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Players boost Ghanian fortunes

Published in Table Tennis
Monday, 20 September 2021 00:19

The self-help project was initiated by senior players who have benefited from representing Ghana in major international tournaments.

They were aiming to raise US$800.00 for the tournament but beat all expectations; they generated over US$1000.00.

Also, the tournament was supported by Ping Sans Frontières, an organisation whose goal is to use table tennis as an educational tool worldwide. They provided sponsorship in a form of table tennis rackets, rubbers, and training shirts.

Former Ghana national team player Courage Nenevi, who is currently based in Westchester New York, also provided table tennis rubbers and training shirts to help augment the package for the players.

There were three categories, namely under 11, under 15 and under 19 for both men and women.

Ibrahim Gado, a revelation at the 2019 African Junior Championships held in Accra, confirmed his status as the finest junior player in Ghana.

He claimed the junior boys’ title in a keenly contested match against another upcoming star in James Marfo (11-6, 11-13, 8-11, 12-10, 11-8).

Meanwhile, 14 year old Blessing Labanti won the under 15 girls’ title beating Emerald Bortey in the final (7-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-9).

The tournament was the idea of Lord Kinful. He gained major support from one of Ghana’s most respected umpires Francis Frimpong as well as Ishmael Armah, Charles Techie-Menson, and Owusu Ansah.

Notably, the organisers also acknowledged the immense support from Ghana Table Tennis Association led by its President, Mawuko Afadzinu.

Double Olympian Jasmine Joyce scored three tries as Great Britain won the Fast Four final at the World Rugby Sevens Series first round in Vancouver.

Great Britain also claimed bronze in the men's competition won by South Africa.

Wales wing Joyce scored in two of three pool matches and in the semi-final before her hat-trick in a 34-12 final win against USA.

"It was so fun to be out there," said Joyce.

"Coming back here and playing sevens was phenomenal. The crowd was absolutely fantastic."

The 2021 series includes just two events, both in Canada, with a number of core nations also not taking part because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The second round is in Edmonton on 25 and 26 September.

Great Britain's women defeated Mexico 39-0, Canada 19-5 and USA 41-12 in the pool stage, before beating Mexico 43-0 in the semi-final.

In the final, Joyce scored after just 30 seconds and again a minute later before completing a hat-trick which earned her the player of the match award. England's Emma Uren, Grace Compton and Amy Wilson-Hardy also scored.

Great Britain's men beat Jamaica 24-5 and Hong Kong 31-5 before drawing their final pool match 7-7 against Ireland.

After beating Canada 31-5 in the quarter-final, they were defeated 26-12 in the last four by eventual winners South Africa.

Ex-France sevens international Calum Randle scored twice in the third-place play-off as Great Britain beat Ireland 24-14, with the other tries from Frederick Roddick and Paddy Kelly.

NAPA, Calif. — Max Homa holed out from the rough from 95 yards for eagle on the par-4 12th to start a back-nine comeback and added three birdies for a 7-under 65 and a one-stroke victory Sunday in the season-opening Fortinet Championship.

Three strokes behind Maverick McNealy with seven holes left, Homa followed the eagle with a birdie on the par-4 13th. The 30-year-old former University of California player tapped in for another birdie on the par-5 16th and ran in an 18-footer on the par-4 17th. He parred the par-5 18th to finish at 19-under 269.

Homa won for the second time this year and the third time on the PGA Tour. He won at Riviera in Los Angeles in February.

McNealy shot a 68 to finish second. He birdied the 16th, then made a double bogey on 17 and an eagle on 18. The son of billionaire and former Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy, the 25-year-old player grew up in Palo Alto and starred at Stanford.

Mito Pereira (68) was third at 16 under. Marc Leishman (65) and Talor Gooch (68) followed at 15 under. Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama (66) tied for sixth at 13 under. PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson (75) was 7 under.

Jim Knous (74) began the day tied for the lead with McNealy, but could never find his rhythm and finished at 12 under. Knous, who has one more start on a medical exemption, landed his opening tee shot into a spectator’s chair and had a triple bogey on No. 14.

Playing in the twosome just in front of McNealy, Homa birdied three of the last four holes on the front nine, then dropped a stroke on No. 10.

