Spin king Yasir Shah turns Pakistan’s UAE home into a fortress

Yasir Shah has taken 109 Test wickets in the UAE. (AFP)
Updated 28 November 2018

Spin king Yasir Shah turns Pakistan’s UAE home into a fortress

  • Pakistan have lost only one series in the UAE since 2010.
  • Winner-takes-it-all clash against New Zealand set for next week.

LONDON: The sight of Yasir Shah bowling Pakistan to victory against New Zealand in Dubai this week was doubtless a bittersweet one for the country’s millions of cricket-mad fans.
While they would have been overjoyed at the at the star spinner’s match figures of 14 for 184 — a return that ensured his side set up a do-or-die clash in Abu Dhabi next week — the fact their side is playing over a 1,000 km away means they cannot see their heroes in the flesh.
But there is also little doubt that the UAE is very much a home away from home for Pakistan and one in which they have enjoyed the sort of success other sides would crave.
In the eight years they have been hosting Tests in the Emirates Pakistan have played 31 times, winning 15, drawing 10 and losing just six. Across that period they have played 12 series and lost only one. That last stat alone illustrates that an away series in the UAE is one of the toughest around — across the same period Australia have lost two home series.
Earlier this year it was mooted that, with Pakistan still a no-go area for top-class sides since the 2009 terror attack on the visiting Sri Lankans, the side would base themselves in Malaysia. But thankfully for Yasir and Co. a new deal was struck between the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) and the PCB that will see Pakistan remain in the UAE for the foreseeable future. The ECB even committed to their counterparts that they would significantly reduce the costs for hosting the matches.
While the side would prefer to play in front of their adoring fans in Karachi’s National Stadium or Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium, there is little doubt that the impressive arenas in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are very good alternatives and no one best illustrates this than their brilliant leg-spinner.
His 14-wicket haul in Dubai saw the 32-year-old become the first bowler to take 100 Test wickets in the UAE. Yasir, like many of his teammates, has never played a Test on home soil, but from the moment he made his debut in Dubai against Australia in 2014 he has looked every inch the best leg spinner since Shane Warne. Those 109 wickets have come in just 16 Tests at an average of 24.16 — very good for any bowler, exceptional for a leg-spinner.
Yasir will be the key man as Pakistan head to the winner-takes-all clash against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi next week. But if he highlights anything, other than being the best spinner in world cricket at the moment, it is that the UAE has become as good a fortress as the talented team are likely to find away from their real home. And that alone explains why they are big favorites to seal their 13th series win in the Emirates next week.


Man City ‘deserve’ Champions League return, says Guardiola

Updated 56 min 49 sec ago

Man City ‘deserve’ Champions League return, says Guardiola

  • UEFA handed Man City a two-season sanction in February over alleged breaches of financial fair play rules
  • Man City appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and a verdict is expected on Monday

BRIGHTON, UK: Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City deserve their place in the Champions League next season as the club wait to find out whether their two-season ban against playing in European competitions will be overturned.
City were handed the two-season sanction by UEFA in February over alleged breaches of financial fair play rules, but appealed that decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport which will deliver its verdict on Monday.
On the field, City ensured they will finish in the Premier League’s top four with Raheem Sterling scoring a hat-trick in a 5-0 win over Brighton on Saturday.
“Today we achieved one incredible challenge, which is qualification for the Champions League mathematically,” said Guardiola.
“We deserve to be there because we won it on the pitch. Hopefully on Monday UEFA can allow us to play like this team and these players deserve to.”
For the fourth time in their last six league games, City scored four or more goals in another performance that belied the 21-point gap between them and champions Liverpool.
However, they could still end the season with a treble of trophies as they face Arsenal in the semifinals of the FA Cup next weekend before recommencing their Champions League campaign in August.
“I have the feeling all the team is ready to play good for what we have ahead of us,” added Guardiola.
“The levels we’ve had since the restart, even the games we lost, have been really good.”
Too often City have been found wanting for failing to take their chances and punished for defensive lapses at the other end.
However, there was never any chance of Brighton adding to their nine league defeats this season once Sterling curled home his 25th goal of the season with unerring accuracy into the far corner.
“I think the problem we’ve had this season is we’ve created a lot of chances and not taken them whereas last season and the season before we’d finish them and bury games early on,” said Sterling.
“This season we haven’t had that slight bit of luck.”
Gabriel Jesus could have the responsibility of leading the line when City’s bid to win the Champions League for the first time gets back underway with Sergio Aguero facing a race against time to be fit after knee surgery.
The Brazilian has not always been the most prolific finisher, but showed striker’s instincts to tap Rodrigo’s flick-on for a corner to make it 2-0 just before half-time with his 20th goal of the season.
Sterling notched his second of the night in unusual fashion by crashing home a header from Mahrez’s teasing cross.
Brighton did themselves no favors for the fourth as Mat Ryan spiled a Bernardo Silva shot he should have held and Jesus teed up the Portuguese midfielder to roll into an unguarded net at the second attempt..
Sterling was left on as Kevin De Bruyne and Jesus made way to give him the chance of securing a hat-trick and he did so with a hint of fortune as the ball ricocheted off his head after he had fallen to the floor inside the area and Dan Burn failed to clear the ball off the line.
Brighton are still not mathematically safe as they remain eight points above the relegation zone, but Graham Potter’s men should already have enough points on the board as third-bottom Bournemouth face the daunting task of being City’s next opponents on Wednesday.
“We were well beaten by the better team,” admitted Potter.
“They beat Liverpool 4-0 at the Etihad so better teams than us will find it dificult.”