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Federer eases past Anderson to reach last four

LONDON: Roger Federer gained sweet revenge over Kevin Anderson at the ATP Finals on Thursday but is putting thoughts of his 100th title to the back of his mind after both players reached the last four.

The Swiss broke the giant South African’s serve four times in a comprehensive 6-4, 6-3 victory at London’s O2 Arena even though Anderson had not faced a single break point in his two earlier round-robin victories.

Second seed Federer suffered a painful loss at the hands of Anderson in the Wimbledon quarter-finals this year after leading by two sets, his only defeat against him in five meetings before Thursday’s clash.

The six-time champion started the week with an uncharacteristically ragged display in a straight-sets defeat by Kei Nishikori but has beaten Dominic Thiem and Anderson in straight sets and is looking more like his old self as the tournament progresses.

The victory over fourth-seed Anderson in the Lleyton Hewitt Group takes Federer through to the semi-finals for the 15th time in 16 attempts at the season-ending finale and means he will likely avoid a meeting in the last four against in-form Novak Djokovic.

“I’m happy that this is another week like this. Didn’t look like it maybe 72 hours ago. But I was able to come back and play good tennis,” said Federer. “Personally I’m still not thinking of the number 100. I won’t let that get in my head, make me go crazy because it should be something I’m excited about and not something I should feel extra pressure. As long as I think Novak is in the draw anyhow, he’s playing so good again, it’s never going to be easy.” The first set was a topsy-turvy affair, with both players quickly into their groove on serve before a succession of breaks.

Federer, buoyed by his customary vocal support, broke to lead 4-3, only to lose his momentum immediately as Anderson levelled. The Swiss broke the South African in the next game, sealing the break with a crisp backhand volley at the net but was immediately in trouble at 0-40 on his own serve before winning five successive points to take the set.

The second set went with serve until the seventh game, when Federer produced an immaculate sliced backhand that landed on the line to earn a break. Now playing with freedom, the 37-year-old broke again to seal the victory and guarantee that he tops the group.

Earlier, Dominic Thiem beat Nishikori 6-1, 6-4 but both players will exit at the round-robin stage. Top seed Djokovic is already through to the semi-finals after beating Alexander Zverev in the Guga Kuerten Group on Wednesday, with Zverev, Marin Cilic and John Isner battling for the other semi-final berth.



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Pakistan hold edge after New Zealand dismissed for 153

Abu Dhabi (Agencies): Leg-spinner Yasir Shah led a double-barrelled attack of spin and pace to leave Pakistan sitting comfortably on the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand on Friday.

Yasir spearheaded Pakistan’s wicket-taking with 3-54 as New Zealand, who won the toss and batted on a grassless Sheikh Zayed Stadium pitch, were bowled out for a below-par 153 in 66.3 overs at the stroke of tea.

The day saw 12 wickets fall as Pakistan closed at 59-2, having lost both their openers, Imam-ul-Haq (six) and Mohammad Hafeez (20), before Haris Sohail and Azhar Ali stopped the rot.

Pakistan need 94 more to take a lead and go one up in the three-match series. Imam was first to go as he edged Colin de Grandhomme’s delivery to the slip while Hafeez miscued a pull straight to short mid-wicket — both caught by Kane Williamson. New Zealand skipper Williamson, declared fit after missing last Sunday’s third one-day international due to a groin injury, top-scored with 63 before falling softly to medium pacer Hasan Ali, who finished with 2-38.

Hasan removed Williamson with a slower delivery as the New Zealand skipper went for a hook and gloved the ball for wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed’s fourth catch of the innings.

Williamson’s 112-ball knock had five boundaries and he added 72 for the fourth wicket with Henry Nicholls who made 28 with four boundaries. In the same over Hasan trapped De Grandhomme for a first-ball duck before Sohail dismissed Ish Sodhi (four) and BJ Watling (four) — both were trapped leg-before.

