November 28, 2021

Top WI players to skip Pakistan tour

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By Ehsan Qureshi

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Some of the top West Indian players will miss next month's tour of Pakistan to play a series of three T20 Internationals and as many One-day Internationals. 

All-rounder Kieron Pollard will lead the team and all the six white-ball matches will be played at the picturesque National Stadium in Karachi from December 13 to 22. 

Former captain Jason Holder alongwith explosive all-rounder Andre Russell and hard-hitting batters Lendl Simmons, Evin Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer will not be touring Pakistan due to different reasons. Another power-hitter Fabian Allen and fast bowler Ebed McCoy have been ruled out due to injuries. 

The new look West Indian squad contains a quite a few raw youngsters. The quartet of Justin Greaves, Shamarh Brooks, Gudakesh Motie and Odean Smith has earned their maiden call-ups for the ODIs while Dominic Drakes and Motie have been included for the T20Is. 

As far as the home team is concerned two of their veterans and former captains, Shoaib Malik and Muhammad Hafeez, have announced their unavailability for the West Indian series due to personal commitments. Both of them also skipped Pakistan’s tour to Bangladesh but their absence wasn't felt much as the Babar Azam-led green shirts swept the T20I series 3-0. 

The islanders from the Caribbean, who dominated the cricket world in the 1980s, haven’t performed consistently against Pakistan during the last couple of decades and they are not being expected to stretch the hosts, on a high in the T20s since the beginning of the recently held ICC World Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

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November 23, 2021

Sports journalist Khalid Khan passes away

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By Ehsan Qureshi

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

One of Pakistan's senior sports journalists, Khalid Hasan Khan, who was working at Dawn, the country’s premier English-language newspaper, breathed his last at Karachi’s Liaquat National Hospital on November 23. 

According to the family sources, he was hospitalized after suffering a brain hemorrhage a couple of weeks of ago. He was 58, having left behind a widow and four daughters to mourn his death. 

He was a member of the Karachi Press Club (KPC) as well as the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) for the last many years. 

He extensively covered domestic and international cricket at home. His last international assignment was in Rawalpindi where he had flown to cover the Pakistan-New Zealand ODI series which was cancelled at the eleventh hour due mysterious security concerns of the visitors. 

Khalid Khan was considered an authority on domestic first-class cricket which he covered comprehensively with dedication and commitment for many decades. 

He had started his career by contributing to the famous monthly cricket magazine ‘The Cricketer Pakistan’ in 1980s and later switched to daily journalism by joining ‘The News’ soon after its launch in early 1990s. After working there for about a decade, he joined Dawn for whom he continued working until the time of his death. 

A quiet person by temperament, he was popular among the media corps which used to assemble at the National Stadium Karachi Press Box to cover various matches. His death is a great loss to sports journalism in Pakistan and it will leave a kind of vacuum in the cricket reporting arena.

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November 14, 2021

Marsh, Warner power Australia to ICC T20 World Cup crown

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By Ehsan Qureshi in Dubai 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Australia, at last, clinched maiden ICC T20 World Cup crown when they thrashed New Zealand by eight wickets in what eventually turned out be a one-sided final at the Dubai Cricket Stadium on November 14. 

The mighty Aussies lived upto their reputation of coming good in crunch matches. They also maintained the tradition of chasing and winning at this ground. 

All-rounder Mitchell Marsh was instrumental in his team's triumph in the final as he toyed with the Blackcaps bowling attack with superb hitting. 

The Man of the Tournament award was presented to the prolific Australian opener, David Warner, for his crucial runs in trying circumstances. The explosive left-hander succeeded in turning it around after a lean patch in the IPL on the eve of the T20 World Cup. 

Marsh cracked an unbeaten 77 off 50 balls laced with half a dozen boundaries and four sixes in the final to drive Australia to a famous victory. Fellow all-rounder Glenn Maxwell finished unbeaten on 28 off 18 balls with the help of four fours and a six. They added 66 runs stand for third wicket without being separated as Australia chased down the target of 173 with seven balls to spare. 