Sources: De Gea still faces GK battle at United

Published in Soccer
Monday, 20 September 2021 06:38

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will not tell David De Gea he is Manchester United No. 1 despite his dramatic penalty save against West Ham United and expects Dean Henderson to challenge for the job once he regains full fitness, sources have told ESPN.

De Gea has started the season in good form and earned United victory at the London Stadium on Sunday with a stoppage-time penalty save from Mark Noble.

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Solskjaer has been impressed with De Gea's application in training after the Spain international chose to return early following the European Championship but sources have told ESPN that Henderson has also been given encouragement the gloves remain up for grabs.

Solskjaer has been urged by pundits including Gary Neville to settle on a first-choice goalkeeper since Henderson's return to the club at the beginning of last season but sources have told ESPN the Norwegian believes the competition is beneficial to both players.

He is expecting to play between 50 and 60 games this season and has told De Gea, Henderson and Tom Heaton they will all play a role.

De Gea is set to sit out Wednesday's Carabao Cup tie with West Ham at Old Trafford with either Henderson or Heaton taking over.

Henderson has returned to training after recovering from COVID-19 and has twice played for the Under-23s as he builds up his match fitness.

He made 26 appearances last season, including 13 in the Premier League. The 24-year-old was named in the England squad for the Euros but was forced to withdraw with a thigh problem.

The injury did not require surgery and Henderson expected to play a full part in pre-season only to test positive for COVID-19 in July.

Solskjaer is set to make a host of changes for West Ham's visit in the Carabao Cup third round.

The United boss has already revealed Jesse Lingard, whose late goal earned a 2-1 win at the London Stadium, will start while Diogo Dalot, Eric Bailly, Nemanja Matic, Donny van de Beek, Juan Mata, Jadon Sancho, Anthony Elanga and Anthony Martial are also in contention.

Victor Lindelof is a doubt after he missed the win over West Ham. The Sweden defender played 90 minutes in the Champions League defeat to Young Boys but was absent from the squad on Sunday.

Weekend review: Lionel Messi subbed but PSG find a way

Published in Soccer
Monday, 20 September 2021 06:40

Lionel Messi made his home debut for Paris Saint-Germain, although it was a different Argentine who made the decisive contribution. Elsewhere, Juventus still seek their first Serie A win, while Borussia Dortmund impressed and a legendary figure was mourned in England.

Here are Mark Ogden, Tom Hamilton and Sam Marsden to discuss the big stuff you need to know from the soccer weekend around Europe.

Jump to: Talking points | Best goals | Teams in trouble | MVP of the Weekend


Four talking points

Argentine forward saves PSG ... as Messi watches on

Paris Saint-Germain lined up with Neymar, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe in attack for the second time in a week, but it was Mauro Icardi who saved their 100% winning record in Ligue 1 against Lyon, heading a 93rd-minute winner to make it six from six for Mauricio Pochettino's side.

The win will disguise another disappointing night for PSG's front three, following on from their debut in a 1-1 Champions League draw against Club Brugge. Messi was the pick in the first half, twice drawing saves from Lyon's Anthony Lopes and hitting the woodwork with a free kick. Mbappe, perhaps rushed back from a knock picked up in Belgium, was more subdued, while Neymar won and converted a penalty.

Pochettino then dared to take off Messi, who did not look pleased. But the coach's changes proved effective, with substitute Icardi finding space in the box to connect with Mbappe's cross and maintain PSG's perfect start. -- Sam Marsden

Mixed fortunes for Bundesliga bosses

Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund, Eintracht Frankfurt, Wolfsburg and Borussia Monchengladbach are all under new management, and some of the new coaches have settled quicker than others.

Marco Rose and Borussia Dortmund made it four wins from five in the league with a 4-2 victory over Union Berlin. Erling Haaland grabbed two goals -- the first a brilliant header and the second an audacious lob -- but more ominous for their rivals is how quickly BVB's new signings have slotted in. Jadon Sancho's replacement, Donyell Malen, has started well, while €15m signing Gregor Kobel is proving a bargain. Thomas Meunier is revitalised at right back and with incredible youngsters like Jude Bellingham and Gio Reyna, you have potential title challengers.

Prior to the season, it looked as if three teams would contend and that is how things are playing out, albeit with Wolfsburg -- rather than Leipzig -- leading the charge alongside Bayern and Dortmund.

