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 Wife Andrea will co-drive in French star’s new victory bid; Sunderland leads chase for bikes title

Stéphane Peterhansel, the most successful competitor in the history of cross country rallying, will take his place in a star-studded line-up for the 29th edition of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge powered by Nissan.

Driving an X-raid Mini John Cooper Works buggy the Frenchman, who has won the event five times as a driver and once as a rider, will be partnered by his wife, Andrea (née Andrea Mayer), who has previously finished the rally on two and four wheels and returns as a navigator for the first time.

They are among 119 competitors from 34 countries in the official entry list issued today by the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE), the rally organisers, who are now busily preparing for the start on Saturday (30 March) at Yas Marina Circuit, the event’s official HQ.

From there the next morning 80 cars, buggies, bikes and quads will set off for five spectacular desert stages across the giant dunes and sabka plains of the Al Dafrah Region.

Peterhansel, who won the Desert Challenge bikes title in 1996 and secured the last of his five cars victories in 2011, is among 39 drivers contesting the second round of the 2019 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars and buggies. The line-up includes 16 T1 prototype vehicles.

Heading the seedings list are the top two from this year’s FIA World Cup standings after the first round in Qatar, Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Alrajhi in a Toyota Hillux Overdrive and Russia’s 2014 and 2015 Desert Challenge winner Vladimir Vasilyev in a BMW X3.

Czech defending champion Martin Prokop is back at the wheel of a Ford Raptor RS, Poland’s Jakub Przygonski returns to action in the Mini John Cooper Works Buggy which took him to a second victory in a row in the recent Dubai International Baja while the UAE’s Khalid Al Qassimi chases his second Desert Challenge triumph in his Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot 3008 DKR.

Frenchman Cyril Despres, a five-times Desert Challenge bikes winner, drives another X-raid Mini John Cooper Works buggy while Yasir Seaidan in a Nissan Navara is one of five Saudis entered.
Another Saudi, Khaled Al Feraihi at the wheel of a Nissan Patrol Pick Up, will be aiming to succeed fellow-countryman Ahmed Al Shegawi as winner of the T2 production cars category.

Starting his 29th consecutive Desert Challenge in a Nissan Pick Up is Yahya Al Helei, one of five drivers carrying the UAE flag. Spain’s Jose-Luis Pena Campo returns to UAE action in a Polaris looking to retain his buggies title.

Sam Sunderland, the 2017 Desert Challenge bikes champion, is the top seed among 41 riders for the opening round of this year’s FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.

His biggest challengers this time include last year’s third-placed Argentinian Kevin Benavides and his Honda team-mates Joan Barreda Bort of Spain and Chile’s Jose Cornejo, as well as KTM’s Argentinian rider Luciano Benavides and American Husqvarna rider Andrew Short.

Taking place under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in Al Dafrah Region, the Desert Challenge is supported Abu Dhabi Aviation, Abu Dhabi Police, ADNOC, Al Ain Water, Al Dhafra Region Ruler’s Representative Court, National Ambulance, Nissan, United Arab Emirates Armed Forces and Yas Marina Circuit. The Nissan Patrol is the official car for the event.

The most celebrated competitor in Dakar Rally history, with six bikes triumphs between 1991-1998 and seven cars victories from 2004-2017, Peterhansel first competed with his wife beside him in the 2016 Italian Baja – while on honeymoon.

Like her husband, Andrea progressed from bikes to cars in cross country rallying, finishing sixth in the 2001 Desert Challenge on a KTM and fifth in a Mitsubishi Pajero in 2013, a year before securing a top ten Dakar finish.

“Stéphane and Andrea are great friends of the Desert Challenge and we’re very happy to welcome them back,” said ATCUAE President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the FIA Vice President for Sport.

“They’re both fantastic competitors and it will be interesting to see how they complete as a team against some of the best driver / co-driver partnerships in the world.”

Following the 7.30pm ceremonial start at Yas Marina Circuit on Saturday, the powerful assembly of rally cars, buggies, bikes and quads heads out from Abu Dhabi for the first of five demanding desert stages in the Al Dafrah Region.

