Babar Azam calls Comparison with Virat Kohli as Flattering

Pakistan top order batsman Babar Azam feels that comparison with indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli is flattering and wants to adapt more like him. Babar is currently number one ranked in MRF Tyres ICC T20I Batting Rankings. He is 5th on ODI rankings for batsmen. Virat Kohli tops ICC Batting Rankings in test and in day international formats. Azam is improving his test batting credentials from last year. He aims to play role in earning victories for Pakistan. Babar Azam is in good form of late and will look to use that to good effect in Cricket World Cup 2019 for success of Pakistan team.

Babar Azam said: “It’s flattering to be compared to Kohli. He is very consistent, and his mindset is very good. He gives 100 percent every time he walks out to bat. I am at the start of my career, so the aim is to be like him, and be the epitome of performance in each of Pakistan’s wins.”

Babar Azam describes comparing him with Virat Kohli as flattering
Babar Azam describes comparing him with Virat Kohli as flattering

Babar has average of over 50 in ODIs and T20Is. He is among leading run scorers in shorter formats in recent times. Babar has a modest average of 35.28 in test cricket. He is top run-maker for Pakistan in tests since 2018. He has collected 760 runs at 50.66 average. He has become integral part of Pakistan side, making use of his potential in all formats of cricket.

Babar Azam stated: “I keep learning from my mistakes and I take advice from my seniors Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq, because I want to be better and better in Test cricket. [Red-ball cricket] is the test of skill, patience and fitness of a player. The aim is to be the best for Pakistan across all formats.”

Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur has backed Babar Azam to achieve great things. He is pleased with the progress of the right-hand batsman. Arthur reckons that cricket world is yet to witness the best of Azam.

Mickey Arthur echoed: “He will be in the top five (batsmen) of the world very soon across all formats. I thought I was a bit quick off the gun when I said two years ago that he would be almost as good as Kohli. But it has taken him a while to show that class. If you watched him in the nets couple of years ago, he was a young boy who has developed into a young man. He is got stronger and fitter, and his game gets better and better all the time.”

ICC says India vs Pakistan match at Cricket World Cup to take place

International Cricket Council is hopeful that match between India and Pakistan will happen as scheduled. ICC is confident that recent strained relations between South Asian neighbours will not affect cricket. Arch rivals Pakistan and India are set to face off in Cricket World Cup 2019 at Old Trafford in Manchester on 16th June 2019.

India-Pakistan rivalry is one of the most furious sporting rivalries in the world. Pakistan have better win record in head to head matches with India in tests and one day internationals. India have not played a bilateral cricket series since hosting Pakistan in 2013. Both neighbours continue to square off in ICC tournaments though. Relations between India and Pakistan have turned bitter after recent Pulwama attack.

India Vs Pakistan match of 2019 Cricket World Cup got most demand in ticket ballot
India Vs Pakistan match of 2019 Cricket World Cup got most demand in ticket ballot

India versus Pakistan is the most wanted match of every world cup edition. CWC 2019 has witnessed the same trend on ticket ballot. Nearly half a million applications are submitted for India-Pakistan game. It has left behind Cricket World Cup Final in popularity, that has attracted a quarter of a million applications. It is way ahead of England vs Australia fixture as well. Steve Elworthy, Managing Director of CWC 2019 revealed these stats on 100 Day Countdown to Cricket World Cup 2019 milestone at Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London. ICC CEO David Richardson displayed optimism that India vs Pakistan will be held surely.

ICC’s CEO David Richardson said: “We haven’t written to the boards as yet. We are monitoring the situation with our members including the BCCI and PCB. Certainly there are no indications any of the matches, including the Pakistan-India match, will not be played as planned at the World Cup. But as I say we will continue to monitor the situation. Sport, and cricket in particular, is perfectly placed. It has the wonderful ability to bring people together to unite communities. And hopefully cricket can be used in this fashion rather than a way of [dividing] people.”

World Cup tournament director Steve Elworthy stated: “It is probably one of the biggest sporting events in the world. You think of that match and you think of the passion, the support, the audience, the [number of] people who applied for tickets. To put that [number] in perspective, England v Australia was around 230-240,000. And the final was around about 260-270,000 applications for tickets. So that gives you a bit of perspective for the demand for this match [India v Pakistan]. It’s a big game. They could end up playing each other in the final [too], you never know.”