Jesse Marsch has had a tough start at Leipzig, with one win from five Bundesliga matches and a 6-3 defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League representing a slow start. Unlike Dortmund's, Leipzig's new signings have not jelled; Andre Silva is yet to find the scoring boots he had at Eintracht Frankfurt, while the defence is dealing with the exits of Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate. Leipzig drew 1-1 at Cologne on Saturday but squandered chances to win. -- Tom Hamilton

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Liverpool depth starting to show

After last season's injury-littered campaign, Jurgen Klopp last week found himself in the unfamiliar situation of being able to rotate Liverpool's squad on his terms, and wins over Milan and Crystal Palace should concern other silverware-chasing hopefuls.

After a winning start in the Champions League, Saturday saw James Milner at right-back and Kostas Tsimikas at left-back, with regulars Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson given a break. The ageless Milner was superb -- he covered the most distance of any player and put in the highest number of sprints -- while Tsimikas was one of several who showed he can be a viable option when others need to be rested.

Naby Keita's late goal was wondrous and Thiago looks more at home than he did last season. New signing Ibrahim Konate's Liverpool career is at the early stages, but he looked assured alongside Virgil van Dijk; such options at centre-back -- including Joel Matip and Joe Gomez -- mean Jordan Henderson and Fabinho can be restored to midfield.

Finishing in the top four looked unlikely for long periods last season at Anfield. Having done so and with key players now healthy, bar Harvey Elliott's broken ankle, Klopp can target loftier goals. The likes of Chelsea, Man City and Man United will be taking notice. -- Hamilton

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Chelsea becoming Hislop's Premier League favourites

Shaka Hislop says he's starting to see Chelsea as Premier League favourites after comfortably beating Spurs.

Greaves was a great, regardless of era

The goal-scoring feats of Jimmy Greaves are largely unknown to a generation of modern fans, but the death of the former Tottenham, Chelsea, West Ham, AC Milan and England forward at the age of 81 on Sunday offered a timely reminder of his greatness and the folly of measuring all achievements solely within too narrow a context.

Alan Shearer's tally of 260 Premier League goals is a record, but only in the sense that it dates back to the restructuring of English football in 1992; Greaves remains the country's all-time leading topflight scorer with 357 goals. Harry Kane, meanwhile, needs another 47 goals for Spurs to take the club record from Greaves, who hit 266 in 379 games (Kane is in second spot, with 223 from 342).

No player has scored more goals in a season for Spurs than Greaves' 37 in 1962-63 and he also holds that record for Chelsea, with 41 goals in 1960-61. In total, he scored 132 goals in 169 games for the Stamford Bridge club in the space of four years.

All sports measure greatness by comparing competitors from different eras, but English football's trend of citing only Premier League records -- as if football was less significant before 1992 -- makes no sense as it diminishes the giants of the past. After all, the likes of Greaves and others paved the way for what has followed. -- Mark Ogden


Three must-see goals

Morata magic not enough for Juventus

Alvaro Morata's fourth-minute goal completed a fine team move, but it was not enough to earn Juventus their first win of the Serie A season.

Milan committed everyone forward and paid the price when Juve won back possession. Paulo Dybala fed Morata and the Spanish striker did the rest; his first touch was in his own half and he needed only three more, holding off Theo Hernandez and then showing precision to lift the ball over Mike Maignan.

It looked like Juve would hold on for three points from there but, for the third time in four league games this season, they surrendered a lead. Ante Rebic's late header earned Milan a point to move them joint top with Inter on 10 points from a possible 12. Massimiliano Allegri's wait for a first league win since returning to Turin goes on. -- Marsden

Bailey brings Villa Park to its feet

Leon Bailey was one of the biggest transfers of the summer window, moving from Bayer Leverkusen to Aston Villa in a deal worth up to £30m, but the Jamaica international perhaps slipped under the radar because of the focus at Villa Park on Jack Grealish's departure to Manchester City.

Bailey's stunning goal in Saturday's 3-0 win against Everton, though, was one of those that made everyone sit up and take notice. A long pass by Danny Ings found Bailey in the Everton half and, without breaking stride, the winger headed the ball down before sending a left-foot shot past goalkeeper Asmir Begovic from 20 yards.

