Alex Hales has apologised after a photograph emerged of him being "incredibly disrespectful" by painting his face black at a fancy dress party.

Former England batsman Hales says a picture that was published by The Sun shows him trying to pay tribute to rapper Tupac Shakur at a party in 2009.

Nottinghamshire batter Hales knows he has been "incredibly reckless and foolish".

The 32-year-old on Friday once again denied Azeem Rafiq's claim that he had named his dog Kevin, a name the spinner alleged his former team-mate Gary Ballance used as a "derogatory" term to refer to a player of colour.

Hales said in a video posted on Instagram: "With the allegations that have come to light over the last few days, I feel like it's important that I address these myself.

"I'll start with the picture that has appeared in The Sun of me in a fancy dress party in 2009. The theme was musicians and Tupac is, was, always will be my favourite musician so I went as him.

"I obviously realise it is incredibly disrespectful and I want to apologise for the offence that this has no doubt caused. It's incredibly reckless and foolish on my behalf so I want to apologise for that and I want to apologise to the club for the embarrassment it would have caused them

"I guess my 20s was full of mistakes like that, reckless mistakes off the field that cost me, let down family, let down team-mates, let down friends, close relationships I had in my 20s.

"I guess some of those decisions I'll regret for the rest of my life. The last few years, being away from the spotlight a little bit has given me the chance to better myself as a human, keep getting better at cricket but getting better off the field as well. It's something I feel like I've done and am continuing to strive to do.

"With regards to the allegations about the dog, it's an ongoing investigation at the club, so I can't go into that, but I want to reiterate what I said in my statement the other day.

"Finally, I deplore all forms of racism and discrimination. I've been incredibly lucky to play around the world in different backgrounds with players of different races, different cultures and I think it's great our game is so diverse."

Nottinghamshire said the club has "extended the scope of their investigation" into the historic conduct of Hales following the publication the photo.

South Africa legend AB de Villiers has confirmed his retirement from all forms of cricket at the age of 37.

The Proteas great made the announcement on Friday, calling time on a glittering career that saw him win 114 Test caps, feature in 228 ODIs and make 78 T20I outings.

He stepped down from the international stage in 2018 but continued to represent Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League, as well as feature in other T20 competitions. 

However, the prolific batsman - an excellent fielder who also donned the wicketkeeping gloves - will no longer showcase his incredible talents after deciding to call it a day.

"It has been an incredible journey, but I have decided to retire from all cricket," he wrote on Twitter.

"Ever since the back yard matches with my older brothers, I have played the game with pure enjoyment and unbridled enthusiasm. Now, at the age of 37, that flame no longer burns so brightly.

"That's the reality I must accept – and, even if it may seem sudden, that is why I am making this announcement. I've had my time. Cricket has been exceptionally kind to me.

"Cricket has been exceptionally kind to me. Whether playing for the Titans, or the Proteas, or RCB, or around the world, the game has given me unimagined experiences and opportunities, and I will always be grateful.

"I would like to thank every team-mate, every opponent, every coach, every physio and every staff member who has travelled the same path, and I am humbled by the support I have received in South Africa, in India, wherever I have played.

"Last, I am aware that nothing would have been possible without the sacrifices made by my family – my parents, my brothers, my wife Danielle and my children. I look forward to the next chapter of our lives when I can truly put them first."

De Villiers last played for South Africa in a Test match against Australia back in March 2018, having debuted against England in 2004.

He scored 8,765 runs in Tests at an average of 50.66, with 22 centuries as well as taking 222 catches, 101 of those as a keeper.

De Villiers was even more impressive in the ODI format, averaging 53.50 and racking up 25 hundreds in 228 appearances, while he made 1,672 runs in T20I 75 knocks at an average of 26.12. 

The veteran's 157 matches for RCB yielded 4,522 runs at a strike rate of 158.33.

Tim Paine has sensationally resigned as Australia's Test captain on the eve of the Ashes after being embroiled in a sexting scandal.

The 36-year-old wicketkeeper made the stunning announcement at a brief press conference on Friday, although he clarified he intends to remain available for selection.

Paine had taken over as Australian skipper from Steve Smith in the wake of the sandpaper scandal during the South Africa Test tour in 2018.

