Category: Sports

Zulqarnain missing; new twist emerges



DUBAI: Pakistani cricket team wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider went missing from hotel room in Dubai this morning, as the situation takes a surprise turn, Geo News reported Monday.

The wicketkeeper Haider is missing from his hotel room since 6am this morning.

Sources said he was last seen at 630am while leaving his room. A Source said Shahid Aslam saw the wicketkeeper leaving his room at around 6am; he intercepted Haider, who told he is leaving to receive his relatives and would be back after some time. However, he was not seen around again.

However, in a new twist to the entire episode is a new message received on the mobile phone of wicketkeeper’ friend and Geo News corresponded Sohail Imran at around 1515am. The sms tells that Zulqarnain was leaving for England and urged security for his family in view of life-threatening messages.

The PCB’s Media Manager Nadeem Sarwar told Geo News that Zulqarnain had already taken his passport from the management on certain pretext last night.

The wicketkeeper said in his Facebook post he was leaving cricket as someone gave him bad message on losing in last match.

The wicketkeeper words are: ‘leaving pakistan cricket because get bad msg fr 1 man fr lose the match in last game.’

Also, a message from Zulqarnain’s mobile received on cellphone of Sohail Imran, said he is leaving the cricket as someone is giving him murder threats.

The SMS received on Sohail Imran’s mobile phone said, ‘Match haar jao’ (Lose match.)

In his second MSM to Sohail Imran, the cricketer said he is leaving for England.

Talking to Geo News, Zulqarnain’s brother Aqil Haider said his brother talked to the family last night, urging all to pray to Allah for his brother.

Team management announced three changes in the squad for today’s match. Zulqarnain Haider’s name was previously on the squad for today’s match. Muhammed Yousuf, who flew shortly to Dubai, has been included in the squad for strengthening batting line. Omar Akmal will play as wicketkeeper in today’s match. Imran Farhat and Asad Shafeeque have been excluded.

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Rampant Razzaq stuns South Africa


Pakistan 289 for 9 (Razzaq 109*, Afridi 49, Alam 48) beat South Africa 286 for 8 (Ingram 100, Amla 65, Duminy 54) by one wicket

There are match-winning centuries and there are Match-winning Centuries. You will travel far and wide, maybe even go back in time, but you will struggle to find a more remarkable game-stealing hundred than the one the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi saw tonight. An outrageous 72-ball 109 from Abdul Razzaq dragged Pakistan to a series-levelling target of 287 against South Africa, one ball and one wicket left.

It was scarcely-scriptable and only when Razzaq hit his tenth six in the last over, slogging Albie Morkel over midwicket to climax an unimaginable orgy of power-hitting, was a Pakistan win even worth contemplating; until then he had played to a backdrop of impending, imminent doom. To even get to that point needing 14 was a feat because for 99 overs Pakistan looked a distant second best; a solid, now-to-be-forgotten century from Colin Ingram, hands from Hashim Amla and JP Duminy and the continuing refusal of Pakistan’s top order to turn up, the distinct story till then.

Shahid Afridi and Fawad Alam had tried gamely to make something of the disaster of 70 for 4 in the 19th over. The spinners were on, Afridi was around so inevitably some fun was had. When Afridi went in the 30th, the score at 136, still the best they could hope for was an honourable scrap.

Razzaq began quietly, expressive as a stone, and even a dance-down six off Robin Peterson four overs after Afridi left felt decorative. Alam, meanwhile, was getting bogged down by his own inability to clear a field. But South Africa relaxed, the pair stuck at it. Alam suddenly got going and Razzaq smoked a couple more sixes. By the 40th over, at 200 for 5, theoretically it looked possible – in this age of Twenty20 at least – even if, in reality, it didn’t feel gettable.

But for once, Pakistan timed their Powerplay right and when Johan Botha was taken for 11 in the very first, a little tension crept in. Only a little though, for Alam went soon, Morne Morkel bowled two fine overs, there was the inevitable run-out and even though Razzaq had reached his fifty, it was done and dusted.

The 47th over, bowled poorly by Charles Langeveldt, was pivotal. Razzaq launched a sequence of length balls for three sixes in his favourite areas – flat-batted over extra cover, high over long-on and down the ground. Eighteen runs but no expression. Wahab Riaz’s run-out off the last ball was merely collateral damage as 53 from 24 became 33 from 18.