For five nights the 800-strong contingent of competitors, technicians, officials, medical staff, volunteers and media will be encamped at a purpose-built bivouac close to the Qasr Al-Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara. The event finishes at 5pm on Thursday 4 April back at Yas Marina Circuit which hosts the official prize giving the same evening.

Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge powered by Nissan, rally itinerary:

30 March:        Ceremonial start at Yas Marina Circuit – 7.30pm

31 March:        Yas Marina Circuit Stage 1 (261.97km) – starting 9am

1 April:            Al Ain Water Stage 2 (222.80km) – starting 6.00am

2 April:            Nissan Stage 3 (297.97km) – starting 6.15am

3 April:            ADNOC Stage 4 (286.10km) – starting 6.00am

4 April:            Abu Dhabi Aviation Stage 5 (214.47km) – starting 6.25am

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SUNDERLAND READY FOR BATTLE ON GRUELLING DESERT CHALLENGE TRAIL

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ATCUAE research, Al Ain Water stations help competitors fight off threat of dehydration

When Sam Sunderland sets off in pursuit of a second bikes crown in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge Powered by Nissan, the British rider faces a number of battles over five days in the deserts of the UAE.

Taking place under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in Al Dafrah Region, the Desert Challenge is also supported Abu Dhabi Aviation, Abu Dhabi Police, ADNOC, Al Dhafra Region Ruler’s Representative Court, National Ambulance, Nissan, United Arab Emirates Armed Forces and Yas Marina Circuit. The Nissan Patrol is the official car for the event.

Sunderland, winner in 2017 shortly after capturing the Dakar Rally title, will be up against the cream of cross country rallying talent in a line-up of 41 riders for the opening round of this year’s FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.

None of them know the demanding terrain better than the KTM star for whom Dubai became his adopted home 10 years ago, and when the rally breaks out in to the Al Dafrah Region on Sunday morning, no-one will be better prepared for the gruelling test ahead.

For bike and quad riders, particularly the amateurs sharing the stage with the world’s best, the threat of dehydration is ever present in the desert heat, with many facing the exhausting task of digging themselves free from the soft sand traps along the five-day route from 31 March.

“All of our races are in extreme environments and it’s necessary to take care about your fluid and electrolytes, but I think most of the top riders have this under control,” said Sunderland, speaking from the KTM training camp in Morocco.

“It’s normally new riders that aren’t used to the heat or exertion for long periods of time that come unstuck. I’m in very good shape, which is important at the start of a new season, of course once you have won the race once it has to be your goal to do it again and that’s what I will be aiming for. We will just have to see how the strategy plays out without a prologue.”

Research carried out by the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the rally organisers, in conjunction with Al Ain Water has spotlighted the risks, and effects of dehydration.

“It’s a very serious threat to both competitors and volunteers working in high temperatures,” said ATCUAE President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the FIA Vice President for Sport. “Dehydration affects physical and mental performance, and even at low levels can have severe physiological effects. Side effects include poor concentration, co-ordination and reaction time and that can lead to accidents. So keeping competitors and volunteers hydrated is a major priority.”

With Al Ain Water stations set up along the five-day rally route, competitors, officials, and the volunteer marshals working out in the desert for hours on end never run short.

“This has been our mission for the past 14 years as the official supplier of Al Ain Water,” said Eng. Tariq Ahmed Al Wahedi, CEO, Agthia Group PJSC. “We’re proud of our record in making sure that everyone involved in the rally is properly hydrated throughout the five days.”

Runner up last year, Sunderland faces top opposition this time from a succession of factory team stars, including the rider who finished just behind him Argentinian Kevin Benavides and his Honda team-mates Joan Barreda Bort of Spain and Chile’s Jose Cornejo, as well as KTM’s Argentinian rider Luciano Benavides and American Husqvarna contender Andrew Short.

“I always tried to ride in the dunes the months before Abu Dhabi and it’s a very specific terrain and requires a different set up and riding technique than the other rallies,” said Sunderland. “We have just finished here in Morocco testing and training for Abu Dhabi.”

The Desert Challenge rider line-up has a family flavour, with the Dubai-based Irish father and son combination of David and William McBride trying to outdo each other again after William finished ahead in the recent Dubai International Baja.

