Chris Morris set to return with remodeled bowling action

South African all-rounder Chris Morris says he has tweaked his bowling action ahead of a return to top flight cricket.

Morris suffered a lower back injury while representing the Proteas in their Test series in England earlier this year and will only make his comeback during the domestic Ram Slam T20 season, which begins this weekend.

The player’s bowling action - in particular his striving for extra pace - caused the injury and he has since had to remodel his technique - with the help of SA coach Ottis Gibson.

"I've had a few tweaks in my action that Ottis has changed. I had to iron it out because it wasn't good enough - simple as that," Morris said at the Ram Slam launch in Johannesburg.

"I think in striving for a bit of extra pace, there was some twisting in my action. I've got quite a bad kick-out with my left foot before I land. I was getting lazy and doing quite a lot of twisting, which caused a lot of pressure on my lower back and inevitably caused the injury."

He added, “If I didn't get injured I still would have had to change my action. In bowling, you like to work in straight lines, and I was working along the wrong lines. That's where the injury came along.

"We can't re-scan the same injury because we'd see the same thing the whole time. So we work on symptoms - if there is pain you stop, otherwise you play. I've got to trust the gym and rehab, all the things I've been doing behind the scenes since my injury happened."

Morris was also enthusiastic at the prospect of working more with Proteas coach Gibson: "I've only had a week and a half with him and he's been excellent. In England, he had the fortune of working with the best new-ball attack in the world in my opinion.

“If they've rubbed off on him, as a South African bowling attack we're going to be richer for it. He's been doing this for a long time and has a lot of experience. It's quite clear what our plans are going forward as a team. We're in a happy space, and it's quite exciting."

Chris Morris

Steven Finn out of Ashes series in another blow to England

England have been dealt another blow ahead of the start of the 2017/18 Ashes with the news that fast bowler Steven Finn has been ruled out of the series with a knee injury.

Having already lost all-rounder Ben Stokes, who is under a police investigation back in England and appears unlikely to join up with the team, and seamer Toby Roland-Jones (who has a stress fracture to the back) this is further bad news for the tourists.

Finn sustained a knee injury while batting in the nets in Perth. Initially he was treated with an injection, but the knock has not improved as hoped. It has now been diagnosed as a torn cartilage in the left knee.

The fast bowler will fly back to England for treatment and to ascertain whether surgery is required.

Tom Curran, Tom Helm and Liam Plunkett are the likely replacements for Finn, with Mark Wood unavailable due to injury.

This is a continuation of an ‘Ashes curse’ for Finn, who was sent home in 2013/14 when England last toured Australia because of a lack of form and confidence. He was also dropped midway through the 2010/11 Ashes.

The good news for English fans is that their spearheads - James Anderson and Stuart Broad - are both fit and firing, and the team will be managing their workload ahead of the first Ashes Test, which begins in Brisbane on November 23.

Steven Finn

Jimmy Anderson to replace Ben Stokes as England’s vice captain?

James Anderson has emerged as a serious candidate to replace Ben Stokes as England’s vice captain on the upcoming Ashes tour.

Stokes is currently unavailable due to an ongoing police investigation and skipper Joe Root has confirmed that a new deputy will be unveiled in the coming days.

Alastair Cook, a former captain of the Test team, remains the likeliest candidate, while Stuart Broad, who has skippered the T20 team, is another option.

Yet Anderson reckons he would embrace the responsibility, using his experience to help guide the younger bowlers - something he’s surely expected to do anyway.

"Of course I wouldn't turn it down," Anderson said. "In the last couple of years, I've seen my role in the team as a leader. It's kind of your responsibility to be a leader. It's part and parcel of the job as a senior player having played over 100 Tests.

"There are a lot of players on this tour who have not played in an Ashes series before and not toured Australia before. So our job is to try and help as much as we can.

“It's kind of your responsibility to be a leader. With young bowlers coming into the team I've tried to help out as much as I can. I think it's important that Joe has people he can rely upon."

The first Ashes Test gets underway at the Gabba in Brisbane on November 23.

James Anderson

Australia captain Steve Smith: We need to open up old scars in first Ashes Test

Ahead of the start of the Ashes later this month, Australia captain Steve Smith believes that his side need to remind England of the 5-0 whitewash they suffered in 2013/14.

The last Ashes tour ‘Down Under’ saw the hosts dominate the series on the back of Mitchell Johnson’s terrifying left-arm fast bowling.

Australia got the upper hand right from the first match in Brisbane and Smith wants a repeat of that in 2017/18.

