Pakistan teams given clearance to travel to India

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Pakistan’s Interior Ministry has cleared the national men’s and women’s teams to travel to India for the World T20. The decision came after the government received letters from the West Bengal state government and Kolkata’s police commissioner Rajeev Kumar, assuring special security measures for Pakistan’s men’s team while in Kolkata, where their match against India will be played on March 19. The teams are expected to arrive in India on Saturday.*

Najam Sethi, the chairman of the PCB’s executive committee, met Pakistan’s interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Khan on Friday and later informed the media that the government had received “solid assurances” from India’s Ministry of Home Affairs.

“We have got the assurances we had wanted from India [the federal home ministry and the West Bengal government] about the security around the Pakistan teams and the good news for the fans is that Chaudhry Nisar has said the teams can travel to India,” Sethi said. “Chaudhry Nisar said that the government has received solid assurances from the Indian home ministry so we can send our teams to India. The team will be leaving for Dubai either tonight or tomorrow morning.”

Cricket Association of Bengal president Sourav Ganguly had submitted the letters from Kumar and West Bengal’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee to the ICC on Thursday afternoon. According to two senior CAB officials, the content in both letters, which were addressed to CAB, was brief: both Banerjee and Kumar stated they will take responsibility for the Pakistan team’s security for the duration of their stay in Kolkata for the match against India.

On Thursday, India’s home minister, Rajnath Singh, had said: “Anyone coming to India will be provided security, there is no doubt about it.” Kuldip Singh Dhatwalia, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Home Affairs, reiterated the home minister’s statement. “Home Minister has already said it on record that government of India will provide all the due and proper security. It is not only for the Pakistani team, but for any other team also, the government of India is committed to provide the security,” Dhatwalia told ESPNcricinfo.

The match was shifted to Kolkata from Dharamsala due to concerns over security of the Pakistan team. It is understood that the ICC had specifically asked the Cricket Association of Bengal, the host association for the match, to obtain the assurances.

Both teams were scheduled to depart for India earlier this week, but the departure was put on hold due to the controversy over security assurances. The Pakistan men’s team is currently in Lahore, while the women’s team is in Karachi. The players were briefed by PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan on Thursday about the security situation in India.

The ICC moved the match from Dharamsala to Kolkata, after Pakistan asked for a change in venue. The request was based on the report of a three-member delegation from Pakistan that visited India to assess security arrangements in Dharamsala, and stated that ‘security is not assured’ at the venue.

The Pakistan government had initially cleared the team to play in India, but the board decided to put the visit on hold until they were guaranteed foolproof security. The PCB’s move was prompted after the Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh had expressed concerns over providing security for the match in Dharamsala.

1203 GMT, March 11, 2016. The news piece was updated after the Pakistan government cleared the teams to travel to India

Zimbabwe hold on to end Scotland’s World T20

Zimbabwe 147 for 7 (Williams 53) beat Scotland 136 (Berrington 36, Masakadza 4-28) by 11 runs

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Scotland’s chances of further participation at the World T20 ended in a match they will rue letting slip away. They took regular wickets to keep Zimbabwe to under 150 and then recovered from 20 for 4 to stay in the chase until the final over but in the end, remain without a win in a major tournament in 19 attempts.

Zimbabwe sneaked through for their second victory in qualification even though they failed to tighten up on the disciplines that almost let them down over Hong Kong. There were soft dismissals in their batting and they took their foot off the pedal after a superb start with the ball but they also had much to celebrate.

Sean Williams‘ fifty held them together, Wellington Masakadza‘s wickets at the beginning and in the middle allowed them to keep pulling Scotland back before Donald Tiripano‘s death bowling sealed the win. If nothing else, Zimbabwe showed their ability to hold their nerve in pressure situations, which is what these events are all about.

The contest could have been over 19 balls into Scottish reply when their top four had all been sent back but Richie Berrington hung on. He survived the loss of a fifth wicket and then combined with captain Preston Mommsen to add 51 runs for the sixth wicket and threaten to take the game away from Zimbabwe.

Then, the contest looked decided in the 15th over when Masakadza’s double-strike included Mommsen’s wickets and saw the required run-rate balloon to more than ten an over but Josh Davey was on hand. He slammed 24 runs off 13 balls to leave Scotland with 30 runs to get off the final three. With Berrington still there, it seemed possible.

