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Boult, Mahmudullah fined by ICC

Christchurch (Agencies): New Zealand fast bowler Trent Boult and Bangladesh all-rounder Mahmudullah have been fined by the International Cricket Council (ICC) over separate incidents during the second ODI in Christchurch on Saturday.

Boult lost 15 per cent of his match fee for twice using “audible obscene words” when the Black Caps were bowling. Mahmudullah, meanwhile, has been fined 10 per cent for striking a picket fence with his bat at Hagley Oval following his dismissal.  In addition, the duo each receive one demerit point apiece – a first offence for both men. New Zealand won the game by eight wickets to wrap up the series ahead of the final instalment in Dunedin on Wednesday.

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Mertens shrugs off back pain to beat Halep for Qatar Open title

DOHA (Agencies): Belgium’s Elise Mertens claimed the biggest win of her career on Saturday, surprisingly coming from a set down to beat world number three Simona Halep and clinch the Qatar Open.

The world number 21 won 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, despite being outclassed in the first set, overcoming an eight-minute medical timeout for back pain in the second set, and losing 18 consecutive points at one stage in the match.

“It’s a big moment for me, getting that victory,” said a jubilant Mertens, 23, afterwards. “I think this one would be, especially also with my tennis I played, the nicest one, nicest victory.”

Her win, in a little over two hours, was her third victory over a top ten player in Doha this week, and her second over a Grand Slam champion. Halep is the reigning French Open champion and Angelique Kerber, who she beat in the semi-finals, holds the Wimbledon title.

Qatar is the fifth title of Mertens’ career but notably her first at a Premier-level event. She said it outshone her achievement in getting to the Australian Open semi-finals in 2018.

Mertens started nervously, lost her opening service game, and the first set in just 32 minutes. At 2-0 down in the second, it looked like it was going to turn into a routine victory for Halep. “I couldn’t say I was really nervous,” she added, “but I think my shots went long.

“So, I really had to accelerate a little bit better to keep it in the court.” Mertens broke back, then called for medical attention and was the stronger player for the remainder of the game. She could rise as high number 16 in the next rankings because of her victory in Doha.

Coincidentally her ranking of 21 coming into the tournament was exactly the same as last year’s winner in Doha, Petra Kvitova. A clearly fading Halep, who played in the Fed Cup last weekend when she led Romania into the semi-finals for the first time, also called for medical assistance for treatment to a blister on her right foot.

“I was really tired in the third set, I couldn’t have the chance to win this match,” said Halep, who won the Qatar title in 2014. “I had to be 100% to be able to win such a big match. But she deserved to win, she was stronger, she was fresher. I’m not making a drama.”

Halep added that she “needed rest”, but would definitely play in Dubai next week. Despite her defeat, the Romanian will head back to number two in the rankings on the back of her performances in Doha.

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Renegades win Big Bash final after Stars implode

MELBOURNE (Agencies): Aaron Finch´s Melbourne Renegades clinched their first Big Bash League title Sunday after city rivals the Stars imploded during a tense run chase.

Chasing 146 to win at Docklands Stadium, Glenn Maxwell´s men were 93 without loss and cruising before losing an incredible seven wickets for 19 runs. They finished on 132 for seven, losing the first ever all-Melbourne BBL final by 13 runs at the end of the near two-month tournament.

“It´s unbelievable,” said Finch. “I thought when we got (Ben) Dunk caught and we had two new batters in we had a chance. It´s a wicket that was so hard to chase runs on, that´s why I was happy to bat first. “The boys just executed well under pressure. Very special to win in front of our home fans,” he added. After some tight bowling to restrict the Renegades, the Stars signalled their intentions early with left-hander Dunk smacking a boundary off the first ball of the innings from Kane Richardson.

But he and fellow opener Marcus Stoinis weren´t taking any chances, knowing that wickets in hand could be vital in the final overs. Instead, they picked off runs when they could to keep the scoreboard ticking over coupled with some extravagant shots, including a Dunk six off Cameron Boyce and Stoinis smashing an even bigger one down the ground from the same bowler. Dunk brought up his 50 off 38 balls with a four before Stoinis finally fell for 39 after 93-run stand, bowled by Boyce to spark the incredible collapse.

Gutted Maxwell

Test batsman Peter Handscomb came to the crease but only lasted two balls and then Dunk holed out to Dan Christian off Boyce for 57 before Maxwell was out for one. Nic Maddinson followed for six and then Seb Gotch for two. Dwayne Bravo was the next to go for three. It turned the game on its head and there was no way back for the Stars.

