Legendary Pakistan all-rounder Imran Khan on Monday said he backs convicted spot-fixer Mohammad Amir's return to international cricket, urging skeptical players and fans to support the tainted paceman.
The 23-year-old Amir, who completed his five-year ban earlier this year, caused a stir last week when he turned up for fitness camp for prospective national players, with former Twenty20 captain Mohammad Hafeez and current one-day captain Azhar Ali boycotting training Friday.
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Left-armer Amir is tipped to be selected for next month's limited-overs tour of New Zealand, almost six years after he and two others were banned and sentenced to six months in jail for arranging deliberate no-balls during a Test against England in exchange for money.
Khan, who led Pakistan to its only World Cup victory and is revered among the country's cricketing fraternity, said Amir had pled guilty before a court and deserved another chance.
"A 19-year-old boy commits a mistake and then did not lie in the court, confesses his guilt and completes his punishment, he should play again," Khan said in an interview on Pakistan's ARY channel. Amir was actually 18 at the time.
"He has apologised to everyone so I appeal to all those who are opposing his return to stop their moves against him," he added.
Khan, a former Pakistan captain turned opposition party leader, did not miss an opportunity to swing a punch at Pakistan's leaders in the interview.
"Criminals are running the country, so it is irrational that someone who has completed his sentence is opposed on his return," he said.
Before Amir's ban, Khan had described him as "the hottest property in international cricket", while another legendary paceman, Wasim Akram, said Amir was better than him at age 18.
The Pakistan Cricket Board meanwhile has asked former captain Shoaib Malik to take Amir under his wing in the forthcoming Pakistan Super League (PSL), a Twenty20 league where both will play for the Karachi Kings.
The league is set to feature international stars like Chris Gayle and Kevin Pietersen and will be held in the UAE in February.
Martin Guptill’s 93 off 30 balls smashed Sri Lanka into submission as New Zealand took just 8.2 overs to claim the second one-day international by 10 wickets in Christchurch on Monday.
Guptill went within a whisker of breaking the world record for the fastest ODI 50 and was close to scoring one of the fastest centuries when New Zealand wrapped up the game.
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum said Guptill was “superb” while Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews described his side’s performance as “embarrassing” and “pathetic”.
After being dropped off the first ball he faced, Guptill went on the warpath with a brutal assault that included nine fours and eight sixes.
For Sri Lanka, it was a humiliating performance after they expressed a desire to gain some pride from being thrashed in the first ODI by seven wickets when New Zealand knocked off the 189-run target with 29 overs to spare.
Instead of getting better they went backwards, being dismissed for 117 in 27.4 overs. “It was embarrassing. Once again a pathetic display by the whole batting unit,” Mathews said.
“We just couldn’t handle it. It didn’t swing or seam or bounce. It was just bad shot selection.”
Guptill set about demolishing the Sri Lanka attack. He took 14 off one over by Nuwan Kulasekera and 26 off the next over from Dushmantha Chameera as he raced to 46 from 12 deliveries.
His momentum was briefly arrested by some well-placed Kulasekera yorkers and it took another five balls for Guptill to reach his 50, one behind the world record of 16 held by South African AB de Villiers.
“I got a couple of yorkers and couldn’t quite get it. But I’ll take the not out and a win than the fastest 50 and getting out,” he said. Guptill did, however, break the New Zealand record for the fastest 50, going one better than McCullum’s best.
McCullum did not open the New Zealand innings after injuring himself when he crashed into the fence while trying to cut off a boundary.
Instead Tom Latham took up the opening duties and hit the winning run to be unbeaten on 17 from 20 balls while Guptill had faced 30 for his 93 not out.
— Ross Taylor (@RossLTaylor) December 28, 2015
De Villiers also holds the record for the fastest ODI century, achieving the target in 31 balls in the same innings that he set the fastest 50 record against the West Indies in Johannesburg in January.
Monday’s entire game took exactly 36 overs for New Zealand to go 2-0 up in the five-match series. When he won the toss and elected to bat, Sri Lanka’s Mathews described the pitch as “good for batting”.
But his batsmen were unable to handle Matt Henry, New Zealand’s chief destroyer in the first match who again took four wickets.
He struck first in the fourth over when Tillakaratne Dilshan was caught at first slip by Ross Taylor for seven, and the wickets tumbled regularly from there.
Sri Lanka still looked capable of posting a respectable score when they reached 81-5 in the 18th over but they then lost three wickets for no runs to be 81-8.
Kulasekara, who struggled at the start of his innings when he was dropped twice and won an appeal against an lbw decision, went on to top-score for Sri Lanka with 19. For New Zealand, Henry took four for 33 and Mitchell McClenaghan three for 32.
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