Marcus Harris said "it's about trusting what I do" after going some way to silencing his doubters on day two of the third Ashes Test against England.

The opening batsman went into the contest at the MCG with a best effort of 23 from four innings, but top scored with 76 – the only Australian to make more than 40 in the first innings.

It proved a particularly good knock in the context of a day that saw Australia restricted to 267 having bowled England out for 185 on day one, before dominating the final hour to have the tourists 31-4 and still 51 runs in arrears.

Harris was thrilled to play his part on his home ground and prove a few people wrong in the process.

"It was good to spend a bit of time in the middle today. I had a bit of a battle in the first couple of Tests but it was good to be home and play on a familiar wicket," he told ABC Radio.

"There's a lot of media around but the support I've had from within and my close circle of people has been unbelievable. It's about trusting what I do."

James Anderson had starred with the ball for England, taking 4-33 to give the visitors an opportunity to get back into the game.

But Mitchell Starc (2-11) and Scott Boland (2-1) combined to have Zak Crawley (5), Dawid Malan (0), Haseeb Hameed (7) and nightwatchman Jack Leach (0) dismissed in a devastating final hour, much to the delight of the Melbourne crowd.

Harris added: "The way the wicket is, the amount of grass, there's always something in it for the bowlers.

"Jimmy Anderson bowled unbelievably, as did our bowlers in the end."

James Anderson rued England's disappointing final hour after the tourists had worked hard to fight their way back into the third Ashes Test against Australia on day two.

Having been bowled on for 185, England's star paceman Anderson led the way with 4-33 to restrict Australia to 267 all out and a first-innings lead of 82 at the MCG.

But a woeful last hour amid familiar failings with the bat saw England close on 31-4, still trailing by 51 runs as Australia moved ever closer to sealing the series.

"It's obviously a disappointing finish to the day, I thought we bowled well through the day to keep the pressure on Australia," England's all-time leading wicket taker Anderson told BT Sport.

"It wasn't easy to bowl them out for less than 300 on that wicket but it was a good effort to do so.

"It was a difficult 12 overs, good spell from Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, they're world-class bowlers so you expect that. It was disappointing to lose four wickets in those 12 overs."

England looked set to enjoy their best day of a poor series so far until Starc (2-11) and home favourite Scott Boland (2-1) combined to have Zak Crawley (5), Dawid Malan (0), Haseeb Hameed (7) and nightwatchman Jack Leach (0) dismissed, much to the delight of the Melbourne crowd.

Anderson, though, insists there is plenty of unity within England's camp.

"It's been a frustrating tour so far full stop. We are working hard and trying to put things right and trying to put in better performances," he added.

"I thought we did that with the ball, we hit our areas with the ball but it was a frustrating end to the day.

"We are together as a group. We have a really good group of guys. We know how hard the batters are working and as bowlers we are doing the same. 

"The cohesion is definitely there it's just frustrating we are not putting the two things together at the same time."

Australia took four late wickets amid a devastating spell with the ball to grab a stronghold on their way to sealing the Ashes after England had fought back on day two of the third Test at the MCG.

Mitchell Starc claimed the scalps of Zak Crawley and Dawid Malan in successive balls before Victorian debutant Scott Boland had Haseeb Hameed caught behind and bowled Jack Leach to leave the visitors reeling.

England were 31-4 at stumps, trailing by 51 runs as Australia, who lead the series 2-0, look to clinch the Ashes in Melbourne. Joe Root (12*) and Ben Stokes (2*) will resume at the crease on day three.

The visitors had rallied to keep the Boxing Day Test alive, having dismissed Australia for 267 led by veteran James Anderson with 4-33.

All this after drama forced the resumption of play to be delayed after a coronavirus scare within the England camp, before all the players were cleared for an 11am local start.

Australia had resumed at 61-1 after England were all out for 185 on the first day. Marcus Harris resumed at the crease and top scored with 76 on his home deck.

England had made good inroads into the Australia batting order at 110-4, dismissing number one Test batsman Marnus Labuschagne for 1 and vice-captain Steve Smith for 16 from Chris Wood (71-2) and Anderson respectively.

Harris was the only Australian to score more than 40, with Travis Head (27) getting a start before falling to Ollie Robinson (64-2), who had a hamstring scare but played on.

