Australia pace star in battle for Ashes

Doubtful: Australia's James Pattinson.

James Pattinson is the least likely of Australia’s four pace bowlers to be fit for the first Ashes Test against England in Brisbane next month.

Australia’s fast-bowling coach David Saker has reported a setback for Pattinson as he continues to suffer with back problems, but adds that Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood are all on track for the Gabba.

Saker is standing in for Darren Lehmann as Australia coach on their limited-overs tour of India.

“Three of them we know are on track, but James Pattinson’s had a little bit of a setback,” said Saker, who was England’s fast-bowling coach on their last two Ashes tours. “We’re not sure how bad it is at the moment.”

Nathan Coulter-Nile is Australia’s other pace option should they need four quick bowlers at any point in the Ashes, as Starc (foot), Hazlewood (side) and Cummins – rested from the Twenty20 leg of the India tour – seek to prove their fitness in Sheffield Shield fixtures.

Richie Berrington hit a century as Scotland fought back in their ICC Intercontinental Cup tie against Papua New Guinea at Amini Park.

Berrington, unbeaten overnight, was eventually dismissed for a career-best 129 as the Scots reached 482-9 at the close of play, leaving the game bound for a draw on the final day.

Two late wickets on day two had put PNG in a position of strength, but Berrington received support from Michael Leask (58) in a 91-run stand for the sixth wicket to steady the ship.

Safyaan Sherif made 25, but it was Berrington who held the innings together with a patient second first-class century before he was eventually stumped late in the day having edged his side past the hosts’ 404.

Mark Watt finished unbeaten on 61 and helped open up a 78-run lead on a frustrating day for Jason Gillespie’s side.

Derbyshire have extended the contract of Daryn Smit by a further year that will keep the wicketkeeper-batsman at the club until the end of 2019.

England Women (128.47 points) have received a boost heading into this month’s Ashes by replacing Australia (128.43) at the top of the ICC rankings. It is the first time England have gone top since the joint rankings were introduced in October, 2015.

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