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Sharapova beats Sevastova in second round

Monitoring Desk

Melbourne: Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova beat 14th seed Anastasija Sevastova in straight sets to reach the third round of the Australian Open.

The Russian, beaten in three sets by the Latvian at the US Open last year, won 6-1 7-6 (7-4) in one hour and 20 minutes. Sharapova, 30, was broken when serving for the match at 5-4, but recovered to win the tie-break on Rod Laver Arena. “I’m happy to get through on a day like this,” the 2008 champion said. “When she broke back I thought: ‘Oh, it’s going to be three sets again’.” Sharapova will next face Germany’s 2016 Australian Open winner Angelique Kerber, who celebrated her 30th birthday by overcoming Croatia’s Donna Vekic 6-4 6-1.

Sixth seed Karolina Pliskova stormed past Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia, winning 6-1 6-1 in 44 minutes, and next will play fellow Czech Lucie Safarova, who beat Romanian Sorana Cirstea 6-2 6-4. Madison Keys sailed through against Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova even faster, with the American 17th seed winning 6-0 6-1 in 41 minutes. Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, the 28th seed and 2017 semi-finalist, was defeated 6-3 6-1 by Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

The Belarusian will play Caroline Garcia in the third round after the French eighth seed prevailed 6-7 (3-7) 6-2 8-6 over Czech Marketa Vondrousova. Elena Vesnina became the 10th of the top 16 women’s seeds to go out by the second round, losing 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 to Japanese 20-year-old Naomi Osaka.

Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska, a semi-finalist twice in the past four tournaments at Melbourne, needed three sets to see off Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko as she won 2-6 7-5 6-3. Radwanska, the 26th seed, will play Taiwanese Hsieh Su-Wei next after the world number 88 shocked Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza 7-6 (7-1) 6-4.

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Hasan Ali named ‘Emerging Player of the Year’ in ICC Awards 2017

KARACHI (Monitoring Desk): Pakistan pacer Hasan Ali was named the Emerging Player of the Year as part of the ICC Awards 2017 on Thursday while the national team’s famous Champion Trophy triumph was voted by fans as the Moment of the Year.

Twenty-three-year-old Hasan, the top-ranked ODI bowler, took 48 wickets in 21 matches during calendar year 2017 at an average of just 17.70 per dismissal. He also claimed three five-wicket hauls and played a massive role in Pakistan’s Champions Trophy win in England — making him a shoo-in for the emerging player gong.

“Last year was incredible, both for me individually as well as my team,” said Hasan in a PCB video. “I feel very proud. These awards motivate us and spur us to do even better.”

Pakistan’s historical Champions Trophy win of 2017, when they defeated arch-rivals India in a thrilling final, was voted by fans as the Moment of the Year. But the biggest winner of the awards was India captain Virat Kohli, who walked away with twin awards: ODI Cricketer of the Year and the Cricketer of the Year the former being the second such win of his glittering career.

Kohli’s win, however, comes as little surprise as in 2017 as he had amassed 1,818 runs in just 31 ODIs at a staggering average of 82.63. He staved off competition from Hasan, Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan and his teammate Rohit Sharma.

Australia’s Steve Smith was named the ICC Test Cricketer of the Year — another title win which was a given considering the Baggy Greens skipper, per ICC website, had piled up “1,875 runs at an average of 78.12, with eight hundreds and five half-centuries” between “the qualification period from 21 September 2016 until the end of December 2017”.

Indian Yuzvendra Chahal’s 6-25 against England was chosen as the T20I Performance of the Year, Afghan leggie Rashid the Associate Cricketer of the Year and South African Marais Erasmus the Umpire of the Year.

The Test Team of the Year has no Pakistani representatives, although the ODI line-up does feature Hasan as well as middle-order batsman Babar Azam whose willow yielded 1,232 runs in 21 matches at an average of 77.00 during 2017.

ODI Team of the Year: David Warner, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Babar Azam, AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, Ben Stokes, Trent Boult, Hasan Ali, Rashid Khan, Jasprit Bumrah.

Test Team of the Year: Dean Elgar, David Warner, Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Cheteshwar Pujara, Quinton de Kock, Ben Stokes, Ashwin Ravichandran, Mitchell Starc, Kagiso Rabada, James Anderson.