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Football legend Puyol among the stars to feature in glittering HBL PSL closing ceremony

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The Pakistan Cricket Board has planned an impressive closing ceremony of the HBL Pakistan Super League 2019, which will start at 6pm before the toss takes place at 730pm and the first ball is bowled at 8pm.

A galaxy of international stars will perform at the closing ceremony, whose chief guest will be honourable Chief Minister of Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah. The ceremony will be hosted by one of the most popular anchors and singers, Karachi’s very own Fakhar-e-Alam. Spain’s football star Carles Puyol will be a special guest at the closing ceremony. The Barcelona central defender earned 100 international caps and won the Euro 2008 and FIFA World Cup 2010.

The leading performers to display their talent include Abrar-ul-Haq, Aima Baig, Shuja Haider, Fawad Khan, Young Desi with the final performance of the ceremony by the heart-throb Junoon. 

The PCB has also planned a spectacular fireworks display, which will start after the final ends.

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Quetta go toe to toe with Peshawar in sell-out HBL PSL final

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Quetta Gladiators hope their in-form opener Shane Watson will make them third time lucky as they look to avoid another knock-out punch from a spirited Peshawar Zalmi when the two teams clash in the sell-out final of the HBL Pakistan Super League at the National Stadium on Sunday. The match will start at 8pm, but the closing ceremony will begin at 6pm.

Quetta have beaten Peshawar in both the league games this season, before having the better of their arch-rivals in the Wednesday’s Qualifier at the back of a powerful performance, but they are wary of a knock-out punch from the Daren Sammy-led Peshawar.

Despite beating Peshawar in the Qualifiers in 2016 and 2017 in thrilling last-over finishes by one-run, Quetta lost in the 2017 final by 58 runs in Lahore and in the Eliminator 1 last year.

Quetta captain Sarfaraz Ahmed hoped it will be a case of third time lucky.

“We are playing the final for the third time, so we will do our all-out effort to play in the same manner which we have done in the whole tournament,” Sarfaraz told a news conference on Saturday.

“If you look at the previous years, there were some factors which hurt us as some players didn’t come,” said Sarfaraz of the Lahore final when Kevin Pietersen and Rilee Rossouw were not available.

Last year, Watson decided to stay away for the Eliminators in Lahore, leaving Quetta depleted. But this time Watson, who has amassed 423 runs in the tournament, made a late decision to visit Karachi.

“This time, we are at our full strength, so we will do our best to play like we have done and win the tournament. Obviously, winning the trophy is every captain’s wish. We have come close, but were not able to win. This time, we will do our best, though we have a strong team against us.”

It is befitting for the HBL Pakistan Super League final that the two most in-form teams are in the final, finishing with seven wins and three losses each in the first phase.

Peshawar skipper Sammy admitted Watson has plagued his team.

“Shane Watson has really been the pain for us,” said Sammy of the former Australia opener, who has 265 runs at 66.25 in five matches against Peshawar in two years. “He is pretty experience and he is enjoying his form.”

But Sammy hoped his team will give another knock-out punch.

“Quetta has had the better of us throughout the season and I always tell my boys that everything in life happens for a reason. If it is one time we chose to beat them, whey not in the final when it really matters.

“Hopefully, it’s a cracker of a game and we find ways and means to execute our plans against them and we will need that but that Shane Watson guy is pain for us.”

Quetta have mostly chased targets and their two wins against Peshawar came by six and eight wickets, respectively before they had the better of their rivals by 10 runs in the play-off in Karachi.

Sarfaraz said he was looking for a good platform from his top-order.

“Watson and Umar Akmal are quality players. Watson has played well throughout the tournament and is in-form and it’s good that a top player like him is with us and we are at full strength. We also have Rilee Rossouw, Ahsan Ali and Ahmed Shahzad, so if our top players give the platform, then we will put a good total against the opposition who have a strong bowling line-up.”

Besides Watson, Umar (277 runs in 11 matches), Rossouw (256 in 10 matches) and Shahzad (253 in seven) are in good nick.

Peshawar are more reliant on Kamran Akmal, who Sammy described as his “match-winner”, having knocked off 336 runs in 12 games. Fellow-opener Imam-ul-Haq has justified his selection with 338 runs in 11 matches. They put on 135 to set the platform for an imposing 214 for five against Islamabad, helping their team to a 48-run win. 

