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Pakistan consider changes after ‘disappointment’ of series defeat – WSAIGO Sports
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Pakistan consider changes after ‘disappointment’ of series defeat

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It was perhaps no accident Azhar Ali came out to face the press in Johannesburg. With speculation rife about the number of changes Pakistan may make to their side for the third Test – it could be as many as three – Azhar offered a characteristically straight bat to any queries on the subject.

“There might be changes but the captain and the coach should speak about them,” he said. “But there might be changes according to the balance that best suits this pitch.”

With Mickey Arthur having said last week that Shadab Khan‘s recovery from injury gave Pakistan a genuine allrounder who can play at No. 7, those changes can be set in motion. According to the Pakistan coach, No. 8 is the highest he was comfortable playing Faheem Ashraf. Should Shadab and Ashraf slot in, as is widely expected, the struggling Fakhar Zaman and equally hapless Yasir Shah would be likeliest to give way.

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Given the one-sided nature of the contests so far, it is tempting to write the tour off as yet another miserable episode for Pakistan in South Africa. It took under 18 sessions for the series to be sealed by the hosts, extending Pakistan’s disappointing run in the longer format. Yasir, the man Sarfraz Ahmed had marked out as an important asset to Pakistan even in these conditions, was a non-factor, while the middle order still looks unconvincing. But Azhar, in a somewhat philosophical mood, said just because things hadn’t quite gone to plan didn’t mean the tour was a failure, with several batsmen having “learned a lot”.

“It’s always very tough here. We knew that and we’ve tried to plan for it, but unfortunately things didn’t go to plan. There are some things we think we have achieved on this tour. A few of the batsmen really stuck in and showed we can play on these hard wickets. As a batting unit we did not score enough runs but all the batsmen learned a lot and will hopefully do well in future.”

That he would be pressed on arguably the burning issue of the tour – the state of the pitches – was perhaps inevitable. In three of the four innings so far, Azhar’s stay at the crease has been ended by vicious bouncers, at least one of which reared up from a length. The other dismissal, in the second innings at Cape Town during which he sat on the back foot slightly, more wary of the short ball, saw Azhar undone by one that stayed low from Kagiso Rabada and crashed into his pad plumb in front.

“We knew we’d get pace and bounce but even if you asked the SA batsmen they’d say these wickets were hard. It’s not quite even, there were cracks in both wickets but it’s the same for both teams. We didn’t perform as well as we should have done. We had opportunities but I think the South African attack is very good in these conditions. All the bowlers bowled 140kph-plus apart from Philander but he’s quite accurate, but I do think the pitches were unusually difficult too.”

The good news on that front, though, is Azhar feels the surface at the Wanderers isn’t quite cut from the same cloth. “I think it’s a much better surface than the other two,” he said. “Yes, this does have grass and a few cracks, but I think they will widen a lot later than Centurion and Cape Town.”

The series might be gone in quick time, something Azhar acknowledged the whole team felt “disappointment” about, but wasn’t letting despondency take over. “We are disappointed but every Test match you play in countries like South Africa, England and Australia, it’s always important to bring our A game. We want to do that tomorrow in this Test match. The tour is not over, we still have to play ODIs, so there’s still an opportunity to do well here.”



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Cricket

Mumbai teen gets three-year ban for flashing in dressing room

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A Mumbai age-group player has been banned for three years for “gross misconduct” towards a team-mate during an all-India tournament in December. The Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) took the decision after a complaint was raised against the player by his team-mate on December 22. The ban will last till January 14, 2022, during which the player will not be allowed to participate in any cricket organised by the MCA, or represent Mumbai in any BCCI tournament.

The player’s details are being withheld given that he is a minor.

ESPNcricinfo understands that the in addition to using bad language, something the player admitted to during the inquiry by an ad-hoc committee set up by the MCA, the player exposed himself in front of his team-mate. It is understood that the player will appeal to the MCA to review the ban.

This is believed to be the first such case where a player in India has been punished for a sexually offensive act in front of, and following a complaint by, his peers.

The MCA’s verdict did not specify the offence. But in the notice sent to the player, the MCA said he was guilty of “gross misconduct and bringing the name of the association to disrepute”. It also pointed out that the player had resorted to “the ugliest behaviour, which has shocked the entire team. In fact, this [incident] also affected the team atmosphere and is against the very principles of sportsmanship and healthy atmosphere amongst the team members.”

The verdict was reached by the ad-hoc inquiry committee, after a meeting held at the MCA office on January 14. In addition to hearing the player and the complainant, he committee also spoke with the team coach, manager and chairman of the age-group selection committee. The ad-hoc committee comprised MCA secretary Unmesh Khanvilkar, CEO CS Naik, and managing committee members Naveen Shetty, Ganesh Iyer and Shah Alam Shaikh.



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Pakistan heritage causes India visa delay for England Lion Saqib Mahmood

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An administrative delay has caused Tom Bailey to be added to the England Lions squad as cover for Saqib Mahmood.

ESPNcricinfo understands that Saqib, who is Birmingham-born, is struggling to obtain a visa for India due to his Pakistan heritage. While the ECB hope the issue can be resolved within the next few days, he did not fly out with the rest of the squad.

Bailey, like Saqib a Lancashire seamer, enjoyed an excellent 2018 season, claiming 64 wickets at 19 in the County Championship, the most by any bowler. He was voted the PCA’s Championship Player of the Year.

England Lions are set to play five 50-over matches against India A in Trivandrum, in the southern state of Kerala, before two unofficial four-day Test matches in February.

“Both sides will want to play good, winning cricket but I think we all understand that it’s the development opportunity for these high potential youngsters that we’re after,” Andy Flower, the England Lions head coach, told the ECB website.

“The purpose of these Lions tours is to offer our highest potential young talent in the country the opportunity to either train or to play in a competitive tour in foreign conditions. Our county system is good; there are some really talented, outstanding cricketers that come out of it.”

Saqib’s late omission was the third change that the Lions squad was forced to make prior to their departure at the weekend. The Worcestershire pair of Joe Clarke and Tom Kohler-Cadmore were withdrawn on the eve of the squad’s gathering after details of their off-field activities emerged during the trial of former team-mate, Alex Hepburn.



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SLC elections postponed to February 21

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Sri Lanka Cricket elections, which were set to be held on February 7, 2019, have been postponed by another two weeks to February 21. The move comes as a result of a technical error in the Sinhala to English translation of the gazette which empowers Sri Lanka’s sports minister to appoint an advisory committee to hear election-related appeals.

The original Sinhala gazette had stated that a retired judge would have to head the committee, however the English translation had missed out on the word “retired”, sports minister Harin Fernando said. Therefore, following consultation with Sri Lanka’s Attorney General, it was decided that elections be postponed by two weeks until the error was rectified.

“It is because we had to correct the gazette, it was a legal issue,” said Fernando. “I couldn’t appoint a sitting judge. The gazette was done by the previous minister, and according to the Attorney General’s advice we had to change it and give ample time for the new appeal committee to make their considerations.”

Sri Lanka Cricket elections have been postponed indefinitely since May 31, 2018, after a court of appeal found that election protocol had been flouted. The ICC had set a deadline of February 9 for elections to be held. Fernando said that the recent developments were conveyed to the ICC, and that he hopes to meet with ICC chairman Shashank Manohar as soon as possible to explain the present state of affairs.



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