December 22, 2021

Imran as fast bowler: Sizzling pace yet innocuous


By Syed Khalid Mahmood 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Besides being acclaimed as one of the greatest-ever cricketers to be produced by Pakistan, Imran Khan also belonged to the category of the fastest bowlers of the world who succeeded in taming even the most solid batsmen of the generation with his ferocious pace which was combined most skillfully with extravagant swing. 

He himself was an outstanding batsman, technically correct with sound temperament, to be recognized as one of the rare genuine all-rounders of the game. Despite career-threatening injuries, he outperformed even his three illustrious contemporaries; Ian Botham, Richard Hadlee and Kapil Dev, with his incredible consistency throughout the 1980s in particular. 

Long before the advent of speed guns, which have now become common in modern television coverage, Imran had sent down the third fastest delivery in a competition of fast bowlers held in Australia in 1979. Only Jeff Thomson and Michael Holding had delivered faster balls than Imran with the dreadful names like Colin Croft, Andy Roberts, Dennis Lillee, Len Pascoe, Wayne Daniel and Garth Le Roux falling behind. 

Unlike quite a few of his fast bowling contemporaries, who became infamous for attacking the batsmen’s body, Imran was hardly ever engaged in any such act. Despite being blessed with red-hot pace, he concentrated in getting the batsmen out instead of terrifying or terrorizing them. 

Although the fast bowlers of his era were known and feared for being blood-hungry, he was able to focus solely on his own skill set to outsmart the batsmen. His approach to the bowling crease was athletic and his bowling action a treat to watch, besides being unique and different from others. 

Unlike others, Imran never appeared inclined towards causing harm to the batsmen or hurting them physically. A few batsmen, most famously Mohinder Amarnath, did succumb to one his bouncers at Lahore during the 1978-79 series, but that was basically attributed to their own faults and misjudgment of balls. 

His reverse-swinging yorkers and in-dippers brought him the bulk of his wickets with dignity and pride. He swung the ball prodigiously at express pace to bring about the demise of the greatest of batsmen. 

His devastating spells during the post-tea sessions in Test matches at the National Stadium, Karachi, when sea breeze used to pick up, remained unforgettable. The sight of India’s ‘Little Master’ Gundappa Vishwanath shouldering arms to a delivery swinging in almost a yard to castle him would cling to memory of everyone who was fortunate enough to witness that terrific spell of Imran which literally blew what was deemed to be a batting powerhouse. 

Imran always advocated for fair play and justice throughout his long international career spanning more than a couple of decades. He was the man who convinced the country’s cricket administrators to take up the case of neutral umpires with the game’s governing body (ICC) and he was captaining Pakistan’s team in the home series against the West Indies in 1986-87 which was supervised by the third-country umpires for the first time in the history of the game. 

As a captain, he was dominating, disciplined and decisive, yet sporting. During the 1989-90 home series, the visiting Indian captain, Krishnamachari Srikkanth, appeared dismayed at being given out by the umpire. The dashing opener, undergoing a lean patch with the bat, openly showed his displeasure and disgust when leaving the crease. Imran, after consulting the umpires, called him back and he was allowed to resume his innings. Such kind of instances could rarely be found in the Indo-Pak matches where emotions run so high. 

Despite commanding the respect from his teammates as he led the side by example, Imran generally didn’t argue with the umpires and he was hardly ever involved in controversies on the field. He was not into sledging the opponents either. In fact, more often than not, he calmed his boys and let them focus on their job which was to overpower the opponents and not to create unruly scenes. 

It’s also a reality that, as a captain, he had a decisive say in selection matters much more than usual and the selectors were sometimes overruled. He had the knack of picking his team for which he had set his own parameters. He preferred bold and courageous cricketers who could play for win. He dared taking risks which often yielded results. His preference was based on sheer merit devoid of any regional or provincial bias. He was an open admirer of wicketkeeper-batsman Saleem Yousuf because of his brave instincts. 

Off the field, he was hardly ever observed in any politicking or violating discipline anywhere. Possessing a shy nature, he didn’t like to mingle with his teammates after office hours. It was indeed his prerogative to lead social life of his own choice. Imran has been a success story in cricket all the way. Besides the glowing figures and statistics, there’s ample evidence of him having left larger than life footprints. His sporting nature has been talked about with awe. 

