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Azhar’s wicket will be the key, say Aussie pacers

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DUBAI: Australian fast bowlers Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle have singled out veteran Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali as the key wicket for the tourists in this month’s two-Test series in the UAE.
If the numbers are anything to go by, their concerns about the batsman are well-founded; in seven Tests against Australia, Azhar averages 69.75, having made three hundreds and four fifties.
The last time the two sides met, in Australia in the 2016-17 summer, the 33-year-old made scores of 5, 71, 205 not out, 43, 71 and 11 to be the tourists’ leading run-scorer and second only to Steve Smith from either side in what was a clean sweep for the hosts.
Azhar debuted in the same Test as Smith and current Australia captain Tim Paine at Lord’s in 2010, and has forged a reputation as a dependable opening batsman across 65 Tests, averaging 44.84.
In that time, only seven players worldwide, and no Pakistanis, have scored more than his 5,202 Test runs.
“They’ve got a quality batting line-up, and on some really flat wickets their whole middle order’s going to be a really good battle,” Starc was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.
“I think someone like Azhar Ali, who scored a fair few runs against us in Australia last time they were here, he’d be a big one at the top of the order for them.
“He can bat long periods of time, he’s not too fazed about being tied down. So I think if we can get him early and get their middle order in against a newer, harder ball, then that’s a good starting point.” Starc and Siddle were both on the receiving end of the best of Azhar in Abu Dhabi four years ago, when he became just the eighth Pakistani to score hundreds in each innings of a Test as the Aussies were thumped by 356 runs to round out a 0-2 series defeat.
Siddle, who is back in the Test squad and hoping to don the Baggy Green for the first time in almost two years, also nominated the opener as the hosts’ dangerman.
“The key wicket for them is always going to be Azhar Ali,” Siddle said. “He’s one of the leaders in that side now.
“From the last tour when we went over there, they had the stars and the old heads of Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq to lead them, they’re probably a little bit less experienced now, which is good news for us, but they’ve still got a lot of class players.
“We saw that on the last tour [to Australia] they had a lot of young guys that stood up and performed well for them.
“So I think [Azhar] is going to be the big wicket, but in that time these young guys have come about, and they play some exciting cricket, so we’ve got to be on our toes and prepared.
“But like I said, they are a little bit less experienced this time around, so if there’s ever an opportunity to beat them away from home, it’s definitely this time around,” Siddle said.


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Chahal registers best ODI bowling figures by a spinner Down Under

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Mumbai :Indian leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal on Friday recorded the best bowling figures by a spinner in an ODI clash in Australia, during the series-decider against the Aussies in Melbourne.

Chahal picked six wickets while conceding just 42 runs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), registering a dominant performance against the hosts, in a crucial clash. He also became the first spinner to pick six wickets in an ODI in Australia.

The bowler’s excellent performance certainly played a key role in India restricting Australia to a total of just 230.

 

The 28-year-old cricketer further equalled the best-ever ODI figures registered by any bowler in an ODI clash in Australia, alongside former Indian fast-bowler Ajit Agarkar.

Agarkar had accumulated the same tally as recorded by Chahal, against the hosts at the same venue, back in 2004.

Australian paceman Mitchell Starc enjoys a bowling tally, which trails the figures registered by the duo by a single run, having picked six wickets for 43 runs against India at the MCG, back in 2015.

English fast-bowler Chris Woakes is the fourth name on the list, after accumulating figures of 6/45 against Australia in Brisbane, 2011.

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Phogat becomes first Indian nominated for Laureus Awards

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Mumbai: Ace Indian wrestler Vinesh Phogat has become the first Indian to receive a nomination in the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards to be held in Monica on 18 February.

The 24-year-old Indian, who made a sensational comeback after battling a long injury lay-off to win a gold medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and Jakarta Asian Games in 2018, has been nominated for the Laureus World Comeback of the Year.

The Haryana wrestler, who was stretchered off after dislocating her knee during the quarterfinals of 50kg freestyle event at the 2016 Olympic Games, has been nominated alongside US Tour Championship winner Tiger Woods, who won his first tournament in five years.

 

Also nominated are four inspirational Winter Olympic athletes; Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu, Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris, US ski racing legend Lindsey Vonn and Dutch Paralympic champion Bibian Mentel-Spee.

The last time an Indian sporting feat made its way to the Laureus World Sports Awards was in 2004 when the Indian cricket team and Pakistan cricket team shared the Laureus Sport for Good Award for playing an International match despite political tensions between the two countries.

Most recently, Magic Bus from India won the Laureus Sport for Good award in 2014. However, Vinesh makes history as the first Indian athlete to be nominated in one of the seven main categories at the Laureus World Sports Awards.

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All foreign stars will play PSL ties in Pakistan, says Mani

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LAHORE: All star cricketers will come to Pakistan to play in the eight matches of the fourth Pakistan Super League (PSL) scheduled for Karachi and Lahore, chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Ehsan Mani said.

The PSL matches will be staged from Feb 14 to March 17 at three venues — Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi — in the United Arab Emirates before the remaining fixtures move to Pakistan with Karachi staging five games, including the final, and Lahore three.

Talking to media on sidelines of a friendly cricket match between the Sports Journalists Association of Lahore (SJAL) and the UK-based Pakistani journalists at the Gaddafi Stadium, Mani said a good number of star cricketers had signed up in the six PSL franchises.

 

However, because of security concerns, prominent overseas players have been reluctant to travel to Pakistan. But with the passage of time, the number of prominent cricketers willing to visit Pakistan has risen. In the recent development the ex-South Africa captain A.B. de Villiers has already pledged to play two matches of Lahore Qalandars in Lahore on March 9 and 10.

To a query, Mani said the talks with Cricket Australia are still on to convince them to send their national side to Pakistan for two games of the five-match One-day International series in the UAE in March despite reports of Australia’s expressing their reluctance regarding playing here.

The PCB chief declared that he has persuaded CA to send a security delegation to assess the current situation in Pakistan before taking a final decision, which is expected to be taken before the PSL begins in the second week of February.

Mani further said that talks were on with the cricket boards of South Africa and England to send different age-group teams to Pakistan.

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