Only so much of the blame for England's poor Ashes series can lie with captain Joe Root, according to former skipper Graham Gooch.

Australia have already retained the Ashes with two Tests to spare, having established an unassailable 3-0 lead, dominating the opening three matches in Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne.

Root has been one of the only England batters to perform well, going on to become the leading run-scorer as the nation's Test captain, a role he has fulfilled since 2017.

He will lead England out for a record 60th time in the fourth Test in Sydney, overtaking Alastair Cook's tally of 59, while 26 per cent of all the team's runs were scored by Root in 2021, with the Yorkshireman plundering 1,708 in total.

However, England have averaged just 187.5 with the bat in six innings, failing to score more than 300 in any of the first three Tests down under, and Root's leadership abilities have come under scrutiny.

But after Chris Woakes backed the 31-year-old to stay on, Gooch has also offered his support to Root, but suggested the skipper may need to take a more realistic view on his team's scenario.

"I like Joe a lot. He's a brilliant player; a world-class player. He's not a bad captain; I don't think it’s his fault," Gooch, who scored 8,900 Test runs for England between 1975 and 1995, told Stats Perform.

"But to keep saying we’re close to Australia, that we can feel it coming, and one good session or one good day is going to turn it around. I don't think that’s going to wash really. We've been comprehensively beaten.

"I think it's a bit galling for us ex-pros and captains to hear."

Gooch, fourth on the all-time list for runs scored as England's Test captain, also paid tribute to the victorious Australia, whose strong displays he feels have played a major part in the tourists' slump.

Asked whether he believed the outcome of the Series was down to the hosts' performances or a poor showing by England, he said: "I think it's a bit of both.

"I think you've got Australia doing what they do best. They're aggressive, they're ruthless. If they smell blood, they capitalise on it.

"It's not because England have been so poor; they have not allowed England to be successful."

Former West Indies wicketkeeper-batsman, Denesh Ramdin, is now under new management after signing with Sophie Claire Management.

Ramdin was a member of the West Indies T20 World Cup sides in 2012 and 2016.  Claire reacted to the signing on her Instagram page.

“Two-time World Cup T20 winning wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin. It is a privilege to work with people you admire for all their accomplishments,” she said.

The Trinidadian is a former West Indies captain at both the Under-19 and senior levels and holds the West Indies wicketkeeping record for most T20 dismissals.

The 36-year-old scored 2898 runs in 74 Test matches at an average of 25.87 for the West Indies with four centuries and 15 fifties with his highest score of 166 coming against England in 2009.

In 139 ODIs, Ramdin scored 2200 runs at an average of 25.00 with two centuries and eight fifties with a highest score of 169 against Bangladesh in 2014.

He also represented the West Indies in 71 T20 Internationals scoring 636 runs at an average of 18.70 with one half-century

 

England's lack of competitiveness during the ongoing Ashes series is a cause for huge concern, according to former opening batsman Graham Gooch.

Australia have already retained the Ashes with two Tests to spare, having established an unassailable 3-0 lead.

The hosts have taken full advantage against their lacklustre opponents, dominating the opening three Tests in Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne.

Gooch, who scored 8,900 Test runs for England between 1975 and 1995, expressed his disappointment with the visitors’ performances thus far.

And he feels it is the manner of the defeats sparks the biggest cause for concern.

"I'm bitterly disappointed because losing a Test match is one thing, losing a series is one thing," he told Stats Perform. 

"But, what's really concerning for me is the lack of competitiveness of our team against Australia not only in the match at Melbourne, but in the previous two matches. 

"They've outplayed us, out-batted, out-bowled and out-fielded us in all three Tests, in most of the sessions. 

"We've had a couple of half sessions, which we've done well with Joe Root and Dawid Malan scoring a few runs, Jimmy Anderson bowling a brilliant spell to help England dismiss Australia at the MCG for 267. 

"But apart from that, we've been lacking."

Gooch also refused to point the finger of blame at squad selection, insisting England undoubtedly have the resources to produce the goods.

"I don't think you can argue with the selection as a squad. They've got the squad there," he added. "I can't see any glaring errors. 

"The only thing you possibly could do is you could revisit some of the players that you've had in the past and say: 'are they better than some of these younger ones?'

"You can never argue against putting youth in the team because that's your future if they come in, and they do quite well, hopefully you've got a player for, let's say, a decade."

West Indies batsman Shimron Hetmyer has failed yet another fitness test, a situation that has left West Indies head coach Phil Simmons exasperated.

Hetmyer was left out of the team for the upcoming visits of Ireland and England after failing to pass fitness drills administered in his home country of Guyana recently.

