South Africa are confident Keshav Maharaj can provide inspiring stand-in leadership as the spinner marks his T20I debut by captaining the Proteas against Sri Lanka.

Almost five years have passed since Maharaj made his Test bow against Australia, while his first ODI appearance came in 2017 on the tour of England.

It is high time 31-year-old Maharaj was seen in the shortest format, and he enters with the added responsibility of leading the team, having also skippered the tourists in the second and third ODIs against Sri Lanka.

With regular captain Temba Bavuma sidelined by a fractured thumb, Maharaj, who was named ahead of George Linde in South Africa's T20 World Cup squad on Thursday, gets his chance to show what he can do in the quick-fire game.

South Africa sealed a 3-2 T20I series win over West Indies in July, and they sit fifth in the ICC team rankings, four places above the Sri Lanka side they will face in three matches, to be played in Colombo on Friday, Sunday and Tuesday.

Having lost 2-1 to Sri Lanka in the ODIs, South Africa are seeking succour. Convenor of selectors Victor Mpitsang described Maharaj on Thursday as "an excellent leader", whose "exemplary captaincy" can be a steadying short-term influence.

Speaking this week, Maharaj said of his temporary new duty: "It was overwhelming at the start. I was actually nervous before I got to the field in my first game but I really enjoyed being the captain of the national team.

"Unfortunately I could not help the team cross the line in the third and final match [in the ODIs] but I thoroughly enjoyed the captaincy."

He added, according to Times Live: "I feel captaincy gives me a bit of responsibility, it keeps me calmer and it gives me a different outlook of the game."

The T20 World Cup will take place in Oman and the United Arab Emirates, and by edging cup holders West Indies in the run-up, South Africa believe they are in good shape.

That view could be coloured by what happens in the coming days, but batsman David Miller sees things from a positive perspective.

Miller said, quoted on iol.co.za, "What we've been through in the last couple of months, I believe, has been a huge stepping stone in our T20 campaign. We took a lot of confidence from beating the West Indies.

"We still need to work out different combinations. In T20 you need to be flexible. That is something that we will get right. There have been areas in the last few months in the fielding department where we can certainly improve. We are aware of it."

 

HASARANGA TEST FOR PROTEAS

Leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga marked his 24th birthday in grand style on his last T20I appearance, taking staggering figures of 4-9 against India in Colombo on July 20 to set up his team for a series-winning victory. It is clear he represents a big threat to South Africa, with his strike rate in T20I power play this year standing at six, the best rate among all bowlers to have a delivered a minimum of 20 balls.

Sri Lanka were beaten 3-0 by the Proteas the last time these teams met in a T20I series. That was in South Africa in March 2019, with the hosts winning the opening match on a one-over eliminator after the contest finished tied.

TOURISTS WELCOME BACK RESTED STARS

South Africa allowed Quinton de Kock, Miller and Lungi Ngidi to sit out the ODI series. De Kock and Miller return for the upcoming three games, crunch match practice now the World Cup countdown is on.

De Kock needs just two more dismissals to record the second most by a wicketkeeper in men's T20I matches. He currently has 62 dismissals and only has MS Dhoni (91) and Denesh Ramdin (63) above him.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Sri Lanka have won their last two men’s T20I matches at home, the last time they registered more consecutive wins in this format at home was in 2012 (4 matches).

– South Africa have won their last four men's T20I matches on the road. The last time they registered more such wins in a row was in 2009 (5 matches).

– Sri Lanka have a chance to register a hat-trick of men’s T20I wins for the first time at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. They won their last two matches at this venue against India (July 28 and 29). They have one win and a loss against South Africa at this venue.

– Sri Lanka have a batting strike rate of 114 in men’s T20I since the beginning of 2020, the poorest among all Test-playing nations in this format; South Africa have a strike rate of 142, the fourth best during this period.

– South Africa have a catch success percentage of 75 per cent in men’s T20I since the beginning of 2020, the poorest rate among Test playing nations. They have dropped 35 of the 140 chances presented to them.

