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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.

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Afghanistan to play first test match in June against India at Bengaluru

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: Afghanistan Cricket Team will play its first international test match against India in June 14 this year. The Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) confirmed the report by informing the fans through twitter.

Last year in June, Afghanistan and Ireland joined full member club of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and taking the total number of Test-playing countries to 12.

Afghanistan only gained full one-day international (ODI) status in 2011 and in 2015, Afghanistan took part in their first 50-over World Cup and they have also played in the World Twenty20 competition.

Chairman ACB, Atif Mashal said on his twitter account that on June 14 the nation will witness another historic moment in Afghan cricket when Afghanistan face India in a test match at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.

 

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Pele backs Brazil to win sixth World Cup

Monitoring Desk

RIO DE JANEIRO: Footballing legend Pele said that Brazil are favourites to win the World Cup in Russia, four years on from their humiliation on home soil.

Five-time winners Brazil were thrashed 7-1 in the 2014 semi-finals by eventual champions Germany at the Maracana, but Pele, considered one of the best players of all time, insisted that new coach Tite has formed a team ready to put his country´s painful memories to rest.

“Those who are Brazilian and believe in Brazil always point to Brazil as the favourites,” the 77-year-old said while attending the opening ceremony of the Rio de Janeiro league on Monday.

The Selecao romped to qualification as winners of the South American group, with Tite building an exciting side featuring the world´s most expensive player Neymar and new Barcelona signing Philippe Coutinho.

“One of the good things that happened was the arrival of Tite, he´s making a team,” Pele added. “In the last World Cup we had the best players in the world but the team was disorganised. “It seems that now we´ll have a team and a Selecao that gives us confidence.”

Pele, who won three World Cups with Brazil in 1958, 1962 and 1970, has been struggling with ill health and Monday was his first public appearance with a zimmer frame, having attended December´s World Cup draw in a wheelchair.

“I´m fine, thank goodness, and I want to thank all those who sent me messages wishing me a good recovery from all over the world,” he said.

Pele, who scored over 1,000 goals during his career, also claimed that modern football produces fewer great players than in his era, despite the presence of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar.

“Today, there are only three players who really stand out; Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar,” he said. “Before, at the time of Cruyff or Beckenbauer, there were three in each team.”

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Shoaib Malik narrowly escapes head injury

Monitoring Desk

LAHORE: Pakistan cricket teams all rounder Shoaib Malik narrowly escaped head injury while trying to take a run as he was hit on his head with a wayward throw during the fourth one day international against New Zealand at Hamilton on Tuesday. Shoaib was assessed on field by match doctor and team physio.

“He did not show any sign of concussion and was able to carry on playing”, said a spokesman of the Pakistan Cricket Board here. After getting out he was re-assessed and was showing delayed concussion signs. He was doing well and resting, he stated. As advised by match doctor and team physio Shoaib will not be taking any further part in this match, he added.

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Mitchell Johnson pulls out of PSL 3

Monitoring Desk

KARACHI: Australian pacer Mitchel Johnson has pulled out of the upcoming edition of Pakistan Super League.

Sources privy to the matter have confirmed to media that Johnson, who was picked by Karachi Kings, has informed the PSL management of his unavailability. “Mitchel has informed the PSL that he needs some rest before the much attractive and lucrative Indian Premier League,” said one source.

The Australian fast bowler, who was in the platinum category of players for the PSL was picked by Karachi Kings after demoting to the Diamond category for the third season. Sources believe that Mitchell Johnson was unhappy over being demoted from the platinum category to the diamond category of players.

“This can be one understandable reason that he wasn’t happy about his category. He might have come if he was in platinum,” said a source. “Another reason was his unwelcoming relationship with Karachi Kings’ coach Mickey Arthur over an infamous homeworkgate scandal.

Johnson was one of four players suspended for the third Test of the 2013 tour of India along with Shane Watson, Usman Khawaja and James Pattinson.

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U19 World Cup: Afridi stars as Pakistan humiliate Ireland

Monitoring Desk

WHANGAREI: Left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi decimated the Irish batting line-up and guided Pakistan to a comfortable nine-wicket win in the International Cricket Council (ICC) U19 World Cup Group D match in Whangarei on Tuesday.

After deciding to bowl first in bowling friendly conditions, the Boys in Green remained on top and never gave Ireland any relief throughout their innings with immaculate line and length. Harry Tector’s men were eventually bowled out for just 97 in the 29th over, as JoshuaLittle finished with the top score of 24 off 20 balls with the help of two fours and one six.

For Pakistan, Afridi was the star of the show as he claimed figures of six for 15 in his 8.3 overs, which included three maidens as well, whereas captain Hassan Khan claimed three wickets with his tidy left-arm spin.

In reply, the Boys in Green cruised to the target in less than nine overs at the loss of just one wicket. Opener Muhammad Zaid finished the innings with the top score of 43 not out off 19 balls with the help of seven fours and one six. For his outstanding bowling performance, Afridi was named player of the match.