“We played some great cricket this tournament, to fall short at the end is disappointing,” said a gutted Maxwell. “Hopefully we win it next year. Congratulations to Renegades, we´ve had some great tussles. To my boys, I´ve asked a lot of you and you´ve delivered in spades.”

The Renegades, sent into bat in front of 40,000 fans, made 145 for five off their 20 overs. Test opener Marcus Harris clubbed 12 runs off Jackson Bird´s first four balls but he then rashly went for another big hit and top-edged to wicketkeeper Handscomb.

The tenacious Bird, recalled to the side in place of all-rounder Evan Gulbis, struck again in his next over to take an easy catch off his own bowling and send Sam Harper packing for six, leaving the Renegades struggling. Veteran Cameron White joined Aaron Finch and they took 11 off spinner Adam Zampa´s first over before the Renegades skipper was out in bizarre fashion for 13 just as he was hitting his stride.

White hit a straight drive and it deflected off bowler Bird´s boot to hit the stumps, with Finch stranded outside his crease, leaving the Renegades 47 for three off six overs. When White went soon after for 12, lbw to Zampa, they were in big trouble, managing just 65 runs by the halfway mark.

The pace was picked up over the final 10 overs with Christian, their semi-final hero, and Tom Cooper sharing an 80-run unbroken partnership to push the total into respectable territory, with the 29 runs bludgeoned from the last two overs proving vital. Cooper ended on 43 not out and Christian was unbeaten on 38.

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Watson’s blitz sets up Quetta’s seven-wicket victory over Islamabad

DUBAI (Monitoring Desk): Shane Watson and Umar Akmal played a marvellous knock to comfortably take Quetta Gladiators home in 158-run target against Islamabad United in the first fixture of the day at the Dubai International Stadium.

Samit Patel, Rumman Raees and Cameroon Delport took one wicket each. Gladiators remained dominated in their chase throughout their batting innings. 37-year old Watson looked in complete control from the very first minute on the pitch till leaving the field after scoring 81 off 55 balls.

Umar Akmal’s persistent form in back-to-back matches must have given a thought to ponder over to the selectors months before the coming World Cup.

Meanwhile, Ahmad Shehzad after a golden duck against Peshawar Zalmi, managed to score only two runs. His depleted performance must be a source of concern for the Sarfraz-led team.

Sohail Tanvir starred for Quetta in the first innings after picking up four wickets including the all-important wicket of Luke Ronchi who went back to the pavilion after being caught first ball. Tanvir next sent Shadab Khan packing after taking a sharp catch off his own bowling.

This was followed by Mohammad Nawaz trapping Rizwan Hussain for three, leaving United reeling at eight-3 at the end of five overs. Fawad Ahmed added to United’s misery by taking the wicket of Cameron Delport (19) who was caught brilliantly by Tanvir, Hussain Talat (30) and Faheem Ashraf (1) to leave United six down.

Just as Asif Ali stabilised the innings for United, he was caught in the deep end by Nawaz for 36. Wayne Parnell’s blistering 41 of 20 came to an end after helping Islamabad to reach a competitive total of 157.

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Sublime Shabbir writes history to claim CAS Open Golf title

F.P. Report

KARACHI: Pakistan’s leading golfer Shabbir Iqbal proved unchallenged victor in the 38th CAS Open Golf Championship when he wrote history by carding 16 under 272 to clinch the title. The ace golfer started his fourth round’s play with 14 under at the tranquil Airmen Golf Course, PAF Base Korangi Creek, Karachi.

The bogey on the second hole could not dent his composure on a pleasant sunny day as he scored three birdies on 4th, 7th & 18th hole, making his total 16 under 272. This awe inspiring play gave him an unassailable lead of 12 strokes over his nearest contender, Muhammad Munir who finished second with 4 under par 284. Muhammad Ashfaq and Hamza Amin Shared the third spot with 1 under 287.

The Prize distribution ceremony of the biggest prize money event in the country was held later in the day. Air Marshal Aasim Zaheer, Vice Chief of the Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force graced the occasion as Chief Guest. He distributed prizes and trophies among the winners of various categories.

