West Indies leg-spinner, Hayden Walsh Jr, admits he is eager to put a difficult year behind him, with solid performances in the upcoming series of T20 internationals.

The 29-year-old was named as part of a preliminary 18-man squad that recently began preparations to face South Africa, Australia, and Pakistan in a flurry of upcoming T20 internationals. 

The group was named with preparations for the T20 World Cup in mind, which is slated for India later this year.  Despite not featuring in a number of matches for the regional team this year, he was one of 18 players offered an international retainer contract.  Chief of selectors Roger Harper went on to explain that the player’s status as the only quality leg-spinner, in the region, prompted the selectors to include him in the team’s retainer plans.

The player suffered from misfortune last year after being forced to pull out of the tour to Bangladesh, after testing positive for Covid-19.

 “I’ve been having a tough year so far, so the fact that I am still in the plans and I still have a lot to work for, it’s still a good feeling,” Walsh said in an interview with the Antigua Observer.

“I started out the year testing positive for Covid, which ruled me out of the Bangladesh series, which I was really looking forward to. I came back to the Super 50 and I didn’t really do as well, mainly because I’ve been in isolation and I didn’t have any preparation,” he added.

 “If that did not happen, then I probably most likely would have been around the T20 and One Day squads against Sri Lanka, so I feel like I’ve missed out a lot.”

 

Australian cricketers, David Warner, and Pat Cummins could be given rest ahead of the West Indies series, as tensions continue to simmer over the latest ball-tampering comments.

The pair were both named as part of a 23- preliminary squad for the July series, which will consist of five T20Is and three ODIs, but recent reports are suggesting that Cricket Australia is contemplating resting the players, in order to give them more time with their families as fissions within the squad have appeared.

The issue came back into the public spotlight after recent comments were made by bowler Collin Bancroft who hinted that the team’s bowlers were aware of the plan to use sandpaper on the ball during the Test against South Africa.

The 2018 incident had led to bans for then Australia captain Steve Smith and vice-captain Warner and Bancroft.  The team’s bowlers Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, and Nathan Lyon all issued a statement denying any involvement in the issue but another investigation from Cricket Australia now seems likely.

Several players were left discontented after Warner’s manager, James Erskine recently came out openly to say that the Sandpaper Gate was handled badly and eventually the truth will come out.

 

Australia bowlers Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon have called for an end to "rumour mongering and innuendo" around the 2018 ball-tampering scandal.

Then-captain Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were banned by Cricket Australia after all three were implicated in a plot to alter the condition of the ball with sandpaper during a 322-run defeat to South Africa at Newlands in March 2018.

Bancroft, who was caught on camera rubbing what was initially thought to be yellow sticky tape on the ball, was punished along with Smith and Warner, the latter as vice-captain also part of Australia's "leadership group".

Head coach Darren Lehman was cleared of any wrong-doing at the time and later stepped down, while the bowling attack of Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins and Lyon were also said to be in the dark.

In an interview with The Guardian last weekend, Bancroft was asked whether the bowlers knew what was going on and replied: "Uh … yeah, look, I think, yeah, I think it's pretty probably self-explanatory."

Cricket Australia invited Bancroft to come forward with any further information after it conducted a full investigation at the time.

In a joint statement published on Starc's website, the Australian bowlers stridently denied any wrongdoing and said it was "time to move on".

"We pride ourselves on our honesty. So it’s been disappointing to see that our integrity has been questioned by some journalists and past players in recent days in regard to the Cape Town Test of 2018," the statement read.

"We have already answered questions many times on this issue, but we feel compelled to put the key facts on the record again.

"We did not know a foreign substance was taken onto the field to alter the condition of the ball until we saw the images on the big screen at Newlands."

Umpires Nigel Long and Richard Illingworth inspected the condition of the ball after Bancroft appeared to tamper with it and did not find enough damage to change it – something Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins and Lyon chose to highlight.

The statement added: "None of this excuses what happened on the field that day at Newlands. It was wrong and it should never have happened.

"We've all learned valuable lessons and we'd like to think the public can see a change for the better in terms of the way we play, the way we behave and respect the game. Our commitment to improving as people and players will continue.