England will make a late call on whether to include Ben Stokes in their T20 World Cup squad but he will not be put under pressure to play.

All-rounder Stokes took an "indefinite break from all cricket" in July for his mental wellbeing and to also allow an injured index finger to fully heal.

Stokes last played for England in a three-match one-day series against Pakistan in July.

His team-mates, including Test captain Joe Root and limited-overs skipper Eoin Morgan, spoke out to support Stokes' decision to take a break. 

The 30-year-old has been a key performer for England in all formats of the game and inspired them to the 50-over World Cup in 2019.

England head coach Chris Silverwood, who has not yet talked to Stokes, will name his squad for the T20 World Cup on Thursday.

 

"We are going to leave that one late, to give it our best chance," Silverwood said.

"I want to give him as much space as possible but there are people talking to him outside of me and it is something we will be revisiting shortly.

"I haven't spoken to him as yet. But I will not be putting pressure on him, will not be rushing him and whatever support he needs he will get.

"First and foremost my only concern is for him and make sure he's okay. That's the starting point I will be at and the rest of the questions will come.

"I need to make sure he is okay and that is my primary concern."

England's first game of the T20 World Cup, staged in United Arab Emirates and Oman, is against West Indies on October 23.

Misbah-ul-Haq will remain in the Caribbean when the Pakistan squad fly home on Wednesday after the head coach tested positive for coronavirus.

The former Pakistan batsman must quarantine for 10 days after he was the only member of the touring party to return a positive PCR test.

Misbah had been due to head home a day after Pakistan salvaged a 1-1 Test series draw with West Indies, winning by 109 runs at Sabina Park.

A Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) statement said: "Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq has tested positive and, as such, will not depart for Lahore with his side later today (Wednesday).

"Misbah, who is asymptomatic, will now undergo a 10-day quarantine, following which he will depart for Pakistan.

"Misbah was the only Pakistan squad member who failed two pre-departure PCR tests. All other members will leave Jamaica as per schedule later today.

"The PCB is constantly in touch with Cricket West Indies who have confirmed that Misbah will be shifted to another hotel for the 10-day quarantine with a medical specialist assigned to look after his health and wellbeing."

Pakistan's next assignment is a home ODI series against New Zealand next month.

Former New Zealand all-rounder Chris Cairns is off life support and recovering in hospital after emergency surgery on his heart.

Cairns had surgery in Canberra after a "major medical event" earlier this month but was transferred to St Vincent's in Sydney for another cardiovascular operation.

The 51-year-old was reported by the New Zealand media to have suffered an aortic dissection – a tear in the body's main artery.

Cairns' lawyer, Aaron Lloyd, confirmed he has regained consciousness and has been able to interact with his family including his wife Melanie.

"I'm pleased to advise that Chris is off life support and has been able to communicate with his family from a hospital in Sydney," Lloyd said in a statement.

"He and his family are thankful for all of the support and well wishes from everyone, and for the privacy they have been afforded.

"They request that this continues as they focus on his recovery moving forward."

Cairns played 62 Tests, 215 ODIs and two Twenty20 games for the Black Caps between 1989 and 2006.

His father Lance also played cricket for New Zealand.

Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive Nick Hockley has given his full backing to the under-fire Justin Langer.

Australia head coach Langer has come in for criticism for his intense style of management, with reports the former opening batsman was recently involved in a heated exchange with a member of CA's digital team.

It has also been claimed that some Australia players have become increasingly disgruntled with Langer's approach.

However, Hockley endorsed the job Langer is doing ahead of the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman, with a home Ashes series also on the horizon.

"Justin has done an incredible job in raising the culture, values and behaviours of the Australian men's team since he took on the role in 2018," Hockley said.

"His efforts have restored public faith in the national team. He is contracted as head coach through to the middle of next year, with the focus now on a successful T20 World Cup campaign followed by the home Ashes defence.

