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Islamabad United crushes Karachi Kings to qualify for PSL final

Monitoring Desk

DUBAI: Luke Ronchi of Islamabad United played another aggressive innings against the Karachi Kings and made the 155 chase look easy for his team in the qualifier of Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Dubai on Sunday.

Karachi Kings won the toss and opted to bat first but they were struggling to get some momentum as Muhammad Sami picks up two quick which damage the cause of Kings and finally they were able to set a target of 155 for the former champion of the PSL. Ingram scored some shots and make sure to reach the figure of 155 for the team score.

In the reply, United opener Luke Ronchi crushed the Kings bowlers and scored a fifty on just 19 balls and by the end of the innings he was not out on 94 runs for 39 balls.

Ronchi hit 12 fours and five sixes on the strike rate of 241.02. The Duminy-led team completed their chase in 12.3 overs.

United secured the most convincing victory in the tournament’s history in terms of balls (45 balls remaining); United’s 103 off 8.1 overs was the fastest team 100 in PSL.

Karachi, however, are not eliminated. They’ll face the winners of the first Eliminator between Quetta and Peshawar.


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Rameez for auction system in PSL

Monitoring Desk

DUBAI: Cricketer-turned-commentator Rameez Raja believes the Pakistan Super League can attract even better quality players if it adopts an auction-based system rather than the drafts system it currently uses for player induction.

Per the current system, the players who make themselves available are picked as part of draft picks — a system widely used in North American leagues such as the NBA and the NFL. That system favours league’s worst sides as they are awarded earlier draft picks, which subsequently discourages long winning streaks and ensures a level playing field in the long run.

However, it also means that each team has to stay under a predetermined salary cap set and can’t go over the budget — a restriction that keeps the absolute cream of world cricket away from the league.

The auction system, however, is what its name suggests. A player can earn as much as anyone is willing to pay for him in open auctions — a system the Indian Premier League has been using with great success, although it favours the more affluent and successful franchises.

Raja believes if the PSL adopts the auction system it too can attract cricketers from the top shelf, telling DawnNewsTV: “I will suggest that we should take it (PSL) to auction rather than draft. It might strengthen the top teams but I feel rest of the teams will also put more effort, and financially, it will become a bigger game.

“Many of the current big names in international cricket will come to play and won’t take it as a dry run [and warm-up] to the next league — IPL — where they get more money. This will increase stakes.”

Raja admitted that at this point his suggestion is more a wish rather than anything concrete. “I am not sure if our system can do it or not but personally, I would like to see it that way,” he said.

The former Pakistan captain also talked about the low turnout for PSL matches in Dubai and Sharjah, claiming the league and its teams did not do as much they should’ve to fill up the stadia.

“I believe we will need to hire tour operators,” said Raja. “We will have to take fans from Pakistan. All the stakeholders, who have invested money in the league, they all need to put in an effort because it is important for their product to be visible.

“If you want to hold the league in the UAE, you need tour operators, you need to engage labour camps and cities. I think we took things for granted this year and did not get the response which we received in the last two years. “But the good thing about the league is that people in Pakistan are still enjoying it.”






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Federer survives scare to enter Indian Wells final

Monitoring Desk

INDIAN WELLS (Agencies): World No. 1 Roger Federer extended his season win streak to 17 matches, booking his spot in the Indian Wells Masters final by rallying past Borna Coric 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

The Swiss superstar survived a stern test from world number 49 Coric but managed to hold on for a 17-0 record this year, surpassing his prior career-best calendar year start in 2006 when he opened with 16 wins.

“It took a while to get the record,” Federer said. “But I’m happy. It was just a fighting match …. It didn’t come easy, so I had to go get it. “I got a little bit lucky. I hung tough and put a lot of effort into it to get the record. “The focus has to be the finals right now. But it’s nice to get off to a good start this year, and I hope I can play well again tomorrow.”

The defending champion will be aiming for a record sixth Indian Wells title when he squares off against world number eight Juan Martin Del Potro in Sunday’s championship match. The 36-year-old Federer said he had to draw on every ounce of experience and mental toughness to pull out the match. “Margins are slim at the top of the game,” he said. “And I have been there so many times.