"We respectfully request an end to the rumour-mongering and innuendo. It has gone on too long and it is time to move on."

Marnus Labuschagne will miss Australia's white-ball tour of West Indies in July due to travel complications amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Labuschagne is currently playing for Glamorgan in England's County Championship and Australia's selectors have decided it will be more practical for the batsman to remain in the UK.

Australia will play five T20s in St Lucia and three ODIs in Barbados.

Although Labuschagne has not represented his country in the shortest format, he has three fifties and a century in 12 ODI innings, at an average of 39.41.

"Anyone who knows Marnus understands he would give absolutely anything to play for Australia and he is deeply upset to miss out due to circumstances beyond anyone's control," Australia's selection chairman Trevor Hohns said.

"We worked through numerous options in conversations with Marnus to find a workable solution but ultimately came to the conclusion it was more practical for him to remain in the UK.

"Had we not been in the middle of a global pandemic, Marnus would be on this tour as a well-established member and important part of the one-day side.

"It's an unfortunate circumstance of the many challenges the world is facing right now. As it stands, Marnus has the opportunity to continue in county cricket and T20 games with Glamorgan as we head into the [T20] World Cup and home summer."

Daniel Sams asked to be left out of the tour, which could yet be followed by a limited-overs trip to Bangladesh, for personal and mental health reasons.

The all-rounder tested positive for COVID-19 during his recent stint in the Indian Premier League, which was subsequently postponed due to the worsening coronavirus situation in the country.

Cricket Australia's integrity unit has contacted Cameron Bancroft to ask whether he wishes to provide any new information over the 2018 ball-tampering scandal that saw himself, Steve Smith and David Warner banned.

In an interview with The Guardian on Saturday, Bancroft hinted Australia's bowlers during that Test match against South Africa at Newlands – who were not punished – knew about activities undertaken to illegally alter the condition of the ball.

"Yeah, obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory," he said.

 

Preliminary Australia squad for limited-overs tour of the West Indies:

Aaron Finch (captain), David Warner, D'Arcy Short, Steven Smith, Josh Philippe, Alex Cary, Matthew Wade, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Moises Henriques, Mitchell Marsh, Ashton Agar, Adam Zampa, Mitchell Swepson, Tanveer Sangha, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Jason Behrendorff, Josh Hazlewood, Riley Meredith, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Andrew Tye

 Cricket West Indies (CWI) has announced an action-packed schedule for the West Indies Men, featuring three consecutive international home tours against South Africa, Australia and Pakistan, from June to August 2021.

The Test and T20 International (T20I) series against the Proteas, rescheduled from 2020, will start the International summer. The world-renowned tourism destinations of Saint Lucia and Grenada will be the West Indies host venues. South Africa are due to arrive at St Lucia on June 1 and will play two Test matches at The Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, followed by five T20Is at the Grenada National Cricket Stadium from June 26 to July 3. CWI is grateful to the Governments of St Lucia and Grenada for agreeing, at relatively short notice, to host the touring South Africans. This will be the first time that South Africa has played bilateral cricket in the West Indies since 2010.

The July 9 to 24 Australia white-ball tour of the West Indies will also begin at St Lucia’s Darren Sammy Cricket Ground hosting five T20Is. The Aussies then move on to Barbados for three day/night CG Insurance One Day Internationals (ODIs) at the world-famous Kensington Oval. The CG Insurance ODIs provide the opportunity for West Indies to secure more points in the ICC ODI Super League, as the West Indies strive to qualify automatically for the 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup following the recent 3-0 victory against Sri Lanka. https://www.icc-cricket.com/cricket-world-cup-super-league/standings

Pakistan is scheduled to arrive in Barbados on July 21 ahead of their five-match T20I Series, with the first two matches to be played at Kensington Oval before travelling to Guyana to play the concluding three T20Is at Guyana’s National Stadium from 26 to 29 June. The West Indies and Pakistan teams will then travel to Jamaica for two back-to-back Test matches at Sabina Park from August 12 to August 24 which conclude four days prior to the start of the Caribbean Premier League in St Kitts.

