Will Pucovski has been ruled out of the fourth Test against India, with Marcus Harris to open for Australia.

Pucovski injured his shoulder during the drawn third Test in Sydney and the opener will miss the final game of the series, which is locked at 1-1.

Australia captain Tim Paine confirmed on Thursday that Harris would replace his Victoria team-mate for the Test in Brisbane, beginning on Friday.

"He tried to train this morning and didn't quite come up," Paine told a news conference.

"He'll have a bit of work to do with our medicos to see where he goes from here, but he's obviously missing this Test match and Marcus Harris will replace him."

Harris returns for his first Test since the 2019 Ashes and the left-hander has averaged 24.06 in his previous 17 innings at the level.

The 28-year-old scored 355 runs at an average of 118.33 to begin the Sheffield Shield season for Victoria, while he made scores of 35, 25 not out, 26 and five for Australia A against India last month.

Paine is looking forward to seeing what Harris can deliver as Australia aim for a series win.

"[He's] been working his backside off in our hub. He deserves his opportunity," he said.

"He's a really relaxed type of character, so he's one we certainly enjoy having in and around our group."

Australia are unbeaten in their past 31 Tests at the Gabba, winning 24 and drawing seven.

The Gabba is the only venue in Australia where India have played more than once without winning – drawing once and losing five times.

West Indies coach, Phil Simmons, has encouraged players who will get an unexpected opportunity to represent the regional team to make full use of it.

Following the withdrawal of 12 first-team players from the Bangladesh tour, the regional team will be made up of a majority of fringe players.  In fact, for the Test squad, four players could be in line for a debut with five having less than 10 caps.  The One Day International (ODI) squad contains 7 players who could be picked for the first time.

Despite being massive underdogs, however, Simmons believes the situation presents a unique opportunity for the inexperienced players that have been selected.

“My role and my message to all the players here: you’re not here to fill in, you’re here to give yourself a chance,” Simmons told members of the media via a Zoom press conference on Tuesday.

 “You have a chance now to seal your place in this team. If you do well here, that augurs well for you going forward.  You come here, you do well in the three games in the ODI series and the two-Test matches then you’re putting yourself in a place where nobody can move you, so you have that opportunity and only you have that opportunity,” he added.

 

West Indies captain for the upcoming Bangladesh tour, Kraigg Brathwaite, insists he does not see the current squad as merely a stand-in 11 but a talented group capable of winning games.

With 12 regular team players making themselves unavailable for selection ahead of the tour, after citing health and safety concerns, the Caribbean team will start as massive underdogs heading into the series.

The full-strength squad was comprehensively outplayed in 2018, with the hosts comfortably coasting to a 2-0 series win.  Brathwaite will lead a squad without the likes of Jason Holder, Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer, Roston Chase, or Shamarh Brooks available.  While he himself, and the likes of Jermaine Blackwood, Shannon Gabriel, and Kemar Roach, will provide some experience, four players could be making a debut with five having less than 10 appearances for the West Indies.

“I think I have a good team here, a few guys haven’t played international cricket, some haven’t played in a little while but I know this team is fully capable of doing well at the international level,” Brathwaite told members of the media on Wednesday.

“The guys here, I don’t see them as second-string guys, I believe they can perform at the international level.  So, I know they are looking forward to the opportunity.”

 

Dimuth Karunaratne believes Sri Lanka have a "clear advantage" over England in the two-match Test series due to the tourists' inexperience of playing in the conditions they will face.

Joe Root's side completed a whitewash in Sri Lanka the last time they met in the longest format in November 2018.

England start the series in the Galle bio-secure bubble on Thursday with the aim of securing a third consecutive Test series triumph over Sri Lanka for the first time.

They will have a very different side to the one selected at the same venue just over two years ago, with Rory Burns, Ben Stokes, Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali and Keaton Jennings not featuring.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Ben Foakes is expected to be overlooked despite being named man of the series in that 3-0 success in Sri Lanka, while batsman Dan Lawrence is poised to make his debut.

Sri Lanka have won only one of their past seven Tests and were beaten 2-0 by South Africa recently, but captain Karunaratne believes they can respond against England.

"We have a clear advantage against this team, because they've got a few new players," the batsman said.

"From the last series they played against us, Stokes is not in their squad and Jennings is not in the team. And Stokes is the guy who balanced their team. The players in the current squad don't have much experience in these conditions."

Karunaratne, however, knows Sri Lanka - who are able to call upon Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal and Suranga Lakmal - will be in for a battle. 

 "That said, we shouldn't take it easy. They've prepared well, and I've seen how well they've prepared. They've also been playing cricket and they were the first ones to start playing Tests again after COVID hit.