England appeared set for a nominal first-innings deficit before a late cameo from Starc (24*) and captain Pat Cummins (21) opened up an 82-run lead.

However, Australia turned the game in a stunning final 45 minutes with Cummins almost having Crawley caught behind for a duck when Alex Carey botched a chance, before the English opener went in the next over to Starc (11-2).

Starc trapped Malan lbw next ball despite a review, before Boland was introduced to the attack, having Hameed caught by Carey before clean bowling Leach two balls later.

Starc misses rare Boxing Day hat-trick

Starc almost claimed the first Boxing Day Test Ashes hat-trick since Shane Warne in 1994 when he dismissed Crawley and Malan in successive deliveries. England skipper Root survived a close call on the hat-trick ball which had the MCG crowd on their feet as it whizzed past the bat.

Local hero fires up crowd

Local debutant Boland only managed one wicket in the first innings but received great support from his home crowd during his brief batting innings before a double strike with his only over after being thrown the ball late in the day.

England suffered a coronavirus scare ahead of day two of the third Ashes Test against Australia at the MCG.

The players and management were forced to remain at their hotel after a positive COVID-19 test was recorded within the team's family group.

Players and staff had to await the results of their own coronavirus tests before eventually being given the all-clear to head to the stadium.

England, who trail the series 2-0, were bowled out for 185 on day one after Australia won the toss and put the tourists in.

Australia will resume on 61-1 after James Anderson accounted for David Warner (38) before the close of play on day one.

Pat Cummins need only to avoid defeat in Melbourne to retain the Ashes after one-sided victories in Brisbane and Adelaide.

Former cricket executive and businessman Christopher Dehring has admitted to being disheartened by the stark difference in the sport’s infrastructure between the West Indies and developed nations.

The Caribbean team dominated the sport for the better part of 20-years, during that time routinely beating some of the world’s top teams was commonplace.  In recent times, however, the Windies have found it difficult to even remain competitive when facing the likes of Australia, England, and India.  One major reason suggested for the decline is the level of investment in the sport, particularly as it relates to youth development and infrastructure.  According to Dehring, the harsh reality was laid bare after working in South Africa during the cricket World Cup.

“I always knew the Australias, the Englands of this World had incredible facilities and such an incredible professional cricket structure that I knew the days were numbered.  But when I went to South Africa and saw what they had in place, even their high schools, your heart sank,” Dehring said recently on the Mason and Guest radio program.

Currently, the West Indies are ranked 8th in the world in Test cricket, the same in One Day Internationals, and despite claiming two T20 World titles, are 9th in that format, on the back of a disastrous showing at this year’s World Cup.

“We have some talented youngsters in the Caribbean, but we just do not have the professional structure to develop it, own it and churn it out year after year,” he added.

“You see the fruit of that vine now, it’s very inconsistent…there’s no West Indies team that when they step out on the field they don’t look like the athletes of the day.  That’s just from a visual aesthetic perspective, we were the athletes…We were the athletic reservoir people would pay to come and see.”

Despite, the introduction of the Yo-Yo Intermittent Test a few years ago, questions have constantly been asked regarding the team’s level of fitness, with some players notably overweight.

West Indies U19 head coach Floyd Reifer is happy with his team’s preparations ahead of the start of their four Youth One-Day-International series against South Africa U19s on Sunday in St. Vincent.


“The team has settled in very well. The last couple of net sessions we had were very good, especially yesterday’s session, where we had a very good gym session in the morning before we went into the nets in the afternoon. I thought the bowlers bowled aggressively, hitting their lines and lengths very hard. The batters are doing very well and we’re still making sure they get in their drills to practice the shots that they want to play in the game so all is going well,” Reifer said.
Reifer noted that the quality of the pitches they practiced on got better as time went on.


“The first day the pitches were a bit slow, obviously, because it was short notice and the guys didn’t have a lot of time to prepare the pitches but yesterday, they were very good for bowling and batting so the boys were happy,” Reifer added.
The former Barbados and West Indies batsman also spoke about how his players are coping with the pressure of playing in a home World Cup.
“These youngsters understand what and who they represent. They know they represent the millions of people in the Caribbean and the millions of people that follow West Indies cricket around the world as well so they know what they’re playing for…they know the importance of the World Cup,” he said.


