Jos Buttler promised England would take a united stand against racism before their T20 World Cup match against Bangladesh – after South Africa's Quinton de Kock refused to take the knee.

De Kock was conspicuous by his absence from South Africa's team for their victory against West Indies.

An initial announcement that he missed the game for personal reasons was followed by a fuller explanation, after it became abundantly clear why De Kock was playing no part.

Cricket South Africa had ordered their players to take the knee before the remainder of their games in the tournament, and such a demand did not sit right with the wicketkeeper-batsman. South Africa said the 28-year-old made himself unavailable.

The anti-racism gesture, linked to the Black Lives Matter movement, is one the England team have embraced previously, and Buttler said there would be a team-wide message sent out ahead of their next match too.

Asked about the De Kock situation, and whether England would be taking a knee on Wednesday, Buttler told a news conference: "Yeah, I think our position as a team is we stand against any form of discrimination.

"What we would like to do as a team is take a moment of unity which we did at times during our summer. We all need to reciprocate the opposition. West Indies like to take a knee, so we wanted to reciprocate that in the first game.

"But yeah, hopefully we can make some form at the start. But as a side and our culture as a team, we of course stand against any form of discrimination, and we are very passionate about that."

There is no suggestion De Kock has taken his stance for any reason other than believing there should be a right to choose how and when to oppose racism. He has in the past refused to take the knee, saying the reason for doing so was "my own personal opinion". He may be asked to expand on that in light of being absent from Tuesday's World Cup game.

Buttler was asked whether it was the job of cricket boards to impose such demands on players, and said: "I'm not sure, to be honest. I can only speak about myself and our team. I think it's something we feel strongly about. It's an important part of our culture as a team, and that's all I can say on that."

Former England captain Michael Vaughan said on Twitter that it should be "down to the individual" and that a player should not be kept out of games for refusing to engage with such movements.

Whether England take the knee or not against Bangladesh may depend on what stance the opposition consider most appropriate.

Asked whether he knew exactly what gesture England would make, Buttler said: "No, I don't. I think it's something we'd like to do as a team. I think you have to get some clearance from the ICC [International Cricket Council] for that, as well.

"It's something we would like to do as a team, but I don't know the specifics behind it at the moment."

Steve Smith believes the return of "dangerous" England all-rounder Ben Stokes makes for a mouthwatering Ashes series.

Stokes has not played since July, having taken a break to protect his mental wellbeing while he also recovered from a broken finger.

The England vice-captain underwent a second operation on his finger but recently posted footage of himself batting and bowling in the nets.

Stokes was initially omitted from the squad for the tour of Australia, but the England and Wales Cricket Board on Monday announced that he has been added to the squad.

Australia batsman Smith has welcomed the news that Stokes will be involved, with the Ashes getting under way at The Gabba on December 8.

"I think any team's more dangerous when you've got someone like Ben Stokes playing," Smith said.

"It certainly adds a lot to their depth, but like I said we're excited and I'm glad personally that he's able to be back playing some cricket. It makes for a really good series."

 

Smith has been troubled by an elbow injury, but the former Australia captain does not expect it to be an issue when Tim Paine's side attempt to retain the urn.

Quoted in the Australian press on Tuesday, Smith said: "I've tried to bat every second day, or not bat three days in a row, just to take a bit of load off. On the days I'm batting, I'm batting for as long as I want to, which is nice.

"I'm still taking it easy at the moment. I'll build up again as we get closer to playing some longer format stuff. It is in a good place, it feels really good. I'm continuing with my strength work and my rehab stuff – I feel like I'm going well and progressing along nicely, so I've got no real concerns [for the Ashes]."

West Indies head coach Phil Simmons has defended the decision to exclude Roston Chase from the team’s opening match in the ICC T20 World Cup against England on Saturday and insists that they did not misread the pitch before selecting the team.

In a rematch of the 2016 T20 World Cup final when the West Indies emerged victoriously, England bowled the defending champions out for 55 with Chris Gayle top-scoring with 13. England’s spinners took six of the 10 wickets to fall before their batters achieved the winning target in 8.2 overs.

