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Malik, Usman lead Scotland rout of 84 runs



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 off 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 rather large, and shots that would have comfortably carried over the ropes on Tuesday were being caught 10m inside the boundary on the field. 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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Tennis deal puts Australia Tests back in HD



A looming broadcast conflict has been averted after the Seven and Nine networks agreed terms to allow the latter to air the 2019 Australian Open tennis – a year earlier than originally scheduled. This leaves Seven free to air Tests and Big Bash League matches in high definition on its main channel.

Cricket Australia’s AUD 1.18 billion television and digital rights deal with Fox Sports and Seven, announced in April, had meant that Seven held the rights for both cricket and tennis for the summer of 2018-19, with a contractual obligation to air the first Grand Slam of the year on the network’s primary channel.

However, after more than a month of negotiations, Seven has agreed to on-sell the final year of its tennis rights to Nine for AUD 48.5 million, meaning the Test matches against Sri Lanka and the BBL matches also scheduled to clash with the Australian Open will not have to compete for airtime with tennis on the same network. CA is understood to have been prepared to accept secondary billing in the first year of their six-year deal with Seven, which has unveiled Ricky Ponting, Damien Fleming and Michael Slater as commentators.

For the first time in the history of Australian cricket, two of three men’s formats – ODIs and Twenty20 internationals – will be hidden behind a paywall. Nine had effectively exited the contest for rights to cricket in Australia when it revealed a five-year, AUD 300 million deal with Tennis Australia to broadcast the Open and other lead-up tournaments.

Hugh Marks, the Nine chief executive, underlined the reasons for the network’s decision in confirming the deal to gain the tennis rights a year early. He had been seeking to reduce spending on sports rights, after the network parted with more than AUD 500 million for the rights to international cricket from 2013-18.

“There’s an air of excitement at Nine about being the new home of tennis, so to be able to start our new deal a year early brings us all much delight,” he said. “As I said back in March, the timing of tennis and the audience demographics it delivers are a perfect fit for Nine and its advertisers. We’re also mighty pleased to have been able to settle on a price for the additional year that is consistent with our original offer to Seven.”

CA on Monday announced it had secured another major sponsor in the form of the digital real estate seller Domain, which is majority-owned by Fairfax Media. The four-year deal makes for an intriguing mixture of partnerships given that Fox Sports, provider of the bulk of the broadcast rights money, is owned by Fairfax’s media rival News Corp.

The Domain deal, alongside that with Alinta Energy, will account for the prime presenting and advertising space at Australian cricket grounds over the summer. They were both signed in the wake of the financial firm Magellan’s withdrawal from a previous deal with CA as part of the fallout from the Newlands ball tampering scandal.

“Domain is delighted to begin a partnership with Cricket Australia. Our aligned audience strategies in mobile and content represent a unique opportunity for both brands,” Domain’s chief editorial and marketing officer Melina Cruickshank said. “We believe the ‘spirit of cricket’ is resilient and look forward to the growth opportunities this partnership will provide.”

A new executive is set to join CA in August, with the recruitment of Karina Keisler as executive general manager for public affairs, government relations and infrastructure. Keisler will replace Mark O’Neill, whose contract expired at the end of March. She had previously held roles with Telstra, Vodafone and most recently the NBN corporation, which has faced numerous battles over its rollout of the national broadband network.

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Ashton Agar says Australia must be ‘at our absolute best’ to avert whitewash



Ashton Agar has said Australia have “no choice” other than to believe they can defeat England in the final ODI at Old Trafford. If England continue their domination of Australia it will be their first whitewash over the old enemy in any format.

But Agar insisted the Australia players weren’t feeling pressure to avoid the whitewash and instead were focusing on improving all facets of their game.

“It’s going to be tough,” Agar said. “But I absolutely believe we can beat them: we have no choice [but] to believe that we can beat them.

“But we need to play our very best cricket against a side that’s played really well four games in a row now. We have to bring our absolute best. We have plenty to gain out of tomorrow, plenty to gain, to just put things into practice and just let it all out there.”

Agar scored 40 and 46 in the first two ODIs and, while the bowling figures of some of his team-mates have suffered dreadfully at the hands of England’s brutal batting, Agar has been the pick of Australia’s attack during this series. He took 2 for 48 at Chester-le-Street and conceded 7 runs per over during England’s record innings of 481 at Trent Bridge. He believes that, while it has been a difficult series for AJ Tye and Jhye Richardson in particular, the experience could be positive in the long term.

