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.

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.

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

Australia's chief selector George Bailey has confirmed Marcus Harris will open in the first Ashes Test against England at the Gabba.

Harris only averages 23.77 from 19 Test innings, with the second of his two half-centuries coming against India in January 2019 after scoring his first in the same series.

The 29-year-old staked a strong claim by making a 19th first-class hundred for Victoria against New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield last month.

Bailey says Harris deserves his chance to open along with David Warner in the opening Test against England in Brisbane, which starts on December 8.

"It gives you great confidence as a selector when you know your opening batters are locked away as far as a Test series go," Bailey told RSN radio.

"It's a hard spot to bat and to get those places settle, it's really important. Harry's only had a limited opportunity in the past, and he's been in and out a bit, so we'd love nothing more than for him to hopefully to get an opportunity to get an extended run at it.

"What we have liked is his consistency. He's obviously been a prolific run-scorer at domestic level here, but also love the fact he went overseas and had a great year for Leicester as well."

Will Pucovski would have been a rival for Harris at the top of the order, but suffered another concussion setback.

Australia will tour Pakistan for the first time in 24 years, it was announced on Monday.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) confirmed details of a month-long tour in March and April 2022 comprising three Test matches, three ODIs and one T20I.

The Tests will be held in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore in March, with the latter also hosting the white-ball matches.

While the Tests will form part of the ICC World Test Championship, the one-day matches will be linked to the ICC Cricket World Cup Super League, a 13-team event from which seven qualifiers and host nation India will progress to the final tournament in 2023.

Speaking of Australia's first visit since 1998, PCB chairman Ramiz Raja said: "I am delighted to welcome Australia to Pakistan. From a personal point of view, it pleases me no end that we'll be engaged in a three-Test match series, connoisseurs delight.

"Australia are one of the high-performing sides and them playing in our backyard for the first time after a gap of 24 years will be a special treat for the fans.

"Likewise, it will be a great opportunity for the Australia cricketers to not only play at our iconic venues but also feel and enjoy the respect, love and hospitality that this great country offers, something which most of their previous generation of cricketers missed out by playing offshore."

Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley: "Cricket Australia is excited about the prospect of touring Pakistan next year for what will be a highly anticipated series in a country so incredibly passionate about the game and their national team.

"Pakistan is a formidable opposition with an exceptionally talented team, as evidenced by their dynamic performances in the current ICC Men's T20 World Cup in the UAE.

"We thank the PCB for their considerable efforts in planning for the tour and look forward to continuing to work closely over the coming months to finalise the necessary operations, logistics, security and Covid-19 protocols.

"The safety and welfare of our players and staff remains our number one priority, and we will continue to work with the PCB and relevant agencies to ensure that appropriate and sufficient arrangements are put in place for the tour."

Australia won the series 1-0 in their previous tour of Pakistan, which was their first since Richie Benaud's side won 2-0 in 1959-60.

The previous four series between the countries have been held offshore, most recently in 2018-19, when Pakistan won 1-0 in the United Arab Emirates.

Rory Burns says Ben Stokes' return to the England Test squad in time for the Ashes tour of Australia has provided "a massive boost".

Stokes was initially omitted from the squad for the away series as he recovered from a second operation on a broken finger and took a break from cricket to protect his mental wellbeing.

But the all-rounder gave Joe Root's side a huge lift last week by declaring he was ready to make his comeback, and he flew out to Australia on Thursday.

He will be available, barring any fitness issues, for the first Test at The Gabba on December 8.

 

Stokes was a star of the previous Ashes series in 2019, albeit his heroics in a famous Headingley Test did not prove enough for England to reclaim the urn.

And Burns explained the confidence boost Stokes' timely return has provided.

"It's obviously a massive boost, you know. To get Stokesy back in the side and back in the squad and back around things is obviously a massive boost for us," the opener told reporters.

"We all know what a good player he is. I don't really have to tell you about that. To get a bloke of his calibre and background back in our group is obviously a massive lift for us."

Stokes' return may have come as a surprise to some, but not Burns, who said: "I wasn't actually that surprised. I kind of felt like something was bubbling away.

