Moeen Ali targets England Test opening spot

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Ali (l) is gunning for Lyth's spot.

All-rounder Moeen Ali has declared his readiness to open the batting for England even though he is well aware of the consequences for Adam Lyth's Test career.

Off-spinning all-rounder Ali has never batted higher than number six for England but averages 31.20 in 16 Tests. He has been touted as a potential opener for England's series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates later this year on the grounds that this would allow Alastair Cook's side to play two specialist slow bowlers on pitches known for aiding spin.

Finding a reliable partner for Cook at the top of the order has proved a tough task for England since the retirement of former captain Andrew Strauss in 2012.

Several batsmen have been tried and found wanting, with Adam Lyth the latest to be given the role. Despite impressing for county champions Yorkshire and scoring a hundred in his second Test against New Zealand at his Headingley home ground, Lyth averaged just 12.77 after playing in all five matches of England's 3-2 Ashes series win.

England coach Trevor Bayliss has already hinted Lyth will not be opening against Pakistan and Ali, who made his name as a top-order batsman with Worcestershire, is keen to fill the spot if a vacancy is created.

"I would love to be batting back up the order, because coming in at number eight it was already 80 for six or something like that," Ali wrote in his England and Wales Cricket Board blog published Wednesday.

"I certainly wouldn't mind opening, in Tests as well as white-ball cricket — even though I've never done it in first-class cricket, I have in the second team as well as in one-day stuff with Worcestershire and England.

"But I feel a bit bad talking about that because of Adam Lyth. It's probably the hardest job in cricket, opening the batting, especially in the Ashes, and he must be so frustrated because I always thought he looked all right against the new ball — he just couldn't go past getting those starts."

Meanwhile the 27-year–old Lyth insisted his Test career was far from over.

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"This experience has made me hungrier, you don't become a bad player overnight and you don't in five games either," the left-hander wrote on his Facebook page.

"I can't really put my low scores down to one thing. The Aussies have bowled well in testing conditions, I have copped some decent balls but I've played some bad shots which I'm disappointed about.

"I'm not one to point at excuses at all, I've been hitting the ball well all summer but I just haven't done it out in the middle in this Ashes series. I know I'm good enough at this level. I can do it, it's just about doing it consistently."

Consistency is something Ali is still searching for as a bowler, which is not surprising given he has often found himself deployed as Worcestershire second spinner behind Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal. The Ashes saw Ali take 12 wickets at an expensive average of 45.5.

"I wasn't happy with my bowling again," the 28-year-old Ali said after England's defeat at The Oval.

"I know I took three wickets but I was expensive. It hasn't been easy in this series because they've been coming at me, and sometimes even when you bowl well you get hit for fours.

"I'll speak to people like Saeed Ajmal at Worcester about what's been happening but mostly it will be about working it out for myself."

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PCB pick Doha over Dubai as inaugural PSL hosts

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The PSL will run in February 2016.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced Doha, Qatar, as the venue for the first edition of the Pakistan Super League, slated to take place from February 4-24, 2016. 

Najam Sethi, chairman of the PSL governing council and the PCB executive committee, made the announcement in a press conference at the Gaddafi Stadium, ending any hopes that the UAE would stage the competition.

“The wait is now over and we are here to tell you of our intent to stage the PSL. The way we see it, PSL is not just about cricket. It is a unique blend of entertainment and cricket which will be the most exciting Pakistani product,” said Sethi.

After extensive negotiations with various stakeholders, the PSL decided on Doha as its preferred location for the tournament.

The 5-team competition will feature a total of 24 matches in this, its first edition.

“We are starting with 5 teams in order to build the value of our franchises and we will expand the number of teams in the coming editions,” added Sethi.

Sethi also claimed that top foreign players from all test-playing nations except India have expressed an interest in signing up for the PSL, with over 40 international players already signed up and they plan to add coaches to that list.

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The tournament will carry collective prize money of up to $1 million (Dhs3.673m).

Sethi also informed the press about the interest of potential commercial stakeholders in the league.

“I can confirm that a number of parties are currently talking to us and are interested in picking up the franchises. Similarly, we have great interest being shown from broadcasters and sponsors,” he said.

In line with the tournament’s commercial plan, rights for broadcast, sponsorship, and franchise ownership will be sold over the next three months. With the venue settled upon, the formal PSL launch will take place in Lahore in the third week of September. 

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India and Sri Lanka set for thrilling Test finale in Colombo

Kuldip Lal 26/08/2015
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Ready to battle: India.

Virat Kohli's buoyant India will chase their first series win in Sri Lanka in 22 years when the third and decisive final Test starts in Colombo on Friday.

The tourists thrashed the hosts by 278 runs in the second Test at the P. Sara Oval in Colombo on Monday to level the series after Sri Lanka had won the opening match in Galle by 63 runs.

But before they step on the field at the Sinhalese sports club, both camps will attempt to sort out injury and personnel issues to find the right combination for the decider.

India, who have not won a Test series on the island since 1993, will be without the injured trio of regular openers Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan, plus wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha.

Sri Lanka will begin a new era following the retirement of batting great Kumar Sangakkara from international cricket after the second Test looking to fill a major void in the top order.

With Mahela Jayawardene quitting Test cricket last year, Sri Lanka find themselves short of experience.

Veteran left-arm spinner Rangana Herath has played 62 Tests and skipper Angelo Mathews 51, but no others in the squad have more than 22 Test caps.

Sangakkara's decision not to play all three Tests in a series as he wound down his career had already cost Sri Lanka two months ago.

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He elected to miss the decider against Pakistan in Pallekele in June, a game the hosts lost by seven wickets. Mathews said he regretted not giving Sangakkara a winning farewell, but vowed to fight back and win the series for him.

"It really pains me that we could not give him a good farewell, but I promised him that we will play the next game well and try to win the series for him," the Sri Lankan captain said.

Sri Lanka are expected to replace the 134-Test veteran with another left-hander, Upul Tharanga, who has scored 1,113 runs in 20 Tests at an average of 31.80.

India, meanwhile, are likely to play top-order batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, for the first time in the series, as opening partner for Lokesh Rahul in the absence of Dhawan and Vijay.

Uncapped 32-year-old Naman Ojha, a wicketkeeper-batsman who reinforced the injury-hit touring squad on Monday along with young batsman Karun Nair, could come in for Saha.

"Pujara is pretty solid with the new ball," said Kohli. "He has done the job in the past and we are very confident he will do the job in the next game as well."

India will once again bank on their spin twins, Ravichandran Ashwin and Amit Mishra, who shared 14 of the 20 wickets in the second Test to fashion the team's emphatic win.

Mathews conceded Sri Lankan batsmen needed to find a way to tackle off-spinner Ashwin, who followed his 10-wicket haul in the first Test with seven scalps at the P. Sara Oval.

"We have a lot of left-handers in our line-up and it makes it easier for Ashwin to be aggressive against them," Mathews said of Ashwin, who dismissed Sangakkara in all four innings in the series.

"We need to find a way to counter-attack him. We can't just hang around.  He will bowl the odd good ball anyway in an over, so we need to score runs."

The last time Sri Lanka played a Test at the SSC a year ago, they swamped Pakistan by 105 runs to break a sequence of four successive draws on a traditionally high-scoring pitch. India have lost two and drawn three of their last five matches at the venue.

Their lone success at the SSC was the series-clinching 235-run victory in 1993.

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