“You just hope to take the right decisions along the way, and then it ends up falling your way. “But for that you need to have a very positive mindset. You need to be match-tough, you need to be confident, have experience, and I think I have a bit of all of that right now.” Down a set and trailing 4-2 in the second, Federer had to claw his way back from the brink of defeat.

In the third set he fell behind again 4-3 but won the final 11 points of the match to claim the victory. Federer clinched the match when Coric hit a shot wide. The ball was called out but Coric challenged and after the video review the original call was confirmed. “Borna was incredibly steady,” Federer said. “Those 10 minutes when I was down a set and a break it was hard for me to accept.

“I got a bit lucky. It was a good match.” Federer had not dropped a set (8-0) entering the semi-final. But he looked out of sorts in the opening set Saturday as Croatia’s Coric took it handily. The match was played under difficult conditions with winds swirling around the main stadium. Federer said he had to be conservative with his shotmaking to get back in it. “At some point you are happy with very little,” Federer said. Former US Open winner Del Potro improved to 16-3 on the season as he stormed past the hard-serving Canadian Milos Raonic 6-2, 6-3 in just 65 minutes.

– ‘Easier than expected’ –

Del Potro is looking for his 22nd career and second straight ATP title in a row after winning earlier this month in Acapulco where he beat three top eight players in a row. “I broke his serve quick in both sets and that gave me control of the match,” said Del Potro.

“It was an easier match than I expected.” Federer is 18-6 lifetime against Del Potro, having rallied to win the last two contests in three sets, including a 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-3 victory in the championship game last year in Federer’s hometown of Basel. Federer said he is expecting another gruelling war of attrition with the Argentinian. “We have had a lot of close matches.

Big matches, close matches,” he said. “Jeez, I just tried to think back at the French Open semis, US Open finals, Olympic semis, Basel finals. Just three-setters, five-setters the whole way,” said Federer. Del Potro said he will be the underdog against Federer. “He’s the favorite to win tomorrow,” Del Potro said. “But I beat him in the past, and I know I can repeat that. But it is not easy.”

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Salah hits four as Liverpool crush Watford

Monitoring Desk

LIVERPOOL (Agencies): Mohamed Salah struck four times in rampant Liverpool’s 5-0 thrashing of Watford that lifted them back into third spot in the Premier League on Saturday.

The unstoppable Egyptian needed only four minutes to put his side in front and he doubled his tally just before halftime. He set up Roberto Firmino for a cheeky effort early in the second half before placing a shot through a crowd of Watford defenders to complete his first Liverpool hat-trick.

There was no respite for Watford at a snowy Anfield as the clinical Salah smashed in his fourth goal in the 85th minute — from his fourth shot on target. Salah’s majestic display moved him four goals clear of Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane in the race for the Premier League’s Golden Boot, with 28, and his 36 in all competitions is the most by a Liverpool player in a debut season for the club.

Liverpool have 63 points from 31 games, two more than Tottenham Hotspur who have played 30. More importantly, they are now seven points clear of fifth-placed Chelsea in the tussle for the top four and Champions League qualification. “The goals we scored were unbelievably good, and the boys didn’t stop. That’s how football should be, so I’m really happy with the performance,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said.

“For Mo to be involved in five goals is fantastic but to score four is even more fantastic.” Salah is the first Liverpool player to score four goals in a league match since Luis Suarez in 2013 and it took him only four minutes to get started, firing in after his ball control and pace left Watford’s defence floundering.

Liverpool, who needed a positive response after losing to Manchester United last week, went off the boil for much of the first half but Salah tapped in Andy Robertson’s cross close to halftime to move past the 33 goals scored by Fernando Torres in his first season at Anfield in 2007-08.

When his cross picked out Firmino who finished with his back to goal for Liverpool’s third in the 49th minute it was a matter of how many the hosts would score. Salah sealed his hat-trick when he wriggled into the area and stabbed the ball past Watford keeper Orestis Karnezis and added his side’s fifth when he pounced to smash home a loose ball after another fine Liverpool move.

Watford had decent spells in the first half and Roberto Pereyra did strike the crossbar with a second-half free kick, but they were easy pickings for Klopp’s slick side. Defeat left Watford in 11th spot, a comfortable eight points above the relegation zone.