The Tasmanian, who is married with two children, revealed the decision was based on an explicit text exchange with a female former Cricket Tasmania colleague from 2017.

The incident was investigated at the time and Paine had been cleared of breaching Cricket Australia's Code of Conduct but he had recently learned the exchange was set to be made public and subsequently opted to stand down.

"It's an incredibly difficult decision but the right one for me, my family and cricket," Paine said.

"On reflection my actions in 2017 do not meet the standards of an Australian cricket captain or the wider community. I'm deeply sorry for the hurt and pain that I have caused for my wife, my family and the other party.

"I'm sorry for any damage that this does to the reputation of our sport and I believe it's the right decision for me to stand own as captain effectively immediately. I do not want this to become an unwelcome distraction to the team ahead of a huge Ashes series."

Paine became particularly emotional when discussing his role as Test captain, which he described as the "greatest privilege" of his playing career, having led the side which retained the Ashes in England in 2019.

"I've loved my role as captain of the Australian cricket team," he said. "It's been the greatest privilege of my sporting life to lead the Australian men's team.

"I'm grateful for the support of my teammates and proud of what we've been able to achieve together. To them I ask for understanding and forgiveness. To Australian cricket fans, I'm deeply sorry my past behaviour has impacted our game on the eve of the Ashes.

"I've been blessed with a wonderful loving supportive family and it's breaks my heart to know how much I've let them down. They've always stood by me and been my most loyal fans. I'm indebted to them for their support.

"I will remain a committed member of the Australian cricket team and look forward with anticipation for what is a huge Ashes tour."

Paine had earlier this week been included in Australia's 15-man squad for the first two Ashes Tests despite neck surgery in September.

Fast bowler Pat Cummins had been named in that squad as vice-captain, while Smith may be considered to step in as captain having served his penance for his 2018 indiscretion.

The First Test against England is due to commence at the Gabba in Brisbane on December 8.

West Indies Test captain Kraigg Brathwaite claims the team is eager to buck the trend of typically poor performances in Sri Lanka when the teams meet in Galle later this week.

Since 1994, the teams have played 10 series between them, with the West Indies winning two and Sri Lanka winning three.  The rest have ended in draws.  None of the West Indies wins have come in Sri Lanka.  In fact, the West Indies are yet to win a match in Sri Lanka and suffered a 2-0 loss on their last visit in 2016.

Brathwaite believes the current squad, who did experience some success on the continent in February with a win over Bangladesh, is capable of finally breaking this long-running trend.

“I was here in 2016, my first series here and we lost both matches.  As a youngster it didn’t feel good just coming into the team.  Now I’m looking forward to these games, I think we have a very good team,” Brathwaite told members of the media on Thursday.

“This team is ready to go, and we are ready to break the shackles and win some games in Sri Lanka this time around,” he added.

The West Indies face Sri Lanka in a two-Test series in the Caribbean earlier this year, which ended in a 0-0 draw.

 

 

Azeem Rafiq has apologised and described himself as "ashamed" after anti-Semitic messages he sent in 2011 resurfaced.

The former Yorkshire cricketer, who this week made an emotional appearance in front of a parliamentary select committee amid claims of institutionalised racism in English cricket, posted an apology on Twitter on Thursday in the wake of his own offensive remarks circulating on social media.

The 30-year-old confirmed the messages, which were part of an exchange with another cricketer, were written by him but insisted "I am a different person today", having posted them at the age of 19.

"I was sent an image of this exchange from early 2011 today," said Rafiq. "I have gone back to check my account and it is me – I have absolutely no excuses.

"I am ashamed of this exchange and have deleted it so as not to cause further offence. I was 19 at the time and I hope and believe I am a different person today."

In the note, posted on his Twitter account, Rafiq added: "I am incredibly angry at myself and I apologise to the Jewish community and everyone who is rightly offended by this."

Rafiq was found to have suffered racial harassment and bullying while at Yorkshire.

The MCG Ashes Test and the Australian Open will be watched by capacity crowds following the easing of coronavirus restrictions in Victoria.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has announced there will no longer be limits on gatherings in the state.