Reifer says the players have shown a better understanding of what it takes to be elite athletes as time has gone on.
“They’ve been preparing very well mentally, physically, and skillfully. Even off the field, they’re eating better, they’re hydrating better so they understand the importance of being elite athletes. I think they’re on the right road and the right path in terms of understanding. They’ve come a long way in terms of where we started in January to where we are now.” Reifer said while going on to commend them on their noticeable maturity as youngsters.
“There’s vast improvement and vast development. It’s good to see that these youngsters have adapted and adjusted to the lifestyle of being a professional. The conversations that they’re having with each other are very mature conversations so I’m very happy to hear that as well. All in all, we’re doing well and continuing to prepare,” he said.


Reifer finally spoke about a focus on the tactical aspects of the game in the few weeks leading up to the World Cup.
“We’re focusing a lot more now on the tactical side of the game. Focusing a lot more on game awareness and guys understanding their roles. Even in the discussions that we’ve had over the last two days, they understand their roles and responsibilities within the team. They understand about having that killer instinct and positive mindset to go out there and do well,” Reifer said.


The West Indies U19s first match in the World Cup will be against Australia U19s at Providence in Guyana on January 14, 2022.
They will compete in Group D alongside Australia U19s, Scotland U19s, and Sri Lanka U19s.

England have made sweeping changes ahead of the Ashes Boxing Day Test with Rory Burns, Ollie Pope, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes all omitted.

Batsmen Zac Crawley and Jonny Bairstow earn their first opportunities during this Ashes series while paceman Mark Wood and spinner Jack Leach have been recalled.

England trail 2-0 in the Ashes after heavy defeats in Brisbane and Adelaide and will look to keep the series alive at the MCG starting on Sunday.

Opening batsman Burns has been left out after managing only 51 runs at 12.75 along with Ollie Pope with 48 runs at 12 in the first two Tests.

Broad and Woakes make way as England look to add variety to their attack which has allowed Australia to score more than 400 runs in the first innings of both Test matches.

England vice-captain Jos Buttler told reporters on Saturday: "I'd say the reaction is just an honest one from the group. We've had some honest conversations.

"When you come and play Australia we need to be at your best. We're honest with ourselves that we haven’t been there yet. We have to find that very quickly."

Victorian fast bowler Scott Boland has been confirmed for a shock debut in the Ashes Boxing Day Test at the MCG.

Australia captain Pat Cummins, who also returns to the XI after his COVID-19 scare in Adelaide, confirmed the decision on Christmas Day, with Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser dropping out due to soreness.

Boland, who plays his state cricket for Victoria at the MCG, took 8-89 in a match last month against New South Wales. The 32-year-old right-arm fast bowler has played 14 ODIs and three T20Is for Australia and has taken 91 wickets at 25.71 in 26 first-class games at the MCG.

"Really excited for Scott debuting here on his home ground," Cummins told reporters. "Jhye and Ness pulled up a little bit sore after Adelaide, so we made the decision to bring in Scotty. It's a luxury to have someone like him ready to go. He's fresh.

"We earmarked him as a chance for here and the SCG. We think he's really well suited. His record speaks for itself here in domestic cricket. Home ground and having someone fresh and ready to go were big factors."

Cummins explained that Richardson, who took a second-innings five-wicket haul to earn Australia victory in the second Ashes Test and a 2-0 series lead, was carrying a minor leg injury.

"He's pretty sore," he said. "We were umming and ahing. He had a bit of bowl-out yesterday.

"We felt seven days off, give him enough rest. He's got a small leg injury which is nothing major but we felt rather than risk a longer term injury, give him a week off."

Josh Hazlewood remains unavailable due to a side injury but is in the mix to return for the fourth Ashes Test in Sydney starting January 5.

Former West Indies wicketkeeper, Deryck Murray, believes drastic structural changes must be implemented in order for the team to have any hope of regaining its place among the elites of international cricket.

Earlier this week regional cricket governing body Cricket West Indies (CWI) announced the decision to replace lead selector Roger Harper and Miles Bascombe, following a disastrous showing at the ICC T20 World Cup earlier this year, and subsequent fruitless tours of Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

 For Murray, however, the decisions may not run deep enough in tackling the substance of the issue.