"Their fitness levels are still up there. We only started again against South Africa, and because of the injury concerns, we've lost players."

Sri Lanka and England both have plenty to ponder over team selection as they prepare to finally face each other in Test action again. 

The nations were due to meet in March 2020, only for their two-match series to be postponed amid the escalating coronavirus pandemic. England were playing a tour game in Colombo at the time when the decision was taken to cut short the trip and head home. 

They have returned 10 months later for a rearranged tour, with the ongoing COVID-19 situation seeing them hosted in a bio-secure bubble for both games in Galle. 

However, Moeen Ali will miss the first Test – and possibly the next one that follows – after a positive test result upon arrival. Chris Woakes had to self-isolate having been considered a close contact, so missed out on England's only warm-up game. 

Moeen was joint-leading wicket-taker with fellow spinner Jack Leach - taking 18 wickets apiece - when England swept the hosts 3-0 on spin-friendly pitches when visiting Sri Lanka in late 2018, though captain Joe Root is aware the surfaces may not be the same now.

"We are very aware that the conditions might be very different to the last time we played here," Root told the media.

"We are not going to have too many preconceived ideas about what we are going to come up against. It's quite dangerous and lazy to walk into a series like that." 

The tourists are without Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes – who are both rested with a long tour to India to follow immediately afterwards – while opening batsman Rory Burns has remained in England for the birth of his first child. 

As for the hosts, a recent 2-0 Test series defeat in South Africa came at a cost in terms of injuries. Dhananjaya de Silva and Kasun Rajitha are both sidelined, plus Oshada Fernando has had no match practice after a spell out of action. 

However, there is good news over the fitness of batsman Dinesh Chandimal – who missed the second Test against the Proteas – and seamer Suranga Lakmal, plus former captain Angelo Mathews is back as Sri Lanka aim for a first Test win over their opponents since a famous triumph at Headingley in 2014. 


JONNY BE GOOD AGAIN?

With holes to fill in the batting order due to key absences, England are set to hand a debut to Dan Lawrence and recall Jonny Bairstow, who appears to be the choice to bat at number three with Zak Crawley moving up to open.

Bairstow made a century at that position in the previous Test against Sri Lanka, the third time in four first-innings knocks he has reached three figures against them. However, he has not played in the format since 2019, having lost his place after averaging 18.6 in 19 innings during that year.

Wicketkeeper Ben Foakes played a starring role for England in Sri Lanka last time, averaging 69.25 with the bat, but looks set to miss out on the final XI.

LEADING FROM THE FRONT

Captain Dimuth Karunaratne's century in the second Test against South Africa was one of few positives for Sri Lanka in a 10-wicket defeat in Johannesburg to start the new year.

The opening batsman has averaged 66 on home soil in Tests since 2018 (14 innings), though none of his 10 career hundreds have come against England. 

Having Mathews back should ease some of the run-scoring burden, too. The 33-year-old may not contribute much with the ball these days but does average 45.31 with the bat in Tests. He will go into the opening game needing just 19 more runs to reach 6,000 in the format.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- England have won their previous two bilateral Test series against Sri Lanka; they are attempting to record three successive victories against them for the first time.
- Sri Lanka come into the series having only mustered one win in their past seven Test matches (D2 L4); they have just suffered a 2-0 series defeat against the Proteas, losing the opener by an innings margin before slumping to a 10-wicket loss in the second match of the series in South Africa.
- The hosts have only lost once in five Test matches against England at Galle International Stadium (W2 D2). However, the most recent meeting between the sides at the venue was won by the tourists.
- Sri Lanka have managed to get the umpire's decision overturned in 23 per cent of their referrals in Tests since the start of 2019. Only Australia (22 per cent) have a lower rate; England's record stands at 31 per cent across that period.
- Despite making his Test debut in Sri Lanka over 13 years ago, Stuart Broad has only played three Test matches in the country. He has picked up three wickets there (averaging 83), but is six scalps away from going above Courtney Walsh (519) and into sixth in the list of all-time leading Test wicket-takers.

Australia coach Justin Langer slammed the criticism of Steve Smith, labelling it a "load of rubbish".

Smith was questioned after footage showed him standing at the crease and shaping up as if he was batting, including marking a guard, as India survived for a draw on the final day of the third Test in Sydney.

His actions at the crease forced India's Rishabh Pant to retake his own guard before play resumed, with the moment becoming a hot topic on Twitter.

But Langer hit out at the talk about Smith, who was sacked as Australia captain and banned for 12 months following the ball-tampering scandal during the tour of South Africa in 2018.

