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.

Many of the big-name West Indies T20 players, including Andre Russell and Dwayne Bravo, have been axed from their teams in the Pakistan Super League ahead of its February 2020 start during Saturday’s draft in Lahore.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) has confirmed they are close to appointing Graeme Smith as their new director of cricket.

The former Proteas captain – who scored over 9,000 runs in 117 Test appearances for his country – had previously released a statement on social media to dismiss speculation he would be taking the role, citing "real concerns", though discussions with the governing body were still ongoing.

At a press conference on Saturday, president Chris Nenzani announced CSA expects to finalise terms with Smith in the coming days.

The organisation has also moved quickly to fill the void created by the suspension of chief executive Thabang Moroe on Friday, with Jacques Faul taking over immediately on an interim basis.

Smith is set to be officially presented next Wednesday, less than three weeks before South Africa begin their four-Test series against England on home soil.

"I'm happy to announce that we have engaged Graeme Smith. I am confirming that he has agreed that by next week Wednesday all of the negotiations around the contract terms that need to take place would have been concluded," Nenzani told the media.

"We still have these three days left for engagement on the specific issues around the contract. He and CSA have both agreed that it is important that we conclude this by Tuesday so that on Wednesday we are able to announce to the public a certainty of how we go forward.

"If you have you have your director of cricket in place, then your selection processes are going to kick in, then your team preparation is going to kick in."

Faul steps in following the "precautionary" suspension of Moroe – who remains on full pay – due to allegations of misconduct.

Nenzani revealed they had held discussions with ex-Proteas international Dave Richardson, who previously held the position of chief executive officer for the International Cricket Council (ICC), over a temporary appointment.

While unable to assist on a full-time basis, Richardson will be available to provide support for Faul, who is CEO of the Titans franchise in domestic cricket.

"When I spoke to him [Faul], he did not even think for a moment, he said, 'I will come in and lend my support and put my shoulder on the wheel for the benefit of cricket in this country'," Nenzani said.

On talks with Richardson, he added: "His role will be to offer support and also to be available when required by the acting CEO.

"That to us ticks the box when we are having stability at that level of management. Up to this moment, we did not have a CEO and, in leadership, you should not allow a vacuum to occur."

James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow and Mark Wood have all been recalled by England for the Test series with South Africa.

Seamer Anderson, his country's leading Test wicket taker, has not appeared on the international stage since tearing his calf in the first Ashes match at Edgbaston in August.

He and Wood have been taking part in a fast bowling camp in Cape Town, the latter reduced to the role of spectator for the Ashes and the recent tour of New Zealand due to a left knee injury and side strain sustained in the World Cup final in July.

Wood is not expected to be available for the "earliest matches" of the tour, with Bairstow – who also travelled to Cape Town to work on his batting – restored to the 17-man squad after being omitted from the squad for the Black Caps series.

Bairstow endured a disappointing Ashes, scoring 50 just once in the five-match series. Moeen Ali, who had been tipped for a possible return to the squad having been dropped after the Edgbaston loss to Australia, is still unavailable for the selection. The all-rounder elected to take a break from the longest format in September.

Saqib Mahmood is the only player to lose his place. The Lancashire seamer did not feature in either Test in New Zealand.

Moeen's continued absence means Jack Leach and Matt Parkinson will provide the spin options for the four-Test series.

National selector Ed Smith said: "It is not predicted that Mark will be available for selection for the earliest matches. However, he will travel with the team and continue his rehab work with the medical staff on tour.

"There is no exact date given for his return, but the medical team is working towards him becoming fully available for selection during the tour.

"With that in mind, and given the extended period that James and Mark have had on the sidelines due to injury, it was sensible to have a 17-man squad."

England play a pair of warm-up matches before the first Test, which begins on December 26 at Centurion.

There were nine ducks in Maldives Women's innings as they were comprehensively beaten by Nepal Women in the bronze-medal Twenty20 match at the South Asian Games.

Aima Aishath was the only batter to score, with seven of the eight runs coming via extras, as Maldives went from six without loss to eight all out.

There was another impressive bowling display from Anjali Chand, who finished with 4-1 from her four overs, having taken a T20 world-record 6-0 in the previous meeting between the two countries earlier in the competition.

Nepal's openers Kajal Shrestha and Roma Thapa accrued the nine runs required in 1.1 overs to secure victory with 113 balls remaining.

Pakistan have recalled Fawad Alam to their Test squad for the two-match home series with Sri Lanka, over 10 years on from his last red-ball appearance for his country.

The series will mark the first home Tests for Pakistan since several Sri Lanka players and members of their coaching staff were injured in an attack on their team bus in March 2009.

Security concerns meant the matches were originally scheduled to be hosted at a neutral venue, but the success of limited-overs games in the country against the same opposition in September and October saw them switched to Pakistan.

Fawad has played only three Tests in his career, scoring a century on debut versus Sri Lanka in Colombo in July 2009. His last appearance came against New Zealand in Dunedin that November.

The 34-year-old middle-order batsman replaces Iftikhar Ahmed in the 16-man squad. Iftikhar scored just 44 runs across the two-match series in Australia, which Pakistan lost 2-0.

Fast bowler Usman Shinwari, uncapped in the Test arena, replaces Muhammad Musa, who posted figures of 0-114 in his only appearance against Australia in Adelaide.

Sixteen-year-old quick Naseem Shah keeps his place in the squad, and will link up with his team-mates for the Under-19 World Cup, which starts in South Africa next month, at the conclusion of the series.

Rawalpindi hosts the first match, which begins on Wednesday, with the National Stadium in Karachi the venue for a decider starting on December 19.