Coming in at number three, Marsh trumped Kane Williamson's spectacular knock of 85 off 48 balls with ten fours and three sixes. Sent to bat first, the Blackcaps recovered from a sluggish start to post a competitive total of 172 for four in their 20 overs. 

They were struggling against the pace and swing of Josh Hazelwood and they could muster just 32 runs in six overs of power play. Williamson was well supported by opener Martin Guptill who scored 28 off 35 deliveries with three boundaries. 

Hazelwood snapped up three wickets for 16 runs in an amazing spell of bowling but the star left-arm spearhead Mitchell Starc conceded as many as 60 runs in his four overs. 
The Australian captain, Aaron Finch, received the trophy and cash purse of US$1.6 million while his counterpart, Williamson, collected a sum of US$0.8 million for being the runners-up. 

The Australian head coach, Justin Langer, who himself was a part and parcel of the all-conquering outfit of his country in the past, did not mince words in declaring that winning T20 World Cup was among great moments in their cricket history. 

"My boys enjoyed the game and have fun which was the key in winning the title,” Langer, who played 105 Tests and eight ODIs for Australia, remarked after Finch had brought home the trophy.

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November 13, 2021

New T20 world champs to emerge as Aussie clash with Blackcaps

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From Ehsan Qureshi in Dubai 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

A new champion is set to Emerge on the horizon as Australia clash with New Zealand in the final of the ICC T20 World Cup at Dubai Cricket Stadium on November 14. 

It’s for the first time when the two neighbor countries, bisected by Tasman Sea, are up against each other in the final of the World Cup in the shortest format of the game. 

Australia, having annexed the 50 overs World Cup a record four times, reached T20 World Cup final once where they lost to England in West Indies in 2010. 

Aaron Finch’s Australians team, which pulled off a stunning five-wicket win over favourites Pakistan in the semifinals, remains in the happier frame of mind entering the final. 

Middle-order Matthew Wade and Marcus Stoinis snatched the game from jaws of defeat after the middle-order had tumbled against Pakistan in their previous outing at the same ground.  

Hasan Ali’s dropped catch of Wade, who hammered spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi for three consecutive sixes to seal the fate of the closely fought encounter is still being echoed on the social media across the globe. 

But I firmly believe that T20 is a lottery and a solitary freak performance can change the course of the game in blink of an eye as Wade demonstrated by blasting Pakistan’s speedster Shaheen, who had starred in the opening game against India. 

On the other hand, Blackcaps, led by Kane Williamson, shocked Eoin Morgan's higher-ranked England in the other semifinal at Abu Dhabi. Like Wade and Stoinis, Jimmy Neesham and Daryl Mitchell were the heroes as they came from difficult position to turn the game with brutal hitting against top death bowlers Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes. 
New Zealand, after losing to Pakistan in the league rounds, have come back strongly to qualify for the final. They may not be having too many mega stars in their line-up but they have continued to be a major force in every format of the game in the recent past. 

The brand of cricket, Australia and New Zealand play, and the kind of fighting qualities these two neighbouring countries, it would be difficult to predict the outcome. 

The experienced duo of Williamson and Martin Guptill has the firepower to muscle any bowling attack while Tim Southee and Trent Boult are the two seasoned fast bowlers in their line-up who make New Zealand a most formidable outfit. How do they fare against the Australians in the final remains to be seen! 

Apart from skipper Finch and David Warner, the Australian batting revolves around Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell with Stonis and Wade to follow in the middle-order. The pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh By Hazelwood, backed by leg-spinner Adam Zampa, has the potential to unsettle any batting side.

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November 11, 2021

Wade shatters Pakistan’s dream to cruise into T20 World Cup final

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By Ehsan Qureshi in Dubai

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Incredible batting display by left-handed Matthew Wade spearheaded Australia into the final of the 6th edition of the ICC T20 World Cup when they overpowered Pakistan by five wickets in a tensely fought semifinal under dazzling lights at the Dubai International Stadium on November 11. 

Wicketkeeper-batter Wade hammered an unbeaten 41 off just 17 balls with fours sixed and two fours to richly deserve Man of the Match award. At the other end Marcus Stoinis remained unconquered on an invaluable 40 off 31 balls with brace of sixes and fours to take Australia home with an over to spare. 

