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Shaheen and Babar seal Pakistan’s nervy win against Ireland



Shaheen Afridi was lethal with the new ball [Cricinfo]

Pakistan made it more complicated than it needed to be, but Babar Azam and Shaheen Shah Afridi led them to a nervy three-wicket win to sign off their T20 World Cup campaign. Shaheen led the way with the ball with three early wickets and finished the contest off with two sixes, while Babar shepherded a chase that he watched fall apart with an unbeaten 32.

Mohammad Amir and Haris Rauf joined Shaheen among the wickets as Ireland were reduced to 32 for 6. At that stage, an early-afternoon finish appeared likely, but Gareth Delany and Mark Adair gritted their way through a 44-run partnership off 30 balls. Imad Wasim took care of the lower order with figures of 3 for 8 in four overs, in what is likely his last game for Pakistan, but a cameo of 22 from Josh Little took Ireland to 106.

Pakistan were cruising through the chase after eight overs with Saim Ayub, Mohammad Rizwan and Babar doing their bit to take any sting out of Ireland’s bowling attack. But a frenetic phase in the middle overs, when Curtis Campher and Barry McCarthy took four wickets for 10 runs, left Babar alone with a relatively long tail.

But Abbas Afridi swung his way through a happy-go-lucky 17 to bring the target down to 12, while a calf injury for Little meant Ireland had to bowl spin at Shaheen. He finished with two heaved sixes to seal a win that gave Pakistan relief rather than satisfaction.

After going eight successive T20Is without a first-over wicket – his longest dry spell in his T20I career – Shaheen finally snapped the streak today, his third ball a perfect illustration of why he has historically been so effective up front. The new ball swung and seamed back in to pierce Andrew Balbirnie’s defences and crash into the stumps. Two balls later, Shaheen got one to shape the other way, kissing Lorcan Tucker’s outside edge on the way to Rizwan. There was nearly a third when Pakistan reviewed one that clipped Harry Tector’s pad, and though that wasn’t given, Shaheen trapped Tector in front in his next over.

When Pakistan had Ireland at 32 for 6, any prospect of recovery was distant. But Ireland understood that continuing to attack was the most direct route to runs. In the tenth over, Gareth Delany hit Shadab’s first ball for six and Mark Adair pulled the last one for four. They attacked Abbas Afridi, who had not played a competitive game since his inclusion in Pakistan’s World Cup squad, for 16 runs in the 11th.

It kept Ireland on track three figures, and when another slump came – from 76 for 6 to 80 for 9 – Little and Ben White batted the remaining six overs, adding an unbeaten 26 for the last wicket. An hour later, they were almost rewarded for it.

Pakistan securing a straightforward win would have been an inauthentic end to the campaign they have had, and duly, the collapse came. If Pakistan felt they were sitting pretty halfway through the chase against India, it was nothing compared to the impregnability of their position against Ireland. Pakistan needed 55 in 12 overs with eight wickets in hand, with Babar and Fakhar Zaman batting, when Zaman drilled one to mid-off. It was the catalyst for flutters through the whole of the Pakistan camp as Usman Khan was deceived by McCarthy’s extra bounce in the tenth over.

The memories of the chase that fell apart last Sunday were fresh as Shadab, to whom cricket is offering no hiding place at the moment, flicked his second ball to the wicketkeeper. Imad finally connected with the cut shot he’s been trying since Ravindra Jadeja bowled against him, but straight to the man at point. An unassertive top order and a non-existent middle order won’t get you out of the first round at many World Cups, and this game was the perfect illustration of the point.

Brief scores:
Pakistan 111 for 7 in 18.5 overs (Babar Azam  32*; Mark Adair 1-24, Barry McCarthy 3-15, Ben White 1-11, Curtis Campher 2-24) beat Ireland 106 for 9 in 20 overs (Gareth Delany 31, Josh Little 22*;  Shaheen Shah Afridi 3-22, Mohammad Amir 2-11, Haris Rauf 1-17,  Imad Wasim  3-08) by three wickets and seven balls remaining


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Djokovic sets up Alcaraz rematch in Wimbledon final




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




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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US space agency NASA releases Webb telescope photos of entwined galaxies




In this photo provided by NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute, two interacting galaxies are captured by the Webb Space Telescope in the infrared. Scientists say the neighnouring galaxies, nicknamed Penguin, right, and the Egg, left, have been tangled up for tens of millions of years

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has released photos from the James Webb Space Telescope showing a pair of entangled galaxies.

The space agency released a photo of the two galaxies — one named Penguin and the other Egg — on Friday, marking the two-year anniversary of Webb’s activities capturing images of space.

“In just two years, Webb has transformed our view of the universe, enabling the kind of world-class science that drove NASA to make this mission a reality,” said Mark Clampin, director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA, said in a news release.

“Webb is providing insights into longstanding mysteries about the early universe and ushering in a new era of studying distant worlds, while returning images that inspire people around the world and posing exciting new questions to answer. It has never been more possible to explore every facet of the universe.”

NASA says that the two galaxies — about 326 million light-years away — have been wrapped up with each other for tens of millions of years. One light year, a reference to distance rather than time, is about 5.8 trillion miles.

The Webb Telescope, which specialises in capturing infrared light, is considered the successor to the famous Hubble Space Telescope and has helped bring about a series of discoveries and ae-inspiring images from space over the last two years.

The cosmic dance between the two galaxies was set in motion between 25 and 75 million years ago, according to a news release from NASA.

“They will go on to shimmy and sway, completing several additional loops before merging into a single galaxy hundreds of millions of years from now,” it reads.


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