Mohammad Abbas, who has figures of 2-13, had removed Nicholls, caught behind by Sarfraz soon after lunch. Pakistan dominated the first session as New Zealand were 81-3 at lunch, with leg-spinner Yasir Shah taking the first of his two wickets in his opening overs. Yasir had derailed New Zealand’s progress in the first session with the wickets of opener Tom Latham (13) and Ross Taylor (two) in his first spell.

Yasir said he changed his strategy. “I was just trying to bowl a bit slower and with flight,” said Yasir. “I was not getting wickets after coming back from injury so all went well for me. “Now we should build a big lead as, I believe, the pitch was ease out and batting will not be tough.”

New Zealand openers Jeet Raval and Latham survived some anxious moments before pace spearhead Mohammad Abbas had Raval edging to wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed after scoring seven. Yasir, who had to endure a tough last week due to the death of his mother, had Latham caught at mid-wicket off a loose drive with the fourth ball of his first over.

In his fourth over Yasir had Taylor caught behind with a sharp leg-break, leaving New Zealand at 39-3. New Zealand handed Test debut to 30-year-old left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel, leaving out experienced pacer Tim Southee. The second Test is in Dubai (November 24-28) and third in Abu Dhabi (December 3-7).



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Chelsea ‘face two-year transfer ban’

LONDON (Agencies): Chelsea allegedly face the threat of a two-year transfer ban following a Fifa investigation into their signing of foreign under-18 players, including former striker Bertrand Traore.

Based on documents from Football Leaks, French website Mediapart claims 19 Chelsea signings have been looked at in a three year-long investigation. Mediapart alleges that 14 of those signings were under the age of 18. In a statement, Chelsea said it had “fully co-operated with Fifa”. The club also said it had “provided comprehensive evidence demonstrating its compliance with the applicable Fifa regulations”.

According to Mediapart, Fifa’s integrity and compliance unit has recommended Chelsea are handed a transfer ban covering four transfer windows, as well as a fine of £45,000. It was first reported in September 2017 that Chelsea were being investigated. “The proceedings are ongoing and, to date, no decision has been passed by the Fifa judicial bodies,” football’s world governing body Fifa said in a statement. Burkino Faso international Traore – who now plays for Ligue 1 club Lyon – signed his first professional contract at Chelsea in 2013 at the age of 18 but was not registered until January 2014.

Mediapart claims Fifa found evidence that Chelsea had misled them over the dates, while Traore was found to have made 25 appearances for the Blues (under-16, under-18 and first team) despite not being registered by the Football Association. Chelsea have also admitted they paid his mother £155,000, as well as a further £13,000 to the club she chaired – AJE Bobo-Dioulasso – in April 2011 to allow them first refusal over his signature.

That deal, it is alleged, was for four-and-a-half years, despite the limit for under-18s being only three years.

In addition, it is also claimed Chelsea paid for Traore to attend the £20,000-a-year Whitgift School in Surrey.

Should they be handed a transfer ban, Chelsea will be the latest club to receive such punishment after similar incidences in La Liga.

Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have both previously received bans for breaching rules over the signing of minors in early 2016, while Barcelona were given a 14-month ban after breaking rules for signing international under-18s in 2014.



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Doping: weightlifter Lin banned for eight years

ZURICH (Agencies): Taiwan’s Lin Tzu-chi, a former weightlifting world record holder, has been banned for eight years for a doping offense by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the tribunal said in a statement on Thursday.

Lin, who broke two world records in the women’s 63 kg category at the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea, was initially banned for two years by Taiwan’s Olympic Committee after a positive test for steroids in June 2016, CAS said.

However, CAS said it had accepted an appeal from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) which wanted the ban increased as it was the 30-year-old Lin’s second doping violation.

“The sole arbitrator. … found that (Lin Tzu Chi) had indeed committed a second anti-doping rule violation and determined that she should receive an eight-year ban,” CAS said in a statement.