"So, it was nice when I saw it announced. Because it is exciting and we want to get out there and have the best side possible, and obviously Ben adds to that in a massive way."

Burns impressed in the 2019 series, scoring 133 in the first innings of his Ashes debut before going on to record two more half-centuries (53 and 81).

"I think, from a personal standpoint, I played quite nicely in my only Ashes series to date," Burns continued.

"That was in my home conditions and those sort of things; we are probably going to get some different conditions out here in Australia. There is confidence there but also, at the same time, it's just taking what's in front of you every step of the way."

Rahul Dravid will replace Ravi Shastri as India head coach after the T20 World Cup.

Shastri's reign will come to an end following the tournament in the United Arab Emirates and the Board of Control for Cricket in India last month invited applications for the post.

Legendary former India batter Dravid was expected to succeed Shastri and his appointment was confirmed while India were playing Afghanistan in a crucial World Cup match on Wednesday.

Dravid, 48, will start his tenure with a home T20I series versus New Zealand this month followed by two Tests against the Black Caps.

Shastri took over as head coach of his country for a second time in 2017 and helped guide India to the top of the Test rankings and an inaugural World Test Championship against New Zealand, which the Black Caps won this year.

Dravid said: "It is an absolute honour to be appointed as the new head coach of the Indian Cricket Team and I am really looking forward to this role.

"Under Mr Shastri, the team has done very well, and I hope to work with the team to take this forward. Having worked closely with most of the boys either at NCA, U19 and India A setup, I know they have the passion and desire to improve every day.

"There are some marquee multi-team events in the next two years, and I look forward to working with the players and the support staff to achieve our potential."

Sourav Ganguly, president of the BCCI, said: "The BCCI welcomes Rahul Dravid as the head coach of India's senior men team.

"Rahul has had an illustrious playing career and is one of the greats of the game. He has also served Indian cricket as head of National Cricket Academy (NCA) with distinction. Rahul’s effort at the NCA has nurtured several young cricketing talents who have gone on to represent the country at the international stage.

"I am hopeful that his new stint will take Indian cricket to new heights."

Ben Stokes is relishing the prospect of making his return in "the pinnacle of Test cricket" when England do battle with Australia in the Ashes.

Stokes was initially omitted from the squad for the series Down Under as he recovered from a second operation on a broken finger and took a break to protect his mental wellbeing.

The all-rounder then gave Joe Root's side a huge lift last week by declaring he was ready to make his comeback.

Stokes will fly out to Australia with the Test and Lions squad on Thursday and is raring to go ahead of the first Test at the Gabba on December 8.

"I just took it day by day, step by step. I had fantastic support around me to help me through that, and I'm just excited to get out there," Stokes told Sky Sports.

"I had a lot of scar tissue build-up around my joint and my tendons so he [the surgeon] removed all that, which thankfully allowed me to actually get some movement and took away the frustration in terms of pain as well.

"I'm glad to come out the other side of that. I think it's important for anyone [to take a step back]. Whether it be a job or their day-to-day life, it's important for everyone."

 

Stokes believes England have a good chance of regaining the urn, with the onus not only on proven world-class players such as himself to perform.

"One player doesn't make a team, and although I know I'm a senior member of that team over the last few years, every member of that team is just as important as each other," he added.

"We have got a huge amount of experience in our squad, although we've got some young guys who are still learning their way in Test cricket.

"We've got the likes of Jimmy [Anderson], Broady [Stuart Broad] who have obviously been there, done that. Rooty - fantastic leader and England's greatest-ever batter, so we've got everything to come back at Australia with what they've got.

"You are playing at the highest level possible and the Ashes - for an Englishman in Australia, that is the pinnacle of Test cricket. It is the only series that is almost like a World Cup, because they are such rivals."

Ben Stokes has been added to the England squad for the Ashes tour of Australia.

The Durham all-rounder was omitted from the original selection as he continued his recovery from a second operation on a broken finger.

Stokes, who sustained the injury while playing in the Indian Premier League in April, announced in July he was taking a break from cricket to protect his mental wellbeing and allow his finger to recover.