This schedule features a total of fifteen T20Is for the reigning ICC T20 World Champions, as the West Indies continue the build-up to their title defence at the ICC T20 World Cup, in October and November 2021.

CWI CEO Johnny Grave said: “Following the successful hosting of the all-format series against Sri Lanka earlier this year, we are delighted to announce that we are set to welcome South Africa, Australia and Pakistan to the West Indies. To host three international teams back-to-back in five territories is unprecedented, and putting these fixtures together was an enormous Covid-related logistical challenge. We must thank the visiting teams for agreeing to travel at this challenging period for world cricket and we are especially grateful to our regional Governments who are playing such a vital role in partnering with CWI to ensure that International cricket can be hosted safely while providing entertainment for our loyal fans and income for our cricketers and cricket communities.”
CWI has also been working closely with Territorial Cricket Boards, along with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Sport in all the host countries, to orchestrate all the logistics and agree the safety and medical protocols for the tour. All players, support staff and match officials will stay, train and play in a bio-secure environment, with regular COVID-19 PCR testing taking place with the assistance of Ministries of Health and from CARPHA.

It is not yet determined whether fans will be able to attend matches in person, however, they will be able to follow live on TV in the Caribbean with Flow Sport, live on radio with Vibes FM and their partner radio stations and via ball-by-ball updates and the new live blog in the match centre on www.windiescricket.com.

Australia will host France in a three-Test series in July, Rugby Australia (RA) announced on Friday.

The Wallabies will welcome fifth-ranked nation France to Australia, with games staged in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Midweek Test rugby will return for the first time since 2012 when the Wallabies face France at the SCG on July 7 before games at AAMI Park in Melbourne (July 13) and Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium (July 17).

Dave Rennie's Australia – who last met France in 2016 – will play a match at the SCG for the first time since 1986.

"France are one of the most exciting teams in World Rugby; they play with passion, flair and unpredictability and have proven time and time again they are one of the global forces of our game," said RA chief executive Andy Marinos.

"They have been quietly building their team as evidenced in their Junior World Cup performances over the past three seasons, and we are now starting to see this translate into their senior side as they look ahead to the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France."

"We have also seen the emergence of our own new next generation of Wallaby players throughout the 2020 International season, where I have no doubt, they will continue to build positive momentum into this exciting eToro France Test Series to be held in in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane," he added. 

"The return of midweek Test matches presents a unique opportunity for fans at home and at the venue, with each stadium in a central location for those attending after work.

"As we navigate our way through the ever-changing sporting landscape that we now operate within, we do so with the continued safety of all those involved in these Test matches, along with the communities in which we play, remaining our number one priority.

"We have enjoyed constructive and engaged discussions with [Rugby Union Players Association] RUPA on the international calendar, ensuring that player welfare and high-performance outcomes can be optimised. We will continue to work with our players to ensure our collective goal of being successful in all we do is realised."

France suffered a 3-0 whitewash during their last tour of Australia in 2014, and French Rugby Federation (FFR) president Bernard Laporte said: "It is a great opportunity for our French team to confront an emblematic nation of the southern hemisphere that has marked the history of world rugby such as Australia.

"We are convinced that our bleus, who feel a growing popular wave of the French at each match, will be keen to continue to perform on the international stage and demonstrate that France is among the great nations of world rugby!"

Eight of England's 11 players involved in the Indian Premier League have returned home following the indefinite suspension of the tournament.

The decision to call a halt to this year's competition was taken on Tuesday amid the worsening COVID-19 pandemic in India.

After two cases were confirmed among the Kolkata Knight Riders, Monday's game against Royal Challengers Bangalore was postponed. A Sunrisers Hyderabad player then also tested positive ahead of their fixture with Mumbai Indians.

Focus is now on seeing participants leave the country safely, with fears players would need to self-isolate in India and also return a negative coronavirus test before attempting to get a flight.

However, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Sam Billings, Chris Woakes, Moeen Ali and Jason Roy all boarded a flight that landed at Heathrow on Wednesday.