Lin set her world records in the clean and jerk and overall lift at the Asian Games in Incheon. She hoisted 145 kg with her final lift, adding 2 kg to the previous record, which gave her an overall total of 261 kg and another world record. China’s Deng Wei overhauled those records at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where Lin, who also tested positive for a banned substance in 2010, withdrew hours before the event.




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Djokovic into semis after dismissing Zverev

LONDON (Agencies): Novak Djokovic booked his place in the semi-finals of the ATP Finals as the world number one dispatched Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-1 on Wednesday. Djokovic is chasing a sixth ATP Finals title and his first in the prestigious season-ending event at London’s O2 Arena since 2015.

In his 11th appearance at the Finals, the Serb was guaranteed to reach the last four for the eighth time after Marin Cilic beat John Isner 6-7 (2/7), 6-3, 6-4 in Wednesday’s second match.

Djokovic, who beat Isner in his opening group-stage match, has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance in the second half of 2018 and lifting the trophy on the banks of the River Thames would be the perfect way to finish his year.

Djokovic faces Cilic in his last group match on Friday, while Zverev, who defeated Cilic to kick off his Finals campaign, takes on Isner.

The 31-year-old was assailed by claims he had lost his hunger for success and was past his best after injury and personal issues threatened to derail his career in 2017.

But Djokovic has banished his demons in spectacular style, winning the Wimbledon and US Open titles, returning to world number one and becoming the first player to win all nine Masters 1,000 tournaments.

“I found it more difficult than in the first match against John Isner. I played well midway through the second set and started to swing through the ball,” said Djokovic, who has suffered only two defeats in the Finals since 2012. “Zverev has a big first serve, but his percentage dropped in the second set. That allowed me to step in. He made a lot of unforced errors which helped me to win. I am going to enjoy some quality time with my family and then get ready for the last game in the group.”

Zverev is emerging as one of the Tour’s brightest young stars after climbing to fifth in the world.

The 21-year-old shocked Djokovic in the Rome final last year, but the Serb was on top when they met in a one-sided Shanghai semi-final last month and it was the same story again in their third meeting.

Zverev was able to keep Djokovic at bay with his thunderous serve at the start of the first set.

No player faced a break point in the first eight games and even when Zverev earned the first two in the ninth, Djokovic found a way to scramble out of trouble on both occasions.


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Pakistan look to Yasir, Abbas to tame ‘tough’ New Zealand

ABU DHABI (Monitoring Desk): Sarfraz said he expects more from Yasir, who managed just eight wickets against Australia. “Yes, our bowling attack is good,” said Sarfraz on Thursday.

“Abbas has been bowling superbly while Yasir didn´t look as great as we had expected, but in this series I expect more from Yasir.” Yasir has been a match winner on the neutral venues of United Arab Emirates (UAE) where Pakistan have been forced to play since a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team suspended international cricket back home.

He took 15 wickets in the 1-1 series draw against New Zealand in the UAE in 2014. But Pakistan have not beaten New Zealand in a Test series since 2011, and Sarfraz is not taking them lightly. “New Zealand are a good side and gave us tough times both in the Twenty20s and one-day internationals,” said Sarfraz of the preceding series.

Pakistan crushed New Zealand 3-0 in Twenty20s while their one-day series was shared 1-1 after the third match ended in a no result due to rain in Dubai.

Pakistan will resist the temptation of playing the newest pace sensation, Shaheen Shah Afridi, whose nine wickets earned him man-of-the-series in ODIs. Abbas is likely to share the new ball with Hasan Ali with Yasir and Asif assisted by Mohammad Hafeez in spin. New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson, who returns to the squad after missing the third one-day with a groin strain, hopes his team adapt fast.

“Obviously, coming into Pakistan´s home series there is a lot of work to do in terms of the overseas sides adapting to the conditions as best as they can,” said Williamson.