The skipper is hoping to revive some nightmares for the current English players who were on that tour: Joe Root, Alastair Cook, Jonny Bairstow, James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn.

"First Test match is going to be really important, we need to set the tone again and hopefully get them on a similar path to what we did in 2013," Smith told ESPNCricinfo.

"A few players were out here for that tour, and hopefully we can get them thinking the same way, open a few of those scars up as such, get them thinking 'oh not this again' and that kind of thought process.

"I know Trevor [Bayliss, England's coach] very well and he'll ensure they're very attacking and those kinds of things. We just need to stick to our guns and ensure we prepare really well and make sure we're doing the basic stuff really well out in the middle."

The first Ashes Test is set to be played at the Gabba in Brisbane on November 23-27.

Australian captain Steve Smith

AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn to walk back into Proteas Test team

AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn will be able to ‘walk’ back into the South African Test team once they have reached form and fitness, according to coach Ottis Gibson.

The Proteas recently completed a clean sweep of wins over tourists Bangladesh in all three formats and will only be back in action for the experimental four-day, day-night Test against Zimbabwe which starts on December 26.

This precedes more challenging series against India and Australia, for which South Africa will need the experience and skill of both de Villiers and Steyn.

De Villiers has not played a Test match since January 2016, having been sidelined through a combination of injury and a self-imposed sabbatical away from the longest format of the game.

He’s available for the match against Zimbabwe, but will have to work his way back into contention, especially after South Africa’s batsmen plundered plenty of runs against the Bangladeshis.

Yet Gibson has hinted that space will be made for de Villiers regardless. When asked by a journalist - who called his own question ‘stupid’ - whether AB would be welcomed back into the Test fold, the coach had this to say:

"What was it you said first there [in regards to the ‘stupid question’]? You've answered your question."

It’s a similar case for Steyn, who has been sidelined with a major shoulder injury but will return in South Africa’s domestic T20 competition, which starts later this month.

"He has got a lot of T20 cricket to play and he has also got a lot of time where we can build up his workload and see that he is 100 percent fit," Gibson said.

"He is Dale Steyn. He is not some average guy from down the road. He is one of the best bowlers the country has ever produced. If you look him in the eyes and you say, 'Dale are you sure you can make it?' and he says he can make it, then he is getting the opportunity."

Dale Steyn

Chris Woakes hits back in pre-Ashes ‘war of words’, questions Australia’s pace depth

The 2017/18 Ashes is less than a month away and the ‘war of words’ ahead of the revival of Test cricket’s oldest rivalry continues unabated.

Most of the talking has come from the Australian side so far, with aggressive opening batsman David Warner comparing matches against the English to “going to war”. They must have shown a different version of ‘Dunkirk’ Down Under.

The English have generally stuck to conciliatory tones so far, and with good reason: firstly, the Ben Stokes alleged assault incident means they come into the tour under something of a cloud and probably without their best all-round player; and secondly the Three Lions were given a 5-0 thrashing the last time they played in Australia.

However, Chris Woakes threw in an interesting barb this past weekend by questioning the strength in depth of Australia’s fast-bowling options, as well highlighting the battle for the wicketkeeper gloves, with Alex Carey and Peter Nevill vying to displace Matthew Wade.

The hosts will be able to call upon a superb pace trio in the form of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, but they have been robbed of the services of James Pattinson, who has succumbed to another back injury.

"The Australian bowlers have got some pace, [but] Pat Cummins hasn't played much Test cricket in Australia, so it will be as much of a test for him as for me," said Woakes, who will be playing in his first Ashes away series.

"They've probably got more pace than us but in [Stuart] Broad, [James] Anderson we've got two of England's best ever bowlers, and along with myself and some of the other bowlers I think we have got enough to cause them problems.

"I don't think they've got a huge amount of back-up bowlers apart from those three, guys who have got records of injury - if they break down during the series, what have they got coming through after that? They're also missing a keeper-batsman at the minute, they're short in that area, which is obviously quite a crucial position in every team."

Woakes added, “It's exciting, looking forward to it. I never find trouble getting into the battle, everyone does it in their own way. Warner might want to chirp, others do it their own way.

“You have to find out what's best for you, it might distract you from the day job. Each to their own, David can do what he wants and we will react and try to play our best cricket."

England's Chris Woakes (left) and James Anderson.

England skipper Joe Root: We’re planning to be without Ben Stoke for the Ashes

The issue of whether Ben Stoke swill play in the upcoming Ashes tour remains very much up in the air, but England captain Joe Root says his side are preparing to be without the spiky all-rounder.

