Rory Burns says Ben Stokes' return to the England Test squad in time for the Ashes tour of Australia has provided "a massive boost".

Stokes was initially omitted from the squad for the away series as he recovered from a second operation on a broken finger and took a break from cricket to protect his mental wellbeing.

But the all-rounder gave Joe Root's side a huge lift last week by declaring he was ready to make his comeback, and he flew out to Australia on Thursday.

He will be available, barring any fitness issues, for the first Test at The Gabba on December 8.

 

Stokes was a star of the previous Ashes series in 2019, albeit his heroics in a famous Headingley Test did not prove enough for England to reclaim the urn.

And Burns explained the confidence boost Stokes' timely return has provided.

"It's obviously a massive boost, you know. To get Stokesy back in the side and back in the squad and back around things is obviously a massive boost for us," the opener told reporters.

"We all know what a good player he is. I don't really have to tell you about that. To get a bloke of his calibre and background back in our group is obviously a massive lift for us."

Stokes' return may have come as a surprise to some, but not Burns, who said: "I wasn't actually that surprised. I kind of felt like something was bubbling away.

"So, it was nice when I saw it announced. Because it is exciting and we want to get out there and have the best side possible, and obviously Ben adds to that in a massive way."

Burns impressed in the 2019 series, scoring 133 in the first innings of his Ashes debut before going on to record two more half-centuries (53 and 81).

"I think, from a personal standpoint, I played quite nicely in my only Ashes series to date," Burns continued.

"That was in my home conditions and those sort of things; we are probably going to get some different conditions out here in Australia. There is confidence there but also, at the same time, it's just taking what's in front of you every step of the way."

Scotland held off Australia to claim a narrow 15-13 win in their first November Test at Murrayfield, ending the Wallabies' five-match winning run.

Sunday's hosts had beaten Australia in the sides' previous two meetings, but Dave Rennie's men came into the clash in their best spell of form since a sequence of seven straight victories across September and October 2015.

Finn Russell's penalty 12 minutes from time ultimately proved the difference, prompting Hamish Watson to tell Amazon Prime: "Something special is building here."

Watson had opened the scoring in a tense back-and-forth encounter, powering over in the 22nd minute following a lineout.

Michael Hooper thought he had replied before the break, but the TMO intervened to rule out his try – Allan Alaalatoa sent to the sin bin for catching Matt Fagerson in the face – and James O'Connor's penalty instead provided Australia's only first-half points.

The Wallabies' 14 men had their first lead early in the second half through Rob Leota's score, only for debutant Ewan Ashman to squeeze the ball down in the corner for Scotland.

Another O'Connor penalty put Australia back in front heading into the closing stages, but the game was decided from Scotland's tee and the boot of Russell.

England captain Owen Farrell has been cleared to return to the squad after his coronavirus test was revealed to be a false positive.

The 30-year-old went into isolation and missed England's 69-3 over Tonga on Saturday after a PCR test taken on Thursday came back positive.

However, England revealed on Sunday that the result has been reviewed and determined as a false positive test.

He tested negative in subsequent PCR tests and has therefore been given the green light to link up with his team-mates at Pennyhill Park.

Farrell will be in contention to return to action for Eddie Jones' side when they take on Australia at Twickenham next Saturday.

Australia took a huge step towards the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup as they thrashed the West Indies by eight wickets to deny Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo victorious farewells.

Seeking to win the tournament for the first time, Australia made sure South Africa will need a truly remarkable victory over England later on Saturday to deny them a place in the last four.

Josh Hazlewood produced a stunning performance with the ball for Australia, taking 4-39, including the wicket of Bravo on his final appearance for the Windies, who only managed to get to 157-7 because of a late salvo from Andre Russell.

Hazlewood's efforts with the ball were backed up brilliantly by a superb batting display from David Warner, whose unbeaten 89 off 56 ensured victory was rarely in doubt, Australia getting home with 22 balls to spare.

Already eliminated from contention with only one win to their name, the Windies saw a strong start dissipate as Gayle (15) departed the crease in what is expected to be his final game for the Windies.

Gayle chopped onto his stumps the next delivery after smashing Pat Cummins for six and saluted the crowd as he strode off. Nicholas Pooran followed in short order at the hands of Hazelwood, who then castled Roston Chase for a duck and the Windies failed to wrestle back the initiative after falling to 35-3.

Australia skipper Aaron Finch did fall cheaply for nine in reply, though that was as good as it got for the Windies as they were bludgeoned by Warner and Mitchell Marsh.

They put together a seemingly effortless partnership of 124, combining for 13 fours and six maximums before it was finally ended by Gayle, much to the delight of the Windies, as he removed Marsh with the scores level, before Warner clinched victory with a boundary to finish things off with a flourish.

