KABUL: When the rattling sound of Kalashnikov assault rifles resonates in the streets of Kabul, it's more often than not because of an attack by Taliban insurgents. But that changed, for once, on Wednesday, the shots being fired in celebration at Afghanistan's victory over India to win the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) title.
The smell of burning cordite enveloped the Afghan city after the national team's 2-0 win over the Indians in Kathmandu thanks to goals from Mustafa Azadzoy and Sandjar Ahmadi.
The victory will no doubt reinforce the popularity of the national team that already grabbed the right headlines with a 3-0 win in a friendly against Pakistan, the neighbouring state with which Afghanistan shares stormy political relations.
As the win over India played out, Afghans did not wait for the referee's final whistle for some welcome relief, packing cafes, restaurants and businesses throughout Kabul that showed the game on television.
In a tearoom in the old city, some 20 people crammed around a television set mounted on a wall.
Situated on the first floor of a rickety house, the tearoom had small platforms covered in red carpet on which the clientele stretched out to drink tea, smoke cigarettes or hashish. “I came here to visit my brother and also to watch football,” said 30-year-old civil servant Gholam Rasol Lala.
“I love to watch football, especially the English championship. It's good for us, it makes us forget the war and the attacks that we can see every day in our country.”
When Azadzoy opened the scoring after a badly attempted clearance by Indian goalkeeper Subrata Paul, it was met by deafening cheers and applause.
“They're playing very well,” beamed tearoom regular Gul Raman.
A little further down the street was a restaurant also showing the game. The owner was left rubbing his hands in delight at the sight of his packed establishment, grilled kebabs of meat accompanied by long, spiced chips selling like hot cakes.
With no places left to sit inside, dozens of locals massed in front of the restaurant in an ambitious bid to spy the small-screened television set up at the far end of the establishment.
Abdel Wahed, 21, avoided any disruption to his viewing entertainment by simply going to a shop selling televisions.
The final was broadcast on a big screen still sporting its plastic protective wrapping. “If we win, there will be a big celebration,” the 21-year-old Barcelona fan said.
“We went through three decades of war so it is good to think about something else from time to time.” When Sandjar Ahmadi chipped 'keeper Paul for Afganistan's second in the 62nd minute of a fast-paced final, and the team then held on for the win, the relief was palpable.
“We won, this is so exciting!” cried Abdul Salam. “They struggled to be there, to ensure that the name of Afghanistan will be known for something other than war and attacks.”
Out in the street, car horns blazed, guns rattled and groups of fans came together waving the Afghan flag.
Scenes familiar in the West – perhaps apart from the guns – but incredibly rare in a country still battling the Taliban, who have been leading a bloody insurgency since their regime was toppled in late 2001.
The national team players will return as heroes to Afghanistan. And they will doubtless be better off after the government promised each player an apartment should they win – not bad when you earn nine dollars a day as a professional footballer in the country ranked 139th in the world.
HARARE: Pakistan took nine wickets in an extended morning session to beat Zimbabwe by 221 runs on the fifth day of the first Test at the Harare Sports Club on Saturday.
Zimbabwe, set an unlikely 342 to win, were bowled out for 120.
Left-arm fast bowler Junaid Khan made the initial breakthrough, taking two wickets in his first eight balls of the day after Zimbabwe resumed at 13 for one.
Then spinners Abdur Rehman and Saeed Ajmal took over, finishing with four wickets apiece.
Left-armer Rehman, who followed up Junaid's opening burst by taking the next three wickets, took four for 36, while Ajmal wrapped up the tail to take four for 23.
Off-spinner Ajmal finished with match figures of 11 for 118, the fourth time he had taken 10 or more wickets in a match.
Zimbabwe were in trouble from the sixth ball of the day when captain Hamilton Masakadza gloved a short delivery from Junaid to gully.
Overnight batsman Vusi Sibanda was out lbw in Junaid's next over to reduce the home side to 19 for three.
Sikandar Raza and Malcolm Waller, who shared a century partnership in the first innings, provided some resistance with a fourth wicket stand of 30 before Waller swept left-arm spinner Rehman to backward square leg where the tall Rahat Ali stretched skywards to hold a catch.
Raza was dropped by wicketkeeper Adnan Akmal off Rahat when he was on 17 but made only seven more runs before he was caught at short leg off Rehman.
Elton Chigumbura took advantage of ultra-attacking fields to strike 28 off 35 balls, with five fours, before he became Rehman's third victim, caught at slip.