The West Indies were unable to build partnerships and were missing the role of an anchor that Chase demonstrated while scoring an unbeaten 54 in the West Indies’ final warm-up match against Afghanistan. Playing anchor was something demonstrated he could do well during the 2021 Hero CPL season when he was the top scorer with 446 runs at an incredible average of 49.55.

When England batted, Akeal Hosein, the only spinner selected, was the best of the bowlers with 2-24.

Chase, a more than useful bowler, would have also given the West Indies another bowling option as a spinner in the match where spinners took eight of the 14 wickets to fall, the best of them being England’s Adil Rashid, who boasted ridiculous figures of four wickets for two runs from his four overs.

Still, Coach Simmons speaking with the media on Sunday, insisted that the team they selected was the right one for the conditions.

“I don’t think we misread the pitch. Yes, the spinners got some wickets but as you go along you have seen that the pitch was a good pitch,” he said during a media conference from Dubai on Sunday where the West Indies are preparing to face South Africa on Tuesday.

“You have to try and make the most of the first six or seven overs and then you have to fight until you get to the latter part. I think when you assess the pitch, you assess the squad we thought that the 11 that went into the game was the right squad.

“Yes, Chase got some runs in the game before but when were at the ground we assessed and we thought it was the right combination.”

 

 

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is hopeful a crowd of at least 80,000 will be able to attend the Boxing Day Ashes Test at the MCG.

Melbourne residents this week celebrated coming out of a sixth lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

No city in the world has been locked down more than Melbourne, but further easing of restrictions have been mapped out by the Victorian government.

There is optimism that there will be a huge attendance when Australia do battle with England in the third Test in two months' time, provided vaccination rates continue to increase.

Andrews said on Sunday: "I want to see 80,000 plus people at the Boxing Day Test on day one, that's what I want to see.

"We are determined to deliver that. It won't be easy. I think selling the tickets will be pretty easy."

A crowd of 78,113 for the Anzac Day AFL match last April was the biggest at the MCG, which can hold in excess of 100,000 people, since the start of the pandemic.

West Indies captain Kieron Pollard said the T20 World Cup defending champions would have to take a wretched performance against England on the chin.

A desperate 55 all out from West Indies allowed England to sprint to a six-wicket victory in Dubai, with this Group 1 clash a rematch of the 2016 final.

England's small measure of revenge for that heartbreaking defeat stemmed from West Indies posting the second-lowest T20 international total by a Test-playing nation.

Pollard said: "Being bowled out for 50-odd as an international team is never acceptable but we'll come back stronger."

He explained: "We didn't bat well and it's disappointing to start our tournament like that, being defending champions.

"But we have to accept it and take responsibility for what happened out there. We have to put this game to bed and move on.

"We just need to go back and look at the way we've performed and see if we can maybe find a medium as to how we approach it. It's very important we forget a game like this. For us, it's pretty simple – accept and move on."

Pollard sought to find a positive by praising the "intensity in the field" of his players as England chased their small target.

An England victory was all but a formality, however, and for Adil Rashid it was a day to remember, England's spinner taking 4-2 from 2.2 overs.

Rashid said afterwards: "I don't think we could have asked for a better start. We bowled exceptionally well and everything went to plan."

He added: "As a bowling unit, we know we have five or six match-winners and on any given day anyone can come on and get wickets. We don't want to look too far ahead and we'll take it a game at a time. Whatever's in front of us, we'll play that."

West Indies are next in action on Tuesday, when they play South Africa, while England must wait until Wednesday for a clash with Bangladesh.

England gained a measure of revenge by bowling sorry West Indies out for a paltry 55 as they thrashed the holders by six wickets in their first game of the T20 World Cup.

The Windies beat England in the 2016 World Cup final but humiliatingly crumbled to their second-lowest T20 International total in a totally one-sided Group 1 clash at the Dubai International Stadium on Saturday.

England had never beaten West Indies in their five previous T20 World Cup matches, however, they ended that record as the defending champions' embarrassing innings was over in 14.2 overs.

Adil Rashid claimed stunning best T20I figures of 4-2 after fellow spinner Moeen Ali (2-17) produced a magnificent opening spell.

Tymal Mills was also hugely impressive in his first T20I for his country since February 2017, taking 2-17 as England were flawless in the field, holding some excellent catches.