Razzaq had decided at the fall of Alam that if the match was to be won, it would be by him alone, so with the tail in, several singles were turned down. With 25 needed from 12, Langeveldt was lofted down the ground and then pulled with cartoonish violence to midwicket. By the time Razzaq had taken the 14 needed off the last over he had scored 63 of the last 65, effectively from the 45th over onwards. Six sixes came in the last four overs, and only at the very end, after crashing a drive through point, did he let his emotions out, dropping his bat and trying to run but not knowing where to go.

That put to shade all that went before it. South Africa’s real work had been done with the bat and Ingram’s second ODI century was a real old-school effort. The start was edgy, even if it contained a classy punch through midwicket. But once he jumped down the track and lofted Razzaq down the ground, nerves were shed.
Thereafter, singles and doubles rolled by and so incongruously did he go about it that his fifty, at the halfway mark, was actually a surprise. He never fully got hold of the spinners but neither did they really trouble him and a pattern emerged. There was a missed stumping, but a ball previous, he had driven solidly through covers. Five times an edge was drawn and each time a boundary was the result. He might even have been run out on 73, but so settled was he that a century never looked in serious doubt. Every time the spinners erred, he took advantage, cutting and pulling efficiently. The running was the highlight, aggressive throughout.

But it was Amla who had set the tone and allowed Ingram such comfort. His ODI batting has been a revelation since his late debut in 2008; he now has nine fifties and five hundreds in just 34 games. At a 90-plus strike rate, they don’t come slowly either. But most revelatory is the persistent quality of his stokeplay, unique and utterly compelling. So quick are the hands and wrists that the feet don’t need to move.

He began with a burst of boundaries, four in the first two overs, rotating his bat like a wand for flicks and cuts through point. More cuts, whips and a rare drive through the off kept coming so that even when singles dried up, the runs didn’t. A fifty, off just 47 balls, was merely statistical embellishment to a wondrous hour of batting, especially on a surface slow enough to hamper timing. He is not the modern macho ODI opener, and it cannot be disputed the format needs such flair over brutality and function.

Across the desert in Dubai, as Botha was winning the toss, Mohammad Amir’s suspension was not being lifted and how his absence was felt by Pakistan. In turn, they were awful, complacent, solid and special. Shoaib Akhtar and Razzaq are a different proposition altogether than Amir and Mohammad Asif, as their opening spells – short, wide and inconsistent – proved.

There came brief spells of tight work, from the spinners, but never prolonged. The best they saved for last and it came from the impressive Wahab Riaz. Just when South Africa were looking to explode in the batting Powerplay, yorkers, short balls and cutters ensured only 25 runs came, Riaz picking up two of the three wickets to fall.

It felt a relative victory then, a twinkling cameo from Duminy highlighting its hollowness. A potential target of 300-plus became 287; Pakistan’s best chase against these opponents was 223 and they had only chased down 250-plus twice in the last two years. And they certainly hadn’t chased them down like they finally did here.

Cruzeiro keep pressure on Fluminense


Cruzeiro kept the pressure on Brazilian Campeonato leaders Fluminense with a 2-0 away win against Gremio Prudente. Cruzeiro moved level on points with the leaders after scoring through Leonardo and Robert.

Botafogo are in fourth place after a 2-0 win at Atletico Mineiro as Cunha Edno and Washington hit the target. Santos remain fifth and Internacional sixth following a 1-1 draw. Visitors Santos took the lead after 79 minutes through Eduardo but Leandro Damiao claimed a share of the points three minutes later.

Palmeiras beat Goias 3-2 as four of the goals came in the last 10 minutes. Araujo Tinga scored the opener after 21 minutes but it wasn’t until the final ten minutes of the match that goals started to flow freely. Marcio Araujo scored for the home side on 80 minutes. Carlos Alberto pulled a goal back for Goias after 83 minutes but Telmario Dinei quickly pinned the visitors back with a goal after 86 minutes. Everton Santos scored just before the end of regular time to make the final score 3-2.

Adailton, Elkeson, Neto Coruja and Junior scored for Vitoria in the 4-2 win over Vasco da Gama whose goals came from Anderson Nunes and Jose Fumagalli. Elton Eltinho scored the only goal as Avai beat Guarani 1-0.

Butt, Amir appeals heard in Dubai


The appeals of Salman Butt and Mohammad Amir against the provisional suspensions imposed on them by the ICC for alleged involvement in the spot-fixing controversy were heard in Dubai on Saturday. The hearings, chaired by Michael Beloff, the chairman of the ICC’s code of conduct commission, will continue tomorrow when a verdict is expected. The proceedings were long and neither the players nor the ICC addressed the media. Fast bowler Mohammad Asif had also been provisionally suspended but he withdrew his appeal earlier this month.