Bailey was on the pitch for only 21 minutes after being introduced as a substitute, but contributed an assist as well as his goal before being forced off with a muscle injury. Fans in the Holte End -- the section crammed full of Villa's noisiest supporters -- will hope their exciting new forward is not out for long. -- Ogden

Guerreiro delivers a goal to remember

Naby Keita's volley against Crystal Palace was a great effort, but then Raphael Guerreiro stepped up for Borussia Dortmund.

It was 10 minutes into BVB's eventual 4-2 win over Union Berlin when the ball bobbled on the edge of the box between Jude Bellingham and Guerreiro, who had a chance to chest it down before firing a half volley from the left side of the box, across goal and into Union keeper Andreas Luthe's top corner.

It was a timely reminder that, for all the talk of Borussia's firepower up front through Erling Haaland, who did score twice himself in the game, they have other players to step up and produce a moment of outrageous brilliance. -- Hamilton


Two teams that should be worried

Alarm bells for Celta Vigo

Celta opened the LaLiga season with defeat to champions Atletico Madrid and lost to Real Madrid last weekend, but each passing week weakens the argument that their slow start is down to a difficult early schedule. Because outside reverses against the two aforementioned giants, drawing at Osasuna and a home defeat to Athletic Bilbao were compounded by a 2-1 defeat to Cadiz -- winless themselves heading into the game -- at Balaidos on Friday.

Eduardo Coudet did a good job last season, steadying the ship and clinching an eighth-place finish, and Celta should be too good to go down, but a start of one point from 15 will worry supporters, especially with a dispute rumbling in the background.

President Carlos Mourino is at odds with Intermedia Sport Player, the agency that represents several first-team players, including Iago Aspas and Denis Suarez. Mourino was angered by the way a youngster, Bryan Bugarin, left the club for Madrid in the summer.-- Marsden

Bochum get a harsh Bundesliga lesson

Greuther Furth and VfL Bochum took their place at Germany's top table this season, but the gulf was apparent this weekend for the latter as they were hammered 7-0 at Bayern Munich thanks to a mix of shots from distance, scrappy close-range efforts and a comical own goal.

After a 2-0 win over Mainz in matchday two, Bochum have lost three on the bounce and, with fellow strugglers Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Monchengladbach likely to find some form sooner rather than later, Bochum need to recover quickly from this trouncing. -- Hamilton


Dzeko shows Inter can thrive without Lukaku

Inter Milan needed to find a proven goal scorer to fill the huge void left by Romelu Lukaku's £97.5m summer transfer to Chelsea, and Edin Dzeko is already showing that he is up to the challenge.

Lukaku hit 64 goals in 95 games for Inter and his 24 Serie strikes last season were crucial as Antonio Conte's side won the Scudetto. The exit of both men during the summer meant Inter needed certainty and reliability up front and the free transfer signing of Dzeko from Roma proved a masterstroke.

The 35-year-old scored twice as a substitute during Saturday's 6-1 home win against Bologna -- a victory which left the reigning champions at the top of the table -- and has three goals in four league games for Inter; while he may not prove as prolific as Lukaku for the Nerrazzurri, his experience and ability to deliver consistently will be key for Simone Inzaghi's team.

Dzeko is one of Europe's most consistent scorers, but has perhaps never got the credit he deserves. He hit 85 goals in 142 games for Wolfsburg and helped the club to a Bundesliga title in 2008-09, then became a Premier League champion with Manchester City, for whom he scored 72 times in 189 appearances. He has made a good start in pursuit of a third title in a major league. -- Ogden

Harmanpreet Kaur, India's vice-captain in the longer formats, has been ruled out of the first ODI against Australia scheduled for Tuesday in Mackay. She sustained a thumb injury a few days ago, said head coach Ramesh Powar, and that a call on her availability for the second ODI will be taken in due course.

"She was declared fit. She was selected for this tour but, unfortunately, some days back she got a hit on the thumb and she is not available for the first ODI," Powar said on match eve. "Next ODI we will take a call according to her pain management and fitness management."

Powar said that all other members of the consolidated Test and ODI squad are fit and available for selection for Tuesday's fixture.

Harmanpreet was left out of the warm-up game on Saturday in Brisbane, though she is understood to have batted in the nets. She had ended her Hundred stint in the UK prematurely owing to a quadriceps injury and then joined India's other four Hundred-returnees in the Bengaluru preparatory camp to serve a mandatory seven-day quarantine.