Chris Gayle (13) was the only Windies batter to reach double figures, with Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan claiming a wicket apiece.

Akeal Hosein claimed 2-24 as Kieron Pollard's side showed great character in the field after being blown away by the England bowlers, but Jos Buttler made an unbeaten 24 as England sealed an emphatic victory with 70 balls to spare.

A crushing win for Eoin Morgan's side put them top of the group, level on points with Australia.

 

Moeen sets the tone, Rashid puts Windies out of their misery

Eoin Morgan's decision to open the bowling with Moeen proved to be a masterstroke, as he removed Lendl Simmons and Shimron Hetmyer after taking a great catch for Woakes - picked with Mark Wood out due to an ankle injury - to see the back of Evin Lewis 

Moeen bowled 18 dot balls as he bowled four overs straight before Mills' pace and variety caused all sorts of problems. Rashid gave another demonstration that he is a world-class performer with the ball, claiming his four wickets off only 14 balls as the Windies folded.

Pitiful holders humbled

West Indies had no answer to the skill of the England bowlers as they posted the second-lowest T20I score by a member nation and the lowest by a Test-playing side.

While Morgan led England superbly with his clear thinking in the field, the Windies lost their heads with some poor shots and must regroup ahead of meeting with South Africa on Tuesday.

West Indies captain, Kieron Pollard, says the team’s famous victory over England at the 2016 World Cup still serves as motivation as they look to open their title defense against the same opponents on Saturday.

In the 2016 final, the Caribbean team needed an improbable 19 off the final over before Carlos Brathwaite famously smacked four 6s off Ben Stokes to give the team its second world title.

Although Brathwaite is not in the squad this time around and admitting that things are not quite the same, Pollard insists the moment is a good reference point, which serves as an example of triumphing despite heavy odds in adversity.

“What Carlos did in those four deliveries, in that last over, it’s unbelievable.  It’s something we saw as a team last night and it brought goosebumps back to us,” Pollard told members of the media on Friday.

“For us to be in that situation and get over the line, it shows that never say die attitude.  As a team, we hope to replicate winning the entire tournament, and those kinds of moments, they stick with us.  Hopefully, we can go out and play good enough cricket to get back in that kind of position, so we can be in another final and have some memories going forward,” he added.

“I don’t think it will have much bearing on the game (against England) because it’s another game of cricket and that situation was totally different it being a final, but we are looking to come out and give a good account of ourselves.”

 

 

 

West Indies captain Kieron Pollard is confident the team has done enough work to address concerns surrounding an inability to rotate the strike ahead of the start of the T20 World Cup.

The Caribbean side will open the tournament on Saturday against England but despite being defending champions will have several questions to answer.  One of those recurring issues has been the ratio of the team’s use of traditional hitting versus rotating the strike with singles.

In the past, the Windies have had success with their power-hitting game, winning the tournament twice in just such a fashion.  In recent years, however, the team has shown a propensity to get bogged down looking for boundaries.  Pollard, however, insists that the team has been looking to address the issue, but were at the same time not looking to get away from their style of play.

“A lot of work has been done behind the scenes.  The guys have worked tirelessly to get to where we are right now in terms of trying to cover our bases,” Pollard told members of the media on Friday.

“I’ve said before that we try to keep our strengths and work on our weaknesses.  We’ve accepted certain things and gone back behind the scenes and hopefully, we will see a difference,” he added.

“In terms of the two games that we played, guys didn’t show that intent and different things might have come out but we are confident that the guys have done what is needed and will look to hit the ground running come the first game.”

England and India will complete their interrupted Test series in July 2022, but Old Trafford will not stage the fifth match between the teams.

Concern over a rising number of cases of COVID-19 in the India camp caused the match to be called off on September 10.

Rather than being staged at Lancashire's home ground, however, the fixture has been switched to be played at Edgbaston in Birmingham.

The England and Wales Cricket Board said in a statement: "The match, which was due to take place last month at Emirates Old Trafford, was called off when India were unable to field a team due to fears of a further increase in the number of COVID-19 cases inside the camp.

"With India leading the series 2-1, the concluding fifth match will now take place from July 1, 2022, at Edgbaston, following an agreement between the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)."