Andrews had revealed last month, when the latest lockdown ended, that he was hopeful at least 80,000 will be able to attend the Boxing Day Test.

Australia and England can now look forward to playing in front of a full house of 100,000 next month.

The first grand slam of the year, starting at Melbourne Park on January 17, is also set to be played without a cap on the number of spectators allowed in.

"Whether it's 100,000 people at the MCG on Boxing Day or a smaller group of people standing up at the … local pub, this is the COVID-normal that every Victorian has built," he said at a press conference.

Crowds for the 2021 Australian Open were limited to 30,000 people per day – around half capacity – prior to a snap lockdown being implemented during the tournament.

No more than 30,000 were permitted in the MCG for Australia's Boxing Day Test against India last year.

Legendary fast bowler, Curtly Ambrose, does not believe Shimron Hetmyer is ready to be captain of the West Indies team as the batsman still has areas of his individual game to develop.

Earlier this week, former Cricket West Indies (CWI) president Dave Cameron was reported as saying that Hetmyer should replace Pollard as the team’s new white-ball captain.  In further clarifying the issue, however, Cameron has since explained that he believes his administration would have done more to groom the player to take over the post by now.

With Hetmyer plagued by issues of inconsistency and fitness over the last few years, however, Ambrose does not believe having to handle the pressure of the captaincy would be the right move for the batsman at this time.

“I certainly wouldn't (make him captain).  Hetmyer is a young man and could be a future captain in the making but I think Hetmyer needs to get his game in order first,” Ambrose told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“He needs to get his game in order.  It’s too big a responsibility for the young man at this moment when he’s not playing as well,” he added.

“For me, I would like to see Hetmyer focus on his batting.  First and foremost get it right and then who knows what can happen a few years later but I wouldn’t give it to him now, being the captain is added pressure.”

In ODI cricket, Hetmyer is currently averaging 35.29 and has played 47 matches for the regional team.

Tournament Director Fawwaz Baksh has thanked the governments of Antigua & Barbuda, Guyana, St. Kitts & Nevis, and Trinidad & Tobago for strongly supporting Cricket West Indies in hosting its fourth global tournament.

Speaking in the aftermath of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) announcement of the host venues and match schedule for the ICC Under 19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2022, he noted it would not have been possible for the Caribbean to hold the event without important government guarantees.

Citing tax waivers, upgrading cricket infrastructure, and collaborating with hotels to ensure accommodation for all 16 teams, match officials and support staff, Baksh revealed regional governments are investing substantial efforts and resources in the tournament which will leave a major cricketing legacy while boosting host economies.

“A number of community clubs and grounds will benefit from enhanced cricketing infrastructure after this event. Of course, there will also be a welcome financial impact in host territories, in terms of hotel bookings, transportation, catering, and the hiring of temporary staff,” he added.

Baksh also lauded the visionary enthusiasm with which host venues readily embraced the U19 event which will be held in the West Indies in January-February 2022.

“When Cricket West Indies voiced its aspirations of hosting the Under 19 Cricket World Cup, regional governments were immediately receptive to the idea, especially from a developmental perspective. This is an opportunity for our youth – and fans in general – to see young men engaged in positive, healthy competition; many of them en route to becoming future stars in international cricket. It’s a great way to inspire boys and also girls across the West Indies, showing what is possible with discipline and dedication.”

The U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup, the Tournament Director pointed out, will continue the West Indies’ stellar tradition of staging the sport’s premier events.

“Since 2007, when the West Indies historically hosted the Men’s Cricket World Cup in nine countries, we have distinguished ourselves in rolling out the red carpet for world-class cricket events.  We held the men’s and women’s T20 World Cups jointly in 2010 and, most recently, the women’s T20 World Cup in 2018,” he said.

“We are proud of these achievements, and the cadre of home-grown professionals which we now have in sport-events management.”

The ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2022 takes place in Antigua & Barbuda, Guyana, St. Kitts & Nevis, and Trinidad & Tobago, from January 14 to February 5, 2022, featuring 16 participating nations in 48 matches.

 Host team, West Indies, start their title quest on January 14 against Australia at Guyana National Stadium while reigning champions, Bangladesh, begin their defence versus England on January 16 at Warner Park, St. Kitts.