Though cleared as fit, her inclusion in India's 22-player squad for the seven-match multi-format series was something of a gamble since she made the cut without having been subjected to a workload assessment at training given the quarantine restrictions. The selection panel, ESPNcricinfo revealed at the time, wanted to give her more time to recover considering India had to undergo a 14-day hard quarantine after landing in Australia.

In Harmanpreet's absence, Mithali Raj could reclaim the one-down spot, snapping a streak of 18 straight innings at No. 4 stretching back to early 2019.

"I've been quite flexible with my batting order whether it's No. 3 or No. 4, but it all depends on the composition of the team," Raj said. "If we have a good middle order, then I push my order up, that's No. 3 and if there's a little more inexperience in the middle order, then I push myself to No. 4. It all depends on the composition of the team, and now, with Harman out for the first ODI, I probably have to think about my order."

Frontrunners for Harmanpreet's place in the side include the uncapped Yastika Bhatia, Jemimah Rodrigues and Punam Raut. Considering Yastika, who can also keep, is the only one among the trio to have played the warm-up, making an impressive 42-ball 41, she is likely to pip Rodrigues, who is coming off memorable Hundred campaign, and Raut to the vacant spot.

"She [Rodrigues] will be, and is, part of our thought process going forward," Powar said. "And, it's about combination. We're trying to find the right composition going towards the World Cup, so Jemi might miss out, Jemi might play, so we can't say that now. It's a three-ODI series, so we'll take it one game at a time."

The firepower India may lose thanks to Harmanpreet's injury may yet be made up by their top-order which includes the dynamic Shafali Verma. Only 17 years old, she made her Test and ODI debut on the recent tour of England and has been eye-catching enough in her nascent international career to even win a place in the Hundred. There are still areas to work on in her game, like facing the short ball and tightening up around the off stump, but the India team management are content with the way she is developing so far.

"As far as Shafali is concerned, the way she played in the Test game in England, we were happy. As a 17-year old, we have to give her a little breathing space. Mithali, SS (Shiv Sunder) Das, and I had conversations with her. She knows her role, what is expected out of her, so we don't push a 17-year old, who is very expressive in her batting; we don't want to curtail her game. But we give her freedom with no responsibility.

"SS Das plays a major role. He's here as the batting coach and he has spent a lot of time with Shafali, and he's working on her game and mental as mental aspects also. And, she has played the Hundred, so she has got some confidence from there, so it's important for us to let her express her cricket rather than controlling her. It's about a 17-year old; we can't forget that."

While India's focus is on the current series, the captain and coach are also hoping to set up a performance template that might help them in the long run, especially with the ODI World Cup coming up in March-April.

"As a batting unit, we want to score consistently over 250, and we're planning towards that," Powar said. "In bowling, we're trying to get opponents all out, so we're trying to use Jhulan Goswami as the experienced bowler who can give us good openings up front."

Australia are formidable opponents, riding high on a world-record winning streak in ODIs. India are aware of the challenge that they face but are certain they have prepared well enough for it.

"We had also gathered that input that they will be using a lot many of the short-pitched deliveries for our batters," Raj said, "So we do have two of our side-arm throwers in the team, so that's where the girls have been using a lot of time playing more of the short-of-length and short-pitched deliveries. A lot of the cuts and pulls is what we've been working on in the training sessions.

"Not necessarily we are going to give a thought to the winning streak but we are looking forward to our best cricket because we understand we are playing undoubtedly one of the best sides in the world on their home turf and it's going to be a challenging series," Raj said. "This thought process every player understands - that we're in Australia, playing an Australian team. It's not going to be an easy series but playing against the best side before the World Cup is the best preparation we can get. Every game we have to bring our top game against them."

Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha

Virat Kohli, the Royal Challengers Bangalore batter and current captain, is set to become the first player in IPL history to feature in 200 matches for a single franchise, when his team takes on Kolkata Knight Riders in Abu Dhabi on Monday night.

Kohli, who has been with Royal Challengers ever since the inception of the tournament in 2008, has batted in 191 innings, scoring 6076 runs at an average of 37.97 and strike rate of 130.41. He has struck five centuries and 40 fifties during that time, helping Royal Challengers reach the IPL finals in 2009, 2011 and 2016.

Kohli is set to reach the 200-match landmark a day after he announced that he would be stepping down as Royal Challengers' captain at the end of the season, though he pledged to be with the franchise "until my retirement from the game of cricket".

