Cricket news from ESPN

Jan 272015

Carlton Mid ODI tri series January 27, 2015

Sidharth Monga

Stuart Broad is straining to discover his best form Stuart Broad is straining to discover his best form © Getty Images

England have beaten India once in this triangular series on a pitch that had some extra bounce. While India earned a lifeline through rain in Sydney, England were in Perth where the final group match, now a virtual semi-final, will be played. They saw the BBL semi-final played at the WACA and the bounce they saw here has excited them.

“The Gabba and WACA are the best two grounds we could have played India on, aren’t they?” England’s assistant coach Paul Farbrace said. “I think the bowlers will be running in excited about bowling on here. We watched the Twenty20 game here on Sunday and that was exciting to see the ball flying through, so I’d think the bowlers are looking forward to it. But equally it’s a great wicket to bat on. Once you get in with the pace and bounce it’s a very good place to bat as well.”

Farbrace is happy his side’s bowlers are coming good too. James Anderson and Steven Finn rocked India, although they have yet to beat Australia. Stuart Broad hasn’t looked at his best either. “They are not far away,” Farbrace said. “I think every game they play helps. They both had quite a long break. Also this is the first time Broady has played ODIs since I’ve been involved. To have him back in is a big boost to the team. He gives us so any more bowling options.

“Finny did so well in Brisbane, Woakes is doing well too. Woakesy is really a sign of where we are as a team. At the start of the summer against Sri Lanka he wasn’t in the team and he’s now almost one of your first picks and by playing consistently through the summer and selectors backing him he’s growing in confidence and his performances have improved. That’s what’s happening with the team as well. The more they play together the more they see their practice and work ethic is paying off I think they get a knock-on effect in games.

“You also need to have quality in your team. Jimmy and Broady give you that real quality. Belly at the top of the order, Morgs the way he played in Sydney, fantastic quality. It’s great your senior players are making contributions and allowing the others to play with a bit more freedom.”

Farbrace joined England in controversial circumstances, leaving his Sri Lanka job just before his former employers toured England. His experience from the times with Sri Lanka tells him Ian Bell as opener is a good choice.

“When I was with the Sri Lankans they used to talk about Ian Bell as one of the best players in the world,” Farbrace said. “Sanga is a huge admirer of Ian Bell. He played with him a bit at Warwickshire a few years ago, and he’s always been a big admirer of Belly. That’s something we tend to forget sometimes – we do have high-quality players in our team. Belly is right up there and as good as anybody. The fact he’s responded so well to the huge disappointment of not playing as many games as he’d like in Sri Lanka and has played as well as he has done shows the quality of the player really. His innings in Hobart was right up there.”

Without being bullish, Farbrace is hopeful about the World Cup because it is just a matter of winning three games once you have avoided the banana skins in the group stage. But the knockout matches are huge pressure, and Farbrace is glad England can give themselves an experience of two of them this week. India might have got a lifeline rather cheaply with the rain in Perth giving them two points, but Farbrace says England are not too worried.

“The weather didn’t help us but it’s probably what we want because it means Friday is effectively a semi-final and we want to put the boys under pressure, and that’s what they’re going to be under on Friday,” Farbrace said. “We’ve talked a lot about developing and improvement but winning is the key and this is a chance for us to win a game and give ourselves another chance against Australia before the World Cup starts. I think we should be excited by the fact that effectively it’s a knockout game and an opportunity for the lads to show what they can do.

“It would be nice to win back-to-back games, which we’re aiming to do. If we get through Friday and beat India we give ourselves a good chance of beating the Aussies on Sunday. Winning back-to-back games would give everybody a lot of confidence. I think the team have taken a lot of confidence from the way they have played so far from Sydney being 40 for 4 to then being 100 for 0 in Hobart was a great step forward. It gives confidence to the players, and that’s why winning games of cricket is the best way to get confidence. Yes it would be nice to play Australia again but if we didn’t and we beat them on the 14th of Feb I think we’d all take that. But without looking too far ahead, winning on Friday and giving ourselves to beat Australia on Sunday is where we should be looking to be.”

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Jan 272015
Win at World Cup all that matters - Sammy
South Africa v West Indies, 5th ODI, Centurion January 27, 2015

Firdose Moonda

Darren Sammy remains upbeat about West Indies' World Cup chances Darren Sammy remains upbeat about West Indies’ World Cup chances © WICB

Darren Sammy will forgive West Indies the outcome of the already-lost series against South Africa, even if they slip to a 4-1 defeat at Centurion, as long as they reverse the result in a month’s time.