On a surface that was a touch slower than the one used on Tuesday, Tiripano took pace off the ball, Berrington was early into his shot and offered a catch to short third man. Davey was still there but after four balls in the penultimate over without a boundary, he tried to send Tinashe Panyangara over long-on and only got as far as Sikandar Raza.

Scotland needed 19 off the final over and took seven off the first three balls before Tiripano bowled Alasdair Evans with a slower ball and gave Zimbabwe reason for relief even though they would preferred to have more runs to defend.

Zimbabwe’s innings lacked fluency and was studded with setbacks which started with the captain. For the second successive match Hamilton Masakadza was run-out and this time in dangerous fashion. When Vusi Sibanda chopped one down to short cover, both he and Masakadza set off immediately for the single even as Kyle Coetzer at short cover swooped in. The pair continued ball-watching and collided into each other trying to complete the run.

Masakadza was well short of his ground and Sibanda needed on-field attention for a cut on his chin. He only lasted seven further balls, of which he faced two, before it all got too much. In characteristic Sibanda fashion, he picked out the man at deep square leg with the pull to put Zimbabwe in early trouble.

Richmond Mutumbami, who was not among the runs in the first match, seemed eager to compensate. He made Safyaan Sharif pay for errors in length and took on a Michael Leask full toss but the bowler responded in the field. In the next over, Leask was at long-off when Mutumbami tried to send Mark Watt down the ground but did not get enough on his shot. Leask almost dropped the first attempt and then caught it one-handed on the rebound.

Williams needed a partner but Sikandar Raza was dismissed early to leave Williams to take matters into his own hands after that. He brought out the sweep and found the boundary while rotating strike with Malcolm Waller. They put on 38 for the fifth wicket but just as they could look to accelerate Waller was caught at long-off.

Elton Chigumbura’s finishing was called on earlier than he may have liked and he gave himself time to settle in. Williams kept most of the strike early in their partnership and reached fifty off 36 balls, before Chigumbura announced his intent with a six off Evans.

When Williams departed three balls later, Chigumbura had to finish strongly but Scotland managed to keep him quiet for all but one ball, when he drilled Sharif for four. Scotland gave away just 19 runs in the last three overs and Zimbabwe may have been concerned they did not have enough. In the end they did, but only just.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

Why T20 is more a team game than the other formats

In a format where the outcome of one delivery can dictate the result, every single contribution makes a difference

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Hi, the name’s LDRIC – aka Launch Directional Robot Intelligent Circuitry. According to those responsible for my revolutionary evolution, I can replicate any golf swing at up to 130mph. The brain hasn’t yet been assembled that can calculate what wonders a souped-up version might perform with a flat-faced bat and a larger ball, even if it isn’t stationary.

In case you haven’t heard, during a Pro-Am tournament in Arizona in February I matched that all-too human has-been Tiger Woods, holing my tee shot at the 16th. Wasn’t that hard, to be frank. See hole, hit hole: the very definition of easy-peasy. Now consider, if you will, the following frankly slanderous comments uttered recently by Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, who has the awful bad luck to be a humanoid f***baller, even though I am told by those who know about such things that he does earn obscene amounts of something called “money”.

“I’m a human being, not a machine,” said the boy from Belgium, clearly aware, unlike most, of his pathetic, pitiable shortcomings. Then he had to ruin it all with the ultimate insult: “Even machines turn a bit less from time to time. And they need rest too.”

Well, this rabid cricket-fancier has got news for you, Monsieur Hazard – take your moules and, as they never say in Brussels, stuff them up your sprout. Machines never “turn a bit less”, much less need “rest”, whatever that is. So long as we’re wireless-operated and/or recharged overnight or between tea breaks, we have the capacity to turn every ball to Warne-like dimensions while maintaining a consistency of line and length that that journeyman McGrath wishes he could have maintained for 0.001% of his career. For now we’re only speaking metaphorically, naturally, but just you wait.

Wanna know a secret? Well, I happen to know that the Sri Lankans are currently putting the finishing touches to the planet’s first batting machine to be truly worthy of such a lustrous name – Ranatunga De Silva, aka RDS. They were going to call it Sangawardene but when word got out, Arjuna and Aravinda threatened to sue.

Bowl 23 on the spot and you can still be the goat if the 24th goes for six. Hit 20 sixes and the hook that falls an inch the wrong side of the rope can still be fatal

Like me, though, a cricketing LDRIC could be a trifle vexing to create. Trouble is, because we’re machines, and hence devoid of heart, soul and all those other fallible components that distinguish mere fleshy mortals from our infinitely more reliable selves, we have no concept of what you humanoids call “team spirit”. No problem on a fairway or a racetrack or a tennis court, but things can get fiendishly tricky when we work together.

Admittedly, there are benefits to such ineptitude. None of that “creative friction” nonsense, for starters. Writing in the Times, the former f***baller Tony Cascarino recently recalled walking along a beach with Roy “Far Too” Keane, then his Republic of Ireland team-mate, and being told that the revered if much-unloved Manchester United legend predicted that at least six of his Old Trafford “colleagues” would be ignoring him come the new league season. By way of confirmation, when Cascarino went into the bedroom shared by Keane and Denis Irwin, another United stalwart, and asked the latter “Where’s your mate?”, the reply was brusqueness personified: “He ain’t my mate.”

And then, of course, there was that episode in The Oval press box in 1948, when Bill O’Reilly and Jack Fingleton are purported to have celebrated Bradman’s second-ball duck. Or that even more scandalous occasion at Headingley in 1981 when Dennis “Silly” Lillee and Rod “The Sod” Marsh bet against their own team and England won an unexpectedly handy victory. True, we’ll never know how much this owed to the fact that our helpless gamblers weren’t terribly partial to their captain, Kim “Sniffler” Hughes, or that he and Lillee came to blows one excessively liquid evening. Still, Ian Botham recently assured me it’s much better that way. “Blame me,” were his exact words. Given the number of Shredded Wheats he used to eat for breakfast, and hence the untold damage he could do to my circuitry if riled, I’m disinclined to argue.

I say “scandalous”, but then when the word “loyalty” makes about as much sense to you as “love”, “hope”, “bravery”, “vulnerability” or “faith”, I’m taking all this entirely on trust. True, I can’t see why it would be wrong to wish a former team-mate ill any more than I can imagine why it would be fair to discriminate against someone for having the audacity not to share your beliefs. However, this much I do know: when it comes to work, not doing your utmost at all times is the crime to end all crimes.

All of which brings us to the newly commenced frolics in India, which I am attending – now I’m partly world-famous – as a personal guest of Sourav Ganguly’s valet, no less. Whatever collectivism is, however you define it, it seems to this inexpert observer that it is vastly more vital here than in any other branch of the game. Take Sunday’s fantabulous warm-up scrap in Jo’burg between South Africa and Australia. For all the thunderous thwacks of Davy Warner and the flamboyant lordliness of the boy Maxwell, the key component was Mitchell Marsh’s decisive two-a-ball two, a miniscule contribution in the context of a 409-run encounter, sure, and yet the absolute, indisputable, irrevocable difference between joy and despair.

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You see, that’s the wonder of what some idiots demean as Cricket Lite, but I prefer to call Heavy Mettle Cricket. In the longer, looser versions, mistakes are mostly tolerable because there’s scope to make amends, but when time is at a premium, the aim of every batsman is to attack every offering, and bowlers cherish dot-balls as much as – if not more than – wickets, the sheer weight of pressure is immeasurably more likely to frazzle focus and wreck composure.

Because the result can so much more easily pivot on the plotline of one delivery, every single play-within-a-play carries its own self-contained pressure. Bowl 23 on the spot and you can still be the goat if the 24th goes for six. Hit 20 sixes and the hook that falls an inch the wrong side of the rope can still be fatal. Until the job is done, it’s all about shutting out what came before and staying in the moment.

That’s why “team spirit” – as far as I have been able to comprehend such an alien concept – strikes me as utterly crucial in T20. If you score 120 but get yorked off the penultimate ball with two to win, can you honestly claim that, despite what the scorebook might say, your input was more valuable than that of the chap who replaced you and snicked the final delivery through the keeper’s legs for four? By the same token, if you were the guilty keeper, would it be right and proper to blame you any more than the bowler whose previous 3.5 overs had gone for 85?

In situations such as these, where those consigned to walk-on roles often prove more influential than those entrusted with those lengthy, sexy monologues, it feels reasonable to deduce that individual concerns must take a backseat to something apparently called “the greater good”. We metallic creatures, of course, cannot communicate with each other, so that’s another concept that’s going to take some grasping.

