Oz cricket dis­pute is over at last

There won’t be any changes to the start­ing 11 un­less he’s 100 per­cent fit for the fourth and fi­nal Test match

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS

MEL­BOURNE: Cricket Aus­tralia and the Aus­tralian Crick­eters’ As­so­ci­a­tion announced they had agreed a new pay deal “in prin­ci­ple” yes­ter­day, fi­nally end­ing an ac­ri­mo­nious dis­pute that threat­ened a tour of Bangladesh and this year’s Ashes se­ries.

The pre­vi­ous five-year col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment ex­pired on June 30, which had left about 230 play­ers ef­fec­tively un­em­ployed and forced the can­cel­la­tion of Aus­tralia’s A tour of South Africa.

The im­me­di­ate reper­cus­sions of the deal are that two Tests in Bangladesh will now go ahead in Au­gust and Septem­ber with the Aus­tralia squad sched­uled to gather in Dar­win next week for a pre-tour camp.

“In an­nounc­ing this agree­ment we are restor­ing cer­tainty, be­gin­ning to re­pair re­la­tion­ships, es­pe­cially with the fans,” Cricket Aus­tralia chief James Suther­land said.

“We want the fo­cus to be back on the cricket ... I’m very con­fi­dent by the time the first ball is bowled this sum­mer all of this will be well and truly be­hind us.”

Both the board and the play­ers’ union were bruised in the tor­tu­ous 10-month ne­go­ti­a­tion, but ul­ti­mately the deal rep­re­sents an em­phatic win for the play­ers and a huge back-down by the board.

Cricket Aus­tralia had tried to jet­ti­son a 20-year-old model un­der which play­ers re­ceive a fixed per­cent­age of rev­enue, say­ing it was un­fit for mod­ern times and starv­ing the grass­roots of fund­ing.

The play­ers, though, were adamant the ar­range­ment should be re­tained and it sur­vived in the “heads of agree­ment”, the deal put in place while the broader Me­moran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing (MOU) is ham­mered out over the next four to six weeks. A tired­look­ing Suther­land de­clined to say whether the deal was a win for the play­ers, but in­sisted it was a win “for the game” that would al­low greater in­vest­ment in the grass-roots.

“It’s a very dif­fer­ent rev­enue-share model to what was pre­vi­ously the case. It’s been mod­ernised to al­low the game more flex­i­bil­ity,” he said.

“Nei­ther side has got every­thing we wanted out of th­ese ne­go­ti­a­tions, but they shouldn’t be ap­proached with a win­ner takes all mind­set. In that spirit, I think we’ve reached a good com­pro­mise.”

Ni­chol­son said play­ers would share up to 30 per­cent of agreed rev­enue con­sist­ing of 27.5 per­cent of fore­cast rev­enue streams and a 2.5 per­cent per­for­mance pool.

Suther­land said both par­ties re­gret­ted that the dis­pute had be­come a turn-off for fans and Ni­chol­son left lit­tle doubt there was still some bad blood be­tween the play­ers and the board. – Reuters

WHEN it comes to play­ing the per­cent­ages, South Africa’s skip­per Faf du Plessis is quite spe­cific about Ver­non Phi­lan­der – it’s 100 per­cent or bust.

Phi­lan­der and per­cent­ages have dom­i­nated the sec­ond half of this Test se­ries with Eng­land. A 50 per­cent Phi­lan­der, said Du Plessis af­ter the de­feat at The Oval, is still bet­ter than most bowlers.

Phi­lan­der’s own as­sess­ment of his per­for­mance in the third Test was that he op­er­ated at be­tween 70 and 80 per­cent of his usual in­ten­sity. Du Plessis said yes­ter­day that Phi­lan­der would un­dergo a fit­ness test.

Fol­low­ing an an­kle in­jury at Lord’s – he also got hit on the sup­port­ers as well. Few would have guessed it would be so. When Jo­han Ack­er­mann took over as head coach at the lat­ter part of 2012, there were many a fur­rowed brow and shrug­ging of shoul­ders.

