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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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Karachi: PSL 9 match traffic schedule

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The second round of PSL 9 matches is slated to take place from February 28 to March 18. In order to improve attendance’ convenience and ensure smooth traffic flow, Karachi Traffic Police created a specific plan.

It is recommended that guests who are coming from places like Karsaz, Millennium, and New Town use the allotted parking spaces at the PSB Coaching Centre, which is close to the stadium.

In order to prioritise the flow of cars and pedestrians, some roads will also have restricted heavy traffic access during match days.

The following routes are off-limits: Carsaaz to the Stadium, Millennium to New Town, Liaquatabad No. 10 to Hassan Square, Peoples Chowrangi to University Road, Sohrab Goth to Nipa, and Stadium Signal to Hassan Square.

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PSL 9: Basit Ali offers a daring leadership recommendation for PCB

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In order to raise the status of Green Shirts, former cricketer-turned-coach Basit Ali stated in the most recent episode of PSL special show “Har Lamha Purjosh,” hosted by Waseem Badami, that it is a good idea for new PCB chairman Mohsin Naqvi to give wicketkeeper-batsman Muhammad Rizwan the captaincy of the national team.

In order to improve Pakistani cricket, he stated, “I believe that now is the ideal time to name Rizwan captain.” “This is the right time to take this bold step and name him captain. I have some free advice for the newly appointed PCB chairman.”

In the recently concluded Pakistan vs. New Zealand series, he further criticised left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi’s captaincy, claiming that it even caused his pace to decline. He went on to say, “The 4-1 defeat by New Zealand after Babar’s removal from captaincy is a good enough reason that bold decisions must be made now to prepare ahead of the World Cup.”

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PSL 9 match security details released

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The PSL will see over 16,000 police officers handling security responsibilities since matches in Rawalpindi and Multan will have a security strategy in place.

Colin Munro and Tymal Mills of Islamabad United landed in Lahore, and the team will play Lahore Qalandars to open the season.

Mohsin Naqvi, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), announced that the PSL’s ninth season will start on February 17.

He stated that the duration of the traffic closure would be limited and that the public would be notified about other routes through the media in a timely manner. He also directed that effective management be made to preserve fluency for the convenience of the people.

The Lahore DIG Operations Police announced that around 7000 people will be assigned to a security strategy that would guarantee spectators, including cricket players, complete security.

According to the security plan, residents would be permitted entry after completing four levels of security, and 13 SPs, 36 DSPs, and 81 inspectors would be stationed. The situation would also be continually monitored by the Punjab Safe City Authority’s cameras.

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