“Yeah, they’re going to change the selectors, but are they going to exchange some for others or is it going to be a real radical change in the way West Indies cricket is run,” Murray queried on the Mason and Guest radio program.

“If our cricket is ever going to improve, the first thing to do is to get the board structure right.  The way the board is constituted now, at least three reports have been absolutely clear, The Patterson report, the Caricom Report, and the Wehby report all have said exactly the same thing, the structure, and composition of the West Indies board has to change,” he added.

“The way it’s constructed at the moment, all you are going to get is people vying to get people picked who are their friends or come from the same territories and we’re not going anywhere.”

Fourteen years ago, former Jamaica Prime Minister PJ Patterson, Sir Alister McIntyre, and Dr. Ian McDonald produced a Governance Report, which listed 65 recommendations to improve West Indies cricket.  At the time, the document was dismissed as not relevant by the then administration.  In 2015, a Caricom Governance of Cricket report was submitted by a panel chaired by Professor V Eudine Barriteau, which included former President of the Caribbean Court of Justice Sir Denis Byron, Murray, Warren Smith, and Dwain Gill. 

Two years ago, another report, conducted by an independent task force led by former Jamaica Senator Don Wehby, which also included Sir Hilary Beckles, O.K Melhado, Charles Wilkin QC, and Murray, produced 36-pages of recommedations that also pointed to the need for structural reforms.  The majority of the recommendations from any of the three documents are yet to be implemented.

The appropriately named Jaffna Kings, the team of West Indies fast bowler Jayden Seales, continue to reign supreme after defeating the Galle Gladiators by 23 runs in Thursday’s final to claim their second Lankan Premier League title.

The Kings took first strike and got off to a good start thanks to openers Avishka Fernando and Rahmanullah Gurbaz.  Gurbaz was the first to go in the sixth over for 35 with the score at 56-1.

Englishman Tom Kohler-Cadmore then joined Fernando and the two put on a further 63 runs before Fernando was dismissed by Nuwan Thushara for a top score of 63 from 41 deliveries.

The score at Fernando’s dismissal was 119-2 off 12.4 overs when Shoaib Malik came to the crease to join Kohler-Cadmore.  The pair put on a further 62 runs before Malik was dismissed in the 19th over for 23 off 11 balls with the score at 181-3 off 18.2 overs.

Kings captain Thisara Perera strode to the crease to give them a big finish along with Kohler-Cadmore to post a daunting 201-3 off their 20 overs, with Kohler-Cadmore finishing not out on 57 from 41 balls and Perera finishing with 17 off 9 balls.

Thushara and Samit Patel were the best bowlers on the day for the Gladiators, bowling their four overs with figures of 1-32 and 1-33, respectively.

The reply from the Gladiators got off to a spectacular start with openers Kusal Mendis and Danushka Gunathilaka racing to 63-0 at the start of the fifth over before Gunathilaka was dismissed by Wanindu Hasaranga for a blazing 54 off just 21 balls.

Things went from bad to worse for Galle as Australian batsman Ben Dunk was dismissed by Hasaranga off the very next ball for a duck, leaving them 63-2 from 4.3 overs.

Mohammed Hafeez then joined Mendis at the crease to attempt to stabilize the innings.  He didn’t last long as he was run out in the sixth over for 10 from six balls, leaving Galle now 84-3 from 6.2 overs.

Mendis was now joined at the wicket by captain Bhanuka Rajapaksa and the pair put on a further 29 runs before Rajapaksa was dismissed for 14 from 16 balls to leave them 113-4 from 10.4 overs.

Mendis was finally dismissed in the 14th over for 39 off 28 balls to leave the team 129-5 from 13.1 overs.

Dhananjaya Lakshan and Pulina Tharanga were then both dismissed in quick succession by Chatarunga de Silva to leave the score at 143-7 from 15.5 overs.

Samit Patel, who came to the crease at the fall of Rajapaksa’s wicket, made a solid 22 from 20 balls before he became the eighth wicket on the last ball of the 18th over.

