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ICC investigates Sri Lankan involvement in pitch-fixing charges

Monitoring Desk

ISLAMABAD: The International Cricket Council (ICC) has said that it was investigating the allegations that groundsman of Sri Lanka had committed to tamper with the pitch to bring the result on their own interest in the upcoming test match against England.

The ICC took the action after the allegations were reported in an Al Jazeera documentary very seriously and urged all evidence and supporting material to be shared with the investigators.

The complete documentary on the issue will be broadcast on Sunday and according the reports, two Sri Lankans and a former Indian player were caught discussing how to rig England’s opening Test against Sri Lanka in November this year.

ICC issued a statement in this regard and according to it they have already launched an investigation working with anti-corruption colleagues from member countries based on the information they received so far.

It also demanded to immediately release the evidence and other material which can be helpful for the anti-corruption unit to complete investigation.

The reports claimed that in the Al Jazeera documentary, former Indian professional cricketer Robin Morris, a Colombo player Tharindu Mendis, and Tharanga Indika, an assistant manager at Galle International Stadium were seen and they were discussing the upcoming England series and how to control the pitch according to their own wish and interest.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan cricket board said it was aware of the allegations and was planning on issuing a statement.

The former curator of the Galle International Stadium, Jayananda Warnaweera, is already under an ICC ban for three years until January 2019 for failing to cooperate with an anti-corruption investigation.


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Pak. cricketer players impress May

LONDON (Agencies): British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday praised the performance of Pakistan cricket team at the Lord’s cricket ground.

May and her husband Philip John joined Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman (PCB) Najam Sethi, businessman, and former Punjab Assembly lawmaker Dr Ashraf Chohan, and Romana Ahmed at Lord’s and watched the second match between England and Pakistan.

The prime minister, an avid follower of cricket since her days at the Oxford University where she was introduced to her husband by the former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto, spoke to Sethi about the performance of the two teams and exchanged views on the current series that has drawn sold-out crowds.

She told the PCB chairman that the Pakistani team had played a good game and showed lots of promise. May said Lord’s was the home of cricket and spectators always loved watching the game there and observed that matches between Pakistan and England are interesting.

The British premier said the Pakistani team had performed well on the first day of the match through a good bowling spell. Pakistan had managed to bowl out all English players at 184 on the first day of the game. On the second day, Pakistan managed to level the score of 184 at the loss of three wickets.

Sethi noted that Pakistani team was in good form and had exhibited discipline. He expressed his hopes that the team will continue to perform and go on to win the series.

May stayed at the Lord’s for over three hours and watched the match keenly and mingled with the Pakistani crowd and others, including officials of the English Cricket Board and the International Cricket Council.

Dr Ashraf Chohan, who was also present at the cricket ground, said it was a pleasant surprise for everyone to find May in their midst.

“We were enjoying the match and the good weather when May arrived unannounced. We were all surprised,” he said. “She showed quite a lot of interest in the current game and talked about cricket.”

The British prime minister seemed to be relaxed and took advantage of her new MCC membership, which she had obtained by jumping the 26-year waiting list for the famous cricket club.

“The British prime minister’s job is punishing and she loved relaxing while watching the match. She could have relaxed more if Pakistan didn’t have an upper hand in the match so far!” noted Dr Chohan.

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Afridi, Gayle, Sammy to play in Canada league

TORONTO (Agencies): International cricket stars Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Shahid Afridi, Darren Sammy, Lasith Malinga, Steve Smith, Sunil Narine, Chris Lynn, David Miller and Dwayne Bravo will play Global T20 Canada, a new professional league in the Twenty20 format launched here on Thursday.

Along with the players, Cricket Canada and Mercuri Canada, revealed the mark, teams and venue for the league, the first to be fully staged in North America and set to run from June 28 to July 15.

Global T20 Canada will consist of six teams, five representing Canadian cities – Edmonton Royals, Montreal Tigers, Toronto Nationals, Vancouver Knights and Winnipeg Hawks – with a sixth, Cricket West Indies representative team, consisting entirely of players from the Caribbean, as part of an official partnership with Cricket West Indies.

Speaking about this association, Cricket West Indies (CWI) President, Dave Cameron, said, “On behalf of CWI, I would like to wish Global T20 Canada much success. The growth of our region will largely depend on the success of leagues and tournaments like this. We support Cricket Canada and look forward to working even closer going forward, so congratulations and all the best to Cricket Canada and Mercuri Group.”