“It was a real tough day for the whole team — 5-0 is a pretty embarrassing scoreline,” Watford defender Adrian Mariappa said. “Today Salah was on it and he punished us.”



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15 suspected bookies arrested

Monitoring Desk

KARACHI: As Karachi prepares to host Pakistan Super League (PSL) final, Sindh Police claimed to have arrested on Sunday at least 15 bookies, including a local TV channel employee, allegedly preparing to place bets on PSL matches.

According to Karachi’s SSP Clifton Tauqqeer Naeem, the Darakshan Police officials recovered a total of Rs6.5 million in local and international currency, 39 mobile phones, three laptops and expensive watches during a raid at a bungalow on Khayaban-e-Badban in Defence Housing Authority (DHA). The police officer claimed that at least 88 bookies were currently active in the city. Last week, Islamabad Police claimed to have arrested 29 men during a raid on a gambling den in Saidpur Village where the suspects were betting on PSL matches. The Police confiscated stake money of Rs80,000, 30 mobile phones, cans of beer and 400 grammes of hashish. The raid was conducted by Kohsar police around dusk under the supervision of ASP-Secretariat Zohaib Ranjha. All 29 suspects were locked up in the Kohsar police station.


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4th Inter-Provincial Games begin

F.P. Report

PESHAWAR (APP): The 4th edition of the Inter-Provincial Games under the aegis of Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) and with the collaboration of Directorate General Sports KP and KP Olympic Association got under way here with great enthusiasm witnessed among the participating players.

President Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) Lt. Gen ® Arif Hassan formally inaugurated the colorful Games. Former Hockey Olympian Munzur Ul Hassan, Secretary Sports, Tourism, Culture and Youth Affairs Muhammad Tariq Khan, Secretary POA Khalid Mehmood, Vice President POA Syed Aqil Shah, DG Sports KP Junaid Khan, Director Female Games KP Miss Rashida Ghaznavi, Chairman Pakistan Volleyball Federation Ch. Yaqoob, former DG PSB Dr. Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera, Organizing Secretary Zulfiqar Ali Butt, Director Operation Syed Saqlain Shah, officials, players and large number of spectators were also present.

A total of 1700 athletes and more than 160 officials are taking part in 25 different games comprising archery, athletics, badminton, baseball, basketball, boxing, bodybuilding, gymnastics, handball, hockey, ju-jitsu, kabaddi, karate, rowing, rugby, softball, squash, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, tug-of-war, volleyball, weightlifting with 11 disciplines for female and 25 for males.

The sports disciplines of cycling (men & women) and judo (men & women), is not included. The golf and shooting have expressed their unavailability so all the four games are not part of the Games. The colorful opening was started with the recitation from Holy Quran by Nida Niat, followed by a smart March Past. World Gold Medalist in Wrestling Inayat Ullah carried the national flag, followed by a FC contingent holding the Olympic Flag. The torch bearers led by double gold medalists Khalid Noor formally flamed the Games Torch. Soon after the March Past Lt. Gen (Retd) Arif Hassan announced the commencement of the Games, balloons and pigeon were released in the air with banners inscribed with different game slogans. It is for the first time that contingent of Gilgit-Baltistan (100), FATA (150) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (100) took part alongside Balochistan (300 athletes), Punjab (300), Sindh (300), Islamabad (100), and KP (300) are taking part.

Lt. Gen Arif Hassan also lauded the govt of KP for approving a grant of more than Rs. 40 million for the organizing committee of the KP Olympic Association. He said that for the large interest of the promotion of sports in the country, the POA keen to provide maximum participation to the youth of AJK and GB. He urged upon Governor KP to extend support to FATA Olympic Association so the youth of FATA can actively participate in these Games. He said more facilities would be ensured to AJK, FATA, Islamabad and GB so that its players could come up at par with Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and KP. In a question, about Athletics, he said, two groups each from Sindh, Balochistan turned up and such issue would be resolved when both Pakistan Athletic Federation and POA jury committee would sit together by Sunday evening. DG Sports Junaid Khan assured that the govt of KP is very keen to extending full support to the POA for holding the Games. He said govt of KP is extended all out support for hosting the Games as all facilities of various disciplines have already been revamped to ensure international standard to the players.