Pakistan Super League to help in Squad Selection for Cricket World Cup

Pakistan Super League (PSL) will help in finalizing players lineup for 2019 Cricket World Cup. PSL was inaugurated in 2016 and is now in its fourth edition. PSL4 will run from 14th February 2019 to 17th March 2019. Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur has stated that he and selection committee under Inzamam-ul-Haq will review top players’ performances in Pakistan Super League for inclusion in 15 member Pakistan squad for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. Mickey Arthur feels that ODI Series against Australia and England will also assist in making 15 men strong Pakistan team for CWC 2019 from shortlisted 19 players.

Originally comprised of five franchises, PSL expanded in 2018 to include a sixth side. Karachi Kings, Lahore Qalandars, Islamabad United, Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators are founding members of Pakistan Super League. Multan Sultans became sixth franchise of PSL during third season in 2018. Islamabad United have won Pakistan Super League twice while Peshawar Zalmi has been victorious once. Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars represent two largest metropolitan cities of Pakistan, but they have failed to make impact in PSL so far.

Pakistan Super League to Assist in Finalizing the Pakistan Squad for Cricket World Cup
Pakistan Super League to Assist in Finalizing the Pakistan Squad for Cricket World Cup

Top batting order of Pakistan is performing somewhat consistently with openers Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq alongwith world class Babar Azam at number 3 position. Pakistan have experienced middle-order batting line-up with Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik and captain Sarfaraz Ahmed. Pakistan just need to groom batting finishers from the likes of Haris Sohail, Asif Ali and Hussain Talat. Pakistan Super League offers opportunity to other players also to put on good performance and get looked upon for CWC squad inclusion.

Pakistan’s bowling lineup seems settled for Cricket World Cup 2019. Pace battery of Pakistan has world class bowlers like Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Usman Shinwari. Junaid Khan can also stake claim after regaining fitness. Pakistan’s spin attack has options like Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim. Both are spin bowling all-rounders and offer decent preposition with pace bowling all-rounder Faheem Ashraf.

Mickey Arthur said in Lahore after South Africa series: “Inzi and I have been on the same page for a long while here. And I’m going to be honest because I’ve told the boys in the dressing room the same thing the other night. I think we’ve got probably 19 players for 15 positions. PSL always throws up one or two good individual performers, so we are going to have a look at some of our borderline players, the guys that we are not sure about. We have to look at them during the Australian series and then we will make our minds up leading into England, obviously we will be taking 15 there. The key is players get clarity in terms of their roles and role clarity is particularly important. Our planning is done. We’ve got our schedules, we’ve got everything in place leading upto the World Cup. Myself, Inzamam and Sarfaraz [Ahmed] have been completely united in the process that we are going forward.”

Sarfaraz Ahmed to captain Pakistan till Cricket World Cup 2019

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has confirmed that Sarfaraz Ahmed will remain captain of Pakistan Cricket team till 2019 Cricket World Cup. PCB has announced this news to put an end to rumors about captaincy of Sarfaraz Ahmed. International Cricket Council (ICC) had suspended Sarfaraz Ahmed for four matches under anti-racism code of conduct. PCB has supported Sarfaraz Ahmed by naming him skipper of Pakistan men’s cricket team for ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, scheduled to run from 30th May to 14th July 2019.

PCB backs Sarfaraz Ahmed as Pakistan captain till 2019 Cricket World Cup
PCB backs Sarfaraz Ahmed as Pakistan captain till 2019 Cricket World Cup

PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani said: “Sarfaraz has been an integral part of the Pakistan cricket team’s World Cup preparations and has proved to be a good strategist, leader and performer. He led Pakistan to the Champions Trophy 2017 title as well as to top of the ICC T20I rankings. I am happy to confirm that Sarfaraz will remain Pakistan captain till the World Cup. I was always clear in my mind that Sarfaraz would be the captain. His achievements and contributions as a captain and as a valuable all-round cricketer cannot be undermined or overlooked because of the team’s recent Test results.”

Ehsan Mani praised Sarafraz Ahmed for leading Pakistan cricket team in all three formats of cricket, a rare quality as most teams have separate captains for different formats. Mr Mani revealed that he had met Sarfaraz Ahmed in 2006 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup in Colombo. He remembered how Sarfaraz had led Pakistan to victory in final, by dismissing India for 71 after being restricted to 109 runs. He said that Sarfaraz has contributed well for Pakistan and has leadership ability as he has captained the under-19, PIA and Pakistan sides.

