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Australia Test skipper Tim Paine quits amid off-field scandal

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With barely three weeks for the Ashes series to start, Tim Paine relinquished Australia’s Test captaincy in a bombshell announcement on Friday, which has shaken the Australian cricket establishment to the core.

In a hurriedly-organised press conference in Hobart, a tearful Paine, who was recovering quickly from an invasive neck surgery and was looking forward to the Ashes, announced he was quitting after an off-field scandal was reportedly unearthed by News Corp.

Test vice-captain Pat Cummins looks set to become the first pace bowler to lead the Test side in 65 years.

“Today I’m announcing my decision to stand down as the captain of the Australian Men’s Test team. It’s an incredibly difficult decision but the right one for me, my family and cricket,” Paine was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au on Friday.

“As a background on my decision, nearly four years ago, I was involved in a text exchange with a then-colleague. At the time, the exchange was the subject of a thorough CA Integrity Unit investigation, throughout which I fully participated in and openly participated in,” added Paine.

“That investigation and a Cricket Tasmania HR investigation at the same time found that there had been no breach of the Cricket Australia Code of Conduct. Although exonerated, I deeply regretted this incident at the time, and still do today. I spoke to my wife and family at the time and am enormously grateful for their forgiveness and support.

“We thought this incident was behind us and that I could focus entirely on the team, as I have done for the last three or four years. However, I recently became aware that this private text exchange was going to become public. On reflection, my actions in 2017 do not meet the standard of an Australian cricket captain, or the wider community.

“I’m deeply sorry for the hurt and pain that I have caused to my wife, my family, and to the other party. I’m sorry for any damage that this does to the reputation of our sport. And I believe that it is the right decision for me to stand down as captain, effective immediately. I do not want this to become an unwelcome disruption to the team ahead of what is a huge Ashes series,” added Paine.

Paine was appointed the 46th Australian Test captain in 2018, taking over from Steve Smith following the Sandpaper scandal in South Africa.

He captained the team during the 2019 Ashes series, where Australia retained the coveted trophy on foreign soil for the first time in 18 years.

Cricket Australia (CA) chair Richard Freudenstein says the board immediately accepted his resignation. “Tim felt it was in the best interests of his family and Australian cricket to take this decision to step down as captain.”

Freudenstein said that Paine will be available for selection for the entire Ashes summer.

“The Board has accepted Tim’s resignation and will now work through a process with the National Selection Panel of identifying and appointing a new captain. Tim will continue to be available for selection in the Test team through the Ashes summer.”

The Ashes begin next month with Australia playing their first Test at the Gabba in Brisbane on December 8.

Meanwhile, Cricket Tasmania also issued a statement saying that there was “no complaint raised at the time of the incident in November 2017, nor when the employee’s position with the organisation was terminated”.

“As soon as Cricket Tasmania was made aware, it undertook an investigation that determined the interaction was consensual, private, occurred on the one occasion only, was between mature adults and was not repeated,” Cricket Tasmania chair, Andrew Gaggin was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.

International

England beat Germany after extra time to win UEFA women’s Euro

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England beat Germany 2-1 after extra time in a packed Wembley Stadium in London, bringing home the trophy of the UEFA women’s Euro for the first time.

Germany suffered a heavy blow minutes ahead of the final on Sunday evening as their captain Alex Popp had to pull out after picking up an injury during the warm-up.

The 31-year-old forward had scored in all five previous matches in this tournament and scored twice in Germany’s 2-1 win against France in Wednesday’s semifinal, reports Xinhua. England, reaching the Euro’s final for the third time, couldn’t break the deadlock until Ella Toone came off the bench to score the opener in the 62nd minute.

But midfielder Lina Magull helped Germany equalise in the 79th minute.

The 1-1 scoreline was held until the 110th minute while substitute Chloe Kelly prodded in her first goal for the England team.

“What we’ve done is incredible. I knew we had England behind us- we saw that coming to the stadium,” said England head coach Sarina Wiegman in front of 87,192 fans in Wembley.

“But the whole tournament we’ve had so much support from our fans. I’m so proud of the team.”

