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Hafeez, Junaid return for Zimbabwe tour

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LAHORE: Seasoned all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez, pacer Junaid Khan and leg-spinner Yasir Shah were recalled to national duty while Azhar Ali was axed as the selectors announced squads for the forthcoming T20 tri-nation event and ODI series in Zimbabwe.
Young batsman Babar Azam, who is still recovering from injury he sustained during the England tour, was named only in the ODI squad.
“[All-rounder] Asif Ali was included in the ODI squad to strengthen the lower middle order while Junaid Khan and Yasir Shah return to the ODI squad after getting fit. Babar Azam was not considered for T20s because he is recovering from injury and as per medical staff, it is hoped that he would be fit for the ODIs [in Zimbabwe],” a PCB press release quoted chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq as saying.
Sarfraz Ahmed will lead the 16-member squad in the ODIs besides captaining 15-member party in the tri-nation Twenty20 event involving Australia and hosts Zimbabwe. Pakistan first feature in the tri-nation T20 event from July 1 to 8, and then compete with Zimbabwe in a five-match ODI series from July 13 to 22 at the Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo.
The 37-year-old Hafeez, who has returned to international cricket after his bowling action was cleared by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for the third time following corrective measures last month, got the selectors’ confidence both as bowler and batsman. The right-handed top-order batsman, who bowls off-spin, has represented Pakistan in 200 ODIs and 81 T20 Internationals and last played an ODI against New Zealand at Wellington in January this year.
Azhar Ali, who was part of Pakistan’s ODI team which suffered a humiliating 5-0 ODI series whitewash in New Zealand early this year, however, failed to retain his place.
Three others, who were part of that series — Aamir Yamin, Umar Amin and Rumman Raees — are not in the current squad. They have been replaced by Junaid, Usman Khan Shinwari and Yasir.
The 28-year-old left-armer Junaid has earned a recall after remaining in wilderness for more than eight months. He last played an ODI against Sri Lanka at Sharjah in October 2017.
Yasir, who was facing a hip injury and missed the Pakistan’s recent tour to England, got the selectors’ nod for the ODI series after two years during which he was confined to Test matches. Yasir, 32, last featured in an ODI against England at Nottingham in 2016. Rookie pacer Usman, also a left-armer, last appeared in an ODI against Sri Lanka at Sharjah last year.
For the T20 tri-series in Zimbabwe, the selectors dropped opener Ahmed Shehzad whose career is in the doldrums after the opener was reported to have been tested positive in a dope test conducted recently.
The only difference between the ODI and T20 squad is Babar Azam, Hussain Talat and new entrant Sahibzada Farhan and Shaheen Shah Afridi. In place of Shahzad, Farhan is in the team.


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Australia refuse to tour Pakistan for proposed ODI matches, cite safety concerns

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Melbourne: Australia has turned down Pakistan Cricket Board’s request to play two One Day International (ODI) matches in the country, citing security concerns. The PCB had asked Cricket Australia to play two of the five ODIs, which are slated to be played in UAE, in Pakistan, but security concerns made Cricket Australia decide against the same.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, though the proposal has been rejected by the Australian cricket board, it has assured the PCB that they would be open to the idea in the future.

“We want to see international cricket return to Pakistan – the country has a huge passion for it,” said a CA spokesperson.

 

“However, the safety of our players and support staff is our number one priority and we won’t compromise that. We’ll continue to take advice from a range of government agencies and our own security intelligence and act on this accordingly.”

“At this stage, from an Australia team perspective, we are not contemplating moving our current bilateral-tour arrangements from taking on Pakistan in the UAE, when they host the next series but we do remain open to the idea of playing in the country again. We formally advised the PCB of this position in early January,” he added.

The PCB has in return, declined reports of Australia refusing to tour Pakistan, terming negotiations with Cricket Australia (CA) as currently ‘open and ongoing’.

Australia have not played an away series against Pakistan since 1998 which PCB chairman Ehsan Mani had attempted to address during the former’s recent Test series against the Asian side.

Mani attempted to convince CA chief executive Kevin Roberts to schedule an away series against Pakistan, urging them to follow the lead of Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe who had toured the nation since 2017.

Sri Lanka’s return was hailed as a major boost considering the deadly attack on their players in Lahore in 2009.

Australian ODI captain Aaron Finch and Pakistan-born Usman Khawaja have recently expressed a desire to tour Pakistan, in case the security concerns were addressed.

“Obviously, whatever Cricket Australia tells us, that’ll be the big thing. We’ll leave it to the administrators. They’re pretty good at taking care of us and making sure everything’s safe,” said Khawaja.

“I was born in Pakistan so it won’t be too different for me, but it’s still a while away,” he added.

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Federer ponders over his ‘miraculous’ career after Murray’s early retirement prospect

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London: As the tennis world continued to digest the prospect of Andy Murray`s retirement, an evergreen Roger Federer pondered the “luck” of his longevity on Sunday ahead of his bid for a hat-trick of Australian Open titles.

Murray`s announcement that Melbourne Park could be his last tournament as a professional has made 37-year-old Federer`s career seem all the more miraculous.

Seeking a 21st Grand Slam title and a record seventh in Melbourne, the Swiss will plough into his 20th consecutive Australian Open on Monday with a first round clash against Uzbek Denis Istomin.

 

While suffering an assortment of niggles common to all hardened professionals, Federer`s only major layoff came in 2016, after he tore his meniscus when running a bath for his twin daughters.

It happened a day after losing the Australian Open semi-final to winner Novak Djokovic, but a year later, he was back raising a fifth trophy at the tournament.

While knowing the limits of his body and full of praise for his team for being able to patch him up repeatedly, Federer admitted that fortune had played a part in his longevity.

“I definitely needed a little bit of luck,” he told reporters at Melbourne Park.

“If you look at how unlucky things were with the incident here a few years ago when I ran the bath, I guess the knee, that part of the body was ready to go.

“Could have happened easily in the match against Novak, but it didn`t, maybe because I was warmed up. I have no idea what happened. I think you also need a little bit of luck.”

The 31-year-old Murray has been far less fortunate, with major hip surgery a year ago doing nothing to stop the pain that has driven the Scot to distraction and the brink of retirement.

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Barcelona on lookout for striker after Munir sale: Coach Ernesto

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London: Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said that the club were looking to sign a centre forward in the January transfer window after selling Munir El Haddadi to Sevilla.

The league leaders want back-up for Luis Suarez after Sevilla agreed a one-million-euro ($1.15-million) deal to buy Spain international Munir on Friday, leaving the Uruguayan as the only No. 9 at the club, playing between Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele.

“We have to look at it, it`s clear that after Munir`s departure we have a space,” Valverde told reporters on Saturday.

 

“We`ll see if we can sign a player, although we have to take into account the club`s economic conditions. We will see if we can, if someone comes.”

Asked about Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata, who has been linked to Barcelona in Spanish media reports, Valverde said: “I can only say the same thing — that he`s a great player, that he`s at another team, that we respect that a lot, etcetera.”

Barcelona are currently leading the La Liga with 40 points, with Atletico Madrid trailing them in second place with 35 points.

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