They will have to quarantine in government-approved hotels for the next 10 days.

The remaining three England players who were on duty - Eoin Morgan, Dawid Malan and Chris Jordan - are expected to leave India within the next 48 hours.

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia boss Nick Hockley has confirmed the contingent of Australian IPL players will be moved to the Maldives or Sri Lanka in the coming days.

The Australian government has blocked citizens returning home within 14 days of being in India, meaning they will first have to isolate elsewhere.

Justin Langer says there is "no captaincy position available" for Steve Smith after the former skipper expressed his desire to lead Australia again.

Smith's reign as Australia captain ended when he was banned from international cricket for a year and prevented from taking a leadership role for his country for two years due to the 2018 Newlands ball-tampering scandal.

Tim Paine took over as Test skipper and Aaron Finch white-ball captain, but Smith stated that he wants another chance to take charge again.

"I've certainly had a lot of time to think about it and I guess now I've got to a point where if the opportunity did come up again, I would be keen," the 31-year-old told News Corp.

"If it was what Cricket Australia wanted and it was what was best for the team at the time, it's certainly something I would be interested in now, that's for sure,"

He added: "Time keeps moving forward, and I've learnt so much the last few years about myself and grown as a human being.

"I feel as though I'd be in a better place if the opportunity did come up. If it doesn't, that's fine as well and I'd support whoever is in charge the same way I've supported Tim and Finchy. I haven't always felt like I wanted to do it again. That's only come in the last little bit."

Yet Australia head coach Langer says both Paine and Finch are secure in their positions.

"We have two very good captains and two important competitions coming up – an Ashes and a T20 World Cup. Our future looks good," he told the ABC.

"Despite the media chatter there is no captaincy position available."

Martin Guptill blasted New Zealand to a comprehensive seven-wicket victory in the decisive fifth Twenty20 international against Australia to secure a 3-2 series triumph on Sunday.

The Black Caps restricted Australia to 142-8 from their 20 overs after the visitors won the toss and elected to bat in Wellington, with Ish Sodhi taking 3-24.

Guptill (71 from 46 balls) eased any anxiety about a smaller run chase on a pitch being used for the third time this series, with New Zealand claiming victory with 27 balls to spare.

New Zealand's successful chase bucked the series trend of the side batting first winning every game.

Australia captain Aaron Finch said: "We probably just weren't aggressive enough with the bat. We probably let them dictate slightly, but we didn't get enough runs and kept losing wickets at regular intervals.

"A couple of us put a fair bit of time into our innings, 20, 30, 40 balls and then to not go on with that it was probably the difference in the game. If one of us gets 60 or 70, that might be a 160-170 score and then you're a couple of good power-play overs away from really squeezing."

Sodhi was named as the player of the series, finishing with 13 wickets at an average of 12.07 across five games.

The win was set up by a disciplined bowling display led by Sodhi, while Trent Boult (2-26 with 10 dot balls) did early damage, Mitchell Santner (0-21 with 10 dots) was tight and Tim Southee (2-38 with eight dots) restricted Australia at the death.

Boult trapped Josh Philippe lbw early before Finch (36 from 32 balls) and Matthew Wade (44 from 29 balls) put together a 66-run second-wicket stand.

Finch, who came under pressure earlier in the series after a poor run of form on the back of the Big Bash League, managed one six and five fours during his knock, while Wade hit two maximums and three fours.

Sodhi got the breakthrough with Finch slicing to Santner at point, leaving Australia 74-2 after 10 overs before the innings fell away, with Glenn Maxwell falling for one, Ashton Agar for six and Mitchell Marsh for 10.

Australia lost 68-6 in the final 10, including being restricted to 36-4 from the last five overs, battling an inconsistent pitch and tight New Zealand bowling.

Devon Conway (36 from 28) and Guptill combined for a 106-run opening partnership in the chase, before Glenn Phillips (34 not out from 16) finished the job.

Guptill blasted four sixes and seven fours in his knock, going at a strike rate of 154.35.

Riley Meredith (2-39) took two wickets in two balls, with Conway caught in the deep by Agar and Kane Williamson trapped lbw for a golden duck, but it was too little, too late.

