Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) board has sought assistance from its government to reassess the security situation in Pakistan ahead of the men’s team’s upcoming limited-overs tour of Pakistan.
Sri Lanka accepted an invitation from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to tour the country for three ODIs and as many T20s after sending a two-member delegation to assess the security situation in Pakistan.
10 senior Sri Lanka players had earlier pulled out of the tour citing security concerns forcing SLC to name much-changed ODI and T20 squads for the tour led by Lahiru Thirimanne and Dasun Shanaka respectively.
However, the SLC is now reconsidering the security assessment for the tour after receiving a tip-off from the Prime Minister’s Office for a possible terror threat to the team.
“Sri Lanka Cricket today sought the assistance of the Sri Lankan Government to conduct a ‘Reassessment’ of the security situation in Pakistan ahead of the National Team’s planned tour to Pakistan,” an SLC press release stated.
“The decision was taken following a warning, the SLC received from the Prime Minister’s Office, sent via the Ministry of Telecommunication, Foreign Employment and Sports.
“Accordingly, the warning highlights that the Prime Minister’s Office has received reliable information of a possible terrorist threat on the Sri Lankan team, while touring Pakistan.”
The proposed tour of Pakistan was slated to get underway on September 27 with the first of the three ODIs at Karachi before coming an end on October 9 with the final T20 at Lahore.
International cricket in Pakistan has been at a near standstill ever since the touring Sri Lanka team bus was attacked by terrorists in Lahore in 2009. It now remains to be seen whether the upcoming tour will go ahead in light of the latest developments.
Jason Roy has been dropped for the final Ashes Test, with England captain Joe Root suggesting others might be playing for their places at The Oval.
Ben Stokes’ shoulder injury has forced a reshuffle in the side, with fellow all-rounder Sam Curran recalled at Roy’s expense and Chris Woakes returning in place of Craig Overton.
England can still salvage a drawn series over the next five days and will be eager to deny Australia turning their unassailable 2-1 lead into a first series win on these shores since 2001.
Standing Roy down at his home ground was not how England envisaged their experiment with the World Cup-winning batsman ending but an average of 18.70 in his five Tests, with a top score of 31 against Australia, left him vulnerable.
Roy faces an uncertain future in the red ball game as a result but whether he earns a second chance – either at opener or in the number four position he filled at Old Trafford – could depend on who succeeds head coach Trevor Bayliss, whose four-year reign ends after the series.
“Jason is the unfortunate one to miss out,” said Root, after explaining Stokes would effectively play as a specialist number four batsman.
“He is very aware of where he is at and what he needs to do to get himself in the best place to perform in Test cricket. He’s had an opportunity to come in and play Test cricket, get a feel for it, and it has not gone quite how he would have liked.
“But I’m sure he will go away and work extremely hard and come again. That is what you expect of guys when they get left out and I’m sure he will have that attitude and want to try and prove a point and get himself back into the side.”
Roy is far from alone in under-performing with the bat and serious questions have been asked of Joe Denly, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler over the past few weeks.
All three average fewer than 26 in the past four Tests, the kind of return that does not win Ashes series and one that puts them firmly under the microscope.
Root’s own captaincy has been queried, though there does not appear to be any appetite for change from within the England camp, and he made it clear his plans for the future do not have room for those who cannot raise their game.
“I think in terms of personnel things might change, as they have done for a while. We have to focus on the core group of players that can lead this team forward,” he said.
“In terms of my own captaincy I know the direction I want to take this team moving forward and it is about starting that now and not after this series. It is important we win this game and have a really strong winter and move forward as a group.
“You are playing for your country: that’s the fundamentals of it. We have got some very passionate guys who are very proud to represent England and however you motivate yourself, whether it’s getting yourself on a winter tour or trying to get yourself a hundred or five-for, I think it’s really important to harness that this week and take it forward.
“But, ultimately, being part of a national team is a carrot in itself.”
Woakes’ return, conversely, appears more of a reflection on Overton’s abilities than an admission that last week’s selection was a mistake.
Overton batted with admirable defiance in the day five rearguard, frustrating the touring attack for 105 balls before being last man out, but looked a step down on Woakes with ball in hand.
“We brought Craig in for those Old Trafford conditions and he also had a back spasm within the game, which is a slight concern going into another Test,” said Root.
“He did a fantastic job and he should be really proud of the way he went about his business. I’m sure it’s not the last we’ll see of him.”
Root took the opportunity to pay tribute to Bayliss and suggested the Australian’s self-assessment of his own tenure, pitched at “five out of 10”, was under-selling his contribution.
“I give him a slightly higher mark. I think that sums him up really, he’s quite a modest bloke,” said the skipper.
“He has had a massive influence here and he will be sorely missed by all the players that have had a chance to work with him.”
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The Proteas are without their regular skipper Faf du Plessis for the limited-overs clashes with De Kock set to lead the side in his absence.
“Coming into this series, we’ve got a lot of new players,” the stand-in South Africa skipper stated in a press conference on Wednesday.
“Win or lose, I just want the guys to keep competing, keep fighting. As long as they keep doing that, I’m sure we’ll be in good hands.
“We’ve got quite a young team, so there will be a lot of energy. Looking forward to that.”
The India tour is the first international assignment for South Africa since their dismal campaign in the 2019 World Cup in England where they finished a dismal seventh in the 10-team competition. That poor campaign has subsequently seen Hashim Amla retire from international cricket while veteran pacer Dale Steyn has hung up his Test boots.
The Proteas has also parted ways with head coach Ottis Gibson with 36-year-old Enoch Nkwe installed as the tea director for the tour of India. The young team director has hailed the potential of the squad at his disposal and believes that Quinton de Kock could be a long-term skipper of the side in the future.
“I strongly believe that we have a good enough squad. We have a good leader here,” Nkwe said.
“It’s also an opportunity to start building for the future. We know where Faf stands, as a captain and as a player. He’s done great things for South African cricket. We also need to look at what the future looks like.
“We believe in Quinton, who’s going to be leading the team in this series.”
The visitors have their task cut out against an India team which thrashed them 6-1 in an ODI series in South Africa last year while they also tasted a loss against the Men in Blue in the recent World Cup. Despite India’s formidable home record, Nkwe is confident that his side can still walk away with a series win.
“If you look at the group of guys, we’ve got good enough experience,” he said.
“The captain himself has played a lot of cricket here in India. We’ve got fresh blood that is coming into the squad and that’s very exciting. We’ll be competitive. We want to walk away with a series win. The entire squad is very determined.
“We’re here to win. We understand that the opposition is strong in their backyard, but that’s something we’re going to leave on the park. We’re going to give 100 per cent.”