Ehsan Mani backed Sarfaraz Ahmed by stating: “Nobody should doubt him as captain. He is captain and will remain captain until next decision is taken. Yes, questions have been raised about the performances but in a bigger picture results have been good so far. I spoke to selectors, coaches, director operations and the entire board is behind him. I am confident he will continue the good work with Mickey Arthur and Inzamam-ul-Haq so that the team is in the best possible shape and form to produce strong performances at the World Cup.”

Pakistan are set to contest 10 ODIs ahead of 2019 World Cup. Pakistan will host Australia for 5-match ODI series in UAE starting in late March 2019. PCB has proposed to Cricket Australia to consider playing a couple of games in Pakistan, in effort to bring cricket back to the troubled country. Pakistan will then tour England for five ODI matches in May 2019 right before Cricket World Cup 2019.

Sarfaraz Ahmed described: “This support has always been there and I’m thankful for the reassurance. It is a big honour for me to lead Pakistan at World Cup and stand among those who did in past people like Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq. I am convinced we are in a good shape for the World Cup. We have top quality talent and match-winners with a committed support staff in the dressing room. Everyone is geared up and keenly looking forward to returning to the country where we won the last major ICC tournament. Pressure is always there during captaincy. But with the chairman and board’s support I feel motivated more than ever. I now would like to transfer the same to the team for the upcoming Australia series and World Cup.”

Pollock Picks India and England as Cricket World Cup Favourites

Former Proteas captain Shaun Pollock trusts host country England and in-form India who are No 1 and No 2 respectively on the ICC ODI rankings are favourites to win the Cricket World Cup 2019. Pollock shared his words standing together with the Cricket World Cup trophy in Johannesburg during the South African leg of the ICC’s ‘trophy tour’ an inventiveness used by the ICC to raise responsiveness for the event taking place in England and Wales from 30 May – 14 July.

Cricket World Cup Tickets
Cricket World Cup Tickets

‘There are only 10 teams, and each team plays each other before the semi-finals, but I think there will only be about six teams capable of really competing for the trophy,’

Australia fought recently, but I believe the reappearance of Steve Smith and David Warner will make a big change. New Zealand are currently playing good cricket but I do think India and England are the favourites to win the event.’

In all seven previous Cricket World Cups with Pollock elaborated in four of them through his memorable career spanning 303 ODI’s on behalf of South Africa – the Proteas have unsuccessful to get past the semi-final stage, but Pollock has slight hopes for his countrymen, who are currently just below England and India in third place on the ICC ODI rankings.

‘South Africa will believe they can make the semi-finals, and from there anything can happen,’ he said.

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Jimmy Neesham’s new approach has him on track for Cricket World Cup 2019

Jimmy Neesham is taking a diverse approach in his quest for selection as the 2019 edition appears. In 2015, Neesham was a surprise slip from the squad but his treasures look rosier this time, mainly thanks to a transformed mentality. Evoked for last month’s series against Sri Lanka after 18 months away from international cricket, the all-rounder is pushing less burden on himself to perform.

CWC19

Additionally, he believes his practices from four years ago have him in a much restored place.

“I’ve done it before — it’s a bit like Groundhog Day from four years ago with that World Cup race, and I think having that experience of desperately wanting to make a team for a big tournament and missing out, it puts me in good stead this time around,” said Neesham.

“I’ve probably been putting less pressure on myself to succeed. I remember four years ago, we had a one-day series in the UAE and it felt that every game was make or break as far as the World Cup spot went, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed every innings.

“I know coming into this tournament, it’s about accepting what comes. If the runs and wickets come, they do, if they don’t, so be it.

“I know what not to do and what not to focus on. For me, my attitude for the whole season has been ‘I won’t make it’, so what’s the point of stressing about it? I’m not going to change that mindset, it’s obviously been working so far.”

