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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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PCB introduces season passes for PSL 8 matches

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Season passes for the upcoming eighth edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) were introduced on Friday by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

Details for the tournament’s ticket prices were also announced by the board.

“Online tickets for the Multan and Karachi-leg matches will be available online at 1100 on Saturday and fans can visit pcb.bookme.pk to book their tickets. Physical tickets will also be available to the fans during the course of the tournament from the box offices at the four venues. Tickets for the Rawalpindi and Lahore matches will go on sale in due course,”  said a statement issued by the PCB.

Tickets for the inaugural match between defending champions Lahore Qalandars and the 2021 winners Multan Sultans at the Multan Cricket Stadium on February 13 will be available for Rs6,000 for the VIP enclosures, Rs3,000 for Premium, Rs2,000 for First Class and Rs1,000 for General.

Ticket prices for the February 15 Multan Sultans versus Quetta Gladiators match have been set for Rs2,900 (VIP), Rs1,900 (Premium), Rs950 (First Class) and Rs650 (General), while ticket prices for the remaining three matches featuring the home side have been fixed at Rs4,000 (VIP), Rs2,000 (Premium), Rs1,500 (First Class) and Rs1,000 (General).

For the non-Sunday matches in Karachi, ticket prices have been set at Rs2,900 (VIP), Rs1,900 (Premium), Rs950 and Rs650 for First Class and General Enclosures, respectively.

For Sunday, February 19, match between Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars, ticket prices have been fixed at Rs5,000 for the VIP enclosures, Rs3,000 for the Premium, Rs2,000 in First Class and Rs1,000 in General.

For the final fixture in Karachi on Sunday, February 26, between Karachi Kings and Multan Sultans, ticket prices have set for Rs4,000 (VIP), Rs2,000 (Premium), Rs1,500 and Rs1,000 for First Class and General Enclosures, respectively.

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Pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi performs Umrah

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Pakistan ace pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi, who is in Saudi Arabia, recently had the privilege to perform Umrah. 

Shaheen has not distanced himself from social media and is keeping his fans updated with all that he’s doing. 

Taking to two social media platforms — Twitter and Instagram — the fast bowler shared a picture of himself at the Khana-e-Ka’aba.

“Alhamdulillah,” he captioned the picture. 

Soon after Shaheen posted the picture, fans and supporters started pouring in their love and flooded the comments section with praises for one of the best bowlers. 

Pakistan cricketer Sajid Khan, who made his international debut for the national team in April 2021, congratulated Shaheen. 

The speedster, who was recovering from a knee injury, is ready to jump back into action, as he has fully recovered from the injury which has kept him out of action since November 2022.

“I have around 55 overs under my belt during training and I’m ready to feature in all forms of cricket,” said Shaheen, while speaking to the media persons.

The pacer said that he was bowling as he used to before the injury and that he was ready to step out on the field once again.

Shaheen is currently not a part of the Pakistan squad since the 22-year-old is recovering from a knee injury, which he suffered during the T20 World Cup 2022 final against England on November 13.

“Staying on the sidelines was tough for me. I decided to participate in the T20 World Cup because the team needed me. If I was running in to bowl in the T20 World Cup like I’m doing now, the result would have been different,” the pacer said while speaking about his time away from the pitch

Shaheen also expressed disappointment about missing out on the home season, which included tours by England and New Zealand.

“I was upset about missing the home series against England and New Zealand. I wanted to play in front of my home crowd and help the team win,” he said.

The lanky pacer will lead Lahore Qalandars during the upcoming edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL), where his side is the defending champions.

The eighth edition of the PSL is scheduled to be held from February 13 to March 19, 2023.

Shaheen’s return to international cricket will be subject to the fast bowler’s successful completion of the rehabilitation programme and the following go-ahead by the medical staff.

Recently Shaheen took to Twitter to share videos of his practice session. 

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Quetta ‘to not host’ PSL 2023 matches

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KARACHI: Quetta will no longer be the fifth venue for the Pakistan Super League (PSL) — scheduled to begin next month.

Speaking to The News, a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) official said that all the efforts to organise some of the PSL matches at the Bugti Stadium in Quetta proved “futile due to various reasons”, with the foremost being extreme weather conditions in the city.

“We are thankful to all those who helped the PCB with its efforts to organise PSL matches in Quetta. Following the announcement by the PCB Management Committee head Najam Sethi, we sent a special team to Quetta with the aim to make special arrangements to organise some of the PSL matches there,” the official said.

“The team held meetings with all the stakeholders in Quetta but came to the conclusion that it would not be possible to organise matches in the city this fall,” the official said.

“We are thankful to all, including the Corps Commander and the provincial administration for extending full support. However, we have decided that this time it will not be feasible to hold PSL matches there.”

“The main reason is extreme weather in Quetta and also the delay in starting the preparations for the extravaganza,” he said.

The official, however, was hopeful of organising warm-up or exhibition matches at the venue with the plan that from next year onward, Quetta would become a permanent venue for the PSL.

“I think from 2024 onward, Quetta can become a permanent venue of the PSL fixtures,” the official added.

The News, however, has learnt that one of the issues that prevented the PCB from conducting matches in Quetta was the difficulty of effective beaming of the PSL matches and technicalities involved in it.

“Sethi and other members of the board made sincere efforts to take the PSL to Quetta. We strongly believe that PSL nine matches can well be organised in Quetta in an effective and professional way. We are planning to kick-start the preparations early,” the official said.

The PCB official was also hopeful about holding some of the matches in Peshawar next year.

“Besides Quetta, we are also planning to hold some of the PSL 9 matches in Peshawar,” the official said.

The PSL 2023 matches, starting in February, will now be held at four venues — Lahore, Karachi, Multan and Rawalpindi.

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