Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ehsan Mani is confident Australia and England will tour the country in the coming years as they prepare for a first Test on home soil since 2009.

Pakistan face Sri Lanka - the last team to visit over a decade ago - on Wednesday in Rawalpindi, the opener in a two-game series that also includes a Test in Karachi.

Mani insists Pakistan are not planning to play future series on neutral grounds, with England "very supportive" ahead of a possible tour.

"We are due to play England in 2021-22 and we are in serious discussions with them about coming to Pakistan," Mani told ESPN Cricinfo.

"So far, they've been very supportive, so I fully expect they will come and play their cricket in Pakistan. 

"Similarly, Australia, their chief executive has been to Pakistan and he's gone back with a totally different perception from what he thought it was like."

Pakistan Test captain Azhar Ali, meanwhile, has said the series opener against Sri Lanka is a huge moment for the country.

"It's a moment to rejoice, not only for the players but the whole Pakistan nation," he said, in quotes reported by Sky Sports.

"We had a tough series in Australia and the way we lost there was disappointing. Moving forward, we see this home series as an opportunity and advantage to turn things around.

"We will try our best to fix our mistakes and improve wherever we had been lacking.

"We have outstanding talent in our squad. They have potential and, if we implement it, results will be good."

Steve Smith is backing Melbourne Cricket Ground curator Matt Page to deliver an acceptable wicket for the Boxing Day Test between Australia and New Zealand.

The final match at the MCG before that contest - the Sheffield Shield clash between Victoria and Western Australia - had to be cancelled on Saturday due to an unsafe pitch.

Umpires called off day one after Western Australia batsmen Shaun Marsh and Marcus Stoinis were struck multiple times amid unpredictable bounce.

Cricket Australia promised to ensure there is a wicket of "international standard" for December 26, though, and Smith has no doubt Page will do the necessary hard work.

"I'm sure they'll produce something good for us on Boxing Day," the Australia superstar said ahead of the first Test in Perth this week.

"It's a really fine line with that wicket. Pagey is a very good curator - he'll be working as hard as he can to try to get a wicket that is suitable for bat and ball.

"These guys have a really tough job. They've tried a lot down in Melbourne but not been able to get something that is a bit more bowler friendly.

"They're going to work hard over the next couple of weeks to get us a good wicket for Boxing Day."

A dangerous pitch has forced the MCG's final match before the Boxing Day Test between Australia and New Zealand to be cancelled in Melbourne on Sunday.

Preparations for the December 26 Test were thrown into chaos after the Sheffield Shield clash between Victoria and Western Australia was suspended on Saturday.

Umpires decided to call off day one of the match due to an unsafe wicket, after Western Australia batsmen Shaun Marsh and Marcus Stoinis were struck multiple times amid unpredictable bounce.

Cricket Australia (CA) released a statement, ensuring there will be a wicket of "international standard" ready for the Boxing Day blockbuster as organisers and curators were left scrambling.

The teams returned on Sunday but after a morning inspection it was agreed for the match to be abandoned, despite extensive work from the ground staff.

While a different strip will be used for the Australia-New Zealand Test, it has sparked cause for concern ahead of the trans-Tasman fixture.

"We won't be losing the Boxing Day Test," Victorian sports minister Martin Pakula said. "I understand there is disappointment about the Shield match being abandoned but I've spoken to Stuart Fox [Melbourne Cricket Club chief executive] yesterday and today.

"The wicket being used for the Boxing Day Test is a different wicket to the one used yesterday and I've got no doubt that by the time we get to Boxing Day in a couple of weeks from now the wicket will be in perfect order for a Test match."

"I applaud the MCC for trying to prepare a wicket with more life in it," Pakula added. "It has been criticised in recent years for being too favourable to batsmen. The club is trying to find more balance between batting and bowling and they will keep working on that not just this year but in years ahead."

Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) chief executive Alistair Nicholson added: "The right decision has been made. When player safety comes into it there's no debate from our point of view."