His resilience was second to none. He was known never to have deviated from the widely accepted ethics and principles of the civilized world. One can safely conclude that he was as much a great person as a highly respected and honoured cricketer to be hailed as an undisputed legend in his own lifetime.

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Rameez commends Saqlain’s role in T20 World Cup


By Ehsan Qureshi

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Rameez Raja, Chairman, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), has commended the role of interim coach Saqlain Mushtaq in the ICC T20 World Cup as well as during the Bangladesh tour. 

The PCB helmsman reckoned that Saqlain, a former Pakistan off-spinner, filled the vacant role from behind the scene quite admirably and he merited accolades for having created a sense nationalism. 

He also applauded the batting and bowling consultants, Matthew Hayden of Australia and Vernon Philander of South Africa respectively, who also rose to the occasion. 

"I don’t have fixed mindset and approach on this issue like short or long contracts,” he observed while commenting on appointment of foreign or local coaches for Team Pakistan. Rameez stressed that they were looking to improve Pakistan batters’ power hitting, adding that he was looking to see Pakistan getting better in Tests and ODIs. 

He would like specialists for different tours and conditions while indicating that Hayden may be retained with the team until the 2022 T20 World Cup to be held in Australia. 

The PCB Chairman pointed out that the team came up with improved performances in the T20 World Cup after the pressure they came under following the sudden and mysterious move of New Zealand to run away during the tour of Pakistan and then England cancelling their visit at the eleventh hour. 

“The boys fought hard in the T20 World Cup to come up with incredible performances which paid dividends and we were also awarded the Champions Trophy 2025 besides the Asia Cup,” the PCB Chairman concluded.

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December 21, 2021

Nasir Shah becomes first recipient of Global Sports CBF award


Pakistan News & Features Services

Nasir Ali Shah, a former first-class cricketer from Karachi, became the first recipient of the Cricketer Benefit Fund (CBF) award, instituted by the US-based Global Sports Inc. 

He was an opening batsman who played for Karachi, United Bank Limited and Pak PWD. He also captained his teams on many occasions. 

The presentation ceremony was held recently at the Karachi Gymkhana in which Younis Khan, a former Pakistan captain and holder of many Test records, handed over the cheque of PKR five lacs to Nasir Shah on behalf of Global Sports. 

The presence of Younis, a legendary top-order batsman with a number of records under his belt, was a massive source of encouragement to the organizers and promoters of the noble cause, jointly undertaken by a few of former Pakistani cricketers and philanthropists having relocated in USA.

The ceremony was organized through the courtesy of Jalaluddin, a former Test fast bowler and the highest qualified coach of the country, currently visiting his home city. Anwar-ul-Haq, Naeem-ul-Haq, Waqar Hussain and Zafar Ahmed were among the other cricketers present on the occasion. 

Naeem, who played for Karachi, Pak PWD and Pakistan Customs, has been a part and parcel of Global Sports since its inception around 17 years ago. He had specially travelled from Orlando, USA, to be part of the presentation ceremony in Karachi. 

Having been associated with Global Sports as its Vice President, Advisor and Coach, Naeem is acknowledged as the person to have floated the idea of supporting former cricketers back home which led to the formation of the CBF and Nasir Shah was selected as the recipient for the inaugural award. 

In a brief conversation with PNFS, Naeem informed that besides being an outstanding cricket player, Nasir mentored quite a few of his teammates, including him, and he was widely respected for his leadership qualities. 

Naeem also disclosed that the CBF will announce the next beneficiary for 2022 during the Diversity Cup Tournament, scheduled to be held in Detroit, Michigan, next July.

He expressed gratitude to his colleagues and patrons of Global Sports, particularly its Founder President, Shahid Ahmed, and Dr Shaukat Rashid of Ohio, to have launched the initiative which will be their token contribution for recognizing the silent soldiers and unsung heroes of the game.

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December 16, 2021

Different script but identical result as Pakistan sweep WI 3-0


By Ehsan Qureshi at National Stadium, Karachi 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Skipper Babar Azam and Muhammad Rizwan powered Pakistan to seven-wicket victory over the West Indies to complete the expected 3-0 clean-sweep in T20 series which concluded on December 16.