As things stand, Stokes will not be part of the touring party ‘Down Under’ while a police investigation into his alleged offence of assault outside a night club a month ago remains open.

A pair of gay witnesses to the incident have recently come forward and claim Stokes was protecting them from homophobic abuse and labelled him a “hero”, casting the issue in a completely new light, but it doesn’t guarantee that the all-rounder will be on the flight to Australia - something Root knows all too well.

"I think we've got to plan as if he's not going to be there for the whole series," Root said. "It's an ongoing investigation, we're very much in the dark in what's happening, as is everyone. So as a side we have to make sure we plan accordingly and approach this as our squad.

"Ben offers a lot to the team but, as I said, it's an opportunity for other guys to stand up. In difficult situations, a lot of the time, people do surprise themselves and surprise you and are capable of more than what they might even think themselves.

“This is one of those occasions when you might just see that and there's also some guys that have been given another opportunity, who will be desperate to take that. As a side I look at where we are and how we've grown as a team and think that this is a great opportunity for us to keep developing and move forward again."

The first Ashes Test will be held at Brisbane’s Gabba starting from 23 November.

Joe Root

David Warner backs Mitchell Starc to ‘set the tone’ in the Ashes

Australian opener David Warner has fired another warning shot across the bow of the old enemy England ahead of the 2017/18 Ashes series.

After his references to “war” and “hatred” last week, the spiky batsman has now backed teammate and left-arm speedster Mitchell Starc to “set the tone for the summer” in the same way Mitchell Johnson did four years ago.

Johnson famously terrorised the English batting line-up and claimed 37 wickets to lead Australia to a 5-0 series whitewash in 2013/14.

"I'd like to hope so, definitely. I think we've spoken about it previously in this lead-up that he's the X-factor that brings that Mitchell Johnson pace and execution to the game we'll try and play," Warner said.

"His pace, the way Steve [Smith] wants to use him, will set the tone for the summer, that's for sure.

"When you ask the captain next time he does a press conference about a white ball at the Oval during the Champions Trophy. He was quite lively in those nets."

The prospect of a pink-ball, day-night Test is another bonus for Starc, who has taken to this experimental form of cricket like a duck to water.

"He can swing the ball at 150km/h. I'm excited to see him come back and bowl fast and swing that ball," Warner added.

"I get the luxury of facing him every single net session with the new ball. It's quite difficult at times when he is swinging the ball.

"I know for a fact with the pink ball when he does swing in the nets – and he does in Adelaide – when he gets it right come second Test, he will be a nightmare for their players."

The Ashes series starts with the first Test at Adelaide from November 23-27.

Mitchell Starc

No Proteas action until late December, but at least SA fans will get some T20 action

South African cricket fans will be starved of national team action through November and most of December, but at least they’ll have the local T20 competition to keep them entertained.

The Proteas will wrap up their series against tourists Bangladesh with two T20 Internationals this week, but once that’s done there will be no action for the team until late December when they play their four-day, day-night Test against Zimbabwe.

This gap in the schedule was created to accommodate the T20 Global League, but the competition has since been postponed. Instead, South African fans will have to make do with the domestic T20 competition.

The good news is that it will feature all of the big-name Proteas players, who will need to keep their skills sharp ahead of the match against Zimbabwe and eagerly anticipated incoming tours against India and Australia in the early months of 2018.

The T20 competition, which was originally scheduled to be played in March-April, has been brought forward four months and will be played from November 10 to December 16.

Each of the six franchise teams will play each other home and away in the round robin phase, followed by two semifinals and a final for a total of 33 matches.

Mthokozisi Shezi of the Cape Cobras bowls during the 2015 RamSlam T20 Challenge cricket match between the Cape Cobras and the Warriors at Boland Park, Paarl, 6 November 2015 ©Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

Vernon Philander set to return from injury in domestic match

Vernon Philander is set to make his return from injury by turning out for the Cape Cobras in their Sunfoil Series match against the Dolphins which starts today (Monday 23 October).

The injury-prone player has not been in competitive action since July, when he suffered a stomach bug in the third Test of South Africa’s tour of England. He missed the fourth match due to back spasms, an issue which has been recovering from ever since.

The 32-year-old was not considered for Bangladesh’s ongoing tour and will hope to catch the eye of the national selectors to earn a place back in the Proteas team for their four-day, day-night Test at home to Zimbabwe in late December.

To further complicate Philander’s situation, he will not be able to play in any long-form matches in November and most of December, as CSA cleared that period of fixtures to make space for the T20 Global League.

