Patient Abid cuts his way into cricket history at age 32

Pakistan's Abid Ali (L) celebrates after scoring century (100 runs) as teammate Pakistan's Babar Azam applauds during the fifth and final day of the first Test cricket match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi on December 15, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 16 December 2019

Patient Abid cuts his way into cricket history at age 32

  • He has long been knocking at the doors of international cricket
  • Abid is now the oldest Pakistani player to score a century on debut

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan: Nobody can accuse 32-year-old Abid Ali of not seizing his chances when given them.
Pakistan drew its first test at home in 10 years against Sri Lanka at the Pindi Cricket Stadium after rain washed out more than half of the match, but not before Abid had smashed a century on debut. He was batting at the same venue where Pakistan great Younis Khan scored a century on his test debut in 2000 — also against Sri Lanka.
Abid completed a unique double, becoming the batsman in the history of the sport to score a century in both his ODI and test debuts.
More than 12,000 cricket-starved fans — popularly known as ‘The Pindi Boys’ — enjoyed every moment of the opener’s innings under bright sunshine. He hit an unbeaten 109, featuring 11 fours. Six of those boundaries were his favorite cut shots.
Abid has long been knocking at the doors of international cricket but had to wait patiently until he got his chance in March this year during the limited-overs series.
A scintillating ODI century against Australia in the United Arab Emirates was not enough to convince the selectors that he was ready for the all-important World Cup in England.
But Abid didn’t lose heart and continued to polish his skills at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore. He was among the 16-man squad which toured Australia for the recent two-test series but couldn’t fit in new coach Misbah-ul-Haq’s plans. Pakistan returned home after heavy losses at Brisbane and Adelaide, where Abid watched from the sidelines.
Abid’s hopes were raised once again when he was selected for the home series against Sri Lanka, but there were still pundits who didn’t believe he’d get a chance in Rawalpindi.
“I had never grumbled whenever I was ignored,” Abid said. “I have patience. I believed that my time will come ... Thankfully I got my chance and what else you could ask for than a hundred on debut. I waited a long for this very day and here I am.”
Only 5.2 overs could be bowled on the third day and the entire fourth day was washed out due to wet conditions.
Bright sunshine welcomed players on the last day and Abid seized the opportunity Sunday after Sri Lanka declared its first innings at 308-6 once Dhananjaya de Silva had scored his sixth test hundred.
Together with Pakistan’s most reliable batsman Babar Azam, who scored his third test hundred, Abid enthralled fans under perfect batting conditions.
Abid, now the oldest Pakistani player to score a century on debut, said he didn’t want to be compared with the greats of the game.
“I am an ordinary player and I can’t match great players,” he said. “I am Abid Ali and please see me as Abid Ali only.”
But one of those greats has already acknowledged that a star is on the rise in the Pakistan team.
“We call him Legend” in the dressing room, Pakistan bowling coach Waqar Younis tweeted after Abid’s century.

UEFA demand leaves Scottish football clubs in the lurch

Updated 05 April 2020

UEFA demand leaves Scottish football clubs in the lurch

LONDON: UEFA’s ultimatum to national leagues that a failure to complete the football season could lead to exclusion from European competition has left the continent’s less wealthy leagues, like Scotland, in limbo.

Scottish clubs were due to meet by video-conference on Friday with the possibility of following the Belgian league’s recommendation to call their season to an end amid the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

That meeting has now been pushed back to next week as Scottish clubs scramble just to survive in the months to come with matches indefinitely suspended on public health grounds.

Meager television rights deals, in particular in comparison to the English Premier League across the border, have seen Scotland slide down the food chain of European football.

The existing broadcast contract for the Scottish Premiership is reportedly worth a total of just £21 million ($22.7 million) annually.

Clubs can therefore little afford to miss out on European competition, with even those who do not participate eligible for solidarity payments from UEFA.

“Since participation in UEFA club competitions is determined by the sporting result achieved at the end of a full domestic competition, a premature termination would cast doubts about the fulfillment of such condition,” UEFA said in a joint letter with the European Clubs Association and European Leagues.

UEFA has lifted a ban on the live screening of Premier League games kicking off at 3 p.m. in England and Scotland for the rest of the season.

The move by European football’s governing body is seen a step toward restarting some domestic competitions in Britain behind closed doors in order to complete the season.

Many Scottish clubs had been keen for the season to be called as it stands — with Celtic crowned champions — so that prize money could be handed out to solve a cash-flow crisis.

A proposal for league reconstruction whereby two teams are promoted and no side relegated from the top four leagues would also mitigate the damage and any potential legal challenges.

Instead, as so often, Scottish clubs have had to turn to their fanbases for support.

According to UEFA’s latest Club Licensing Benchmark report, gate receipts provide 43 percent of revenue for the 12 clubs in the Scottish Premiership, by far the highest in Europe’s top 20 leagues.

The inability to play games and get people through the gate has already resulted in Hearts asking players to take a 50 percent pay cut and members of the Hibernian squad deferring up to half their salary.

Wage deferrals are also on the horizon at Aberdeen, while even Celtic, who had 33 million pounds cash in the bank in their latest financial figures in February, are mulling wage cuts according to manager Neil Lennon.

Despite the fate of this season hanging in the balance, clubs are looking ahead with season tickets for the 2020/21 campaign a means to a short-term cash injection.

“I’ve been heartened by the messages of support I have received from fans asking what they can do to help the club through this really difficult period,” said Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack.

Season ticket sales are not the only reason why the smaller leagues in Europe are more keen to turn the page on the 2019/20 season.

With just 10 percent of income for Scottish clubs coming from the television deal that is due to expire at the end of this season, the big penalty clauses faced by Europe’s top five leagues with broadcasters for failing to fullfil fixtures are not as severe.

Ajax sporting director Marc Overmars criticized the Dutch FA for “hiding behind UEFA” and not being brave enough to call their season to a halt.

“We in the Netherlands are not as dependent on television rights incomes as the leagues in Spain, England, Italy and Germany are,” Overmars told De Telegraaf.

“I think that they had been put under big pressure by UEFA to continue playing at whatever cost.”

The issue is further complicated in Scotland with a new, more lucrative, TV deal — worth a reported 32 million pounds annually — set to start next season meaning clubs do not want to sacrifice a late start to the 2020/21 campaign for finishing this season.

“Given the timescales involved, with every day that passes I think it becomes more unrealistic,” Motherwell chief executive Alan Burrows told the BBC on the prospect of finishing the season.