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

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

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.

Barcelona rest Lionel Messi again in Champions League

Updated 02 December 2020

Barcelona rest Lionel Messi again in Champions League

Barcelona rest Lionel Messi again in Champions League
  • Messi was previously rested against Dynamo Kyiv

MADRID: Lionel Messi will get some time off for the last time this season in Barcelona's Champions League match on Wednesday.

Messi, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Philippe Coutinho will be rested by coach Ronald Koeman at Ferencváros in Group G. Barcelona secured a spot in the last 16 after winning their first four group matches.

Messi was previously rested against Dynamo Kyiv. Midfielder Frenkie de Jong was also left out of that match in Kyiv.

“I know it’s not usual, but with the calendar that we have this season, we only had two opportunities to rest Leo, in Kyiv and tomorrow (Wednesday),” Koeman said. “Of course he is a player who likes to play always, and that’s a good mentality. I asked him, but the final decision is always by the coach. The rest of the season he cannot rest anymore because then we play every three days.”

Koeman said Messi will remain crucial for Barcelona even if he doesn't play as much or as well as in the past.

“Leo is always Leo,” he said. “Maybe it has been a slower start to his season, but he doesn’t need to score 30 goals every season. He has been working well and remains very important for us offensively.”

Koeman said Messi’s absence opens the way for others to get some minutes.

“I want to give opportunities to some other players," he said. "Saturday’s match is very important for us in the (Spanish) league and we have to win it.”

Barcelona visit  promoted Cádiz on Saturday in La Liga, where they sit  in seventh place.

Barcelona have a three-point lead over Juventus in their Champions League group. Juventus host  Dynamo on Wednesday and visit  Barcelona in the final round.

Other Barcelona players will be absent on Wednesday because of injuries, including Gerard Pique, Ansu Fati, Sergi Roberto and Samuel Umtiti.