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Azhar marks Somerset debut with century

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LONDON: Pakistan Test batsman Azhar Ali marked his Somerset debut with a century as the visitors established a commanding position in their First Division County Championship match away to Worces­tershire .
The 33-year-old right-hander made 125 off 188 balls with the help of 13 fours and two sixes, before he was last man out in a Somerset total of 362 for nine declared at New Road.
England off-spinning all-rounder Moeen Ali did his chances of a Test recall ahead of next week’s series opener against India at Edgbaston no harm with a return of five wickets for 107 runs.
Worcestershire then lost Daryl Mitchell (6) and Moeen (7) before ending the third and penultimate day on 50 for two, leaving them needing a further 393 runs to win on the final day of the four-day fixture.
“I’m really happy. It is my first game for Somerset and I’ve been made welcome,” Azhar, a veteran of 65 Tests since his international debut in 2010, told the county’s website. “I really enjoyed batting out there and it was really pleasing to get some runs in the first game and hopefully I can build on that.”
Reflecting on his innings, Azhar, who played in Pakistan’s drawn Test series in England earlier this season, added: “Moeen started to turn the ball out of the rough so I thought attacking him early on was the right option because if you are bogged down, they can bring a short leg into play so, I had to go after him to start with.
“We wanted to score runs as well to be in a position to boss the game. That is why I played positively and it paid off,” explained Azhar, who was eventually caught off a reverse-sweep against Moeen.
Somerset have had a superb return from their overseas batsmen so far this season after deciding not to go ahead with bringing Cameron Bancroft to Taunton following the Australian’s role in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa earlier this year.
They signed Matt Renshaw, a fellow Australia batsman, in his place and he went on to make three hundreds, while averaging 51.30, before breaking a finger against Surrey last month — an injury that paved the way for Azhar’s arrival.


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Zimbabwe cricket suspended over ‘political interference’

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London: The International Cricket Council (ICC) has suspended Zimbabwe over a failure to keep the sport free from government interference, the world governing body said.

The ICC board, after meeting in London, unanimously decided to freeze funding to the national governing body and ban the southern African country’s teams from international events.

“We do not take the decision to suspend a member lightly, but we must keep our sport free from political interference,” ICC chairman Shashank Manohar said in a statement on Thursday.

 

“What has happened in Zimbabwe is a serious breach of the ICC constitution and we cannot allow it to continue unchecked.”

Zimbabwe’s Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) suspended Zimbabwe Cricket last month and installed temporary leadership, putting the national cricket board on a collision course with the ICC.

The government-run commission acted after alleging corruption in the administration, but the ICC viewed it as government interference, which is against the world body’s rules.

The ICC called for Zimbabwe’s cricket officials to be reinstated within three months after which the suspension will be reviewed in October, it said.

Zimbabwe failed to qualify for the recent 50-overs World Cup in England, having struggled to schedule matches against major teams in international cricket as their financial position worsened.

The country first became a full ICC member in 1992 and enjoyed an impressive run at the 1999 World Cup, narrowly missing out on a semi-final spot.

Croatia and Zambia were also suspended, while Morocco was expelled for failing to meet ICC’s membership criteria.

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Time to take practical decision on Dhoni, look towards future like he did: Gambhir

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New Delhi: Mahendra Singh Dhoni invested in the future as skipper by demanding younger players and it is now time that “practical decisions” are taken with regards to him given that youngsters are once again waiting in the wings, says former India opener Gautam Gambhir.

There is intense speculation that Dhoni, who has already retired from the Test format, has played his last ODI for India during the World Cup in which the team was knocked out of the semifinal after a loss to New Zealand.

The selection panel will meet on Sunday to pick squads for the West Indies tour amid intense focus on Dhoni’s future and Gambhir said it is time to keep emotions aside.

 

“It’s important to look into the future. And when Dhoni was the skipper, he invested in the future. I remember Dhoni saying in Australia that me, Sachin and Sehwag can’t play the CB series together as the grounds were big,” Gambhir was quoted as saying in TV9 Bharatvarsh.

“He wished for young players for the World Cup. It’s necessary to take practical decisions than being emotional. And it’s time to groom the youngsters. Be it Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Ishan Kishan or any other wicketkeeper, whoever is believed to have the potential should be made the wicket-keeper,” he said.

Gambhir said, unless the younger lot gets enough chances, they won’t be able to deliver for India.

“Give him chances for one and half-years and if he doesn’t perform, then others should be tried out as well. Then one would get to know who the keeper for the next World Cup is,” the 37-year-old said.

The cricketer-turned-politician hailed Dhoni as one of the best captains but said it is unfair to give all credit to him for India’s success and also slam him when the team fails to perform.

“If you see the statistics, then he (Dhoni) is the best captain. But that doesn’t mean that other captains have done badly. Sourav Ganguly has done good captaincy; we have won outside under him. Under Virat Kohli’s captaincy, we have won ODI series in South Africa and Test series in Australia,” Gambhir said.

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ICC approves concussion substitutes in cricket

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London: Men’s and women’s teams across all formats of international and first class cricket will be allowed to replace concussed players during matches following a two-year trial in the domestic game, the International Cricket Council (ICC) said.

The rule has been included in the governing body’s playing conditions and will be effective starting August 1 when the Ashes series between England and Australia begins at Edgbaston.

Decisions on concussion will be made by the team’s medical representative while the incoming player, who will be allowed to bat and bowl, must be deemed a “like for like” replacement approved by the match referee.

 

“Following a two-year trial… in domestic cricket, the ICC approved concussion player replacements in all formats of men’s and women’s international cricket and for first class cricket worldwide,” the ICC said in a statement following their annual conference in London.

Concussion substitutes have been on trial in Australia’s domestic game since the 2016-17 season while the England and Wales Cricket Board adopted the regulations for its four professional domestic competitions in 2018.

Cricket Australia (CA) and the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) welcomed the ICC’s move to expand the rule to cover international cricket.

“Creating an environment where players feel comfortable in dealing with concussion… and are able to be appropriately accessed, is vital for their long-term health and wellbeing,” ACA chief executive Alistair Nicholson said.

Discussions on concussion and player safety intensified after former Australia test batsman Phillip Hughes died in 2014, having been fatally hit on the head by a bouncer in a first class match.

Afghanistan’s Hashmatullah Shahidi ignored medical advice and continued batting after being hit on the head by a bouncer in a World Cup clash with England last month, prompting demands that players should not take those calls.

CA sports science manager Alex Kountouris said the new rule would allow players to declare symptoms of concussion that could occur well after the incident, knowing their team would not be disadvantaged.

Concussion is a major concern in other sports as well, with rugby’s world body considering rule changes to reduce the risk of head injuries.

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