They shared a dramatic match winning 81-run sixth wicket partnership after half of their team was back in the hut before raising 100 of the innings. The vastly experienced left-handed opener, David Warner, led the charge initially with 49 off 30 balls with two sixes and as many fours before they lost flurry of wickets which restored parity in the game. 

Leg-spinner Shadab Khan’s four-wicket haul broke the back of Australian batting as they needed 67 runs in last five overs. But it was brilliance of Wade which changed the complexion of the game decisively. 

It may be recalled that it was another left-handed Aussie, Mike Hussey, who had snatched the semifinal from Pakistan in the Caribbean in 2010 in similar conditions. Australia had scored 57 runs in last three overs to storm into the final where they lost to England.

Pakistan’s defeat in the pre-final sent hundreds of their supporters in tears and they dominated the crowd of nearly 20,000 in Dubai. They had expected Pakistan to win the game but they returned home heartbroken. 

Hasan Ali dropped a catch off Shaheen Afridi in the deep which cost Pakistan a place in the final. Afterwards Wade hoisted Shaheen for three successive sixes to snatch the game away from Pakistan. Shadab nearly emerged as the unlikely hero with four wickets for 26 runs before Wade and Stoinis took control. Shadab’s figures were the best ever to be recorded in the semifinals of T20 World Cup. 

Star batter Muhammad Rizwan, who was doubtful for the match due to fever and flu, and the 2017 Champions Trophy hero Fakhar Zaman hit form at the perfect time as they were instrumental in help Pakistan post a competitive total of 176-4 in 20 overs.

Rizwan continued his dream run in the event with a spectacular 67 off 52 balls studded with four sixes and three fours. Opening the innings with skipper Babar Azam, he gave Pakistan another fantastic start of 70 runs in 10 overs after Aaron Finch won the toss and inserted them to bat first.

Babar made a compact 39 off 34 balls laced with five boundaries. But it was left-handed Fakhar who took Pakistan towards a commanding total. After a steady start, he tore apart the Australian attack with his typical powerful hitting. He hoisted four sixes and three fours in his 55 off 34 deliveries. 

The aggression of Rizwan and Fakhar allowed Pakistan to put 106 runs on the board in the last 10 overs as the Australians seemed to have lost the plot for a while with Steve Smith dropping a sitter in the deep and their fancied speedsters misfiring occasionally. The unusually untidy cricket from the Aussies in the field could have cost them the game but they were bailed out by Wade and Stonis in the end.

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November 10, 2021

New Zealand storm into T20 World Cup final

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By Ehsan Qureshi in UAE 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The trio of Daryl Mitchell, Devon Conway and Jimmy Neesham powered New Zealand to the ICC T20 World Cup final when they outsmarted England by five wickets at the Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on November 10. 

It was a night to remember for the New Zealanders who quietly came from behind to break the shackles in the final overs to script one of their famous wins in white ball cricket. They needed 57 from the last four overs and completed the job with full one over to spare. 

It was a sweet revenge by Blackcaps to their defeat at the hands of England in the 50 overs final at Lord’s London in 2019 which was decided on super over. 

Playing the innings of his lifetime, Mitchell smashed an unconquered 72 off 47 balls to be declared Man of the Match. The hard-hitting Neesham banged 27 in mere 11 balls with three towering sixes and one four while Conway laid the platform a solid 46 off 38 balls. 

New Zealand looked in dire straits while chasing the target of 167 when they lost their prolific duo of opener Mark Guptill and captain Kane Williamson very early. But the manner in which the relatively inexperienced campaigners reconstructed the innings was truly commendable. 

England appeared to have gained decisive control over the game when occasional leg-spinner Liam Livingstone delivered a sensational four-over spell in which he not only picked a couple of wickets but also gave away only 22 runs. Eion Morgan could not asked for better performance with the ball from his fifth bowler.