He said newly constructed Abdul Wali Khan Sports Complex Charsadda, Hayatabad Sports Complex Peshawar, Peshawar Sports Complex, and University Campus Peshawar are the main venues for different Games. He said Governor KP will grace the occasion as guest at the closing ceremony. A request has already been made to the Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for the presentation ceremony on March 20.

Earlier, folk dances Mehsud, Khattak Dance, and Versatile Dance Company Lahore’s have traditional dances of Kalasha, Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, AJK, traditional Athern of Waziristan Agency FATA, turned the whole complexion into a melodious one. The participating athletes also joined the dances grounds enthusiastically on the traditional numbers.

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Islamabad United to face Karachi Kings today for spot in PSL final

F.P. Report

DUBAI: The former champion of Pakistan Super League (PSL) and top of the points table, Islamabad United and Karachi Kings will each other in the playoff of the third edition of PSL at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium tonight on Sunday.

The winner of tonight’s game will cement its place in the final of the tournament which is scheduled to be held in Karachi on March 25. The losing team will play the winner of Peshawar Zalmi vs Quetta Gladiators eliminator game in Lahore, in one more shot at a berth in the final.

Islamabad United, who top the points table this season after winning seven out of 10 matches in the third edition of PSL.

Karachi Kings, at second position, have won 5 and lost 4 matches.

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PSL teams turn attention towards playoffs

Monitoring Desk

KARACHI: The Pakistan Super League’s (PSL) group stages have ended and teams turn their attention towards the playoffs, having to make adjustments for the foreign players who have opted out of travelling to Lahore and Karachi for the eliminators and final.

With tickets for all three games already sold out, anticipation and excitement has not been dampened by the players who have pulled out of the tournament. A number of English players, including Eoin Morgan, Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Sam Billings and Kevin Pietersen, will not be coming to Pakistan.

“I am not available for the Pakistan leg of the PSL. It’s been a long winter for me and I have been away since December so unfortunately I am unavailable,” said England skipper Morgan, who was captaining Karachi Kings in the absence of Imad Wasim.

Islamabad United, who qualified for the first qualifier, will be missing the firepower of Hales and Billings at the top of the innings.

Quetta Gladiators, meanwhile, will miss Jason Roy who joined just two days back. Even bigger losses for the two-time finalists will be that of Kevin Pietersen and the current holder of the Fazal Mehmood cap Shane Watson.

Quetta skipper Sarfraz Ahmed is under no illusions regarding the hit his team will suffer once they lose this devastating trio of batsmen.

“We played really well in the pool matches last year and finished top of the league,” said Sarfraz. “Our top performers were foreign players so we naturally missed them in the final. That was a huge setback for our team and we lost the final because of that.”

However, the wicketkeeper batsman believes they have had more time to prepare for the eventuality of these players opting out and therefore are better equipped this time around of dealing with their absence.

“This year we know that we will be missing our top performers again,” he said. “That will surely reduce the morale of the team but we are planning to groom and polish our local talent in a way that they are able to perform for the team in the knockout stages.” Sarfraz also discussed the way his team has always been written off but have managed to confound the critics time and again.

“Nobody expected us to qualify for the final four once again,” said Sarfraz. “However, we have shown exactly what we are capable of and there is no reason for us to stop believing in ourselves or to change the way we play. We need at least one of the top six batsmen to stay till the end so that people can go for it from the other end.”

The National Stadium of Karachi, meanwhile, is still undergoing final touches as it prepares for the big final, with tickets for the game having been sold out within 12 hours of going online.

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Players’ absence hurt Lahore, says Aqib Javed

Monitoring Desk

DUBAI: Pakistan Super League (PSL) franchise Lahore Qalandars’ head coach and director cricket Aqib Javed has said that the absence of Chris Lynn and Angelo Mathews hurt their plans in the third edition.

Javed, while talking to ESPNcricinfo in a video interview, said Lahore picked a strong team in the draft which would’ve helped them do wonders in PSL3.

“It is quite frustrating You need to win five or six matches to qualify for the next round in any tournament. But if you lose the first six matches on the trot, it is very disappointing,” said Javed while talking about the Lahore’s dismal start of the tournament.

