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Pakistan 166 for 6 (Malik 49*, Fakhar 33, Leask 3-31) beat Scotland 82 (MacLeod 25, Faheem 3-5) by 84 runs

Another T20I masterclass from Pakistan veteran Shoaib Malik propelled Pakistan towards a series win against Scotland, thumping the hosts by 84 runs in the second T20I at the Grange. Under overcast conditions with a light drizzle threatening to interrupt the game for most of the match, Shoaib exploded – much like the first game – in the last few overs, smashing five sixes as he blitzed 49 off 22 to help Pakistan surge to 166.

Unlike Tuesday, Scotland were never quite in the hunt for this one, losing George Munsey off the third ball, and never quite managing any momentum that might suggest a real contest could be on the cards. They were untidy with their running, rushed with their strokeplay and generally uncomfortable in the face of a sensational Pakistan in the field. It was a much improved bowling performance from the visitors, spearheaded by Usman Khan, who came in for Mohammad Amir, and registered figures of 2-0-4-2. Scotland began to fall away rather dramatically towards the end, with no less than three players run out as Kyle Coetzer’s men were bundled out for 82.

There was some drama before the start, with Cricket Scotland officials and the television production team locked in an argument over using a fresh pitch for this game. The TV crew were concerned their cameras couldn’t be in line with the bowler at one end of the pitch, the result being a slightly askew broadcast angle from the Pavilion End. It’s the sort of drama people associate, sometimes patronisingly, with cricket on the Associate landscape.

But Scotland wouldn’t have wanted the haphazardness to extend to their on-field performance. Pakistan got off to a flying start again, though Scotland were unfortunate not to have Fakhar Zaman out in the first over. Chris Sole extracted both an outside and an inside edge in the first six deliveries, the former put down in the slips, the latter narrowly missing the stumps. Both went for four. Sole had bowled an excellent first over, and conceded 12 runs.

Shehzad and Zaman put on 60 for the first wicket, but Scotland, just as they had done in the first game, struck back in the middle overs. The runs were restricted right up until the last two overs, with batsmen unable to kick on from starts in the face of tight, disciplined bowling from Scotland’s bowlers, particularly Mark Watt and Michael Leask.

But Shoaib Malik came to Pakistan’s rescue once more, with a whirlwind last two overs, scoring 32 of Pakistan’s 34 runs as they turned a slightly below-par score into an imposing one of 166. He was put down at the end of the 19th over on the long-off boundary, a simple catch that Leask failed to hold on to. Just as Tuesday, the drops cost Scotland dear in the field as Shoaib went on to score 14 in the final over, leaving Scotland to ponder how to improve their fielding against a quality opposition like the one they faced today.

The pitch looked no worse than the one used on Tuesday, where 200 seemed about par. But the change of pitch today meant the long-on/ midwicket boundary from one side of the ground was 10 meters larger, and shots that would have comfortably carried over the ropes on Tuesday were being caught inside the boundary on the field, including a spectacular tag-team catch and relay effort from Dylan Budge and Watt to claim Sarfraz at deep square leg. That restricted Pakistan to the relatively modest 166, and made it arguably a more searching chase than the previous one might have been.

However, at no stage of the Scottish innings did their batsmen begin to establish any sort of relationship with the boundary rope. Pakistan circled around them in the infield, and the pitch looked a fair bit faster when the Pakistan bowlers were operating on it. Usman isn’t a regular starter for Pakistan, but when in form, almost always seems to make a match-winning difference. He hurried on to the batsmen, and as the rain began to get slightly heavier, the Scottish mood began to match the Edinburgh weather. They could do little more than shuffle around for ones and twos and get the odd boundary, but it was never nearly enough to challenge the ever-rising asking rate.

It was unfortunate to see the home side losing their heads towards the end, with a couple of unnecessary run-outs easing Pakistan’s way to an inevitable win they didn’t need any help with. Calum MacLeod was the man at the other end for all three of Scotland’s run-outs, but you’d be hard-pressed to blame him for any of them, what with the Pakistan fielders prowling, looking to save every run as the asking rate bounded out of sight. Faheem Ashraf came back to polish off the last two wickets, giving his figures a shiny new look by the end, having taken three wickets for five runs.

By the end, Pakistan’s dominance was so absolute, it was easy to forget the strides Scotland have made over the past few years. It would be harsh to focus on the manner of the defeat, and more prudent to reflect on the professionalism with which Pakistan have moved on from a Test series against England to a T20I series in Edinburgh, never letting their focus waver, and fielding a full-strength team when several others might have chosen to rest players. It was apt respect to pay to a side that has very much earned it over the last week.

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Blitz and Trans Group step in to fill PSL TV production void



Two days after IMG-Reliance pulled out of its deal to produce television coverage of the fourth season of the Pakistan Super League (PSL), a replacement for the remainder of the tournament has been found. The PCB has declared that a consortium of Blitz and Trans Group will produce TV coverage throughout the course of this season’s PSL from now on.