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ICC announces Rashid Khan as Associate Player Of Year Award

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The International Cricket Council (ICC) announced on Thursday, Rashid Khan as ICC’s Associate Player of year.

The 19 years old Rashid Khan, took 60 wickets for Afghanistan last year, which was a record for an Associate player in a calendar year.

Rashid Khan also took 43 wickets in ODIs – which was also a record for an Associate player.

The 19-year-old leg-spinner, who hails from Nangarhar, made his ODI debut for Afghanistan during their tour of Zimbabwe in October 2015. At the time he was only 17 years old.

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Pakistan to put better performance in fifth ODI: Fakhar Zaman

Monitoring Desk

WELLINGTON: Left hand Pakistani opener, Fakhar Zaman, has said that Pakistan is working hard to end the series with the 4-1 and avoid the clean sweep in the ODI series against New Zealand.

While talking to media persons in Wellington during the practice session on Thursday, Zaman admitted that we are facing problems in New Zealand especially against the new ball condition here in New Zealand.

Fakhar Zaman scored two fifties in the ODI series against New Zealand went in vain as Pakistan lost all four matches and come close to a whitewash.

The Green Shirts took part in an indoor training session at Basin Reserve as rain poured down over Wellington earlier today.



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Zimbabwe overcome Thisara blitz in thrilling win

Monitoring Desk

DHAKA: Sikandar Raza, Hamilton Masakadza and Tendai Chatara combined to lead Zimbabwe to a 12-run win over Sri Lanka, their first victory against a Full Member at a neutral venue in 15 years. Raza made an unbeaten 81 and took the key wicket of Kusal Perera, who made 80.

He also took two catches, off Angelo Mathews and former Sri Lanka captain Thisara Perera. It was the Thisara catch that finally swung the game Zimbabwe’s way. Thisara climbed into Graeme Cremer for 15 runs in the 38th over, after his side slipped to 199 for 6 chasing 291 to win.

Wanindu Hasaranga’s dismissal in the 40th over didn’t deter him either. Thisara hit Cremer over long-off for his second six before an edge through third man brought the equation down to under a run-a-ball. Akila Dananjaya then holed out at cover, and although replays showed that Tendai Chatara may have marginally overstepped, the third umpire’s decision went in favour of Zimbabwe.

Thisara picked singles thereafter but after he had struck a huge six in the 47th over, he struck a low full toss to Raza at deep midwicket. Thisara’s exit, after his 37-ball 64 with five fours and three sixes, was the opening Zimbabwe needed as Chatara eked out the last wicket, that of Dushmantha Chameera in the 49th over.

It was Kusal Perera who gave Sri Lanka the early impetus in the chase. He began with cuts and slashes reminiscent of his boyhood hero Sanath Jayasuriya. At the other end, Upul Tharanga survived a scare when the ball hit his leg stump but the bails didn’t come off. He chipped a catch to mid-on in the sixth over, and Kusal Mendis, recalled for this tri-series, did the same in the next over.

But Kusal didn’t relent with his attacking intent, finishing the Powerplay with a brutal cut over point that went for six.Soon after Kusal reached his fifty, Solomon Mire dropped him at deep point on 57.

Angelo Mathews, who needed some attention for cramps, sprung to life in the 18th over when he smashed Blessing Muzarabani for a six over midwicket, and four through the slips.

Kusal kept finding the boundaries too while Zimbabwe found more ways to drop him: Graeme Cremer dropped him off his own bowling in the 24th over with his score on 77.

But finally, Muzarabani used all of his height at short fine leg to pluck out a catch off Kusal on 80. He had struck eight fours and two sixes in his 83-ball innings.

Kusal’s exit forced Sri Lanka to slow down. Mathews and Chandimal struck just one boundary in six overs, before Mathews fell in the 31st over. Mathews swatted at a Muzarabani bouncer, but it was brilliantly intercepted by Raza at short midwicket.

Chandimal tried to stay in touch with the required run-rate but Jarvis got one to keep low, which hit his off stump. Asela Gunaratne followed him soon after, deceived by Cremer and stumped by Brendan Taylor.


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Ben Stokes available for England selection: ECB

Monitoring Desk

LONDON: England cricketer Ben Stokes is available for selection for the tour of New Zealand after he was charged with affray, says the England and Wales Cricket Board.

The 26-year-old was charged on Monday after a fight outside a Bristol nightclub in September and will appear before magistrates.