“We are still a bunch of confident guys. Obviously you want to win matches and series but the purpose here was to build for the World Cup. I was telling the guys in the change-room, I don’t mind a series loss if we beat South Africa in the World Cup. That would be the perfect response,” Sammy said

South Africa and West Indies meet on February 27 at the SCG by which time Sammy expects the mood between them to be totally different as they deal with different expectations. “I don’t think I have had a World Cup where South Africa have not been favourites and this time it’s no different. But in a World Cup if you play three good matches in the first round, you are into the knockout stages and with that, cricket is played on the day and anything is possible.”

Like many others, Sammy has already identified that when South Africa have an off day at the top of the order, they can be exposed. “The last game showed how a guy like Amla is key in the top order. When you are bowling to [Rilee] Rossouw and Morne [van Wyk], it’s different. Amla is such a solid and classy player up there, he doesn’t give you the chance to get wickets upfront which creates a platform for guys like AB and Faf du Plessis.”

But in general, Sammy cannot afford to be “really bothered about South Africa,” when it comes to the World Cup because he has his own team’s performances to think about. “I am more focused on if we can be consistent in all three disciplines. With the amount of match winners we have in our squad, we could be a force to be reckoned with but we’ve got to play as a team.”

That will mean a collective pulling of weight, something West Indies got right in the previous match. Instead of relying on Chris Gayle to lead the chase, they had other performers, including Sammy, who was heartened by what he saw. “Chris has been the star for us but it’s always good when performances come from different players. That makes a team strong,” he said. “To be 70-something for 5 and to chase that total took a brilliant effort from us.”

West Indies were only able to do that after they were blown away in the three games which preceded the Port Elizabeth ODI, lost the series and were forced to introspect. “We had a meeting amongst ourselves and guys laid everything on the table. The captain asked us to show some pride and man up and we did that in the fourth game,” he said.

One of the reasons they followed those orders was because Jason Holder, the 23-year-old who has only been in charge for four matches, led the redemption himself. “It’s a tough job and he is a young man but the way he responded two days ago, getting wickets upfront and ending with four wickets, shows that he has got some character behind him. I think that’s what the selectors and the board saw when they appointed him as captain. He has a good cricket brain,” Sammy said. “We as the senior players will help him and support him.”

Ultimately Holder will need every bit of commitment he can get because beating South Africa alone at the World Cup won’t take West Indies as far as they want to go. Sammy does not think there are any limits on their performance once they reach the level of consistency they need to get out of the group stage.

“When it comes to the World Cup, it’s a different atmosphere, a different venue and more pressure. We all know when it comes to World Cup, once we get to knockout stages we tend to move on. Hopefully we can do something special,” he said. “The West Indies people need us to do something special.”

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Jan 272015
Israrullah 155 leads Panthers to victory

Group I

Sharjeel Khan flicks one off the hips, Afghanistan v Pakistan, Asia Cup 2014, Fatullah, February 27, 2014

File photo – Sharjeel Khan struck 122 off 107 deliveries © Associated Press

Israrullah struck his highest List-A score of 155, off only 125 deliveries, to lead Peshawar Panthers to a seven-wicket victory over Rawalpindi Rams. Panthers were set a target of 290, and Israrullah and Musadiq Ahmed (67) responded with an opening partnership of 141. Israrullah also added 92 for the third wicket with Mehran Ibrahim, who stayed unbeaten on 28. Israrullah hit fives sixes and 13 fours and fell ten runs short of the win, which came in the 47th over. It meant Zahid Mansoor‘s even 100 was in vain, as was Malik Aswad’s 54 and Haseeb Azam’s swift 48 down the order. Afaq Ahmed took four wickets for Panthers while Taj Wali and Jibran Khan picked up three each.

Centuries from Sharjeel Khan and Shahid Yousuf helped Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited chase down 305 against Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited. ZTBL were 36 for 2 when Yousuf joined Sharjeel and the pair added 194. Sharjeel hit 14 fours and four sixes in his 122 off 107 while Yousuf struck 13 fours and two sixes in his 113 off 103. Captain Sohail Tanvir scored an unbeaten 23 off 16 to seal the win with three overs to go. Tanvir had earlier taken 5 for 56 as well. Azhar Ali had made 128 off 118 after SNGPL chose to bat, while Khurram Shehzad chipped in with 55.

