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Rizwan takes Pakistan to their first win after Amir-led quicks put on a big show

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There was finally something at the T20 World Cup for Pakistan to be happy about as they produced a strong all-round show to record their first win of tournament, beating Canada by seven wickets in New York.

The win was set up by the fast bowlers, who combined to pick up six wickets to restrict Canada for 106 for 7 in their 20 overs despite an Aaron Johnson 44-ball 52 – that score was quick by the standards at the New York venue, and Canada’s total was not insignificant at all.

In reply, Pakistan stumbled in the powerplay.

They had brought in Saim Ayub in place of Iftikhar Ahmed, and Ayub walked out to open with Mohammad Rizwan, thus splitting the Rizwan-Babar Azam partnership up top. The decision did not pay dividends, though, as Ayub fell for 6 off 12 balls.

But Babar and Rizwan brought their experience into play, adding a 63-run stand off 62 balls for the second wicket. Babar fell with victory in sight, but Rizwan stayed put, crafting an unbeaten run-a-ball 53 to give Pakistan victory 15 balls to spare.

Babar won another crucial toss and had no hesitation in fielding first.

He would have hoped for “first-over Shaheen Afridi” to do his magic. But instead, it was first-over Aaron Johnson setting the stage alight. He flicked the first ball of the innings, a shin-high full toss, through mid-on for four, before pumping Afridi straight down the ground for four more next ball.

This was the first time the first two balls in a men’s T20 World Cup match had been hit for boundaries. The third ball would also have gone for a straight four if not for the sluggish outfield.

Johnson then smashed Naseem Shah over backward point with Pakistan looking off the boil.

Mohammad Amir was the only one who got his length spot on from the get-go and he was duly rewarded. Navneet Dhaliwal picked him for a four through point first ball but Amir exacted revenge by sending a searing in-dipper that flattened Dhaliwal’s middle stump.

Afridi and Naseem, too found their lengths soon. And though Johnson continued to play his shots, there were plenty of plays and misses. And Afridi changed his bowling end and had Pargat Singh edging to first slip as Canada reached 30 for 2 after six overs.

The most crucial moment of the Canada innings came in the seventh over, when Nicholas Kirton, their best batter so far in this competition, was run out by a direct throw from Imad Wasim from the covers.

Johnson stayed put, but Canada kept losing wickets at the other end after that.

Haris Rauf struck twice in three balls when he removed Shreyas Movva to claim his 100th T20I wicket and then had Ravinderpal Singh caught at slip – Canada, after their bright start, had slipped to 55 for 5 after ten overs.

Johnson deposited Wasim twice over the ropes in two overs, the second hit fetching him his sixth T20I fifty off 39 balls. But he failed to carry on, falling for 52, his stumps rattled by Naseem.

Canada failed to inject any momentum into their innings after that, as Pakistan only conceded 29 runs in their last five overs, which included two fours and a six. In all, Canada faced 76 dot balls, the most in an innings at the men’s T20 World Cup.

ESPNcricinfo’s forecaster gave Pakistan a 93% of winning the game at the halfway stage. But the pitches in New York have often disrupted calculations.

Kaleem Sana gave away five wides in the first over, but apart from that, Canada were really tight with their lines. Ayub tried his shots before edging Dilon Heyliger behind. Babar, at No. 3, then had a tense moment when an appeal for a caught behind down leg was sent upstairs. But replays suggested the ball had gone off his pad.

The only four off the bat in the powerplay was struck by Rizwan in the sixth over. In comparison, Canada had hit five fours in their first six overs.

According to ESPNcricinfo’s logs, 31 of the 36 deliveries from Canada in the powerplay were on a length or short of a length. And the Pakistan batters struggled to deal with them.

Junaid Siddiqui and Saad Bin Zafar had the Ireland batters in a spin in Canada’s previous game, but Babar and Rizwan weren’t having any of it.

Rizwan first swept Saad’s full delivery through deep-backward square-leg, before Babar walloped Junaid for a six straight down the ground. The two added 31 runs between overs six and ten, and put the chase right back on track.

They kept the scoreboard ticking over before Babar fell edging Heyliger behind the stumps. Babar walked off in disgust. But Rizwan ensured he stayed till the end. He reached his 29th T20I fifty off 52 balls. It was the slowest by a Pakistan batter in the format but such were the conditions, and the win was more important.

Usman Khan hit the winning runs as Pakistan reached home in 17.3 overs. The win did not lift their NRR above that of USA, but it wasn’t a bad start in trying to turn the qualification race in their favour somewhat after back-to-back losses.