The opening Test between Australia and New Zealand starts in Perth on December 12.

Cricket Australia will ensure there is a wicket of "international standard" ready for the Boxing Day Test between Australia and New Zealand after Saturday's play at a Sheffield Shield match was abandoned due to unpredictable bounce.

Shaun Marsh and Marcus Stoinis were each struck multiple times by bouncers on day one of the clash between Victoria and Western Australia, forcing the umpires to step in and call a halt to proceedings because of the danger posed by the pitch.

Play is due to resume on Sunday - WA were 89/3 at the time of the suspension - at 10:00 local time (23:00 Saturday GMT), with Cricket Australia focused on ensuring there are no such problems for the second Test with New Zealand.

"We're very disappointed at today's play being abandoned in the Marsh Sheffield Shield match between Victoria and Western Australia," Cricket Australia's head of cricket operations Peter Roach said.

"But we also acknowledge that there have been two previous Shield matches at the MCG this season without incident.

"The MCG groundstaff have more than two weeks to ensure the Test surface, which is a different pitch strip to the one being used in this match, is of international standard.

"We will seek to better understand the issues that resulted in variable bounce at the MCG on Saturday. We will also work closely with MCG groundstaff in the lead up to the Test match.

"The safety of our players is always our highest priority. The decision to suspend play and roll the wicket in an effort to address the variable bounce was the correct one and I applaud umpires [Phillip] Gillespie and [Geoff] Joshua for the decisive action taken."

The Boxing Day match of 2017 was marred by pitch issues of a different nature, with a drop-in surface providing next to no help for the bowlers as Australia and England meandered to a draw in the fourth Ashes Test.

Australia's Trans-Tasman Trophy series with New Zealand starts in Perth next Thursday.

Preparations for the Boxing Day Test between Australia and New Zealand have been thrown into chaos after a dangerous MCG wicket forced a Sheffield Shield match to be suspended.

Australia and trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand are scheduled to meet in Melbourne for the second match of a three-Test series, starting December 26.

But Saturday's Sheffield Shield clash between Victoria and Western Australia was called off, leaving organisers and MCG curators scrambling in a worrying sign.

Western Australia batsmen Shaun Marsh and Marcus Stoinis were struck multiple times on day one of the Shield match, prompting umpires to take action due to unpredictable bounce.

Play is scheduled to resume at 10:00 local time on Sunday.

The opening Test between Australia and New Zealand starts in Perth on December 12.

Trent Boult and Colin de Grandhomme will travel to Australia with the New Zealand squad after making "good progress" following their injuries.

Boult and De Grandhomme missed the drawn second Test against England due to rib and abdominal injuries respectively.

However, the pair will fly to Perth – where the first Test against Australia begins on Thursday – with the rest of the Black Caps squad, it was confirmed.

"Trent Boult and Colin de Grandhomme are both making good progress with their injuries and successfully trained today at Bay Oval," the Black Caps wrote on Twitter on Friday.

"The pair will travel with the team to Perth tomorrow."

New Zealand recorded a 1-0 series win over England and face Australia in three Tests, beginning with the clash in Perth.

Melbourne will host the Boxing Day Test before the teams meet in Sydney beginning January 3.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) confirmed the appointment of James Johnson as its new chief executive officer on Friday.

Johnson, most recently the senior vice-president of external affairs with the City Football Group (CFG), is replacing David Gallop as chief and will begin in the role in January.

He has previously held positions with FIFA – as head of professional football and senior manager member associations – and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) as director of international relations and development.

"Having run a domestic and international executive search, and in a strong field of candidates, we have no doubt James is the right person for the role. We are thrilled that he is coming back to Australia at this important time for the game," FFA chairman Chris Nikou said in a statement.

"Football is in James' soul. He has demonstrated that he is a collaborative leader and team player and brings global and local experience and networks to the FFA. Importantly he also understands the importance of developmental pathways and the grassroots of the code having on the ground experience representing Australia as a member of the 1999 U-17 'Joeys' national team and having risen through the ranks of football in Queensland in the 1990s.