Pakistan squad: Azhar Ali (captain), Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah, Usman Shinwari.

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.

West Indies limited-overs captain Kieron Pollard has placed the blame for a six-wicket defeat to India in the first T20 international of their tour of India squarely at the feet of the bowlers.

The West Indies, sent into bat in the first game of a three-match series, batted well to score 207-4 from their 20 overs, but found the big total not enough, as India romped to 209-4 in 18.4 overs.

For the West Indies, Evin Lewis scored 40 from 17 deliveries, Brandon King announced himself with 31 from 23 balls, and Shimron Hetmyer notched his first half-century in international T20s with 56 from 41. Pollard scored 37 from 19, Jason Holder had a worldwind 24 not out from nine balls, while Denesh Ramdin ended unbeaten on 11 from seven.

In reply, KL Rahul slammed 62 from 40 deliveries, while India captain Virat Kohli was imperious with 94 not out from 50 deliveries.

“Batters had a good effort. You'd take 208 ten out of 10 times,” said Pollard after the game.

“We lost due to the extras column,” said Pollard.

In a bowling innings where Kesrick Williams had none for 60 in 3.4 overs, and Holder struggled, going wicketless for 46 runs, it was still the extras column that was problematic for the skipper. While Sheldon Cottrell was good, taking 1-24 from his four overs, and Khary Pierre took two wickets for 44, the 23 extras, stemming from 11 illegal deliveries, the West Indies racked up was too much.

“Nearly two and a half overs of extra deliveries. Yes, it was a batting wicket, but if we executed our plans better, it could've been a different story,” said Pollard.

Despite the loss and the manner of defeat, Pollard believes the outing was good for the West Indies and showed they were not far away from being a very good T20 side.

“There are only two areas where we lost the game in. Usually we tend to focus on negatives, but a lot of positives to take away today. King and Hetmyer showed great intent. Fielders did well. In the end, we need to improve, and we will win if we learn to tick more boxes. Can't fault the effort of the guys."

The West Indies will look to get the formula right on Sunday when they again go up against India in a bid to even the series at The Greenfield Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram.

Cricket West Indies has confirmed that an Opinion Report by an Independent Assessor at Loughborough University has found the bowling action of Leeward Islands Hurricanes’ left-arm spinner Jason Campbell to be illegal and, as such, he has been suspended from bowling in domestic West Indies matches with immediate effect.

Captain Virat Kohli led from the front, hitting an unbeaten 94, as India overhauled West Indies' total of 207-5 with ease to record a six-wicket win in the Twenty20 series opener.

While not at his fluent best in the early stages, Kohli picked up the pace in the second half of India’s impressive run chase, rushing his side over the line with eight balls to spare in Hyderabad.

The right-hander was afforded time to get his eye in by the efforts of team-mate KL Rahul, who passed 1,000 runs in the format at international level during his knock of 62.

West Indies had cleared the boundary 15 times to set what appeared to be a stiff target at the halfway stage, Shimron Hetmyer leading the onslaught with 56. His maiden international T20 half-century was not without the odd slice of luck, however, as India missed a number of opportunities in the field.

The home team failed to take three successive chances at the start of the 17th over, allowing West Indies to post the second highest total by a touring team in a T20 fixture on Indian soil.

Evin Lewis (40) and Brandon King (31) added 51 for the second wicket, while captain Kieron Pollard weighed in with 37 from 19 deliveries, matching Hetmyer’s tally of four sixes.

Jason Holder managed two maximums himself in the final over as he contributed 24 not out, though he was on the receiving end of some heavy hitting during an India reply that overcame the early setback of losing Rohit Sharma for eight.

Rahul - back at the top of the order in place of the injured Shikhar Dhawan - helped put on a century stand with his skipper before becoming the second batsman to fall to left-arm spinner Khary Pierre (2-44).

Still, by that stage Kohli had moved through the gears as he motored towards the target. Kesrick Williams came in for some particularly heavy punishment, leaking 60 runs from his 3.4 overs, as India prevailed in the first of three T20 matches between the sides.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) has suspended chief executive Thabang Moroe following allegations of misconduct.

The governing body confirmed the "precautionary" move to suspend Moroe - who will continue to receive full pay - on Friday, having received reports related to "possible failure of controls in the organisation".

A statement released also announced a forensic audit will be launched, covering both "critical aspects of the business and conduct of management".

The decision comes after CSA came in for heavy criticism for revoking the accreditation of five journalists for the Mzansi Super League due to their coverage of the organisation, though Moroe later issued an apology.

However, in a further blow, lead sponsors Standard Bank confirmed they will not be extending their long-standing deal when it runs out in 2020.

"The board of directors of Cricket South Africa (CSA) has taken a decision to put the chief executive officer, Mr Thabang Moroe, on precautionary suspension with pay, effective December 6, 2019, on allegations of misconduct, pending further investigations," the statement read.

"The decision to place Mr Thabang Moroe on precautionary suspension follows from the reports received by the social and ethics committee and the audit and risk committee of the board related to possible failure of controls in the organisation.

"During the course of Mr Thabang Moroe's precautionary suspension, a forensic audit of critical aspects of the business and the conduct of management related to such aspects shall be conducted by an independent forensic team.

"In this regard, we urge all our stakeholders - including sponsors, members of staff, players, volunteers and cricket fans - to allow this process to unfold and we will provide updates on this matter."

CSA's statement also confirmed they will look at "various options" to appoint a temporary replacement for Moroe, including having discussions with ex-Proteas international Dave Richardson, who previously held the position of chief executive officer for the International Cricket Council.

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.

For the first time in 11 years, regional four-day cricket matches will be played at the Trelawny Stadium in Jamaica.

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