Gulbadin Naib and Najibullah Zadran hit unbeaten fifties as Afghanistan beat UAE

Denzil Pinto 20/03/2018
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Najibullah Zadran scored an unbeaten 63

Afghanistan had Gulbadin Naib and Najibullah Zadran to thank for as they kept their World Cup qualification hopes alive with a five-wicket victory over the UAE on Tuesday.

Chasing 177 after veteran batsman Shaiman Anwar top-scored with 64, Afghanistan were in real trouble at 54-5 when Mohammed Nabi departed in the 15th over.

But Naib and Zadran came together at a vital time with a 124-run stand for the sixth wicket that sealed their first victory in the Super Six stage and kept their slim hopes of reaching the 2019 showpiece event. Afghanistan play Ireland in their final group match on Friday but even a win for either side may not be enough to claim the top two spots in the table.

With the winner of Wednesday’s match between the West Indies and Scotland reaching the final and a place in the 2019 World Cup, if Zimbabwe beat the UAE on Thursday, then the thosts will claim the second qualifying spot.

Naib played a patient unbeaten 74-run knock. Facing 97 balls, the opener only found the boundary four times while hitting two sixes. His strike-partner Zadran hit 63 off 64 deliveries with five fours and two sixes.

Their knocks proved crucial as Mohammad Shahzad (3), Samiullah Shenwari (2) and Asghar Stanikzai (4), who returned after recovering from injury were among the batsmen to have struggled against the UAE bowlers.

Mohammad Naveed (2-37) and Qadeer Ahmed (2-38) claimed two wickets while Ahmed Raza added another scalp.

Earlier, the UAE batsman failed to make an impact as Rashid Khan took figures of 5-41, while Dawlat Zadran claimed 3-45. After being 18-3, Suri (22) was the only top-four batsman to reach double figures before Anwar continued his good form against Afghanistan with a fourth consecutive ODI half-century.

The 39-year-old hit four fours and one six in his 87 balls while Naveed smashed 45 from 20 deliveries.

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England seek cure for travel sickness in Test cricket

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Look away now: Joe Root during the 4-0 Ashes hammering.

England cricketers clock up thousands upon thousands of miles of travel every year.

Long-haul flights, connections, buses; you name it – travelling for the England Cricket Team is second nature.

Given most players take up to four or five bats on a long tour plus all the other equipment needed, international cricketers have luggage sizes and baggage allowances down to a tee.

Now, if only England travelled as well on the field as they do off it.

Heading into the first Test of the two-match affair against the Kiwis at Auckland on Thursday, England have lost eight out of their past 10 Tests away from home – drawing the other two.

Miserable 4-0 thumpings at the hands of Australia in the recent Ashes series and India early last year have shown the Three Lions, of late, to have the worst possible jet lag and travel sickness.

England’s record at home is largely dominatable, particularly since 2012. In this period, they boast a 23-11 win-loss ratio – including includes two Ashes triumphs.

Indeed, England’s last defeat at home came, rather unluckily, to Sri Lanka in a short-lived two-match affair which concluded at Headingley in the early part of the 2014 summer.

However, away from their green and pleasant land, it’s a different story. In the same intervening period, England have lost 23 times and won just seven Tests.

Why the struggle? The percentage of teams winning away Tests has been between 20 and 30 per cent since the 1920s – but it’s apparent that this is starting to get lower and lower.

Tailor-made pitches for the hosts and the switch up of balls from the Duke to Kookaburra in some countries have made a difference. But, of course, you take advantage of being in your backyard.

For England, specifically, it could be said that the English – from professional sportspeople to your average Joe – just aren’t as comfortable outside the British Isles.

Changes in the form of new foods, cultures or languages often don’t fit for long periods, generally speaking. Football is a case in point – very rarely have we seen English players thrive in a new country for a decent chunk of time.

Luckily for England, the challenge of New Zealand has elements of a home-from-home scenario. The weather is hit and mix, there’s a high chance of rain and the pitches often aid some conventional swing and seam bowling.

Conditions on the South Island should be of the liking to the likes of James Anderson and then an Alastair Cook in the batting stakes, with the ball coming on. The same can be said of the Hagley Oval, Christchurch, the venue for the second and final Test.

If the tourists are to get that winning feeling again, then this could be a golden chance.

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South Africa's Kagiso Rabada cleared to play in Newlands Test against Australia

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South Africa paceman Kagiso Rabada has been cleared to play in this week’s third Test against Australia by the International Cricket Council.

The 22-year-old’s two-match ban has been overturned after his charge of making ‘inappropriate and deliberate physical contact’ with Australia skipper Steve Smith during the second Test in Port Elizabeth was downgraded following an appeal.

Rabada had initially been fined 50 per cent of his match fee and given three demerit points after being found guilty of deliberately brushing shoulders with Smith while celebrating his dismissal on the opening day.

The fast bowler appealed against the suspension and, following an ICC hearing on Monday, it was announced on Tuesday morning that Rabada had been found not guilty of a Level Two offence.

Instead, the ICC said in a statement that Rabada had been found guilty of the lower-level offence of ‘conduct that is contrary to the spirit of the game’ and been fined 25 per cent of his match fee and received one demerit point.

That leaves Rabada on a total of seven demerit points, one short of triggering an automatic two-match suspension, and he is available for the third and penultimate Test, which starts in Cape Town on Thursday.

Rabada had previously accepted a second charge of “using language, actions or gestures which could provoke an aggressive reaction from a batsman upon his or her dismissal” following an incident involving Australia opener David Warner in the second Test.

He was fined a further 15 per cent of his match fee and received one demerit point.

The four-match series is level at 1-1 after South Africa won by six wickets in Port Elizabeth.

Provided by Press Association Sport

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