The Gladiators ended their reply 178-9 off 20 overs to fall short by 23 runs.  Wanindu Hasaranga was the pick of the bowlers for the Kings with 2-30 from his four overs.

Seales took 1-36 from his three overs for the Kings.

Joe Root says the England captaincy is "not a dictatorship" as the tourists prepare to try and keep the Ashes series alive in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.

Root called on his attack to be "braver" by bowling fuller lengths after Australia went 2-0 up with a resounding 275-run victory at the Adelaide Oval.

England start the third Test in Melbourne knowing they must win to have any chance of regaining the urn and captain Root does not see a problem with himself and the bowlers having a difference of opinion.

"I like to give our bowlers, especially the senior ones, that responsibility," Root said. "They [James Anderson and Stuart Broad] have more than 300 Tests between them and over 1,000 wickets, and they know what they are doing.

"It's working alongside them, it's not a dictatorship. Every now and again, you don't always agree on everything and that's fine.

"Ultimately, it's about coming to a point where you get the results we want. Unfortunately, in the last game, we didn't quite get there."

Root will break former Pakistan batter Mohammad Yousuf's record of 1,788 Test runs in a calendar year if he scores 159 or more in England's last match of 2021.

England must raise their game in the field, having dropped at least five catches in four of their past five Tests. They put seven chances down in Adelaide.

Australia have lost two of the previous three Boxing Day Tests, both of those defeats coming at the hands of India.

 

England set to ring the changes

The tourists are set to wield the axe after two heavy defeats, with Zak Crawley, Jonny Bairstow, Jack Leach and Mark Wood potentially getting the nod.

Rory Burns is reportedly in danger of being dropped and fellow opener Haseeb Hameed is also under pressure, while Chris Woakes looks likely to miss out after he went for 149 runs and took only one wicket in the second Test.

Ollie Pope has also been out of sorts early in the series, failing to reach double figures in his past three innings after starting with 35 at the Gabba.

Crawley has not played for England since a drawn Test against India at Trent Bridge in August.

 

Cummins returns, Labuschagne on top of the world

Pat Cummins returns to skipper Australia after missing the last Test due to coming into close contact with a positive coronavirus case at a restaurant in Adelaide.

Australia now have the number one Test bowler in the world in Cummins and the best batter on the planet, with Marnus Labuschagne taking that mantle from Root.

Labuschagne is the leading run-scorer in the series with 228 at an average of 76 following his maiden Ashes century in the second Test.

Josh Hazlewood is set to miss out again due to a side injury, so Jhye Richardson should get another opportunity after claiming a maiden five-wicket Test haul on his Ashes debut last week.

Australia are set to be without Josh Hazlewood for the Boxing Day Test at the MCG after sitting out of training on Friday as he continues to recover from a side strain.

The 30-year-old fast bowler, who has taken 215 wickets in 56 Test matches, missed the second Ashes Test after sustaining the injury during the series opener in Brisbane.

Hazlewood did not partake in Australia's nets session on Friday, instead watching on as Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser jousted for his spot for the third Test.

Australian allrounder Cameron Green said that Hazlewood would likely be ready for the fourth Ashes Test in Sydney starting on January 5.

“He's going really well,” Green told reporters about Hazlewood. “He was doing his run-throughs today and he’s looking really good. I haven't spoken to the guys for this game, but definitely lock him in for Sydney.”

Neser looms as the bowler likely to drop out for returning captain Pat Cummins after taking one wicket in each innings in Adelaide, with Richardson likely to hold his spot after a second-innings five-wicket haul.

"I spoke to him today and he is good to go," Green said about his state teammate Richardson. "He was so pumped after how he went in that second innings, as you would be, and he’s ready to go again."

Joe Root has backed himself to score a maiden Test century in Australia as England search for a response in the Ashes after a dismal start.

England have been comfortably dispatched by Australia in the opening two Tests, succumbing to a 275-run defeat in Adelaide after a nine-wicket beating in Brisbane.

The tourists are without a win in 12 Test matches in Australia – their joint-longest such run (also 12 between January 1937 to February 1951) – and must defeat Justin Langer's side in Melbourne to stop them from retaining the urn.