Peshawar also has powerful pace attack, led by tournament’s highest wicket-taker Hasan Ali who has 25 wickets in 12 matches. Experienced pacer Wahab Riaz has 16, followed by Sameen Gul (10), and Tymal Mills and Umaid Asif (seven each).

But Quetta’s spinners – Mohammad Nawaz and Fawad Ahmed – make the difference with wickets in the middle overs. Peshawar are unable to accommodate their spinner Liam Dawson. 

Sarfaraz admitted Fawad Ahmed is doubtful after being hit on the mouth in the Qualifier against Peshawar, which needed a surgery.

Sammy hoped it will be another crackers of a game before a sell-out crowd.

“I like to be the underdogs,” said Sammy. “To be fair, Quetta are playing some good cricket. The key for us is that our bowling unit has pretty much been the same. Hasan has been playing since his debut and Wahab leading the pack and sharing his experience. 

“We have some good players, not superstars but effective players. To be able to make three consecutive finals in a row is an achievement.

“Winning the final tomorrow will really be the icing on the cake.”

Fixture:

FINAL – Quetta Gladiators v Peshawar Zalmi –  Sunday, 17 March, 8pm. Ranmore Martinesz and Ahsan Raza (on-field umpires), Shozab Raza (third umpire), Rashid Riaz (fourth umpire); Roshan Mahanama (match referee).

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CRICKET HAS A NEW AVATAR AS VIU AND iB CRICKET ANNOUNCE THE ‘iB CRICKET SUPER OVER LEAGUE’

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  • Power-packed show to have the likes of Sehwag, Harbhajan, McCullum, Russell, amongst others playing cricket over iB Cricket – The New Age VR Cricket
  • Viuers in India and Middle East will have live access to the league as it happens

Leading OTT video service Viu today announced the launch of the first of its kind virtual cricket tournament “iB Cricket Super Over League”. After Viu’s franchise show on cricket, “What The Duck,” which recently aired its third season, it is set to continue to entertain millennial and Gen Z audiences with yet another format with virtual gaming.

The show which is being produced by renowned Ashvini Yardi, founder of Viniyard Films, will see players compete against each other in a virtual reality setting of cricket. It promises to pack a punch with a legendary lineup of cricketers, both past and current, with the likes of Virender Sehwag, Brendon McCullum, Harbhajan Singh, Andre Russell, Suresh Raina, Herschelle Gibbs, Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, Christopher Lynn, Mohammad Kaif, Tillakaratne Dilshan and VVS Laxman, playing it out between themselves in this completely fun-filled new format of cricket. The show will be hosted by famous television actress, Nia Sharma and witty cricket commentator Gautam Bhimani. That’s not just all, cricket fans are in for a treat as the game will soon be available in stores with the product being titled, “iB Cricket”.

Come Mid-March, this brand-new series, with 12 episodes, will be shown exclusively on Viu. Each episode will show two cricket stalwarts competing against each other, while the other cricketers give their comments and offer tips on how to play the game. There will be four teams competing for a slot in the playoffs and eventually the grand finale. The winner of the grand finale will win the coveted trophy and will be crowned winners of the first season of iB Cricket Super Over League. Viuers in India and Middle East will have live access to the league as it happens.

Speaking about the announcement of the show, Sameer Gogate, Head of distribution and monetization – Viu India, said, “We are very excited to offer Viu-ers and cricket lovers around the globe a fresh format to experience. This show is the perfect mix of two things Indians absolutely love – technology and sports. We’re launching this at a time when excitement for the game is at its all-time high and we expect the audience engagement for iB Cricket to map to this.”

Ashvini Yardi, Producer – Viniyard Films commented, “I have always wanted to associate with concepts that are unique and exciting. I am really proud to partner with Viu for this innovative show that is the stepping stone to a whole new world of shows based on Virtual Reality.”

Trivikram, Co-founder & CEO of ProYuga said “iB Cricket is built with a passion to realize every cricket fan’s dream of playing in world-class stadiums. It’s built as a virtual sport and is making its way into the gaming community swiftly. Many eminent cricket stars have played iB Cricket and are equally enjoying and appreciating this vSport which stands as a testimony to its immersiveness. ‘iB Cricket Super Over

League’ is definitely going to excite the cricket lovers. We are very pleased to work with Viu and we are confident that this season would give us a leap in our esports journey.”