"He is one of the few leaders in the sport who has spent his playing and executive career within the various stakeholder groups associated with football and in this time of change we think that matters.

"James has inarguably made a meaningful contribution to the code globally. A lawyer by training, throughout his executive career, James has been at the centre of many major industry negotiations, managing multi-stakeholder situations and projects including currently representing Manchester City Football Club [MCFC] within the Union of European Football Associations [UEFA] and European Clubs Association [ECA] bodies in the ongoing reforms to the competition format, match calendar, financial distribution model and qualification pathway to the UEFA Champions League.

"In 2016, James received international recognition when Leaders™ listed him as one of its 'Leaders under 40' across all sports. He is also considered as having played a meaningful role in supporting the global leagues to form the World Leagues Forum."

Raelene Castle insisted Rugby Australia (RA) did not back down in the Israel Folau case, saying settling was the best financial decision for the governing body.

Folau and RA reached a confidential agreement on Wednesday and issued corresponding apologies after an end to their legal dispute.

The 30-year-old was sacked by RA for what the body said was a "high-level breach" of its code after he posted hell awaits "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" on Instagram. He had been warned over previous online posts in 2018.

After reports Folau would be paid eight million Australian dollars in damages – something Castle dismissed as "wildly inaccurate" – the RA chief executive defended the decision to settle.

"We didn't back down. We needed to give the game cost certainty," she told a news conference on Thursday.

"The feedback we were getting from our rugby community was that they wanted this matter settled, they want to go into the new year knowing that they can go in with a clean slate and start talking about rugby again instead of talking about this case."

Castle, who insisted she would not resign, said settling was the best decision financially for RA.

"These are ultimately commercial decisions. We had to make a decision that was right for rugby in this country," she said.

"We made the right decision in calling out Israel on his posts and on his inappropriate messaging. That remains the same, we stick to our values that inclusiveness is absolutely core to the key of rugby.

"Ultimately, taking this conversation further into a court situation was not helping the game so we made a decision that gave us cost certainty, that put us in the best financial situation entering the new year in a positive way."

Brian Lara would have loved Australia to have given David Warner a greater opportunity to break his record for the most runs scored in a Test innings.

Warner struck a sublime unbeaten 335 in the second-Test hammering of Pakistan at the Adelaide Oval last week, with only Matthew Hayden (380) above him in the list of highest scores by an Australian.

However, Warner did not get the chance to beat the legendary Lara's overall benchmark of 400 not out achieved against England in April 2004 after captain Tim Paine declared, not wanting to risk the potential for adverse weather scuppering the team's chances of victory.

Lara understands Paine's thought process behind the decision, but he was disappointed Warner was not afforded more time to have a go at his record.

"Well I was hoping that they would give him an opportunity to at least go for it," he told Omnisport.

"I know Australia, first and foremost, want to put themselves in the best possible position to win the game. 

"But looking at the end of it, in hindsight, you're winning with a day to spare. It would have been nice to see someone have a go at it. 

"It is always tricky, you never know what is going to happen when you start approaching a total such as that. I remember doing it the first time in 1994 [375 not out against England], how nervous you can get. 

"But so be it, they won the Test which is the most important thing. He batted well, put his team in a great position. 

"What I like about him is he's an attacking player, which is great. You want an attacking player to be on or around such a record."

Israel Folau believes he has been "vindicated" after reaching an undisclosed settlement with Rugby Australia (RA) over his sacking and called for new federal laws on religious freedom.

The two parties reached a confidential agreement on Wednesday and issued corresponding apologies after an end to their legal dispute.

Folau was sacked by RA for what the body said was a "high-level breach" of its code after he posted hell awaits "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" on Instagram. He had been warned over previous online posts in 2018.

A court-ordered mediation in Melbourne went on for two days, with Folau seeking 14million Australian dollars in lost wages and sponsorships.