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Bowlers, de Kock help South Africa win ODI series 3-2 against Pakistan

South Africa outclassed Pakistan in decider to win ODI series 3-2 against Pakistan. Proteas bowlers restricted Pakistan to 240 for 8 in the fifth ODI. South Africa’s experimentation with bowling and all-rounder options throughout the series paid dividends in the decider. Proteas all-rounders Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius and Wiaan Mulder came handy by knocking five wickets to limit Pakistan to below-par score of 240. South Africa got bragging rights with comfortable victory for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England and Wales.

Proteas spearhead Dale Steyn drew first blood by bouncing out leading run scorer of ODI series Imam-ul-Haq. Pakistan opener Fakhar Zaman and Babar Zaman tried to revive visitors’ batting by 50 runs partnership. Dwaine Pretorius bowled Babar on 24 runs to end the promising stand. Mohammad Hafeez could not get going and snicked Phehlukwayo delivery to keeper de Kock. Fakhar Zaman played brilliantly after early chance, amassing 70 runs off 73 balls with 10 fours. Imran Tahir took athletic catch at deep fine leg boundary to send Fakhar packing. Pakistan’s second-choice wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan got dismissed by Dwaine Pretorius after miserable 10 runs of 30 deliveries. Shoaib Malik, stand-in captain in absence of regular skipper Sarfraz Ahmed suspended on racial comments charge, got run-out after mix-up with Shadab Khan, who himself miss-timed a Wiaan Mulder delivery to short mid-wicket. Imad Wasim played brilliantly to take Pakistan to 240/8 with 31 ball 47 runs, comprising of 4 fours and 2 sixes.

Bowlers, Quinton de Kock make South Africa win ODI Series against Pakistan 3-2
Bowlers, Quinton de Kock make South Africa win ODI Series against Pakistan 3-2

South Africa opener Quinton de Kock made chase easy from get going. His partner Hashim Amla was caught behind early by wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan on Shaheen Shah Afridi delivery. One down Reeza Hendricks farmed fifty plus runs partnership with de Kock before getting dismissed by Mohammad Amir for 34 runs. Quinton de Kock smashed 11 fours and three sixes to register 83 runs of 58 balls, before miss-timing a Usman Shinwari delivery to mid-wicket. Proteas captain Faf du Plessis and new batting find Rassie van der Dussen took hosts home with fifty apiece.

Andile Phehlukwayo has turned star performer for South Africa in ODI series versus touring Pakistan side. He took most wickets with 8 scalps and recorded decent lower order batting to bolster his credentials for all-rounder spot. Rassie van der Dussen has proved his selection right by becoming leading scorer for Proteas with 241 runs in 4 innings. Hashim Amla, Reeza Hendricks, Faf du Plessis have displayed good batting form. Rotation in South Africa squad has offered rest for senior players and allowed team management to check alternative players. Proteas coach Ottis Gibson has provided extended run to the all-rounders extended in the team.

‘Have to identify our strengths ahead of World Cup 2019’ – Says Sarfaraz Ahmed

Sarfaraz Ahmed, the Pakistan captain, has said they want to “identify their strengths” and “try different blends” in the one-day international series against South Africa to find the right XI ahead of ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.

Pakistan are fifth on the ICC ODI Team Rankings and will use the South Africa series, as well as the ODIs against England to follow to fine-tune their planning for the premier tournament, which to starts on 30 May.

The team last gained the World Cup back in 1992, but their success in England, where they raised the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017 and reached the World Cup final in 1999, should give them assurance.

“We have to identify our strengths ahead of the World Cup for which we will be trying different combinations in this series,” Sarfaraz said on Friday, 18 January, ahead of the opening ODI against South Africa.

After a 3-0 defeat against the Proteas in the Test series, the visitors are intense to turn the tables in the shorter formats of the game. The captain believed batting first and putting up a good total was key to that.

“It is necessary to get runs while batting in the first innings. If a touring team is able to do that, they win matches,” he said. “Four of our five matches are day/night encounters. The teams prefer to bat first here, like India did [last year], as it gets difficult to bat under lights.”

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Wiaan Mulder included in South Africa squad for 5th ODI as Pakistan level Series 2-2

South Africa have continued their experimentation with squad for ODI matches against Pakistan. All-rounder Wiaan Mulder is added to Proteas squad for fifth and final ODI. Pieter Willem Adriaan Mulder who bowls medium pace, has played seven ODIs so far with moderate success. Mulder who bats in lower middle order, is a convincing candidate for number 7 all-rounder position. South Africa have made recent changes in ODI squad to identify the best bowling and all-rounder options ahead of Cricket World Cup 2019 in England and Wales.

