Uruguay international likes the idea of a switch to Atletico Madrid.

- Staying at the Wanda Metropolitano and Athletico Paranaense midfielder Bruno Guimaraes, 22, will join Atletico in a €30m transfer next year, according to Marca.

- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appears safe for now at Manchester United, but The Sun reports the Premier League club could turn to England manager Gareth Southgate if they decide to make a change at the end of the season.

- Carlo Ancelotti remains under pressure at Napoli. La Gazzetta dello Sport reports Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis will wait until the Champions League clash against Genk on December 10 before considering a change. Napoli are winless in eight matches and sit seventh in Serie A.

- Metz and France youth international defender Lenny Lacroix, 16, is attracting interest from Barcelona and Juventus, according to Mundo Deportivo.

- With Everton in the Premier League relegation zone after their Merseyside derby loss to Liverpool, Marco Silva could be sacked. The Sun reports Silva said goodbye to his Everton players after the loss at Anfield.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad have paid tribute to "true great" Bob Willis after the ex-England captain died at the age of 70.

Willis passed away on Wednesday after a short illness, prompting an outpouring of recognition for his career and warm words from those who had known him in the cricketing world.

When he retired in 1984, Willis was England's record Test wicket-taker with 325.

Along with Ian Botham, Anderson and Broad surpassed that tally and the duo were aware cricket had lost a huge force following the news about Willis, who had a long broadcasting career after his playing days came to an end.

"Incredibly sad to hear the news about Bob Willis," Anderson, who sits top of the list for England with 575 Test wickets, wrote on Twitter.

"He was a true great, generous in sharing his knowledge about the game and a lovely man."

Broad, who has 471 Test wickets to his name, wrote on social media: "Gutted to hear the news of Bob Willis passing. 

"A lovely person with a great humour who was so proud of England cricket. Legend."

Former England captain David Gower worked closely with Willis, both as a team-mate during their on-field careers before joining forces again at Sky Sports.

"It is very sad and it is equally sad that the end seemed to come very quickly," Gower said.

"The last time I saw Bob was a few weeks ago and he was still fighting heroically. He did his best to ignore what was happening to him. 

"He was still on television up until very recently. He was still very forthright and it brings to an end, in my case, a friendship that has lasted happily for 40 years or so."

Willis was perhaps most recognised for his contribution to England's famous Ashes series win over Australia in 1981, including figures of 8-43 in a dramatic Headingley Test.

Gower added: "Bob's performance at Headingley in 1981 - without that, England come second in that game and we probably wouldn't have had the wherewithal to win the next couple of games as well. 

"Ian got top billing in 1981 because of three stellar performances, but Bob's one performance at Headingley was as crucial because without that win, we would have lost that series."

England cricket great Bob Willis has died at the age of 70 following an illness, his family have announced.

Willis took 325 wickets at an average of 25.20 in a 90-match, 13-year Test career and was one of England's greatest fast bowlers. 

"We are heartbroken to lose our beloved Bob," read a widely reported statement from Willis' family.

"He was an incredible husband, father, brother and grandfather.

"He made a huge impact on everybody he knew and we will miss him terribly."

He sits fourth in the all-time list of England Test wicket takers and also had an 18-match spell as the country's captain. His last international match was a Test against West Indies in July 1984.

Willis also played 64 ODIs and went on to become a popular pundit, starting a long broadcasting stint with Sky Sports in 1991, having previously worked with the BBC.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) released a statement which said it was "deeply saddened" and paid tribute to an "outstanding cricket career".

"We are forever thankful for everything he has done for the game," the ECB said.

"Everyone at the ECB sends sincere condolences to his family. Cricket has lost a dear friend."

Willis took 8-43 to star alongside Ian Botham in England's famous 1981 Ashes victory over Australia at Headingley, a third Test win which turned the series in the home side's favour.

At county level, Willis started at professional level with Surrey and went on to spend the majority of his career at Warwickshire.

Surrey said they were "devastated" at the news, while the MCC paid tribute to "a Lord's legend" and the ICC recognised an "Ashes hero".

Brian Lara would have loved Australia to have given David Warner a greater opportunity to break his record for the most runs scored in a Test innings.

Warner struck a sublime unbeaten 335 in the second-Test hammering of Pakistan at the Adelaide Oval last week, with only Matthew Hayden (380) above him in the list of highest scores by an Australian.

However, Warner did not get the chance to beat the legendary Lara's overall benchmark of 400 not out achieved against England in April 2004 after captain Tim Paine declared, not wanting to risk the potential for adverse weather scuppering the team's chances of victory.