Australia all but through

Australia sit second in Group 1 with eight points and a clear net run-rate advantage over third-placed South Africa, who will need to thump unbeaten England in Sharjah to progress to the semis ahead of Australia.

Gayle & Bravo all smiles

Though the result was not they wanted, Gayle and Bravo made sure to soak up the experience of their final match. They were all smiles throughout and received a guard of honour from the Australia players after the game.

Gayle is the Windies' top run-scorer in T20I cricket with 1,899. Known for his devastating batting in the shortest format, his dismissal of Marsh as he and Bravo bowled two of the final three overs marked an unconventional farewell.

Australia's Adam Zampa let team-mate Matthew Wade off the hook after the wicketkeeper failed to take a catch that would have brought up a hat-trick against Bangladesh.

Zampa starred with the ball on Thursday, taking 5-19 as Australia skittled Bangladesh out for just 73.

It was the fourth-lowest total of the T20 World Cup so far, with Zampa taking five wickets in the format for the first time.

Indeed, it is only the second time an Australia player has taken a five-for in a T20 World Cup match, after James Faulkner (5-27 v Pakistan, 2016).

However, Zampa's day could have been even better had Wade held on to an edge by Taskin Ahmed, but the wicketkeeper could only get his fingertips on the ball.

Three overs had passed since Zampa dismissed Shamim Hossain and Mahedi Hasan, however, and the spinner joked that perhaps only he knew that a hat-trick was on the cards.

"It's a pretty nice feeling, I've been playing five or six years now and that one had eluded me," Zampa said at the post-match presentation.

"I think I had like three overs between my [second] wicket and the next ball, so I don't know if anyone knew, I thought I was the only one that knew!

"If it wasn't for Wadey's hands at the moment then I wouldn't have as many wickets as I do. It was a tough catch but just happy to have taken five to be honest."

Australia surpassed the target with ease, Mitchell Marsh hitting a huge six to settle the contest after only 6.2 overs of the chase.

Captain Aaron Finch top-scored with 40 from 20 balls, a total that included four sixes and two boundaries at a strike rate of 200.

Finch, whose side moved above South Africa into second place in Group 1, as the qualification battle goes down to the wire, spoke of "a really clinical performance".

He added: "We thought we would take the opportunity to win big if we got the chance, but you can't plan for that. At the halfway mark, we knew we could get past South Africa.

"When you have that opportunity, you have to take it. Zampa's five for 19 was outstanding."

Adam Zampa claimed the best bowling figures of this T20 World Cup as Australia took a step towards the semi-finals with an eight-wicket thrashing of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh had won four of their last five T20Is against Australia, including a 60-win when they last met in August, but they were hammered at Dubai International Stadium on Thursday.

Zampa took a maiden five-wicket T20I haul of 5-19, and could have had a hat-trick if not for a dropped catch from Matthew Wade, in a brilliant bowling display from Australia, who skittled out the Tigers for a measly 73.

The spinner dismissed Afif Hossain (0), Shamim Hossain (19), Mahedi Hasan (0), Mustafizur Rahman (4) and Shoriful Islam (0) as sorry Bangladesh could only muster the fourth-lowest batting total of the tournament,

Aaron Finch (40) and David Warner (18) then set about making light work of the chase, with Australia reaching 67 inside the powerplay, bettering the previous tournament high, set by England in their demolition of the men in green and gold on the same ground on Saturday.

With Finch and Warner falling in quick succession to Taskin Ahmed (1-36) and Shoriful (1-9), Mitchell Marsh smashed 16 off five deliveries, including a huge six to get Australia home off just 6.2 overs.

The victory lifts Australia into second place with a better run-rate than South Africa in the tussle for the top two places in Group 1, with England top.

Finch's side face West Indies in their final Super 12 match on Saturday, with the Proteas up against England.

Zampa leads brilliant bowling attack

Zampa had to remind Wade he had dropped a catch on a hat-trick ball, but it was still a wonderful day for the spinner. He took his best figures in a T20I, tops the bowling charts in the Super 12 stage and became just the second Australia player to take a five-for in a T20 World Cup, after James Faulkner did so against Pakistan in 2016.

New-ball Mitchell Starc (2-21) and Josh Hazlewood (2-8) also capitalised on the Tigers' frailties with the bat, with Glenn Maxwell collecting the other wicket.

Bangladesh heading home winless

Bangladesh head home after failing to claim a win in the Super 12 stage and will finish rooted to the bottom of Group 1.

Mahmudullah went into the game needing an innings of 76 runs to become the 14th player in T20I history to log 2,000 runs in the format. However, the captain had been dismissed for ducks in two of his previous four T20I innings against Australia, and managed just 16 this time around.

Liam Livingstone hailed Jos Buttler as "the best hitter of a white ball in the world" after he blasted England to an eight-wicket T20 World Cup thrashing of Australia.

