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Prior urges Bairstow not to ‘rush back’ from injury





Former England wicketkeeper Matt Prior has urged Jonny Bairstow not to rush back from the injury that forced him out of the first Test against Sri Lanka. Bairstow, England’s first choice wicketkeeper, watched on as his replacement, Surrey’s Ben Foakes, became only the second English wicketkeeper to score a century on Test debut. Prior, back in 2007, was the first.


Bairstow missed the final two of the five ODIs against Sri Lanka in October after going over on his right ankle during a game of football in training. Foakes was called up as the reserve ‘keeper as Bairstow began his recovery. Though he was ruled out of the Test match in Galle, he is making steady progress to be fit for the second game in Kandy, which starts on November 14.


While Bairstow is itching to return to action, not least to reclaim his place behind the stumps which he has worked long and hard to call his own, Prior, who is out in Sri Lanka commentating for talkSPORT 2, believes the 29-year-old should err on the side of caution. He said as much to Bairstow on day one when the pair chatted on the field before the toss.


“The injury he (Bairstow) has, you don’t want to rush back,” said Prior. “Because you can create a lot more hassle. If he’s going to keep, it’s not so much the forward and back and linear movement, it’s going to be the sideways that’s going to be an issue.


“If you try and keep wicket over here, in these conditions, that are very, very physically demanding, half-injured or with a slight injury, you’re going to under-perform and you’re not [just] going to let yourself down but you’re going to let the team down as well.”


If there is one man who can empathise with Bairstow and his desperation to get back playing, it is Prior. In 2014, the veteran of 79 Tests lost his place in the England side to Jos Buttler after desperately trying to overcome the Achilles issue that would eventually see him retire a year later.


He had struggled with the chronic injury through the 2013/14 Ashes and pushed himself to play throughout the 2014 summer. However, after two poor Tests against India, in which his batting and ‘keeping was well below his usual standards, he had to cede defeat. Jos Buttler came in for the third Test and, despite having surgery on his Achilles tendon in 2014, Prior never played again.


“I’ve learned from experience and unfortunately I couldn’t come back from it. There is the bravado of ‘oh I’m playing for my country, they’re going to have to wheel me off’. It doesn’t get you very far. You’d rather go away, give yourself that extra week to come back fully fit so that you can perform. Not only for yourself but for your team, at 100%.”


It looks likely to be the case that not only will Bairstow be fit, but Foakes, after his immaculate 107 helped England to a first innings of 342, will retain the gloves. Foakes did not have to wait long for his first Test dismissal, either, as James Anderson drew an edge from opener Dimuth Karunaratne with the second ball of the Sri Lanka first innings. His second was an immaculate stumping off Adil Rashid to remove opposition skipper Dinesh Chandimal for 33 and reduce the hosts to 115 for five.




However, were England to win this match and believe they have stumbled upon the right balance of side, then it is a possibility that Bairstow may not find a way back in for the second Test, even as a batsman only. That, Prior believes, should not be the case. The Yorkshireman, while possessing a career average of just 37, has averaged 42 since the start of 2016 and has scored all five of his hundreds in that time.


“I think it would be harsh. We’re very quick to forget Jonny has been one of England’s standout performers over the last couple of years. He’s a phenomenal talent and I don’t think we want to look a gift horse in the mouth, quite frankly. Jonny, fully fit, would have played this Test match, probably would have performed well, done well with the gloves and scored runs and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”


“You want to just remember what a good player Jonny Bairstow is. And if he is fully fit, then he should come back int the team, for me. Whether he keeps wicket, that’s a whole other conversation. Who knows. That will be based on the balance of the team, which allrounders, you’ve got to look at the wicket. Kandy apparently is going to go through a bit more: does Broad come back in? You’ve got to look at the balance of the team and see how everyone fits it.”


While England are spoiled for wicketkeeping riches with Bairstow, Buttler and now Foakes – “They’re all international standard wicketkeepers,” believes Prior – it is a situation they need to manage well. Foakes, particularly up to the stumps, is the superior operator, which is vital in Asian conditions.


But alternating between them could cause problems. And the first of those will be how to ensure all parties are treated with due respect. Another issue, Prior feels, is that the England management now have another selection matter to tend to when there are other areas, such as the top-order, to address.


“Ben Foakes, to walk out 100-5 and play in foreign conditions in Sri Lanka, with all the challenges that come with that, is just a huge, huge effort. What we don’t want to do is create an issue where there actually isn’t one, just because Ben Foakes has not come in and done really well.


“That’s where I was slightly surprised. There are other areas in this England cricket team that really need work on and now we’re having a discussion over the one area that was actually pretty solid in Buttler and Bairstow. I think our focus should be on our top four and making sure they start performing and getting some runs on the board.