The match was jeopardized when three more West Indian cricketers, Shai Hope, Akeal Hosein, and Justin Greaves tested positive for Covid-19, but it was decided to go ahead with the match and complete the T20 series. 

The tourists were left to field a severely depleted side because they had had already lost Sheldon Cottrell, Roston Chase and Kyle Mayers, also due to Covid-19, at the start of the tour while Devon Thomas was ruled out after a finger injury. It went to their credit to have agreed to play the third game without the availability of seven players. 

While the West Indians showed grace by staying on even with marginal resources at their disposal, the home side continued to enjoy with the rub of the green going their way until the very end. That Pakistan completed the series whitewash with the help of a dropped catch was another reflection of lady luck keeping their company all the way. 

Chasing a record total of 208 at the National Stadium, Karachi, the start of Pakistan innings was a dramatic one. Rizwan was declared out leg-before on the very first ball but the decision of on-field umpire was reversed following a review and the West Indies could not break the opening partnership until the 16th over by which time 158 runs had already been scored. 

The hosts rode their luck to overhaul the total for the loss of only three wickets with seven balls to spare. It was their sixth successive T20 win over the West Indies in Pakistan. They had also swept them by the identical 3-0 scoreline in 2018. Pakistan ended the year 2021 year their 20th T20 win. 

Babar, who was dismissed cheaply in the earlier two matches, returned to top form with another sterling knock. He made 79 off 53 balls with nine sizzling fours and two sixes. The openers put on 158 off 91 balls for the first wicket. Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman continued to attack the bowlers the requirement was down to 24 off 16 balls when the former fell after scoring 87 off 45 balls with the help of three sixes and 10 fours. 
Asif Ali’s unbroken 21 off seven balls ensured that the match didn’t go into the final over. Rovman Powell helped his cause by dropping him in the deep off Romario Shepherd and that was it. 

As in the previous game, the young West Indian side showed flashes of brilliance but choked at key moments. They must have felt happy at having posted a competitive total of 207 for three which was their best at the ground which obviously proved inadequate in the end. 

Captain Nichollas Pooran, Samrah Brooks and Brandon King produced the best batting display of the tour. The top three West Indian batters blasted no less than a dozen sixes to demonstrate their big hitting prowess. 

Pooran batted fearlessly while hammering 64 off 37 balls with the help of half a dozen sixes and two fours. Brooks mustered 49 off 31 balls, spiced with four sixes and two fours while King cracked 21-ball 43 with seven fours and brace of sixes. Curiously, though, Darren Bravo didn’t hit any six in his unbeaten 34 off 27 balls which denied the visitors some crucial runs in the death overs. 

King and Brooks had provided the West Indies a flying start of 66 in power play. Brooks was in a punishing mood as he lifted premier spinner Shadab Khan for three sixes in a row. The momentum was sustained by Pooran but Bravo, coming in at number four, remained unusually quiet and returned unbeaten without belting the bowlers. 

Muhammad Wasim (2-44) was the most successful home bowler but Shahnawaz Dahani delivered an economical spell of one for 24 in four overs. Fast bowler Muhammad Hasnain, making a comeback, was hit all over the park, conceding 48 runs in four overs without taking any wicket.

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Pak- WI ODI series postponed due to Covid-19


By Ehsan Qureshi at National Stadium, Karachi 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The series of three One-day International between Pakistan and the West Indies, which was set to be played at the National Stadium, Karachi, from Dec 18 to 22, has been postponed due to detection of more Covid-19 positive cases in the West Indian camp. 

The series has now been rescheduled for June 2022. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and Cricket West Indies (CWI) jointly issued a statement after five more positive cases were reported in the West Indies camp following the PCR testing, raising the total number of positive cases to nine since their arrival in Karachi on December 9.

“On Thursday (December 16) morning and as part of the PCB COVID-19 Protocols, Rapid Antigen tests were conducted on the remaining 15 West Indies players and six player support personnel. All 21 members of the West Indies touring party returned negative test result. As such, Thursday’s T20 International (T20I) proceeded as planned,” the statement read. 

“However, taking into consideration both the teams’ welfare as well as limited resources in the West Indies side for the ODIs, it has been agreed that the series, which forms part of the ICC Men’s Cricket Word Cup Super League, will be postponed and rescheduled for early June 2022. This will provide the West Indies with an equal opportunity to field their best available players for the World Cup qualification matches,” it added. 

