Sarfraz Ahmed happy after Pakistan fight back against Australia in Abu Dhabi

Pakistan were under the cosh for large parts of the first day of the second Test in the UAE capital. (AFP)
Updated 16 October 2018
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Sarfraz Ahmed happy after Pakistan fight back against Australia in Abu Dhabi

  • Pakistan captain scores 96 after criticism having made just 74 runs in previous six Test innings.
  • Australia closed the day at 20 for two, trailing by 262 runs.

ABU DHABI: Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed said he was happy that he responded to pressure from all sides with a brilliant 96 on Tuesday on the first day of the second Test against Australia.
The 31-year-old added 147 runs for the sixth wicket with opener Fakhar Zaman — who also scored 96 — to lift Pakistan from a precarious 57 for five to 282 all out at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Australia closed the day at 20 for two, trailing by 262 runs with eight wickets in hand.
After his below-par 15-run innings and weak wicketkeeping in the first Test which ended with his team unable to turn a strong position into a victory, Sarfraz faced calls for his sacking as Test captain.
“Yeah the pressure was there, definitely,” said Sarfraz, who had made just 74 runs in the his six previous Test innings.
“A lot of it. You know it’s coming from all corners. Somebody is saying leave Test cricket, somebody is saying leave captaincy, some are saying leave him out of the team.
“When all this happens and you score runs then it’s a bit of relief and then to do it in a situation where you were 57 for five and in a really bad shape...”
Sarfraz said Pakistan had fought back admirably having seen Australia spinner spinner Nathan Lyon had rocked Pakistan in the morning, reaching lunch with figures of four for 12.
“It’s good that we scored 282 and then got two wickets, including that of Usman Khawaja because he can play a long innings, so I think it has become even for both the teams now,” said Sarfraz.
Sarfraz praised Zaman, who is playing his first Test.
“Fakhar played a brilliant knock and I got very good confidence from him because I like that the other batsmen rotate the strike and he did that and played brilliantly in his first match.
“He deserved credit for doing so well.”
The first Test in the two-match series ended in a draw in Dubai last week.


England avenge World Cup Croatia defeat to reach Nations League final four

Updated 18 November 2018
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England avenge World Cup Croatia defeat to reach Nations League final four

  • Kane’s first goal in eight games for England sparked a wild celebration from manager Southgate
  • England were on the brink of relegation to the second tier of the competition after Andrej Kramaric gave Croatia the lead

LONDON: Harry Kane fired England into the Nations League semifinals as Gareth Southgate’s side scored twice in the last 12 minutes to seal a dramatic 2-1 victory over Croatia on Sunday.
England were on the brink of relegation to the second tier of the competition after Andrej Kramaric gave Croatia the lead against the run of play in the second half at Wembley.
But Southgate’s vibrant young side pulled off a stirring escape act in the closing stages to gain a measure of revenge for their World Cup semifinal defeat against Croatia earlier this year.
Jesse Lingard came off the bench to poach England’s equalizer and captain Kane was on hand to turn in the winner with five minutes left.
England’s fightback took them to the top of Group A4, above Spain and relegated Croatia, and they can look forward to playing in the last four in June next year.
It was a cathartic moment for England, who have made a habit of suffering painful defeats against Croatia, with this year’s World Cup woe following the 2007 loss that cost them a place at Euro 2008.
More importantly, the performance provided further tangible proof that Southgate is building a team capable of challenging for the major prizes after years of under-achievement.
England’s appearance in the semifinals of the Nations League, which are set to be held in Portugal next June, offers another chance to reach their first major final since 1966.
Following the 3-2 Nations League win over Spain in Seville last month, this tournament has been a serious statement of intent from Southgate’s team and they will go into 2019 with great expectations.
From start to finish, England were the dominant force, although they were fortunate to escape when Ante Rebic shot over after Jordan Pickford fumbled Fabian Delph’s backpass.
Kane slipped a perfectly-weighted pass through to Raheem Sterling and the Manchester City winger’s blistering pace sent him clear of the Croatia defense.
With only Lovre Kalinic to beat, Sterling let Croatia off the hook as he directed a hesitant shot straight at the keeper.
England kept probing intelligently, with the speed of Sterling and Marcus Rashford providing their main threat.
Delph’s pass sparked a frantic sequence, forcing Kalinic to dash out of his area to head away from Sterling.
When Kalinic’s clearance fell to Kane, the England captain’s effort was headed off the line by Tin Jedvaj.
The rebound fell to Kane, but Kalinic, by now back in his goal, used his legs to foil the Tottenham striker with a last-ditch save.
It was more of the same at the start of the second half, but once again England couldn’t find the killer touch.
That profligacy looked as though it would prove fatal when Croatia snatched the lead after 56 minutes.
Kramaric was allowed time and space to turn in the area and the Hoffenheim forward took full advantage, clipping a shot that deflected off Eric Dier and looped over Pickford’s despairing dive.
Southgate responded by sending on Lingard and the change reaped an instant reward as England equalized in the 78th minute.
Joe Gomez’s long throw was flicked on by John Stones and Kane prodded past Kalinic, leaving Lingard with the simple task of tapping in from virtually on the goal-line.
England’s deserved winner arrived in the 85th minute.
Ben Chilwell curled over a teasing low free-kick and Kane timed his run to perfection, guiding his shot past Kalinic from close-range.
Kane’s first goal in eight games for England sparked a wild celebration from Southgate, who leapt into the air as he punched the air on the touchline.
Kane had joked with his fiancee this week that he would cry if England ever win a trophy, but he couldn’t guarantee he would weep when they get married.
Thanks to their thrilling comeback, England could bring a tear to Kane’s eyes in the Finals next year.