Cricket Australia has announced its schedule for a safe and successful international season, including a full tour from India and an inaugural Test against Afghanistan.
While the Twenty20 World Cup, due to be held in the country in October, appears likely to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials believe it is possible to stage bilateral matches in a secure environment.
Australia’s men are due to begin with a three-match ODI series against Zimbabwe starting on August 9, while the hotly anticipated visit of India will see the sides play across all three formats between October and January.
In a packed calendar there is also a T20 series against the West Indies and a limited-overs rubber against neighbours New Zealand. Australia’s women are due to play nine white-ball matches against New Zealand and India.
CA chief executive Kevin Roberts acknowledged that world events could yet dictate changes but took a confident tone.
“While acknowledging the difficulty in navigating a global pandemic, we are nonetheless encouraged by the progress Australia is making in combating the coronavirus and the positive impact that is having on our ability to host an exciting summer of cricket in 2020/21,” he said.
“We know that circumstances or events beyond our control could mean that the final schedule potentially may look different to the one released today, but we’ll be doing everything we can to get as much international cricket in as possible this summer.
“We are engaged in ongoing discussions with federal and state governments, our venues and the touring nations to continually understand and monitor the situation in front of us, which is evolving every day.
“We’ll continue to act in accordance with public health advice and government protocols to ensure the safety of the public, players and support staff. “
Australia are due to contest a five-match ODI series in England this summer but no agreement has been reached on whether or not that will go ahead. PA Sport
RACING – a fair solution to oversubcribed resumption meetings
Britain’s biggest racing yards could be forced to field fewer runners than usual as opportunities to run horses are shared out at heavily oversubscribed meetings.
After Monday’s first resumption fixture at Newcastle attracted 369 entries and day two at Kempton drew 454, Wednesday’s meetings at Kempton and Yarmouth were overwhelmed with a combined 537 names from hopeful owners and trainers.
The British Horseracing Authority meanwhile received the names of 163 two-year-olds which their trainers want to be exempt from elimination as fields are pared down. The idea is to give the country’s best juveniles a chance to race before Royal Ascot in June. The Mark Johnston stable alone has nominated 11 for special treatment.
Charlie Liverton, chief executive of the Racehorse Owners’ Association, said: “You won’t be seeing I hope a horse or a trainer getting multiple opportunities on the racecourse where many others continue to be balloted out.”
Liverton insists owners are understanding of the logjam in entries. But many have been paying training bills for the last three months for opportunities that may not arise. He said: “The plan is very much to increase the number of races per card, and increase the number of fixtures. So the hope is we can give everybody comfort and as things progress we can start to put in more and more races.
“Whilst there are going to be disappointed owners and horsemen, the majority of owners are aware of the situation and wholly supportive. A good number of owners have taken their horses out of training in order to wait for when the opportunities open up a bit more.”
After Monday’s return to racing ITV Racing says it will show 21 races live over three days as big events return on Friday, when coverage will include the Coronation Cup, relocated from Epsom, and Lingfield’s Oaks and Derby Trials.
“The majority of horses have been retained in training and you can see that from the entries in the first couple of days of racing,” Liverton said. “It’s been a great boost to the industry that owners have stayed so loyal.”
Reigning Olympic 800 metres champion David Rudisha will be sidelined for up to 16 weeks after fracturing his left ankle in the grounds of his home in Kenya.
Rudisha’s agent Michel Boeting confirmed Rudisha, who also won gold over 800m at London 2012, underwent surgery on Thursday.
A statement read: “On Tuesday, May 19, Rudisha twisted his left ankle at his rural home in Kilgoris, Narok County, Kenya.
“During a walk on the compound the 31-year-old stepped on uneven ground, and initially believed it was not a serious injury.
“He continued with exercises that wouldn’t cause further harm to his ankle but after a lack of improvement over the weekend, he underwent an examination and was diagnosed with an ankle fracture at St Luke’s hospital in Eldoret.”
The domestic professional cricket season will not resume until August 1 at the earliest, with the England and Wales Cricket Board looking at options for a shortened season.
The professional game group (PGG) will put forward proposals for red and white-ball cricket to resume, while the ECB statement said that “learnings” would be taken from the England men’s team’s return to training and match action in July.