Speaking at the occasion, the Chief Guest appreciated the management committee and officials of Airmen Golf Course for making this event a huge success. He further said that Pakistan Air Force would continue promoting golf in the country along with squash and winter sports. He added that PAF would also establish a training academy for the young golfers at Airmen Golf Club, Korangi Creek to give them proper training facilities.

Shabbir Iqbal was awarded the coveted trophy for winning the professionals category. Meanwhile, in Senior Professionals Category, Muhammad Akram won the title with gross score of 143 (01 under par), leaving behind Imdad Hussain, who secured second position with gross score of 145 (01 over par). The Junior Professionals title was clinched by Syed Bilal, who scored 150 (06 over par), while Bilal Khan got the second position with gross score of 151 (07 over par).

In the Amateur event Taimoor Khan remained on top in gross category with gross score of 2 under 214. Muhammad Saqib finished second with gross score of 225, while Aashiq Hussain, with gross score of 227 remained third. In the net category Muhammad Sharif was first with net score of 212, while Sajid Khan got the second slot with net score of 217. The third place in the net category was won by Arsalan Hussain who carded 219 on the score board.

In the ladies gross category, Aania Farooq won the first prize with 165 gross, while Daniyah Syed with 181 and Amna Amjad with 197 gross got the 2nd and 3rd prize. Meanwhile in the ladies net category, Abiha Syed (146 Net) was awarded the first prize, followed by Tabassum Sharif (159 Net) and Sana Tahir Javed (177 Net), who remained 2nd and 3rd respectively.

In the gross category of AGC Members, Omer Intesar (79 gross) got the first prize, while Abdullah Arif (85 gross) and Sqn Ldr Mansoor (87 gross) got 2nd and 3rd position respectively. Whereas, in the net category of the Club members, Ghulam Murtaza (72 Net) got the first prize, followed by Muhammad Arsalan (75 Net) and Muhammad Javed (76 Net) on 2nd and 3rd.

The Chief guest also handed over the key of brand new Suzuki Swift Car to Air Marshal (Retd) Farhat Hussain for scoring ‘Hole in One’ on the 2nd hole (Par 3) to take home.

The Championship featured over 350 golfers, including 108 professionals from all over the country. Chief of the Air Staff Open Golf Championship was introduced in 1977 and ever since has been a regular feature in PGF and PAF annual sports calendars.

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PSL 2019 telecast suspended in India under govt pressure

NEW DELHI (Agencies): Under pressure from the Indian government the official broadcaster of Pakistan Super League has suspended the telecast of league amid tensions with Islamabad over attack in Pulwama.

“We have suspended broadcast from of the league,” the Indian media quoted an official from D-Sport. The company is yet to release an official statement on the matter, the report added.

Over 40 Indian soldiers were killed in a suicide attack in Pulwama district of Indian Occupied Kashmir earlier this week. Since then the BJP government has blamed Pakistan on the incident.

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Real Madrid stunned by Girona as Sergio Ramos sees red at the Bernabeu

MADRID (Agencies): Lowly Girona stunned Real Madrid as they came from a goal down to win 2-1 at the Bernabeu on Sunday in a game that saw Sergio Ramos sent off for two bookings.

But there’s relief for Madrid, as Ramos will be suspended for next week’s game at Levante rather than the two upcoming Clasico games. Casemiro gave Madrid a half-time lead, but Cristhian Stuani levelled from the penalty spot and Cristian Portu headed home a shock winner for the side that began the day in 17th place.

Girona made a positive start, putting together a neat move when Portu and Alex Granell linked but the final ball into the Madrid area just failed to find Stuani. Madrid flickered into life, Toni Kroos serving a warning sign when his dangerous free kick was cleared by Douglas Luiz. With a little over a quarter of an hour gone, Kroos found Lucas Vazquez, whose shot brought a fine stop from Yassine Bounou, but Girona responded and Stuani drew a good save from Thibaut Courtois.

And Kroos was again involved as Madrid took the lead after 25 minutes, his cross headed powerfully home by Casemiro. Lucas and Alvaro Odriozola combined to look for Karim Benzema, who was unable to reach a low cross, before Alex Granell smashed an effort wide for Girona. Benzema was close to doubling Madrid’s lead as half-time approached, Bounou saving his rising shot, and he should have done so early in the second half only to head Marco Asensio’s cross wide when unmarked inside the six-yard box.

