NEW YORK: Amid a sea of Indian shirts, fluttering Pakistan flags and deafening roars, New York cricket fans turned out in their thousands to watch greats of the game face off against each other on Saturday ─ in a baseball stadium.
Australian spin king Shane Warne and Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar captained two star-studded teams in a Twenty20 match designed to introduce Americans to the world's second most popular sport.
Warne's Warriors beat Sachin's Blasters, with Warne man of the match after claiming Tendulkar's wicket.
But it was the Indian star whom most of the overwhelming South Asian expatriate crowd had come to see.
"Sachin, Sachin, Sachin," screamed the stadium in unison, hundreds wearing blue Indian shirts, many with the record-breaking batsman's name emblazoned on the back.
"Sachin for President," read one banner.
Snacking on hot dogs and nachos, chewing on pretzels and quaffing beer, for many it was the first time in years they had watched live cricket in America, long starved of the sport.
The three-hour match will be followed by games in Houston and Los Angeles.
Warne told reporters 36,000 people had packed into the Citi Field ─ home of the New York Mets baseball team ─ for the game.
"I thought it was fantastic, the atmosphere was amazing," he said.
At the end, the players lapped the pitch, waving and applauding the crowd, which Tendulkar compared to the home crowd at the Mets' World Series.
LAHORE: Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Shaharyar Khan rebuffed suggestions from newly-appointed ICC president Zaheer Abbas that Pakistan should show flexibility and even consider going to India for their bilateral series.
Former Pakistan batting great Zaheer said on Monday that the PCB should be willing to go to India for their home series in December to ensure the revival of cricketing ties between two countries but Shaharyar said that they will wait for a final reply from the BCCI till October.
“We will not go to India to play our bilateral series there and I’m writing a letter to the BCCI to clear our stance and we will wait for their reply till October,” the PCB chief told Dawn on Tuesday.
According to the MoU signed between the PCB and the BCCI last year, six bilateral series in the next eight years are planned.
The PCB is to host the first one in the UAE in December but the Indian government, citing political reasons, hasn’t allowed the BCCI to confirm participation.
“It seems they don’t want to play a bilateral series as they are raising political issues while the PCB believes that sports should not be mixed with politics,” Shaharyar said.
He admitted that if the series wasn’t held, it would deprive the PCB of huge revenue and “wouldn’t be good for both the game and the financial position of the board”.
“India shouldn’t mix politics with sport,” he added. “Cricket is a source of great entertainment for the people of the two countries and the series between the arch-rivals is bigger than the Ashes.”
Shaharyar indicated the PCB had already made a Plan-B, to help minimise losses, which will be implemented after they have heard the BCCI’s final decision.
Although he didn’t disclose the details of that plan, sources have told Dawn that it isn’t related to any cricketing activity.
A strong austerity campaign may be launched to reduce the PCB expenditure to minimize the losses — approximately US$50million — which will be suffered if the India series doesn’t go ahead as planned. A short-sizing of PCB staff may also be included in the austerity campaign.
On the issue of the tainted duo of Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif featuring in the domestic season, Shaharyar said that the PCB had handed them a rehabilitation programme which they had to complete first before making their comeback in phases.
Salman and Asif, who were caught in the infamous spot-fixing scandal in 2010, were cleared by the ICC last week to feature in domestic cricket from September 2 after their punishments were reduced but the PCB has refrained from allowing them to return just yet.
“Under the rehabilitation programme, they [Salman and Asif] will have to visit all the regions and enlighten the players about the consequences of any negative activity,” Shaharyar said. “After that, they can play club cricket and then Grade-II cricket.”
KARACHI: Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram has called upon the Indian cricket authorities not to mix sports with politics following reports of the scheduled Pakistan-India bilateral series this December being cancelled.
Speaking on the sidelines of the media conference at the National Stadium for the 13-day fast bowlers’ camp, Wasim urged India to honour its commitments and play Pakistan as per the schedule.