The 52-year-old Dutchwoman, who also guided the Netherlands to win the women’s Euro trophy in 2017, is the first coach to lead two different teams to the title.

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Pakistan Cricket Board wants ICC to form strategy on growth of franchise T20 leagues

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Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said on Saturday that it has asked the International Cricket Council (ICC) to form a strategy on controlling the growth of lucrative franchise T20 leagues with rising concerns about its impact on the international cricket calendar.

Earlier this week, South Africa pulled out of a three-match bilateral ODI against Australia in January as it clashes with their new domestic T20 competition, the third time they will be attempting to have a successful franchise T20 League.

The next cycle of the Future Tours Programme (FTP), for 2024-31, which shows the schedule of teams playing bilateral series against each other and at what venues, is set to be confirmed in the upcoming week during the annual conference of the ICC at Birmingham.

“Growth of franchise cricket is impacting the already crammed international cricket calendar. The PCB is concerned about this development and wants the ICC to formulate a strategy on this issue,” said PCB Chief Executive Faisal Hasnain in a statement.

“We have sent a proposal to the ICC, which they have added to their meeting agenda. Two other boards have also conveyed their apprehensions to the ICC on this matter and urged the ICC to create a working group to debate on the expansion of franchise-based T20 leagues,” added Hasnain.

Talking about the confirmation of the FTP, in the context of Pakistan recently starting to host international cricket at home, Hasnain remarked, “Finalising the Future Tours Programme (FTP) is very important for us.

“This will give us certainty about which teams will be visiting us and which countries we will be touring. 80 per cent of the FTP has already been agreed upon and the remaining 20 per cent will be completed in the upcoming meeting.”

The upcoming ICC Annual Conference in Birmingham also marks the first time the meeting will happen after a Covid-19 pandemic caused a stoppage. “The annual conference presents a unique opportunity for networking with representatives of the world cricket.

“We are planning several initiatives that involve fellow members and meetings have already been set up on the sidelines with other boards to collectively enhance our common interest,” concluded Hasnain.

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T20 World Cup could be a swansong for several Australian cricketers, indicates Finch

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Australia white-ball skipper Aaron Finch has no doubt in his mind that he will be leading an “ageing side” in the ICC T20 World Cup at home later this year, and indicated that the tournament could be a swansong for several cricketers, especially batters.

As Australia prepare to defend the title they won in the UAE in 2021, Finch added that lifting the trophy in front of a packed Melbourne Cricket Ground in November would be a dream come true for him.

“It might be a full stop on everything (several players retiring from T20Is, including him) if it goes to plan like that. Fairy tales can happen in sport,” Finch, 35, was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au during the 100-day countdown celebration to the mega event on Friday.

While Finch has indicated that this could be the last T20 World Cup for him, it could also be opener David Warner and wicketkeeper-batter Matthew Wade’s last mega T20 event, given that both are in their mid-30s.

Wade has already said the 2022 T20 World Cup will be his international swansong, while Warner has also indicated that he might retire from T20Is to prolong his Test and ODI career. Finch will also probably turn his attention to the 50-over World Cup in India in 2023 to finally call it a day from international cricket.

Asked about his white-ball future post the T20 World Cup, Finch said, “Good question… It obviously shifts to a 50-over World Cup focus… after the (T20) World Cup, so I don’t think there’s too many T20 games in the next 12 months (after the World Cup) anyway. So I don’t know.

“I think just naturally when guys get to their mid-30s, it’s going to be that way. Davey (Warner) just keeps going; he could play for another 10 years, I think, with how fit he is and how much he loves the competition and continuing to challenge himself.

“(Matthew) Wadey has gone through a few phases (and) he’s now become so important to the structure of our team, batting at seven there and being so dynamic. But it’s an ageing side, isn’t it? Especially in that batting group,” said Finch.

Finch added that the World Cup in Australia would be “incredibly tough” after what he saw in the UAE last year where South Africa, in spite of winning four out of their five games, missed out on net run rate.

“Iit’s going to be an incredibly tough competition. We saw how brutal the format is with South Africa winning four out of their five games at the last World Cup and still not qualifying on net run rate. It’s just so brutal that you do need a bit of luck along the way. So let’s see.”

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