With that tournament put on the back burner, it is expected that the domestic T20 competition will now slot into the open space on the schedule. Philander will be able to feature for the Cobras in that event, but it’s hardly perfect preparation for a return to the Test side.

Wayne Parnell and Vernon Philander

Aiden Markram’s chance to impress

Having gone a long way to establishing himself in South Africa’s Test side with his impressive performances against Bangladesh, Aiden Markram could well find himself making his One Day International debut today.

The 23-year-old has been drafted into the Proteas’ ODI squad for the third and final match of the series, which will be played at Buffalo Park in East London.

Regular opener Hashim Amla - who the Bangladeshis must be tired of bowling to, following a string of three centuries and a score of 85 across the Tests and first two ODIs - will be rested.

Markram is expected to take the veteran’s place at the top of the order and will hope to continue where he left off in the Tests, having racked up scores of 97, 15 and 143 in three innings against the tourists in the long format.

Another who could make his international debut is young all-rounder Wiaan Mulder (the 19-year-old is likely to take the place of Dwaine Pretorious), while Temba Bavuma may be given another chance to impress at ODI level, especially if David Miller doesn’t recover from injury in time.

South Africa will be aiming for a 3-0 clean sweep in the ODIs, having gone to comfortable victories in the first two matches in Kimberley and Paarl.

Bangladesh’s tour of South Africa will be concluded with two T20 Internationals in Bloemfontein and Potchefstroom on October 26 and 29 respectively.

Aiden Markram of South Africa bats during 2017 2nd Test Series cricket match between South Africa and Bangladesh at Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein on 06 October 2017@Aubrey Kgakatsi/BackpagePix

He’s back: AB de Villiers gives a timely reminder of his class

After a lengthy period out of the Proteas’ set-up, AB de Villiers provided a timely reminder of his class with a sublime knock of 176 against Bangladesh in the second One Day International in Paarl on Wednesday.

The 33-year-old is looking to re-establish himself as one of South Africa’s premier players ahead of impending, high-profile series against India and Australia, and his innings at Boland Park went a long way in reminding all of us why he is regarded as one of the world’s best batsmen.

‘But it was only Bangladesh’ his critics will point out, and rightly so: the Tigers have had the resilience of a wet paper bag on this tour of South Africa, with their bowling particularly woeful.

But rather than wonder how de Villiers would have gone against a stronger team, let’s celebrate what he accomplished with a rundown of some of the statistics of his midweek knock.

- The 176 was ABD’s highest career ODI score and the fourth highest by a South African, with only Gary Kirsten’s 188, Faf du Plessis’ 185 and Quinton de Kock’s 178 ranked above it.

- It was de Villiers’ 25th ODI century, making him the seventh batsman to reach the mark and only the second South African (after Hashim Amla) in this elite club.

- He is also one of just seven batsmen to score centuries against all of the full ICC members (excluding new Test playing nations Ireland and Afghanistan). The others are Herschelle Gibbs, Sachin Tendulkar, Hashim Amla, Ross Taylor, Virat Kohli and Ricky Ponting.

- ABD has now also hit 201 ODI sixes. He is the sixth player to rack up a double century of big hits, joining Shahid Afridi, Sanath Jayasuriya, Chris Gayle, MS Dhoni and Brendon McCullum.

AB de Villiers

Tell us how you really feel… David Warner calls on Australia to find ‘hatred’ for the English

David Warner has further underlined his reputation as a stand-up guy by calling on Australia to find their “hatred” for the opposing English players ahead of the 2017/18 Ashes series.

Warner, who has had notable confrontational controversies in the past but has been praised for a more mature approach in recent years, believes that verbal sparring and animosity played a large role in Australia’s 5-0 whitewash of the ‘Poms’ when they toured ‘down under’ in 2013/14.

Having returned from a limited overs tour of India, Warner is already looking forward to the first Test against England in the Gabba, which gets underway on November 23.

"As soon as you step on that line it's war," Warner said on ABC Grandstand, as quoted by ESPNCricinfo.

"You try and get into a battle as quick as you can. I try and look in the opposition's eye and try and work out 'how can I dislike this player, how can I get on top of him?' You've really got to find that spark in yourself to really take it to the opposition.

"You have to delve and dig deep into yourself to actually get some hatred about them to actually get up when you're out there. History is a big part in this and that is what carries us onto the ground."