Incredibly, New Zealand chose to take the experienced bowlers to be put to sword. Chris Jordan, who bowled a probing opening spell of two overs, was hammered for 23 runs in the 17th over and his new-ball partner Chris Woakes was hammered for 20 in the 19th over to settle the issue without going into the final over. 

Put into bat, England seemed to have done well to post a total of 166 for four in the allotted overs with left-handed Moeen Ali scoring a brilliant unbeaten 51 off 37 balls. David Malan also scored an enterprising 41 off 30 balls while Livingstone sparkled briefly for his 17 off 10 balls.

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Rizwan, Shoaib down with fever, test negative for COVD-19

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By Ehsan Qureshi in Dubai 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Two of Pakistan's key players, Muhammad Rizwan and Shoaib Malik, missed training and practice session at the ICC Academy Ground in Dubai on November 10 due to fever. 

The media manager informed reports both the key players were rested due to fever. They were tested COVID-19 and both were declared negative much to the relief of the Pakistan camp. 

Meanwhile Pakistan will be taking on Australia in the second semifinal on November 11 and the fitness of Rizwan and Shoaib remained vital as they have been instrumental in helping green shirts emerge victorious in all five league games. Pakistan could face problems if they were unable to recover in time for the match. 

Veteran Shoaib, living to his reputation of power hitter, smashed a hurricane unbeaten 54 off 18 balls hoisting half a dozen sixes in the last league outing while wicketkeeper-opener Rizwan, in company of skipper Babar Azam, has played the pivotal role in getting the team off to flying starts. 

Fresh from five straight wins in the tournament, Pakistan will be needed to extend the momentum in the crunch game against the formidable Aussies to continue their march towards glory. Pakistan eye berth in the final for third time with the ultimate goal being reclaiming the crown they clinched under Younis Khan in 2009 in England. 

The Australians, like the Pakistan squad, were also engaged in extensive training and practice sessions at the same venue and, led by Aaron Finch, they looked supremely confident going into the knockout phase. They have turned out to be one of most powerful sides to have entered the competition and their semifinal encounter with Pakistan is expected to be a cracker. 

Not surprisingly all the tickets for the game were declared to have been sold out with the highest priced tickets reported to be around US$3000.

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November 9, 2021

Pakistan’s motivated outfit aiming for ICC T20 World Cup glory

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By Ehsan Qureshi in Dubai 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Team Pakistan is fully motivated and focused for glory in the ICC T20 World Cup whose knockout games start on November 10 with the first semifinal between England and New Zealand. 

Pakistan will be locking horns with Australia in the other semifinal the following day with a realistic hope of qualifying for the final on November 14. 

Led by consistent batter Babar Azam, with a bunch of seasoned and youthful campaigners, Pakistan is just a couple of steps away from fulfilling the dreams of recapturing the crown after 12 years. 

The manner in which the green shirts have performed in the league matches has been beyond expectations as they emerged triumphant in all five outings. The whole nation and millions of their supporters are now expecting them to bring home the title. 

Not much was expected from the Pakistan team when then entered the tournament and there seemed a distinct possibility of them qualifying for the semifinals in the presence of higher ranked outfits. 

But things have changed in a matter of weeks and now they are looking the most confident of all participating teams, with five successive victories under their belt and being the only undefeated side in the league rounds. 

If they simply sustain the momentum and avoid committing mistakes in the knockout games, they are all set to annex the trophy. 

Babar, Muhammad Rizwan, Shoaib Malik, Muhammad Hafeez and Asif Ali have done wonders with the bat. It’s the time for the 2017 Champions Trophy centurion Fakhar Zaman to show his magic as he is known to be having the temperament to come good in high-voltage matches. 

Shaheen Shah Afridi, spearheading the attack, is looking at his brilliant best and support from Hasan Ali, Haris Rauf, Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan can make things difficult for the opponents who will obviously be under greater pressure in the do-or-die contests. 

A word of caution for the Pakistan team as well. They cannot be expected to take any side for granted. An odd mistake can cost them the title. As compared to league games they have to be more vigilant in the knockout games to prevent any lapse in concentration. Top quality fielding and catching can lift their bowlers which can prove to be the difference in closely fought encounters.

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