Saad Ali made an unbeaten 93 to steer Karachi Dolphins to a five-wicket win over National Bank of Pakistan. Chasing 286 after choosing to bowl, Dolphins were given an opening stand of 62 by Fazal Subhan (62) and Rameez Raja (25). Subhan and Saad then took the score past 100 after a couple of quick wickets but two more strikes saw Dolphins in trouble at 113 for 4. Saad then put on 131 with Mohammad Waqas (67) to revive the chase. After Waqas fell, Mir Hamza came in and cracked an unbeaten 24 off 14 to haul the side home with four deliveries left. NBP’s 285 for 8 was set up by opener Sami Aslam (69) and No. 7 Qaiser Abbas (72), while Fawad Alam contributed 41.

Jan 272015
Narine pulls out of West Indies' World Cup squad
World Cup 2015 January 27, 2015

ESPNcricinfo staff

If the dropping of Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard followed by the one-sided ODI series defeat in South Africa were not enough, West Indies’ worries ahead of World Cup 2015 have intensified with their premier spinner Sunil Narine deciding to pull out of the squad. Mystery spinner Narine decided to give himself more time to work on his bowling action, which was reported as suspect in successive matches during last year’s Champions League T20 where Narine represented Kolkata Knight Riders.

Following that, Narine had told the WICB that he would take care of his rehabilitation on his own. It is understood that Knight Riders were heavily involved in helping Narine during the time. After more than three months away from competitive cricket, Narine was instrumental in Trinidad & Tobago winning the domestic one-day competition on Sunday, with a six-wicket haul.

Despite that successful comeback, Narine admitted that he was not completely confident about returning to international cricket. “Playing for [T&T] Red Force and winning the NAGICO Super50 has been a big boost, but going in to the World Cup is a little too much too soon and, after consulting the WICB, for both West Indies’ and my sake we have decided to delay my return to international cricket until I am 100% confident in all that I do,” Narine said in a WICB media release. “Whilst I am very happy with the progress made to date with my action, and I express my thanks to the coaches working with me in Trinidad and Dr Daryl Foster in Perth, Australia, I am withdrawing from the World Cup.”

More to follow

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Jan 272015
Sangakkara takes aim at Nishantha and SLC again

Kumar Sangakkara eventually played for Kandurata Maroons in the 2013 Champions League © BCCI

Kumar Sangakkara has once again taken aim at Sri Lanka Cricket secretary Nishantha Ranatunga, as well as the country’s former sports minister, labeling their actions in the approach to the 2013 Champions League “shameful and corrupt” in an email to the board that makes fresh allegations against it.

Sangakkara and Ranatunga had clashed in August that year, when the batsman accused Ranatunga of publically framing his choice of playing for Sunrisers Hyderabad or Kandurata Maroons as a “country versus money issue” when the Champions League was a “franchise-based tournament, where franchises play franchises”. At the time, Ranatunga had suggested the IPL players in the Kandurata team would play “for their country” in the Champions League.

Now Sangakkara has alleged that someone within the board withheld communication that he had actually been given written clearance to play for Sunrisers by the national selectors. If Sangakkara had received such clearance, he may have felt less compelled to play for the Kandurata team, as he eventually did. That choice cost him approximately $140,000 from Sunrisers, as per the IPL contract at the time.

Sangakkara, who said he had only recently learned of the board’s withholding of his clearance, also slammed former sports minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, in his email to cricket operations manager Carlton Bernardus.

“All I can deduce is that you and all concerned, including Nishantha Ranatunga and Mahindananda Aluthgamage, tried to intentionally cause me embarrassment and tarnish my reputation in the public arena as part of a shameful and corrupt attempt,” he said in an email dated January 21, whose details first appeared in The Island newspaper. “This is reprehensible but not unexpected from characters such as they.”

Sangakkara added: “Why did the Secretary try to intentionally and publicly cause embarrassment to me and to unethically put pressure on me by saying I had to choose between money or playing for the country when it came to the Champions League, when no such choice or question arose?”

In a related email earlier in the month, Sangakkara also said Ranatunga and Aluthgamage’s actions during the saga had been “reprehensible, biased and shameful”.

Clashes between senior cricketers and administrators have been common in recent years. Most recently, both Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene lashed out at Ranatunga and SLC chief executive Ashley de Silva, for the board’s handling of news of their retirement from T20 internationals. Sangakkara and Jayawardene have had a frosty relationship with some administrators for several years.

