COVID won’t be stopping the BBL this season, with two players taking to Tuesday night’s opener while positive with the virus.
Melbourne Stars’ guns Joe Burns and Marcus Stoinis both tested positive for the virus in the hours before the game but played on regardless in their last-ball loss to the Sydney Thunder.
It was a far cry from the Stars’ January clash against Perth, one of the more bizarre games in BBL history, where they fielded an unrecognisable line-up after 10 players and eight staff members got the virus.
Burns and Stoinis sat away from their teammates while waiting to bat, travelled to the ground in a separate car and used their own dressing room.
The league intends to set up a third changeroom at all games this season with COVID-infected players from both sides to theoretically share the facilities, but won’t stop players from competing with the virus if they feel comfortable.
That was just one part of a rough day for Burns, who hurt his hamstring while batting before retiring and leaving the ground for scans.
Stars captain Adam Zampa admitted it was a weird feeling keeping the teammates separate, but said it had to be the norm to keep the competition rolling.
“It’s something we’re getting used to now, it’s happened already quite a bit this summer through the World Cup,” he told reporters.
“We don’t even speak about it, it’s just a quick message saying these guys are positive and stay away.
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“Burnsy’s had a tough day with the hamstring and that as well, he’ll be pretty flat I think and the same with ‘Stoin’, I don’t think he was quite up for it with the ball and he would have been quite handy.”
Burns had hobbled through singles where possible but eventually succumbed, retiring on 18.
Stoinis offered no such resistance, holing out for a golden duck
He wasn’t well enough to field or bowl later on and instead watched the second innings from the boundary draped in a blanket after warming up in the change of innings to bowl.
It is unclear if Stoinis will back up for Friday night’s home opener against Hobart, although Burns would appear a certainty to miss with his hamstring.
Sandhu unlikely hero for Thunder
The Sydney Thunder survived a disastrous batting collapse on BBL opening night to claim a one-wicket win over the Melbourne Stars.
After the Thunder lost their last established batter Chris Green (17) on the first ball of the last over, Gurinder Sandhu (20no) was the unlikely hero, belting a six over deep midwicket before four byes off the final ball denied the Stars (8-122) a fairytale comeback.
Of his match-winning six, Sandhu said he’d backed himself to take on Stars’ closer Beau Webster.
“I just wanted to keep it really simple, stay still, watch the ball, just react after that … when you talk to batsmen, that’s when they bat their best,” he told reporters.
“We didn’t want to force it because we knew we had that one over of Beau … we just said if it’s in your zone then smack it. It’s a good way to start and hopefully it sets the tone for the Big Bash.”
Nick Larkin (25) top-scored for Melbourne, but from the 12th over onwards the Stars hit only two boundaries.
Chasing down 123 should have been routine for the Thunder, who boast the likes of Alex Hales, Rilee Rossouw and Jason Sangha in their top order.
But in his long-awaited BBL debut, veteran New Zealand international Trent Boult snagged two wickets in three balls to knock the Sydneysiders off balance in the first over.
Matt Gilkes edged Boult to emergency fielder Brody Couch, who juggled the ball four times before taking a contender for catch of the year on the ground at short fine leg.
On Boult’s next delivery, Rossouw was caught by Nathan Coulter-Nile in the slips and the Thunder had lost two wickets without scoring a run.
Hales (16) and Daniel Sams (3) were thwarted in their attempts to slog the Thunder out of trouble, both victims of Coulter-Nile’s (3-19) efficient spell.
Stars captain Adam Zampa sprung Alex Ross (28) with a length ball onto off stump that sealed his 100th BBL wicket and left the Thunder at 7-89.
Green and Sandhu needed 15 runs from the last two overs and when the latter slogged Luke Wood to long on for four, the Thunder had a sniff.
A second classic catch from Couch, diving in the deep, dismissed Green and the Stars were all but home with no more established batters left to come in for the Thunder. That was until Sandhu rose from the rubble to keep the Melburnians at bay.
Flintoff in hospital after accident
Former England cricketer Andrew Flintoff has been taken to hospital after an accident during the filming of an episode of the BBC TV show Top Gear.
