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Australia coach Justin Langer has cast doubt on Steven Smith‘s return for the deciding ODI against England just a few hours after sounding confident he would be able to take his place following the blow to the head he suffered before the opening game.

After having a net at Old Trafford on Tuesday, Langer said that Smith looked “a bit rusty” and he was less confident about bringing him back although a decision would not be made until shortly before the match.

“In terms of Smithy, he had a hit today. He still looks a bit rusty to be honest,” Langer told SEN Breakfast with Pat and Heals. “We’ll give him until the last moment to play but I’m not as confident now as I was 24 hours ago.”

Some mystery still surrounds the circumstances in which Smith has missed the tourists’ past two matches. He was struck on the side of the helmet by a throwdown during net practice at Old Trafford, and though Cricket Australia officially stated he had passed a concussion test, he was still required to go through a series of protocols before his net session on Tuesday. Following that net, a CA spokesperson confirmed that a final decision on Smith’s availability would only be made on Wednesday.

Whatever the true extent of Smith’s need to recover from the blow to the helmet, his inclusion would allow the Australians to have a far more versatile and reliable batting order for the final match, having fallen apart alarmingly in some adverse conditions against the pace and reverse swing of Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer in the second game of the series. Marcus Stoinis has deputised at No. 3 in the first two matches

“Fingers crossed. We know what a great player he is, he got a blow to the head in training the day before the first game, so we’ve been going through all the concussion protocols, he’s definitely tracking in the right direction,” Langer said when speaking before Smith batted on Tuesday morning. “We’re hopeful he’ll be right for tomorrow, but if he doesn’t come up again, then like always we’ll keep him healthy in mind.

“He was just practising, we talk about Steve, he was probably on his 30,000th ball, probably had two or three to go, and the wickets over here, the facilities have been brilliant, but they’re a bit worn because of so much traffic through them over the past few months. One ball just didn’t quite get up, he ducked into it and it hit him in the side of the helmet.

Langer spoke glowingly of how his players had responded to the challenges of an England tour with no meaningful cricket behind them, in addition to the constraints of the biosecurity bubble in which they have been thrust due to the coronavirus pandemic. However he said that the selectors remained on the lookout for middle order problem solvers to weather scenarios like those that have presented once each in the T20 and one day series.

“It’s been disappointing, we’ve played such great cricket throughout this whole tour,” Langer said. “You always look below the surface, how we’ve all played our cricket, all the guys have played their cricket from the moment we arrived with no cricket under our belts, it’s been a real credit to the boys. Consistently across the board we’ve been really impressive. There’s a few areas we need to get better at though, and that’s part of becoming a great team.

“One is bowling in those last few overs, which is always the case, but also in our middle order. And we’re not shying away from that. The boys were incredibly disappointed the other night and disappointed during the T20 series, but they’re working hard on it.

“What do you look for? Problem solving. I think about the Dhonis and the Husseys and the Bevans, Jos Buttlers, the guys who finish it well, are great problem solvers, and they’ve got real confidence in their ability to, over and over, solve the issues which come up, whether you’re chasing big scores, small scores, on different wickets, spinning wickets, wickets that are stayng a bit up down. that’s what we’re looking for in the middle order, guys who are able to solve problems and get the job done.”

As far as the mental strain of the bubble itself was concerned, Langer said a key part of the exercise was not being overwhelmed by thoughts of occupying similarly restricted circumstances for an entire summer. “The biggest challenge for all of us is that it’s a bit like scoring a hundred, you can’t score a hundred unless you give the next ball 100% attention,” he sad. “If we start looking too far ahead of ourselves, that becomes a real challenge.

“It’s almost one day at a time…it’s just when you start looking ahead to when we get home and then quarantine and how the summer looks and if you keep looking too far ahead, then it gets challenging.”

As for the likelihood of most of his best players entering home Test assignments after a surfeit of white-ball matches in the IPL and then against India, Langer struck a time-honoured theme about the best players finding ways to adapt.

“It’s something we’re very aware of,” Langer said. “Particularly as you think about the lead-up to this tour, straight to the IPL, potentially straight into some white ball cricket, and then the Test match, with it all pretty tight. Am I worried about it? Not really, we had a good dress rehearsal last year between the World Cup and the Ashes, the best players adapt and we’ve got some great players who might need to adapt. But when it comes to the colour of the ball, I’m really confident they’ll be able to do that.”



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Mike Tyson nearly knocks out trainer while preparing for exhibition fight against Roy Jones Jr.

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Mike Tyson is set to return to the ring on Nov. 28 when he takes on Roy Jones Jr. in an eight-round exhibition fight. Iron Mike has been aggressively training for the fight and it looks like he’s in the best shape of his life. Just ask his trainer.