The ECB cited "complexities in the schedule" that meant Old Trafford could not host the rescheduled match, pointing to "clashes with pre-planned events at the venue, which will leave insufficient time to prepare a Test pitch".

Those events have not been specified; however, rock band Foo Fighters are due to play a concert at the cricket stadium on June 25.

Old Trafford will still get a Test match next year, with the second match of England's series against South Africa being switched from Edgbaston to the Manchester venue, with that match due to start on August 25.

The start of the planned T20I and ODI series between England and India has been set back by six days due to the Test being planted in the diary, and the T20I games will get under way on July 7 at the Ageas Bowl.

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said of the fixture shake-up: "We are very pleased that we have reached an agreement with BCCI to creating a fitting end to what has been a brilliant series so far."

BCCI honorary secretary Mr Jay Shah said: "I am delighted that the England-India Test series will now have its rightful conclusion. The four Test matches were riveting, and we needed a fitting finale."

Australia spinner Nathan Lyon is expecting Ben Stokes to earn a late Ashes call-up and says he is eager to come up against England's star all-rounder.

Stokes missed England's home contests against India earlier in 2021 after announcing in July he was taking time off for his mental wellbeing and to allow a broken index finger to recover.

A second operation on that injury earlier this month preceded Stokes being left out of an initial 17-man squad for the five-Test Ashes series, which begins on December 8 in Brisbane, though he has since posted footage of him batting and bowling 

While a continued omission for Stokes, who is also not with England for the T20 World Cup, would obviously be a boost for Australia, Lyon remains hopeful he will go head-to-head with one of the best in the game.

"I'm expecting him to come. I'm expecting Stokes to be out here and, to be honest, I hope he is," Lyon told reporters at the Hurtsville Oval in Sydney, where the NSW Blues were playing an intra-squad practice match.

"You want to play against the best players in the world and Stokesy is the best all-rounder in the world. 

"He's an X-factor and he's a game-changer, and you want to play against these players, so I'm expecting Stokes to be here."

 

Stokes has 4631 runs in 71 Tests and a batting average of 37.04. With the ball, he has 163 wickets at an average of 31.38.

His absence would be a blow to an England batting line-up many feel is lacking in quality depth.

That is not an opinion shared by Lyon, though, who says he has a few surprises up his sleeve for Australia's greatest cricketing enemy.

"I've always got a couple of mystery balls," he said. "That's been the beauty about this pre-season, it's been my first ever proper pre-season. 

"I've been able to do a lot of fitness work and a lot of skills work. I've already started looking at a couple of England's batters, so that's exciting.

"They've got some very talented batters early in their Test careers. Look at Ollie Pope's last red-ball game. He got a pretty big double-hundred. 

"It's going to be a different challenge for these guys, coming out to Australia and we want that."

Sri Lanka are through to the T20 World Cup Super 12 after a dominant 70-run win over Ireland.

Wanindu Hasaranga's 47-ball 71, along with 61 from Pathum Nissanka, which came from the same amount of deliveries, propelled the 2014 winners to 171-7.

The 172 target proved well beyond Ireland, who were dismissed for 101 with nine balls left, Hasaranga also taking a wicket and bowling a team-high 14 dot balls in a Man of the Match display.

It means Sri Lanka can top Group A with a win over the Netherlands, whose hopes came to an end with defeat to Namibia.

Max O'Dowd hit a 56-ball 70 for Netherlands as they posted 164-4, however, David Wiese's unbeaten 66 ensured Namibia got over the line for a six-wicket win with six balls left.

England are among the tournament favourites and they underlined that status with a 13-run warm-up win over New Zealand in which Jos Buttler delivered a scarcely needed reminder of his class by hitting 11 fours and two maximums for his 73.

Mark Wood (4-23) and Adil Rashid (3-18) impressed with the ball for England, who were runners-up in 2016 to West Indies.

The Windies seemingly have work to do ahead of the Super 12 after a 56-run defeat to Afghanistan, who saw Hazratullah Zazai (56) and Mohammad Shahzad (54) hit half-centuries.

Rassie van der Dussen, meanwhile, looks in ominous form for South Africa, his 51-ball 101 comprising of 10 fours and four maximums as South Africa saw off Pakistan by six wickets.