Lara understands Paine's thought process behind the decision, but he was disappointed Warner was not afforded more time to have a go at his record.

"Well I was hoping that they would give him an opportunity to at least go for it," he told Omnisport.

"I know Australia, first and foremost, want to put themselves in the best possible position to win the game. 

"But looking at the end of it, in hindsight, you're winning with a day to spare. It would have been nice to see someone have a go at it. 

"It is always tricky, you never know what is going to happen when you start approaching a total such as that. I remember doing it the first time in 1994 [375 not out against England], how nervous you can get. 

"But so be it, they won the Test which is the most important thing. He batted well, put his team in a great position. 

"What I like about him is he's an attacking player, which is great. You want an attacking player to be on or around such a record."

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) has lodged a complaint with local police in response to the racist abuse directed at Jofra Archer during the first Test in Mount Maunganui.

NZC apologised to Archer and launched an investigation after the England paceman said a spectator shouted "disturbing" insults on the final day at Bay Oval last week.

The matter has been turned over to authorities in the North Island city of Tauranga as attempts to identify the individual continue.

"Information gathered from an inquiry which included studying CCTV footage, listening to audio, interviewing bystanders and obtaining material on social media has been incorporated in the complaint," read an NZC statement.

"While the information-gathering exercise was useful, NZC has been unable to conclusively identify the person responsible and is therefore unable to comment on public speculation regarding his personal details."

NZC chief executive David White said sufficient evidence had been gathered to warrant police involvement.

"What happened to Jofra was reprehensible and has led to a general upscaling of security around the area of racial abuse at all our international venues," he said.

"Should the person responsible ever reoffend, we believe we have enough information to link him to the Bay Oval incident."

White said NZC would seek to impose a "lengthy" ban from all international venues in New Zealand if police inquiries ended in a conclusive identification.

England lost the match by an innings and 65 runs and were consigned to a series defeat on Tuesday as a rain-affected second Test ended in a draw.

Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor scored centuries before the rain arrived as the second Test between New Zealand and England was drawn on Tuesday.

Williamson (104) and Taylor (105) were unbeaten when the weather stopped play in the second session on day five at Seddon Park in Hamilton.

The pair had put on 213 for the third wicket as the Black Caps got to 241-2 – a lead of 140 runs.

England had their chances – Joe Denly dropped a simple catch in the opening session – but fell to a 1-0 series defeat.

The flat Seddon Park pitch continued to offer little, but England did themselves no favours in their bid for an unlikely victory to begin day five.

Williamson was dropped on 39, Ollie Pope unable to hold onto a regulation catch down leg side off Ben Stokes (0-58).

Denly then put down an even easier chance when the New Zealand captain was on 62.

Jofra Archer (0-27) was already celebrating as Williamson poked a soft shot to Denly at midwicket, but the simple chance was dropped.

That was as close as England got to a wicket as Williamson reached his 21st Test century and Taylor his 19th after back-to-back sixes.

Taylor also went past 7,000 Test runs, becoming the second New Zealander – after Stephen Fleming – to reach the milestone.

Joe Root believes England can win the second Test against New Zealand if they can get on a "wicket train" early on the final day.

England captain Root reached 226 on day four – his first overseas double century and his longest innings at 10 hours, 36 minutes – at Seddon Park before falling to Mitchell Santner as the tourists lost their last five wickets for 21 runs.

New Zealand saw Jeet Raval fall to a second-ball duck and Tom Latham dismissed for 18 in the final session, but Kane Williamson (37 not out) and Ross Taylor (31no) guided the Black Caps to stumps.

A draw appears to be the most likely result as rain is forecast for much of Tuesday, but Root thinks England have a shot at securing a 1-1 series draw if they can get Williamson and Taylor out quickly.

"If we can make an early breakthrough, it could get us on a bit of a wicket train, because they're such key figures in their batting line-up," said Root.

"They've got huge amounts of experience and are class players, so it would give our guys a lot of confidence for sure.

"They're two experienced players who you expect a bit of rearguard from – they know how to play in those situations, and on a good surface you expect a bit of a fightback from the number two side in the world."

He added: "I wanted to try to get us in a position where we could force a result in this game. A good couple of wickets tonight, it would have been nice to get a couple more.

"But I still feel it we can sneak a couple tomorrow morning first thing – I know there's a bit of weather around but you just never know. There will be one big last push from everyone to try and come away with a levelled-up series.

"We'd have taken this position at the start of the day."

