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High hopes for underdogs Sri Lanka in Asia Cup final

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DUBAI; Sri Lanka are poised for an unlikely Asia Cup victory over favourites Pakistan in Sunday’s final after a giant-slaying streak through the tournament despite troubles at home.

The island nation had to abandon plans to host the Twenty20 competition due to political unrest and stumbled in their opener to Afghanistan by eight wickets, with nearly 10 overs remaining.

But the five-time champions bounced back to beat Bangladesh, Afghanistan and tournament favourites India, scuttling a hotly anticipated finals showdown between Rohit Sharma’s men and arch-rivals Pakistan.

Friday’s closing Super Four match was a dress rehearsal for the Dubai final — and Sri Lanka’s fourth straight victory, albeit with Pakistan missing two of their key players.

On Sunday they will depend on the spin pairing of Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana, who helped bowl out Pakistan for 121 on Friday in a comfortable five-wicket win.

Opener Pathum Nissanka led the batting charge with an unbeaten 55 in a clinical show, but skipper Dasun Shanaka warned his team of complacency.

“The confidence we have is massive after four consecutive wins, but we still don’t take Pakistan lightly in the final,” Shanaka told reporters.

“We know they are a very good side and enough good players in their side to come back strong and we should be ready for that.”

Sri Lanka fared well in their recent home series of two Tests against Pakistan, played in Galle against the backdrop of a punishing economic crisis and political unrest.

Shanaka said his side had been bombarded with “messages of love and support” and its Asia Cup success had brought cheer back home after miserable months of blackouts, fuel shortages and protests.

“So nice that we are winning and giving back something to them,” he said.

Confidence and passion 

Pakistan are weathering their own troubles at home with monsoon floods that have inundated a third of the country.

But the team have shone through the tournament, a curtain-raiser for next month’s T20 World Cup in Australia, avenging an opening game loss to India and clinching a last-over thriller against Afghanistan.

Fast bowler Naseem Shah and all-rounder Shadab Khan both missed Friday’s showdown but will lengthen Sri Lanka’s odds when they return for the final.

Naseem, 19, has kept the edge on Pakistan’s bowling attack in the absence of pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi, who missed the tournament due to injury.

He also hit two sixes in a dramatic one-wicket win over Afghanistan to seal India’s exit.

Pakistans captain Babar Azam (L) and teammate Fakhar Zaman take a run during the Asia Cup Twenty20 international cricket Super Four match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai on September 9, 2022. — AFP
Pakistan’s captain Babar Azam (L) and teammate Fakhar Zaman take a run during the Asia Cup Twenty20 international cricket Super Four match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai on September 9, 2022. — AFP

Batting remains a cause for concern, with skipper Babar Azam managing a tournament best of just 30. Mohammad Rizwan is the only consistent performer with 226 runs in five matches.

But coach Saqlain Mushtaq said he had complete faith in his side to deliver despite Azam’s “unlucky” run.

“The latest match we won against India, we chased and batted well,” he said.

“Things are moving in the right direction and we are confident.”

Pakistan’s latest loss to Sri Lanka might have stalled their momentum, but Saqlain said the team will heed the lessons of Friday’s match-up.

“I will talk about mistakes in the dressing room, but Sri Lanka will take confidence into the final and Pakistan some learnings and passion,” Saqlain said.

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Shaheen Afridi’s potential absence from the Bangladesh Test match is attributed to personal circumstances. Jason

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Jason Gillespie, the head coach of the Pakistan Red Ball team, may not be able to attend the Bangladesh Test owing to personal issues, as discussed informally with Shaheen Shah Afridi.

“Shaheen Afridi has accumulated a considerable amount of experience in the game of cricket,” remarked Jason Gillespie.

Jason Gillespie stated that Shaheen had bowled three times as much as Starc in a year. “Shaheen Shah Afridi is also involved in playing leagues across all three formats,” he stated.

The coach of the Pakistan cricket team emphasised the importance of effectively managing the workload of the fast bowlers from Pakistan. He specified that Shaan Masood will be leading the test crew.