The three players, prior to the suspensions, were charged with various offences under Article 2 of the ICC’s anti-corruption code. The suspensions came after the News of the World tabloid claimed to have exposed a scam in which deliberate, planned no-balls would be bowled by Amir and Asif during the Lord’s Test against England, with the involvement of Butt, who was then captain.

The hearings will only concern themselves with the matter of the provisional suspensions and whether or not the ICC followed the correct procedures in taking that action. The matter of the players’ innocence or guilt and the actual charges against them will not be heard. Thus, even if the suspensions are lifted and the players allowed to return to cricket, a full hearing into the case will still take place later to determine their innocence or guilt in the matter.

Butt is represented in Dubai by his lawyer Aftab Gul, a former Test cricketer, and Khalid Ranjha, a former law minister. Butt has spoken to the press, saying he is determined to prove his innocence and questioning the reliability of the sting conducted by News of the World. Amir, who has not made a statement throughout this time, said on departure that he hoped he could return to the side. He will be represented by Shahid Karim, the lawyer who defended Asif in a doping case in October 2006.

Oceanian success inspires Hekari coach


This time last year, it seemed there were two certainties in Oceanian club football. The first was that their continental competition, the OFC O-League, would be won by a team from New Zealand; the second that this same team would go on to be the whipping boys at the FIFA Club World Cup.

We should, of course, have known better. There are, after all, no certainties in football, and Auckland City provided an emphatic reminder of this by beating both Al Ahli, the host representatives, and African champions TP Mazembe in last year’s global showpiece.

Then, in May of this year, came an even bigger shock. Hekari United, inspired by Auckland’s unlikely success, not only became the first team from Papua New Guinea to reach the O-League final – they claimed the trophy itself, seeing off New Zealanders Waitakere United in the final.

For a team founded as recently as 2003, it was a remarkable feat, and Jerry Allen – the coach behind the Hekari miracle – now faces the challenge on building on the gains made during a memorable year for the region’s football. Nonetheless, while encouraged by the scalps claimed by both Auckland City and New Zealand’s national team, Allen has warned that upsets cannot be taken for granted with his own band of Oceanian underdogs.

Speaking exclusively to FIFA.com, he said: “New Zealand has lifted the profile of Oceania to a new level on the world stage and it has been a great inspiration to everyone in our region. But I don’t think we can expect to emulate this performance overnight. Papua New Guinea has never qualified for a FIFA event, so we have a lot to learn from this first experience.

“That said, we will go to Abu Dhabi to do our absolute best. I see this as a great opportunity for Hekari and Papua New Guinea to make our own impression on the world stage and show what we can do.”

If there was one player I could choose from our opponents, it would be Samuel Eto’o… If he has a chance to score, he doesn’t miss.Hekari United coach Jerry Allen

At this stage, few in world football will be aware of the capabilities of a Hekari team that will arrive in Abu Dhabi as an almost completely unknown quantity. It was therefore left to Allen to outline his side’s strengths, and reveal a recruitment drive that he hopes will leave the Islanders ready for the greatest challenge of their fledgling history.

“We have been together for a long time and the bond within the team is strong,” he said. “We also have physical strength and good technique throughout the side. David Muta (the team’s captain and midfield fulcrum) is an important influence on and off the pitch and we also have a good mixture of pace and strength up front.

“But the OFC Champions League is a different prospect to the Club World Cup and we cannot expect the level to be the same. We have looked at improving the quality of our squad and brought in several new players from Fiji and we’re still looking for more. We’re still building our squad, but we’ll get there.”

Allen, of course, can only dream of the riches and star names that some of his counterparts in Abu Dhabi have at their disposal. However, allowing himself to dream for a moment, the Solomon Islander admitted that one player at the FIFA Club World Cup would be top of his fantasy shopping list.

“If there was one player I could choose from our opponents, it would be Samuel Eto’o,” he said. “I like the way he finishes – if he has a chance to score, he doesn’t miss. His movement off the ball and his skill and technique are very exciting.”

The Hekari coach is also an admirer of Eto’o’s coach, Rafael Benitez, whom he describes as having “a wonderful reputation”. He is well aware, however, that before he can even contemplate pitting his wits against Internazionale’s renowned Spanish coach, he must first plot the downfall of Al Wahda. The local hopefuls will provide Hekari’s opposition for the tournament curtain-raiser on 8 December, and Allen was eager to hand Josef Hickersberger’s side the tag of favourites.

“The standard of football in the UAE is higher than in Oceania and I think the same can be said of Asian football generally,” he explained. “I think the main quality we must look for is concentration. I will emphasise to our players that discipline, patience and concentration can make all the difference.”