Commenting on ex-Indian captain Saurav Ganguly’s controversial comments that the series should be called off because of the recent conflict on the border of the two countries, the legendary fast bowler said during his career he had no problems playing against India.
As per the Memorandum of Understanding, Pakistan and India are to play six series against each other in an eight-year period till 2023. In accordance with the stipulations of the memorandum, the Pakistan Cricket Board had requested India to play the first of those series in December.
Ganguly in his comment backed the Indian cricket board secretary Anurag Thakur’s statement that in the current scenario the series cannot be staged.
“I think the BCCI is correct in saying that terror will have to completely go before play could happen. Because as human beings we also want terror to completely go,” Ganguly was quoted as saying in the Indian media. “So this has always been the case with an India-Pakistan series.
“As much as we understand that it is entertaining and it is a high-profile series, we cannot take away the sufferings which the people go through at the border.”
But Wasim urged the neighbouring country not to mix sports with politics.
“We shouldn’t be mixing sports with politics. Cricket is a binding force for both our countries. During my playing days, we toured India in 1999 when the [political] situation on the political front was not dissimilar to what we have today,” recalled Wasim.
Wasim emphasised the importance of an India-Pakistan series and described cricket matches between the two nations as magical.
“Just see the Ashes series between England and Australia. It’s always been very attractive. But to me, there is more to it when Pakistan play India or vice versa. The passion for cricket in the region is huge and there is tremendous interest on both sides of the border whenever a cricket series [between Pakistan and India] is on,” he said. “The focus should be on sports and not politics.”
Meanwhile, Wasim backed the PCB to hold the Pakistan Super League (PSL) early next year and pointed out he has no qualms about the venue.
“I think the cricket board is doing the right thing. The PSL is a great idea and should be held as planned. Personally, I see no worries whether it is played in our country or elsewhere. The fact is that we should at least make a start somewhere,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Wasim expressed surprise over the omission of Sarfraz Ahmed from the two-match T20 series against Sri Lanka.
Speaking before the start of the second game at the Colombo’s R. Premadasa Stadium, Wasim rated the national ODI and T20 vice-captain as a vital cog in the national team.
“In view Sarfraz is our key player in all three forms of cricket and he has proved it time and again. Not playing in the first match [on Thursday] made no sense to me. I mean he is the vice-captain and to keep him out was ridiculous,” he reasoned.
“When he was overlooked for four [straight] matches at the World Cup, all of us were surprised to see Sarfraz not in the team and expressed our annoyance.
“He returned with a bang to prove that he shouldn’t have been dropped at all. As far as I’m concerned, Sarfraz should be playing in all three formats since he is our main player.”
COLOMBO: Shahid Afridi and Anwar Ali played key roles as Pakistan ended a successful tour of Sri Lanka with a thrilling one-wicket victory in the second Twenty20 international in Colombo on Saturday.
Pakistan recovered from 40-5 in the eighth over to surpass Sri Lanka's challenging 172-7 with four balls to spare with Imad Wasim striking the winning six off left-arm seamer Binura Fernando.
Skipper Afridi led the way with a 22-ball 45 that included four sixes and a boundary, before Anwar smashed 46 off 17 balls in a match-winning knock that contained four sixes and three fours.
Imad, who remained unbeaten on 24, helped Anwar add 58 for the eighth wicket as the tourists recorded a heart-stopping win in front of a sell-out crowd of 35,000 at the Premadasa stadium that briefly included Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena.
Pakistan, who won the first T20 match by 29 runs on Thursday, completed a remarkable treble on the six-week tour, having earlier won the Test series 2-1 and the one-dayers 3-2.
Fernando, a lean 20-year-old playing only his second international match, gave Sri Lanka a flying start with a double strike in his second over.
He bowled Ahmed Shehzad with a slower delivery and then forced Mukhtar Ahmed to top-edge a bouncer to Chamara Kapugedera at mid-wicket.