The occasion is the third in the last three years that the athlete is failing to get a passing grade for the West Indies basic fitness requirement.  Hetmyer was first left out of the squad in 2020, ahead of the Sri Lanka tour, and then again later that year during the home visit of the same team.

Simmons expressed frustration that Hetmyer was not only letting down himself but failing to maintain the required standards but also the entire team.

 “It’s the same old, same old. He did his fitness assessment in Guyana and he came way below the required mark,” Simmons told members of the media during a conference call on Friday.

 “Again, it is something that is heart-wrenching because you know that you are part of this team, and you have to keep a certain fitness to be part of this team and you keep letting down your teammates.”

Simmons added the player was also “letting down himself.”

 

Ireland cricketers Paul Stirling and Shane Getkate will not travel from the United States with the rest of the team to Jamaica for the upcoming series against the West Indies after testing positive for Covid-19.

Following a final round of PCR tests ahead of the team’s departure on Friday, the duo returned positive tests and will undergo a period of 10 days of isolation.  As a result, it is likely that the pair will not join up with the rest of the team until January 9, depending on the status of follow-up procedures.

The West Indies are scheduled to play Ireland in three One Day Internationals and a one-off T20 match, beginning on January 8.

Richard Holdsworth, High-Performance Director for Cricket Ireland, admits that the period continues to be challenging, particularly when trying to balance the physical health of players with their mental well-being.

"It is a challenging time for all, but the players have responded very well to operating within the Managed Environment over the last two weeks. A Managed Environment is different to a bio-bubble, and is an approach being used currently to try and find that balance between risk mitigation from the virus and impacts of sustained periods of isolation on the mental and physical health needs of players and staff.”

The Cricket West Indies (CWI) interim selection panel has announced the squads for the upcoming series against Ireland and England.

Captain Kieron Pollard is fit again and returns to lead both the ODI and T20 sides that will battle the Irish in three ODIs and one T20I at Sabina Park, in Jamaica, starting January 8.

The CG Insurance ODI Series between West Indies and Ireland will form part of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League, in which the top seven teams can secure automatic qualification for the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup in India.

The West Indies are currently eighth in those standings with 40 points, while Ireland sits fourth with 50.

The Caribbean side will then play five T20 Internationals against England, in Barbados, beginning on January 22.

“We have tried to maintain the general make-up of the squads from the Pakistan tour before Christmas, with the captain and some senior players coming back in. The challenges in the next couple of months are getting the young players in both squads to not only improve on their skills but maintain the attitude and desire we saw in Pakistan,” said West Indies coach Phil Simmons.

Simmons also emphasized the need for his team to start the year on a good note.

“We do need to start the year on a high. We know both Ireland and England have very good teams so we expect a very strong challenge as we look to improve our chances of automatic qualification for the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2023 and building the team for the ICC T20 World Cup in 2022,” Simmons added.

ODI squad for the Ireland Series: Kieron Pollard (captain), Shai Hope (vice-captain), Shamarh Brooks, Roston Chase, Justin Greaves, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Gudakesh Motie, Jayden Seales, Nicholas Pooran, Romario Shepherd, Odean Smith, Devon Thomas, and the COVID-19 reserves are Keacy Carty and Sheldon Cottrell.

T20I squad for Ireland and England Series: Kieron Pollard (captain), Nicholas Pooran (vice-captain), Fabian Allen (England T20Is only), Darren Bravo (England T20Is only), Roston Chase, Sheldon Cottrell, Dominic Drakes, Shai Hope, Akeal Hosein, Jason Holder, Brandon King, Kyle Mayers, Rovman Powell, Romario Shepherd, Odean Smith, Hayden Walsh Jr, and the COVID-19 reserves are Jayden Seales, Alzarri Joseph, and Devon Thomas.

Fabian Allen is fully recovered from an ankle injury but is unavailable for the Ireland series after a positive COVID-19 test.

South Africa Under-19s secured a one-wicket win over West Indies Under-19s to take a 2-1 series lead in their four-match Youth ODI Series in St. Vincent, on Thursday, thanks to a solid all-round effort from Liam Alder.

In the match played at the Cumberland Playing Field, West Indies Under 19s won the toss for the third consecutive game and chose to bat after electing to field in the two previous matches.

They struggled throughout their innings, eventually capitulating for 106 in 38.3 overs.

Opener Shaqkere Parris top-scored for the young Windies with 27 and the only other batsmen to reach double figures were Teddy Bishop, who got 26, and vice-captain Giovonte Depeiza who got 22.

Hardus Coetzer and Dewald Brevis each took three wickets for the South Africans while Asakhe Tsaka and Alder took two apiece.

The South Africans then made a meal of their modest target of 107, being 90-8 at one stage before getting to 113-9 in 18.3 overs to win by one wicket thanks to 24 not out from Alder, batting at number nine, which included two sixes.