Teams will be stocked with players through a draft that will take place on May 30. Four roster spots will be set aside for Canadians reflecting organizers’ plan to leverage the league to develop future Canadian talent that will lead the men’s national team to success in international competitions, in both the Twenty20 and Test formats.

The league will comprise 22 matches culminating in playoffs and the championship match on July 16. All contests will take place at Maple Leaf Cricket Club, a cricket-specific facility just north of Toronto that will be expanded to a capacity of 7,000 seats. “Global T20 Canada marks the first time a nation with associate member status is launching a league – a major step forward in cricket’s global development,” says Ranjit Saini, President, Cricket Canada.

“Canadian cricket fans will have a great opportunity to see up close many of the world’s greatest players, and I’d like to thank International Cricket Council, CWI and the international cricket community for their guidance and support in growing cricket in Canada.”

As the newest international league in the format, Global T20 Canada joins a growing list of competitions in India, Australia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Caribbean.

Driven by the success of Indian Premier League and Australia’s Big Bash, the Twenty20 format has exploded in popularity with its pageantry, colour, pop culture elements, and shorter match duration. Mercuri Canada, which signed a 25-year deal with Cricket Canada to manage and operate the league, plans to grow and develop the league to one day rival its global counterparts. League broadcast partners, the broadcast schedule and ticket information will be announced in the coming days.



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Nadal: Don’t care if Federer is out of French Open

PARIS (Agencies): Defending champion Rafael Nadal says he could not care less whether great rival Roger Federer is at the French Open or not and is simply focussed on winning an 11th title in Paris.

Federer, who took his major haul to 20 by winning this year’s Australian Open, has opted to skip Roland Garros for the second year running to concentrate on retaining his Wimbledon title.

As Nadal met the media on Friday, he was asked whether winning last year or potentially this year would be less of an achievement with the Swiss maestro absent.

“Exactly the same,” Nadal, who will be 32 during the tournament, told reporters. “Being honest. Exactly the same.

“I cannot say that the victory of Federer (in 2009) when I was injured or victory of Novak (Djokovic, in 2016) when I was injured is not that beautiful. Would not be fair for my side.

“When I am winning and other players are not playing for some reason, that’s all. It’s bad news for the tournament but not for myself if I win. “For me, the victory means exactly the same.”

Sixteen-time grand slam winner Nadal has been in imperious form coming into the French Open, winning on clay in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome.

In Madrid he celebrated the landmark of winning 50 consecutive sets on the red dirt before his only blip came in a quarter-final defeat by Austrian Dominic Thiem.

Djokovic gave Nadal a tussle in Rome last week in the semi-finals and Nadal said the Serb will be a threat, despite a season in which he has suffered injury and poor form.

“Novak is one of the best players of our history of this sport,” Nadal said.

“My answer is he’s not coming back; he’s there always. Sometimes when you come back from injuries is difficult to play that well from the beginning, but he played a great event in Rome, and is no doubt one of the candidates to win here.”


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Real Madrid, Liverpool eye Champions League title

ANKARA (Agencies): Spain’s Real Madrid and England’s Liverpool will face off for the Champions League title in the Ukrainian capital Kiev on Saturday.

The National Sports Complex Olympic Stadium will host the match. Real Madrid have won a record 12 Champions League titles and are looking for their third in a row. Liverpool last won the Champions League title in 2005 — their fifth — defeating AC Milan in penalties after a thrilling comeback from 3-0 down in Istanbul.

Liverpool’s Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah and Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino will constitute the main offensive threats. Salah scored 10 goals in 12 Champions League appearances this season. Firmino has 10 goals.

In addition, Senegalese winger Sadio Mane scored nine goals in Champions League competition.

Ronaldo to lead Real Madrid

Real Madrid’s Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 15 goals in 12 Champions League games.  Real Madrid’s Spanish defender Dani Carvajal, 26, is expected to miss the final due to injury. Midfielder Isco is also doubtful.

As for Liverpool, English winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cameroonian defender Joel Matip and English defender Joe Gomez suffer from injuries.

However Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said German midfielder Emre Can, who had been injured, was now fit to play the final.

The match in Kiev will kick off at 1845GMT and will be officiated by Serbian referee Milorad Mazic.