Apart from this latest release, cricket fans have more shows to watch on Viu. The platform is the homeground for cricket comedy chat shows like What the Duck, Googlies and Virender Sehwag’s micro-original VirukeFunde.

Vuclip

Vuclip is a leading global technology-driven media company delivering on demand entertainment to emerging markets including India, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East. As a PCCW Media Company, Vuclip properties include Viu, Vuclip Videos, Viu Life and Vuclip Games. Vuclip’s market success in on demand entertainment is built on its leadership at the intersection of technology, consumer insights and media. Run by a world class team, Vuclip, Inc. and affiliate companies are headquartered in Silicon Valley in the US and have a presence in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Dubai and Jakarta.

Viu 

Viu is a leading OTT Video service by PCCW and Vuclip available in 17 markets including Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, South Africa and Middle East countries of UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar. Viu’s unique value proposition of fresh and localized regional and local premium TV shows, movies and originals entertains millions of consumers every day. Viu Originals bring to light compelling stories with world class production quality, also providing the opportunity for local talent to showcase their skills on a world stage. The service can be accessed via the Viu app available for free on the App Store and Google Play, on connected devices such as smartphones and tablets, as well as on the web at www.viu.com.

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Lively Islamabad down Karachi to get a shot at HBL PSL final

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Islamabad United kept their hopes of defending the HBL PSL title alive with a hard fought four-wicket win over Karachi Kings in the Eliminator 1 at National Stadium, Karachi on Thursday.

Kings journey in the HBL PSL 2019 has ended with the side failing to get past the play-off stage for the fourth successive year.

Needing 18 off the last two overs and six in the last, Islamabad got four leg byes off Mohammad Amir to chase down a target of 162 in 19.3 overs before a full house at the National Stadium.

Karachi Kings spurned a brisk start of 61 runs in five overs as they lost eight wickets off 58 ball for 59 runs to derail from 102-1 to 161-9 in their 20 overs. Babar Azam (42), Colin Munro (32) and Liam Livingstone (30) were their main run getters.

The two times winners Islamabad (titles in 2016 and 2018) face Peshawar Zalmi in the Eliminator 2 on Friday. Quetta Gladiators have already qualified for the 17 March final.

Alex Hales (42-ball 41) had set the platform for a successful chase but Karachi Kings pulled that back to bring the target to 47 in the last four overs.

Asif Ali (10-ball 24 not out with two sixes and a four) benefited from a drop catch off the first ball of Amir Yamin’s penultimate over. Faheem Ashraf (eight-ball 17) helped Asif take 18 in the 18th over and 12 in the 19th to bring their team closer to the victory.

Yamin finished with 2-27.

Islamabad had lost Luke Ronchi early for just five before Cameroon Delport and Hales added 44 for the second-wicket. Delport wasted a good start as he lofted spinner Umer Khan straight into the hands of Babar Azam. He made 27-ball 38 with two sixes and four boundaries.

Umer, who finished with 2-16 in his four overs, further jolted Islamabad by dismissing Chadwick Walton for a second ball duck.

But Hussain hit a six off Umer’s last ball as he and Hales added 51 for the fourth-wicket but both fell in the same style, caught in the deep with 33 needed in the last three overs.

Hales, playing his first match this year after joining from England’s tour of the West Indies, was declared man-of-the-match.

“It was a tricky chase,” said Hales. “I thought that it was a belter of a wicket but it slowed down, Umer bowled very well. I knew that we have Hussain and Asif so they could take us to the win.”

Islamabad captain Mohammad Sami credited fight back in bowling.

“They were running away but our bowlers put them back and that became the turning point,” said Sami. “Chase is always difficult but all the players showed character and contributed.”

Karachi skipper Imad Wasim termed death bowling as the difference.

“We were 20-30 runs short and the difference was in both teams’ death bowling,” said Imad. “I think their bowlers bowled very well and pulled us back.”

It was a roller coaster innings for Karachi Kings who won the toss and opted to bat — only the second time in 32 matches in this HBL PSL that a team batted after winning the toss. It was also Karachi who batted against Multan Sultans in Dubai after winning the toss.