"I literally cannot believe some of the rubbish I read about Steve Smith, absolute load of rubbish," he told a news conference on Wednesday.

"If anyone knows Steve Smith, he's a bit quirky. We've all laughed about it for the last couple of years and I've spoken about it privately about how he's a bit quirky. What Steve Smith does at the crease, he does it probably most games, he's just thinking about the game.

"Anyone who suggests for one millisecond he was trying to do something untoward, way out of line, absolutely out of line. On that wicket, it was that flat, and it was like concrete, you need 15-inch spikes to make an indent on the crease and he went nowhere near the crease.

"I thought that was absolutely ludicrous and again in the last couple of years since he's been back, he has been exemplary on and off the field, he has let his bat do the talking, he was abused like I've never seen anything through England and he just kept smiling and letting his bat do the talking, give me a break, give me a break."

Australia captain Tim Paine, meanwhile, apologised on Tuesday for his behaviour during the third Test, including sledging Ravichandran Ashwin.

Langer backed Paine and said the 36-year-old would remain captain for the foreseeable future.

"You have no idea how much faith I've got in Tim Paine. He didn't have his best day, no doubt about that, but after three years, he has hardly put a hair out of place, he has been outstanding as the Australian captain, everything he does," he said.

"He had a frustrating day. We've got to cut him some slack surely. But having said that when you set a standard as high as he does and as we do, we understand we're going to get criticised when we fall below that, it's not what we're about.

"But Tim Paine, outstanding leader and will continue to be for some time to come yet. He has my 100 per cent support."

The series is locked at 1-1 ahead of the fourth Test starting in Brisbane on Friday.

Tributes have poured in from around the Caribbean for Jamaica-born former West Indies Women’s all-rounder Vivalyn Latty-Scott who passed away at the weekend.

Latty-Scott was a member of the first West Indies team to play a women’s Test match in 1976 against Australia. After retirement, she was a coach at all levels and also an umpire.

During her career as an off-spinner and right-handed batter, Latty-Scott played 10 Test matches and six One-Day Internationals. She was the first West Indian woman to take five wickets in a Test innings – 5 for 48 off 41 overs on debut against the Australians in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Ann Browne-John, CWI's Lead Selector for women's cricket and a former international player noted: "It is with great sadness we heard of the passing of Vivalyn Latty-Scott. She was always a fierce competitor and took her cricket very seriously. She taught us how to put our all into the game and paved the way for what we see today. She was an excellent cricketer. She was truly one of the stalwarts of women's cricket in the Caribbean."

Dorothy Hobson, who played alongside Latty-Scott for Jamaica and West Indies described her as a “dedicated and committed cricketer and lifelong fan of the game”. Louise Browne, the first West Indies women’s Test captain hailed Latty-Scott as a “passionate player with amazing knowledge of the game”.

“When I started as captain, ‘Latty’ was one of the senior members of that first West Indies women’s team and she excelled with bat and ball. Whenever I put the ball in her hand I had the confidence she would produce good figures and she never disappointed. She was passionate about the game and was always aware of the statistics and what the team required. When the history of women’s cricket is updated, Vivalyn must be mentioned among the outstanding players,” Browne said.

Hobson said: “She was a great captain for Jamaica and a great player for the West Indies. She was a complete player with bat and ball, equally adept at both skills. Cricket was ‘her game’, she was a dedicated and committed cricketer and she always had a dream of doing great things for the West Indies. Her legacy is that she contributed to the game at all levels — boys, girls, men, and women — she made a great impact at all levels.”

Stafanie Taylor, the current women’s captain and most successful women’s player in West Indies history also paid tribute to Latty-Scott.

“I have known this amazing lady from when I went on my first tour with the Jamaica team and she was very helpful to me. She set a trial in women’s cricket and she played a very important role in my development and inspired many young cricketers in Jamaica to play the game and to excel. We all admired and respected her.”

West Indies coach, Phil Simmons, believes the team has travelled with a balanced bowling line-up for the Bangladesh tour, despite recent discussions surrounding too many spinners being selected for the squad.

The issue was brought to the fore after up and coming fast bowler Chemar Holder was left out of the Test team for the tour.  Holder, who made his debut in New Zealand, showed plenty of promise in tough conditions.  Chief of selectors Roger Harper went on to explain that the player had been left out to accommodate more spinners, in order to take advantage of Bangladesh’s slow pitches.

The Test squad selected included four spinners but also has the usual pace bowling trio of Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, and Alzarri Joseph and Simmons insists the balance of the first team is yet to be settled.

