Australia news

Ponting banned by board

Australian batsman Ricky Ponting has been given a suspended £2,000 fine and banned for three matches as punishment for his part in a nightclub brawl.

The 24-year-old Tasmanian has already missed two of Australia's one-day internationals against England and Sri Lanka after being dropped because of the incident, when he was knocked out in a Sydney nightclub. Ponting has admitted a drinking problem and is seeking counselling.

Australian Cricket Board chief executive Mal Speed said the board suspended the fine on condition that Ponting underwent alcohol rehabilitation, but said the batsman had already forfeited £1,300 in match payments.

Ponting will be available for selection again following today's one-day match against England here.

Ponting said after hearing of his punishment: "I live for playing cricket for Australia. It's hurt me not doing so. I've got to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Test captain Mark Taylor has been named Australian of the Year. Taylor says he will be making a decision about his international career "one way or the other" within the next week.

England A continued their Zimbabwe tour from Harare to Kwekwe 130 miles south-west yesterday in the knowledge they had not been too far from losing three players - Jason Lewry, Graeme Swann and Vikram Solanki - physiotherapist Ann Brentnall and fitness consultant Nigel Stockill.

The five were buffeted by the previous night's violent electric storm while they were flying back from the Victoria Falls, their six-seater plane dropping to below 1,000ft at one stage.

England play their first four-day game today, with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union President's XI as their opposition. Despite Kwekwe's name - it means croak of the frog, a throwback to former, more rustic times - the pitch and outfield were surprisingly dry.

The President's XI include three established Test batsmen, Andy Flower, today's captain, his brother Grant and Murray Goodwin, but it would be surprising if England fail to dominate. Only Paul Hutchison, with a back injury, was ruled of the tour party's selection.

Officials and scorers were at loggerheads yesterday over whether or not Pakistan batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq scored a century in the first innings of their drawn three-day match against India A in Gwalior.

Pakistan captain Wasim Akram declared the first innings at 334 for 6 on Saturday and the scorers logged Inzamam's score at 98 not out. Pakistan officials later said Wasim had declared because the stadium scoreboards showed Inzamam's individual total at 100.

Pakistan manager Shahryar Khan said yesterday that the Indian officials had agreed to correct what he said was a communication gap, saying Inzamam had indeed completed his century. But the scorers are sticking to their version. "We have not changed anything. We have spoken to the umpires as well. If there is anything between Pakistan and the board, it is between them," said scorer Sunil Gupta.

Pakistan have called off a visit to India by their women's team after Hindu militants dug up one of the pitches. The Pakistan Women's Cricket Association cited security worries for scrapping the tour of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh two days before the start of a three-nation tournament.