The ECB said consideration is being given to playing behind closed doors but also to strictly limited crowds, observing social distancing at all times.
Paceman Kemar Roach has given the clearest indication yet that the West Indies are ready to tour England this summer.
The Cricket West Indies board was due to meet via teleconference on Thursday to discuss plans for the postponed three-Test series, with a view to approving the trip.
The England and Wales Cricket Board has shared information about its proposals to create a ‘bio-secure’ environment for the matches, which are tentatively pencilled in to start on July 8, 16 and 24 and be held at the Ageas Bowl and Emirates Old Trafford.
Roach is one of a handful of West Indies players to emerge from lockdown and resume training this week and the seamer left no doubt that he expects to be travelling to the UK shortly.
“Going to England will bring back some good memories. I love playing in England, very good facilities and wonderful atmosphere,” he told Windiescricket.com.
“Even though we won’t be playing in front the fans this time, it will still be quite good. I had a good series last time.
“My goal is (to reach) 200 wickets when we go to England – that’s the personal goal. The team goal is to win the series. To beat England in England would be something special for us as players and for West Indies cricket.
“It’s definitely doable. We beat them last time they were here in the West Indies last year and we have many of the same players who were in that team last year.”
Roach was a key part of his side’s 2-1 success in 2019, with the hosts winning in Barbados and Antigua before England claimed a consolation win in St Lucia.
He has 42 wickets in 10 Tests against England, with an average of 26.59 including career-best figures at the Kensington Oval.
After two months of practising social distancing, the big men of the National Rugby League were back crashing into each other with muscular relish as professional team sport returned to Australia in Brisbane on Thursday.
The third round of the NRL season got underway almost nine weeks after the second with an emphatic 43-6 victory for the Parramatta Eels over the Brisbane Broncos at an empty Lang Park.
The 13-man game is the number one winter sport on Australia’s east coast and the match was a strong indication that life is slowly returning to normal after the coronavirus lockdown.
Australia’s more than 7,100 COVID-19 infections and 102 deaths are low compared to many other developed countries but some of the measures imposed to contain the disease remain in place.
Halfback Brodie Croft scored Brisbane’s only try in the 17th minute with a blistering turn of pace but was lucky to be playing at all having twice registered a temperature in excess of 37.2 degrees Celsius before the game.
Croft, who blamed a cup of coffee, a sweater worn on a warm Queensland evening and excitement for his high temperature, passed the mandatory test at the third attempt.
The Eels, who flew up from Sydney on Thursday and returned straight after the match, had taken a third minute lead through lock Marata Niukore after twice benefiting from one of the rule changes introduced for the league’s resumption.
To discourage wrestling in the tackle area, the one referee who remains on the pitch after the second was cut in a cost-saving measure can indicate “six more tackles” if he spots an infringement in the ruck.
The NRL is hoping to pick up new fans for their game all around the world after the match was screened in 70 countries, including the United States, France, Britain, Papua New Guinea and Uganda.
Those viewers got a glimpse of the skill that exists alongside the brutal physicality after 27 minutes when Parramatta’s Fijian winger Maika Sivo performed a feat of acrobatics to score without going into touch in the corner.
The Eels proved too powerful for the young home side in the second half with skipper Clint Gutherson, centres Michael Jennings and Waqa Blake as well as forward Shaun Lane scoring tries to give them three wins out of three for the season.
There was more good news for the NRL on Thursday when the league announced it had extended its TV rights deal with Foxtel until the end of 2027 and Channel Nine until the end of 2022.
The pick of the third-round matches comes on Friday when the Sydney Roosters, champions for the last two years, meet the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the oldest and fiercest rivalry in the Australian game.
The final positive finding in the second round of Championship tests was Blackburn captain Elliott Bennett.
The Lancashire club announced on Thursday: “Having initially submitted a negative test last Friday (May 22), Bennett took a second test on Monday (May 25), which has now provided a positive result.
“The 31-year-old, who is asymptomatic and feeling no ill effects, will now self-isolate at home for the next seven days and provided he develops no symptoms, he will, in line with medical protocols, return to training with his Rovers team-mates on Friday June 5.”