Having been given the all-clear by the medical team of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), the 30-year-old will depart for Australia with the Test and Lions squad on November 4.

"I had a break to prioritise my mental wellbeing and I got my finger sorted," Stokes said.

"I am looking forward to seeing my mates and being on the field with them. I'm ready for Australia."

 

Ashley Giles, managing director of England Men's Cricket, said: "Following a very successful operation on his finger and several conversations over the last few weeks between Ben and I, our medical staff and his management team, Ben called me to say he was ready to return to cricket and was excited about the prospect of playing a significant role in the Ashes series.

"Time and time again, Ben has demonstrated how important he is to the England team and having him available for the Ashes series is excellent news for all of us and, in particular, [coach] Chris [Silverwood], Joe [Root] and the rest of the players.

"Having not played for some time, we will move forward cautiously over the next few weeks to ensure he is fully prepared across all facets of his game.

"Ahead of a very busy period of cricket, we continue to remain mindful of the stresses on all our personnel, and our primary focus continues to be the wellbeing of all of our players and support staff."

The Ashes begins at The Gabba on December 8 and concludes a month later at Optus Stadium in Perth.

England are looking to regain the urn after it was retained by Australia following a 2-2 series draw in 2019.

The Cricket West Indies (CWI) Selection Panel announced the squads for the upcoming Best v Best men’s red-ball matches.

The panel named 24 players for two three-day fixtures, which will be played at the Coolidge Cricket Ground on October 27-29 and November 1-3. The two teams will be led by Kraigg Brathwaite and Jermaine Blackwood.

The players will use these matches as preparations ahead of West Indies’ forthcoming tour to Sri Lanka for two Test matches following the ICC T20 World Cup. The team will depart from Antigua on November 6 and the tour will run until December 4. The full tour squad and schedule will be announced at a later date. The series is the second of six series, three at home and three away, that West Indies will play in the 2021-2023 ICC World Test Championship after drawing the first Betway Test Series against Pakistan in August.

 “These Best v Best matches are a critical part of the Test team’s preparation for the series in Sri Lanka. For a number of players, it will be the only serious red ball cricket they will have since the Betway Test series against Pakistan and prior to going on this tour. So, it helps to get them back into the groove of the red-ball format and gives the Selection Panel an indication of the players’ readiness for the tour,” said Lead Selector Roger Harper.

SQUAD A: Kraigg Brathwaite (Captain), Shamarh Brooks, Rahkeem Cornwall, Joshua Da Silva, Shannon Gabriel, Shai Hope, Kyle Mayers, Veerasammy Permaul, Jayden Seales, Preston McSween, Nial Smith and Jeremy Solozano.

 SQUAD B: Jermaine Blackwood (Captain), Nkrumah Bonner, Jahmar Hamilton, Chemar Holder, Kavem Hodge, Alzarri Joseph, Imran Khan, Shayne Moseley, Kieran Powell, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach and Jomel Warrican.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is hopeful a crowd of at least 80,000 will be able to attend the Boxing Day Ashes Test at the MCG.

Melbourne residents this week celebrated coming out of a sixth lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

No city in the world has been locked down more than Melbourne, but further easing of restrictions have been mapped out by the Victorian government.

There is optimism that there will be a huge attendance when Australia do battle with England in the third Test in two months' time, provided vaccination rates continue to increase.

Andrews said on Sunday: "I want to see 80,000 plus people at the Boxing Day Test on day one, that's what I want to see.

"We are determined to deliver that. It won't be easy. I think selling the tickets will be pretty easy."

A crowd of 78,113 for the Anzac Day AFL match last April was the biggest at the MCG, which can hold in excess of 100,000 people, since the start of the pandemic.

England and India will complete their interrupted Test series in July 2022, but Old Trafford will not stage the fifth match between the teams.

Concern over a rising number of cases of COVID-19 in the India camp caused the match to be called off on September 10.

Rather than being staged at Lancashire's home ground, however, the fixture has been switched to be played at Edgbaston in Birmingham.

The England and Wales Cricket Board said in a statement: "The match, which was due to take place last month at Emirates Old Trafford, was called off when India were unable to field a team due to fears of a further increase in the number of COVID-19 cases inside the camp.