England moved to the brink of the semi-finals with a third crushing victory in three games, demolishing their great rivals at Dubai International Stadium on Saturday.

The bowlers once again set up a statement win, Chris Woakes (2-23) outstanding with the new ball as Australia could only post 125 all out.

It might have been much worse for Australia, as they slumped to 21-4 in the seventh over, but captain Aaron Finch hung in there with 44 before Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc provided the sort of lusty blows the top order failed to come up with.

Chris Jordan (3-17), Adil Rashid (1-19) and Livingstone (1-15) were also outstanding in another near flawless performance from Eoin Morgan's side in the field, with the in-form Moeen Ali not called upon to bowl.

Buttler then took centre stage with an explosive 71 not out from 32 deliveries as England reached their target with 50 balls to spare, going two points clear at the top of Group 1 with a far superior net run-rate to their rivals.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Buttler struck five huge sixes as he took the Australia attack apart and Livingstone lapped up a masterclass from his team-mate.

He told Sky Sports: "It was a pleasure watching that Jos innings, the bowlers have been phenomenal, and Mo's been our best bowler and hasn't even bowled today.

"We have great depth in our line-up, then a pleasure to watch genius at work [Buttler]. He's the best hitter of a white ball in the world. A clinic of white-ball hitting."

Finch also doffed his cap to Buttler and vowed that wounded Australia will regroup after dropping below South Africa into third place.

"When we lost a few wickets in the powerplay, we had to hang in there, get to a total we thought would be defendable if we got it right with the ball," Finch said.

"Woakes is a brilliant exponent when there's seam early. We had to bowl them out, no issues there, but Buttler played a hell of an innings.

"We got off to a poor start, but a couple of days off to recharge, we'll dust ourselves off and come back for Bangladesh."

Jos Buttler blasted a brutal unbeaten half-century as England thrashed fierce rivals Australia by eight wickets to stand on the brink of the T20 World Cup semi-finals.

Both sides came into the showdown at Dubai International Stadium on Saturday with two wins from two, but it was England who made a huge statement to go two points clear at the top of Group 1.

Australia were all out for 125 off their 20 overs after being reduced to 21-4 in the seventh over, Chris Woakes (2-23) setting the tone for another brilliant performance in the field from Eoin Morgan's side.

Chris Jordan (3-17), Adil Rashid (1-19) and Liam Livingstone (1-15) also bowled superbly as only Aaron Finch (44 from 49 balls) made a notable contribution after Morgan put Australia in.

Tymal Mills was expensive with 2-45 from his four overs as only a late flurry of runs got Australia from deep in the mire to three figures, with the in-form Moeen Ali not called upon to bowl by Morgan.

England made light work of chasing down their target as Buttler produced a masterclass, smashing 71 not out off only 32 deliveries.

Buttler and Jason Roy (22) put on 66 for the first wicket from 6.2 overs as the Australia bowlers came in for some painful treatment, with England's wicketkeeper-batsman and Jonny Bairstow finishing off the job with 50 balls to spare.

A third resounding win leaves England in command of Group 1 with a huge net run-rate, while Australia drop below South Africa into third place.

 

Australia rocked by Woakes wizardry

Woakes got England off to a dream start, getting David Warner caught behind with his second delivery and trapping Glenn Maxwell in front after leaping to take a fine one-handed catch to send Steve Smith on his way.

Australia were in deep trouble at 21-4 in the seventh over when Rashid snared Marcus Stoinis lbw without scoring and Livingstone was also outstanding, sending Matthew Wade on his way.

Ashton Agar chipped in with 20 off as many balls and Pat Cummins struck his first two balls from Mills for six, but he was bowled by Jordan, who had Finch well caught in the deep by Bairstow off the previous delivery in the penultimate over.

 

Brilliant Buttler makes Australia suffer 

Buttler and Roy got England's run chase off to a flyer, racking up the most runs in the powerplay in the tournament with 66.

Adam Zampa came on to get Roy lbw before Buttler raised his bat after scoring the joint-fastest half-century in the tournament from 25 balls with a six off Australia's premier spinner.

The Australia bowlers had no answer to the class of Buttler, who produced an exhibition of clean striking, hitting five sixes and as many fours.

David Warner returned to form with a blistering half-century after Adam Zampa put Sri Lanka in a spin as Australia cruised to a seven-wicket T20 World Cup win.

Warner's place in the side had been called into question due to a lack of runs, but the opener silenced his critics a day after his 35th birthday as Australia made it two wins out two in the Super 12 stage.

Sri Lanka posted 154-6 after Aaron Finch won the toss and opted to field at Dubai International Stadium on Thursday, Kusal Perera and Charith Asalanka making 35 apiece before Bhanuka Rajapaksa added an unbeaten 33.