Root has been in fine form, scoring 175 runs at an average of 43.75, but the England captain has yet to convert to three figures despite registering eight half-centuries in Australia - only Bruce Laird (nine times) has reached fifty more times in Tests Down Under without ever managing to a ton.

Indeed, Root has already surpassed Michael Vaughan (1,481 in 2002) for the most Test runs in a calendar year by an England player and sits fourth on the all-time list with 1,630 runs in 2021.

Root will eye the Boxing Day Test as a chance to further his record haul and the 30-year-old remains confident he can manage a maiden ton on Australian soil sooner rather than later.

"I expect a response from our players and I would like to bring a nice Christmas present home for everyone who stays up," Root told reporters.

"I feel in a really good place with my batting. I feel confident I can, in these next three games, bang out a hundred in these conditions.

"I know that's a brave thing to say but my conversion rate, this year, it's not been an issue at all.

"I feel like I have managed that well and have an understanding of how I want to score my runs. There's clarity there, I just need to keep putting myself in those positions, just have the bit between my teeth, [make it] 'over my dead body'".

 

Australia number three Marnus Labuschagne, who leads the Ashes scoring charts with 228 runs, overtook Root as the ICC's top-ranked men's Test batter and England's skipper admitted he wants his title back.

"I've never been one for that but it would be nice to have it back for Christmas," he responded when asked about being displaced at the top of the rankings.

Root will also be expecting a response from his bowling attack after he provided a scathing summary post-match in the second Test, in which he slammed his bowlers for repeating mistakes from four years ago and needing to be braver with their lengths.

He hopes his outburst, which was followed up by a "brutally honest" Chris Silverwood debrief with the England players, will act as a catalyst for change on Saturday.

"I did [get angry] at the end of the last game because of the situation we're in and the manner in which we lost," he continued.

"I'll always try to look at things with a level, pragmatic approach but I don't think you could after the way we've played those last two games. I expect a response from everyone this week.

"Twice now we've got ourselves into a position, second innings in Brisbane, first innings in Adelaide, with decent partnerships between me and Mala [Dawid Malan], we needed to go on and we didn't.

"Sometimes that can happen, but the first 20 balls, starting your innings, you've got to be disciplined, you've got to know how you're going to get yourself in the game and we can't afford to be losing eight wickets for 70 or 80 runs.

"It is not good enough, it is not the level that an England Test team should be playing at. The guys know that and they're very aware of that. Their work ethic is very good and you'll have seen how guys practiced and how long they bat for in the nets, but sometimes I think we can be smarter about what we are practicing and how we are practicing.

"And understanding that batting, in my opinion, it's about making good decisions for long periods of time."

Barbados and West Indies wicketkeeper-batsman Shane Dowrich has retained an attorney as he seeks redress over the process used by Cricket West Indies to deny him a renewal of his contract.

The matter came to light earlier this week when Barbados Cricket Association President Conde Riley revealed that he had received a letter from the player’s attorney on the Mason and Guest sports talk show.

In May 2021, Cricket West Indies announced the players who had been retained for the next cycle and Dowrich was not among them. Dowrich, 30, last played in a Test for the West Indies from December 2-5, 2020, against New Zealand.

In the early stages of that tour, Dowrich suffered a finger injury but later asked to be released from the tour citing personal reasons. However, according to his lawyer Philip Nichols, after being given leave from the West Indies, CWI then claims that he was not offered a new retainer contract because he had not played the requisite number of games to qualify for the said contract.

This is the bone of contention for the player, who at the time when he left New Zealand, was the first-choice wicketkeeper/batsman for the West Indies.

Dowrich was subsequently replaced by Trinidad and Tobago’s Joshua da Silva, who has, for the most part, acquitted himself well representing the West Indies as its wicketkeeper/batsman.

Following the New Zealand tour, CWI failed to follow up with the player to determine whether he had managed to put his ‘personal issues' behind him and was now ready to return to representing the regional side.

Nichols tells Sportsmax.TV that his client hopes to have the matter resolved amicably as it is not his intention for the matter to end up in court.

Dowrich has played 35 Tests for the West Indies scoring 1507 runs at an average of 29.07. He has scored three hundreds and nine fifties in that time.

 

Indian Premier League franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad has brought West Indies batting legend, Brian Lara, onboard ahead of the coming season.

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