“The Pakistan Cricket Board today announced the consortium of Blitz and Trans Group as the new live production partner for the HBL Pakistan Super League 2019,” the PCB said in a press release. “Blitz are the PCB’s broadcast partners in Pakistan, while Trans Group are the event management partners.

“Blitz and Trans Group will start their coverage when the matches resume on Wednesday, 20 February, and will continue to provide the same high quality coverage which the followers experienced in the earlier games of the event.”

The announcement by IMG-Reliance, an Indian company, that they would not be producing TV coverage of the PSL came on Sunday, three days after a suicide bomb attack in Kashmir killed 44 Indian paramilitary troops, severely straining relations between India and Pakistan. The acrimony spilled over into cricket, not just with IMG-Reliance’s decision, but with TV channel DSports ceasing broadcasting of the PSL in India. Cricketgateway’s website, which has provided online coverage of the PSL for the past two seasons, has also stopped providing its coverage in India.

IMG-Reliance’s decision left the PCB scrambling to find a replacement within the two days that the PSL was on a break for before games resume in Sharjah on Wednesday, The deal with Blitz and Trans Group goes some way to assuaging fears that the PSL would be left without a production partner, a major concern given TV revenue was overwhelmingly the largest source of income for the tournament.

There was also speculation that the India-Pakistan clash at the World Cup on June 16 in Manchester may be in jeopardy. It led to outgoing ICC CEO David Richardson to say that “no indications” had been sent from either board that the match would not take place but that the ICC was “monitoring” the situation.

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West Indies seek another upset as World Cup countdown begins



Big picture

Rarely does a five-match ODI series become the focal point of any modern tour but, 100 days out from the World Cup, this is arguably the main event for both West Indies and England. While the tourists, so lacklustre during their Test defeat, will step out after a quick change of clothing as the No. 1-ranked ODI side, ready to hone their plans in the run-in to a tournament for which they are warm favourites, West Indies must attempt to channel the mood of optimism currently suffusing Caribbean cricket into an upturn in form in their weakest format.

Jason Holder’s contribution to victories in the first two Tests against England (before he was suspended over his team’s slow over rate) further enhanced his reputation as an impressive young leader – but while the Test side has steadily come together over the last two years, results have been harder to come by in ODIs. Holder was appointed captain before the last World Cup, aged just 23, and has still to oversee a bilateral series win after 11 attempts.

There were sparks of encouragement in India before Christmas, when West Indies won one game and tied another (which they probably should have won) while the series was still alive, as Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer shone with the bat; but they went on to lose in Bangladesh, with Holder absent through injury, and are set to rejig their side again just three months out from the World Cup.

The likes of Chandrapaul Hemraj, Kieran Powell and Marlon Samuels – who played at the 2003, 2007 and 2015 World Cups – have been dispensed with, while Andre Russell and Evin Lewis remain unavailable despite both playing in the BPL final 11 days ago. Chris Gayle is a welcome returnee, and bound to bring some “Universe Boss” charisma to proceedings in what is set to be his final home series before retirement, while John Campbell could make a debut after impressing in the Tests. But little about the team is settled.

England’s players, by contrast, know their roles backwards and you can pretty much pencil in their 15-man World Cup already – though the tantalising prospect of Jofra Archer becoming eligible next month adds a little spice. Is Mark Wood capable of replicating his 90+mph burst with the red ball in St Lucia? Can Liam Plunkett still harvest regular middle-overs wickets with his back-of-a-length hostility? How fit is Chris Woakes (and David Willey)? These are some of the questions likely to preoccupy Eoin Morgan over the next two weeks – though, as the Tests demonstrated, it would pay not to be complacent.

Form guide

West Indies: LWLLL (Last five completed matches, most recent first)
England: LWWW

In the spotlight

The spotlight is where Chris Gayle loves to be, and the announcement that he is to call it a (one-)day after the World Cup will ensure that he casts a long shadow in a squad light on experience. Gayle has only played 15 ODIs since the last World Cup, passing 50 three times, while his returns on the global T20 circuit have slipped from unparalleled greatness to merely very good. But just one sweetly struck six into the Kensington Oval crowd could be enough to light some farewell fireworks.

Talking of explosive openers, England have a couple in Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy. While Bairstow’s role in the Test side has been subject of much discussion – from batting and keeping at No. 5, to specialist No. 3 back down to No. 7 and reclaiming the gloves – he has appeared at ease with his belligerent brief in one-day cricket. Roy, meanwhile, could look to push his Ashes credentials via white-ball success. With Alex Hales hovering, neither will want to experience a dip in form.

Team news

Campbell looks set to win his maiden ODI cap just a few weeks after coming into the Test team, while Nicholas Pooran, a member of the T20I side, is also in line for a potential debut. Kemar Roach may be rested, following his Test exploits, while Carlos Brathwaite has only just flown in from the Pakistan Super League.