"The team has had an extremely disruptive and challenging 18 months during the pandemic.

"Despite those challenges the side has had great success in one-day, Test and T20 cricket, when all players were available.

"Justin, his coaching staff and the leaders within the team have an equally important part to play in ensuring a successful summer ahead."

Langer took over the team in the wake of the 2018 ball-tampering scandal, which resulted in Steve Smith being stripped of the captaincy and, along with David Warner being banned from competing for 12 months.

Australia won the 2019 Ashes in England under Langer's tutelage, with Smith returning to play a starring role in the series.

White-ball captain Aaron Finch has expressed his frustration that stories have been leaked from the camp over Langer's methods.

The opening batsman told SEN Radio: "There's always tension when results don't go your way in all sports.

"Wins and losses are what count. I think anytime that doesn't happen, that all gets amplified. It's just one of those things.

"It's disappointing that things are coming to the front the way that they are, that's never ideal. It's just one of those things that keeps popping up, which is disappointing.

"The camp we had on the Gold Coast, to go through our culture and values and things like that, especially from a playing group, was really important, and one that I think players got a lot out of.

"But when things are being leaked out from inside, that's not a great look."

Fierce rivals India and Pakistan will meet in their first game of the T20 World Cup on October 24.

The schedule for the tournament in the United Arab Emirates and Oman was confirmed on Tuesday, with the final taking place in Dubai on November 14.

Pakistan and India will do battle in their opening Super12 Group 2 match at 6 pm local time.

New Zealand will get their bid for glory underway against Pakistan in Sharjah two days later, while Afghanistan begin their campaign on 25 October against a qualifier

Holders West Indies play England in a repeat of the dramatic 2016 final in debut on October 23, the same day as Group 1 rivals Australia face South Africa in Abu Dhabi.

The opening game of the competition will see co-hosts Oman come up against Papua New Guinea in Group B on October 17, with Scotland and Bangladesh in action on the same day.

The first semi-final will take place in Abu Dhabi on November 10 and the second will be staged in Dubai the following day.

 

 

West Indies T20 World Cup schedule 

23 October

 England  vs   West Indies

 Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai

 

 26 October

South Africa  vs  West Indies


 Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai

 

29 October

West Indies  vs  B2

Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah

 

4 November
  West Indies   A1

Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi

 

 6 November

Australia  vs  West Indies

Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi
  

 

  

Australia limited-overs captain Aaron Finch is expected to be fit for the start of the T20 World Cup after undergoing knee surgery.

Finch suffered cartilage damage in St Lucia last month and missed the tour of Bangladesh.

The opening batsman went under knife on Friday and the expectation is that he will be ready to lead his country when the T20 World Cup - staged in UAE and Oman - gets under way in October.

A Cricket Australia statement said: "His recovery is expected to take 8-10 weeks meaning he should be available for the opening games of the World Cup in mid-October."

Australia will face England, South Africa, West Indies and two yet-to-be-determined qualifiers in Group 1 of the Super 12 stage of the T20 World Cup.

Matthew Wade stepped in to skipper an under-strength Australia side in a 4-1 T20 series loss to Bangladesh.

Former New Zealand all-rounder Chris Cairns is in an intensive care unit in a Sydney hospital after undergoing further heart surgery.

Cairns suffered a "major medical event" in Canberra late last week and initially underwent an operation in the capital city.

The 51-year-old's wife, Melanie, on Wednesday revealed he has been transferred to St Vincent's hospital in Sydney, where has had undergone another operation.

"As has now been widely reported in the media, Chris suffered a major medical event in Canberra late last week," she said in a statement.

"He initially underwent surgery in Canberra, but the seriousness of his condition is such that he has now been transferred to St Vincent's hospital in Sydney, where he has undergone further cardiovascular surgery.

"Chris' family and friends are heartened by the respectful and warm manner in which this terrible news has been reported, and received by the public, both in New Zealand and around the world, and thank everyone for their warm wishers, prayers and kind words.