 

Rohit Sharma led by example as India started a new era with a five-wicket win over New Zealand in Jaipur on Wednesday.

Three days after losing to Australia by eight wickets in the T20 World Cup final, the Black Caps went down in the first match of the three-game series.

With captain Kane Williamson missing the T20 series to prepare for the Tests, Tim Southee stepped up to lead New Zealand, though it was his counterpart Rohit – taking charge of India in the shortest format for this series after Virat Kohli stepped down – who came out on top.

It went down to the wire, with Martin Guptill (70 from 42 balls) and Mark Chapman (63 off 50), who hit his first T20 half-century for the Black Caps, leading New Zealand to 164-6, with Ravichandran Ashwin taking 2-23 and Bhuvneshwar Kumar 2-24.

Rohit's brilliant 48 and an outstanding 62 off 40 balls from Suryakumar Yadav put India into a strong position in the chase, and with five overs remaining the result looked to be sewn up.

Yet Suryakumar's dismissal at the hands of Trent Boult saw some nerves set in for India, with Shreyas Iyer (five) and debutant Venkatesh Iyer (four) falling in a cagey finish.

Ultimately, Rohit and new coach Rahul Dravid got the win they craved with just two balls to spare when Rishabh Pant (17 not out) sliced a shot over mid-off and to the boundary.

 

Rohit up and running

Replacing Kohli as skipper is not an easy task, but Rohit showed his usual proficiency with the bat as he knocked off 48 from 36 deliveries, including five boundaries and two sixes.

What might have been for Boult

Boult had figures of 2-31, with 21 of those runs coming from his second over. To further compound his frustration, the paceman dropped Suryakumar on 61, not only failing to take what should have been a relatively simple catch, but also seeing the ball go to the boundary to boot.

He did at least end Suryakumar's stint at the crease in the next over, though those runs proved costly.

David Lloyd was the only person to contact Azeem Rafiq and apologise on Tuesday, following the latter's emotional appearance in front of a parliamentary select committee.

Rafiq, who was found to have suffered racial harassment and bullying while at Yorkshire, gave evidence in Tuesday's hearing.

He accused Yorkshire and English cricket in general of being institutionally racist.

Former England head coach Lloyd, who is a leading commentator for Sky Sports and is commonly known by his nickname 'Bumble', was implicated by Rafiq, who also made allegations against former Yorkshire captain Gary Ballance and current head coach Andrew Gale.

The county's director of cricket Martyn Moxon was also said to have heard the abuse, while former chairman Roger Hutton admitted the county failed to act accordingly.

Rafiq claimed Lloyd had made offensive remarks over text message to a third party, but he claimed the commentator was the only person to have apologised to him directly since the hearing.

Asked if Gale, Ballance – who has publicly apologised for any offence he caused – or Moxon had been in touch, Rafiq told Sky Sports: "No, I don't expect them to be. I still don't think any of them think they've done anything wrong.

"It just shows them for what they are. The arrogance there and the complete disregard of anyone else but themselves and their views.

"A lot of people have known. That's why some of the apologies – anyone who's apologised, I accept, that's all I've ever wanted – but it does make you think, you've known this for 14 months, if you were genuinely sorry, you would have done it. But anyone who's apologised deserves a second chance."

Moxon is on leave from Yorkshire due to a stress-related issue, while Gale has been suspended pending an investigation into a Twitter exchange with a former Leeds United executive that is alleged to have included an anti-Semitic slur.

Sky confirmed on Tuesday that they would open an investigation into the remarks attributed to Lloyd, who also used his official Twitter account to apologise to Rafiq and the Asian cricket community.

"He rang me last night, I told him honestly what I thought about his comments," Rafiq added. 

"They were completely out of order. He told me was briefed by somebody close to the club, which is disappointing because even that gentleman doesn't know me that well.

"But he rang, he apologised, I accepted his apology and he committed to make a difference and that's a positive."

Current England Test captain Joe Root was also brought up in Tuesday's hearing. Rafiq said Root was "a good man" and stressed the batsman had never took part in any abuse.

However, he was concerned by Root's comment that he had not heard any racist language used at Yorkshire.