The defeat compounds a bad 24 hours for the Aussies, after India's Test win over England on Saturday confirmed Australia would miss the Test Championship final.

Black Caps captain Williamson said: "Incredibly hard-fought series and momentum shifts throughout. Then to finish with three games on a surface, try and get a read on it was a real challenge."

Record-breaker Aaron Finch is relishing having fans in attendance when Australia face New Zealand for Sunday's Twenty20 series decider.

Finch hit 79 not out off 55 balls in Friday's series-levelling 50-run triumph to become his country's leading run-scorer in the format, with 2,310 overall.

His four sixes in the final over propelled his side to 156-6 and made Finch the first Australia batsman to reach 100 maximums in T20 cricket.

Finch was the only player who really got to grips with a tough surface, but he was just glad to help make it 2-2 after the tourists had fallen 2-0 behind.

"I've always said I'd rather get a duck and win than get some runs and lose," he said after New Zealand subsided to 106 all out, seamer Kane Richardson (3-19) the pick of the Australia attack as spinners Ashton Agar, Glenn Maxwell and Adam Zampa took two apiece.

"But to get some runs and contribute to a win is really nice. I felt like I was hitting them terribly for a large portion of the innings, but it was one of those wickets where you never really felt totally in, particularly when spin was bowling.

"It was nice to get a few out of the middle towards the end and get us to a decent total."

On the subject of a relaxation of coronavirus restrictions allowing for the return of fans for the final match, he added: "You play professional sport because you love entertaining, you love the atmosphere when you're at the ground.

"I love going to and watching sport, so to have fans at the ground, regardless of whether they're rooting for you or against you, is just brilliant. It provides so much."

Aaron Finch became Australia's record Twenty20 run-scorer with a captain's display as the tourists set up a series decider after a dominant victory over New Zealand in the fourth of five Twenty20 showdowns.

Finch's 79 not out off 55 balls helped lay the foundations for a 50-run triumph, with Australia posting 156-6 in Wellington before bowling out the Black Caps for just 106.

It means the series is now level at 2-2, with Australia having come from two down, and will be settled in the final match on Sunday.

Tim Southee was furious after Finch was given not out on umpire's call following an lbw review in the first over, with his reaction resulting in a formal reprimand for a Level 1 breach of the ICC Code of Conduct.

The fast bowler might have been even more angry had he known the damage Finch would go on to do, the skipper accounting for over half of his side's total to become his country's leading scorer in the format on 2,310 runs.

Finch smashed four sixes off the final over, that explosive spell alone giving him more runs than any of his team-mates, with Marcus Stoinis' 19 the next-best tally.

That fact underlined the tricky nature of the pitch and New Zealand could not get to grips with it as Australia's bowlers made hay.

Kane Richardson took three wickets, while Ashton Agar, Glenn Maxwell and Adam Zampa each contributed two, with Kyle Jamieson – who bowled that expensive over to Finch – providing the only real flourish on the Black Caps' scorecard with 30 off 18 deliveries.

With a thrilling finale in prospect, fans will be allowed to attend the decider in Wellington after a relaxation of coronavirus restrictions.

Fantastic performances from Ashton Agar and Glenn Maxwell ensured Australia kept their T20I series against New Zealand alive with a comprehensive 64-run victory.

Trailing 2-0 in the five-match series after a nail-biting defeat last time out in Dunedin, Australia produced an impressive response in the third T20I.

Maxwell smashed 70 from 31 balls with captain Aaron Finch adding 69 as Australia posted 208-4 after losing the toss.

Agar took 6-30 as New Zealand slumped to 144 all out in reply, setting up an intriguing fourth match on Friday.

Spin bowler Agar is the first Australia player to record six wickets in a T20 match and only the fourth ever in international cricket.

Australia are looking to avoid a third consecutive T20I series defeat following losses to England and India, while the hosts are seeking a third straight triumph.

The clash on Wednesday went against that formbook, as well as the trend of this series so far, with Finch's 44-ball knock setting the tone.