Pakistan's top order caved in as Mohammad Hafeez and Umar Akmal were run out and senior batsman Shoaib Malik was stumped.
Afridi began the amazing turnaround with a sixth-wicket stand of 61 with Mohammad Rizwan (17) as the inexperienced Sri Lankan attaack wilted under pressure.
Earlier, aggressive batting by debutant Shehan Jayasuriya and the recalled Kapugedera lifted Sri Lanka to 172-7 after skipper Lasith Malinga won the toss and elected to bat in the day-night match.
Jayasuriya, a 23-year-old left-hander unrelated to Sri Lanka's former captain Sanath Jayasuriya, smashed three fours and two sixes in his 32-ball 40 before he was fifth out.
But it was Kapugedera who boosted the total with an unbeaten 48 off 25 balls that contained four sixes and two boundaries.
Kapugedera put on 55 for the sixth wicket with Milinda Siriwardana (23) as the hosts plundered 59 runs in the final five overs.
KARACHI: Pakistan's cricket board said Saturday that paceman Wahab Riaz had ruled himself out of the team's two-match Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka due to an ongoing hand injury.
The 30-year-old was named in the 15-man squad subject to complete recovery from the injury, sustained during the second Test against Sri Lanka earlier this month.
But after bowling during a fitness test on Friday, it was found that the left-arm paceman had not fully recovered.
Riaz will be replaced by another left-arm fast bowler, Zia-ul-Haq, who was in the squad as a stand-by.
“Riaz bowled in nets on Friday and still feels stiffness in his bowling hand. Thus he withdrew himself from T20s squad. Zia will replace him,” a Pakistan Cricket Board statement said.
Twenty-year-old Zia was impressive during a Pakistan 'A' team tour of Sri Lanka last month.
Riaz said he was disappointed.
“Unfortunately still some stiffness in my bowling hand Hopefully another week or so to give my 100 per cent,” Riaz said on his Twitter account.
Pakistan, already leading the five-match ODI series by 3-1, will face Sri Lanka in the fifth and final one-day in Hambantota on Sunday. That will be followed by two Twenty20 internationals on July 30 and August 1 -- both in Colombo.
Squad: Shahid Afridi (captain), Ahmed Shehzad, Nauman Anwar, Mohammad Hafeez, Mukhtar Ahmed, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfraz Ahmed, Yasir Shah, Sohail Tanvir, Imad Wasim, Anwar Ali, Mohammad Irfan, Zia-ul-Haq
Pakistan romped to a series triumph after their convincing victory over Sri Lanka in the 4th ODI but a drop in intensity is unlikely when Azhar Ali's side takes on Sri Lanka in Hambantota for the fifth and final game on Sunday.
Pakistan, riding on Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad's batting heroics, went past the target of 257 set by Sri Lanka in the fourth ODI on Wednesday to take an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series.
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews singled out his team's lackluster bowling for the hosts' recent woes. Only three out of the seven bowlers that he used managed to get a breakthrough in that match, with ace pacer Lasith Malinga looking overweight and out of sorts.
“There was no real penetration in our bowling attack,” admitted Mathews, speaking after the 4th ODI.
“Hopefully we can rectify it. We need to play positive cricket and get out of hits hole we have dug ourselves in.”
Sri Lanka's batting on the other hand, has shown signs it can cope without the legendary Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara and barring the third match, most in the line up have chipped in.
Lahiru Thirimanne, Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Perera and Tilakaratene Dilshan have all contributed.
Meanwhile, Pakistan have got a lot of things going for it, with the relatively inexperienced Rahat Ali, Anwar Ali and Mohamamd Irfan finding their rhythm and the likes of legspinner Yasir Shah keeping things tight in the middle overs.