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Serena, Venus get doubles wildcard

Paris (Agencies):  Serena and Venus Williams were handed a wild card into the French Open women’s doubles as the American sisters seek to add a third Roland Garros title to their triumphs in 1999 and 2010.

They have won 14 Grand Slam doubles as a team but since their last win together in Paris they have only featured on two further occasions at the tournament, losing in the first round in 2013 and the third round in 2016. Serena, a three-time singles champion at the French Open, will be playing in her first Grand Slam tournament since winning the Australian Open in 2017 after which she stepped off the tour to give birth to her daughter in September. On Thursday, she was drawn to face Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic in the first round of the singles which gets underway on Sunday. Venus starts against China’s Wang Qiang.


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Shafiq, Azam fifties keep Pakistan on top

LONDON (Agencies): Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam crafted patient fifties to lift Pakistan to 227 for five at tea on the second day of the first test against England at Lord’s on Friday.

The touring side, who bowled England out for 184 after losing the toss, moved 43 runs ahead on another overcast day at the home of cricket and were in a strong position to dictate the course of the match.

Resuming on 50 for one, Azhar Ali and Haris Sohail were untroubled by a toothless England seam attack in the first hour and Azhar played one glorious cover drive for four off Mark Wood as the pair took the total to 87. Wood made the breakthrough when Sohail edged an outswinger to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow to depart for 39.

England captain Joe Root rotated his fast bowlers in an effort to unsettle the batsmen before turning to off-spinner Dom Bess in his first test. Azhar nudged the 20-year-old for a single to bring up a half-century that included six fours, but the compact right-hand batsman failed to add to his tally, falling lbw to a full-length delivery from James Anderson.

Shafiq and Azam took Pakistan to 136 for three at lunch and the pair continued to gather runs comfortably in the afternoon session.

Shafiq chopped Wood high over the slips to reach his half-century and moved on to 59 before he was surprised by a short ball from Ben Stokes which looped up off his bat to Dawid Malan at second slip.

Azam played some wristy strokes and became the third Pakistan batsman to make fifty but he lost his partner Sarfraz Ahmed just before tea when the captain skied a pull off Stokes and was well caught by a diving Wood on the fine-leg boundary.

Azam was unbeaten on 59 at the interval and Pakistan were on course to establish a healthy first-innings lead and put England under pressure at the start of the two-match series.


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Bowlers’ fitness concerns Shoaib Akhtar

Monitoring Desk

KARACHI: Legendary Pakistan fast-bowler Shoaib Akhtar has raised concerns over the fitness of the Pakistani bowlers in the upcoming two-Test series against England.

Akhtar, who holds the record for bowling the fastest bowl in the cricket history, expressed those views while talking to the media on Wednesday.

“Bowlers’ fitness is my primary concern,” said Akhtar. “They are not performing consistently precisely because of that. All of them play too many T20 and 50-over matches and that’s their focus. But the real deal is Test cricket, where fitness becomes a real issue. You have to be extremely fit to bowl three or four spells in a day and I don’t see that with this current bowling lot. Amir was limping in Ireland, Hasan Ali is not fit either and Rahat Ali is not assured of his role. I think even he can’t decide if he is an attacking bowler or a defensive bowler. In such circumstances, it is natural to believe that Pakistan will have a really tough time in England.”

Akhtar, who represented Pakistan in 46 Tests, 163 ODIs and 15 T20Is, claiming a total of 444 wickets along the way, believes the tour will also be tough for the batsmen.

“This is a new era and people need to step up, Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq in particular because they are the seniors,” he said. “But apart from that, I genuinely believe our batting is not equipped to playing well in seaming conditions. We are unsure about conditions because we are not acclimatised.  We’ve seen this in Ireland where there was a bit of moisture on the track and our batting struggled. So I think it’s going to be a huge test for the batsman as they will be tested against the best in the world.”

However, the former pacer believes the side won’t just take it lying down. “Having said all that, I have full confidence in the Pakistan team. I want them to fight and get in the game. If they get good conditions, they should capitalise on them. I believe this team has the potential to produce good results. They have the talent, but we have to see if it gets converted into performances. If they perform well in Tests then they can have my vote because I don’t feel that becoming number one in T20Is or doing well in ODIs means anything to be honest.  But even then my vote is for Pakistan and I really hope they will do well. I really want this team to go up the ladder as only that will give me satisfaction.”