"For now, no further statements will be make regarding Chris' situation, and the Cairns family asks that people continue to respect their privacy as they deal with this difficult, upsetting and concerning situation."

New Zealand Cricket CEO David White said: "We're deeply concerned to hear of Chris Cairns' medical emergency.

"Our thoughts are with his family in Australia and here in New Zealand. Chris is a much-loved husband, father, and son - and remains one of our finest all-rounders. We hope he's able to make a full recovery."

Cairns played 62 Tests, 215 ODis and two Twenty20 games for the Black Caps between 1989 and 2006.

Australia's T20I series in Bangladesh ended in a humiliating defeat as the tourists were bowled out for 62 in the final game of the five-match series.

Bangladesh had already clinched a series victory going into the final contest in Dhaka, but rounded things off in style with a 60-run victory. 

The hosts reached 122-8 on a surface that consistently proved challenging to bat on, before Shakib Al Hasan took over with ball in hand.

Shakib took 4-9 from 3.4 overs, while Mohammad Saifuddin claimed 3-12 as Australia were dismissed with just 13.4 overs bowled.

Afterwards, stand-in captain Matthew Wade, who top-scored for Australia with 22, found little reason to be upbeat following the 4-1 series defeat.

"It's hard to say there will be more positives. Certainly a great learning opportunity for our group," Wade said. 

"I've played for a few years now, [these were] certainly the toughest conditions to play T20 cricket in.

"It wasn't our series unfortunately. There's no excuses of not playing enough cricket. We had enough cricket in the West Indies to come and play good cricket, we just didn't."


Shakib stars

Shakib's masterful display with the ball saw 15 of his 22 deliveries produce dot balls.

Finishing the series with seven wickets at an average of 18.14 and 114 runs at a strike rate of 100.88, no player did more for Bangladesh as they clinched back-to-back bilateral T20I series wins for the first time in their history, following up the triumph over Zimbabwe in emphatic fashion.

"Thanks to my team-mates, this achievement wouldn't have been possible without their help," said Shakib. "I think we played some really good cricket through two series, in Zimbabwe and here. Obviously the wicket was tough, but we held our nerve well."

Modest totals beyond tourists

No match in the series produced an aggregate score of over 244 as both teams found posting big totals difficult.

However, the difference was that Bangladesh scored at least 120 in all but one match. Australia, missing several key players such as Steve Smith and David Warner, managed that feat just once.

Wade admitted as much, adding: "Credit to Bangladesh, they did well. We really had to scrounge, their batsmen found a way to get there [110-120 totals].

"Our bowling was good, but we just didn't have enough runs on the board. We've got to find a way to get better in spinning conditions."

Australia suffered their first T20I defeat to Bangladesh on Tuesday as Nasum Ahmed inspired the hosts to 23-run victory in the first game of the five-match series.

Solid knocks from Mohammad Naim (30) and Shakib Al Hasan (36) set the tourists a target of 131 after they won the toss and elected to field.

Mitchell Marsh continued his strong form from the tour of the West Indies with 45 from as many deliveries, but Nasum's 4-19, which included the wickets of Marsh and stand-in captain Matthew Wade (13), helped Bangladesh to a winning start in their bid for first back-to-back multi-game T20I series victories.

Australia, who finished on 108 all out after Mitchell Starc fell on the final delivery, have now won only one of their past seven T20I matches.

Shakib, bidding to become the first Bangladesh batsman to record 10 scores of 50 or more in T20I contests, got to within 14 runs of that milestone when he was skittled by Josh Hazlewood (3-24).

Shamim Hossain managed just four runs before Starc's full delivery found leg stump, but Afif Hossain led a late charge, three fours taking him to 23 off 17 balls before falling to Starc in the final over.

Australia's chase began in ignominious fashion as Mahedi Hasan's first delivery to Alex Carey smashed into the stumps. Josh Philippe and Moises Henriques then followed in quick succession, the latter succumbing to Shakib's opening ball.

