Australia captain Tim Paine blames poor pitches as India close in on series victory

From left, India's Mayank Agarwal, Jasprit Bumrah, Rishabh Pant, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma hold the stumps after India defeated Australia on day five of the third Test in Melbourne. (AP)
Updated 31 December 2018
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Australia captain Tim Paine blames poor pitches as India close in on series victory

  • The Melbourne pitch offered little pace and bounce for Australia’s fast bowlers
  • Paine said Australia’s strength was its pace bowling

MELBOURNE: A clinical India might have mopped up Australia’s tail to win the third Test in Melbourne on Sunday by 137 runs, but Australia captain Tim Paine was critical of some of the pitches that have been provided for the series.
The home team resumed at 258 for eight after the morning session was wiped out by rain in their unlikely quest to hunt down a huge 399, which would have been a record fourth-innings chase at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. India now lead the four-match series 2-1.
The Melbourne pitch offered little pace and bounce for Australia’s fast bowlers, who toiled for almost two days as India scored 443-7 declared in its first innings. Australia was bowled out for 151 as India claimed a 292-run advantage on the first innings.
Paine said Australia’s strength was its pace bowling.
“That’s been the one disappointing thing,” Paine said. “It seems we’ve rolled up some wickets here in Australia that have taken away from our strengths, which is pace and bounce. You’d like the slips to come into play eventually.”
Both sides are considering playing two spinners in the Sydney test beginning Jan. 3 on a surface that is expected to take turn. India’s pitches are famous for being spin-friendly.
“It’s a frustration,” Paine said. “I think the Sydney wicket, from what we’re hearing, might spin a little bit. I’m sure India will be looking forward to it.
“You never go to India and get served up green wickets. And they’ve come out here and we’ve served some wickets up that have really suited them. Having said that they’ve outplayed us and we’ve got to go to Sydney and improve.”
India, the world’s top-ranked nation, are now closing in on a first-ever series win Down Under in Sydney later this week, where they only need a draw to smash their long-time jinx.
It is a feat that skipper Virat Kohli has so publicly coveted since his team arrived in Australia last month.
Tailender Cummins, who is rapidly proving himself to a very capable all-rounder, some even say a future Australia captain, had kept his side in the hunt with an impressive 61 not out on Saturday.
But he only added two more to be out for a career-best 63 to follow his career-best 6-27 with the ball and be one of the few successes for Australia. Lyon added just one to his overnight total.
Paceman Jasprit Bumrah finished with 3-53, following his six-wicket first innings haul, and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja 3-82.
Cummins aside, no other Australian passed 50 in Melbourne, exposing their lack of batting depth and reinforcing how much they are missing the banned Steve Smith and David Warner.
The pair’s year-long suspensions for ball-tampering run out in late March and it is widely believed that they will be reintegrated quickly into the team.
In contrast, India were disciplined with the rock solid number three Cheteshwar Pujara scoring another century in the first innings and Kohli showing restraint and composure, while debutant Mayank Agarwal impressed at the top of the order with 76 in his first Test knock.
The bedrock for India’s victory was their 443 for seven declared in the first innings, built on the back of Pujara’s 106 and Kohli’s 82.
Spearheaded by the young Bumrah, who reinforced his reputation as one of the world’s top bowlers, Australia were then skittled for just 151.
Kohli declared India’s second innings on 106 for eight, leaving Australia the virtual mission impossible of scoring 399 to win or surviving almost two days for a draw.


Tazkarti ticketing platform draws criticism in Egypt ahead of Africa Cup of Nations

Updated 18 June 2019
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Tazkarti ticketing platform draws criticism in Egypt ahead of Africa Cup of Nations

  • Tazkarti will be the sole source of tickets for the tournament

CAIRO: Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) host country Egypt has launched an online ticketing platform called Tazkarti, which will be the sole source of tickets for the tournament, which begins June 22.

Its aim is to combat ticket touts and black market sales for the continent’s biggest football tournament, and to ensure that ticket prices remain fixed at the price decided by the AFCON organizing committee. It is also a measure of the steps Egypt is taking to ensure that the tournament passes peacefully. 

Football stadiums have been almost entirely empty since 2011 because of security issues after long-time President Hosni Mubarak stepped down following national protests in which football fans played a major role, resulting in violent, often lethal, clashes with police and between rival fans.

In 2012, Port Said stadium witnessed a riot that left 72 Al-Ahly supporters dead after a pitch invasion by Masri supporters at the end of a Premier League game. In 2015, 19 Zamalek fans were killed and 20 injured when police attempted to disperse large crowds making their way into a Cairo stadium to attend a Premier League game. 

Those were just two of several incidents that meant authorities imposed a ban on people attending football matches or severely restricted the number of people that could do so.

Every AFCON ticket purchased via Tazkarti will be scanned at the stadium to ensure it matches the holder’s “Fan ID.” If it does not, the holder will not be allowed into the ground.

Tickets for matches featuring the Egyptian national team range from 200 to 2,500 Egyptian pounds ($12-$150), while other matches range from 100 to 500 Egyptian pounds ($6 to $30).

While those prices might sound affordable to outsiders, in a country where a doctor earns around $90 to $179 per month, many have found themselves priced out of the tournament already.

“I am a married dentist with three kids. If I want to attend a match with my family, I would have to pay 1,000 pounds ($60), (not including) transportation and snacks,” Dr. M. Sheta, who lives in Damietta, told Arab News.

“To book a cinema ticket nowadays ranges between 70 and 100 pounds and a good meal costs 100 pounds minimum. If I can afford that, then I can afford AFCON tickets,” said a housewife in Mansoura, who asked to remain anonymous.

Plenty of young Egyptians took to social media to express their displeasure with the ticket prices.

“This is a clear message that middle-class Egyptians are not welcome,” said Ahmed Zahran.

“I would rather pay a total of 10 pounds at any coffee shop and watch the matches there,” said Ahmed El-Tlabanty.

Some fans believe that the prices have been set high to discourage Ultras (the most passionate football fans) from attending.

An administrator of the “Ultras Ahlawy” Facebook group, while stressing that he hoped supporters “have fun watching AFCON,” asked Arab News: “Why would I pay 200 pounds to watch a match? I do not (make hundreds of pounds).”

Aside from issues with the high prices, people have also been widely critical of the technical performance of the new ticketing platform, which has been under pressure from high demand for Fan IDs.

“You guys are so disrespectful and unprofessional. I’ve been trying to reach out for more than two weeks and no one is answering — not on messenger nor the hotline. You made the whole championship experience the worst,” wrote Fatma El-Dardiry. “I called your customer service at least five times, placed three complaints and texted you on Facebook more than once. Now, the tickets of cat 1 and 2 for the opening match have already sold out.”