Having agreed the settlement, which prevents the dispute from moving to a public trial, Folau posted a video on his official website alongside wife Maria.

"We are extremely pleased with the settlement reached today," he said. 

"With today's acknowledgment and apology from Rugby Australia we have been vindicated and can now move on with our lives to focus on our faith and our family. 

"Maria and I would like to thank God for his guidance and strength. Thank you to our supporters for our thoughts and prayers. 

"We started this journey on behalf of all people of faith to protect their rights of freedom of speech and religion. 

"We now look forward to the federal government enacting the legislation necessary to further protect these strengths and rights for all Australians."

Folau, who won 73 international caps, had claimed to have lost out on the chance to play at two World Cups and the opportunity to become Australia captain.

In a fresh controversy last month, Folau's comments linking bushfires that devasted Australia to gay marriage and abortion were slammed as "appallingly insensitive" by the nation's prime minister Scott Morrison.

Virat Kohli has returned to the top of the batting list in the ICC Test Player Rankings ahead of Steve Smith, whose Australia team-mate David Warner is back in the first five.

Smith struggled for form in Australia's dominant series win over Pakistan and, having scored only 36 runs in the second Test in Adelaide, saw his points drop from 931 to 923.

Conversely, India skipper Kohli scored 136 in the day-night Test against Bangladesh and returned to the summit on 928 points.

Warner rose an impressive 12 places to fifth after making a sensational 335 against Pakistan, while fellow Aussie Marnus Labuschagne makes the top 10 for the first time in his career.

England captain Joe Root is back in the top 10 having slipped out last week. He climbs to seventh after a sublime 226 versus New Zealand in the drawn second Test.

Steve Smith has denied suggestions he was trying to undermine Australia captain Tim Paine in the second Test against Pakistan.

Australia earned a resounding innings-and-48-run victory over Pakistan in Adelaide to seal a 2-0 series triumph.

However, Smith – who was replaced by Paine after being banned for his role in the Newlands ball-tampering scandal last year – was accused by ex-skipper Ian Chappell of making field adjustments without first talking to his captain.

Speaking on Macquarie Sports Radio when calling the Test, Chappell said: "I tell you what I don't like to see, Steve Smith is moving a few fieldsmen around.

"He did have a chat with Tim Paine, trying to talk Tim Paine into moving a fielder on the off-side, but I'm not sure Tim Paine moved him as far as Steve Smith wanted.

"Steve Smith started moving him, I hate to see that. England used to do it a bit, blokes other than the captain and I always felt it was white-anting the captain."

Smith, though, insists his intentions were good and his only aim was to try to help the team.

"Look I only try to help Tim as much as I can, you know," he told Channel Nine. 

"He's doing a terrific job. But I give him suggestions and things like that, I only want the team to do well, I'm certainly not undermining him."

Smith was uncharacteristically out of touch with the bat, scoring just 40 runs across the two Tests but, while disappointed on a personal level, was happy to see the team perform to such a high standard.

"I always hate not being out there doing it myself but it's great to see the boys out there play so well and get us two great victories," Smith added.

Cameron Bancroft has been dropped by Australia in what is otherwise a settled Test squad to face New Zealand.

Australia recorded innings wins in both Tests against Pakistan and opted to name a 13-man squad for their three meetings with the Black Caps.

Bancroft has struggled in the Sheffield Shield and his omission was the only change to the squad named to face Pakistan.

"As we said prior to the Pakistan series we are striving to maintain a core group of players. The performance of the team against Pakistan was very impressive across all areas, while there is always some room to improve," Australia national selector Trevor Hohns said in a statement on Tuesday.

"David Warner has been in exceptional form with the bat. The support he received from Joe Burns in Brisbane and Marnus Labuschagne in Adelaide was exactly what we had been asking for from the top order. They delivered, setting up both matches in what was an outstanding all-round performance.

"We are backing the current batting line-up to continue their form across the next three Tests. Whilst not a part of this squad, Cameron Bancroft remains one of the standby players. Similarly, depending on conditions, we reserve the right to add a player to the squad at any time during the series.