“I guess Trent Bridge is one that would highlight that for some young bowlers, and we have a quite young bowling attack,” said Agar. “To feel what that’s like — JL [Justin Langer] referred to it as the ‘jungle’, that’s international cricket, playing against good players on good wickets and sometimes small grounds.

“That was pretty difficult. It’s good to experience that now and not in a World Cup, learn from that now and then know what to do when you face that situation again.”

“They definitely would have been hurt after Trent Bridge. Everyone was. That was pretty incredible, it was a world record and unfortunately we were on the receiving end of that. But we have to keep learning from those experiences and it’s good to experience that now and not in a World Cup. Learn now, improve now. We can move forward instantly.”

Langer, Australia’s coach, may decide to tinker with his line-up once more in an effort to find the best balance but, with England unlikely to change what is a red-hot top and middle order, Agar doesn’t expect any easing of pressure.

“England are a very good side, an experienced side and they gel really well,” Agar said. “They’ve got beautiful balance in their team and I think we are working towards that.

“Their confidence, their self-belief: they ooze it out there, no doubt. They are playing like a team where everyone knows their role and they back themselves and each other to just go and do it. They’ve set the benchmark.

“We are not where they are yet but I think tomorrow is just another opportunity to try to win and try and do really well. It’s the last game [of the series], you go 100% every game but I think it means more to us now to go as hard as we can and just leave nothing out there.”

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Gabriel, Roach give West Indies honours on rain-hit day | Cricket



West Indies v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Barbados, 2nd day

June 25, 2018

Shashank Kishore and Sreshth Shah

Sri Lanka 99 for 5 (Dickwella 13*, Roshen 3*, Roach 2-13, Gabriel 2-42) trail West Indies 204 (Holder 74, Dowrich 71, Kumara 4-58, Rajitha 3-68) by 105 runs

Shannon Gabriel flattens Kusal Mendis’ off stump © CWI Media

West Indies didn’t bat as well as they would’ve liked, but entertained the possibility of a first-innings lead at the end of a truncated second day in Bridgetown. Only 59 overs were possible in all, 23 of which allowed West Indies to move from their overnight 132 for 5 to 204 all out. Jason Holder made bulk of those runs en route to 74, the highest of the innings. Then Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel and Holder struck to dent Sri Lanka’s push to parity under lights as they were reeling at 99 for 5 at stumps, still behind by 105.

Sri Lanka’s inexperienced top order, minus their suspended captain Dinesh Chandimal, failed to apply themselves for long periods, the dismissal of No. 4 Kusal Mendis after doing all the hard work exemplifying their effort. Mendis, averaging 59.50 in the series before the innings, blocked deliveries religiously for 58 deliveries, until he ran out of patience in trying an uncharacteristic across-the-line slog to Gabriel’s first ball of a new spell, only to see his off stump flattened. This broke a 59-run stand with comeback man Danushka Gunathilaka, after Sri Lanka briefly recovered post Roach’s double-strike.

Opener Kusal Perera fell for a nine-ball duck, Roach using his angle from around the wicket induce the underedge through to the keeper. Mahela Udawatte, playing only his second Test upon his international return after a long layoff, fell to Roach’s express pace four overs later. He was trapped lbw after failing to commit himself fully forward to a pitched up delivery that nipped back in. This left Sri Lanka at 16 for 2.

Mendis and Gunathilaka briefly stemmed the rut, along the way enjoying a slice of luck too when Gunathilaka chipped Miguel Cummins to cover, only to hear the third umpire rule against the bowler because he had overstepped. The error, however, didn’t cost West Indies much as Gunathilaka fell two overs into the final session – out on review to an lbw off Holder.

There was more success in store for West Indies when Gabriel had a decision reversed, as Dhananjaya de Silva was out for 8. The nip of the Kensington Oval surface taking the batsman by surprise as he pushed outside the line, only for the ball to thud into the back leg. At the crease are Roshen de Silva (3*) and Niroshan Dickwella (13*), the visitors’ last recognised pair.

Earlier in the day, Shane Dowrich, who resumed on 60, became the highest scoring wicketkeeper in a Day-Night Test when he went past Pakistan’s Sarfraz Ahmed’s 68 from Dubai, but perished lbw trying to flick one behind square.

Holder, however, stuck around, opening up to play some delightful strokes with the wickets tumbling at the other end. The fiery Lahiru Kumara who picked up three of the last four wickets to fall, eventually finishing with his third successive four-for of the series.

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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