“I think it´s important that we adapt with this inexperienced side that we have come here with and look to learn as we can and do that quickly because we want to be playing our best cricket under these conditions.” Williamson admitted the threats from Abbas and Yasir.

“They both are outstanding bowlers and bowling well for a long time. Abbas, ever since he entered international cricket, is bowling superbly around the world,” said Williamson. New Zealand are likely to hand a debut to left-armer Ajaz Patel, who is set to partner either off-spinner Will Somerville or leg-spinner Ish Sodhi.

New Zealand also have a strong pace attack with Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Matt Henry to chose from. The second Test is in Dubai (November 24-28) and the third, again in Abu Dhabi (Decmebre 3-7).

Teams (from):Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Imam-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Saad Ali, Yasir Shah, Bilal Asif, Mohammad Abbas, Hassan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Faheem Ashraf, Mir Hamza

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Jeet Raval, Ish Sodhi, Will Somerville, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner.

Umpires: Bruce Oxerford (AUS) and Ian Gould (ENG)

Tv umpire: Paul Reiffel (AUS)

Match referee: David Boon (AUS).

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Wasim Akram to continue working with T10 League

KARACHI (Monitoring Desk): Former legendary pacer Wasim Akram will be part of both T10 League and the Pakistan Super League (PSL), Cricket Pakistan learned on Thursday.

Former Pakistan captain Akram — who is associated with the T10 League as the talent hunt director and is also a part of the coaching staff of Maratha Arabians —joined the PSL franchise Karachi Kings as the president following the departure of veteran all-rounder Shahid Afridi.

Interestingly Afridi parted ways with Karachi after refusing to give up his T10 League contract on the demand of the PSL franchise.

According to sources, Karachi asked the same from Akram as well, however, he also refused to give up the contract by saying that associating with cricketing activities is his profession and he will continue to provide services where ever asked.

Karachi owner Salman Iqbal was the co-partner of T10 League, but ended his association with the competition after differences with other partners. On the other hand, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has given no objection certificates (NOC) to some national players for the league. Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur has asked PCB to keep some players away from the league due to the upcoming 2019 ICC World Cup.

Following that, left-arm Mohammad Amir was not allowed to sign with the T10 league while veteran all-rounder Shoaib Malik has also distanced himself from the competition by announcing on his official Twitter — account that he wants to spend time with his newly-born son.

However, sources claimed that Malik’s decision to not take part in the league was due to PCB’s pressure.

Meanwhile, most of the national cricketers are unlikely to take part in the tournament because of the upcoming three-match Test series against New Zealand.

However, Shahid Afridi, Shoail Tanvir, Imran Nazir, Aamir Yamin, Mohammad Irfan Jr., Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Sami, Umar Akmal, Anwar Ali, Hasan Khan, Kamran Akmal, Rahat Ali and Mohammad Nawaz will be taking part in the tournament starting from November 21 in Sharjah.

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Taylor heroics in vain as Bangladesh level series

DHAKA (Agencies): Zimbabwe’s Brendan Taylor fought valiantly with his second century of the Test but Bangladesh won the final match by 218 runs to end the series at 1-1 on Thursday.

Needing a mammoth 443 to win, Zimbabwe were bowled out for 224 in the second session on the fifth day in Dhaka with Taylor remaining unbeaten on 106. Taylor’s knock of patience and controlled aggression came from 167 balls and featured ten fours. He had hit 110 in Zimbabwe’s first essay of 304.

Off-spinner Mehidy Hasan was the wrecker-in-chief on the final day as he returned bowling figures of 5-38 — his fifth five-wicket haul in Tests. Mehidy denied Zimbabwe any chance of repeating their clinical performance of the first match that they won by 151 runs in Sylhet.

Taijul Islam added two more wickets to his five in the first innings and finished the series with a career-best haul of 18 scalps in two matches. He was named the player of the series. The home side declared the first innings on 522 for seven with Mushfiqur Rahim hitting an unbeaten 219 — the first time a wicketkeeper hit two double tons in Test cricket.