If Hekari can heed their manager’s call and rise to this unique occasion, Allen might yet be responsible for another of Oceania’s great upsets.

Pakistan seek to stay focussed



The Big Picture

Pakistan’s lead-up to this tour can be described as chaotic at best. While most major teams are finalising their preparations for the World Cup, Pakistan cricket’s internal discord continues to divert attention off the field. The captain and coach have complained of not being consulted over team selection, the board has warned the captain and defended not seeking the coach’s opinion, while former cricketers have hit out at the rift between players and the board. Such negativity augurs badly for a team still attempting to recover from the spot-fixing controversy and working towards restoring faith in its fans.

Amid the negativity, however, there are a few things to look forward to. Discarded for most of the year, Misbah-ul-Haq has been catapulted into the role of Test captain and won his place back in the limited-overs squads as well. Things have come a full circle for Younis Khan, who, after being banned indefinitely by the board for disciplinary reasons, has been drafted back in the side.

The return of experienced heads has strengthened the batting department. But the bowling, shorn of two quality seamers who have been provisionally suspended by the ICC, will look to Umar Gul for leadership. The series kicks off with a couple of Twenty20 internationals, and Pakistan, who have been short of match practice and possibly struggling for focus, could just be facing a better team. Their captain, Shahid Afridi, however was not too concerned by the absence of Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir. “We know we are without two of our best bowlers, but we still have ample talent to counter South Africa who are a very good side in the shorter form of the game.”

South Africa have been spared the distractions. They have kick-started their preparations for the World Cup by easily overcoming Zimbabwe at home. South Africa’s batting, led by Hashim Amla, has been prolific and they will welcome back Dale Steyn and Jacques Kallis, who were rested against Zimbabwe. Graeme Smith has said that controversies may not necessarily have a bearing on Pakistan’s performance but, with a strong and stable side at their disposal, South Africa have an excellent chance of upstaging their opponents in their home away from home.

Form guide

(most recent first)
Pakistan: LLWWL
South Africa: WWWWL

Watch out for…

Misbah-ul-Haq: He last represented Pakistan in the World Twenty20 this year and it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure of an international return, with the burden of a Test captaincy in the back of his mind. Lucrative returns in domestic cricket, experience and his reputation as a solid middle-order batsman have prompted the Pakistan board to repose faith in his abilities, especially in the absence of Mohammad Yousuf’s stability in the middle order.

David Miller: A hard-hitting middle-order batsman, Miller has already made an impression in international cricket with strike-rates of 146.80 and 132.29 in one-dayers and Twenty20s respectively. The South Africa selectors will consider him a potential World Cup candidate, and after facing significantly weaker opponents like West Indies and Zimbabwe, Miller faces his first major challenge against a competitive albeit depleted Pakistan attack.

Team news

It will be interesting to see if South Africa include all the players they rested against Zimbabwe, for the tour opener. Morne Morkel injured his ankle early in the Zimbabwe series and missed a few games. Will he be brought back too?

South Africa (possible): 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Loots Bosman, 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 Colin Ingram, 5 AB de Villiers (wk), 6 JP Duminy, 7 David Miller, 8 Albie Morkel, 9 Johan Botha (capt), 10 Robin Peterson, 11 Dale Steyn.

Gul and Shoaib Akhtar will lead the attack with Abdul Razzaq and offspinner Saeed Ajmal as the support options. In the absence of Kamran Akmal, Zulqarnain Haider takes over wicketkeeping duties while Imran Farhat is likely to open with Shahzaib Hasan.

Pakistan (possible): 1 Imran Farhat, 2 Shahzaib Hasan, 3 Umar Akmal, 4 Fawad Alam, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Shahid Afridi (capt), 7 Abdul Razzaq, 8 Zulqarnain Haider (wk), 9 Umar Gul, 10 Shoaib Akhtar, 11 Saeed Ajmal.

Stats and trivia

•The Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi will be hosting its first Twenty20 international between two Test-playing nations. The two matches that have been played here – Afghanistan v Scotland and Kenya v Netherlands – were quite low-scoring, with an average score of 127.75.

•Two of the three Twenty20 matches played between the teams have come in the World Twenty20, in 2009 and 2010, both won by Pakistan. South Africa won the first game between the two sides, in 2007.

