Neil Wagner said New Zealand can only cross their fingers and hope debutant Lockie Ferguson has not bowled his last ball in the first Test against Australia.

The Black Caps paceman pulled up with a calf injury on day one at Perth Stadium after bowling just 11 overs.

Ferguson went for an MRI scan to discover the extent of the damage, leaving the tourists a bowler down as Marnus Labuschagne (110 not out) made a third consecutive Test century.

Wagner, who took 2-52 as Australia closed on 248-4 in the day-night contest, felt for Ferguson as New Zealand wait to discover how serious his injury is.

The seamer said: "It's gutting, isn't it. It's pretty heartbreaking and I know he'll be devastated.

"We'll all get right behind him and hopefully it's not too bad. We haven't heard anything back yet so hopefully it's good, or better news than what everyone is expecting."

Wagner added: "Hopefully we'll find out [the results] pretty soon. Fingers crossed it's not too bad, he's a quality player and we would have loved to have seen him bowl more."

New Zealand, already without left-arm seamer Trent Boult due to a side strain, will assess Ferguson's fitness prior to Friday's play in the series opener.

 

Marnus Labuschagne continued his stunning form with a third straight Test century as Australia made a strong start against New Zealand in Perth.

After winning the toss, Australia ended Thursday on 248-4 in the day-night contest, which is the first of three Test matches between the teams.

When he was on 95, Labuschagne, who had gone past 1,000 runs in only his 12th Test earlier in the innings, smashed a six off Mitchell Santner over long on.

He calmly saw out the day from there, finishing on 110 not out from 202 deliveries with 14 boundaries and that one maximum, and will return on day two alongside Travis Head (20no).

Labuschagne's exploits came after he recorded scores of 185 and 162 against Pakistan last month.

Neil Wagner (2-52) provided the main resistance for New Zealand, who lost Test debutant Lockie Ferguson to a calf injury and will hope the problem is not serious after being a bowler light for the final 22 overs.

Opener Joe Burns rued his decision not to appeal after being given out lbw to Colin de Grandhomme for just nine in the 13th over, replays showing the delivery would have missed leg stump.

David Warner could not replicate his epic partnership with Labuschagne from the Pakistan series as he fell for 43, sending a low full toss back to bowler Wagner, who dived forward to take a key scalp.

It meant Warner remains tantalisingly short of Don Bradman's Test haul of 6,966 runs, now six adrift.

But Labuschagne did find a partner in Steve Smith, the pair putting on 132 for the third wicket.

That crucial partnership should have been thwarted only for Smith to be dropped by Tom Latham at second slip off the bowling of Ferguson while on 19, Ross Taylor unable to gather the rebound.

Smith eventually fell for 43, though he had occupied the crease for 164 balls by the time Wagner had him caught by Southee.

New Zealand took the new ball as soon as it became available and Southee claimed his first wicket when he bowled Matthew Wade for 12, a superb in-swinging delivery doing the job.

Head survived an lbw appeal and a dangerous moment where he inside-edged past his own leg stump, but he gained in confidence from there and ended the day with four boundaries.

Labuschagne was the constant presence at the other end and he will have his sights set on a huge score as Australia's patience approach gave them the edge after an intriguing first day.

Dhananjaya de Silva was moving towards making a century for the second Test running when bad light halted play on a heavily disrupted second day as Pakistan hosted Sri Lanka.

An early rain delay and bad light before the close meant only 18.2 overs of play was possible in Rawalpindi on Thursday.

Sri Lanka used the available time to increase their first-innings total from 202-5 to 263-6, with Dhananjaya still unbeaten on 72 runs from 131 balls.

He reached his fifty in 94 deliveries and had recorded 11 boundaries when umpires declared no further play was possible.

Dhananjaya also scored a century in his last Test outing against New Zealand in August.

The only wicket of the day came when Niroshan Dickwella fell for 33 off the bowling of Shaheen Afridi.

Shaheen's involvement was a boost for Pakistan after he left the field with injury on day one, and he removed Dickwella after a good low catch by Babar Azam at gully.

Number eight Dilruwan Perera has two runs and will resume alongside Dhananjaya on day three.