His injuries are not life-threatening, British media reported on Tuesday.
“Freddie (Flintoff) was injured in an accident at the Top Gear test track this morning – with crew medics attending the scene immediately,” a BBC official told Sky News, adding they will confirm more details in due course.
Separately, The Sun newspaper said, citing a source, that Flintoff, 45 – who was airlifted to hospital – was receiving treatment, and his injuries were not life-threatening.
The BBC did not immediately respond to a’ request for comment. The all-rounder quit cricket in 2010 and joined Top Gear as a host in 2019, having also tried out a career in boxing. He was named man of the series in the memorable 2005 Ashes for his heroic effort in helping England to their first series win against Australia for 18 years.
Yorkshire racism scandal deepens
Yorkshire chair Lord Kamlesh Patel has accused the former leadership of the England and Wales Cricket Board of failing to support him when he faced criticism over the reforms he led at the county.
Lord Patel took over at Yorkshire 13 months ago after the county had been stripped of hosting rights for international matches over their handling of racism allegations made by former player Azeem Rafiq.
Rafiq himself told MPs the only thing which has changed since he first gave harrowing evidence of the racism he faced in cricket is that he and his family have been driven out of the country.
Lord Patel was tasked by the ECB with implementing governance reforms at Headingley in order to get the county back on track, but faced criticism from the club’s former leadership.
He told a Parliamentary committee he felt he was left totally alone to handle that by the ECB, and that without his previous leadership experience would have walked away.
“I asked in writing, and I have email after email, letter after letter, saying ‘you asked me to do this, I’ve done this, please support me’ and I have no response to any of those letters and emails. So it was very distressing.
“If I was an individual who wasn’t a member of the House of Lords and hadn’t had any sort of leadership experience, you would walk away.
“I don’t know how Azeem gets the strength to carry on. You would just run. In the public eye, we get flak (but) this is relentless. And this is from an area where you don’t expect it – this is sport, for God’s sake.
“Individuals who have just been (making) a concerted attack, I do not think people understand, I don’t think the ECB has got it.”
Lord Patel described cricket’s existing regulatory process as “completely flawed” and said independent regulation would be good in an ideal world, but there would be too many years of “navel-gazing” to get there.
Rafiq highlighted the abuse he and his family have faced since he blew the whistle on his experiences.
The 31-year-old said: “If I was to look at 13 months on from me opening my heart out, all that’s changed really is that me and my family have been driven out of the country. And that’s a sad element of it.”
Rafiq, who moved with his immediate family to Pakistan last month, recounted incidents of abuse to the committee, including a man defecating outside his parents’ house.
“I would love to come here and tell you how much cricket has changed, but unfortunately what it feels like is that cricket is very much in denial,” he said. “There are still a group of people out there who feel like cricket is the victim in this.”
In June the ECB charged a number of individuals in relation to the allegations from Rafiq, and Yorkshire over their handling of those allegations. However, the Cricket Discipline Commission has yet to hear the case after a dispute over whether it should take place in public or private.
The ECB has recently had new leadership and both men said they were hopeful of improvement, albeit in Rafiq’s case this was ‘a little hope’.
Shah out of series finale
Pakistan will once again be without pace bowler Naseem Shah as they seek to avoid a third straight defeat by England in the third Test in Karachi.
The 19-year-old seamer took five wickets in a losing cause as bat dominated ball in the series opener in Rawalpindi but missed the follow-up in Multan, where Ben Stokes’ tourists took an unassailable 2-0 lead.
Pakistan were hopeful of having Naseem back to lead the attack when the final match begins on Saturday, but must now continue without him due to injury.
“A niggle in the bowling shoulder has ruled out Naseem Shah from the third and final Test between Pakistan and England in Karachi,” the Pakistan Cricket Board confirmed.
“The fast bowler will travel to Lahore where he will undergo further assessment at the national high performance centre before beginning rehabilitation. The team management has not requested for his replacement at this stage.”
Pakistan have already lost Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf, leaving them with a makeshift pace attack.
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