Black Caps beat the Champions Trophy holders by 61 runs
Wellington: New Zealand ended Pakistan’s run of nine consecutive wins in one-day internationals when they beat the Champions Trophy holders by 61 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis system today to open the five-match series.
Captain Kane Williamson made 115 to lead New Zealand to 315-7 as they batted first after losing the toss. Pakistan were 166-6 after 30.1 overs when rain brought the match to an early end.
Opener Fakhar Zaman was 82 not out and Faheem Ashraf 17 was not out but Pakistan were well short of the 227 runs it needed to win the match under the Duckworth-Lewis system when rain finally set in.
New Zealand swing bowler Tim Southee captured two wickets in the first over of the Pakistan innings to place the tourists under immediate pressure in reply.
Southee trapped both Azhar Ali (6) and Babar Azam (0) lbw within his opening over, then took a catch from Trent Boult’s bowling to dismiss Mohammad Hafeez (1) to leave Pakistan’s innings in disarray at 13-3.
Fakhar batted superbly to recover the innings, reaching his half-century from 63 balls and putting on 78 for the sixth wicket with Shadab Khan. But Pakistan never approached the run-rate they needed to win the match whether or not rain intervened.
New Zealand were on top from the start as Williamson, currently the No. 4-ranked batsman in ODI cricket, reached his 10th ODI century from 106 balls to lead his team to a record total at the Basin Reserve.
Opener Colin Munro also enhanced his reputation as one of the world’s leading ODI batsmen, giving the New Zealand innings a sound foundation with is fifth ODI half-century.
Munro, the top-ranked batsmen in Twenty20 internationals, hit 58 from 35 balls to give the hosts a rapid beginning in conditions in which scoring generally required careful application.
“Obviously, we’ve been playing a lot of cricket recently against the West Indies and it was a different competition against Pakistan,” Williamson said.
“The way we batted with Colin and Martin (Guptill) at the top of the order set the tone coming into a new series and getting past the 300 mark on that surface was an above-par effort.”
Despite being covered during two days of rain – the reason Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed chose to bowl on winning the toss – the pitch at the Basin Reserve was hard and provided good pace and carry, even a little seam movement.
Undeterred by those conditions, Munro reached his 50 off just 33 balls with five fours and two sixes.
He went to his half-century with a six from the bowling of Hasan Ali and added one more boundary before he was out to end an 83-run opening partnership with Martin Guptill (48).
Williamson then added 73 with Guptill for the second wicket and 90 with Henry Nicholls for the fifth before finally falling in the 48th over. Nicholls again played a strong hand near the end, hitting 50 from 53 balls.
The Pakistan seamers, who found a little assistance from the pitch, used shorter balls and slower deliveries to try and limit the scoring options of the New Zealand batsmen.
Munro was the only batsman who was able to launch an all-out attack on the bowlers and Williamson notably achieved his century by quiet accumulation. His innings contained only eight fours and one six and, in total, New Zealand hit only 25 fours and five sixes.
Hasan Ali, ranked the best bowler in the world in ODIs, was again Pakistan’s best on Saturday, taking 3-61.
“Obviously it was very tough conditions for us,” Sarfraz said of the wet, windy and cold weather. “Credit to the New Zealand batsmen, they batted very well.
“Hopefully we will sit together, talk about it and do better in the next match.”
Australia refuse to tour Pakistan for proposed ODI matches, cite safety concerns
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.
Federer ponders over his ‘miraculous’ career after Murray’s early retirement prospect
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.
Barcelona on lookout for striker after Munir sale: Coach Ernesto
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.