The visitors’ hopes of securing a draw rested on the pairing of Taylor and Peter Moor, whose 139-run sixth wicket stand in the first innings took the visitors past the 300 mark. But once Moor departed after a 79-ball vigil for a paltry 13 runs, smartly caught at short leg by Imrul off Mehidy, the Zimbabwe batting fell flat.

Mahmudullah Riyad, who stood in for regular captain Shakib Al Hasan, hailed his team’s fighting spirit. “I think the boys were determined enough and showed their character. They stuck to their task. (On the top order) We are working hard and you may not see the results on the pitch yet,” he said.

– ‘Good runs’ –

“With Mushy (Mushfiqur) and Mominul (Haque), we built up the partnership, and they gave us some good runs in the first innings. Taijul was brilliant with the ball,” Mahmudullah added. Mominul Haque made 161 in the first innings.

Resuming the fifth and final day at 76 for 2, Zimbabwe lost another key man Sean Williams for 13 after pace bowler Mustafizur Rahman provided Bangladesh with the day’s first breakthrough. Spinner Taijul dismissed Sikandar Raza for 12 by taking a sharp return catch to reduce Zimbabwe to 120 for 4.

But Taylor and Moor saw their side through to the lunch break with an unbeaten 41-run stand for the fifth wicket. Despite the defeat, captain Hamilton Masakdza praised his team, “We knew Bangladesh would come hard at us…but I thought the boys showed character, especially after going so far behind in the first innings,” he said.

“World-class from Brendan. We have always known how good he is. Also really impressed with the way Sean Willams played for us throughout the series. Also, the seamers took wickets early, which is never easy in the subcontinent,” he said. Bangladesh declared their second innings on 224 for six at the tea break Wednesday after Mahmudullah completed his second century in eight years.

The victory was Bangladesh’s first this year and it came after eight innings in which the Test minnows could not cross the 200 run mark. Bangladesh will play next play a two-Test series at home against the West Indies.

The first Test begins in Chittagong on November 22 and the second Test will be held in Dhaka on 30-December 4.

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Hamilton explains ‘poor place’ India comments

NEW DELHI (Agencies): Five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has clarified comments he made about India being a “poor place”.

Mercedes defended their driver, saying his intended juxtaposition between rich and poor had been taken “grossly out of context”. Briton Hamilton, 33, told BBC Sport this week that it was “strange” to race in India and he “felt very conflicted”. “I noticed some people are upset with my comment on India,” he tweeted on Thursday.

“My reference was that a grand prix there felt strange to drive past homeless people, then arrive in a huge arena where money was not an issue. “They spent hundreds of millions on a track that was now never used and that money could have been spent on schools or homes.

“When we did have the race nobody came because it was too expensive or there was no interest.”

The Indian GP lasted three seasons, between 2011 and 2013. F1 bosses have agreed a “multi-year” deal to stage a race on the streets of Vietnam’s capital Hanoi from April 2020. Since 2004, races in Bahrain, China, Turkey, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, South Korea, Russia and Azerbaijan have been added to the calendar.

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Wasim Akram joins Karachi Kings as president

Monitoring Desk

KARACHI: Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram, who was one of the best fast bowlers in the world during his time, has joined Karachi Kings as president of the team, on Wednesday, for the fourth edition of Pakistan Super League (PSL).

The CEO and owner of the team took it to twitter to announce the decision. Wasim also rendered his services to Islamabad United as a mentor and coach in the first two seasons before joining the debutants Multan Sultans for the third season which is not part of PSL 4.

The legendary all-rounder Shahid Afridi — who was also the president of the Karachi Kings — was released by the franchise on Tuesday and will be available in the draft process. Final player draft for PSL 4 will be revealed on November 20 in Islamabad whereas the tournament is scheduled to start from February 14 in UAE.