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UsmanKhawaja enters top 10 after heroic Dubai resistance

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UsmanKhawaja’s heroics against Pakistan helped him jump nine spots to No.10 in the latest update to the Test player rankings for batsmen.

Khawaja was colossal in the first Test, played in Dubai. He top-scored for Australia in the first innings with 85, scored in over four hours, and then – with his team staring at defeat – led a stunning resistance on the final day, with an innings of 141, scored in close to nine hours.

Aaron Finch had a memorable debut with scores of 62 and 49 Aaron Finch had a memorable debut with scores of 62 and 49

 

That helped him move up past Aiden Markram to the 10th spot in the MRF Tyres ICC Test Player Rankings. His points tally – 719 – was, however, below his career best of 747, achieved in 2017.

There were no changes above him, with ViratKohli’s 139 in the first Test against the Windies keeping him firm at No.1 with 936 points – one off his career-high of 937. Steve Smith, Kane Williamson, Joe Root and David Warner round off the top five.

Following the completion of the two Tests – India v Windies in Rajkot and Pakistan v Australia in Dubai – there were many other movers among the batsmen.

Mohammad Abbas picked up seven wickets in the match Mohammad Abbas picked up seven wickets in the match

In Dubai, AsadShafiq’s 80 and 41 took him up five points and to No.20, while Mohammad Hafeez, who scored 126 in the first innings, re-entered the list at No.45. Tim Paine, the Australian captain who scored 61* to help draw the Dubai Test, entered the top 50 at No.49 with a career-high 524 points.

 

Slightly lower down, HarisSohail’s first Test century took him to the 57th spot (up 17), while two of the three Australian debutants also had good returns: Aaron Finch hit 62 and 49, and entered the list at No.72 and Travis Head’s second-innings 72 took him to the 103rd position.

Across in Rajkot, the hero for India was Prithvi Shaw, the debutant scoring 134 opening the innings. He entered the chart at No.73, one spot below Finch. RavindraJadeja also made a stirring comeback to the Test XI, hitting 100* in India’s only innings. He was up six spots to No.51 with a career-best 511 points.

Prithvi Shaw lived up to expectations by scoring 134 in his maiden Test innings Prithvi Shaw lived up to expectations by scoring 134 in his maiden Test innings

On to the bowlers now, and two Pakistani bowlers made significant gains. Mohammad Abbas returned 4/29 and 3/56, and was joint 13th with Jason Holder after rising eight spots. Bilal Asif, the debutant, got 6/36 in the Australian first innings, and entered the chart at No.69.

The big mover for the Indians was KuldeepYadav, the young left-arm wrist-spinner gaining 16 spots to get to the 52nd position after picking up his first five-wicket haul in Tests – 5/57 in the Windies second innings.

 


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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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