Madrid coach Santiago Solari made his first change just before the hour, bringing Vinicius Jr. on for Lucas shortly before the hour, but soon afterwards his side were thankful for a bad Girona miss. The visitors looked certain to equalise when Courtois saved from Anthony Lozano but Aleix Garcia, from close range, somehow lifted the ball over the top. But they were level after 64 minutes when Ramos handled a Garcia shot and Stuani beat Courtois from the penalty spot, Ramos going into the book.
Vinicius Jr. shot over as Madrid looked to regain their advantage, but things almost got worse for the home side after 71 minutes when Girona’s Portu smacked a shot against the post.

And they did get worse with a quarter of an hour remaining as the visitors went in front, Courtois parrying Lozano’s shot and Portu diving to head the rebound past him. Vinicius Jr. saw a curler go wide of the far post as time began to run out for Madrid, substitute Gareth Bale then thwarted by Bounou.

In the closing moments, a high boot from Ramos deep inside the Girona penalty area brought a second yellow and his 25th red card for Madrid and there was still time for keeper Courtois, up for a corner, to head narrowly wide.

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Khan optimistic about Sri Lanka tour of Pakistan

KARACHI (Monitoring Desk): Newly appointed Managing Director of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Wasim Khan is hopeful that Sri Lanka will tour Pakistan this year.

Sri Lanka are scheduled to play a series against the Men in Green in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), later this year. While talking exclusively to Cricket Pakistan, Khan has confirmed that PCB is in talks with Cricket Sri Lanka for a possible tour of the country.

“We are in negotiation with Cricket Sri Lanka for their team’s possible tour of Pakistan as the Islanders are scheduled to play Pakistan in October here in the UAE,” said Khan. “So me and Chairman Ehsan Mani are trying to convince them to tour Pakistan.”

He added: “If they disagree with our proposal, then we will try to convince them to play one or two Test matches in the country.”

Furthermore, he believes that if Sri Lanka agree to tour Pakistan, then PCB will be in a good position to begin talks with Bangladesh, regarding a possible tour of Pakistan. “If it all goes well, then we would be in a good position to talk with Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) to send their team as they are schedule to face Pakistan in January next year,” he said.

He also highlighted the importance of bringing international cricket back in Pakistan. “We are bearing a lot of expenses for hosting any team here in UAE. Fans are not coming in large numbers as well,” he said. “Which is why, it is very important that we should bring international cricket back to Pakistan.”

Commenting on Australia’s refusal to tour Pakistan, he said they have new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO) so it was difficult decision for them.

“They have just hired new CEO and COO, so it was a difficult decision for them to take,” he said. “They didn’t even send their security team to visit Pakistan. Despite that they still left the door open for negotiations for a future tour.”

Most cricket nations have avoided touring Pakistan since 2009 when gunmen attacked a bus carrying Sri Lankan cricketers, injuring six players and killing six security personnel and two civilians.

Zimbabwe tour of Pakistan in 2015 opened a gateway of International cricket in the country. Since that tour, World XI played Independence Cup, Sri Lanka played a T20I and West Indies played three-match T20I series in Karachi.

PCB also successfully hosted Pakistan Super League final in 2017 and playoffs and PSL final in 2018. This year, as many as eight matches of the league will be played in Karachi and Lahore, including the final, eliminator and playoffs.

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Hafeez ruled out from Zalmi clash

DUBAI (Monitoring Desk): Lahore Qalandars captain Mohammad Hafeez has been ruled out from the game against Peshawar Zalmi on Sunday as he failed to recover from thumb injury.

The 38-year-old all-rounder suffered a nasty blow on his thumb while fielding on his own bowling. He immediately left the field.

Following the game former Pakistan captain was taken to hospital for further scans and x-rays.

An initial report now has confirmed that Hafeez has been advised rest for a few days.

A timeline on his recovery will be known by further discussions with experts in due course.

“He is being rested for today’s game but we expect him to be with us in the dugout soon,” said team manager Sameen Rana.

In absence of Hafeez, AB de Villiers will lead Lahore Qalandars.

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Qalandars’ Brathwaite to miss remaining PSL games after being named in WI team

F.P. Report

DUBAI: West Indian cricketer Carlos Brathwaite will miss remaining matches of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) after being named by Cricket West Indies for ODIs against England.

The five-match ODI series between England and West Indies will be played from February 20 to March 2.

According to sources, Brathwaite, who was included in Lahore Qalandars squad, will fly from Dubai tonight to join his national duties.

Qalandars will announce a replacement in due course. It is, however, unclear if Brathwaite would return to PSL once free from his national duty.