Former sports minister Aluthgamage was replaced earlier this month when Sri Lanka’s government changed hands. His passport has since been impounded by authorities while he is being investigated by the Bribery and Corruption commission.

Jan 272015
de Kock returns in boost for South Africa preparation
South Africa v West Indies, 5th ODI, Centurion January 27, 2015

The preview by Firdose Moonda

Quinton de Kock returns for South Africa Quinton de Kock returns for South Africa © Getty Images

Match facts
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Start time 1330 local (1130GMT)

Big Picture
Just like that, South Africa’s international summer is at its end.

With just one incoming tour in a season with everything geared towards the World Cup, South Africa were always going to make the pot of gold at the end of the major tournament rainbow their focus. By the time this match came around, they were expected to have fielded their first-choice World Cup XI four times, hoped to be locked at two-all and heading for a finale they could pretend was the finale. But even the best-made plans can go awry: South Africa have been without their first-choice wicketkeeper batsman, Quinton de Kock, until now, they won the series with two games to spare and were only under pressure when it didn’t matter anymore.

They have found a way to make the best of it and have ensured everyone in their World Cup XV has had a game and their weary legs have had some rest. It may not be the ideal warm-up for the tournament they are desperate to win but it’s allowed them to fly a little under the radar for a short while.

West Indies seldom have the space for that kind of drawn-out build-up. They arrived a team fresh out of a crisis, played most of their cricket like a team still in one but hope to end it like a team who have solved all their problems. They’re not putting too much emphasis on how this series will influence their World Cup performances, they’re just hoping to find some common ground in their squad and their style of play and to leave South Africa having made an impression.

Form guide
South Africa LWWWL (last five completed games most recent first)
West Indies WLLLL

In the spotlight
With the knowledge that they may need their bench strength in a crunch situation at the World Cup, South Africa are likely to give Rilee Rossouw, Wayne Parnell, Kyle Abbott and Aaron Phangiso all a chance to show what they are capable of. Apart from Rossouw’s maiden century and a fairly tight performance from Phangiso, collectively the reserves still look vulnerable and they will want to reassure the South African public of the opposite before they head Down Under.

Talk out of the West Indies camp is all about their matchwinners but they are not the players normally associated with the term. Chris Gayle has averaged 17.75 in the series and while Marlon Samuels earned the special praise of Darren Sammy for playing “every day of cricket on the tour”, he has not always been able to follow through after impressive starts. In the last match, it was up to Sammy and Andre Russell to finish the job but if all the big names can put on big shows at the same time, West Indies could be, as Sammy put it, “unstoppable”.

Team news
Quinton de Kock will make his comeback just five weeks after tearing ankle ligaments at the same ground and will open the batting with his regular partner Hashim Amla, who also leads the side in AB de Villiers’ absence. South Africa’s captain will be given the day off so Rilee Rossouw will be bat at No. 4. Dale Steyn also has time to put his feet up which will allow Kyle Abbott to get another game. Morne Morkel played the fourth ODI and may make way for Vernon Philander while Aaron Phangiso could find himself filling in for Imran Tahir again.

South Africa: (possible) 1 Hashim Amla (capt), 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 Rilee Rossouw, 5 JP Duminy, 6 Farhaan Behardien, 7 David Miller, 8 Wayne Parnell, 9 Kyle Abbott 10 Vernon Philander, 11 Aaron Phangiso

West Indies are still waiting on the injury concerns to Lendl Simmons (finger) and Sulieman Benn (back) who should slot back into the XI if they are fit, unless they opt to leave out a specialist spinner. They have a tougher decision to make over whether to include Jerome Taylor. The pace spearhead was rested for the fourth ODI and with both Carlos Brathwaite and Sheldon Cottrell giving decent accounts of themselves, it may be difficult to make room for Taylor.

West Indies: (possible) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Dwayne Smith, 3 Leon Johnson, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 6 Jonathan Carter, 7 Darren Sammy, 8 Andre Russell, 9 Jason Holder (capt), 10 Carlos Brathwaite , 11 Sheldon Cottrell

Pitch and conditions
After slightly sluggish tracks on the Eastern Cape coast, South Africa will return to a surface they savour. SuperSport Park should present them with pace, bounce and carry and the altitude ensures it’s not just bowlers who benefit from the thinner air. The ball should fly further if the teams have the opportunity to play a full game. Rain is forecast from the afternoon into the evening with between 7mm and 30mm expect to fall.