Brief scores:

Pakistan

107 for 3 in 17.3 overs  (Mohammad Rizwan 53*, Babar Azam 33; Jeremy Gordon 1-17, Dilon Heyliger 2-18) beat Canada 106 for 7 in 20 overs (Aaron Johnson 52; Shaheen Shah Afridi 1-21, Naseem Shah 1-24, Mohammed  Amir 2-13, Haris Rauf 2-26) by seven wickets (Cricinfo)



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Djokovic sets up Alcaraz rematch in Wimbledon final

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Novak Djokovic is trying to match Roger Federer's total of eight Wimbledon titles [BBC]

Novak Djokovic outclassed Italian underdog Lorenzo Musetti to reach the Wimbledon final and set up a showdown with reigning champion Carlos Alcaraz in a repeat of last year’s final.

The 37-year-old impressed as he stayed on course for a record-equalling eighth men’s singles title at Wimbledon with a 6-4 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 victory on Centre Court.

Musetti, 22, had one chance to get the break back in the final set but sent a forehand into the net and crouched down with his head in his hands, knowing the end was near.  Djokovic made sure his opponent did not get another opportunity.

Under pressure, Musetti sent a shot long before Djokovic walked to the net, knowing he had reached his 37th Grand Slam final and 10th at Wimbledon.

The Serb then moved his racquet over his shoulder and imitated playing a violin, in a gesture aimed at his six-year-old daughter Tara, with television cameras showing her grinning along.

Some fans, however, started booing, thinking Djokovic, who produced the same celebration following his win over Holger Rune in the last 16, was being disrespectful.

Alcaraz beat Djokovic in last year’s showpiece, winning 1-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-1 3-6 6-4 in a five-set epic, which lasted four hours 42 minutes and is regarded one of the best matches in the tournament’s history.

The pair meet again on Sunday in what could be another amazing chapter in Wimbledon folklore.

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Top ICC official Chris Tetley and Claire Furlong resign

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There was a lot of scrutiny of the matches in the US leg of the World Cup, particularly the games held in New York

A couple of senior officials from the International Cricket Council (ICC), who were closely involved in organizing the Twenty20 World Cup in the US and the West Indies, have resigned. On Friday, it came to light that Chris Tetley, the ICC’s Head of Events, and Claire Furlong, the General Manager of Marketing and Communications, have announced their departures from the organization.

The resignations, coming as they did immediately after the conclusion of the World Cup and just about a week ahead of the ICC’s annual conference in Colombo, are believed to be related to the conduct of the championship. However, ICC insiders say the resignations are several months old.

One particular source has claimed that both Tetley and Furlong decided to leave the world body at the end of the last commercial cycle itself but stayed on in view of the Twenty20 World Cup in the US. The source went on to add that the two quit quite some time back but will continue to be with the ICC for a few more months ‘to ensure smooth transition of charge in a crowded event cycle.’ They will also attend the Annual Conference in Colombo from July 19 to 22.

The World Cup in the US, and particularly in New York, was a major project of the ICC and the two officials were closely involved in it. Many members of the ICC were priming to raise the issue of the New York games, which were low-scoring affairs due to the ‘up and down’ nature of the drop-in pitches at the NY stadium, at the Colombo conclave. A key member of the ICC board is learnt to have raised the issue through a letter to the members.

The number of fours and sixes, which are generally expected to be high in numbers in the Twenty20 games, was significantly low in the New York games. The Indian team, the eventual champions, however, did not comment on the nature of the pitches, stating that the conditions were equal for all the participating teams.

The matches in the US were conducted by an entity called T20 World Cup Inc which had built a modular stadium in the Nassau County of New York’s Long Island in record time. The stadium was dismantled immediately after the NY leg of the championship. NY hosted eight of the 16 games allotted to the US.

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Junior National Athletics Championship commences today

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The spotlight will fall on the Under 20 age category when the Junior National Athletics Championship commences at Diyagama today as the four-day championship will be the final opportunity to qualify for the World Junior Championships.

Six athletes have already reached entry standards for the world event to be held in Lima, Peru in August.

Sri Lanka Athletics has spelt out the plan to form a team for the costly tour also leaving a space for those athletes who excel in the Under 18 age category. The World Junior Championship is open to Under 20 age category.

The day one programme includes at least ten events in the Under 20 age category.

However, it is not only the athletes in the Under 20 age category that will compete for honours.

The event will be vital for athletes in the Under 16, Under 18 and Under 23 age categories as well.

The Junior National Athletics Championship was earlier scheduled for June but inclement weather forced Sri Lanka Athletics to postpone the event to July. This postponement has affected athletes of some areas as some zonal championships commence during the Junior National.

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