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Graham Ford has stepped down as Ireland head coach.

Ford, who was appointed to the role in 2017, will immediately relinquish his coaching duties before departing from Cricket Ireland next month.

The 61-year-old oversaw Ireland’s introduction to the Test arena and their recent run to the T20 World Cup.

However, Ireland failed to progress to the Super 12 stage of the competition following a surprise eight-wicket defeat to Namibia.

“The last four years have been very special for me,” said Ford, who took charge of 102 Ireland internationals.

“I have enjoyed many happy days with a cricket squad made up of very special people.

“When compared with the other ICC Full Member nations, Cricket Ireland has faced many handicaps and challenges.

“Despite this, on several occasions the team has competed impressively with some of the top teams in world cricket and it has been a privilege for me to experience first-hand the character and togetherness of the Irish players.

“However, over a period of time these challenges and handicaps have taken their toll on me. After much consideration and discussion with my family, I realise that this is the right time for me to step away from Cricket Ireland.

“I’d like to end by thanking all the players and the support staff for their impressive attitudes and loyal support during the four years and I look forward to watching them achieve big things in the future.”

Ireland, who head for a tour of America next month before a white-ball series against the West Indies in January, will announce their interim coaching plans in the coming weeks.

Captain Andrew Balbirnie said: “Graham has been one of the best coaches I have ever worked with, and I feel very fortunate that I got to spend four years working with him, not just for the playing development side of my game, but for his incredible support during my captaincy to date.

“We have had our challenges over the last number of years as a squad, but his consistent positivity has been infectious and his determination to improve the skills of everyone in the squad has brought some of our young cricketers on leaps and bounds.

“I think more important than anything is that Ford is a brilliant person and one that will be greatly missed in and around the squad, and on behalf of the group of players we wish him nothing but the best in the future.”

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Chelsea appear to be one step closer to signing Kai Havertz after agreeing a five-year contract worth around £346,000-a-week with the Bayer Leverkusen star, according to reports today.

Frank Lampard has already snapped-up winger Hakim Ziyech and striker Timo Werner this summer but the Chelsea boss is keen to further strengthen his squad as he looks to build a side capable of competing for major honours next season.

Havertz has been strongly linked with a move to Stamford Bridge all summer with widespread reports over the past few weeks suggesting that Chelsea have been locked in negotiations with Leverkusen trying to thrash out a deal.

It looks like Chelsea are now one step closer to signing Havertz as the Guardian claims that the 21-year-old attacking midfielder has agreed terms over a five-year contract with the Blues.

The report suggests that Havertz will earn around £346,000-a-week at Chelsea which works out at £90m over the course of the five-year contract.

All that remains if for a fee to be agreed between the two clubs but the Guardian says Chelsea will have to increase their offer after seeing an opening bid worth £58.6m plus £13.25m in add-ons rejected by Leverkusen who are demanding £90m.

Popular reports claim that Havertz has made it clear to Leverkusen that he wants to join Chelsea as soon as possible so he can get settled in England ahead of the new season amid reports the German side want things settled before August 28th.

We’ll have to wait and see how negotiations progress over the coming days but it looks increasingly likely that Havertz will become Chelsea’s third major signing of the summer transfer window.

The German international would be a hugely exciting addition to Lampard’s squad as he’s developed into one of the best young players in world football since breaking into the Leverkusen first team in 2016.

Havertz has already provided 45 goals and 31 assists in his 148 appearances for Leverkusen and is expected to go on to become one of the leading attackers in world football so it would be a major coup if Chelsea can get this proposed deal over the line.

Lampard already has talented young attacking midfielders such as Christian Pulisic, Ziyech, Mason Mount, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley in his ranks but Havertz would arguably be the most exciting of the lot.


Indian premier League to resume in UAE

The Indian Premier League (IPL) will be played in the UAE from 19 September, tournament organisers have confirmed.

The 53 matches, including the final on 10 November, will be played across Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.

There will also be a Women’s T20 Challenge, involving three teams, played during the IPL play-off week.

However, some top women’s players, including Australia wicket keeper Alyssa Healy, have criticised the timing of the women’s competition.

The dates clash with the scheduled Women’s Big Bash League, which starts in Australia on 16 October.

The UAE has previously hosted IPL games in 2014 when roughly half the season was moved to the country due to the Indian elections.

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Mens T20 Tournament postponed

The men’s T20 World Cup, scheduled to be held in Australia later this year, has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The tournament was due to take place between 18 October and 15 November.

An edition will be held in October and November 2021 and another in 2022.

“The decision gives us the best possible opportunity of delivering two safe and successful T20 World Cups,” said International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Manu Sawhney.

“Our members now have the clarity they need around event windows to enable them to reschedule lost bilateral and domestic cricket.”

It has not been announced whether the 2021 tournament will be held in India as planned, and the 2022 competition in Australia, or the Australia edition will be moved to 2021 and India to 2022.

The ICC also announced that the 2023 50-over men’s World Cup in India will move from February and March to October and November.

It says it will “continue to evaluate” the situation before deciding on the 2021 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand in February, with planning continuing as scheduled.

The men’s 2021 T20 tournament will finish on 14 November, and England are set to start their Ashes tour of Australia later that month.

Melbourne, which was scheduled to host seven games including the final, went back into a six-week lockdown on 9 July after a spike in coronavirus infections.

All travellers entering Australia currently need to undertake a mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

Test cricket returned in England on 8 July with all the players and people involved in the game in a bio-secure bubble but the ICC deemed that unworkable with 12 different nations involved.

England are playing a three-Test series against West Indies – who arrived in England four weeks prior to the first Test in Southampton to meet isolation restrictions – before playing series against Ireland and Pakistan in late July and August.

They are also hoping to play a limited-overs series in September against Australia, who named a preliminary 26-player squad last week in a “positive albeit not definitive step”.

The postponement means the Indian Premier League, which was due to start on 29 March, may take place in the vacant window later this year, while England’s tour of Sri Lanka that was called off in March may also be rearranged.

The next Women’s T20 World Cup is scheduled to be held in South Africa in 2022.

Australia won the 2020 edition in one of the last major sporting events before lockdown.