Kohli is ahead by a decent distance for most matches played at a single franchise; MS Dhoni is second on the list with 182 matches for the Chennai Super Kings, while his team-mate Suresh Raina is third, having played 172 matches. Overall, Kohli, at 199, is fifth on the list of most IPL matches played, behind Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, and Raina.

Kohli first led the side in 2011, during a league match against the Rajasthan Royals, but became the team's full-time captain only in 2013.

His standout season came in 2016, as Kohli ended as the league's top run-getter, scoring 973 runs from 16 matches, including four tons and seven half-centuries.

"Congratulations, Virat bhai. Reaching 200 matches is an outstanding achievement, and shows loyalty and commitment," Mike Hesson, Royal Challengers' head coach, said in a message to Kohli posted by the team's social media on Twitter. "I'm immensely proud. You always play for the team, and are selfless in the way you operate. You are always encouraging and have created a great atmosphere. I love your enthusiasm and willingness to compete and win games for us."

Sanjay Bangar, Royal Challengers' batting consultant, also praised Kohli for sticking with the franchise throughout the IPL, when he could have easily been tempted to move to another team.

"More than the number of games, he has shown various qualities by being with Royal Challengers," Bangar said. "As he continued to conquer various frontiers across the globe, he might have had opportunities to move to other franchises. But he stuck with us. In today's fast-food generation, he set out to give a lesson for the youngsters who want to change teams very quickly. I'm so glad that he continues to play with the same zeal and enthusiasm that he had as a youngster, even today. We hope to see him continue playing for Royal Challengers for at least 350-400 games."

Northamptonshire have appointed John Sadler as their new head coach after David Ripley stood down following a decade in the job.

Sadler joined Northants as assistant coach ahead of the 2020 season following two years in the same role at Leicestershire, where he had previously worked as the club's second-team coach. He also spent three seasons at Derbyshire as batting coach, assistant coach and interim head coach between 2014 and 2016.

Sadler will be tasked with leading a revival in white-ball cricket after results tailed off in the latter stages of Ripley's time in charge. Northants embraced a moneyball approach in their recruitment to win two Blast titles in 2013 and 2016 under Ripley's stewardship but finished eighth in their group in the Royal London Cup and bottom of the Blast's North Group this season.

Their four-day cricket has been much stronger over the last three years. They won promotion from Division Two in 2019 only for the Covid-19 pandemic's impact on the English season to cost them the opportunity to play top-flight cricket, and would have qualified for the six-team Division One this season if they had won their away fixture against Yorkshire which finished in an agonising one-run defeat.

"I'm absolutely delighted to be stepping into the top job" Sadler said. "I feel the club is in a really good place and ready to kick on even further. We've got a very exciting group of cricketers and some great people around so it's an exciting opportunity to take on.

"Rips is obviously a very, very well respected man and coach who's been around a long time. He's a real stalwart of the club in a lot of positions and the success he's had, the group of players he's assembled, he's left the side in a good place and I'm looking forward to taking it on.

"I've got massive boots to fill but if I've got half the longevity and half the success he had then I'll be delighted. I'm sure things will be slightly different with a different voice and different ideas but ultimately there's been some brilliant things going on here so it's about adding to those and not necessarily changing too much."

Chris Liddle, Northants' bowling coach, will take on further responsibilities as their assistant coach as a result of Sadler's promotion.

Ray Payne, the club's chief executive, said: "When we brought John on board at the end of 2019 there was always a feeling that he was someone we wanted to keep around long-term. He's been an excellent addition to the club and I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do as our head coach."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

Almost two years after Sourav Ganguly had announced that the financial health of domestic cricketers would be his "biggest priority" as BCCI president, the board on Monday announced sizeable hikes in match fees for men and women at the end of its apex council meeting. The new pay slabs, which will be in place 2021-22 onwards, will have the senior men earning between INR 40,000 and 60,000 [USD 540 to 810 approx] per day while senior women will earn up to INR 20,000 [USD 270 approx.] per day.

In another major update, the BCCI has also decided to allot 50% match fees "as compensation" for the Covid-19-affected 2019-20 season where the board could organise just the Syed Mushtaq Ali (T20) Trophy and the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy for the senior men.