All-rounder Stokes, who has not played for England since the incident, will join the squad for the second half of a triangular Twenty20 series in New Zealand in February.

England then play five one-day internationals and two Tests. Stokes intends to contest the affray charge.

The ECB said that, “given the potential length of the trial”, it would not be “fair, reasonable or proportionate for Ben Stokes to remain unavailable for a further indeterminate period”.

Stokes missed two one-day internationals against West Indies in England last summer and the entire winter Ashes Test series in Australia. He will play no part in the current one-day series against Australia.

However, the ECB allowed him to play six matches for Canterbury Kings in New Zealand domestic cricket in December.

An ECB statement read: “ECB fully respects the legal process and the player’s intention to defend himself against the charge.

“England selectors, management and players have been informed and Ben Stokes is expected to join the squad in New Zealand for February’s T20 matches.”

Alex Hales, 28, who was with Stokes at the time of the incident, was not arrested but was interviewed under caution by police. He was told in December that he would face no criminal charges.

Two other men – Ryan Ali, 28, and Ryan Hale, 26 – were also charged with affray this week.

No firm date has been set for Stokes to return but, subject to any further legal developments and he’s yet to make his first court appearance to face a charge of affray, he’ll face New Zealand in February’s T20 series prior to the two Tests in March. Clearly the legal process will take its course and it remains a possibility that Stokes will have to leave the tour if necessary.

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Ngidi, Rabada send clueless Indians packing

Monitoring Desk

CENTURION: When the team loses three of its middle-order batsmen in the first hour on the fifth morning chasing 252 more run runs to record a historic win, it pretty much sums up the lack of intent and application in the Indian ranks. And that was the picture on the fifth morning of the second Test between India and South Africa at the SuperSport Park in Centurion. In the end, India folded up for 151 in 50.2 overs as the hosts recorded a 135-run win to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-Test series.

Lungi Ngidi (6/39) on debut and Kagiso Rabada (3/47) were the stars for the South Africans on the last day as they sealed the deal for the hosts in just two hours and 16 minutes. The Indian batsmen had no answer to the duo’s disciplined approach on the final morning as they shared 9 wickets between themselves in India’s second essay.

Expected to grind it out and take it session by the session, the Indian batsmen showed no sense of holding ground as they lost wickets one after the other even before variable bounce could make its presence felt on the scoreboard. With skipper Virat Kohli back in the hut on the fourth evening itself, the slim chances India had of winning on the fifth day lay on the shoulders of Cheteshwar Pujara and Parthiv Patel.

The two overnight batsmen needed to be at the crease at least for the first session to harbour hopes of a miraculous win. But it took 16 minutes for South Africa to run out Pujara and with it went any hopes India harboured of chasing history in Centurion. Trying for a non-existent third and chancing AB de Villiers’s arm wasn’t the best thing to do from Pujara and he paid the price as a bullet throw from de Villiers caught Pujara (19) just short of the crease.

That was the start of the end for the visitors. The only resistance came from Rohit Sharma (47 off 74 balls) as he played an ODI-like knock to delay the embarrassment for Kohli and his boys. It was funny to think that Mohammed Shami seemed to be the only other one who was keen to spend some time in the middle with Rohit. The two put on 54 for the 8th wicket which was also the highest partnership of the innings for India.

Not just that, Shami’s score of 28 was the second highest score in the Indian innings behind Rohit, clearly showing the complete lack of application from the Indian middle-order that was disheartening. It finally took a brilliant diving catch from AB de Villiers at fine leg to end Rohit’s innings which then looked as the last over before lunch. But the wicket ensured that play was extended as South Africa needed two more wickets to seal the game. Shami went soon after, dismissed by Ngidi.

More than the losing the series with the loss in the second Test, it is the manner in which the Indian batsmen got out on the final morning that leaves a scar in the hearts of the millions watching and supporting the No. 1 Test team. While Pujara unnecessarily ran himself out, Hardik Pandya tried the upper-cut to a ball from Lungi Ngidi that was not just on the sixth stump, but also way above the head. The end result was a simple catch to Quinton de Kock.