Akhtar also backed Babar Azam to produce the goods in the whites and asked him to be a little aggressive. “I don’t think criticism on Babar is fair,” he said. “I don’t understand why he stops himself from playing shots. Go out there and play shots.  He needs to step up, he has talent and skills, but he need to deliver for the team.” Talking about captain Sarfraz Ahmed’s role in the upcoming series, Akhtar believes the wicketkeeper-batsman needs to focus on his form and fitness to avoid criticism.

“Sarfraz needs to work on his fitness, needs to work on his batting as well,” he said. “If he won’t perform, he will be under pressure and there will be discussions in the media about his position. Also, his fitness remains questionable as well. It takes a lot out of a wicketkeeper-batsman to first keep wickets, then come at five or sixth in the batting order and then work on his captaincy as well. If Pakistan pull this off with some good results, this is going to be a great victory for the team.”

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Kohli pulls out of stint with Surrey due to neck injury

NEW DELHI (Agencies): India captain Virat Kohli on Thursday pulled out of a month long stint with English county Surrey because of a neck injury and is now in a race to be ready for his country’s tour of England.

The key 29-year-old batsman will undergo rehabilitation that will decide when he joins India’s games in England starting in July, the Board of Control for Cricket in India said in a statement.

Kohli, who has one of the most intensive playing schedules in cricket and is one of the world’s top paid athletes, was to play for Surrey in the English county championship in June to prepare for the tour.

Kohli suffered the injury while fielding for his Indian Premier League side Royal Challengers Bangalore in their match against Sunrisers Hyderabad on May 17, BCCI acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary said.

“Mr Kohli, who was scheduled to play for Surrey CCC in the month of June, has been ruled out from participating. This decision was taken following assessments by the BCCI medical team, subsequent scans, and a specialist visit. The Team India captain will now undergo a period of rehabilitation under the supervision of the BCCI medical team,” said Choudhary.

The board said that after restarting training Kohli will “undergo a fitness test” in Bangalore from June 15. “The BCCI medical team is confident that Mr Kohli will regain full fitness ahead of India’s upcoming tours to Ireland and England.”

Indian media reports said Kohli went to a Mumbai hospital on Wednesday. The Mumbai Mirror said Kohli saw an orthopaedic surgeon who told him there was damage to spinal nerves and that he may miss part of the England tour if the injury worsened. Kohli missed a one-day international during a recent tour of South Africa because of a strained neck.

BCCI officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Kohli was also suffering from “fatigue” however.

On top of his workload, Kohli in January married Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma in a celebrity wedding that put him at the centre of attention in India.

In the past year, Kohli has appeared in nine Tests and 29 of India’s 32 one-day internationals, and nine of their T20s. He also played in 14 IPL matches in Bangalore’s disappointing campaign. Kohli did not make any comment about the injury, but the withdrawal announcement came on the day he apologized to fans for Bangalore’s failure to reach the Indian Premier League playoffs.



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Istanbul to host 2020 Champions League final

KIEV (Agencies): Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium will host the 2020 Champions League final, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin confirmed in Kiev on Thursday.

The 76,000-capacity ground played host to Liverpool’s famous comeback from 3-0 down to win the Champions League on penalties against AC Milan in 2005. The 2020 Europa League final will be played in Gdansk, Poland with the UEFA Super Cup being held in Porto’s Estadio Dragao. Vienna will play host the women’s 2020 Champions League final.

UEFA have been under pressure to ensure future final host cities have the hotel and airport infrastructure to cope with the influx of fans, delegates and media for the biggest game in club football.

Liverpool have complained to UEFA after their fans faced spiralling accommodation and travel costs for Saturday’s final against holders Real Madrid in Kiev, the city which played host to the Euro 2012 final. “They just don’t have the airport infrastructure and the hotel capacity to cope with an event of this size and there isn’t another major city within real hitting distance of it,” Liverpool chief executive Peter Moore told the Liverpool Echo newspaper.

“It’s not only affected Liverpool fans but Real Madrid fans too. There will be lessons learned from this. Rest assured, I’ve raised this at the highest levels of UEFA.” The UEFA president had already reintroduced a tender process for bidding for finals since taking over from Michel Platini. The decision to award the final to Kiev was made prior to Ceferin’s election as president in 2016. Next season’s final will be held at the 67,000-capacity Wanda Metropolitano, home of Atletico Madrid.