“A lot of things changed from the time the draft took place till the start of the tournament, he added. “We were depending a lot on the big players. We lost Lynn and Mathews, then unfortunately Cameron Delport’s mother passed away. Such players are important for the team. They are match-winners and that is why you pick them in the higher platinum category.”

He continued by saying that their replacement selections were not as good as their initial picks. “So when your preferred players are not coming, you get to pick players in the replacement draft. And it’s understandable that you won’t get a like-for-like replacement for the platinum players and you have to go to the gold or silver category. This has been one of the biggest loss for us,” he said.

Aqib then laid his plan out which they had made while picking players for the third edition of the PSL. “According to the draft picks, we had a really strong team,” he revealed. “We had two Pakistanis who are very good in this format. Four overseas batting options were also outstanding. Sunil Narine is very good and he showed that last year. And then we had Brendon, Lynn and Mathews, so if you have such good top six batsmen then you need a Sohail Akhtar kind of all-rounder at number seven. Then the idea was that Umar will keep for us. So if you don’t get both these options [Lynn and Mathews] all our plans fell apart.

Lahore, after six consecutive defeats, came back strong and bagged three victories against Multan Sultans, Karachi Kings and Quetta Gladiators, but Aqib believes a few earlier matches should have gone in their favour too. “There were a few close matches which could’ve ended in our favour.

In the first game, we had a huge batting collapse where we lost seven wickets for five runs. We should have won that game,” he explained.

“There were few others as well, like the Super Over game [against Islamabad] which could’ve gone either way. We dropped Russell and the ball went for six, so that was a huge turnaround.”

On Lahore’s comeback

Aqib thinks Lahore showed true character by not letting their heads fall even when they had nothing to gain from the remainder of the four matches.

“After losing those six games, it was tough. You can actually see how the team management and the captain keep everyone together and create hope amongst the team. They motivate the team to play for their pride and play their best,” he said.

“You can see how we won the last two games; the Lahore-Karachi game has been one of PSL’s best games ever. So, when you are focused you can turn things around.”

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FIFA lifts three-decade ban on Iraq

Monitoring Desk

BOGOTA: FIFA has lifted its three-decade ban on Iraq hosting international football, a move hailed by the country´s sports authorities on Saturday as a boost for its most popular game.

“We are allowing international matches to be staged in the cities of Arbil, Basra and Karbala,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino told reporters after a meeting of the FIFA Council in Bogota.

The three cities had been allowed to organise friendlies in the past year provided the security situation was “stable”. Iraq will host Qatar and Syria for a friendly tournament starting on March 21 in Basra. FIFA said it could not “yet” agree to a request from the Iraqi authorities to organise matches in the capital Baghdad, but Infantino promised that the city´s application would continue to be studied.

The three cities selected are among the more secure in Iraq. Basra and Karbala both lie south of Baghdad, far from the battlefields north and west of the capital where the security forces fought the Daesh group from 2014 to 2017.

Arbil is the capital of the country´s autonomous Kurdish region. The Iraq Football Association welcomed FIFA´s decision but vowed to “spare no effort for games to be played in stadiums in other provinces, including Baghdad”. “This decision puts our sport back on the rails,” it said.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who declared victory over Daesh in December, said the lifting of the FIFA ban was the “fruit of stability in terms of security and of the successes achieved by Iraq.” For years, Iraq has been busily building stadiums and lobbying stars and the sport´s governing bodies for a return to the international fold.

Friday´s decision followed an international friendly between Iraq and Saudi Arabia in Basra on February 28, their first on Iraqi soil in 40 years. It was watched by Asian Football Confederation (AFC) head Salman bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa who said “the time has come” to end the three-decade ban. The first home competitive games could come as early as next month as two Iraqi clubs have fixtures in the AFC Cup which were postponed pending FIFA´s decision.

Infantino said it would be for the AFC to decide where they were played. “FIFA has given the green light for the resumption but the organisers of the championship must take the final decision,” he said. Iraq has not played full internationals on home turf since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The ban, covering all but domestic matches, stayed in place after the US-led invasion of 2003 toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. It was briefly lifted in 2012, but a power outage during an Iraq-Jordan match in Arbil led FIFA to promptly reinstate it.