"Michael Neser and James Pattinson will continue as cover for Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood through the series. Michael will play for Queensland against New South Wales in the Marsh Sheffield Shield game at the SCG, as James did last week for Victoria."

The first Test between Australia and New Zealand will begin in Perth on December 12 before matches in Melbourne and Sydney.

Australia: Tim Paine (c), Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.

Azhar Ali insists the Test progress made by Babar Azam means Pakistan have a major positive to take out of their heavy series defeat to Australia.

Pakistan lost the second Test by an innings and 48 runs on day four in Adelaide after Nathan Lyon took 5-69 in their second innings of 239 all out.

The tourists were following on after Australia declared on 589-3 in a first-innings onslaught inspired by David Warner's 335 not out.

Pakistan also lost the first Test by an innings but Azhar was unwilling to completely write off the tour ahead of two matches against Sri Lanka later this month.

Already a star in limited-overs cricket, T20I captain Babar scored 104 in the opening Test in Brisbane and 97 in the first innings of this contest.

"He's been tremendous in white-ball cricket and in the recent past he's been gradually building up his Test stats as well," Test skipper Azhar said of Babar. 

"This series definitely will be the breakthrough he wanted. We were all hopeful that he would do it.

"He's a good enough player. We all know that. But sometimes if you score in tough conditions against tough bowling attacks, it gives you the extra boost and the belief that you can make even better strides in Test cricket.

"That's been a big positive now for us that Babar has stamped himself a Test player. He's been fantastic throughout the year, lovely to watch and hopefully he can continue this form in the Tests that are coming. Babar has been exceptional."

Azhar also highlighted the performances of wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan and Yasir Shah, who scored 113 in the first innings at number eight, but conceded the series was ultimately a disappointment.

He added: "Rizwan waited for his chance and then grabbed it with both hands. The way he batted at Gabba and the way he kept wickets in both games has been fantastic.

"We didn't want to give up at any stage and Yasir put up a lot of fight.

"But it has been a disappointing series. We didn't live up the expectations that were based around this young team. It's very hard here with a young bowling attack and we came with a lot of expectations but it didn't go well. 

"To win Test matches we need to take 20 wickets and we need to work out how to do that. And also to score big in the first innings – getting ahead of the game here is very important.

"It's always hard coming to Australia and we've been beaten by a better side. But very positive for the future, we will learn a lot.

"I'd like to congratulate Australia, especially David Warner for his triple hundred."

Israel Folau is still hopeful of striking an agreement with Rugby Australia (RA) after initial negotiations aimed at resolving his lawsuit came to an end.

Both parties are engaged in a court-ordered private mediation in Melbourne with a view to settling the dispute before a public trial in February.

Folau, who won 73 Australia caps, is claiming 14 million Australian Dollars for lost wages and sponsorships after his sacking in May. 

The 30-year-old says he has lost out on the chance to play at two World Cups and the opportunity to become Australia captain.

Folau, a devout Christian, had his contract terminated by RA for a "high-level breach" after he posted "hell awaits... drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" on Instagram.

The former Waratahs back had been previously warned over his online posts in 2018.

RA is defending the suit, with chief executive Raelene Castle attending the negotiations. 

"It's been a very long day," Folau's solicitor George Haros said after Monday's proceedings.

"Where we are at, is that we were unable to reach an amicable solution with Rugby Australia.

"However, where we stand is that mediation remains on foot. We are still hopeful of reaching an amicable agreement with Rugby Australia.

"We would like to thank the court mediators for the effort and look forward to reconvening in a few days to see if we can strike an agreement."

Discussions are expected to resume as early as Wednesday, with these negotiations coming after RA and Folau failed to reach a settlement in June and an unfair dismissal case began in court in August.

In a fresh controversy last month, Folau's comments linking the bushfires in Australia to gay marriage and abortion were slammed as "appallingly insensitive" by the nation's prime minister Scott Morrison.

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