Neil Wagner sparked the decimation of England's tail by removing Ollie Pope and he went on to claim his fourth five-wicket haul in as many Tests, but the left-armer was modest when assessing his performance.

"I was a bit lucky to get the rewards. All the other bowlers bowled well, too, and grafted away," said Wagner.

"It just sort of came my way and I ended up getting a couple of wickets which is quite nice and pleasing and satisfying.

"But all the bowlers bowled well with not a lot of luck and reward. We hunt as a pack and bowl really well in partnerships and I was lucky it came my way."

England remain a chance of winning the second Test against New Zealand after Joe Root scored a double century on Monday.

Root (226) continued to star on day four at Seddon Park, where Ollie Pope (75) also helped England to 476 – a first-innings lead of 101.

While the tourists, who trail the two-Test series 1-0, scored slowly, they moved into a lead and then struck twice before stumps.

Sam Curran (1-26) and Chris Woakes (1-8) removed Jeet Raval (0) and Tom Latham (18) respectively to give England hope of an unlikely victory.

Curran trapped Raval lbw, the opener opting not to review despite appearing to get an inside edge.

The Black Caps fell to 28-2 when Latham edged Woakes to Root at slip, but Kane Williamson (37) and Ross Taylor (31) were unbeaten at the close of play as they steadied the hosts, reaching 96-2 – still trailing by five runs.

Earlier, Root and Pope combined for a 193-run sixth-wicket partnership to boost England.

New Zealand struggled to create many chances as England edged into a lead prior to lunch before Root reached his third Test double century.

The tourists looked to lift their run rate but the lower-order were unable to contribute much of note as Neil Wagner (5-124) took a ninth Test five-for.

Woakes and Stuart Broad went for ducks, while Curran (11 not out) and Jofra Archer (8) made small contributions.

But the two late wickets have given England hope, although rain is expected in Hamilton on Tuesday.

Mitchell Starc spent little time worrying about his Test future after the Ashes, despite playing a minimal role for Australia in England.

Left-arm seamer Starc is playing in his 54th Test against Pakistan in Adelaide, yet his Ashes involvement was limited to the fourth match at Old Trafford, taking four wickets to help the visitors retain the urn.

The 29-year-old returned to star with seven wickets in the first-Test win over Pakistan and has impressed again this week, his match figures 7-76 at the end of day three.

Victory now appears a formality for Australia, and Starc said after Sunday's play of his role: "It's not really come into my thought process.

"Playing a bit of Shield cricket and the T20s [before the Pakistan series] was the focus to begin with, and [then to] see how the Shield games played out and if I was selected in the Test squad, then go from there.

"It was never really a worry or a focus. I was just looking forward to playing some games for New South Wales and playing some white-ball cricket."

Yasir Shah made an unlikely 113 for Pakistan, but they were forced to follow on as Starc continues to excel with the pink ball, boosting his total in day-night Tests to a still world-best 33 wickets.

"I still think it's more like a white ball than a red ball, so that's probably playing in my favour there," the bowler said.

"It still went soft for us on that wicket, as we saw through the early afternoon session today where it didn't move around much at all and the wicket was quite flat.

"When it's going through those stages, it's trying to control the scoreboard. We did that fairly well at times and then Yasir got away from us a fair bit."

Rory Burns hailed a "beautiful" performance from Joe Root and was happy to get his own tempo right as both struck hundreds for England on day three of the second Test with New Zealand.

Burns hit only his second Test century as England fought back at Hamilton, while captain Root ended a long wait with his first ton in the five-day game since February.

Root's 17th Test hundred will ease the pressure on the under-pressure skipper, who has consistently faced questions over whether the burden of the captaincy was affecting his form.

He stood unbeaten on 114 but Burns was run out on 101, with England going on to lose the wickets of Ben Stokes and Zak Crawley before the close, leaving them on 269-5 in reply to New Zealand's 375.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Burns said of Root: "He played beautifully, to get himself back to where he wants to be, good Test match hundred and he's still in and still fighting away and hopefully he's going to make it a massive one.

"From a personal point I feel like I got my tempo right and managed to cash in."

On the run-out, when he was pushing for a second run, Burns added: "I thought I was just about there. I thought I had enough in the tank but didn't quite. That's disappointing to miss out in that way, it could have been a real big one."

England's prospects of winning the match and saving the two-game series appear to be slim, with the tourists facing the likelihood of needing to bat well into day four to gain a lead with which they could declare and then attempt to claim an innings victory.

Burns, however, remained hopeful, saying: "There's still a fair bit of batting there, it's about getting as far ahead of them as we can now and see what we can enforce."

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