R Ashwin too failed to show the application that saw him score 38 with skipper Kohli for company in the first innings. Flashing outside off when the order of the day was to stand there and give Rohit company, Ashwin (3) gave the easiest of catches to Quinton and once again the bowler was Lungi. Only Parthiv Patel can curse his luck as Morne Morkel took a blinder at fine leg to send back the wicket-keeper for 19.

With Kagiso Rabada trying to bounce out the diminutive keeper, Parthiv decided to go for the pull and while he did not time it completely, Morkel ran some 10 yards before putting in the full stretched drive and held onto that one as the rest of the players rushed in to celebrate. Apart from that, the rest of the dismissals were more about lack of application than anything else.

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New Zealand name T20 squad

Monitoring Desk

WELLINGTON: New Zealand on Wednesday named their T20 squad to face Pakistan in the three-match GJ Gardner Homes series. Ben Wheeler, who last played for the Black Caps in February 2017, will return to the inter-changeable squad, from which selectors will seek to employ various combinations throughout the series.

Seth Rance will join the NZ ODI squad for the final match in Wellington, with Trent Boult being rested until the second and third T20. Lockie Ferguson will miss the first T20, Tim Southee the second, while Ross Taylor has been selected for the first T20 only. Boult will also be rested in the final ODI against Pakistan on Friday. New Zealand T20 squad: Kane Williamson (c), Trent Boult, Tom Bruce, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Anaru Kitchen, Colin Munro, Glenn Phillips, Seth Rance, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Ben Wheeler.


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Koreas to march under single ‘united’ flag in Olympic Games

Monitoring Desk

LONDON: North and South Korea have agreed to march together under a single “unified Korea” flag at next month’s Winter Olympics in the South.

They also agreed to field a joint women’s ice hockey team in rare talks at the truce village of Panmunjom.

These are the first high-level talks between the two Koreas in more than two years.

The Games will take place between 9 and 25 February in Pyeongchang in South Korea.

If the plans are realised, a hundreds-strong North Korean delegation – including 230 cheerleaders, 140 orchestral musicians and 30 taekwondo athletes – could cross into the South via the land border to attend.

The North has also agreed to send a smaller, 150-member delegation to the Paralympics in March.

Both South Korea’s hockey coach and conservative newspapers had expressed concern about the prospect of a united hockey team, saying it could damage South Korea’s chances of winning a medal.

Tens of thousands of people are said to have signed online petitions urging President Moon Jae-in to scrap the plan.

And it will have to be approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Saturday, because North Korea has missed registration deadlines or failed to qualify.

South Korea will also need to find ways to host the North Korean delegation without violating UN Security Council sanctions outlawing cash transfers to Pyongyang, and blacklisting certain senior officials from Pyongyang.

Japan has viewed the latest detente with suspicion, with Foreign Minister Taro Kono saying the world should not be blinded by Pyongyang’s recent “charm offensive”.

“It is not the time to ease pressure or to reward North Korea,” Mr Kono said, according to Reuters news agency. “The fact that North Korea is engaging in dialogue could be interpreted as proof that the sanctions are working.”

The North has made rapid recent advances in its nuclear and conventional weapons programmes.

Its latest ballistic missile test, on 28 November, sparked a new series of fresh sanctions from the UN targeting petrol shipments and travel.

But soon afterwards North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he was “open to dialogue”.

Mr Kono issued his caution about talks in Vancouver, Canada, where some 20 nations that fought alongside the US-backed South in the bloody 1950-53 war – which ended in stalemate and sealed the peninsula’s division – met to discuss its future.

On the sidelines of the talks, ministers from South Korea, the US and Japan agreed to maintain pressure on the North to denuclearise while offering support for the bilateral talks, said South Korean news agency Yonhap.

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Pakistan to face Sri Lanka in Blind Cricket World Cup semis

Monitoring Desk

AJMAN: Pakistan are facing Sri Lanka in the semifinal of the Blind Cricket World Cup on Wednesday (today) at Ajman, UAE.

Sri Lanka elected to field first after winning the toss and invited Pakistan to bat first, who are fresh off the back of a world record victory against Australia.

Earlier, on Sunday, Pakistan blind team outclasses Australian team by 393 runs after posting a record total of 563-4 in 40 overs. Aamir Ashfaq smashed a brilliant 208, while Sana hit 143 and Haroon 105. In reply, the Aussies were dismissed for 170 runs.

In the second semifinal of the tournament today, Bangladesh won the toss and decided to bat against India.