Warner notably directed some aggressive comments to the English back in 2013/14, saying they had “scared eyes” when facing up to Mitchell Johnson, though he admitted he had gone “too far” when referring to Jonathan Trott’s second-innings dismissal at Brisbane as “pretty poor and pretty weak”.

Warner said he will be more “subtle” in trying to get under the English players’ skins, leaving the talk until the opening day in Brisbane.

"Four years ago, during that first Test I made some statements in the media and at the time I thought it was a great thing to come out and speak what I said," he said.

"I have no regrets about that and I think that could have played a little bit of a role in the back of their minds.

"At the moment I'm not going to put any vibes out there or get into a verbal stoush ... but come day one when we walk out there, there will definitely be some words exchanged. But I think the subtle approach these days is how it is and how it goes."

Australian batsman David Warner

Kagiso Rabada up to world number three spot in ICC rankings

Kagiso Rabada is proving his worth as one of South Africa's finest cricketers as he moved up two slots to reach a career-best third position on the ICC rankings.

The pace bowler gained the two slots among bowlers in the ICC Test Player Rankings after his player of the match performance against Bangladesh in Bloemfontein.

He helped the South Africans complete a 2-0 win in the two-Test series after grabbing five wickets in each innings for an enviable match haul of 10/63 that helped his side to an innings and 254 runs victory.

Rabada also made a notable improvement in the latest rankings, which also take into account the second Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Dubai.

He is now on 876 points, only eight points behind second-placed India spinner Ravindra Jadeja and 20 behind top-ranked James Anderson of England.

Rabada stocks keep on raising

Will Pat Cummins ‘do a Mitchell Johnson’ in the next Ashes series?

Pat Cummins is hoping to be Australia’s ‘enforcer’ in the upcoming 2017-18 Ashes series against old enemies England.

The 24-year-old fast bowler is set to finally play Test cricket on home soil - he hasn’t played the longest format of the sport in front of Australian fans due to numerous injury problems - and believes that aggression and intimidation will be key to Australia regaining the Ashes.

Cummins has identified England opener Alastair Cook and captain Joe Root as the key wickets, and hopes to emulate Mitchell Johnson, who famously terrorised the Three Lions in the last Ashes series in Australia in 2013/14, when he took 37 wickets to lead the hosts to a 5-0 whitewash.

"We're lucky there's a few of us who are all pretty tall and get a bit of bounce with a bit of pace," Cummins said in Sydney, as quoted by ESPN Cricinfo.

"I'd love to play that [intimidation] role, hopefully the wickets have a bit of pace and bounce in them, getting the adrenaline up and running in and trying to bowl quick.

"No one really likes it if you've got real pace and real accuracy. Especially those kinds of guys, they play on slower wickets where there's not as much bounce.

“So over here and in South Africa as well it's one of our biggest strengths, as batsmen we grow up on these wickets and as bowlers, getting bounce has always been really important.

“So I think it's trying to make it as different to their home conditions as possible, bouncy fast wickets and short balls are definitely that.

"Just playing a Test match in Australia will be a pretty weird feeling, I've played five now but none at home which is obviously what you grow up watching, so it'll be great to be part of an Ashes series, it'll be pretty amazing.

“I was over there a couple of years ago in England, running drinks, so the prospect of playing in front of a home crowd, I can't wait."

Cummins added, “That series, one of the most exciting in recent times where fast bowling has really excited world cricket, and as a fast bowler I was super pumped to watch Jono [Johnson] and how he kept the whole morale of the side up at home in Australia against the Poms.

"That just shows the importance of having a really quick bowler and hopefully one of us three or four guys can do a similar job.

"I think we all show our aggression differently, you probably tailor it towards which batsman you're bowling to. That was one of the things along with the 150kph bouncers that really intimidated them, not just bowling.

“Hopefully that's not our only tool - I'm not quite quick-witted enough to come up with too many sledges, but hopefully we can show our aggression in other ways.

"Joe Root's probably their most in-form batsman so I think he'll be the prize wicket along with Alastair Cook, either of those two will be prime wickets."

The first Ashes Test will be played at the Gabba in Brisbane from 23-27 November.

Pat Cummins

Bay boy Ben Stokes selected in England squad

Ben Stokes was included in England's 16-man squad for the Ashes tour of Australia announced on Wednesday despite his recent arrest on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.

Durham all-rounder Stokes was dropped for Wednesday's fourth one-day international against West Indies at The Oval after being arrested early on Monday in Bristol following England's win in the third ODI in the southwest city on Sunday.

The 26-year-old remains under investigation after being released without charge.

Ben Stokes ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix