Pakistan welcomes foreign cricket stars for Twenty20 league

In this file photo, Pakistani fans hold placards to celebrate the resumption of international cricket in their country. Foreign players have also arrived in Karachi this year to play the last few matches of the Pakistan Super League. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 March 2019
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Pakistan welcomes foreign cricket stars for Twenty20 league

  • Foreign players say “the crowd was electric” in the last PSL games in Pakistan
  • Experts believe the tournament will play a major role in the revival of international cricket in the country

KARACHI: Cricket-mad Pakistan is welcoming a host of foreign stars who defied security fears and Indian-Pakistani tensions to feature in the last eight matches of its domestic Twenty20 League, starting in Karachi from Saturday.
The first 26 matches of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) were played in United Arab Emirates, and there had been speculation that remainder would also have to be held there as soaring tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi sparked fears of an all-out conflict.
But with the situation easing the matches will go ahead, though three that had been planned for Lahore — close to the Indian border — will now be held in the southern port city of Karachi.
Some 40 foreign players — led by former Australian all-rounder Shane Watson, current New Zealand opener Colin Munro and West Indian stars Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy and Kieron Pollard — arrive in Karachi Friday to join the six-team competition.
Watson, who plays for Quetta Gladiators but declined to visit Pakistan for the PSL final and three play-off matches in 2017, said he consulted his family before taking the trip.
“It was a tough decision to make,” said Watson, who played 59 Tests, 190 one-day and 58 Twenty20 internationals for Australia before retiring in 2016.
“It’s been 14 years since I last visited Pakistan, a place with some of the most passionate fans in world cricket. Can’t wait to give it our best shot in winning the trophy,” Watson said in a video message released by the Gladiators.
He was part of the last Australian “A” team that toured Pakistan in 2005.
The chief executive of the International Cricket Council David Richardson and Cricket Australia head of security Sean Carroll are among the foreign officials who are also set to visit.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ehsan Mani said the matches will help improve the country’s chances of reviving international cricket.
“I am delighted to welcome the foreign players who have come here for the PSL and I am sure it will help us bringing more international matches to the country,” said Mani.
Pakistan has gradually revived international cricket since it was suspended following attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore ten years ago.
It was six years before Pakistan hosted any international cricket when minnows Zimbabwe toured in 2015, while the Qaddafi Stadium hosted the PSL final in March 2017, and a World XI also played three Twenty20 internationals in Lahore.
But the biggest event was Sri Lanka’s return for a one-off Twenty20 international in October 2017.
Mani said holding the remainder of the PSL this year, including the March 17 final, and a possible 16 PSL matches next year will add to the momentum.
“The perception that foreigners have about the safety situation in Pakistan will change and they will be satisfied with the security arrangements,” he said.
Some 13,000 policemen and 2,500 para-military personnel will be on duty in Karachi, and police said fans will be required to show their tickets and national identity cards.
England’s Liam Dawson, part of the Peshawar team, said he looks forward to playing before passionate crowds.
“I toured Pakistan last year and the atmosphere was unbelievable. We played three games and the crowd was electric,” he recalled.
“It will be the same this time as well and I am happy to be part of that cricket revival.”


Siakam has 30 points, Raptors top Magic 98-93 for 2-1 lead

Updated 20 April 2019
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Siakam has 30 points, Raptors top Magic 98-93 for 2-1 lead

  • Siakam was 13 for 20 from the floor
  • Raptors held Orlando to 36% shooting

ORLANDO, Florida: Pascal Siakam had 30 points and 11 rebounds, Kawhi Leonard added 16 points and the Toronto Raptors held off the Orlando Magic 98-93 on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round series.
Siakam was 13 for 20 from the floor and the Raptors held Orlando to 36% shooting. Leonard had 10 rebounds, Danny Green had 13 points and Kyle Lowry finished with 12 points and 10 assist.
Terrence Ross led Orlando with 24 points, and Nikola Vucevic shook off a slow start to finish with 22 points and 14 rebounds.
Game 4 is Sunday night in Orlando.
The Raptors trailed 61-60 midway through the third, then went on a 16-0 run over the next four minutes to take the lead for good. Siakam and Green were both 3 for 3 during the run, the Magic missed 10 consecutive shots over a span of 6 1/2 minutes and had to play uphill the rest of the way.
That being said, they went down swinging.
Lowry’s 3-pointer with 7:48 left gave Toronto its biggest lead at 86-69. The Magic came flying back, and Ross’ 3-pointer with 41 seconds left got Orlando to 96-93.
Leonard was short with a jumper on the next possession — but the Magic couldn’t control the rebound, and were doomed shortly afterward. Leonard made a pair of free throws with 12.9 seconds remaining to make it a two-possession game again, and that closed the scoring.
Orlando, which finished the regular season by winning 13 of its final 14 home games, was 13 of 44 from 3-point range.
Toronto scored the first 10 points — the last five by Siakam, who was a problem from the outset for the Magic — and led by as many as 11 in the first half.
Orlando got within one on three occasions in the first half, but never got the lead in the opening 24 minutes. Toronto took a 48-45 lead into the break after Ross beat the clock from midcourt at the buzzer.
He took off from the Magic logo and released the ball with about a half-second remaining, it hitting the square on the backboard perfectly and dropping through. Ross never broke stride, watching the ball’s flight as he ran and kept going through the tunnel leading to the Magic locker room.
TIP-INS
Raptors: Toronto had lost four consecutive Game 3s. ... Patrick McCaw (sprained right thumb) was active, but did not play. ... The Raptors are 6-1 in their last seven road games this season. ... Siakam has 73 points and 30 rebounds in the series.
Magic: Among the former Orlando players in the building were Tracy McGrady, Jameer Nelson and Horace Grant. ... Orlando missed three shots at the rim in one third-quarter possession. Vucevic missed at the rim, and Gordon couldn’t convert on two putback tries. ... Attendance was 19,367, the second-most in the Amway Center’s nine-season history.
GOVERNOR SPEAKS
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state’s first lady Casey DeSantis were in attendance and received Magic “46” jerseys — a nod to his being the 46th governor of the Sunshine State. The governor and Magic CEO Alex Martins spoke pregame about the hope for Orlando to get another All-Star Game soon, though all through 2022 has already been awarded to other Eastern Conference cities — and Milwaukee, another East city, has expressed interest in 2023.
UP NEXT
Game 4 is Sunday night in Orlando.