"Rooty is a good man but it just shows how bad that institution and environment was that even a good man like him didn't see it, didn't feel like it was right to stop it probably and doesn't remember it probably because it won't mean anything to him," Rafiq said.

"The bystanders – from now on – if you continue to just be bystanders you're as much of a problem as the guys who are perpetrators."

Azeem Rafiq believes that the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have "realised they messed up" in handling recent allegations of bullying and racism in cricket.

A day after delivering emotional testimony to the DCMS select committee on the abuse and bullying he suffered during his time at Yorkshire, Rafiq spoke to Sky Sports about the potential repercussions, including his opinion that the national governing body for cricket is unlikely to allow similar occurrences again.

The 30-year-old also expressed his belief that the "floodgates" may now open for similar complaints from within the game, and that these must be taken more seriously than his own allegations were.

"I do feel now it's going to be floodgates [opening] and a lot of victims of abuse are going to come forward and we need to listen to them, hear them, support them and work out a plan to make sure this doesn't happen again," he said.

"I think you're going to get [complaints] into the hundreds and thousands, possibly, and I think it's the way they handle it. We've got here because of Yorkshire's handling of this.

"Yes, what happened was completely unacceptable but the way they've handled it has made it a lot bigger and showed them for what they are, so it depends how the game and individual counties handle it.

"I think the ECB have realised they messed up as well and they're not going to let another episode like this occur."

Rafiq also said he feels the positions of Yorkshire's director of cricket Martyn Moxon, and head coach Andrew Gale, are untenable, but there is potentially a route back for his former team-mate Gary Ballance.

All three were named by Rafiq during his testimony to the committee on Tuesday.

"They need to hear from me the effect their behaviour left me in, and I'd like to hear from them why. Why they felt that was all right but it's important we don't go to individuals and think about the institution, because these guys came into this place and were shaped by the culture and the environment," he added.

"I don't think Martyn and Andrew can [continue in their roles]. I think Gary – if he apologises properly and has some sort of acceptance and accountability – he should be allowed to play.

"But in terms of Andrew and Martyn, I don't think it's possible for Yorkshire to move forward with them still in there knowing full well what sort of role they played in that institution."

Cricket West Indies (CWI) president Ricky Skerritt has expressed delight with a decision that will see the West Indies serve as joint hosts of the 2024 T20 World Cup along with the United States.

The West Indies will be hosting a World Cup-type event for the fourth time, with the US set to make history with its first.  In addition, the 2024 edition will be the first T20 World Cup to feature 20 teams.

Based on the fixtures, approximately two-thirds of the 55 matches will be held in the Caribbean, with the World Cup venues being drawn from the 13 established international cricket grounds in the West Indies.  The United States will host the remaining one-third of the matches where they will be played at five venues.

“The CWI welcomes this historic announcement by the ICC.  It means that the Caribbean has been handed another opportunity in 2024 to host a premiere world cricket event

“We’ve done this before and I’m very sure we are going to do very well doing this again.  This time its historic because we are partnering with our neighbours from the north USA Cricket.  We know that strategic partnership has helped with accepting our bid and we must soon get to work to make this exciting historic decision a truly successful one for all concerned.”

Australia have named a 15-man squad for the opening two Ashes Tests, with captain Tim Paine included despite an injury cloud and veteran Usman Khawaja recalled.

Paine is yet to return to competitive cricket after neck surgery in September but leads an Australia team looking to win the Ashes after retaining the urn with a 2-2 series draw in England in 2019.

Khawaja, who turns 35 next month, earns a recall after strong Sheffield Shield form with two centuries in four matches, having not played the longest format of cricket since the third Ashes Test in 2019.

Victorian left-hander Marcus Harris appears set to open the batting alongside David Warner, with Will Pucovski absent due to another concussion, while Travis Head and Khawaja will battle to take the number five role.

Head was dropped in Australia's last Test series against India in January.

The first Test takes place at the Gabba in Brisbane from December 8, followed by the day-night Test at Adelaide Oval from December 16.

National selection panel chair George Bailey said: "Marcus has been a consistent run scorer domestically and had a strong winter further developing his game with Leicestershire. He is a good player who will be looking to build a strong partnership with David Warner at the top of the order.