Hafeez, banned for bowling for a year for a suspect action, is the highest run-getter of the series so far, having notched up 236 runs at at an average of 59.00 in the four matches. Ahmed Shehzad and Azhar Ali along with the veteran Shoaib Malik have ensured Pakistan have avoided any embarrassment with the bat so far.
From the qualification point of view for the 2017 Champions Trophy, the series win is crucial for Pakistan, who, with 90.4 rating points in the International Cricket Council's ranking system, is now two points ahead of West Indies (88.4 points).
This is the first time Pakistan has won a series in Sri Lanka since 2006 and the ODI series will be followed by a two Twenty20 Internationals between the two sides on July 30 and August 1.
Pakistan: Azhar Ali (capt), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Anwar Ali, Yasir Shah, Rahat Ali, Mohammad Irfan, Asad Shafiq, Mukhtar Ahmed, Bilal Asif, Immad Wasim, Ehsan Adil.
Sri Lanka: Kusal Perera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Lahiru Thirimanne, Upul Tharanga, Angelo Mathews (capt), Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Thisara Perera, Milinda Siriwardana, Seekkuge Prasanna, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Ashan Priyanjan, Sachithra Senanayake, Sachith Pathirana.
GALLE: Pakistan defeated Sri Lanka by 10 wickets in the first Test in Galle on Sunday to take the lead in the three-match series.
Leg-spinner Yasir Shah grabbed a career-best seven for 76 to skittle Sri Lanka for a paltry 206 in their second innings just before tea on the fifth and final day.
Pakistan set a victory target of 90, and raced home in 11.2 overs with Mohammad Hafeez remaining unbeaten on 46 and Ahmed Shehzad on 43.
Opener Dimuth Karunaratne top-scored with 79, Lahiru Thirimanne made 44 and and Dinesh Chandimal was last man out for 38, but the rest of the batsmen folded against Pakistan’s incisive bowling in Galle.
The tourists, who led by 117 on the first innings, have the entire post-tea session to achieve the victory target of 90 runs and take the lead in the three-match series.
The 29-year-old Yasir ripped through the batting as Sri Lanka lost their last five wickets for 39 runs after being 167 for five at one stage.
Sri Lanka took their overnight score of 63-2 to 144-4 by lunch, before a further six wickets fell on a dramatic afternoon at the Galle International Stadium.
The hosts lost nightwatchman Dilruwan Perera off the first ball of the day, clean-bowled by Yasir as he shouldered arms to a ball that dipped in after pitching.
The left-handed pair of Karunaratne and Thirimanne gave Sri Lanka the lead with a 69-run partnership for the fourth wicket.
But with the hosts just 15 runs ahead, left-arm seamer Wahab Riaz had Thirimanne caught low at first slip by Younis Khan to keep the interest alive during the lunch break.
Sri Lanka suffered a massive blow off the second ball after resumption when skipper Angelo Mathews was controversially given out caught at short leg by TV umpire Chris Gaffaney.
The New Zealander upheld on-field umpire Richard Illingworth, who had ruled that the batsman was caught at short-leg off Yasir even though replays proved inconclusive on whether the ball had come off the bat.
Mathews, who had called for a review as soon as the umpire raised his finger, was visibly furious as he returned to the pavilion.
Neither hot-spot or snickometer technology is part of the Decision Review System for the series.
Karunaratne’s patience after a vigil of more than four hours at the crease ran out when he attempted a big hit off Yasir, missed the line and was smartly stumped by an agile Sarfraz Ahmed to make it 167-6.
It soon became 175-7 as Kithuruwan Vithanage swept a flighted ball to Zulfiqar Babar at square-leg, giving Yasir his second haul of five wickets or more in an eight-Test career.
Dhammika Prasad was stumped off Babar and Rangana Herath holed out in the deep off Yasir, before Chandimal was last man out, stumped off Yasir.
Bad weather had washed out the entire first day’s play on Wednesday and just 64 overs were bowled on the second day due to a wet outfield.
The Tests will be followed by five one-day internationals and two Twenty20 matches.