Wiaan Mulder was injured with ankle problem after 1st ODI versus Zimbabwe at end of September 2018. He recovered from Achilles tendon injury in January 2019 to take part in 4-Day Franchise Series. A career best first-class score of 146 and good bowling figure have earned him ODI recall. His naming in squad means that he is in the fray for all-rounder position before 2019 edition of ICC Cricket World Cup. Mulder is also included in the T20I squad to face the visiting Pakistan side. Proteas coach Ottis Gibson has vowed to give the all-rounders extended run in the team.

Wiaan Mulder added in South Africa squad for 5th ODI against Pakistan with Series level 2-2
Wiaan Mulder added in South Africa squad for 5th ODI against Pakistan with Series level 2-2

South Africa selectors have continued the rotation within the squad. Regular wicket-keeper batsman Quinton de Kock and Pace bowler Dale Steyn were rested from first two ODIs. It is part of Proteas’ efforts to manage the workload of senior players. Pace bowler Duanne Olivier was rested from last three ODIs to give him break before Test series with Sri Lanka.

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed will not take part in the 5th ODI, as he is suspended by ICC for 4 matches due to racial comment against Andile Phehlukwayo. Shoaib Malik will lead the green shirts in his absence. Sarfraz had been benched in 4th ODI with Shoaib leading Pakistan. Shoaib Malik will be skipper of Pakistan team in T20I series against Proteas as well.

South Africa squad for 5th ODI: Faf du Plessis(c), Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram, Reeza Hendricks, David Miller, Quinton de Kock, Imran Tahir, Dale Steyn, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Beuran Hendricks, Rassie van der Dussen, Wiaan Mulder

Pakistan ODI squad (5th ODI): Shoaib Malik (c), Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali, Hussain Talat, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Usman Khan Shinwari

Steyn, de Kock back and Beuran Hendricks called up for last 3 ODIs against Pakistan

South Africa have brought back Dale Steyn and Quinton de Kock for last three ODI matches against Pakistan. Medium fast bowler Beuran Hendricks is also called up for maiden ODI series. Pace bowlers Dane Paterson, Duanne Olivier and wicket-keeper batsman Heinrich Klaasen are dropped from remaining ODI matches. Changes in squad are part of Proteas’ search for bowling options before the Cricket World Cup 2019 in England and Wales.

Dale Steyn, Quinton de Kock back; Beuran Hendricks called up for last 3 ODIs against Pakistan
Dale Steyn, Quinton de Kock back; Beuran Hendricks called up for last 3 ODIs against Pakistan

Pace bowler Dale Steyn and regular wicket-keeper batsman Quinton de Kock were rested from first two ODIs versus touring Pakistan side. It was also part of Cricket South Africa’s efforts to manage the workload of senior players. Medium pacer Beuran Hendricks has been rewarded for consistent performance in Mzansi Super League. Beuran Hendricks has appeared in seven T20Is from 2014.

Selection panel convener Linda Zondi said: “We are very happy with the depth of our fast bowling resources. Particularly if you consider that Lungi Ngidi is still on the road back from injury and we also want to have a look at Anrich Nortje when he is fully recovered. At the same time we want to explore all the options that are available to us and Beuran will be able to offer variety to our attack.”

South Africa selectors are planning to continue the rotation within the squad. They are hopeful of including pace bowler Anrich Nortje after he fully recovers from ankle injury. After the completion of ODI series against Pakistan, selectors want to rest Kagiso Rabada for the 3-match T20I series. Pace sensation Duanne Olivier is also rested from remaining ODIs to offer him break before Test series versus Sri Lanka.

Linda Zondi stated: “We are well aware of what Duanne, Dane and Heinrich have to offer and in the case of Duanne we are mindful of the amount of bowling he has done at the top level over the past month and we want to give him a break ahead of the Test series against Sri Lanka. For the same reason we will be looking to rest Kagiso Rabada for the entire T20 International Series.”

South Africa squad for last three ODIs: Faf du Plessis(c), Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram, Reeza Hendricks, David Miller, Quinton de Kock, Imran Tahir, Dale Steyn, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Beuran Hendricks, Rassie van der Dussen