Sarfraz proud of Imam and Babar as Pakistan survive Ireland scare

Sarfraz Ahmed during the press conference. (REUTERS)
Updated 16 May 2018

Sarfraz proud of Imam and Babar as Pakistan survive Ireland scare

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed praised the character of young batsmen Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam after they ensured his decision to enforce the follow-on in Ireland's inaugural Test did not backfire.

Only three times in the 141-year history of Test cricket have a side won after following-on but when Pakistan were 14 for three, chasing a modest 160 to win on Tuesday's final day of this stand-alone match, it seemed Ireland might mark their entry into the format with a stunning success.

But 22-year-old left-handed opener Imam, himself making a Test debut, responded to the pressure of the situation with a composed 74 not out -- his third fifty of the tour following half-centuries in warm-up matches against Kent and Northamptonshire.

Together with the 23-year-old Babar, who made 59 after being dropped on nine shortly after lunch, he shared a stand of 126 that took Pakistan to the brink of an eventual five-wicket win over a competitive Ireland side.

The way Imam in particular coped under grey skies against some lively pace bowling was an especially heartening sign for Pakistan ahead of their upcoming two-Test series in England, where conditions are likely to be similar to those they encountered at Dublin's Malahide.

It also meant Pakistan had not failed in a run chase again.
Their previous Test, against Sri Lanka in the UAE in October, saw them beaten after a target of 136 proved beyond them as left-arm spinner Rangana Herath took six wickets for 43 runs.

"Definitely we were worried when we were down 14 for three," Sarfraz told reporters.

"But it's really good that these two young players in our team, Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam, the way they played, they showed their character, they showed their confidence.

"I think the way they played gives great confidence to the team and will help them in the next matches as well," the wicket-keeper added.

Pakistan were reeling after losing three wickets inside five overs and their skipper feared another morale-sapping loss was at hand.

"You know previously it's not happened like this," admitted Sarfraz.

"In the last Test match when we were chasing 136 and we were all out for about 120.

"Yeah we were thinking when we called for the follow-on if we were batting in the fourth innings it would be very difficult," he added.

Pakistan, understandably enough, have been struggling to replace the likes of retired veteran batsmen Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan.

But Imam, whose selection for the tour led to allegations of nepotism given he is the nephew of Pakistan selection chief and former Test batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq, didn't just hold his nerve but counter-attacked with a maturity belying his lack of experience."

And with Faheem Ashraf, Pakistan's other debutant, making 83 in the first innings to take the tourists to beyond 300, Sarfraz was in buoyant mood.

"We are very confident. We are a very young side, we had two debutant players, but we were very confident whatever the target will come, we will chase it down.

"At 14 for three there was a little bit of concern but the way Imam and Babar Azam were as a collective, it was very important the way these two young players are batting.

"I think it's very good for Pakistan as a team to chase this on the fifth day."


Postponed Tokyo Olympics to cost extra $2.4bn

Updated 38 min 57 sec ago

Postponed Tokyo Olympics to cost extra $2.4bn

  • The extra costs come as officials work to build enthusiasm for the first Games postponed in peacetime,
  • Tokyo 2020 said an additional $1.5 billion would be needed for operational costs related to the delay

TOKYO: The coronavirus-delayed Tokyo Olympics will cost at least an extra $2.4 billion, organizers said Friday, with the unprecedented postponement and a raft of pandemic health measures ballooning an already outsized budget.
The extra costs come as officials work to build enthusiasm for the first Games postponed in peacetime, insisting the massive event can go ahead next year even if the pandemic is not under control.
But more spending, on top of the previous budget of about $13 billion, could further harden public opinion in Japan, where polls this year showed a majority of people think the Games should be postponed again or canceled together.
“Whether it’s seen as too much or that we have done well to contain the costs, I think it depends on how you look at it,” Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told reporters.
“We have done all we can to earn the public’s understanding,” he added.
Tokyo 2020 said an additional $1.5 billion would be needed for operational costs related to the delay, with another $900 million in spending on coronavirus countermeasures.
The dollar figures are calculated at an exchange rate of 107 yen, and the total is around $2.56 billion at today’s rate. The costs look set to rise further, with Tokyo 2020 saying it would also release an additional $250 million in “contingency” funds.

The new spending swells a budget that was set last year at around $13 billion, and will add to disquiet about the cost of the Games after an audit report last year argued the national government was spending significantly more than originally planned.
The extra costs will be split between Tokyo, the organizing committee and the national government. The International Olympic Committee will not be chipping in, but has agreed to waive its sponsor royalty fee for the first time, organizers said.
The unprecedented decision to delay the Games has thrown up a plethora of extra costs, from rebooking venues and transport to retaining the huge organizing committee staff.
And with organizers committed to hosting the Games even if the pandemic remains a threat, extensive safety measures will be needed.
Tokyo 2020 this week released a 54-page plan they said would make it possible to hold the Games, including restrictions on athletes touching and fans cheering, and an infection control center in the Olympic Village.
Organizers have tried to scale back elements of the Games, offering fewer free tickets, scrapping athlete welcome ceremonies and making savings on mascots, banners and meals, but so far they have cut just $280 million in spending.
And on Thursday, they said 18 percent of Olympic tickets sold in Japan will be refunded, with domestic fans demanding their money back on about 810,000 of the 4.45 million tickets sold in the country.


Organizers hope to now resell those tickets, and demand for seats at the Games was high before the pandemic.
But enthusiasm has since waned, with a poll in July revealing that just one in four people wanted to see the event held in 2021, and most backing either further delay or cancelation.
Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori said the spending plan was carefully considered and he hoped people would accept it.
“If you have a drink, you could say your glass is half-full, or half empty. It depends on how you look at it,” he told reporters.
“There’s a rationale behind this plan. I hope the Japanese people will understand it.”
Tokyo 2020’s final price tag has been hotly disputed, with an audit report last year estimating the national government spent nearly 10 times its original budget between 2013-2018.
Organizers countered that the estimate included items not directly related to the Games.