England will join the West Indies in kneeling ahead of the team’s opening fixture of the ICC World T20 on Saturday.

The symbolic gesture has been used by sports teams around the world to take a stand against racism and discrimination.  However, some teams, for various reasons, have chosen not to adopt the action. 

The England teams took part in the anti-racism gesture ahead of each of the three Tests that were played in England last summer and for a limited-overs series against Ireland soon after.  The team was, however, later criticised for not continuing the gesture in subsequent series.  The team’s captain Eion Morgan has confirmed that England would join the West Indies ahead of the opener and would continue further discussion with the ICC.

  “We have heard from the West Indies that they will be taking a knee and we will be joining them for the first game,” Morgan said on Tuesday.

“Games going on from there, we’ve been speaking to the ICC about the potential moment of unity before the game that we’ve been doing as part of our own piece at home,” Morgan added.

“It hasn’t been cleared up whether that’s a possibility yet.”

Bangladesh avoided an early exit after their shock opening-day defeat by Scotland, beating Oman by 26 runs despite a late wobble.

The team ranked sixth in the world were bowled out by Oman for 153 from the final ball of their innings, recording just eight wickets for 52 runs in the last seven overs.

Bangladesh had started well, with Mohammad Naim managing 64 runs from 50 balls and Shakib Al Hasan registering 42 from 29, but the team crumbled after the latter's exit.

Oman were unable to capitalise, however, collapsing late on themselves with five wickets from five overs and ending on 127-9, having been 81-2.

The day's early game saw Scotland survive a scare of their own to earn their second victory of the tournament and move within one win of qualifying for the Super 12s stage.

Scotland beat Papua New Guinea by 17 runs, making 165-9 as Richie Berrington hit a half-century that included three sixes – one being the longest of the tournament at 97metres – as well as six fours.

However, the 14th-ranked side in the world fell apart after he and Callum McLeod exited in the 19th over, seeing three wickets fall from the final three balls.

Papua New Guinea were bowled out for 148 in the last over, though, falling to their second defeat of the competition after losing to Oman in their opening match.

Sri Lanka eased to a straightforward seven-wicket victory over Namibia in their opening match of the T20 World Cup on Monday.

Namibia were dismissed for just 96 runs after being put into bat first, and Sri Lanka ultimately eclipsed that total as early as the 14th over.

Maheesh Theekshana was a key part of the Sri Lanka attack, taking Stephan Baard on his first delivery, before also claiming the scalps of Zane Green and Jan Frylinck, ending the day at 3-25.

Craig Williams (29) was the only Namibian to get more than 20, though his haul was hardly emphatic given it came off 36 balls and included just two boundaries.

Sri Lanka's innings did not start particularly impressively given they were 26-3 after the first ball of the sixth over, but Avishka Fernando (30 not out) and Bhanuka Rajapaksa (42 not out) had a steadying impact as they got them over the line at 100-3.

The day's early Group A match saw Ireland win in similarly comprehensive fashion against the Netherlands, with the bowlers again having the decisive impact during a seven-wicket victory.

Curtis Campher (4-26) incredibly took all four of his wickets in succession to leave the Dutch in disarray, becoming only the third man after Lasith Malinga and Rashid Khan to achieve the feat in a T20I, while Mark Adair was even more efficient with figures of 3-9 in his four overs.

Like Campher, Adair's treble came in a row and right at the end as the Netherlands could only set a target of 106.

Paul Stirling (30 not out) kept things ticking over throughout with a professional – if unspectacular – knock, but Gareth Delany (44) top scored for the Irish. By the time he was eventually stopped by Pieter Seelaar's yorker, Ireland only needed another 12 runs.

Elsewhere, several of the tournament favourites were in action in warm-up matches. India beat England by seven wickets with six balls remaining partly down to swift 50s by KL Rahul and Ishan Kishan, while Australia's 159-7 saw them defeat New Zealand with one ball left.

South Africa enjoyed a comfortable 41-run win over Afghanistan and Pakistan defeated the West Indies by seven wickets in a little over 15 overs.

Cricket West Indies (CWI) has announced the match schedule and venues for the much-anticipated England T20 International (T20I) and Test Tours of the West Indies in January and March 2022.

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