This is Pakistan's first Test in their home country since the 2009 terror attack on Sri Lanka's team bus in Lahore.

A return to the England Test team for the upcoming tour of South Africa would have felt too soon, all-rounder Moeen Ali has conceded.

Moeen opted to take a break from the longest format after a chastening experience in the first Ashes Test with Australia at Edgbaston.

He scored only four runs with the bat, suffering the ignominy of twice being undone by fellow off-spinner Nathan Lyon, while taking disappointing match figures of 3-172 with the ball.

England went on to draw the five-match series, failing to regain the urn in the process, before losing a two-match series in New Zealand 1-0.

That led to talk of Moeen returning for four Tests in South Africa, but Jack Leach and Matt Parkinson were selected as the slow-bowling options in the 17-man squad.

"It just felt too soon. The past few years have been so full-on and the plan behind my break from Test cricket was to freshen up, enjoy some new environments and get my game back in good order," Moeen wrote in his column for the Guardian.

"That is something that people perhaps don't realise is hard to do when you play all three international formats and particularly so when you are an all-rounder.

"The time away has felt quite liberating. Since my international debut in 2014, the miles on the clock have probably crept up and Test cricket is the level where the pressure and scrutiny are greatest.

"Combining it all had become a bit draining and rushing back now might have seen nothing change in this regard.

"Playing 60 Tests has meant so much to me, especially picking up 181 wickets and five five-wicket hauls, which for a guy who grew up thinking as a batter first is something I never thought possible.

"My batting is where I really want to find form again, though. Five Test centuries suggests I have it in me."

Moeen, who is set to play in the Pakistan Super League for Multan Sultans, did not rule out the possibility of featuring in the tour of Sri Lanka in March next year.

He claimed 18 wickets – the same tally as left-armer Leach - in a 3-0 whitewash in England's last Test series in the country, back in November 2018.

"The back end of the PSL coincides with the Sri Lanka Test tour in March and at this stage it is a tournament I intend to see out," he added. 

"But the franchise's head coach, Andy Flower, is someone I know I can talk to, if and when the England conversation arises again. So let's see what happens."

Graeme Smith has been appointed as South Africa's interim director of cricket.

The former Proteas captain has agreed to take on the role for three months, after which he is due to commentate on the Indian Premier League.

Smith earlier this month denied having taken the job, citing "real concerns" over issues he had raised with Cricket South Africa (CSA), but confirmed he was in discussions with the governing body.

CSA on Wednesday confirmed former opening batman Smith has been instated on a temporary basis.

Smith's appointment comes soon after Jacques Faul took over as CSA acting chief executive following Thabang Moroe's suspension.

Asghar Afghan has been reappointed as Afghanistan captain in all formats, eight months after he was sacked.

Afghan was surprisingly axed in April, less two months before the Cricket World Cup in England and Wales. 

The decision to relieve Afghan of his duties was criticised by some of his team-mates, but the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) said they made the decision with an eye on the future.

Gulbadin Naib initially replaced the batsman as ODI skipper, with Rahmat Shah taking over the Test side and Rashid Khan named Twenty20 captain.

Rashid was handed the captaincy in all formats in July, but Afghan was reinstated on Wednesday – a little over two weeks before his 32nd birthday.

Spinner Rashid will be Afghan's deputy after his short reign was brought to an end.

Afghan led his country for four years in his first spell at the helm.

 

Teenager Naseem Shah struck twice as Pakistan fought back well on a bad-light curtailed first day of Test cricket on home soil for a decade after Sri Lanka made a promising start in Rawalpindi.

Sri Lanka were 202-5 when stumps were drawn with 22.5 overs still due to be bowled, 16-year-old pace prodigy Shah taking 2-51.

The tourists lost their way after an opening stand of 96 between Dimuth Karunaratne (59) and Oshada Fernando (40) in the first match in the longest format to be played in Pakistan since a terror attack on their team bus in 2009.

Sri Lanka lost four wickets for 31 runs in the afternoon session, but Dhananjaya de Silva will start day two unbeaten on 38 with rain forecast over the next few days.