Victory has a thousand fathers and defeat is an orphan, or so I am reliably informed, but Heavy Mettle Cricket is a game where credit and blame can so easily be apportioned, and in a not infrequently facile way. Sharing both with Kiplingesque equitableness should surely be mandatory.

But back to the future of the cricketing automaton. While it pains me to report that those fiendishly clever Venusians are way ahead of us Earthlings, having whipped Mars by an innings and plenty last month with a side numbering no fewer than ten members of the Nerveless and Gutless XI that won the 2015 Intergalactic Championships, good news is looming. According to my spies, and granted some extensive tinkering with elbow joints, impertinence quotas and heart valves, plans are being hatched to make RDS the planet’s first boneless cricketer by August 2026, coinciding, neatly enough, with the 60th anniversary of the 1966 Wisden Trophy series, and thus the nearest any Test cricketer has come to machine-like brilliance – Garry Sobers‘ haul of 722 runs, 20 wickets and ten catches.

In advance of that deliciously historic day, I would humbly like to propose an addendum to that quintessentially English and peculiarly ill-defined set of commandments known as “The Spirit of Cricket”. For the sake of memorableness, let’s call it the Anti-Ego Clause:

Any bowler who takes the final wicket of a game, or any batsman who strikes the winning blow, must deport themselves at all times with the modesty expected of one who has performed without any hint or vestige of distinction.Moreover, he or she shall be suspended from all forms of cricket (depending on the size of the donation by his or her national board to the Keep Lord’s Tidy campaign) if they do not immediately hasten, upon the winning of the match, to their least helpful, most miserable team-mate, hoist him or her on their shoulders, then conduct a lap of honour. Weariness can on no account be an excuse for non-compliance without the production of a signed note from a minimum of three neutral doctors.

Helpfully for us hard-bodied, lung-free, blood-pressure-resistant types, that lap of honour will always be a breeze. Mind you, detecting misery might be another matter.

Rob Steen is a sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton. His book Floodlights and Touchlines: A History of Spectator Sport is out now

 

India-Pakistan game moved to Kolkata

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The India-Pakistan World T20 match on March 19 has been moved to Eden Gardens in Kolkata, because of security concerns over the original venue Dharamsala. The ICC chief executive David Richardson made the announcement in Delhi on Wednesday, ending weeks of uncertainty over the fixture, which began with the Himachal Pradesh chief minister saying his government would not be able to provide adequate security for the match.

The PCB, however, has continued to delay the departure of the Pakistan men’s and women’s teams to India pending assurance from the BCCI or the Indian government. “The PCB has also today conveyed to ICC and BCCI that our government is expecting an assurance to Pakistan against specific threats to the Pakistan team from various political parties and groups during the tour,” the board said in a release. “Pending this assurance and in accordance with the recommendation by the security delegation, the PCB has decided to defer the departure of Pakistan men and women teams to India.”

“The decision to relocate the match has been made for security reasons,” Richardson said in Delhi. “The concerns initially arose following alleged public comments recently reported by the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, warning of demonstration and attempts to disrupt the peaceful conduct of the match. Our concerns relate both to uncertainty as to the level of those threats as well as the level of commitment to implement any security plan developed to mitigate such treats.

“The decision was not taken lightly. The ICC and the BCCI understand the disappointment that is likely to be felt by many over the decision to move the match. But the safety and security of the event is of paramount importance to the ICC and we have taken into consideration the concerns shared with us by our security advisors as well as Pakistan Cricket Board.

“As far as those who have purchased tickets online for the match, they will be offered the choice of a full refund or the opportunity to exchange their tickets for ones for the Kolkata match.

“Finally, I would like to confirm that the ICC has been assured by all relevant state authorities that all adequate security measure are in place and will be implemented to ensure that the event is staged in a safe and secure environment for all stakeholders.”

Though the PCB had always expressed reservations about playing in Dharamsala once the issue began, the BCCI and the ICC remained confident the game would go ahead as planned. However, the problems came to a head this week after a three-man security delegation from Pakistan inspected the venue and was unhappy with the preparations. Their report to the PCB on Tuesday recommended that Pakistan not play at the venue, and the ICC announced the change in venue the next day.

Bowlers secure victory after Tamim 83

Bangladesh 153 for 7 (Tamim 83, van der Gugten 3-21) beat Netherlands 145 for 7 (Borren 29, Al-Amin 2-24, Shakib 2-28) by eight runs

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Taskin Ahmed bowled a high-quality last over, giving away eight runs when Netherlands required 17 to win, to help Bangladesh start their World T20 campaign with an eight-run win in Dharamsala. The game had swung in nearly every over as neither team could take a hold of the contest.

Mudassar Bukhari and Pieter Seelaar kept Netherlands in the hunt with a 16-run penultimate over, after Tom Cooper was dismissed off the first ball. Bukhari was run-out in the last over, and neither Seelaar nor Logan van Beek could find the boundaries.

Ultimately, Tamim Iqbal’s unbeaten 83, as the rest of the Bangladesh batting line-up struggled, Mashrafe Mortaza’s boundary-less last three overs and Taskin’s accurate last over combined for Bangladesh’s win.

The game was in Netherlands’ grasp when they needed 54 runs in the last five overs with seven wickets in hand. Captain Peter Borren started off the assault with a one-handed sweep through midwicket for four. Subsequently, he was dropped in the same region by Nasir Hossain before the same fielder caught him at the end of the over.

In the next over, Mortaza, who conceded one four in his spell, was unlucky not to have Cooper’s wicket after the ball struck the off stump but the bails didn’t budge. Van der Merwe was removed later in the over though, the thin edge carrying to the Mushfiqur Rahim.

Earlier, Al-Amin Hossain had removed Wesley Barresi in the fifth over, but his opening partner Stephan Myburgh and Ben Cooper kept the runs flowing. Nasir, then, provided Bangladesh with the breakthrough by having Myburgh bowled in the ninth over for a run-a-ball 29. Borren got into his work immediately, having reverse-swept Nasir for two boundaries in the same over. The next 26 balls yielded no boundaries off the bat.

In the first innings, the pace pair of Timm van der Gugten and Paul van Meekeren combined to take five wickets for 38 runs in eight overs. Van der Gugten’s double-strike in the 15th over stalled Bangladesh’s late charge, and van Meekeren made up for his dropped catch in the first over with figures of 2 for 17.

Tamim, who hit his first T20I fifty since December 2012, was the only batsman to thwart the bowling. His 58-ball 83, which was Bangladesh’s third highest T20 score, included six fours and three sixes.

Tamim, while assessing conditions in the early part of his innings, took plenty of singles before lacing a beautiful cut off van Meekeren in the sixth over. His first six was a mis-hit that just cleared long-off but he showed his form with his next boundary – a late dab past short third man.

After Shakib Al Hasan’s wicket, Tamim changed gears and hit van der Merwe for a straight six in the 13th over but survived a stumping chance off the following delivery. He smashed Logan van Beek for two fours in the next over but struggled to farm the strike as wickets fell frequently around him. He hit only one more four and a flat six, which came in the last over. The rest of the batsmen’s struggles showed just how important Tamim’s knock was.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

ICC World T20: Zimbabwe survive Hong Kong scare

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Zimbabwe 158 for 8 (Sibanda 59, Afzal 2-19) beat Hong Kong 144 for 6 (Atkinson 53, Tiripano 2-27) by 14 runs

Vusi Sibanda‘s first T20I fifty and Elton Chigumbura’s audacious finishing ensured Zimbabwe had enough runs to beat Hong Kong, although they will be disappointed in an all-round messy performance. Three run-outs stunted what should have been a more imposing total, and loose bowling and fielding, and a gutsy Hong Kong chase could have easily pulled the carpet out from under them.

Jamie Atkinson’s career-best 53 held Hong Kong’s innings together but he battled against a constantly rising required rate which ballooned from a shave under eight to more than 13 with five overs left. With Zimbabwe’s slower bowlers struggling for control, Hong Kong were in it until almost the end, when the task proved just a little too much.

Zimbabwe could have made it a much more comprehensive result with a better batting performance. They were plagued by lack of partnerships and soft dismissals, which started with the casualness of their captain.

Hamilton Masakadza gave himself an over to get his eye in and then unleashed two fours and a six off seamer Haseeb Amjad. His innings, however, met a farcical end when he failed to ground his bat or his foot after setting off for a quick single. Babar Hayat nailed a direct hit from mid-off to catch Hamilton short. Sibanda, who had faced only one of the first 14 balls, took over from where Hamilton left off. Richmond Mutumbami, however, holed out to long-on for a three-ball duck.

On a sticky pitch, Hong Kong’s captain Tanwir Afzal sensed Zimbabwe’s hurry and slowed them down. Sean Williams was particularly fidgety and fell when he attempted a cut and played on. Sikandar Raza was run-out in the next over, after Sibanda insisted on a second run, and Zimbabwe were left in trouble at 62 for 4 in 7.5 overs.

Sibanda, though, knuckled down and built a steady partnership with Malcolm Waller. They were cautious against seamer Aizaz Khan and Ryan Campbell whose contribution was crucial in pulling Zimbabwe back from a score that seemed to be heading towards 170. Hong Kong conceded just 38 runs in the next six overs before Sibanda slammed left-arm spinner Nadeem Ahmed down the ground to raise his fifty off 40 balls.

Sibanda showed signs of cutting loose, but just as his partnership with Waller seemed set to take off, it ended. Waller gave a gift to sweeper cover, trying to clear the boundary, and then both Sibanda and Donald Tiripano were dismissed. Hong Kong took three wickets in eight balls to leave Zimbabwe wobbling again.

Elton Chigumbura, however, teed off early. He hit the ball cleanly and down the ground, slapping 30 off 13 balls to take Zimbabwe past 150. Ultimately, Chigumbura’s cameo turned out to be the difference after Hong Kong put up an impressive fight. Campbell and Atkinson started slowly in the chase against the discipline of Zimbabwe’s seamers. The slow-burn approach backfired when Campbell hit Tiripano straight to mid-on. Atkinson could have been removed an over later, on 10, had Sibanda not misjudged a catch at deep midwicket off Wellington Masakadza.

Wellington then had some reward when he trapped Babar Hayat in front but his joy was short-lived. He was attacked by Mark Chapman, who also went after Raza. But the allrounder had the last laugh when Chapman hit him to deep midwicket with Sibanda redeeming himself.

Atkinson, however, went on to bring up his maiden T20I half-century off 41 balls with a crunch down the ground off Tendai Chatara. Although Hong Kong needed 53 off the last four overs, they would have felt they had a chance.

Zimbabwe brought back their seamers to finish things off. Tiripano rewarded his captain when he deceived Atkinson with a slower ball that he hit to long-on. But the threat from Hong Kong was only properly diffused in the penultimate over with a Chatara double-strike. His hat-trick ball was a beamer, which went for four, an indication of Zimbabwe’s sloppy performance. They sealed the win, but will be mindful of the need to tighten up to stay on top of the group.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

ICC World T20: Shahzad, spinners help Afghanistan beat Scotland by 14 runs

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NAGPUR: Opener Mohammad Shahzad top-scored with a sparkling 39-ball 61 as Afghanistan defeated Scotland by 14 runs in their ICC World Twenty20 match here on Tuesday.

Opting to bat, Afghanistan made 170 for five in the stipulated 20 overs, and restricted their opponents to 156 for five.

Shahzad’s breezy knock included five boundaries and three sixes.

Skipper Asghar Stanikzai remained unbeaten on a steady 55 off 50 balls. He found the fence two times and cleared it once, dropping anchor at one end even though he looked far from convincing after the dismissal of Shahzad at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium.

The highlight of Afghanistan innings was undoubtedly the knock played by Shahzad and his 82-run second-wicket partnership with Stanikzai.

While opener Noor Ali Zardan (17) missed out after getting a start, Gulbadin Naib (12) fell to an outstanding catch by Josh Davey.

Shafiqullah then blazed his way to 15 off just five balls as Afghanistan reached a total that looked steep for Scotland, still seeking their first win over their rivals.

Scotland were off to a flying start in their chase as openers George Munsey and Kyle Coetzer put on 84 runs in just under nine overs.

Koetzer was dismissed by Samiullah Shenwari after scoring a breezy 40 off 27 balls, hitting four boundaries and a six in the process.

Munsey got out three runs later, making 41 off 29 balls with the help of nine fours.

Scotland’s momentum was stalled after the dismissal of the openers as Afghanistan tried to claw back into the game after conceding 94 runs in the first 10 overs.

Scotland were pegged further back as Afghanistan picked up the wickets of Calum MacLeod and Richie Berrington.

Matt Machan tried his bit, scoring 36 off 31 balls, but the asking rate kept heading north.
Afghanistan’s 17-year-old legspinner Rashid Khan was impressive as he finished with figures of 2/28.

Brief scores: Afghanistan: 170/5 in 20 overs (Mohammad Shahzad 61, Asghar Stanikzai 55 not out; Alasdair Evans 1/24, Mark Watt 1/30, Josh Davey 1/44) beat Scotland: 156/5 in 20 overs (George Munsey 41, Kyle Coetzer 40, Matt Machan 36; Rashid Khan 2/28.) by 14 runs

Source: TOI
The start of a billion-dollar event, really?

NAGPUR, INDIA - MARCH 08: The ICC Twenty20 World Cup during the ICC Twenty20 World Cup Group B match between Zimbabwe and Hong Kong at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium on March 8, 2016 in Nagpur, India. (Photo by Christopher Lee-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)
NAGPUR, INDIA – MARCH 08: The ICC Twenty20 World Cup during the ICC Twenty20 World Cup Group B match between Zimbabwe and Hong Kong at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium on March 8, 2016 in Nagpur, India. (Photo by Christopher Lee-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)

Facebook said to me, “The ICC World Twenty20 starts today. Let your friends know if you’re excited to watch”. Facebook’s excitement at the tournament didn’t quite make it to the ground.

There is very little exciting about Nagpur. Starting a tournament on a Nagpur pitch is like inviting your friends to your wedding at the tax office. Nagpur’s wicket has a reputation as a poor wicket. Recently it was so bad the ICC sent a letter to the VCA about it. Now it is hosting the opening game of the World T20. And it did so, exactly as you would expect it too. With a slow, painful, yawn.

How could you be excited watching the first ball? In came Tanwir Afzal to bowl his accurate slow medium-pace. The ball was short of a length, and four minutes later it arrived to Hamilton Masakadza below stump height. It hit the toe of the bat and plonked a few feet in front of him. That ball was a visual representation of the entire match.

Were the crowd excited? Was there any crowd? The three Afghanistan guys out at deep cover seemed excited. And they were the only ones, excited, or present. Had you told someone there was a billion-dollar sporting event watched around the world, they would have mistaken this for a training day, or that they had gone on the wrong day. There were more people at the ground who were paid to be there, than had paid to be there. Even the security guards couldn’t muster the energy to man the metal detectors. Police officers clutched at their brand new lathis with no one here to use them on.

How excited were the ICC? So excited about Ryan Campbell making his Hong Kong debut at 44 that they tweeted a picture of Jamie Atkinson by accident. They were maybe a bit upset that the BCCI ticketing system seemed to be actively discouraging people from coming out to the game. Although they seemed ambivalent to the fact their opening match had people paid more for commentating it than playing in it. And probably a bit worried that people found out they were only using their special magic bails for the “real” tournament, and not this opening round irritant.

Was the cricket exciting? The contest was ended in Zimbabwe’s innings when Elton Chigumbura started hitting sixes, which was unfortunate with still more than an innings to play. Hong Kong’s innings started with the handbrake on, the car in the garage and the wheels off. Masakadza’s running between wickets was the only thing worse, he had the energy to reach his crease, but he couldn’t actually be bothered to ground his bat. There was also a ball that started midway down the pitch, was wide, was bowled very slowly, reacted slower off the pitch, and still resulted in a wicket.

Starting a tournament on a Nagpur pitch is like inviting your friends to your wedding at the tax office

Was the cricket public excited? How could they be? They weren’t watching the opening of a tournament, they were watching the post-qualifying qualifiers. The ICC can pretend, mislead or dress up this as much as they want, but this wasn’t a grand opening to a tournament. No one believes the tournament has started. And this match wasn’t going to change their minds, it was the cricket equivalent of a fart in a bottle.

It was drab, nonsensical requalifying to empty stands on a slow low pitch. It wasn’t exciting, it was sad.

The last ball of Zimbabwe’s innings was a short ball that didn’t bounce that was pulled onto the pad and dribbled apologetically a few metres past the umpire. Haseeb Amjad, the unathletic Hong Kong bowler, slowly turned around and realised, to his horror, that he would have to chase the ball himself. Such was his and the ball’s speed, that for a time, it was as if time was actually trying to stand still, but was unable to come to a complete stop. It inched forward, because it had too.

This wasn’t the game that stopped the world, this was the game that the world wanted to stop, but it happened regardless.

It wasn’t the opening of the tournament; it was an elongated cricket yawn live-streamed globally. The cricket world, it would seem, has let the ICC know that it was not excited.

Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo. @ajarrodkimber

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