Yasir Shah out to make Test cricket history in crucial Abu Dhabi decider against New Zealand

Pakistan's Yasir Shah bowls next to New Zealand's batsman Tom Latham during a cricket test match in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. (AP)
Updated 03 December 2018
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Yasir Shah out to make Test cricket history in crucial Abu Dhabi decider against New Zealand

  • Fpr Yasir Shah there is a personal milestone up for grabs in the UAE capital
  • Spin sensation is set to become the fastest player to reach 200 Test wickets in the history of the game

ABU DHABI: While Pakistan start their quest for a home series victory over New Zealand in Abu Dhabi today, for leg-spinner Yasir Shah there is a personal milestone up for grabs in the UAE capital.
The spin sensation is set to become the fastest player to reach 200 Test wickets in the history of the game, needing just five wickets to smash the record held by Australia’s Clarrie Grimmett, who reached the 200 mark in 36 Test matches, way back in 1936.
The third Test match in the New Zealand series will be Shah’s 33rd.
He took eight wickets in the first Test in Abu Dhabi, but Pakistan fell agonizingly short, losing by four runs before leveling the series at 1-1 — fired to victory by Shah’s 14-wicket haul which inflicted an innings and 16-run defeat on New Zealand.
And Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed agreed that the team’s hopes will be pinned on Shah.
“The way Yasir is bowling he has got his rhythm back and we hope that with the return of his form he will do his best to win us this Test and the series,” said Sarfraz on Sunday.
Until last year the Sheikh Zayed stadium had been a happy hunting ground for Pakistan, having won six of the ten Tests with four draws.
But they lost to Sri Lanka last year and against New Zealand after set low targets of 136 and 176 runs respectively, a fact Sarfraz said hurt his team.
“We need to bat long and that we did in the last Test,” said Sarfraz whose team put a big 418-5 declared in Dubai. “(The) toss will again be crucial because in Asia teams like to bat first and post big totals.”
Besides Yasir, Pakistan will also hope fast-rising left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi gives them edge, replacing medium pacer Mohammad Abbas who is ruled out with a shoulder injury.
The 18-year-old pacer took back to back four wicket hauls in the 1-1 drawn one-day series against New Zealand last month before getting seven wickets against England Lions in a four-day match, also in Abu Dhabi.
“Shaheen is improving day by day and has talent,” said Sarfraz of Shaeen who is six and a half feet tall.
Sarfraz admits New Zealand can be dangerous as they have the motivation to win an away series against Pakistan for the first time since 1969.
“New Zealand is a good team with experienced players who know Test cricket well,” said Sarfraz. “They have good bowlers so we will also try to play good cricket.”
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson admitted Yasir will be a dangerous proposition.
“He (Yasir) is a world class bowler,” said Williamson. “He clearly had a fantastic last game and bowled a number of very nice deliveries and used the conditions really, really well.”
New Zealand will gain confidence from their second innings batting with return to form of Ross Taylor who made 81, Henry Nicholls scored 77 and Tom Latham’s 50.
“There were some positives we would need to build from,” said Williamson of his team’s 312 all out. “It’s really an exciting prospect and the guys really are looking forward to the decider.:
New Zealand have the option of resting Trent Boult and bringing in Tim Southee, who has yet to play in the series.


Real Madrid can still win title, claims Santiago Solari

Updated 17 February 2019
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Real Madrid can still win title, claims Santiago Solari

  • Defeat leaves Real in third, nine points behind arch-rivals Barcelona.
  • Girona had not won in the league since November.

LONDON: Santiago Solari insisted Real Madrid could still win the La Liga title despite a shock 2-1 defeat at home to Girona.
The capital club were coming off a five-match winning streak, but were not able to get past their relegation-threatened rivals at the Bernabeu, conceding twice in the second half after taking a 1-0 half-time lead.
Girona had not won in 13 matches in all competitions and were coming off six straight losses. The Catalan club had not won in the league since November and had entered the weekend one point from the relegation zone. So to say this was a shock would be understating the case, Real were on the up, and this was supposed to be an easy win to aid their slim title hopes and add to the momentum of their good 2019 form.
But Solari — clearly a “glass half full” man — claimed Real’s title charge was far from over. Asked if the title was lost, the Argentine, who took over the asked Julen Lopetegui in October, said: “Not at all, not at all, next week there is another match, our rivals, too. All the matches are difficult, as Girona have shown today, we have to keep winning to try to cut the gap.
“This is football and there is always a rival, in this case Girona, who played well.
“In the second half there was a lot of energy. Girona were forceful when they attacked and we lacked clarity. The fatigue is not only physical, it is mental, concentration. We come from a major bustle, many games with good results, and that may have happened to us at the energy level in the second half. It’s likely.”
The surprise defeat dropped Madrid to third place and left them nine points behind Barcelona, who edged Valladolid 1-0 on Saturday with a penalty kick converted by Lionel Messi. The result at the Nou Camp ended a three-game winless run for the Girona neighbors in all competitions.
Madrid had won seven of their last eight matches in all competitions, with the only setback a 1-1 draw at Barca in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals. They had cut Barcelona’s lead from 10 points to six in recent rounds after seeing their arch-rivals go through a slump.
Solari made some changes to the starting lineup, leaving Vinicius Junior and Gareth Bale on the bench after they started midweek in the 2-1 win at Ajax in the Champions League second round clash.
Casemiro opened the scoring with a firm header from near the penalty spot in the 25th minute after a cross by Toni Kroos, and Girona equalized with a penalty kick converted by Cristhian Stuani in the 65th after a handball by Sergio Ramos inside the area.
Girona had a golden chance to equalize about five minutes before the penalty, when Aleix Garcia’s close-range shot went over the crossbar. The visitors moved in front with a 75th-minute header by Portu after Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois initially saved a shot by Anthony Lozano.
Portu had hit the post a few minutes earlier with a booming shot from inside the area.
Solari put on Vinicius Junior and Bale in the second half, but they were unable to save Real. Courtois made it to the area in a last-gasp attempt, but could not get enough on his header, sending the ball just wide of the post.
As if to emphasize the dire day, Ramos was sent off in 90th minute after receiving a second yellow card.