Wickets tumbled and play was extended when Zimbabwe were eight down at the scheduled lunch break, enabling Pakistan to complete an early victory in a match in which Zimbabwe had the better of the first three day's play.
An unbeaten double century by veteran Younis Khan gave Pakistan the edge though, and he was later named man of the match.
“Zimbabwe won the game for three-and-a-half days,” admitted Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq.
“Younis played a match-winning innings that changed the game.”
Zimbabwe had led by 78 runs on the first innings and were still on top deep into the Pakistan second innings before Younis' unbeaten 200 allowed the tourists to declare on 419 for nine, leaving Zimbabwe with what proved an impossible task.
Misbah acknowledged that Zimbabwe had played well for much of the match but said his team need to improve in the second Test, which starts at the same venue on Tuesday. “We need to be on the money right from the start,” he said.
Hamilton Masakadza, who took over the captaincy when Brendan Taylor withdrew on the morning of the match after the birth of his first child, said Zimbabwe had fought hard and played well for much of the match.
“The main thing is to focus on the positives,” said Masakadza.
“We did compete and we were ahead for three-and-a-half days. The bowlers bowled really well and the batsmen applied themselves in the first innings.”
Scores: Pakistan 249 and 419-9 declared (Younis Khan 200 not out; Prosper Utseya 3-137) def. Zimbabwe 327 and 120 (Elton Chigumbura 28; Saeed Ajmal 4-23, Abdur Rehman 4-36) by 221 runs.
The opening ceremony of PSA 1st flood light Cricket Tournament took place in Kuwait Cricket's Sulaibiya Cricket ground at 8:00 PM on August 29th , 2013.
Director PNES Mr. Majid Ali Ch. inaugurated the tournament as the Chief Guest. The event is being organized by the Pakistan Sports Association Kuwait with auspicious of Kuwait Cricket.
Mr. Majid Ali Ch said, "it is great initiative to promote healthy activities in the youth and providing the sports lovers a great event of thrill & excitement. I am very delighted to see the youngsters excitement in the event and wish all the best to all participating teams." He assured all his support to PSA in future as well.
16 teams from all around Kuwait are participating in this flood light Cricket Tournament based on knock out system. Mr. Majid Ali Ch. inaugurated the tournament by hitting the ball along with other prestigious guests including Muhammad Arif Butt, Hafiz Muhammad Shabbir, Dr. Shuja ud Din, Malik Noor Muhammad, Tariq Nazir, Col Anjum Masood, Riaz Chaudhry, Atif Siddiqui, Naveed Shehzad, Tariq Mehmood, Tariq Iqbal, Sajjad Naveed, Muhammad Hafeez and other guests.
Founder of Pakistan Sports Association Kuwait & Tournament Director, Muhammad Irfan Adil highlighted PSA aim to promote the sports activities and particularly game of cricket in the region. He extended his gratitude to Kuwait Cricket and Director General of Kuwait Cricket Mr. Asad Baig & Director of KCUP Mr. Riaz Chaudhary for their all time support and guidance to make everything possible. He appreciated Naveed Iqbal Butt, Head of Administration, Members of admin committee Ali Raza, Irfan Shafique, Muddassar Iqbal & Younus Shahid for their marvelous efforts to organize this event in very short time of one week.
Pakistan and India clash in a mouth-watering duel in Group ‘A’ of the SAFF Championship in Kathmandu on Sunday with both teams looking to put one over their arch-rivals.
Pakistan are confident that they can give their more illustrious rivals a good game with India looking to open with a victory as they start the defence of their title they won two years ago in New Delhi.
With Pakistan having been joined by five of their foreign-based players, coach Shahzad Anwar was upbeat ahead of their clash with their neighbours.
Shahzad, formerly the assistant of Pakistan’s ex-coach Zavisa Milosavljevic, is in-charge of the team for the event after the Serbian was fired ahead of the SAFF Championship.
Pakistan’s newly-appointed Bahraini coach Mohammad Al Shamlan is with the team in Nepal as a consultant.
“We have had very good preparations and I can say that my team has the ability to beat anyone at the Championship,” Shahzad said at a pre-match news conference.
“We are under no pressure at all and are very motivated for the clash against India as we look forward to showing our best.
“We have emphasized on special training session and the boys are in good shape.”
India’s Dutch coach Wim Koevermans also conducted high intensity training sessions for the team ahead of their game against Pakistan.
“India versus Pakistan is always special,” Koevermans said at a press conference ahead of the game.
“In fact, the players know more about it than me. We have had high intensity training sessions after arriving in Kathmandu and the boys have trained properly.