“The West Indies team members, who returned negative results following Wednesday’s PCR and today’s Rapid Antigen tests, will depart from Pakistan after tonight’s match. Those who have tested positive will complete their isolation in Karachi before their travel arrangements are finalized to allow them to rejoin their families in time for Christmas celebrations.” 

“Meanwhile, the Pakistan team members, all of whom have returned PCR negative after Wednesday’s tests, will also be leaving the Managed Event Environment after tonight’s third T20I. The CWI would like to thank the PCB for its excellent series arrangements and appreciates its support in rescheduling the ODI series in June 2022.”

The West Indians must have heaved a sigh of relief at the postponement of the ODI series because their already thin resources could have been tested further in the longer of two white-ball formats.

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December 15, 2021

Pakistan poised to complete whitewash despite Calypso exuberance


By Ehsan Qureshi at National Stadium, Karachi 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The youngsters from the West Indies currently touring Pakistan showed lot of energy and enthusiasm in the second T20I at the National Stadium, Karachi, just a day after getting hammered in the opening game. It’s a clear reflection of them being quick learners. 

But history is not on their side as they take the field on December 16 to avoid yet another whitewash. Pakistan has had the knack of blasting weak opponents at home and the West Indians have faced the music more often than not at their hands on numerous occasions during the last couple of decades. 

Gone are the ways of the 1970s and the 1980s when they were branded as formidable tourists. They have been one of the worst travellers to Pakistan in the preceding three decades. 

The home captain, Babar Azam, is certainly short of runs after a rare back to back failure but there’s adequate depth and strength in the line-up to see off the hapless West Indies, who have always been found wanting in closing the deal Pakistan, a glimpse of which was also seen in the second T20I on December 14 when they squandered a golden opportunity of leveling the series. 

Pakistan may opt to rest some of their top performers to induct those who could only warm the benches in the first couple of matches. 

There’s a feeling that the West Indies may still struggle to win the third and final tie, although they do possess the typical Calypso exuberance to dominate their fancied rivals. 

This is one of those phases where everything seems to be going their way as far as the home side is concerned. Some of their players might not have fired but someone from somewhere has emerged to save the day since the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

It remains to be seen how they exploit their resources to extend the purple patch as the T20 series is to be followed by three-match series of One-day Internationals against the same opponents starting from December 18.

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December 14, 2021

Improved West Indies run out of luck to concede T20I series


By Ehsan Qureshi at National Stadium, Karachi 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Unlike the first outing of the tour when they were completely outplayed by the hosts the other day at the same venue, the visiting West Indians came up with much improved performance in the second T20 International but lost the game, and with it the three-match series against Pakistan, at the National Stadium, Karachi, on December 14.

On any other day, or night, the West Indies could have emerged triumphant from the commanding situations they were during the match but they let the initiative slip at key moments to deprive themselves from a possible series leveling win. They lost by nine runs instead, while chasing a target of 173, to give Pakistan an unassailable 2-0 lead. 

As the visiting skipper Nicholas Pooran conceded in the presentation ceremony they made silly mistakes and he also held himself accountable for the chaos in the middle when his team was in the driving seat. 

"Tough one for us. Big improvement from yesterday. Felt like we lost here due to silly mistakes. Irresponsible from myself too. We tried our best to execute plans. It's our responsibility to carry the game. Unfortunately, we made some mistakes. It is an experience for us all, and very proud of how all these guys have performed," he remarked. 

The home captain Babar Azam didn’t look perturbed as his outfit has been fortunate enough to come out of such situations frequently since the resurgence witnessed during the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

Someone has been doing the job, no matter how challenging or precarious the circumstances had been in the UAE or then in Bangladesh where Pakistan triumphed across formats. It was the turn of Shadab Khan to come good with bat and ball to win the day for his team this time round. 

"The finish from Shadab with the bat was very good. Bowlers did well too, particularly Shaheen, and it was a team effort. The idea is to set a target and defend, and play as per the conditions and the wicket. There is grip for the spinners in the second innings, which is why we wanted to bat first,” the winning captain observed. 