Spinner Zampa flummoxed the Sri Lanka batters, taking 2-12 from his four overs, while Mitchell Starc (2-27) and Pat Cummins (2-34) also did damage.

Josh Hazlewood played a big part with the ball once again without reward and Australia made light work of chasing down their target.

Warner was dropped on 18 but made 65 from 42 balls, and he and captain Finch (37 from 23) laid the platform with an explosive opening stand of 70 from only 6.5 overs.

Wanindu Hasaranga took 2-22, but Australia eased to their target with three overs to spare to join leaders England on four points in Group 1, Steve Smith making 28 not out and Marcus Stoinis unbeaten on 16.

 Zampa bamboozles Sri Lanka after promising start

Sri Lanka were going along nicely at 53-1 at the end of the powerplay, but they lost their way after the excellent Zampa had Asalanka caught on the sweep by Smith.

The guile of Zampa also saw the back of Avishka Fernando after Starc cleaned up Kusal with a searing yorker, as Sri Lanka lost four wickets for 16 runs.

Rajapaksa added some much-needed late runs, with Stoinis expensive, but Australia were left with a smaller chase than they might have been expecting.

 

Warner grateful for late Kusal gift

Warner had been dropped by Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League and came into this game having scored only 17 runs in his previous five innings.

His frustrating spell would have continued if Kusal had not put down a simple catch behind the stumps and the powerful left-hander made him pay, hitting 10 fours to set his side well on their way to victory.

Finch was also due some runs and looked in ominous touch – bad news for Australia's rivals – as he cleared the rope twice before playing on to Hasaranga.

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]."

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.

South Africa captain Temba Bavuma insisted there were positives to take from his team's opening defeat to Australia at the T20 World Cup.

The Proteas fell to a five-wicket defeat in the first match of the Super 12 in Abu Dhabi, marking a reversal in the two teams' fortunes in the shortest format.

Bavuma's men went into the tournament having won each of their last three T20I series for the loss of just two matches.

By contrast, Australia have tasted defeat in their last five series.

But Aaron Finch's side had little difficulty chasing down a target of 119 as South Africa were left to rue a disappointing batting performance.

A series of timely boundaries from Marcus Stoinis got Australia over the line, but Bavuma was at least pleased with the spirit his team displayed in taking the contest to the last over.

"We always talk about us being resilient and there was an opportunity," Bavuma said.

"Big effort from the guys to get us to the last over. We just didn't get enough with the bat and it was always going to be tough for the bowlers, and it was a good effort from them to get it to this stage.

"As much as it was a day that didn't go to plan, we can take positives. We showed fight. We spoke during the half-time that we won't give up."

South Africa will look to bounce back against West Indies on Tuesday.

Australia turned the formbook on its head to start the T20 World Cup Super 12 stage with a five-wicket victory over South Africa.

South Africa have lost just two matches across their three T20I series in 2021, while Australia have suffered defeat in each of their past five series.

But Australia's decision to put the Proteas in to bat proved an astute one, Josh Hazlewood (2-19) leading a seam attack that got plenty out of the pitch while spinner Adam Zampa took 2-21.

Aiden Markram (40) provided the most substantial contribution to South Africa's underwhelming 118-9 and it was he who set in motion an unexpected fightback that brought a tense finish.

Despite losing Aaron Finch (0) and David Warner (14) early, Australia looked to be cruising at 80-3, however, Markram's magnificent diving catch broke Steve Smith (35) and Glenn Maxwell's (18) partnership by removing the former.

Tabraiz Shamsi then bowled Maxwell for his 50th T20I wicket three balls later to give South Africa further hope, but timely boundaries from Marcus Stoinis (24 not out) got Australia over the line with two balls to spare and off the mark in Group 1.

 

Australia won their fifth consecutive game after opening their end-of-year tour with a 32-23 win over Japan on Saturday.

Not since October 2015 had the Wallabies enjoyed a five-game winning streak but they ended that drought by holding off Japan in Oita.

Despite a disappointing second half, Australia snapped their run of five straight Tests without a win away from home, having outscored Japan five tries to two.

The Wallabies – winners of all five previous encounters against Japan by an average of 39 points per game – raced out to a 14-3 lead on the back of tries from Tom Wright and Jordan Petaia before Lomano Lemeki hit back for the hosts.

Taniela Tupou added to Australia's lead early in the second half and after Lemeki landed himself in the sin bin for a shoulder charger, Robert Leota also crossed over to make it 27-13 with 28 minutes remaining.

Just as Dave Rennie's men looked as if they would run away with victory, Japan closed within a converted try in pursuit of their first win over the Wallabies.

But Australia – who benefited from two conversions and a penalty from Quade Cooper – withstood some immense pressure on the road to stretch their unbeaten streak.

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."

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