Wade and Marsh took some sting out of the Bangladesh attack, a stand of 38 ending when the Australia captain's sweep was caught by the grateful Mustafizur Rahman at short fine leg.

Ashton Agar endured an embarrassing end to his knock, sticking a boot into his own stumps after scoring seven from 12 deliveries, as Australia's hopes diminished.

Nasun leads the charge

Bangladesh's total looked a realistic target for Australia, especially given their previous perfect record against these opponents.

However, they simply did not look like mounting a challenge once the first three wickets fell for 11 runs as Bangladesh's bowlers, Nasun in particular, made sure the conditions worked in their favour.

"It was outstanding, the hunger and energy was there," said captain Mahmudullah. "The bowlers executed their plans really well. You need to have an attacking mindset with the ball early on; that's what we did."

Starc contrast

Starc claimed the final two wickets of Bangladesh's innings to reach 50 in T20Is. He is the first Australian to register a half-century in this format and two clear of previous all-time leading wicket-taker Shane Watson.

That had put Australia in a good position to chase down a relatively modest total, but Marsh was the only man to score 15 or more as they struggled badly against the spin attack on a challenging surface.

Sri Lanka trio Kusal Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella and Danushka Gunathilaka have been banned from international cricket for a year after breaching the team's bio-secure bubble in England.

The players were in Durham preparing for the first of three ODIs against the world champions last month when they left the team hotel to visit the city centre despite strict COVID-19-related rules.

Batsmen Mendis and Gunathilaka and wicketkeeper-batsman Dickwella were sent home and have now been hit with strong sanctions.

The executive committee of Sri Lanka Cricket took into account recommendation made by an independent panel of inquiry before handing down a 12-month ban from playing at international level and a six-month domestic suspension.

They were also given a further one-year ban, which is suspended for a two-year period.

Mendis, Dickwella and Gunathilaka have been fined 10million Sri Lanka Rupees (around £36,000) for their indiscretion.

 

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will hold talks with Cricket Australia over coronavirus restrictions during the Ashes amid concerns that several senior players may be reluctant to tour.

Joe Root's side are due to start their bid to regain the urn at The Gabba on December 8, with the fifth and final Test scheduled to begin at Optus Stadium in Perth on January 18.

Multi-format players such as Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler would face several months away from home, with the T20 World Cup taking place in the United Arab Emirates prior to the Ashes.

It is unclear whether COVID-19 rules may prevent families from travelling to Australia and England players have been in talks this week to seek clarity over restrictions that may be in place.

The ECB and the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) say player and staff welfare will be a priority as they prepare to hold discussions with Cricket Australia.

A joint ECB and PCA statement  said: "This week, several meetings have been held between the England men's players, ECB and Team England Player Partnership to discuss provisional plans for the tour of Australia later in the year.

"All parties are collaborating and will continue to work together to understand protocols around bubble environments, family provision and quarantine rules that will be in place for the tour during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

"With player and management’s welfare paramount, the ECB will discuss planning and operational requirements with Cricket Australia in the coming weeks and how they seek to implement their policies in partnership with state and federal governments.

"All stakeholders are committed to putting player and staff welfare as the main priority and finding the right solutions that enables the England team to compete with the best players and at the highest possible standard that the Ashes series deserves."

Sri Lanka claimed a first ever T20I series victory over India as they beat their depleted opponents by seven wickets in the third and final match.

India were undefeated in the previous four series between the nations, yet a COVID-19 outbreak – nine players were put into isolation following a positive test for Krunal Pandya – had further decimated their ranks, considering several regulars are absent with the Test squad in England.

They did win the toss for the decider but were only able to post 81-8 from 20 overs, their third lowest total in the shortest format.

Wanindu Hasaranga was the star for Sri Lanka with the ball, claiming figures of 4-9 from his four overs of leg-spin, and Dasun Shanaka claimed two wickets.

