Afghanistan stun West Indies to keep World Cup hopes alive

Afghanistan bowled 39 overs of spin against West Indies, severely restricting their scoring options on a helpful surface. (Screenshot: ICC)
Updated 15 March 2018
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Afghanistan stun West Indies to keep World Cup hopes alive

HARARE: Afghanistan captain Rashid Khan praised “world class” Mujeeb ur Rahman after the teenage leg spinner took three wickets in Thursday’s three-wicket win over West Indies which kept their hopes of reaching the 2019 World Cup alive.
“He is a world class spinner and he knows his job,” said Rashid.
“He’s capable of bowling against any batsman. We’re just trying to give him more confidence.”
Afghanistan bowled 39 overs of spin against West Indies, severely restricting their scoring options on a helpful surface.
No West Indies batsman reached fifty, while aside from Mujeeb, Afghanistan’s other spinners — including Rashid — struck at regular intervals.
“Rashid Khan and Mujeeb, they are top world class spinners,” agreed West Indies captain Jason Holder. “There’s mystery, and they’ve caused problems around the world.”
Facing a must-win scenario in all of their Super Six games, having lost their first three group games and scraped through to the Super Sixes by virtue of having a better net run rate than Hong Kong and Nepal, Afghanistan appeared to have set up an easy chase when they kept West Indies to 197 for 8 in their 50 overs.
Two-time champions West Indies opted to bat first but they were soon in trouble when veteran batsman Chris Gayle misread a googly from Mujeeb, who is still two weeks shy of his 17th birthday.
Mujeeb added the wickets of top-scorer Shai Hope for 43 and Holder to finish with 3-33.
Mujeeb was ably backed up by the rest of Afghanistan’s spin attack, with Mohammad Nabi, Sharafuddin Ashraf and Rashid sharing four wickets.
For West Indies, aside from Hope’s contribution, veteran top order batsman Marlon Samuels added 36, while Holder made 28 at better than a run a ball.
Holder himself made some early inroads to dent Afghanistan’s chase, removing opener Mohammad Shahzad for eight, and then striking later in the innings to finish with 3-39.
He passed 100 ODI wickets for West Indies in the process.
“At the end of the day, our main focus is to win this tournament. Unfortunately we couldn’t get across the line today, so I guess it’s a bittersweet feeling,” added Holder.
West Indies reduced Afghanistan to 168 for 6, and then 190 for 7 as what should have been a simple chase became a tense battle. But Rashid and Sharafuddin both struck boundaries to see Afghanistan home in the 48th over.
“In the first three matches, we bowled well and we batted well, but we didn’t finish well,” admitted Rashid. “That was the only thing missing. But in the last two games, we’ve finished well.”
In Bulawayo, Scotland raced to an imposing 322 for 6 against United Arab Emirates thanks to opener Matthew Cross’ second ODI century.
Cross shared in a 161-run stand for the second wicket with Calum Macleod, who registered 78, as Scotland weathered the pressure from UAE’s spin attack.
“It got a little bit sticky for a little while, but after that we managed to accelerate and put 320 up,” explained Cross, who was named man of the match for his 114.
Scotland then imparted some pressure of their own, reducing UAE to 117 for 6 inside 20 overs. UAE’s lower middle order showed some fight, however, with left hander Mohammad Usman racing to a career best 80 and no. 8 Ahmed Raza reaching his first ODI fifty.
Usman and Raza shared in a 105-run seventh wicket stand, and after they fell the tail quickly folded, with Scotland wrapping up their win by bowling UAE out in the 48th over.
Their victory means that Scotland now move to the top of the Super Six points table, with five, ahead of their match against Ireland at Harare Sports Club on March 18.


Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori get ready to serve up the action in Dubai championship

Updated 23 February 2019
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Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori get ready to serve up the action in Dubai championship

DUBAI: With the women’s tournament now over for another year, it is the turn of the men to wow the crowds in Dubai, with the men’s ATP event getting underway in the emirate this weekend.
The tournament has traditionally attracted some of the biggest names in the sport, with Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray all having played in the past.
The 2019 entry list is no different, with Roger Federer, Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori, Karen Khachanov and Stefanos Tsitsipas all on show this week.
World No. 6 and top-seeded Nishikori will get his tournament up and running against Frenchman Benoit Paire, while second seed Roger Federer — seven-time champion in Dubai who last won the title in 2015 — will face German Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Croatian Marin Clilc has arguably the toughest opening match against the recent Rotterdam Open winner Gael Monfils.
Stefanos Tsitsipas, who shocked Federer at the Australian Open, begins his campaign against the Australian Matt Eden.
Other notable first round ties see Tomas Berdych up against Aljaz Bedene and last year’s champion Roberto Bautista Agut playing India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan.
Federer, apart from chasing an eighth title in what is likely to be his Swanson in Dubai, will also be hoping for victory next weekend to claim his 100th title on the ATP tour.
Nishikori, however, will be out to stop the Swiss ace and claim the $565,000 winner’s prize and his second title of the year having won the Brisbane International last month.