“We want to defend our title. India are the team to beat at the Championship and there’s always pressure on a team which wins. But we are ready for it.”
Pakistan haven’t had the best of preparations for the event, losing 3-0 to Afghanistan in an international friendly in Kabul before being held to draw by Nepal’s junior teams in their last warm-up game.
In those games, though Pakistan didn’t have the services of ace defender Zesh Rehman who is hoping that he — along with Pakistan’s four other foreign players Hassan Bashir, Adnan Ahmed, Yousuf Butt and Yaqoob Butt — galvanizes a team which has looked lacklustre at times.
“My aim is to win the Championship,” former Fulham centre-back Zesh said in a recent interview. “This would be the pinnacle of my international career.”
Pakistan will be led by Zesh’s defensive partner Samar Ishaq, a rock at the back for Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) in the PPFL.
“I want to do well for the country,” Samar said at the end of last season’s PPFL where he guided KRL to the title. “If we do well at international level, we can hope for a better future.”
Indian captain Sunil Chettri, meanwhile, is just three goals away from being India’s all-time leading scorer.
But that isn’t on his mind when his team take on Pakistan.
“Goals are just numbers,” he told the All-India Football Federation (AIFF) website in an interview ahead of the SAFF event.
“We’re the defending champions and there is no chance to be complacent.”
Meanwhile, Nepal kicked off the SAFF Championship with a 2-0 victory against Bangladesh on Saturday. First-half goals by Anil Gurung and Bharat Khwas helped the Nepalese side seize early control of Group 'A'.
HARARE: Captain Misbah-ul-Haq led from the front with a half century and two brilliant run outs as Pakistan defeated Zimbabwe by 108 runs in the final one-day international to clinch the series 2-1.
Misbah made a resolute 67 off 85 balls which lifted Pakistan to 260-6 and then ignited the Zimbabwe collapse by running out Taylor (26) and Sean Williams (2) before Pakistan spinners eventually dismissed the home team for 152 runs in 40 overs.
Malcolm Waller fought a lone battle with 48 off 71 balls before he was the last man to be dismissed. Spinners Saeed Ajmal (2-15), Abdul Rehman (2-23) and Mohammad Hafeez (2-40) all were among wickets as Zimbabwe struggled to come to terms with Pakistan's experienced spinning trio.
“There was a little inconsistent bounce and pace (in the wicket) so I wanted to make sure we played the 50 overs and post something around 250-260,” Misbah said.
Zimbabwe shocked Pakistan with a seven-wicket win in the first match before Pakistan leveled the series with a convincing 90-run win.
Zimbabwe, which has not won an ODI series against a major team for the last 12 years, looked threatening briefly in their run-chase at 66-2 in the 15th over before Misbah ran out Taylor off a brilliant direct throw from covers.
Highly rated Sikandar Raza (6), playing his first match of the series, was trapped leg before by Mohammad Hafeez before Misbah inflicted another dent by running out Williams as Zimbabwe lost three wickets in space of nine runs.
Afridi then had Elton Chigumbura leg before wicket in his first over before Waller and Prosper Utseya (23) delayed the inevitable with a 58-run stand.
Earlier after being sent in to bat, Misbah made 67 off 85 balls with six boundaries, and opening batsman Ahmed Shehzad also faced as many deliveries for his 54, hitting three fours.
Shehzad and Nasir Jamshed (38) provided a steady start of 66 runs before Pakistan was pegged back when Hafeez pulled a hamstring in the 23rd over and had to retire.
Hafeez returned in the second last over and added 14 more to his score to remain unbeaten on 26. Fast bowler Tendai Chatara (3-48) was the pick of Zimbabwe bowlers.
Zimbabwe's part-time bowlers – left-arm spinner Williams and medium fast Hamilton Masakadza – conceded just 36 runs in between their 10 overs with the latter claiming the wicket of Shehzad as Pakistan struggled to 130-2 in 35 overs.
However, left-handed Umar Amin (33 off 25 balls) lifted the scoring tempo by adding 51 runs off 48 balls with Misbah before offspinner Utseya made a good two-handed reflex catch off his own bowling to end Amin's innings.
Zimbabwe bowlers lost their grip in the last six overs with wicketkeeper batsman Sarfraz Ahmed (22) adding another brisk 48 off 28 balls before he was brilliantly caught low down by captain Brendan Taylor behind the wickets.
“The openers gave us a good start but the game changed when Amin came in and Sarfraz (Ahmed) also batted well and we managed a good total,” Misbah said.
