Test cricket to return to Pakistan with Sri Lanka’s visit

Asad Shafiq of Pakistan bats during the Test cricket match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka at Dubai International Cricket Ground in Dubai on October 10, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 14 November 2019

Test cricket to return to Pakistan with Sri Lanka’s visit

  • Sri Lanka will play a two-match series at Rawalpindi and Karachi next month
  • The series is part of ICC’s World Test Championship

ISLAMABAD: Test cricket is set to return to Pakistan after more than 10 years when Sri Lanka plays a two-match series at Rawalpindi and Karachi next month.
Sri Lanka was the last team to play a test match in Pakistan in March 2009, when the team’s bus came under attack at Lahore. Eight people were killed during the terror attack, and several Sri Lankan players were injured.
All incoming tours were canceled after the attack and Pakistan later lost its status as a co-host for the 2011 Cricket World Cup.
The Pakistan Cricket Board on Thursday said Sri Lanka Cricket had confirmed next month’s tour would go ahead, based on the successful staging of a series of one-day and Twenty20 internationals at Karachi and Lahore in September and October.
Sri Lanka was originally scheduled to play the test series last month and then return to Pakistan for a limited-overs series in December. However, the tours were swapped so that Sri Lanka officials could assess the security situation in Pakistan before deciding on the test venues.
Rawalpindi is now scheduled to host the first test from Dec. 11-15, and the second test will be played at Karachi from Dec. 19-23. The series is part of ICC’s World Test Championship.
Zakir Khan, the PCB’s director of operations, said that the confirmation of next month’s test matches reflected confidence in Pakistan’s safety situation.
“This series is part of our cricket celebrations and we will leave no stone unturned in putting up a show which is a memorable one for the players, officials, fans and media,” Khan said.
Several top Sri Lanka players withdrew from the limited-overs series in Pakistan because of security concerns. Sri Lanka lost the ODI series 2-0 after the first game was washed out, but it’s second-string team sprung a huge surprise when it swept Pakistan 3-0 in the Twenty20 series at Lahore.
The SLC said it was satisfied with the visit and the high-level security provided for the team.
Sri Lanka Cricket chief executive Ashley de Silva said he believed cricket’s member nations should host their home matches in their own countries.
“We believe all cricket playing countries should host international cricket at home and in this relation we are happy to play our part in complete resumption of international cricket in Pakistan, which not only has a proud history but has been one of our biggest supporters in our early days as a cricket nation,” he said.
“We drew our opening World Test Championship series against New Zealand, and I anticipate, like in the past, these two tests will be exciting and competitive, and the fans will thoroughly enjoy the quality of cricket that will be on display.”
Pakistan has hosted its home games at neutral venues in the United Arab Emirates and in England during the last decade. The Pakistan team will play two test matches in Australia before returning for the series against Sri Lanka.


Barcelona beaten by Valencia in early blow for Setien

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in action against Valencia’s Francis Coquelin during their La Liga match in Valencia on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 26 January 2020

Barcelona beaten by Valencia in early blow for Setien

  • Uruguayan striker Maxi Gomez misses a penalty, hits the crossbar in the first half

VALENCIA: Quique Setien’s honeymoon period lasted less than a fortnight as he tasted his first Barcelona defeat on Saturday in his second La Liga game in charge after a 2-0 loss to Valencia.

Maxi Gomez’s strike and a Jordi Alba own goal at Mestalla handed Barca their fourth league defeat of the campaign, giving Real Madrid the chance to move three points clear of the champions at the top of the table when they visit Real Valladolid on Sunday.
Barcelona had most of the ball but their opponents had the best chances as Gomez missed a penalty and also hit the crossbar in the first half. Gabriel Paulista saw a third goal ruled out late on.
While performances under previous coach Ernesto Valverde were stodgy, he left a team that sat top of the table.
Setien promised a new style but despite dominating possession, Barcelona went nowhere with it and as Valencia grew in confidence, they ceded control.
“It should not take us long,” Setien had said on Friday, when asked how quickly his players could adapt to his methods.
Valencia climb to fifth and continue to improve under Albert Celades. This success came without their captain Dani Parejo and, largely, without star striker Rodrigo Moreno, who has been linked with a January move to Barcelona.
The hosts hardly touched the ball for the first six minutes, their fans whistling as they urged a more aggressive approach.
But the plan was to sit and absorb and it worked, with Barcelona unable to cut through or create a single clear chance.
And when Valencia did intervene, they were more dangerous too. With their first attack they won a penalty as Jose Gaya slipped past Gerard Pique and would surely have scored from eight yards before being brought down.
Pique was booked and, with Parejo absent, Gomez stepped up, only for his driven shot to be well saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, albeit with the help of half a yard’s headstart off his line.
Barca were riding their luck. Sergi Roberto’s header cannoned off Pique but fell just close enough for Ter Stegen, who parried a Gomez shot onto the crossbar and almost spilled another to Kevin Gameiro.
Referee Gil Manzano put his hands together as if to apologize after failing to play advantage when Ferran Torres was clear but the frustration of Valencia’s fans turned to ecstasy shortly after half time.
Pique’s flicked header landed at the feet of Gomez, whose driven effort took a cruel deflection off Alba and flew in.
Setien traded the patience of Arthur Melo for the physicality of Arturo Vidal and Rodrigo came on to a rousing reception.
Barcelona exerted some pressure and Lionel Messi led the way, hauled to the ground by Francis Coquelin and then denied by a brilliant Gabriel tackle. He fired past the post, headed wide and saw a curling free kick saved.
Yet just as a Barcelona equalizer began to feel inevitable, Valencia struck again. A quick throw caught Alba out of position and Torres did well to cut inside and switch to Gomez. He took a touch and curled into the corner.
Gabriel thought he had a third after volleying in from a corner but VAR persuaded Manzano there had been a push. When Messi ballooned a late free kick into the stands, Valencia knew their win was secure.

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