Who was this untested, un­her­alded un­known re­plac­ing the coach­ing le­viathan that was John Mitchell, fore­told back then as the cho­sen one who would lead the union to the re­splen­dent glory days of old?

To be sure, Ack­er­mann’s ex­ploits as a player were well recorded.

Those days saw him rep­re­sent the Bulls, Lions, Cats, Sharks and Northamp­ton Saints, while he made 13 ap­pear­ances for the Spring­boks. Early in his ca­reer, he was also shamed by be­ing banned for two years af­ter test­ing pos­i­tive for an­abolic steroids in the late 90s. KEY MAN: Ver­non Phi­lan­der faces a fit­ness test be­fore the fourth Test against Eng­land start­ing to­day as he has a back is­sue. hand – he picked up that vi­ral in­fec­tion at The Oval and now, ahead of the fourth Test, he’s got a “tight back”.

A bit like the Manch­ester weather – when it comes to Phi­lan­der’s fit­ness, it never just rains ...

Where the per­cent­ages arise again for Du Plessis is the dif­fer­ence be­tween a 100 per­cent Phi­lan­der and a 90 per­cent Phi­lan­der.

“Ver­non at 100 per­cent fit means we can look at play­ing three seam­ers and play seven bat­ters. Ver­non at 90 per­cent doesn’t mean you can play three seam­ers be­cause you don’t want to be in a po­si­tion where you have a seamer break down and then you only have two, be­cause that is ba­si­cally the Test match over right there.”

South Africa took a mas­sive risk with the 50 per­cent ver­sion of Phi­lan­der at The Oval and it back­fired – with the se­ries on the line that’s a mis­take they don’t want to make here.

If Phi­lan­der comes through at 100 per­cent, then The­u­nis de Bruyn will re­turn to the start­ing side, most likely in place of Chris Mor­ris – if Phi­lan­der is only at 90 per­cent, ex­pect the same side that played the last two Tests to start to­day.

Du Plessis doesn’t feel that the team re­quires the same num­ber of changes as oc­curred fol­low­ing the de­feat at Lord’s. Be­tween the first Test and the match at Trent Bridge, South Africa made three changes in per­son­nel and moved Quin­ton de Kock from No 7 to No 4.

“The changes we made from the first Test were in ar­eas where I felt we were a lit­tle bit short. Ob­vi­ously we changed from seven bat­ters to four seam­ers which was new for us as a Test team. And then it worked re­ally well in the sec­ond game and in the pre­vi­ous game didn’t work as well as we would have liked. I un­der­stand that that change is in its in­fant stages, it’s re­ally re­ally new to the team, we’ve been play­ing seven bat­ters and three seam­ers for the last three years, which worked well.”

Phi­lan­der is cen­tral to the South African team now, not just be­cause of his supreme abil­ity with the new ball, but also his bat­ting.

In a start­ing team with a six-five bats­men bowler split, he fills the No 7 spot and his runs are al­most as im­por­tant as wick­ets. Of course if Mor­ris starts then Du Plessis has to make do with some in­con­sis­tency, al­though he’d like the gap be­tween Mor­ris’s good show­ings and his bad ones to shrink.

“We are a team that is still search­ing for the per­fect com­bi­na­tion. I’ll be very hon­est, we are not there yet, we are still look­ing for our strong­est 11.”

What­ever the bal­ance of the team how­ever, South Africa’s bats­men need to show a dras­tic im­prove­ment if this fi­nal Test is to be won.

“As a bat­ting unit we un­der­stand what we need to do. It’s just about making sure you get a start in bowl­ing-friendly con­di­tions, where it’s al­ways a bit harder. Once you get in it’s re­ally im­por­tant to take that score from 20 or 30 to 120.”

The weather is ex­pected to be a ma­jor player in this fi­nal Test too. For the first day the fore­cast is mostly good, but rain has been pre­dicted for var­i­ous stages of the match.

“With the weather like this, it speeds up play a bit be­cause there is a lot more hap­pen­ing. Even if there is a bit of rain around and it be­comes a four­day game, I think there will still be enough for both teams to get a re­sult.”

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