After Matthew Wade (5) fell early, the skipper - who had not registered a fifty in his previous 26 innings - put on stands of 83 with Josh Philippe (43) and 64 with a rampant Maxwell.

Maxwell scored 62 of his 70 runs in boundaries, with eight fours and five sixes in a devastating display of hitting.

Kane Williamson opted to bowl despite Mitchell Santner being ruled out with a head cold, meaning he was self-isolating as precaution while waiting for a COVID-19 test result.

Ish Sodhi (2-32) was the pick of the New Zealand bowlers, none of whom could stem the flow of runs.

Devon Conway and Martin Guptill had been the batting stars of the first two matches and it was they who briefly gave the hosts hope.

Guptill fired 43 from 27 balls with Conway adding a slightly more measured 38 from 27.

But their hopes of a successful run chase were effectively ended when Agar removed Glenn Phillips (13), Conway and Jimmy Neesham (0) in the space of five balls in the 13th over.

New Zealand – who had been in with a chance at 109-3 - collapsed from there and were all out after 17.1 overs.

In support of Agar, fast bowler Riley Meredith took 2-24, including the key wicket of home captain Williamson (9), as part of an impressive debut for Australia.

New Zealand's Auckland-based players, including Martin Guptill, have returned negative coronavirus tests and can continue preparation for the remainder of the Twenty20I series against Australia.

The Black Caps lead 2-0 in the five-game series, with Guptill collecting player of the match honours in the second four-run victory last week.

But Auckland has entered a seven-day lockdown after a COVID-19 case was detected.

That development has prompted the fourth game, set for Auckland on March 5, to be moved to Wellington, where the upcoming third match will also be played.

But the New Zealand players based in the city will still be available to feature.

Guptill, James Neesham, Glenn Phillips and Mark Chapman had been self-isolating due to the new measures, but they have each tested negative and will join training again on Tuesday.

Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon mocked England's team selection for their third Test hammering by India – declaring the spectacle on a sharply turning pitch in Ahmedabad to be "absolutely brilliant".

The tourists recalled James Anderson and Jofra Archer to feature alongside Stuart Broad and all-rounder Ben Stokes, in anticipation of conditions in the day/night Test being favourable to seamers.

However, a volatile surface offered assistance to spinners from the very start, with England bundled out for 112 and 81 as they lost by 10 wickets.

India only managed 145 in their first innings and England skipper Joe Root claimed career-best figures of 5-8 with his part time off-spin.

Despite being a far more respected practitioner of that particular craft, Lyon insisted he had no qualms over a surface that drew criticism from former England captains Michael Vaughan, Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook.

"The best thing about this Test match that just passed is that England went in with four seamers," Lyon said, as quoted by cricket.com.au.

"That will do me. I don't need to say any more.

"I was up all night watching it. It was absolutely brilliant. I'm thinking about bringing that curator out to the SCG."

Lyon made a pointed reference to Australia's humiliating dismissals for 47 and 60 against South Africa and England in 2012 and 2015 respectively, when conditions favoured seam bowling.

"We play on seaming wickets around the world and get bowled out for 47, 60. Nobody ever says a thing [about the pitch]," he said.

"But as soon as it starts spinning, everyone in the world seems to start crying about it. I don't get it. I'm all for it, it was entertaining."

Despite Lyon's enjoyment of the latest match in the four-Test series, the result harmed Australia's prospects of reaching this year's World Test Championship final.

Only an England win in the final game can edge Tim Paine's side into the inaugural one-off showpiece against New Zealand at India's expense.

That would leave Australia out of action in the longest format until the start of their domestic season at the end of this year – an unhelpfully long time for speculation over ructions between coach Justin Langer and members of his team to fester.

"Me personally, if I had a problem with JL I'd go straight to him," Lyon added, casting doubt upon the rumours that emerged in the aftermath of Australia's humbling 2-1 home loss to an injury-ravaged India.

"But I don't have a problem with him. I don't understand where it's all coming from.

"I'd like to think anyone in that changing room or anyone at Cricket Australia or outside - if anyone has a problem with anyone, we're about being honest with each other."

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