Ashes 2019: Australia set to drop Cameron Bancroft for Marcus Harris at Headingley

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Bancroft has reportedly been dropped for the Leeds Test.

Australia are set to drop opener Cameron Bancroft for Marcus Harris in the third Ashes Test against England at Headingley that gets underway on Thursday.

Harris is set to be one of three changes to the Australia playing XI from the drawn Lord’s Test according to report by the Daily Telegraph. Marnus Labuschagne will replace the concussed Steve Smith for the clash while pacer James Pattinson is set to make a return at the expense of Peter Siddle.

Bancroft has struggled in the two Ashes Tests so far along with his opening partner David Warner with the pair aggregating the mere 62 runs between themselves. Bancroft himself has accounted for just 44 runs with the right-hander yet to cross the 20-run mark in any of his innings in the series.

He will be replaced by Harris who finished as the top run-getter in the Sheffield Shield 2018-19 season with nearly 1,200 runs to his name and has made six Test appearances for Australia previously.

Harris’ batting average in those six clashes is 32.70 with the left-hander managing to register two half-centuries in the process.

Meanwhile, Labuschagne was already expected to keep his spot in the side following his gritty knock of 59 in the second innings at Lord’s after becoming the first official concussion substitute in Test cricket.

Australia are set to go in with a three-man pace attack at Leeds with Pattinson set to partner Pat Cummins with the new-ball once again. Josh Hazlewood is expected to retain his place from the second Test while Mitchell Starc’s wait to get an outing in the series is set to be prolonged.

Australia lead the five-match series by 1-0 and need to register just one win in the three remaining Tests to retain the historic urn.

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Why Test Championship points system devalues five-Test series

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We all thought the idea was to promote Test cricket and facilitate the proliferation of the red-ball cricket. But the new Test Championship points system has ended up putting greater value on shorter Test series rather than longer, more grueling encounters.

The points system in place provides 120 points for each series, irrespective of the number of matches in it. All teams play three home and three away series in the current cycle leading up to the final in 2021. The idea behind it is that since all teams don’t play the same number of Tests, those who play more – like India, England and Australia – should not automatically get more points.

However, in order to avoid such a discrepancy, the current system has greatly undermined five-Test series. One win in a two-Test series is worth 60 points while in a five-match series, a team will have to win three Tests to better that since each win in that series is only worth 24 points.

While five-Test series are driven mainly by commercial considerations, it is the ultimate test of a red-ball team. But it does not make much sense now from a cricketing point of view.

Let’s take a hypothetical situation. If a team plays two five-match series, it stands to gain a maximum of 240 points. But to reach there, it needs to win 10 Tests. Another team can accrue the same number of points by winning just four matches in two two-Test series.

On Thursday, three crucial Tests will be played across the world. The third Ashes Test in Leeds is finely poised with Australia leading 1-0. India begin their Test Championship against a dangerous Caribbean team during a two-match series which kicks off in Antigua. New Zealand will aim to level the two-Test series against Sri Lanka at the P Sara Oval.

If Sri Lanka win the second Test against New Zealand, they will have a total 120 points. Australia will have fewer points than Sri Lanka even if they beat England 4-0 in the Ashes.

If the current points system remains well into the future, teams that play mainly two and three-Test series will be in a much better position to last the distance in a Test Championship cycle and fight for a spot in the final simply because it will be easier on the bodies of players, especially fast bowlers.

Inversely, teams that play more five-Test series will have to put in a lot more effort for not enough points and that can hurt them in the race to the title clash. A points system that has been created to fit existing arrangements will most likely end up hurting teams that play more Test cricket.

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New coach Russell Domingo wants Bangladesh to place greater emphasis on Test cricket

Waseem Ahmed 22/08/2019
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Russell Domino (r). Image credit - BangladeshCricket/Twitter.

Newly appointed head coach Russell Domingo had identified the need for Bangladesh to play more Test cricket if the side are to improve from their current ICC ranking of nine.

The former South Africa coach’s first assignment with the Bangladesh team will be a one-off Test against Afghanistan that gets underway on September 5. With the inaugural cycle of the World Test Championship getting underway earlier this month, Domingo wants the Tigers to shift their focus from limited-overs to red-ball cricket for the near future.

“It’s hard to get any sort of rhythm in your Test match cricket if you’re not playing that many Test matches,” Domingo said in his maiden media interaction since taking over as Bangladesh head coach.

“With the new Test Championship, that allows a team to focus a lot more on Test match cricket. We know often Bangladesh play one- or two-Test series. Hopefully now there will be three-Test series, four-Test series, which gets them more into that format.

“A lot of that focus now needs to move away from the World Cup and the 50-over format into Test match cricket. So it will be a good start to put a lot more focus and emphasis on our red-ball skills in the next couple of months.”

Bangladesh’s last Test assignment came against New Zealand at the start of the year with the side falling to a 0-2 defeat. The Tigers have failed to show the same improvements in the Test format as they have done in limited-overs cricket with just one series victory over West Indies to show for in the last four years.

Domingo believes that a greater emphasis on red-ball cricket and more scheduling of Tests can help combat those woes.

“It’s a massive opportunity for Bangladesh to compete regularly in Test match cricket. Their last Test match was maybe six months ago, we can hardly remember when it was,” he said.

“The more you play the better you’re going to get in the format. That’s probably where they have been lacking, they haven’t played a lot of Test match cricket.

“If you look at England, Australia, India, and weigh those up against the number of Tests Bangladesh have played, you can understand why they are the leading sides in the world in that format.”

Russell will be joined by his compatriot Charles Langeveldt in the Bangladesh coaching staff with the former South Africa seamer taking over as bowling coach. The pair have joined the the ongoing conditioning camp for Bangladesh players at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium in Dhaka on Wednesday.

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