“We’re never going to consistently win Test matches and get this England Test team to the level that we want to be at if we’re 20-2 every single innings. The other issues need to be focussed on and this issue papers over the cracks.”



Give silent treatment to Kohli: Faf du Plessis’s advice to Australia




Mumbai : South Africa captain Faf du Plessis has urged Australia to give Virat Kohli who is currently the world’s top-ranked Test batsman, the ‘silent treatment’ as the two sides gear up to engage in a cricketing series from November 21.

The 34-year-old believes that their decision to avoided engaging Kohli during the three-match Test series against India earlier this year certainly played a key role in their 2-1 truimph.

“There are guys like that in international cricket (who enjoy the confrontation). We feel like that when we play against someone like Virat Kohli,” said du Plessis.

“He’s a similar character (to du Plessis), he wants to get into the fight.”

“There’s one or two guys in each team around the world that we as a team discuss before playing against them. We’re like, ‘better not say too much to him because you’ll get him going.”

“He’s an amazing player. We gave him the silent treatment and he still scored runs in South Africa, but we felt like it was not huge runs– he scored the one hundred there in Centurion when the wicket was slow.”

“So every team will have what they think works– for us, that was silent treatment,” he added.

Indian skipper Virat Kohli insisted that he had matured as a player and promised to not start arguments against the Australians, but only finish them during a media briefing before leaving for the Australia tour.

“If they (Australia) want to play a certain way, we will reciprocate,” said Kohli.

“That is how the game of cricket goes. But at the same time, in our own minds we have to keep it competitive.”

“We were always the ones giving it back, we were never the ones starting anything.”

“So long as it doesn’t start, we have no problem just focusing on our game and doing what we need to do,” he added.

India’s tour of Australia will commence on November 21 with the first T20 International between the two sides all set to take place at “The Gabba”.

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Hardik’s absence will hurt, says Hussey




New Delhi: Mike Hussey, who has a fair idea about the current crop of India players, feels that all-rounder Hardik Pandya’s absence will “hurt” the visitors in the upcoming Test series against Australia. The series starts on December 6 in Adelaide.

Pandya is undergoing rehabilitation after suffering a lower-back injury during the Asia Cup in Dubai last September. “I think Hardik is a wonderful talent and I am sure his game style would have been suited to the Australian conditions. Add to that, the balance he offers the team with his all-round abilities, yes I think his absence will hurt India,” Hussey said.

India have a good chance of doing well against a depleted Australia but ‘Mr Cricket’ is confident that the home team’s seasoned bowling attack will test some of the younger batsmen in the visiting team. India are being dubbed as favourites in many quarters primarily due to the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner.

But India could face a different challenge with the likes of Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant and Hanuma Vihari set to face Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon for the first time. “I do think India have a good chance as they have an excellent team with some very good fast bowlers. However, I think Australia’s bowling attack is world class and will challenge the Indian team, particularly the younger players in Australian conditions. Australia always play well at home and hence will be very hard to beat.”

Virat Kohli remains the biggest threat to Australia having scored four hundreds during the 2014-15 series and Hussey reckoned that the home team bowlers need to be patient against the Indian skipper.

“The Australians will prepare well against Kohli, but it comes down to execution. In my view the Aussies need to be incredibly patient and disciplined for long periods of time against a world class player like Kohli,” said the 43-year-old, who has played 79 Tests and 185 ODIs for Australia.

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Brazil edge Uruguay after disputed penalty

Football Friendlies




London : Neymar scored a contested second-half penalty to give Brazil a 1-0 friendly win over Uruguay and bring some joy to their fans on a gloomy at the Emirates Stadium in London.

The forward was again the stand-out Brazil player and he coolly side-footed home his 60th international goal in the 76th minute after Diego Laxalt brought down Danilo, although Uruguay claimed there was a handball in the build-up.

Until then Brazil had looked the more vulnerable of the two sides with Alisson making three fine saves, including a superb stop from a Luis Suarez free kick early in the second half.

It was Brazil’s fifth win in a row since they were knocked out of this year’s World Cup in the quarter-finals by Belgium.

“It was a tough game. Uruguay are always strong and very competitive,” said Brazil midfielder Walace. “We were patient and when the opportunity arose from the penalty spot we deserved the goal.”

On a dark and drizzly night at Arsenal’s ground in London, the game matched the weather with few bright moments.

Many of the players know each other well from club football and their familiarity was evident in their hugs and smiles before, during and after the game.

There was no lack of commitment, however, as niggly tackles flew in a clash that featured eight yellow cards, including one for Luis Suarez who thought Uruguay should have been given a handball against Danilo before he was felled in the box.

Although the fans had little to cheer, both managers had reason to be happy with youngsters Bruno Mendez and Mathias Suarez starting in defence for the first time for Uruguay and Napoli midfielder Allan making a second-half debut for Brazil.

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