“I think we are here with a balanced squad, we have three spinners, we have three fast bowlers and a seeming all-rounder, it’s a case where we have balance all round,” Simmons told members of the media via a Zoom conference on Tuesday.

“So, it’s a case where we have balance all around.  The decision has to be made whether we go with three fast bowlers, two spinners, two fast bowlers, three spinners, a decision hasn’t been made yet.  We just have a balanced lineup and that’s what we came here with.  We will make decisions closer to the game.”

 

 

West Indies stand-in vice-captain, Sunil Ambris, has joined those expressing optimism ahead of the team’s upcoming tour of Bangladesh, despite admitting the unit is likely to be impacted by inexperience.

The 27-year-old Vincentian native was appointed second in command of the One Day International (ODI) squad, with Jason Mohammed named as captain, after several regular players pulled out of the tour.

With regulars like captain Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer, Darren Bravo, and Nicholas Pooran missing, Ambris, who has so far played 13 ODIs, will rank among the senior members of the squad.  In fact, eight players will be first-time call-ups for the format.

“It is obvious that we have a very inexperienced team travelling to Bangladesh, but having said that, I think it is a talented bunch of guys,” Ambris told Searchlight.

 “Once we stay positive and do what we know we can do, we should be okay … Once we play some good cricket, we can win the series,” he added.  Ambris, who made his debut in 2017, has scored 448 runs at an average of 44.7. He has two fifties and one hundred to his name.

 

West Indies spinner, Sunil Narine, believes that cricket’s T10 format could be the best choice for inclusion at the Olympic Games as it is even more exciting than the T20 version.

Cricket has not been played at the Olympic Games since 1900, where Britain and France were the only two teams that participated.  There have, however, been numerous discussions geared towards reviving the sport at the Games in recent years, with T20 cricket identified as the best format.  Narine, however, believes that T10 could also be a consideration.

“The T10 format is more exciting than the T20 format. In T20s, the batters take a few overs before starting their attacking skills, however, in T10 the batters probably look for only one or two balls,” Narine told the Daily Times.

“There’s always a possibility to attract new fans through a shorter format of cricket and more exciting cricket. It will be an exciting thing if cricket is included in the Olympics as well and hopefully, maybe T10 could be a part of the Olympics,” he added.

The 10 over-format of the sport was introduced in the United Arab Emirates in 2017, it is, however, yet to be widely adopted.

Narine will be among a number of West Indies players taking part in this season’s edition.  The spinner will represent the Deccan Gladiators, alongside West Indies T20 captain Kieron Pollard.

With 13584 runs, 22 centuries and 85 50s under his belt Christopher Henry Gayle is arguably the greatest T20 batsman in history.

Chris Gayle, Chadwick Walton and Sherfane Rutherford and Carlos Brathwaite were the four West Indies players selected to play in the Pakistan Super League following the 2021 Draft held in Lahore on Sunday.

Fair or foul? Gamesmanship or unsportsmanlike conduct? Steve Smith found himself in the spotlight after his actions on the final day of the third Test between Australia and India in Sydney.

Smith was at his best with the bat in the match, making scores of 131 and 81 as he returned to form in style after a recent lean spell.

However, it may well be his footwork during Monday's final day will overshadow what he achieved during the rest of the Test.

With India battling to save the game, stump camera footage seen on social media showed Smith standing at the crease during a break in proceedings, the Australian shaping up as if he was batting, including marking a guard.

His actions at the crease forced India's Rishabh Pant to retake his own guard before play resumed, with the moment becoming a hot topic on Twitter.

"Tried all tricks including Steve Smith trying to remove Pant's batting guard marks from the crease," former India batsman Virender Sehwag wrote to accompany the footage that was seen on the international feed of the broadcast.

Retweeting Sehwag's post, ex-England captain Michael Vaughan added: "This is very very poor from Steve Smith!!". Meanwhile, David Lloyd, who played and coached England before becoming a television commentator, wrote: "How childish".

Pant did not seem too perturbed by what happened, however, going on to make 97 as India impressively secured a draw.

Smith was sacked as Australia captain following the ball-tampering scandal during the tour of South Africa in 2018. Along with team-mate David Warner, he was banned for 12 months from international and domestic cricket for his involvement in the incident.

Cameron Bancroft, who was the player caught by television cameras appearing to use sandpaper to alter the condition of the ball during the third Test against the Proteas at Newlands, was handed a nine-month suspension.

Tim Paine, who took over as skipper of the Test side, was also trending on social media after a verbal exchange with India's Ravichandran Ashwin during the final session of play at the SCG.

Ashwin pulled away before a delivery as he and Paine shared words, their conversation picked up by the stump microphone.