"With India leading the series 2-1, the concluding fifth match will now take place from July 1, 2022, at Edgbaston, following an agreement between the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)."

The ECB cited "complexities in the schedule" that meant Old Trafford could not host the rescheduled match, pointing to "clashes with pre-planned events at the venue, which will leave insufficient time to prepare a Test pitch".

Those events have not been specified; however, rock band Foo Fighters are due to play a concert at the cricket stadium on June 25.

Old Trafford will still get a Test match next year, with the second match of England's series against South Africa being switched from Edgbaston to the Manchester venue, with that match due to start on August 25.

The start of the planned T20I and ODI series between England and India has been set back by six days due to the Test being planted in the diary, and the T20I games will get under way on July 7 at the Ageas Bowl.

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said of the fixture shake-up: "We are very pleased that we have reached an agreement with BCCI to creating a fitting end to what has been a brilliant series so far."

BCCI honorary secretary Mr Jay Shah said: "I am delighted that the England-India Test series will now have its rightful conclusion. The four Test matches were riveting, and we needed a fitting finale."

Australia spinner Nathan Lyon is expecting Ben Stokes to earn a late Ashes call-up and says he is eager to come up against England's star all-rounder.

Stokes missed England's home contests against India earlier in 2021 after announcing in July he was taking time off for his mental wellbeing and to allow a broken index finger to recover.

A second operation on that injury earlier this month preceded Stokes being left out of an initial 17-man squad for the five-Test Ashes series, which begins on December 8 in Brisbane, though he has since posted footage of him batting and bowling 

While a continued omission for Stokes, who is also not with England for the T20 World Cup, would obviously be a boost for Australia, Lyon remains hopeful he will go head-to-head with one of the best in the game.

"I'm expecting him to come. I'm expecting Stokes to be out here and, to be honest, I hope he is," Lyon told reporters at the Hurtsville Oval in Sydney, where the NSW Blues were playing an intra-squad practice match.

"You want to play against the best players in the world and Stokesy is the best all-rounder in the world. 

"He's an X-factor and he's a game-changer, and you want to play against these players, so I'm expecting Stokes to be here."

 

Stokes has 4631 runs in 71 Tests and a batting average of 37.04. With the ball, he has 163 wickets at an average of 31.38.

His absence would be a blow to an England batting line-up many feel is lacking in quality depth.

That is not an opinion shared by Lyon, though, who says he has a few surprises up his sleeve for Australia's greatest cricketing enemy.

"I've always got a couple of mystery balls," he said. "That's been the beauty about this pre-season, it's been my first ever proper pre-season. 

"I've been able to do a lot of fitness work and a lot of skills work. I've already started looking at a couple of England's batters, so that's exciting.

"They've got some very talented batters early in their Test careers. Look at Ollie Pope's last red-ball game. He got a pretty big double-hundred. 

"It's going to be a different challenge for these guys, coming out to Australia and we want that."

Australia fast bowler James Pattinson has retired from international cricket less than two months before the start of the Ashes.

The 31-year-old's start to the season has been delayed by COVID-19 lockdowns and an injury and the quick has decided to call time on representing his country.

Pattinson played for Australia 40 times and had been expected to add to his 21 Test appearances in the upcoming series against England, which is due to start at The Gabba on December 8.

"Leading into pre-season I really wanted to give the Ashes a crack but in the end, I haven't had the preparation I would have liked heading into the coming season," Pattinson said in a statement.

"If I was to be part of the Ashes I would need to do myself and my team-mates justice. I didn't want to be in a position of battling with my body when you need to be 100 per cent fit and ready to go at any time. That would not be fair to myself or the team.

"It was then I felt that instead of trying to play at the very highest level, knowing I have only got three or four years of cricket left, I would focus more on Victoria, helping the young guys develop, perhaps some cricket in England and spending more time with my family."

Pattinson made his Test comeback against England in 2019 following three-and-a-half years out of the side, having undergone surgery on a serious back injury.

He claimed 81 Test wickets at an average of 26.33, picking up four five-wicket hauls.

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