"When my batting comes, it usually is in the death overs so I practice accordingly. I planned by batting as per the field. And with the ball, it wasn't gripping a lot. I had good rhythm, and I just tried to bowl in the good areas," Shadab stated after being adjudged Man of the Match for his all-round performance. 

Losing the toss, the West Indies put up a far better performance in bowling department. They had restricted Pakistan to 127 for six after 17 overs despite opener Muhammad Rizwan’s 30-ball 38 with containing a six and four boundaries. Haider Ali made steady 31 off 34 balls with four hits to the fence while Iftikhar Ahmed hoisted a couple of sixes in his 18-ball knock of 32. Asif Ali, the six-hitting wonder, failed once again. 

It was left to vice-captain Shadab to retrieve the situation. He smashed a delightful unbeaten 28 off mere a dozen deliveries studded with three towering sixes as the Pakistan batters went on rampage mustering 45 runs in last three overs to their eventual total to 172. 

Odean Smith was the most successful West Indian bowler with the figures of 2 for 24 but left-arm spinner Akeal Husein again produced a tight spell of 1-16 off four overs. 

Opener Brandon King’s explosive 43-ball 67 containing three sixes and six fours laid very strong platform for the West Indies to overhaul the home total but despite being only two wickets down at the halfway stage when they were ahead of the clock, the momentum was lost in strange circumstances and eventually they were beaten in the match they could have won leisurely.

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December 13, 2021

Pakistan draw first blood without sweating


By Ehsan Qureshi at National Stadium, Karachi

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

As expected, the Pakistan juggernauts prevailed over the depleted West Indian side in the first of the three Twenty20 Internationals at the National Stadium, Karachi, on December 13 with as many as 63 runs separating two sides after a one-sided encounter.

The helplessness of the tourists was highlighted as they lost their last three wickets for as many runs to be bowled out for 137 in the penultimate over while chasing a mammoth target of 201 in the allotted 20 overs. 

With no luck coming their way, the writing was very much on the wall even before they had taken to the field. Odd moments of elation, not withstanding, they were comprehensively outplayed in every department of the game and the hosts didn’t have to sweat on a cold night of Karachi to draw the first blood. 

In the post-match presentation ceremony, the Pakistan skipper, Babar Azam, praised Muhammad Rizwan and Haider Ali for having played handy knocks while Muhammad Nawaz was lauded for finishing the innings in an outstanding manner. 

He praised the spinners for having bowled well and put the visitors under pressure. He disclosed that they will sit and discuss the combination to be played in the next game. 

The West Indian captain, Nicholas Pooran, felt that they gave away 20 runs more in the field and there were a few boundaries off the edges too. He loved the effort and energy from his guys, adding that they’re a young side but it all came down to execution. 

Haider Ali, who was adjudged Man of the Match, rated his innings 10 out of 10, acknowledging the support of Rizwan who kept advising him to build his innings. He conceded having gained lot of confidence from the way Rizwan was playing at the other end. The pitch, he reckoned, was a bit difficult and was helping spinners, that’s why they chose to take chances against fast bowlers. 

Thanks to the brilliant batting display of Rizwan and Haider, Pakistan managed to post a huge total of 200 for six in 20 overs despite having lost Babar, the premier batter, without scoring. 

Opener Rizwan extended his dazzling run in 2021 with another sparkling knock of 78, coming from 52 balls and containing 10 boundaries. He was looking set for a hundred but a running catch by debutant Odean Smith off Romario Shepherd at the boundary ended his superb innings. 

Haider, who came in at number four, was more fluent as he smashed 68 off only 39 balls with the help of four sixes and six fours. Together they added 105 runs for the third wicket off 63 balls. Pakistan's T20 World Cup hero Asif Ali made four-ball one and Iftikhar made seven but Nawaz blasted a quickfire unbeaten 30 in mere 10 balls studded with a couple of sixes and as many fours. 

Left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein, who operated with the new ball, was the pick of the visitors bowling attack. He gave away only 19 runs in his quota of four overs, claiming with prized sclap of Babar. All the other West Indian bowlers were put to sword as the home total reach the magical figure of 200. 

Quite predictably, the inexperienced West Indian batsmen were unable to come to terms with the home bowlers literally dictating terms and toying with the tourists, who seemed absolutely clueless against the Pakistan spinners in particular. 