Opener Ethan Cunningham top-scored with 25 for South Africa U19s.

Off-spinner Onaje Amory almost produced a match-winning spell with 4 for 8 from his four overs, while Johann Layne and Matthew Nandu got two wickets each.

The fourth and final game of the series will be played on Monday at Arnos Vale.

 

Australian batsman Travis Head has been ruled out of the fourth Ashes Test and returning a positive test for Covid-19.

Cricket Australia confirmed that the 28-year-old is asymptomatic and will not fly with the squad to Sydney on Friday for the fourth Ashes Test due to start at the SCG on January 5.

The remainder of the Australian squad, their families and the team's support staff have undergone PCR and RAT tests on Friday and are still planning to travel to Sydney on Friday.

A Cricket Australia spokesperson said: “As part of our testing procedures, we are PCR testing players, their families and our support staff daily. Unfortunately, Travis returned a positive Covid-19 result earlier today. Thankfully, he is asymptomatic at this stage. We anticipate that he will be available to play in the fifth men’s Ashes Test in Hobart.

“We are grateful to our exceptional medical staff for all the work they have done throughout this series and we will continue to work with and support the players, their families and staff from both teams.”

Mitchell Marsh, Nic Maddinson and Josh Inglis have joined the Australian squad as additional cover as a precautionary measure, although Usman Khawaja appears most likely to replace Head in the XI.

On Friday, there was a huge jump in confirmed Covid-19 cases in Sydney, were the fourth Test will be played, with 21,151 infections diagnosed up from 12,226 on Thursday.

The Boxing Day Test earlier this week was jeopardized after positive cases within the England camp, while Third Test match referee David Boon tested positive on Thursday.

Australia captain Pat Cummins missed the second Test in Adelaide after being a close contact of a confirmed Covid-19 case.

Head becomes the first player to miss a Test in the Ashes series due to testing positive as Covid-19 closes in on the series.

West Indies Women’s all-rounder, Hayley Matthews, is part of a three-woman shortlist nominated for the ICC One Day International (ODI) Female Cricket of the Year award.

The past year saw the talented 23-year-old put in brilliant performances with both the bat and ball.  In 14 matches Matthews scored 380 runs at an average of 29.23, with one century and one half-century.  She claimed 18 wickets at an average of 22.44 and had an economy rate of 3.33.

Matthews was named Player of the Series when the West Indies Women faced Pakistan in a five-match ODI series in July.  She scored 168 runs, which included a century, and took seven wickets in a series that the Caribbean team won 3-2.

The player was not as impressive against South Africa but returned to full form in the following series against Pakistan.  Matthews started the series with a half-century and three wickets in the first ODI and followed that up with a four-wicket haul in the second game.  The all-rounder ended the series with a knock of 49 in the final match, which helped her side complete a whitewash.

Also in contention for the award are Pakistan’s Fatima Sana, and England’s Tammy Beaumont.

The Ashes series match referee David Boon has tested positive for COVID-19, Cricket Australia has confirmed.

Boon will now miss the fourth Test, starting on January 5, but is expected to return to take charge of the fifth Test nine days later.

The official is fully vaccinated – including a booster shot – and is asymptomatic. He will quarantine in Melbourne for 10 days before travelling to Hobart, where the final Test is set to be held.

Steve Bernard will serve as the referee in Boon's absence.

Boon is not the only person to miss out on the fourth Test, with England coach Chris Silverwood finding himself in the same position after a close contact contracted coronavirus.

There were four positive COVID-19 cases in the England camp on the second day of the third Test, but none of the players were affected.

Australia have already secured the Ashes, having won each of the first three Tests comfortably to move into an unassailable 3-0 series lead.

A grand send-off for legendary Windies T20 star, Chris Gayle, will be played in front of an empty Sabina Park as the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) was not granted permission to allow spectators for the event by the Jamaican government.

With the recent surge in coronavirus infections, and particularly with the threat posed by the new omicron strain, the government under the Disaster Risk Management act, has continued to restrict gatherings.

Gayle, the leading runs scorer in the history of T20 cricket and widely regarded as one of the format’s greatest players was widely expected to retire following the team’s disappointing showing at this year’s T20 World Cup.  However, following the conclusion of the tournament, the player announced that it was possible that he would feature in one more match, which would serve as a farewell event. 

A few weeks ago, Cricket West Indies (CWI) confirmed that the player would be a part of the T20 squad for the upcoming match against Ireland at Sabina Park.  As such, CWI and the JCA were hoping to have fans present for the event.  Gayle has been part of two World Cup-winning teams for the West Indies.   

Cricket West Indies (CWI) Director from Barbados, Calvin Hope, believes the decision to sack the Richard Pybus-led coaching unit just weeks ahead of the 2019 ICC World Cup remains one of the ‘worst decisions made in recent times.’