England paceman Stuart Broad pointed out on Twitter that such situations are "part of the game" during a Test match, though did suggest Paine's use of an expletive could land him in trouble.

The wicketkeeper was indeed fined after the game, though lost 15 per cent of his match fee as punishment for dissent after questioning an umpiring decision during day three of the match.

Ashwin ended up unbeaten on 39 to help India survive and remain level at 1-1 in the series ahead of the final game in Brisbane.

Tim Paine acknowledged he needed to "set a better example" for those watching on after the Australia captain was fined for showing dissent at an umpiring decision in the third Test against India.

India managed to lose just three wickets as they secured a draw on a dramatic final day in Sydney, leaving the series delicately poised at 1-1 with the one game to play.

Australia missed chances in the field and wicketkeeper Paine, who dropped three catches behind the stumps, became involved in a verbal exchange with India's Ravichandran Ashwin that was caught on the stump microphone.

However, he was punished by the International Cricket Council for an incident that happened on the third day, having questioned a decision to umpire Paul Wilson.

Paine - who was fined 15 per cent of his match fee, as well as having one demerit point added to his disciplinary record - admitted the offence, making clear in his post-match press conference that he did not mean to be disrespectful to Wilson.

"We all know that the stump microphones are part of the broadcast. It's great to bring the viewers that close, [for them] to be able to hear it," he told the media.

"I probably set a pretty poor example with my use of language. I'm certainly disappointed with myself after I heard that.

"We know we've got to be careful. I've known and had Paul umpiring me for some time, I certainly didn't mean to be disrespectful to him. It was just a heat-of-the-moment audible obscenity, I think that's what I've been done for. 

"I need to be better than that. I know that the stump mics are on and I know it's part of the game. 

"There are lots of kids watching the Australia Test team  - I need to set a better example than that."

Paine's frustration came after a not out decision by on-field umpire Wilson following appeals for a catch at short leg, with the call not being overturned following the use of the DRS.

Addressing the incident again later in his media duties, he said: "I think we do want to take the game as close to the fans and spectators as we can. At times, when the stump mics are on, that's going to happen. 

"We try our best but we are not perfect. If the worst thing we have done is let the odd f-bomb go, then I think we're doing okay."

Australia and India now move on to Brisbane for the series decider, with the fourth Test going ahead after the Board of Control for Cricket in India received assurances over quarantine restrictions amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Tim Paine admitted he let Australia's bowlers down with three dropped catches as India ground out an unlikely draw in the third Test at the SCG.

India resumed day five on 98-2 with a victory target of 407 and they appeared to be sliding towards defeat when Nathan Lyon dismissed captain Ajinkya Rahane for four.

However, Rishabh Pant gave the tourists hope of pulling off the upset with a phenomenal knock despite dealing with an elbow injury, benefiting from being put down by Paine off Lyon on three and 56.

Lyon removed Pant three runs shy of his century and after Cheteshwar Pujara (77) fell to Josh Hazlewood, heroic defence from Hanuma Vihari (23 off 161 balls) and Ravichandran Ashwin (39 off 128) after the former tweaked his hamstring saw India over the line.

Paine also spilled Vihari on 15 late in the final session when he dived to his right, with India sitting at 334-5 at stumps to keep the series level at 1-1 ahead of the fourth Test at the Gabba, which begins on Friday.

"I'm bitterly disappointed, I pride myself on my wicketkeeping," said Australia captain Paine.

"I haven't had too many worse days than that today, it's a horrible feeling knowing our fast bowlers and our spinner bowled their hearts out and gave everything to the team.

"I certainly feel I let them down. I have to wear that, but I'll get another crack at it next week so move on.

"We created enough chances to win. I wouldn't say it's deflating, I thought there was a lot of positives out of the game and it was an awesome game of Test cricket.

"India fought bloody hard like we knew they would, clearly we are disappointed not to get a win but thought there were some good signs for us after the Melbourne Test."

Rahane praised Pant for boosting India on a daunting final day and the India skipper is confident the wicketkeeper-batsman will be fit for the fourth Test.

"Yeah, credit to him [Pant]. I mean, we made the strategy, but in the end it's all about that player showing the character," Rahane said.

"It was all about a left-hand-right-hand combination in the middle that worked out really well for us. Credit to him, the way he batted, attacking innings, backed himself really well.

"Rishabh is all right. Injuries, I think, we cannot control. We are just focusing on the Brisbane Test match. [Ravindra] Jadeja, the physios are going to take the call, but apart from that, we have to see how Vihari is feeling. Looking forward to Brisbane now."

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