That hike is a small one for the players in the first category (under 20 matches), but an almost 100% hike for more experienced hands (40-plus games), while those who have played between 21 and 40 matches will earn INR 50,000 [USD 680 approx.]. Earlier, senior men's cricketers earned INR 35,000 [USD 470 approx.] per day for first-class and one-day games, and INR 17,500 [USD 240 approx.] per game for T20s.

The new pay slabs will apply to both first-class and limited-overs cricket.

For the senior women, who earlier earned INR 12,500 [USD 170 approx.] per one-day match and INR 6250 [USD 85 approx.] per T20 match - there isn't, currently, a first-class competition for women in India - the pay has been raised to INR 20,000 for playing XI members and INR 10,000 [USD 135 approx.] for those on the bench.

There were upgrades for the age-group cricketers, both male and female, too.

Men's Under-23 players will now earn INR 25,000 [USD 340 approx.] per day (earlier INR 17,500) if they are in the playing XIs, and INR 12,500 (earlier INR 8750) if in the reserves, while Under-19s in the playing XIs will get INR 20,000 (earlier INR 10,500) and INR 10,000 (earlier INR 5250) will go to reserve players. For the Under-16s, the corresponding amounts are INR 7000 (earlier INR 3500) and INR 3500 (INR 1750).

For women, the daily fees for Under-23s, Under-19s and Under-16s have been raised from INR 5500 to INR 10,000 for those in the playing XIs and from INR 2750 to INR 5000 for those in the reserves.

Till 2017-18, domestic players were paid in two instalments: a flat match fee and a bonus calculated on a pro-rata basis based on the BCCI's gross revenue share (GRS) - its non-IPL earnings from media rights, team sponsorship rights, apparel sponsorship rights, series sponsorship rights, etc. This would be paid the following year after the accounts were ratified at the annual general meetings.

Since 2018, though, the GRS component has been added to the match fees, leading to a near 200% hike for players. However, in the absence of AGMs in the past two years, the GRS component has not been ratified by the BCCI, which had left domestic players disgruntled. The pandemic then made things worse.

But a few months ago, the BCCI formed a sub-committee to work out a new payment structure, including ways to compensate players who had taken a hit financially during the pandemic since March 2020.

India are set to host New Zealand, West Indies, Sri Lanka and South Africa over the next nine months as part of the 2021-22 home season, for a total of four Tests, three ODIs and 14 T20Is spread from November 2021 to June 2022.

These tours were all part of the Future Tours Programme (FTP) for the 2018-23 cycle, but the final schedule has come with one change: Sri Lanka will now play two Tests instead of three, as originally planned, and three T20Is in February-March 2022. The Tests will start on February 25 (Bengaluru) and March 5 (Mohali), and the three T20Is on March 13 (Mohali), March 15 (Dharamsala) and March 18 (Lucknow).

The tours of New Zealand and West Indies remain as scheduled.

Only three days after the T20 World Cup final on November 14 in Dubai, New Zealand will play the first T20I in Jaipur, followed by two more on November 19 (Ranchi) and 21 (Kolkata), and then the two Tests starting November 25 (Kanpur) and December 3 (Mumbai).

West Indies are slotted to play three ODIs on February 6 (Ahmedabad), February 9 (Jaipur) and February 12 (Kolkata) and as many T20Is, on February 15 (Cuttack), February 18 (Visakhapatnam) and February 20 (Thiruvananthapuram).

Only five days after that series ends, Sri Lanka will play the first Test in Bengaluru.

South Africa will play five T20Is in June 2022, covering for the ODIs that were abandoned last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. That three-match series had to be postponed after the first ODI in Dharamsala, which had been abandoned because of rain. The BCCI has now decided to replay that tour as a T20I series on June 9 (Chennai), June 12 (Bengaluru), June 14 (Nagpur), June 17 (Rajkot), and June 19 (Delhi).

Between the Sri Lanka and South Africa series, the BCCI will also slot in the IPL, this time with 10 teams, which could further extend the duration of the tournament. Also, soon after New Zealand leave India in December, India are scheduled to tour South Africa for three Tests, three ODIs and four T20Is; that tour will go on from December 17 to January 26, without taking travel and quarantine dates into account.

The 14 T20Is and another T20 World Cup in Australia next year mean India's next T20I captain after Virat Kohli will have his hands full. India will also play another three T20Is, along with as many ODIs, in England next summer.

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