Pakistan's Imam-ul-Haq set for Test debut against Ireland

Pakistani Cricketer Imam Ul Haq. (AP)
Updated 10 May 2018
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Pakistan's Imam-ul-Haq set for Test debut against Ireland

DUBLIN: Imam-ul-Haq is set to make his Test debut when Pakistan face Ireland in Dublin on Friday.
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed told reporters at the Malahide ground on Thursday that the tourists would field the same side as played in their preceding nine-wicket win at Northamptonshire, in what will be Ireland’s first Test match.
That would mean opener Imam, the nephew of selection chief and former Pakistan batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq, making his debut instead of Sami Aslam, who opened during Pakistan’s drawn Test series in England two years ago.
Imam’s selection in the squad provoked allegations of nepotism.
But the 22-year-old left-hander, who hit a hundred on his one-day international debut against Sri Lanka last year, has made fifties against both Kent and Northamptonshire in Pakistan’s two warm-up matches ahead of this one-off Test.
Aslam, by contrast, made 13 against Kent and did not play against Northamptonshire.
“We have already decided, we will play the same team that played against Northamptonshire,” said Sarfraz.
“We played our first match against Kent and they (Imam and Sami) both played together so we saw who was playing well,” added the wicket-keeper.
“Nowadays we saw that Imam was playing better: he scored two fifties in the practice matches (61 against Kent and an unbeaten 59 against Northamptonshire) so that’s why we go with Imam-ul-Haq.”
Pakistan are without the injured Yasir Shah for a tour where, after their match against Ireland, they will also play two Tests in England.
But they appear to have an able replacement in fellow leg-spinner Shadab Khan, with the 19-year-old taking a first-class career-best 10 for 157 against Northamptonshire.
“Definitely Yasir Shah is a very experienced bowler and we miss him a lot but the good thing is Shadab Khan bowled really well in the last tour match,” said Sarfraz.
“He got 10 wickets against Northamptonshire, so hopefully Shadab will bowl well in the Test matches as well.”
Pakistan’s drawn four-day tour opener against Kent in Canterbury saw two whole days washed out, but conditions in Northampton allowed them to complete a morale-boosting win.
“Two days (in Ireland) was very cold but today it is very shiny (sunny),” said Sarfraz.
“The last practice match was very good — everything was complete, batsmen batted well, bowlers bowled well, so we are ready to play a Test match.”
Meanwhile Sarfraz added Pakistan were honored to be the Ireland men’s team’s first opponents at Test level.
“It is a big honor for me and my team to play this historic Test match — the first Test match to be played in Ireland.
“I think it’s a great achievement for Cricket Ireland to play Test cricket and my congratulations on behalf of Pakistan.”

Pakistan team to play Ireland:
Azhar Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed (capt/wkt), Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Abbas, Rahat Ali


Mahrez and Mane duel in rematch for Africa Cup of Nations glory

Updated 18 July 2019
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Mahrez and Mane duel in rematch for Africa Cup of Nations glory

  • Algerian star Mahrez was part of the Manchester City team that edged out Mane’s Liverpool for the English title last season
CAIRO: Riyad Mahrez and Sadio Mane will renew their Premier League rivalry for a second time in Egypt, with Africa Cup of Nations immortality awaiting the victor of Friday’s final between Algeria and Senegal.
Algerian star Mahrez was part of the Manchester City team that edged out Mane’s Liverpool for the English title last season, grabbing a pivotal goal on the final day of the campaign.
Liverpool standout Mane, however, is attempting to fulfill his “wildest dream” as one of just a handful of Africans to win both the UEFA Champions League and Cup of Nations.
For the marquee name in a Senegalese side ranked top of the continent, and a surprising 46 places above Algeria, the ride to the final for Mane and the Teranga Lions has encountered its share of roadbumps.
Two missed Mane spot-kicks, a group stage loss to Algeria, and the loss of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to a broken finger have tested Senegal’s resolve in their quest for the Holy Grail of African football.
Coach Aliou Cisse is on a mission for personal redemption. He was the skipper of the side beaten on penalties in the 2002 final, with his missed kick handing the title to Cameroon.
“Having lost that final, I still have it on my mind,” said former Paris Saint-Germain and Birmingham City midfielder Cisse.
“What motivated me to become a coach was to be able to take Senegal to the final. My players told me they would do better than my generation.”
A maiden Cup of Nations for his country is a prize for which Mane readily admitted he would trade in last month’s Champions League title.
“I’m ready to even swap a Champions League for a Cup of Nations. Going to Dakar with the trophy would be extraordinary. It would be my wildest dream,” Mane told France Football ahead of the competition.
Standing in the way, however, is an Algerian outfit that has undergone a remarkable transformation since the arrival of Djamel Belmadi as coach a year ago.
The Desert Foxes failed miserably in World Cup qualifying, but the steely Belmadi has healed divisions in the squad to lead them to the brink of a first Cup of Nations triumph since 1990.
“To the Algerian people, I want to say I’m not a politician, not a miracle worker or a wizard, but that we will fight like we have fought to this point,” Belmadi said after the semifinal win over Nigeria.
Algeria are the leading scorers in Egypt with 12 goals, including Mahrez’s spectacular last-gasp free-kick against Nigeria, and haven’t trailed at all in the tournament.
“Algeria are so well organized, so compact, so ‘Guardiolaesque’ in the way they recover the ball,” opined experienced international coach Claude Le Roy. “Perhaps it is the influence of Mahrez.”
The Algeria captain has been in fine form for his country here, brimming with confidence after helping City to the domestic treble.
“We are very happy to be in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations because it is something very special,” said Mahrez.
“It was our goal to do it for the people and for our families. We know they are behind us all the way. It’s my dream to win the Cup of Nations.”
“It’s going to be another battle against Senegal,” he added. “We’ve been very good in this competition. The (Nigeria) match has given us more confidence for the final and we’re capable of winning it.”
Their hopes will boosted by the absence of Senegal’s defensive rock Kalidou Koulibaly, whose yellow card in the semifinal victory over Tunisia cruelly ruled the Napoli star out of the final.
“It hurts to not be able to play. But I will be beside my brothers to write history,” tweeted Koulibaly, the cornerstone of a defense breached just once so far.