Pakistan have an injury concern over Shaheen Afridi after he was injured fielding as they attempt to make up for lost time in a long-awaited home Test series - and their former coach Mickey Arthur's first in charge of Sri Lanka.

Karunaratne's decision to bat first looked wise when he and Oshada set about laying solid foundations, although the captain had a big stroke of luck when debutant Usman Shinwari struck his off stump early on but the bails stayed on. 

Oshada took 20 balls to get off the mark, with Karunaratne playing more fluently in a wicketless opening session that yielded 89 runs, with 57 coming off the skipper's bat.

Pakistan were more disciplined after lunch and got their rewards, Afridi trapping Karunaratne lbw and Oshada edging Afridi to Haris Sohail at first slip. 

Kusal Mendis became paceman Shinwari's first Test victim and recalled former captain Dinesh Chandimal was cleaned up by a peach of a delivery from Mohammad Abbas for only two, with Pakistan on a roll.

Angelo Mathews and Dhananjaya showed resistance with a fifth-wicket stand of 62 before the former nicked Shah to Asad Shafiq at second slip attempting an extravagant drive.

Dhananjaya played responsibility and put away loose deliveries with Afridi off the field after doing damage attempting to stop a boundary and Niroshan Dickwella was 11 not out when play was called off for the day.

New Zealand are monitoring Trent Boult's fitness ahead of the first Test against an unchanged Australia side at Perth Stadium.

Boult has been troubled by a side strain and could miss the day-night contest, which starts on Thursday.

Batsman Ross Taylor (thumb) and all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme (abdominal muscle) are set to feature in the first of three Tests between the trans-Tasman rivals.

Black Caps captain Kane Williamson said of Boult's availability on the eve of the match: "We're going to have another look today before deciding anything for Thursday.

"I think you look at it as a long-term decision in terms of this whole series. He has tracked really nicely and felt really good on Tuesday."

Lockie Ferguson could make his debut in the longest format after the paceman missed out in a 1-0 win over England.

"It’s exciting we've got Lockie in our squad to consider him," said Williamson. "It's exciting to have a guy in our camp who can bowl at that speed."

Australia have gone with the same side that completed a whitewash of Pakistan.

"We've been playing some really good cricket, happy with the way it's going so we're trying to get a consistent team together and as I touched on after Adelaide, the great thing is we've got guys that are performing really well," Australia skipper Tim Paine said.

"That's what we wanted so we're going to go with the same team."

 

 

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."

Ben Stokes has revealed he should be fit to bowl during England's tour of South Africa after scans confirmed he had not sustained a knee injury.

Stokes complained of a knee problem during the first day of England's second and final Test against New Zealand in Hamilton,.

However, he did bowl 25 overs during the Test, which was drawn as England lost the series 1-0.

The all-rounder - a star of England's Cricket World Cup and Ashes campaigns - has now confirmed he will be fit to bowl against the Proteas, with England's four-Test tour to begin on Boxing Day.

"It's alright," Stokes told talkSPORT. "I got some scans when we got back [to] England and there's nothing really showing up on the MRI scans, which is good news.

"I just need to toughen up I guess but it's alright and it's just treatment now. I will be fine to bowl [in South Africa]."

After a difficult Ashes series and a poor performance with the bat in the first Test in New Zealand, Joe Root returned to form in style in Hamilton, scoring 226 in the first innings, and Stokes claimed he backed the England captain to hit a double century ahead of the tour.

"Rooty is one of the best players in the world. He obviously went through a little bit of a dip in performance but that is natural, he’s human. The old saying is form is temporary and class is permanent," Stokes added.

"It's obviously great for English cricket to see Joe go out in his last innings before a big tour and hopefully we can see Rooty scoring runs like he normally does.

"Being Test captain is one of the toughest jobs and one of the most criticised and how people speak about you is dependent on how well the performances on the pitch individually and as a team.

"It's unfair most of the time that when things don’t go well the captain gets it all. I actually called Joe to get a double hundred on day one of our first warm-up game to Rory Burns. I think I was stood at slip and I said, 'Joe is going to get a double hundred this tour'."

Shan Masood is relishing playing on home turf as Pakistan prepare to host their first Test match in over a decade.