In 2019, only a few weeks after replacing the Dave Cameron administration, the Ricky Skerritt-led regime controversially decided to sack Pybus and his entire coaching staff, with the ICC tournament less than a month away.

The move raised even more eyebrows at the time, because it came after the team had, very much against heavy odds, defeated a higher-ranked touring England 2-1 in a Test series, only weeks prior and tied top-ranked England 2-2 in a subsequent One Day International series.

On the back of several disappointing performances in recent months the decision has, on occasion, come back under the microscope and to the fore for discussion.

“It was not even bad, it was one of the worst decisions to have even been made in recent times in West Indies cricket,” Hope told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“Here you were, you had just begun to see some green shoots in the performance of a team.  It doesn’t matter who was in charge before or anything like that and it was basically a political decision,” he added.

The West Indies finished 9th at the ICC World after winning just 2 matches and losing 6.

Hope and Guyana’s Anand Sanasie were part of a two-man team that challenged Skerritt and vice-president Kishore Shallow for the leadership of CWI last year.

 

England coach Chris Silverwood will miss the fourth Ashes Test after a family member of the touring party tested positive for coronavirus.

Silverwood's position has come under question after England's dismal form in Australia, with the hosts having already retained the urn by racing into a 3-0 series lead.

Defeats in Brisbane and Adelaide were followed by a capitulation in Melbourne this week, with the third Test not even lasting three days.

Silverwood will be unable to be in attendance for the fourth match of the Tour in Sydney, as England desperately search for a result in order to avoid a whitewash.

A family member who travelled to Australia has tested positive for COVID-19 in the latest round of PCR tests administered to the touring party, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) confirmed.

Silverwood will therefore have to isolate for 10 days, along with his family, in Melbourne. Another round of PCR tests will take place on Thursday.

The fourth Test is due to start at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 5, with the series finishing in Hobart after coronavirus regulations in Western Australia meant Perth was unable to host the final match.

Left-arm spinner Jaden Carmichael claimed figures of 3 for 25 as the West Indies U-19s coasted to a comfortable 8-wicket win to level the series against South Africa U-19s on Tuesday.

Sent to bat first, the South Africans found very little answers at the crease as they were dismissed for just 103 off 31.3 overs.  In response, the West Indies eased to 104-2 off 24.2 overs, to level the four-match series at 1-1.  The South Africans had claimed the opening match of the series by 18 runs.

Carmichael had solid support from fellow left-arm spinner Anderson Mahase (2-34) and pace bowlers McKenny Clarke (2-12) and Johan Layne (2-14).  During the West Indies' time at the crease, it was opener Matthew Nandu who anchored a routine run chase.

The left-hander struck a patient unbeaten 42 from 75 balls and added 58 for the second wicket with Teddy Bishop (25).  He was then part of a 42-run unbeaten stand for the third wicket with captain Ackeem Auguste who made 28 not out.

For South Africa, it was Michael Copeland who top-scored with 24 from 52 balls, but he was one of only two top-order batsmen to reach double figures and the only one to pass 20 for South Africa.

 

Chris Woakes has given his support to Joe Root amid growing calls for England's star batsman to step down as captain following a chastening Ashes defeat in Australia.

The hosts took an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series after winning by an innings and 14 runs in the third Test at the MCG on Tuesday, skittling England for just 68 in their second innings, after which Root said it was "too soon to look at things."

The 30-year-old has been England's Test captain since 2017 after taking over from Sir Alastair Cook, and will lead his side out for a record 60th time in the fourth Test in Sydney, overtaking Cook's previous record of 59.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Woakes expressed his backing for Root, saying: "Joe is a great cricketer with a great cricket brain. Hopefully he can continue [as captain].

"We haven't been able to bat well around him. You'd expect us to probably put in a lot stronger performances than we have.

"I'm sure Joe will have many more years like he's already had and hopefully we can bat better around him."

England have averaged just 187.5 with the bat in six innings, failing to score more than 300 in any of the first three Tests down under.

Root has scored 1,708 runs in 2021, which equates to 26 per cent of his team's overall total, the highest proportion of any player for their respective team in Test cricket.

When asked if Root still has the backing of the team, Woakes said: "Absolutely."

The Warwickshire all-rounder was left out of the team for the third Test having taken a combined 3-228 with the ball in the first two Tests, although his batting average of 26.25 is England's third highest of the series behind only Root (42.16) and Dawid Malan (33.66).

The future of Chris Silverwood has also been called into question with the former England bowler winning just one of his last 12 Tests as coach.

"It's hard for us to focus on people," Woakes added when asked about Silverwood's position. "Who am I to talk about people's futures other than my own?"

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