Quotes

“Playing Pakistan is always a great challenge and they knocked us out in two major Twenty20 matches.”
Johan Botha has not forgotten his side’s reversals against Pakistan in two consecutive World Twenty20s

“My players are professional and have put all the controversy behind them.”
Shahid Afridi wants to focus on the task ahead

Eneramo leads Esperance charge



One of the dominant sides in Tunisian football, Esperance Sportive de Tunis will attempt to unseat holders TP Mazembe Englebert in a two-legged final for the right to be crowned winners of the CAF Champions League. With the first leg looming this weekend, North African hopes against the Congolese are firmly planted with an emerging star from south of the Sahara: Nigerian striker Michael Eneramo.

Currently top scorer in the continental club showpiece with eight goals, as well as in the Tunisian league with five goals from five outings, Eneramo has been the stout stake at the heart of the Blood and Gold’s attack around which everything flows. While acknowledging his blistering form, the 24-year-old is determined to keep his trajectory solidly upward even as the competition gets more challenging.

“I have won the Tunisian league top scorer award twice,” he recently told African Football Media. “My target now is to be top scorer in the CAF Champions League and for my team to win the final. I have said I would like to score ten goals in the competition to be high scorer, which should be enough for us to win the trophy. And I believe that will improve my chances of taking my game to Europe finally.”

It would be a mistake for us to concentrate only on Eneramo, but it also would be a mistake not to closely watch him. Clearly, he is an important player, and he represents a big danger for the defenders.Mazembe’s coach Lamine N’Diaye on the threat of Eneramo

Eneramo’s importance has not been lost on his fellow team-mates. “He is a very skilful player, and he can call on a lot of strengths, so he is always putting pressure on the opposition defenders,” said young Esperance defender Syam Ben Youssef, who credited training against the “physical” Nigerian as an added bonus in his development. He also praised Eneramo’s personality: “Michael is a kind of entertainer in the group. He enjoys a good atmosphere in the dressing room, which is important.”

Some downs with the ups
Positively brimming with pace, power and comfort on the ball, Eneramo has added strength in the box and lethality of finishing to his repertoire. He has been linked with a move to Europe for the last few seasons, and he is on the radar of enough clubs for this winter to possibly be the time of his breakthrough. This thinking has gained momentum after some bittersweet moments for the Kaduna native both with his club and national team.

Most notable, he tallied the only goal of the semi-final second leg that sent the Tunisians into the final at the expense of six-time African champions Al Ahly. Coming in the first minute of a feisty 1-0 win, it was both a dramatic and controversial moment for Eneramo, who dismissed cries of handball after the match. “I don’t really know what to say,” he said. “I saw the cross and went with my head. I just saw the goal, and I didn’t know how it happened. It was a reflex, but I am very happy. It doesn’t matter how I score. If the ball is in the net and the referee says it’s a goal then it’s a goal.”

Although he was rumoured to have drawn interest from the Tunisian FA as a potential forward for the Carthage Eagles, Eneramo made his national team debut instead for the Super Eagles in a pair of friendlies early in 2009. As one of the last players cut from the teams before both the CAF Africa Cup of Nations and the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, he has failed to fully mesh in the Nigerian set-up. A glaring miss in the first half of the recent Cup of Nations loss at Guinea won’t help his cause. Eneramo has also been embroiled in a disagreement over the Esperance captaincy, which was previously his but was given to fellow striker Oussama Darragi this term. “I have put that behind me, and I’m not really interested in the armband,” he said with a shrug. “I was informed I will no longer be team captain.”

Edges favour Esperance
Regardless of those concerns, Eneramo has formed a world-class co-operative with both the highly touted Darragi and attacking midfielder Wajdi Bouazzi. The Tunisian pair have accounted for five goals each in the Champions League, with Darragi claiming the all-important away goal in the first leg against Al Ahly.

With Darragi recovered from a recent hamstring injury, the triumvirate are set to form a live-wire attack against the three-time African champions. Mazembe’s Senegalese coach Lamine N’Diaye played down the threat to his side at home in the first leg this Sunday before he admitted Eneramo in the context of the team was quite dangerous.

“Esperance are not made of two or three players, believe me,” he said this week. “It would be a mistake for us to concentrate only on Eneramo, but it also would be a mistake not to closely watch him. Clearly, he is an important player, and he represents a big danger for the defenders. He is very precise in front of the goal, and he rarely misses the target. But again, Esperance are a strong team, so we must take a look at all of them to limit his influence. We need to cut the pipeline, the link between the midfielders providing the assists and the strikers.”

The second leg will take place in Tunis the weekend of 12 November, and the winner of the tie will represent Africa at the FIFA Club World Cup in UAE this December. Esperance won the event in 1994 and reached the final in both 1999 and 2000.