Sri Lanka had few issues chasing such a meagre target, despite a sluggish start to their reply. Avishka Fernando (12), Minod Bhanuka (18) and Sadeera Samarawickrama (6) were the batsmen dismissed, all to the impressive Rahul Chahar (3-15).

Dhananjaya de Silva and Hasaranga made sure victory was secured with plenty of time to spare, finishing up on 23 and 14 not out respectively as the game finished midway through the 15th over following a wide bowled by Varun Chakravarthy.


Short of options, lacking in runs

India's squad suffered a further blow with Navdeep Saini ruled out of the winner-takes-all clash through injury. Sandeep Warrier, who had initially made the trip as a net bowler, was handed a debut, but the pace bowler had little to work with after the tourists' top order collapsed.

Captain Shikhar Dhawan fell for a first-ball duck as India slumped to 25-4 after 30 deliveries. Kuldeep Yadav finished up as the top scorer with 23 not out, one of just three players to reach double figures.

Happy birthday, Hasaranga! 

Hasaranga had already moved up to second in the T20I bowling rankings prior to producing career-best figures on Thursday. His dazzling spell included 15 dot balls, while he unsurprisingly did not concede a boundary. India did not manage to hit one six, either.

The birthday boy celebrated turning 24 in style, helping Sri Lanka win successive T20 games for the first time since October 2019 in the process, while India had not suffered back-to-back losses in the 20-over format since July 2017.

India went down by four wickets to Sri Lanka in Colombo on Wednesday, levelling their Twenty20 International series after losing a number of big names to a coronavirus outbreak.

The tourists will have to bounce back quickly ahead of Thursday's decider having come up just short of a victory that would have secured a fourth successive bilateral series success against Sri Lanka in this format.

Krunal Pandya's positive COVID-19 test prompted the postponement of this match on Tuesday and ruled out eight players as close contacts.

That meant there were four debutants in the India XI, with Ruturaj Gaikwad opening in a depleted batting line-up and Devdutt Padikkal coming in at number three, and Sri Lanka capitalised.

India made a promising start, but were restricted to 132-5 after being asked to bat first, captain Shikhar Dhawan top scoring with 40.

Although Minod Bhanuka (36) departed quickly after he was dropped by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sri Lanka remained within reach heading into the closing stages of their chase.

A brief late rain delay dragged out the drama and Sri Lanka – led by Dhananjaya de Silva (40 not out) – then immediately profited from a 12-run 19th over that brought them within eight, a target achieved with two balls to spare.

HERO TO ZERO

This should have been a night to remember for Bhuvneshwar, whose unbeaten career-high 13 in India's innings – batting up the order at six – was followed by his 50th wicket in the format. He is the fourth Indian bowler to this mark.

But, as well as that awful drop, he was the man running in for the 19th over, with Sri Lanka in complete control after Chamika Karunaratne hit a full toss for six.

TOUGH GROUNDING

For a time, it had appeared as though Bhuvneshwar was setting an example for Chetan Sakariya, the debutant seamer who struggled from the outset. Ultimately, they both contributed to India's defeat.

Starting alongside Bhuvneshwar in the attack, there were nine runs off Sakariya's first over and 10 off the second. A first wicket came in the third as Ramesh Mendis paid for his aggressive approach, but that over still brought eight and the miserable fourth saw Sri Lanka seal victory. Sakariya went for 34 off 3.4 overs.

The second Twenty20 International of the series between Sri Lanka and India has been put back a day after Krunal Pandya tested positive for coronavirus.

Pandya was in the India team that won the first match by 38 runs in Colombo on Sunday, but the all-rounder returned a positive test ahead of the second game scheduled to take place on Tuesday.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) revealed eight members of the touring party were identified as close contacts with Pandya, so they have been forced into isolation.

Sri Lanka and India will instead contest the second game on Wednesday, with the third and final game of the series taking place on Thursday.

The BCCI revealed RT-PCR tests were undertaken to discover if there has been any further outbreak in the squad.

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