Tyson has been posting videos showcasing his training in the lead-up to the fight. On Wednesday, a clip showed Tyson sparring with trainer Rafael Cordeiro and, unfortunately for Cordeiro, Tyson accidentally caught him with a hook:

As you can see, Cordeiro stumbles back after Tyson connects on the huge right hand. Tyson, 54, certainly still appears to have the speed and power that made him one of the most dangerous boxers in the sport’s history.

While the upcoming bout against Jones Jr. is an exhibition fight, Tyson appears to be taking it very seriously and the boxing world is taking notice.

WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring commented on the video, writing “Somebody send Mike a reminder that this is an exhibition.” In addition, Danny Williams, who knocked out Tyson prior to his retirement in 2005, believes that Tyson could “seriously hurt” Jones Jr. when the two face off in the ring in November.

Jones Jr. even recently admitted that he may have “made a mistake” by accepting the fight with Tyson.

“He’s still Mike Tyson, he’s still one of the strongest, most explosive people who ever touched a boxing ring,” Jones Jr. old Sky Sports. “If anything, I made a mistake going in with him. He’s the bigger guy, he’s the explosive guy.”



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IPL 2020 – Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming says it’s like every game is like an away game

Adaptability, picking the right personnel and reading pitches correctly in the absence of home ground advantage will be key to success at IPL 2020, according to the Chennai Super Kings head coach Stephen Fleming.

“This season is going to be very different tactically,” Fleming told the Super Kings website. “With no real home ground advantage here, we’ve got to be very good at adapting to the conditions in each ground. We’ve got three different grounds (Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi) to assess and each ground has its own character and nuances, and we’ve just got to be good enough to pick the right team and get the right game plan to match that. It’s like every game is an away game.”

Apart from not having been able to train in Abu Dhabi – the venue of their tournament opener against the Mumbai Indians on Saturday – a lot of the Super Kings’ first-choice players – including Shane Watson, MS Dhoni , Ambati Rayudu and Deepak Chahar- have been away from the game longer than some others. Add to it the challenges of playing in Abu Dhabi without having seen the wicket or assessed the conditions – something Mumbai have had the chance to do because they’re based there.

“It’s one of the challenges of having to travel to Abu Dhabi – we’ve got to have to be very good on the day to have to assess the wicket and pick the right combination,” Fleming said. “One of the big challenges for IPL teams is to get the combinations right.

“There are a lot of skillful players that make the side, but there are also a lot of skillful players that don’t. Picking the right side for the right conditions is one of the great challenges and we’ve got a good record at that. But I must admit, going to Abu Dhabi without seeing the wicket or assessing the conditions is going to be one of the big challenges to start with.”

That said, Fleming also believes the Super Kings will be able to cover up for the lack of match time by their combined wealth of experience. For the record, Mumbai have come up trumps in the last two meetings between the sides. “We’ve got experienced players, and experienced players identify key times and that’s why they’ve done so well in their careers – that they can turn games, absorb pressure or just sum out the situation. That’s what experience is about and that’s why we value it so highly.

“And that’s why we’ve been able to get over the line in so many close games because the key player has been one with a lot of experience. And you also mix that with skill. You are conscious of having a skillful side and adding youth when we can and with that get the balance pretty right.”

The lead-up to the Super Kings’ campaign has been chaotic. Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh opted out of the season for different reasons while two players – Ruturaj Gaikwad and Deepak Chahar – along with a number of support staff members tested positive. Among all teams, the Super Kings have trained the least in the UAE, having only been able to begin on September 6 after extended quarantine periods. But Fleming doesn’t think this will be a disadvantage.

“It has been different, and that’s been part of the challenge – understanding the unknown,” Fleming said of their build-up. “We didn’t get off to a great start, with some positive Covid-19 cases, but I think we dealt with it very well.

“We were calm around our approach, looked after the players and staff very well, and the rest of the players were calm in the hotel room. There was a bit of anxiety wanting to get out and train. It is what it is, and the players dealt with it very well. On hindsight, the amount of pre-season training that we’ve done up to now, and the extra few days in the room, was probably a blessing.”

Meanwhile, Rohit Sharma, the Mumbai captain, doesn’t believe the past will have any bearing on how his team will perform in this year’s IPL though they had lost each of their five games in the UAE in 2014, the last time the tournament was played in the country.

“We didn’t have a great experience last time yes, but it’s a different team now,” Rohit said at the pre-tournament press conference on Thursday. “The thought process is different. Six years is a lot of time. Like I said, it’s about understanding pitches and conditions, that is crucial so we are putting a lot of emphasis on that.

“Eventually the pitches will play a big part, so understanding and adapting quickly is important. But yes, the past won’t play any part – it was just myself, Kieron Pollard and Jasprit Bumrah from that team. I think Bumrah played just one game. So the team is different, the staff is different [and] thought process is different. Looking forward to a great IPL.”

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Bryce Harper hits two home runs, but Phillies come up short vs. Mets, 10-6

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