West Indies: (probable) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 John Campbell, 3 Shai Hope (wk), 4 Darren Bravo, 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Nicholas Pooran, 7 Jason Holder (capt), 8 Fabian Allen/Devendra Bishoo, 9 Ashley Nurse, 10 Sheldon Cottrell, 11 Oshane Thomas

England rested Jos Buttler for their warm-up match on Sunday but he is set to slot back in ahead of Hales. Woakes got through seven overs against the UWI Vice-Chancellor’s XI, having struggled for fitness during the Test leg of the tour, while Wood was preferred as his new-ball partner, which could mean Willey and Tom Curran are the bowlers to miss out.

England: (probable) 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jonny Bairstow, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Liam Plunkett, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Mark Wood

Pitch and conditions

There has only been one 300-plus total at the Kensington Oval in the last 10 years – made by England in 2017 – but the pitch is expected to be a good one. The forecast is for a warm, humid day with some cloud cover but minimal chance of rain.

Stats and Trivia

  • England have won their last nine ODIs against West Indies, including a 186-run thrashing in Barbados two years ago.

  • West Indies last bilateral series win in ODIs came against Bangladesh in 2014.

  • Joe Root needs 54 runs to become the fourth Englishman to reach 5000 in ODIs.


“We have got to be clear on our bowling – England pack a heavy punch in their batting, they bat deep, and are top-ranked for a reason. We have to be precise. The way ODI cricket has gone, 300-320 is par these days.”
West Indies captain Jason Holder knows England will be gunning with the bat

“We got beaten by Scotland last year and they are ranked lower than West Indies. Any side can be a threat on the day. West Indies are very strong at the moment and we’re not taking them lightly.”
England captain Eoin Morgan says they won’t underestimate the opposition

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ICC ‘monitoring’ India-Pakistan situation ahead of World Cup encounter



The ICC and the 2019 World Cup organising committee remain confident that the tournament’s biggest match, to be played between India and Pakistan on June 16 in Manchester, will go ahead despite the volatile situation between the two countries in the wake of a terrorist attack in Kashmir last week.

With the World Cup starting in exactly 100 days, there are have been scattered voices that want India to boycott the group match against Pakistan. The fixture itself remains the biggest game of the tournament: nearly half a million applications for tickets poured in as soon as the ICC opened its ballot. Even the World Cup final, to be played on July 14 at Lord’s, paled in comparison with about a quarter of a million applications.

Although neither board has made a public comment, internally top officials from both the BCCI and PCB agree that it is too far-fetched right now to predict the situation in June. The ICC’s quarterly meetings take place in Dubai next week, where representatives from both boards will have a chance to conduct discussions in person.

David Richardson, the ICC’s outgoing chief executive officer, said that “no indications” have been sent from either board about the World Cup clash not taking place. “We haven’t written to the boards as yet,” Richardson told ESPNcricinfo in London, where he was present to mark the 100-day countdown to the tournament. “Our thoughts are with the people that were impacted by the incident. And we are monitoring the situation with our members including the BCCI and PCB. Certainly there are no indications any of the matches, including the Pakistan-India match, will not be played as planned at the World Cup. But as I say we will continue to monitor the situation.”

This is not the first time the fate of an India-Pakistan match at a global event has been called into question due to the fragile relations between the two neighbours. However, Richardson remained optimistic. “Sport, and cricket in particular, is perfectly placed – it has the wonderful ability to bring people together to unite communities. And hopefully cricket can be used in this fashion rather than a way of [dividing] people.”

For Steve Elworthy, the World Cup tournament director, the India-Pakistan contest will be a marquee occasion. “It is probably one of the biggest sporting events in the world,” Elworthy, the former South Africa fast bowler, said. “You think of that match and you think of the passion, the support, the audience, the [number of] people who applied for tickets.”

Elworthy was also the tournament director for the 2017 Champions Trophy, where India and Pakistan played each other twice including the final where Sarfaraz Ahmed’s team won convincingly. It only increases the needle for the Old Trafford match on June 16.

And that can be seen in the record demand for tickets, which Elworthy pointed out was significantly bigger than for the final. “That particular game, we had over 400,000 applications for tickets, which is an incredible number. The stadium only holds 25,000 people. So there are a number of disappointed people. That’s just locally, but [there is also] the audience globally.

“To put that [number] in perspective, England v Australia was around 230-240,000. And the final was around about 260-270,000 applications for tickets. So that gives you a bit of perspective for the demand for this match [India v Pakistan]. It’s a big game. They could end up playing each other in the final [too], you never know.”

In the scenario where one team decided to forfeit the match, Richardson said the ICC would open the rule books to ascertain the repercussions. “There is justifiable non-compliance and unjustifiable,” he said. “That we will have to deal with under the playing regulations.”

But neither Richardson nor Elworthy are currently too concerned – both said they would not be having any sleepless nights. Not yet. Elworthy even afforded a big smile when asked who he thought would win the game.

“Good question,” he said. “We’ve had them play a couple of times against each other, haven’t we? And Pakistan won the last one about 18 months ago. That was an incredible game, down at The Oval. But then, India have beaten Pakistan in the group stages. They are very balanced teams. It is very hard to choose because it is just that passion, that rivalry that you can’t really account for. And when they get on to the field what takes players over, what drives them, and motivates them. So whatever the result we are going to see an incredible game of cricket.”

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