Shai Hope, a highly gifted batsman, resisted briefly at top of the innings but he too was found wanting in changing complexion of the game. Even skipper Pooran didn’t produce the kind of fireworks that could have enlivened proceedings. 

It was all too easy for leg-spinner Shadab Khan to claim three wickets for only 17 runs. The 20-year-old speedster, Muhammad Wasim, also had a dream night, finishing with the career best figures of four for 40 as the match was won by the home side by the heaviest of margins in T20 Internationals.

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Cold welcome to international cricket in Karachi


By Ehsan Qureshi at National Stadium, Karachi

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The functionaries of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) were baffled with extremely low turnout of spectators and the obvious lack of interest in the T20 series between Pakistan and the West Indies which got underway at the National Stadium, Karachi, on December 13. 

Despite massive security arrangements as international cricket resumed in Pakistan, there were hardly a few dozens of cricket enthusiasts to have reached the stadium to watch the first T20I which began after office hours, at 6 pm. 

One major reason of the ongoing series failing to attract the masses could be the absence of top players of West Indies specially power hitters like Keiron Pollard and André Russell besides other top performers. 

The most expensive tickets were being offered at Rs 4,000 for the VIP enclosure while the lowest ticket of Rs 200 was being sold for Rs 200. 

The PCB must have expected bigger turnouts for the white-ball series against the West Indies as the Pakistan team was on a high after sterling performances in the last T20 World Cup followed by an extremely successful tour of Bangladesh. The only consolation for the PCB, however, was the resumption of international cricket after New Zealand and England had refuse to fulfill their obligations earlier this season.

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December 12, 2021

Pakistan keen to sustain momentum to crush West Indies in white-ball series


By Ehsan Qureshi 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The rampant Pakistan side, under the dynamic leadership of the prolific Babar Azam, will be looking to sustain the momentum of recent weeks to overwhelm the visiting West Indians who open their campaign with their first T20 International of the new series at the National Stadium, Karachi, on December 13. 

In a virtual press conference, held on December 12, the triumphant Pakistan skipper felt hopeful on extending the brilliant form of his team which began in the T20 World Cup and continued on the recent tour of Bangladesh where they floored the hosts across formats. 

Babar did not mince words in stating that the national should be having batting and bowling coaches, along with the head coach, explaining that when full number of players was present in the squad then all coaches should also be there for every series, home or away. 

He complimented the West Indian team for undertaking the tour of Pakistan at a time when a few other outfits (New Zealand and England) had pulled out at the eleventh hour. 

Babar ruled out taking the visitors lightly even though they will be taking the field in the absence of many of their seasoned campaigners who will be missing the action due to injuries and illness. 

With high expectations of clean sweep in the T20I as well as the ODI series, the home side is not expected to make many mistakes and they have a fully charged team which is eager and hungry for more success on the field. 

They have rested paceman Hasan Ali and dropped Imad Wasim while veteran all-rounders, Muhammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, opted to take a break. 

The West Indians, who had previously toured Pakistan in 2018, will now be play three T20 Internationals and as many One-day Internationals against the hosts during their current tour. Led by power-hitter Nicholas Pooran, after regular captain Kieran Pollard pulled out of the team due to injury, the West Indies will aim to be competitive in the T20I series while Sai Hope will be captaining the visitors during the ODI series. 

Despite heavy odds, the two-time T20 world champions, West Indies possess a number of talented youngsters like Rovman Powell, Romario Sherpherd, Odean Smith and Dominic Drakes besides left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein in their folds, who seem capable of coming up with freak performances in the shortest format of the time.

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December 7, 2021

Shoaib, Imad, Sarfaraz axed for West Indian series


By Ehsan Qureshi 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The vastly experienced trio of Shoaib Malik, Imad Wasim and Sarfaraz Ahmed has been dropped while fast bowler Hasan Ali is being rested for the upcoming home series against the West Indies starting at National Stadium Karachi from December 13. 

The Pakistan cricket selectors' panel, headed by Mohammad Wasim, has surprised many with some of the choices for the T20I and ODI squads which will be taking on the West Indies later this month. 

From the 18 players who were part of the recently-concluded T20I series against Bangladesh, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Shoaib Malik have been left out while fast bowler Mohammad Hasnain has been added to the 15-man squad for the T20Is. 