“Although I have not yet had the opportunity to meet Shaan in person, I have been maintaining regular communication with him over the phone,” stated Jason Gillespie. Jason Gillespie stated that he encountered captain Babar Azam in Lahore.

The Pakistan team’s training camp for the upcoming series against Bangladesh is scheduled to commence in the first week of August.

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The captain for the Pakistan Shaheens team for the Darwin tour has been announced.

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Sahibzada Farhan, a prominent batsman, has been appointed as the captain of the Pakistan Shaheens’ team for the upcoming four-day matches against Bangladesh A in Darwin, Australia.

The Pakistan Shaheens will engage in two four-day matches against the Bangladesh ‘A’ team, after which they will participate in a tri-series with the Northern Territory team and Bangladesh in Darwin. In addition, they will also take part in the Top End T20 Series, which consists of nine teams.

However, the tour has seen the unfortunate absence of the promising fast bowler Hunain Shah, who has been unable to participate due to an injury. As a result, Qasim Akram has been selected as his replacement in the squad.

The Pakistan Shaheens will depart for Brisbane early on Saturday morning via Dubai. They will journey from Brisbane to Darwin at a later time.

Pakistan’s red-ball head coach, Jason Gillespie, will be traveling to Darwin to serve as the team’s head coach for the two four-day matches.

The Pakistan Shaheens squad

The team consists of Sahibzada Farhan (captain), Haseebullah, Qasim Akram, Kamran Ghulam, Kashif Ali, Khurram Shahzad, Mehran Mumtaz, Mohammad Huraira, Mubasir Khan, Muhammad Irfan Khan, Omair Bin Yousuf, Shahnawaz Dahani, Tayyab Tahir, Umar Amin, and Mohammad Ali.

The layer support personnel for the team include Jason Gillespie, who serves as the head coach for red-ball matches and will also oversee the camp from 8-13 July. Abdul Rehman is the head coach for white-ball matches and will join the team on 28 July. Mohammad Masroor is the assistant coach-cum-manager and camp commandant from 24 June-7 July. The team also has Mohammad Asad as the physiotherapist, Imranullah as the trainer, and Usman Hashmi as the analyst.

Timetable (all games in Darwin)

On July 14th, we will arrive in Darwin.
19-22 July: Four-day match against Bangladesh ‘A’
26-29 July: Four-day match against Bangladesh ‘A’
On August 4th, there will be a 50-over cricket match against the Northern Territory (NT).
On August 6th, there will be a 50-over cricket match against the Bangladesh ‘A’ team.
From August 9th to August 18th, there will be a nine-team event. High-level T20 Series

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An ex-cricketer proposes Mohammad Rizwan as the skipper for white-ball cricket.

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Mohammad Rizwan, the wicketkeeper batter, has been proposed by former Pakistani bowler Sarfaraz Nawaz to lead the team in white-ball cricket.

The former fast bowler backed Rizwan, who took the Multan Sultans to three straight PSL finals, in an interview with a local news source.

“[Mohammad] Rizwan has demonstrated his leadership abilities by assisting KPK in winning all local competitions in the past, and his record as Multan Sultans’ captain has been steadfast over time. He is the ideal candidate for the position. He declared, “Babar Azam lacks confidence and shouldn’t be considered for the position.

For those who don’t know, Babar Azam, Pakistan’s current white-ball captain, has come under fire after the country’s men’s squad exited the T20 World Cup 2024 early.

In addition, Sarfaraz Nawaz offered significant suggestions for enhancing the selection process in response to the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) recent decision to remove former players Wahab Riaz and Abdul Razzaq from the national selection committee.

The former footballer stated, “The selection committee has worked collectively, as was evident during the pre-World Cup press conference, with every member admitting that the team was constituted after consensus.”

“Since every committee member was in charge of the choice, they should all be fired. The whole selection committee failed to live up to expectations.

“If we hope to get the system back on track at all, major surgery is necessary. The removal of Wahab and Abdul Razzaq alone would not be sufficient; a three-person selection committee is required.

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