Russian Premier League club Lokomotiv Moscow said on Thursday that four of its players had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
The four – Dmitry Barinov, Anton Kochenkov, Timur Suleimanov and Roman Tugarev – are not experiencing any symptoms of the virus, which causes the COVID-19 acute respiratory illness, and are at home in self-isolation, the club said.
The players’ diagnosis comes after Jefferson Farfan, a Lokomotiv Moscow forward, tested positive for the virus earlier this month.
The rest of the club on Thursday travelled to a training base outside Moscow to prepare for the resumption of Russian Premier League matches on June 21, the club said.
Lokomotiv are currently second in Russia’s top flight league. Russia as of Thursday had recorded 379,051 coronavirus cases and 4,142 deaths.
Troy Deeney says people have told him ‘I hope your son gets corona’
In another edition of ‘people are the worst’, Troy Deeney has revealed some of the abuse he has received recently in light of his take on not training for safety reasons.
Watford captain Troy Deeney has revealed that people have told him they want his baby son to contract coronavirus after he chose not to return to training at the Premier League club.
Deeney has been absent from training since Watford and other Premier League clubs returned to non-contact sessions last week.
The forward’s concerns over potentially passing on COVID-19 to his five-month-old son, who has had breathing difficulties, came even before team-mate Adrian Mariappa and two other Hornets staff tested positive.
But the 31-year-old found himself and his family in the firing line during Mental Health Awareness week last week.
“I saw some comments in regards to my son, people saying: ‘I hope your son gets corona’,” Deeney told CNN Sport.
“That’s the hard part for me. If you respond to that, people then go: ‘Ah, we’ve got him’ and they keep doing it.”
He added: “In a time where it’s all about mental health and everyone says ‘speak up, speak out, please speak’, (Newcastle’s) Danny Rose spoke out… and I spoke out and we just get absolutely hammered and battered for it.
“So people see that and go ‘woah’ and it’s not just us that gets it, the missus gets direct messages and you’ll be walking down the street and people will be like: ‘Oh, I’m at work, you go back to work’.”
Premier League clubs have voted unanimously for a return to contact training following government approval, with that step due to take place this week.
Deeney is understood to be due to resume training next week.
CNN reported he had been speaking to England’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, about the statistics showing people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are disproportionately affected by coronavirus.
“He’s been doing very, very good research and there is a lot of goodwill on his part to tell me, ultimately, that I’m going to be looked after as best as they can and, ultimately, there is going to be some form of risk for all of us going back to work,” Deeney said.
“Lockdown and the social-distancing measures coming down mean people will still always have risk.”
The head of Mediapro, the company that films and commercialises La Liga, has revealed that he is working on a canned crowd noise initiative for the return of football to empty Spanish stadiums, using archive sounds from each club.
Australia’s A-League, which was suspended in March because of the coronavirus outbreak, will resume in mid-July providing an agreement can be reached with broadcasters, Football Federation Australia said on Thursday.
The plan for the completion of the last six rounds of the regular season and the championship playoffs follows the easing of social restrictions in Australia with the country having been largely successful in containing COVID-19.
“We are committed to delivering the completion of the A-League 2019-20 season and have agreed a comprehensive plan with the clubs and the (players’ union),” FFA chief executive James Johnson said in a statement.
“Ideally mid-June will see players return to training, allowing them to reach the required elite level of fitness for competitive matches to commence by mid-July, and for the A-League Finals Series to be completed by mid-August.”
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith’s father dies from Covid-19
Premier League club Aston Villa have said manager Dean Smith’s father Ron has died from Covid-19.
“The Aston Villa Family are saddened to announce that Ron Smith … has passed away at the age of 79,” the club said in a statement.
“Ron, who had recently been living in a care home after being diagnosed with dementia six years ago, contracted coronavirus four weeks ago and after a short spell in hospital passed away with his family at his side.
“A lifelong supporter, Ron was a steward at Villa Park for many years and passed on his love of the club down to his children.”
The United Kingdom has recorded more than 267,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 37,460 people losing their lives.
Last month, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola lost his mother after she was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. She died in Barcelona aged 82.
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