Likewise, from the 17 players who were available for selection for the England ODIs in July, Asif Ali, Haider Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah and Mohammad Wasim Junior have replaced Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Salman Ali Agha and Sarfaraz Ahmed in the 17-member side, while Abdullah Shafique has been named as a traveling reserve.

“As we have been playing T20Is since October and now have a pretty settled and balanced side, we have decided to reduce the number of players to 15. As such, we have not included Imad Wasim, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Shoaib Malik,” chief selector Wasim explained. 

“For the ODIs, which we last played in July, we have accepted the team management’s request and provided them two additional resources,” he added. 

Pakistan’s T20I squad: Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shahnawaz Dahani and Usman Qadir. 

Pakistan’s ODI squad: Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imam-ul-Haq, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Mohammad Hasnain, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shahnawaz Dahani and Usman Qadir. Traveling reserve: Abdullah Shafique.

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November 28, 2021

Top WI players to skip Pakistan tour


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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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Consistency holds key in knockout games: Babar Azam


By Ehsan Qureshi in Dubai 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Pakistan’s captain Babar Azam has reckoned that consistency held the key in the knockout games of the ICC T20 World Cup as his side prepared to combat Australia on November 11.

"We have been consistent in the tournament so far and we will take the confidence and momentum in the semifinal and then into the final hopefully" he told reporters via virtual press conference on November 9. 

He got the players of his choice as he insisted on a few guys to be retained and his team has been producing results. "I am taking my decisions with freedom. I know that it will mean a lot to the fans and the country if we win the trophy. People of our country have always backed us,” he observed.

“As a captain I can't even imagine of dropping Hasan Ali. Yes, he is not doing very well but he is a match winner and has won us many matches. I know he is a big match player who could do well in the semis. Same is the case with Fakhar Zaman. You can’t have all eleven players performing in same match,” Babar asserted. 

“These are the kind of naturally gifted players who have the capacity to turn the match on their day. They deserve to given chances as they may also endured an off day or two,” he reasoned.

“Bubble life is tough but we are managing it somehow. If any player has any problem we ask a senior player to sit with him and get advice. Obviously we have to live with for the time being,” he stated. 

“As a captain I am learning. I take all my players with me and give them the confidence to bring the best out of them,” he said.

Babar has led the team by example in the tournament, having scored as many as four half centuries in five league matches. He is looking forward to extending the purple patch in the upcoming games to help his team clinch the trophy.

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November 8, 2021

Rampant Pakistan win all five in league rounds


From Ehsan Qureshi in Sharjah

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Pakistan remained undefeated in Group-II league rounds of the ICC T20 World Cup as they hammered Scotland by 72 runs in their fifth and final outing at the Sharjah Stadium on November 7. 

Electing to bat, after winning the toss, Pakistan amassed 184 for the loss of four wickets in the allotted 20 overs and then restricted Scotland to 117 for six in the stipulated overs to emerge triumphant with hints of conviction. 

As witnessed during their previous game against Namibia, they got off to a cautious start but exploded in the death over to post a mammoth total which proved well out of reach of their opponents. 

The Scots were found clueless in pursuit of the big total and it proved to be a mismatch as the Pakistan's spin-cum-pace attack gave nothing away. All the bowlers were bang on target, gearing up for the knockout games.

Veteran Shoaib Malik got the opportunity to demonstrate his continued hunger for success as he smashed an unbeaten on 54 off just 18 balls with half a dozen towering sixes.

Skipper Babar Azam, on the other hand, simply extended his brilliant form when making 66 off 47 balls with the help of five fours and three sixes. 

Knowing their tactics, there was hardly any surprise in watching Pakistan make only 35 runs without losing any wicket in the six overs of power play which was exactly the same score at this particular stage in the match against Namibia. 

The Scots were put to sword in the final phase of the innings as the duo of Shoaib and Babar plundered the bowling at will. There were flurry of boundaries and the last 35 balls produced as many 89 runs which raised the total into mammoth proportions. 

By virtue of becoming the Group II champions, Pakistan will now clash with the Group I runners-up Australia in the second semifinal at Dubai Cricket Stadium on November 11 while the Group I leaders England will be up against New Zealand, the Group II runners-up, in the first pre-final on November 10. The final will be played in Dubai on November 14.

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