Alastair Cook hopes time heals rift with former England team-mate Kevin Pietersen

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Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen.

Alastair Cook still hopes time can heal his rift with Kevin Pietersen – even though they have never spoken since the day the mercurial batsman was ditched by England four years ago.

Cook, about to call time on his own record-breaking career after his 161st Test at the Oval this week, admits the breakdown of relations between Pietersen and England went on to have a detrimental effect on his own batting.

Cook was captain in 2014 when Pietersen was sacked after a miserably unsuccessful and acrimonious Ashes winter.

A year later he was witness to England and Wales Cricket Board director Andrew Strauss‘ final decision that there was no way back into the fold for the exiled batsman.

Cook has been vilified in some quarters for his perceived role in the saga.

But he insists that – although he was relieved when Strauss made the call – his own instinct previously was to suggest a cooling-off period of six months before Pietersen’s international career finished for good.

That did not happen, but nonetheless Cook still hopes he and Pietersen could yet be reconciled in the future.

He told the BBC‘s Test Match Special: “I haven’t spoken to him since that day, but I think time is a great healer.

“We spent a lot of time together and created some amazing memories.”

In fact, Cook revealed, there were never any cross words between the former team-mates face to face.

“The thing is, we never fell out,” Cook added.

“Since then, the internet has fallen out for us.

“As two blokes, if you take cricket out of it, we have never fallen out.

“He will have a different opinion, I’m sure.”

Cook has come to the conclusion the ECB could have handled the situation better – and hinted he was not portrayed especially fairly.

“I was involved in the decision at first, but the England captain doesn’t have the final say on hiring and firing,” Cook said.

“I agreed with it, but I said, ‘Why don’t we give him some time off, we can go away and maybe KP can come back later on?’

“(Strauss’ predecessor) Paul Downton wanted clarity, a clean break – because people would always be asking when is he coming back.

“You had to back his decisions, because that’s what his job was.

“The fall-out was pretty nasty, and I don’t think the ECB handled it well or appreciated how social media worked very well then.

“It was the toughest time of my career, and there’s no doubt it affected my batting.

“The day when Straussy came out and said Kevin wasn’t going to play for us any more, that was a massive weight off my shoulders.”

That does not necessarily mean, however, Cook is truly comfortable these days with the outcome or how it was achieved.

“I bore a lot of the brunt of it – I suppose that’s what being captain is… I will always be associated with (it),” Cook said.

“I would refute anyone saying that I was the one that chucked him down the stairs, but I was involved in the decision and I believed it was right at that time.

“Looking back, I can safely say all the decisions I made were done for the best of the England cricket team at that time.

“On that one, there were a lot of other people, way above my head, also involved in it.

“I felt like I was being left alone as the captain.”

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Hong Kong beat the UAE to clinch Asia Cup berth

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Hong Kong beat the UAE by two wickets (DLS method) in a rain-affected final of the Asia Cup Qualifier to book their place in the competition later this month.

A stunning five-for from Aizaz Khan helped Hong Kong restrict UAE to 176/9 in 24 overs, the innings affected by a long rain break, before Hong Kong beat the target of 179 with three balls to spare.

Hong Kong, with the benefit of knowing their target, started well with Nizakat Khan (38 off 20) and Anshuman Rath (28 off 25) two of their most destructive batsmen.

The duo added 64 runs in six overs to put Hong Kong on the frontfoot before Rohan Mustafa had Nizakat’s wicket, sending him back for a 20-ball 38.

But Christopher Carter (33 in 32 balls) and Ehsan Khan (29 in 24) made sure the game was swinging back in Hong Kong’s favour with a 53-run stand for the fifth wicket.

It could have gone either way, but Hong Kong held their nerve to seal their spot in the Asia Cup on September 16.

For the UAE, Ashfaq Ahmed played a blinder and was unlucky to finish on the losing team, scoring 79 in 51 balls.

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Red Bull athlete Chirag Suri stars for UAE at Asia Cup cricket qualifiers

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Rising star: Chirag Suri has been in great form in the Asia Cup qualifiers

Batsman Chirag Suri has been in sensational form as the UAE’s performances in the Asia Cup qualifiers, in Kuala Lumpur, has seen them ranked number one in the tournament.

After back-to-back games the UAE defeated Singapore by 215 runs and Nepal by 78 runs last week to position themselves nicely for the final against Hong Kong (UAE: 05:30on Thursday.

One of the shining lights of the competition has been batsman Suri, who’s in the form of his life hitting 111 runs against Singapore and 65 against Nepal making him the tournament’s leading scorer. “The last few games have been really good, I’ve been training really hard,” he told Sport360°. “The potential to play against India and Pakistan in the finals, taking place in the UAE, has been a great source of inspiration. They’re two massive games and so there has been excitement and nervousness in equal measure.”
“I’m hitting the ball well and getting the runs which is what matters. I’ve been performing consistently and I think I’m a more mature batsman now and pleased with my runs in the competition. I’ve definitely got an eye on the personal accolades but I’ve got to put the team first. I don’t want to be the highest scorer and then not qualify for the games against the big nations. I want to win games for the team, I think that’s the key and also the way to get noticed personally.”
The 23-year-old has made his way through the ranks of the UAE team, notably via Red Bull’s Campus Cricket events, which has seen college cricketers play in tournaments in India and Sri Lanka.
“It’s competitions like the Campus Cricket that really help young cricketers like myself, you get experience playing in different countries at a young age which helps prepare you for tournaments like the Asia Cup,” he added.
On the hectic qualifying schedule from Malaysia Suri added: “It’s been a tough tournament having twice played 50-over games back-to-back here so it’s been hard on the body. Our days off were just spent relaxing. It’s not as hot as Dubai but it’s very humid here so we’ve just been resting up and I’ve been drinking a can of Red Bull before each game to get my energy levels up.
“As a team, we’ve had to adapt our game a bit because of the change in conditions. The thing with playing in Malaysia is you’ve always got rain around the corner so you’ve got to bear that in mind.” The Asia Cup kick off in the UAE on September 15.

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