Stats and trivia

  • Chris Gayle, who has not scored a century in 16 innings since June 2013, needs 119 more runs to reach 9000 in ODIs.
  • Hashim Amla has only captained South Africa in five ODIs, and they have won just two of them.

“The Aussie series was a very compact and to have that intensity was very valuable for us. Coming back here, playing West Indies and being 3-0 up, was a bit less intense. It gives the team a bit more space in checking your squad out.”
South Africa’s stand-in captain Hashim Amla admits West Indies were easier picking than some of the team’s other challenges.

“I was going to make sure you guys are aware that it’s a home ground for us. It will be good to finish off on a high here and look to be settled before the World Cup.”
Darren Sammy played for the Titans, who are based at SuperSport Park, in the Ram Slam T20 and looks forward to seeing his home fans one last time.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Jan 272015
Tare thrilled to take over as Mumbai captain

Aditya Tare on Suryakumar Yadav: “We are very good friends. We have been teammates for years now.” © BCCI

He may not have taken over the reins of Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy team in ideal circumstances but Aditya Tare is thrilled to have been appointed captain of the most successful domestic side.

“It’s a great responsibility and a great feeling to have been asked to lead the Mumbai team,” Tare told ESPNcricinfo after Mumbai reached Vadodara for their penultimate game of the league stage against in-form Baroda. “With the glorious past we have had, Mumbai team has a rich legacy. I along with all my teammates would try and take it forward.”

Despite putting up a brave front, Tare admitted that his immediate task is “extremely challenging”. After a season that has seen them losing to Jammu & Kashmir in the first contest between the two teams and then conceding their first innings defeat in 64 years in Chennai last week, Mumbai are placed sixth in Group A standings with 11 points.

“It’s an extremely challenging situation. We have two games left and we have to win them outright to qualify. The good thing is that we still have an opportunity and we will give it our best shot.”

If Mumbai win both their games, they will be in with a good chance to finish in the top three and qualify for the knockouts. However, with the bottom-placed Uttar Pradesh just three points behind them, Mumbai are still in danger of being relegated to the lowest rung of the tournament if they continue their lacklustre form.

Tare wasn’t even thinking about the r-word. “We know we haven’t played great cricket. And the points table speaks for itself. We just want to try and give our best. If we can do that, we know we can still make it to the knockouts.”

Suryakumar Yadav, the maverick batsman who was given the charge of the team at the start of the season, has been involved in various spats with his teammates on and off the field. Since Yadav’s behaviour didn’t improve despite being issued a stern warning by the Mumbai Cricket Association in the middle of the season, the MCA management had told selectors to replace him. It resulted in Yadav relinquishing captaincy on Sunday.

Tare, known as a good man-manager, said he has had a word with Yadav. “We are very good friends. We have been teammates for years now. We are matured individuals,” Tare said, adding that the team has been trying its best to keep the negative vibes out of the dressing room.

“We are professional cricketers. I wouldn’t want to control what happens off the field. But I expect them to control things on the field. Obviously at the moment, we want the focus to be only on delivering in the next two games. I am sure all the players would succeed in it.”

Jan 272015
Dhaka Division smash records and Barisal Division
Shuvagato Hom belts out an appeal, West Indies v Bangladesh, 1st Test, St Vincent, 1st day, September 5, 2014

File photo: Shuvagata Hom’s six wickets hastened the end for Barisal Division © WICB Media

Defending champions Dhaka Division treated themselves to the largest margin of victory recorded in a first-class match in Bangladesh when they routed Barisal Division by an innings and 413 runs, bettering Sri Lanka’s innings-and 248-run victory over Bangladesh in January 2014 by a handsome margin.

Having been put in, Barisal were bowled out for 139 by tea on the first day, with Dhaka captain Mohammad Sharif picking up 6 for 24, his best first-class returns, in his 100th first-class match. The only resistance for Barisal came from Fazle Mahmud with 52 off 87 balls, and he had to run only four of them having cracked six fours and four sixes.

In reply, Dhaka amassed 651 for 5 after Rony Talukdar made his maiden double-hundred. He lashed 227 off 266 balls, that included 26 fours and three sixes. Raqibul Hasan made 145, his sixth first-class ton, while Taibur Rahman collected his third hundred, and remained unbeaten on 106 when the declaration came.

Trailing by 512 runs on the third day, Barisal slumped to 99 all out. Offspinning allrounder Shuvagata Hom ran through the top order as he snapped up 6 for 22 in 9.4 overs. Seamer Shahadat Hossain’s 3 for 40 made short work of the lower order and the match was wrapped up by 2:05pm on the third afternoon in Mirpur.