Misbah was out in the last over while attempting a big hit when he holed out in the deep to Raza which gave Shingi Masakadza (1-65), younger brother of Hamilton, his only wicket of the innings.
Both teams now compete in a two-test series with the first test beginning next Tuesday. “We have a very settled test squad and everyone is performing,” Misbah said.
“They know their role and most of them are seniors now so it's not a problem for us.”
HARARE: The final one-day international between Zimbabwe and Pakistan on Saturday looks set to go ahead after Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) fended off another proposed player strike over unpaid wages on Friday.
ZC had promised that all money owing to the players, who have not been paid since the end of June, would be settled by Wednesday after the players refused to train ahead of Pakistan's tour.
However the board failed to meet that deadline, sparking further conversations among the players when they arrived for training on Friday morning.
The players took part in some planning sessions for Saturday's third ODI, but threatened to boycott the match if the money owed to them was not in their accounts by 5pm (1500 GMT).
Although that has not happened, it is believed that transfers were made by ZC in front of a group of senior players on Friday afternoon.
One player told AFP that he expected Saturday's match to go ahead, but that a collective decision would only be made when Zimbabwe's cricketers arrived at Harare Sports Club in the morning.
However should ZC, who are swaddled with debt, continue to stall then the players may issue a new ultimatum for next week's Test match.
The first Test of a two-match series is due to get underway in Harare on Tuesday.
In the meantime, should they take the field on Saturday Zimbabwe will have the opportunity to inflict their first ever one-day series victory over Pakistan.
Having endured the ignominy of a seven-wicket defeat to Zimbabwe in the first ODI on Tuesday, Pakistan bounced back to win the second match by 90 runs thanks largely to Mohammad Hafeez's classy century.
However Misbah-ul-Haq's side know that they are not out of the woods, and are determined to avoid another indelible black mark on their record from a side who are ranked tenth in the world and have clashed regularly with their own board over the course of the past five months.
“Playing against such teams can be difficult because when you lose to them, the defeat is remembered for a long time,” said Umar Amin, who made 59 on Thursday.
“Saturday's game is very crucial - a series decider - so we need to win it.”
HARARE: A sturdy 85 from Hamilton Masakadza and a crucial late cameo from Sean Williams saw Zimbabwe record their first oneday win over Pakistan since 1998. Chasing 245 in the first one-day international of a threematch series yesterday, Masakadza laid the platform before Williams finished the job with an unbeaten 39 from 23 deliveries as Zimbabwe won by seven wickets with 10 balls to spare. Although Misbah-ul-Haq held the Pakistan innings together in his 50th consecutive ODI as Pakistan captain, he was left to lament his decision to bat first at a venue where the pitch generally improves as the day goes on. “We misread the pitch – it was looking like it was going to be slow in the second innings, but I think it was slow in the first innings and played better in the second,” said Misbah. “Still I think Zimbabwe really deserved it – they played really well and played better than us.
There was no panic in their batting line-up and they did it comfortably.” Misbah finished unbeaten on 83 and shared in a 99-run stand for the third wicket with Mohammad Hafeez, who made 70, but with Pakistan’s middle and lower order failing to fire they could only manage 244 for seven. It could have been far worse for the tourists had Zimbabwe held their catches – both Nasir Jamshed and Ahmed Shehzad were put down during an opening partnership of 56, while Hafeez was let off on 10 and 55. Misbah required no such luck in a well-paced knock that saw him go to fifty in 62 balls before opening up towards the end, and his two sixes off Tinashe Panyangara in the final over of the innings ensured that Pakistan at least had something to bowl at. However Masakadza, who was restored to the top of the Zimbabwean innings for Pakistan’s tour, put on a confident stand of 107 with his opening partner Vusi Sibanda as Pakistan’s bowlers found little assistance in the pitch.
Sibanda was eventually trapped lbw for 54 by Saeed Ajmal, but Brendan Taylor maintained stability with a calm 43 not out as he and Masakadza took Zimbabwe to 176 for one in the 38th over. Masakadza missed out on a potential century when he slapped an Ajmal delivery straight to short extra cover, and the pressure was back on when Timycen Maruma put in another nervous showing with the bat. Zimbabwe needed a nerveless innings to put them back on track, and Williams provided it as he struck four fours before finishing the game in emphatic fashion when he hit Mohammad Irfan for six over wide longon.” We were badly beaten by India a couple of weeks back, so to come out with that sort of performance shows a lot of character,” said Taylor. “To beat the quality team that they’ve got shows we’re doing the right things, and it just shows that if our top-order batters come off it lays that foundation.” The two sides meet again at the same venue tomorrow. — AFP