Aussies unfazed by sandpapergate claims, calls for more India-Pakistan games, Wood on fire


Mitch Marsh is adamant David Warner will be able to put the fresh Sandpapergate revelations to one side and kick-start Australia’s faltering T20 World Cup campaign.

Warner’s central role in the ugly ball tampering affair of 2018 hit the spotlight again on Sunday when excerpts from Faf du Plessis’ soon-to-be-released autobiography became public.

The former South Africa skipper details in his book how his team suspected Australian players were tampering with the ball several weeks before the cheating was exposed in Cape Town.

Du Plessis said South Africa players used binoculars in a bid to see what was happening, and they particularly focused on Warner given the ball often made its way to him.

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The ball tampering, in which Cameron Bancroft used a piece of sandpaper to rough up one side of the ball before hiding the evidence in his underpants, was finally caught on camera in the third Test of the fiery series.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 09: David Warner of Australia raises his bat after reaching his half century during game one of the T20 International series between Australia and England at Optus Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

(Photo by Paul Kane – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

The release of the fresh revelations comes at the worst possible time for Australia, given their T20 World Cup title hopes are already on the ropes after Saturday’s 89-run loss to New Zealand.

Australia will almost certainly need to win their remaining four pool matches – starting with Tuesday night’s clash with Sri Lanka in Perth – in order to reach the semi-finals. 

Warner made just five against New Zealand, but Marsh is adamant the 35-year-old won’t be distracted by du Plessis’ revelations.

“Anytime we’ve seen him with his back against the wall, he always stands up for us,” Marsh said.

“What he does is amazing. He’s been an incredible person to have around our group. He’s a great leader.

“And he’s just got so much energy. He’s our unofficial team manager.

“He’s had an amazing career and he’s clearly been able to block out a lot of distractions throughout that, and that’s what separates the best players in the world from the rest.

“They solely focus on their job. For him it’s been scoring runs and providing energy for our group, and he’s been able to do it for 15 years. It’s incredible.”

Faf du Plessis talks post match of Australia vs South Africa during 2019 ICC World Cup

Faf du Plessis (Photo by Gareth Copley-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

If Marsh is any guide, the excerpts from du Plessis’ book have barely caused a ripple amongst the Australian team.

“I’m not a big reader, so I’m not sure what’s come out there,” Marsh said on Monday morning. 

“I haven’t seen anything or read anything. 

“We’ve got a World Cup to focus on as a group; we’re solely focused on that.

“And we’re a really close group and tight knit group. So I’m just looking forward to the next couple of weeks.”

Warner was handed a lifetime leadership ban as part of his punishment for his role in Sandpapergate.

But Cricket Australia is considering lifting that ban opening the door for Warner to captain Australia’s Test, ODI or T20 teams if Pat Cummins or Aaron Finch are absent.

Calls for more India vs Pakistan clashes

India and Pakistan’s astonishing Twenty20 World Cup clash at the MCG has fuelled calls for the fierce rivals to play each other more regularly.

In another epic chapter of one of world sport’s most momentous rivalries, India pulled off a classic last-ball win in front of 90,293 passionate fans on Sunday night. 

Virat Kohli described his unbeaten 82 as the best T20 knock of his legendary career, after he lifted India out of trouble at 4-31 to a famous four-wicket victory.

Matches between India and Pakistan have always been highly anticipated, ever since the first Test series between the cricket-mad nations in 1952.

In modern times, the rivalry has been restricted to major tournaments, with India and Pakistan not playing each other in a bilateral series since 2012 due to ongoing tensions between the countries.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 23: Virat Kohli of India celebrates after the ICC Men's T20 World Cup match between India and Pakistan at Melbourne Cricket Ground on October 23, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

(Photo by Daniel Pockett-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

But seasoned Pakistani batter Shan Masood wants to experience more of the electric atmosphere that was on display at the MCG.

“It was my first taste of a World Cup game, of a Pakistan-India game, and I couldn’t be (more) grateful,” said Masood, who top-scored for Pakistan with 52.

“More than 90,000 people at the MCG – that shows how important Pakistan-India games are to cricket. 

“If we want to take this game forward, I personally feel that these are games that should happen more regularly and around the world.

“It’s important for the development of the game that we see games like these, fiercely contested games that go down to the last over.”

The epic contest comes days after Indian cricket legend Ravi Shastri said 150,000 people would attend a game between the famous rivals if capacity allowed.

Shastri admits any decision on a bilateral series on neutral territory would come down the boards of each country.

Even in the lead-up to the tournament, the opposing boards were arguing about next year’s Asia Cup in Pakistan and the ODI World Cup in India.

In Shastri’s four years as Indian coach, the cricket icon had just four games – all white-ball matches – against Pakistan.

“It would sell out every day (in Australia), just as it would sell out Lord’s, The Oval and Edgbaston,” Shastri told AAP last week.

“At the end of the day the decision will come from the high command in both countries.

“If the ‘G had a capacity of 150,000, there wouldn’t have been a seat available – that is the magnitude of this contest.

“Guys in India and the sub-continent say it is the big daddy of all games.”

Wood on fire for Poms

Mark Wood believes he can bowl even quicker than in his record-breaking performance for England over Afghanistan – but he’s sceptical about breaching the 100mph barrier.

Wood took 2-23 and touched a breakneck 96mph at one point on a bouncy Perth surface on Saturday, with his average of 92.6mph the quickest four-over bowling performance in T20 World Cup history.

His slowest delivery was clocked at 88mph in a whirlwind display as England started their campaign with a five-wicket win, and the 32-year-old suggested he can be even more rapid as the tournament progresses.

But the notion of joining Pakistan’s Shoaib Akhtar and Australia duo Brett Lee and Shaun Tait as the only fast bowlers to breach three figures on the speed gun is a step too far, according to Wood.

“I don’t think so,” said Wood, who touched 97mph in Pakistan last month in his first match back after elbow surgery. 

“When you look at the lads who are getting there, I don’t think I’m in their bracket.

“I think I’ve got more consistently high pace than them if I can keep my form and my body well. I feel in a great place at the minute so hopefully I can keep that going.

“I actually feel I have more in the tank than that. It’s great to hear (about setting a new T20 World Cup average speed record) but I want to keep pushing the boundaries to get quicker and quicker.

“It’s four overs, so you can go full tilt a little bit more. I’m pleased that’s a good start but that’s all it is so there’s plenty of work to do.”

While Sam Curran claimed the first T20 international five-for by an English male in his side’s five-wicket victory, it was Wood’s speed that left an indelible mark on Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan.

The talismanic legspinner was dismissed for a golden duck by Curran, who took four wickets in six balls as Afghanistan imploded at the back end of the innings, but Rashid watched in awe as Wood repeatedly cranked up the pace.

“We haven’t faced someone like 150kmh-plus. When you face him you understand what it should be like,” Rashid said. 

“Luckily I haven’t faced him – so I’m happy! But it’s definitely a good experience.”

Wood, as is sometimes customary, fell to the ground in his follow through a few times in his opening burst against Afghanistan, blaming a grassy, tacky pitch for the slips which he felt brought his average speed down.

Wood has a chequered injury history so it can be an alarming sight to see him tumble, but he is optimistic he could feature against both Ireland on Wednesday and Australia at the MCG on Friday.

“I’m hoping to,” said Wood. “My body will dictate that. I’ll see how I pull up. That’s always the case and I’ll have a chat with the medical team and just see where I go from there.

“But that’s pretty common with me because of my track record.”


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