Jan 272015
Smith dominates Border Medal night

Steven Smith’s four centuries in four Tests against India capped a brilliant year © Getty Images

Steven Smith dominated the Allan Border Medal night in much the same way as he has blitzed bowling attacks over the past 12 months, taking Australian cricket’s most prestigious award by an enormous margin in Sydney on Tuesday night.

Any doubt about who might win the medal was more or less settled when Smith swooped on the ODI player of the year award despite the fact he began the year outside the limited-overs squad and was 12th man as recently as the first 50-over fixture of this summer against South Africa in Perth.

But a trio of centuries in ODIs was the foundation of that award, and there was never much question about his acceptance of the Test match garlands given his prolific run during the Border-Gavaskar series. Smith finished four votes ahead of David Warner, largely due to centuries in four successive Tests against India, the last three of which were as captain in place of the injured Michael Clarke.

They put the capstone on a year in which he played commendably amid a poor series for the Test team against Pakistan in the UAE, and notched what remains his own personal favourite innings, a critical 100 on an occasionally spiteful pitch at Centurion Park in February that helped set the scene for a memorable series win over South Africa.

“I think the first Test in South Africa probably wins, the best pace attack in the world and to get a hundred at Centurion against that attack was outstanding,” Smith said when asked to rank the five centuries he scored during the voting period. “I think we’re doing really well at the moment, we’re certainly heading in the direction we want to head, so I couldn’t be happier with the way the boys are going.”

The Border medal aggregates votes compiled for performances across all three formats, with the greatest weighting given to Test-match displays. Smith’s tally of 243 votes put him a whopping 68 clear of his closest challenger Warner, who put in some outstanding efforts in Tests at Newlands and Adelaide Oval but could not match Smith’s consistency. In third place, a further 49 votes behind, was the 2014 winner Mitchell Johnson.

Looking back on the year, Smith offered warm thanks to his team-mates, singling out the response of the batsmen to his request that they lift their games ahead of the final Test against India at the SCG. “One thing that really stood out to me before Sydney,” Smith said. “I wanted the top six to all stand up. For all of the top six to get past 50 for the first time in Test history was absolutely remarkable.”

There were also warm words for the Australian batting coach Michael Di Venuto, his family and his girlfriend Danni, all of whom have been major contributors to Smith’s progress as a batsman and young man in recent times.

The only national team award not claimed by Smith was the only one in which he was not in the running for, having not played a Twenty20 match during the voting period. Glenn Maxwell took out the T20 prize by a comfortable nine-vote margin from fellow Victorian Aaron Finch, who took over from George Bailey as captain of the short-form side last year.

Maxwell’s award provided a reminder of his explosive qualities, though he has also had his moments of trial this summer, not least after a brief sojourn at No. 3 in the Test batting order against Pakistan. Australia’s coach Darren Lehmann, who has said Maxwell still has some way to go before becoming a “developed player”, presented him with the award.

Jan 272015
Herath to return to Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka in New Zealand 2014-15 January 27, 2015

Andrew Fidel Fernando

Rangana Herath has been Sri Lanka's best spinner in the New Zealand series though he has played only three ODIs Rangana Herath has been Sri Lanka’s best spinner in the New Zealand series though he has played only three ODIs © Getty Images

Rangana Herath will be unavailable for the seventh ODI against New Zealand on Thursday, as he returns home to help care for an unwell family member, Sri Lanka’s team manager has said.

Herath will leave the squad immediately, but is scheduled to return to New Zealand on around February 3, well ahead of Sri Lanka’s first World Cup warm-up match against South Africa on February 9. He has been Sri Lanka’s best spinner in the series, taking four wickets at an average of 30 and an economy rate of 4.13 from the three games he has played.

Angelo Mathews also remains in doubt for the final ODI, despite having recovered from his calf injury. He has become ill with what appears to be the flu, and did not train with the team on Monday. Mathews had missed the previous two ODIs with a niggle, as Sri Lanka chose not to risk further injury to him with the World Cup on the horizon.

The team also reports that Lasith Malinga is nearing match-fitness, and is likely to be available for Sri Lanka’s warm-up matches in February. There is a small chance he could even play in Wednesday’s ODI, but a mix of both fitness and strategic reasons are likely to keep him out of that game.

Sri Lanka play the first match of the World Cup against New Zealand on February 14.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

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