Misbah to Pakistan: not time to panic at World Cup

Updated 28 February 2015

Misbah to Pakistan: not time to panic at World Cup

BRISBANE: Misbah-ul-Haq can’t see any reason for his Pakistan squad to panic, despite two losses from two starts at the Cricket World Cup.
Pakistan plays Zimbabwe on Sunday in a crucial Pool B match for both teams.
Pakistan won the World Cup in 1992, the only other time it was co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand. Imran Khan’s Pakistan squad kicked off its campaign with a 10-wicket loss to West Indies, beat Zimbabwe and then lost to India and South Africa and got to share the points with England in a rain-affected group game.
One match, a big win over Australia in Perth, sparked a streak that included victories over Sri Lanka and New Zealand and culminated in a defeat of England in the final.
This time, Pakistan opened with a lopsided 76-run loss to archrival India in Adelaide, and then slumped to a 150-run defeat to the West Indies. Both times, Pakistan struggled badly chasing a total.
It’s no surprise that the squad of 1992 has come into focus this week for Misbah’s squad.
“The important lesson is never give up. That’s what Imran Khan usually says about 1992,” Misbah said. “Even when the team was in difficult times, they never gave up. They just kept trying. At last they just managed to do what they really wanted to do in that World Cup.”
While he didn’t mind drawing lessons from the past, Misbah said it was crucial for his team to be focused on the now — and that is Zimbabwe at the Gabba. He diplomatically described his team’s performances in the high-pressure games so far as “average.”
“We need to win the next game, especially,” Misbah said. “There has been a lot of talk about 1992 (but) you just focus on what you are doing here — that’s more important for our team.
“When you’ve lost two games in a row in a World Cup, a bit of pressure on the team and the players, but I think this is a chance for us to just get our confidence back — if you win a game, it can change the mood of the whole team.”
Pakistan is coming to terms with a reworked bowling attack in the absence of pace bowler Junaid Khan and after veteran off-spinner Saeed Ajmal ruled himself out of the tournament rather than undergo testing on his bowling action. There’s more responsibility on new-ball bowlers Mohammad Irfan and Sohail Khan and on the leg-spinners of veteran allrounder Shahid Afridi.
“I still feel that these bowlers are good enough and on a day if luck fills them, they can really go through any batting lineup,” Misbah said.
They’ll need to get on top early against Zimbabwe, which scored around the 280-mark in losses to South Africa and West Indies and beat the United Arab Emirates by four wickets while chasing 285. Skipper Elton Chigumbura hasn’t given up hope of his team reaching the quarterfinals, and thinks Pakistan might be vulnerable after consecutive defeats.
“I think tomorrow’s a most important game for us,” he said. “If we play our best cricket, hopefully, we’ll come up on the winning side.”
The Zimbabwe bowlers will have to recover from the recent onslaught from Chris Gayle, who clobbered a record 16 sixes and a World Cup-high of 215 in a 372-run partnership with Marlon Samuels as the West Indies posted 372-2 in Canberra on Tuesday.
“What’s important for us is make sure we polish up where we’re going wrong which is on our bowling,” Chigumbura said. “The last couple of overs .... is the main focus. “

Man City’s court triumph set to intensify race for top 4 places in Premier League

Updated 1 min 1 sec ago

Man City’s court triumph set to intensify race for top 4 places in Premier League

  • The fight for a top-five finish has reverted back to needing to be in the top four to join champion Liverpool and City, already secured in second place

LONDON: Manchester City’s success in overturning its Champions League ban on Monday has huge ramifications on the Premier League and the remaining two teams that will qualify for Europe’s top club competition.

Chelsea, Manchester United and Leicester — and maybe Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United, too — are now fighting for two qualifying spots instead of three with two weeks of the season remaining.

The fight for a top-five finish has reverted back to needing to be in the top four to join champion Liverpool and City, already secured in second place, in earning tens of millions of dollars in UEFA prize money next season.

The most concerned team is likely to be Leicester.

In the top four since September — and, in December, even looking like the most realistic title challenger to Liverpool — Leicester have imploded, collecting only two wins from their last 11 league games stretching back to the end of January.

After losing to relegation-threatened Bournemouth 4-1 on Sunday, Leicester will find themselves  in fifth place if Man United beat  Southampton on Monday.

United appears much more likely to secure a top-four finish and return to the Champions League after a season’s absence.

With four straight wins ahead of the Southampton game, United are the form team in the league and also has the most benign remaining schedule with upcoming matches against Crystal Palace and West Ham before what could be a winner-takes-all game game at Leicester on the final weekend of the season.

Making it all the more intriguing is the fact that another final-day match is between Chelsea and Wolves.

Chelsea is currently in third place, one point ahead of Leicester, but will drop into fourth if United beat  Southampton.

A victory over already-relegated Norwich on Tuesday appears pivotal for Chelsea, considering its last two games are at Liverpool — a team chasing records to cap its title-winning season — and then Wolves, who have gained a reputation for beating the top teams over the last two years.

Wolves are in sixth place, four points off the top four, so the ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport has come as a blow to their Champions League ambitions.

Indeed, Wolves’ best chance of qualifying for the competition is now to win the Europa League, which earns entry to the Champions League. The team coached by Nuno Espirito Santo has reached the last 16 of the Europa League and will play the second leg of its match against Olympiakos next month, with the score at 1-1 after the first leg.

Likewise, seventh-place Sheffield United needed City to lose its appeal at sport’s highest court to stand a realistic chance of a finish in the Champions League positions, a prospect that would have seemed fanciful for a team that was widely tipped for relegation at the start of the season.

Europa League qualification will be Sheffield United’s target now, with seventh place possibly earning that reward if Manchester City, Manchester United or Chelsea win the FA Cup.