"Travis finished last summer strongly, second only to Cameron Green for runs scored, and has again started the season well. He drives the game forward and can put the opposition under pressure with his ability to score quickly.

"Similarly, Usman Khawaja has been in great touch. He brings a calm, consistent and experienced component to the batting line up and is a proven run scorer at Test level. He also has the ability to bat across a range of positions in the batting order."

Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser are included as fast bowling depth, although the latter recently sustained a minor hamstring strain playing for Queensland in the Sheffield Shield.

"Jhye is seeing the rewards of concentrating on his red ball cricket in the build up to this series. We know he has an exceptional skill set and are excited about what he brings to the team now his body is back on track," Bailey said.

 

Australia Test squad: Tim Paine (c), Pat Cummins (vc), Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner

New Zealand have had little to time to dwell on their T20 World Cup final heartbreak as they prepare to face India in Jaipur on Wednesday.

The Black Caps missed out being crowned world champions in the shortest format for the first time when they suffered an eight-wicket defeat to Australia at Dubai International Stadium on Sunday.

A 15-man T20 squad arrived in Jaipur less than 24 hours after that loss and they will look to take their frustration out on India in a three-match series.

Tim Southee will captain New Zealand, with Kane Williamson missing the T20s as he prioritises preparing for a two-Test series that starts on November 25.

It is the beginning of a new era for India after Rahul Dravid replaced Ravi Shastri as head coach and Virat Kohli's reign as T20 captain came to an end.

Rohit Sharma leads India for this series as they look to put the disappointment of missing out on reaching the T20 World Cup semi-finals behind them, starting with a first men’s T20I at Sawai Mansingh Stadium.

Kohli misses the series along with Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami. Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shreyas Iyer, Venkatesh Iyer, Harshal Patel and Avesh Khan are among the players to come into the squad.

New Zealand hammered India by eight wickets in the World Cup, with the Black Caps having lost the previous five T20 matches between the two nations.

 

 

Black Caps set to rotate, Ferguson on the mend

Southee said such an intense schedule and spending so long in bio-secure bubbles has taken a toll on some Black Caps players, revealing how it "weighs you down".

The stand-in skipper suggested the tourists would make full use of their squad and paceman Lockie Ferguson is set to make a welcome return from a calf strain.

He said on Tuesday: "It's [squad rotation] something we have to look at throughout this series of three games in five days, with travel days in between and then a couple of days and then go into a Test series.

"The guys have to be managed throughout the series and we've got a squad of 15 here that were involved in the T20 World Cup which I'm sure we'll use throughout the T20 series."

 

Rohit wants 'fearless' approach

Rohit has never been afraid to take an aggressive approach and the skipper wants the side to take more risks with the bat at the start of a new era, with another T20 World Cup to come next year.

He said: "It's important, especially in this format, that sometimes you just need to go out there and play fearlessly and while doing that, there are chances that you might not always be successful, because it's a short format and you're always challenged.

"The pressure is always there. We certainly will keep an eye on that aspect; that's where the entire set-up will play a big part that wherever that individual bats, and how we want him to bat, goes and does the job for us. If he doesn't then we instil confidence in him that we have full faith in you, just go and do the role for the team. As long as they're trying to do the role for the team, we are happy."

Rohit has scored 352 T20I runs against New Zealand, more than any other India batsman. He made 174 runs in five World Cup knocks at an average of 34.80.

History will be made when the West Indies and the United States co-host the 2024 T20 World Cup and Pakistan will stage the Champions Trophy the following year.

The USA will host a first major global cricket tournament along with West Indies in June 2024.

Just eight months later, a first major global competition since 1996 will take place in Pakistan, where the Champions Trophy will be held in February 2025.

The announcements came when the ICC revealed host nations for every men's limited overs tournaments until 2031.

India and Sri Lanka have been selected for the T20 World Cup in February 2026, before the 2027 50-over World Cup is contested in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia from October to November.

Australia and New Zealand are co-hosts for the T20 World Cup in October 2028, with the Champions Trophy held in India 12 months later.

England, Ireland and Scotland have been awarded the T20 World Cup in June 2030. India and Bangladesh will co-host the Cricket World Cup in October and November 2031.

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