Pakistan welcome Sri Lanka to Rawalpindi on Thursday for the first of two Tests to round off 2019.

It is the first time a Test will be played in Pakistan since the Sri Lanka team bus was attacked in Lahore in early 2009, with six policemen and two civilians killed.

Pakistan head into the series on the back of a 2-0 defeat to Australia, but Masood believes a return home has buoyed the entire squad, with every player eager to perform at their best in what he says is a momentous moment for the country.

"If you look at the best players in Test cricket, their home records are superior to away records," batsman Masood said.

"You are more familiar with the atmosphere, the pitches, and enjoy crowd support, and that was one thing that was missing from Pakistan cricket.

"Bringing Test cricket here is our biggest accomplishment. Test cricket as a whole suffered around the world, and in Pakistan, we've dedicated more to white-ball cricket. This is an opportunity for children in Pakistan to have a proper look at Test cricket.

"They'll look at people like Azhar Ali, who scored a 300 and a double-century in Australia. They'll look at Asad Shafiq, who has scored hundreds all around the world.

"We've got exciting pacers like Naseem Shah and Shaheen Shah Afridi. We've got Mohammad Abbas, who has been ranked number one in the world, and Yasir Shah, who has been the number one spinner in the world. Babar Azam is climbing up the Test rankings as well.

"This is a chance for our young generation to finally watch their heroes and it was unfortunate that legends like Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan couldn't play in their home grounds in the peak of their careers.

"So I'm really excited, because I feel this will propel Pakistan as a generation and the future generations of this country to take up cricket. It's almost going to be like everyone is making their debuts, because we're all playing in Pakistan for the first time."

The omens are good for Pakistan, with Sri Lanka having won just one of their last five Test series against them, though they did win 2-0 in their last encounter in 2017.

 

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."

Faf du Plessis wants on-field matters to take centre stage for South Africa as they prepare to host England on the back of a tumultuous period.

Cricket South Africa's CEO Thabang Moroe was suspended as a "precautionary" move on Friday following allegations of misconduct.

Preparations for the Proteas' four-Test series against England have been hindered by a number of additional issues, including disputes with the South African Cricketers' Association, the loss of a major sponsor, and a ban on five journalists that was swiftly reversed.

Former captain Graeme Smith is set to be appointed as South Africa's new director of cricket next week and Du Plessis believes attention must turn to the playing XI.

"Obviously a lot has happened but now it's a new start," the skipper was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo.

"As a board we have noted the apology that has come from the CEO and as a board we endorse that apology." - CSA President, Chris Nenzani on the revocation of accreditation of five members of the media. #CSAMediaBriefing pic.twitter.com/BXSfTCjeJX

— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) December 7, 2019

"There's not much time before the English series so now it's about putting our focus back on to the team, making sure that the Test team gets all the things that are required for us to be successful.

"It's been a little bit on pause the last two or three weeks, which is already too late, so we need to make sure in the next week things will start unfolding to make sure the Test team gets the most attention. The last two weeks there hasn't been much attention on that so that is what we will try and drive over the next week.

"Now it's about moving forward. I am a firm believer that it's time for us to look ahead from all this c**p that's been happening behind the scenes. It's about making sure that the players are focused on the cricket side of things. It's about getting focus on what's really important now, which is a Test series against England.

"There's too much negative stuff that's happened over the last four or five weeks and our cricket is too strong to have so many issues all the time. We are too proud a cricketing nation to be talking about this stuff all the time. The attention needs to be on the cricket and making sure we will build ourselves as a team and ourselves as an organisation to be great again."

The first Test between South Africa and England begins on December 26 at Centurion.

Suranga Lakmal has withdrawn from Sri Lanka's squad to face Pakistan after contracting dengue fever.

The fast bowler will not travel with his team-mates on Sunday and has been replaced by Asitha Fernando.

Sri Lanka confirmed the news in a tweet as the squad was preparing to depart for two Tests in Rawalpindi and Karachi.

Lakmal's absence aside, the tourists boast a full-strength squad, in stark contrast to the one that headed to Pakistan in September and October, when 10 high-profile players withdrew amid security concerns. 

The opening Test begins on December 11 and will be the first in Pakistan in a decade.

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.

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