Colin Munro smashed three boundaries in Mohammad Sami’s first over as Karachi reached 50 in just 3.2 overs. Munro was finally caught behind off Mohammad Musa for 32 which came off just ten balls, spiced with six boundaries and a six.

Liam Livingstone (25-ball 30 with a six and three fours) and Babar took the total to 78 in the Power-Play, equaling the highest in all HBL PSL Power-Plays of Multan against Lahore Qalandars in Dubai this year.

Karachi reached 100 in 10 overs but then Shadab Khan pulled them back with 11 runs in the first two overs and then had Livingstone caught in the deep.

Babar fell in the 12th over as he edged Rumman Raees but it was only on Shadab’s insistence that skipper Sami took a review which proved Shadab was right in his judgment.

Colin Ingram threatened with his 15-ball 23 (two fours and a six) but the innings fell apart once he was caught off a miscued pull off Musa who finished with 3-42.

Islamabad United beat Karachi Kings by four wickets in HBL PSL Eliminator 1

Brief Scores:

Karachi Kings 161-9 in 20 overs (Babar Zaman 42, Colin Munro 32, Liam Livingstone 30; Mohammad Musa 3-42)

Islamabad United  164-6 in 19.3 overs (Alex Hales 41, Cameron Delport 38, Umer Khan 2-16)

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The city of lights has lit up with HBL PSL

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  • “I have not seen such scenes before and enjoyed the moment to the hilt,” says Colin Ingram
  • “When you walk up to the wicket, there are so many people who love the game as I do and that’s very special,” says Shane Watson

The official capacity of the National Stadium is around 32,400. Since the Pakistan-leg matches of the HBL Pakistan Super League 2019 have moved to Karachi, the glamorous city of lights, five matches have been played and each match has seen almost a full-house. Same is the story for the remaining three matches, including the 17 March final (Eliminator 2, 15 March and Final sold-out).

What a great story it is for the game, a proud nation and the league, which has become one of the most followed leagues in the world in a very short span of time.

The Pakistan-leg matches started on Saturday and even on working days of Monday and Wednesday, people thronged the stadium and created a buzz which has matched last year’s final in the city of the Father of the Nation.

The Government of Sindh had declared the HBL PSL days as “Festival of cricket” and as soon as the teams started to descend on the city from March 6, the festival began. All the teams have been warmly greeted and well looked after, something which has been acknowledged, applauded and appreciated by all the players.

“I love cricket”, was the theme of these matches with walls and hoardings spreading the message throughout the nook and corner of the city. Life size cut-outs of most of the famous cricketers from all six teams adorned the city, leading up to the National Stadium.

The refurbished National Stadium stands have given a wonderful look with some parts filled with the supporters of one team and the other with the rival teams, supporters have chanted slogans to back their players and teams all in an incredibly friendly manner.

The spectators, dressed in all sorts of stunning and attractive attires, have been dancing to the rocking music tunes and enjoying to the core, and time and again reflecting their love for cricket, peace, solidarity and one sport one nation philosophy.

“I am hugely impressed with the changes at the National Stadium,” PCB Managing Director Wasim Khan said, adding: “The fans are symbolic of the vibrancy and passion of the real Pakistan – they are the lifeblood of the game. They have turned up in their thousands from all over the country, to support their teams. There is no clearer message to the world with regards to what the HBL PSL and cricket in general means to the nation.”

“This is highly enjoyable,” said Sameena Ahmed, a student of near-by Economics College who had come with her parents. “I went to see Shahid Afridi’s match and had a lifetime experience when he came close to our stand and I got a selfie with him. These are wonderful moments of our lives as cricket has come back to our city in a big way.”

When action began on Saturday evening, the crowd at the National Stadium was at its feet and got their money’s worth when South Africa’s Cameroon Delport hit the second century of the season four off just 49 balls. The local boy Asif Ali further enthralled the crowd with a quickfire 17-ball half-century during his knock of 55 not out laced with half a dozen sixes.

The buzz on Sunday was even more enchanting as local team Karachi Kings outlasted Quetta Gladiators by one-run in a last-ball thriller.

Fans were on the edges of their seats, chanting “Karachi, Karachi” in a cacophony with high-pitch music creating an atmosphere which people had not witnessed for years.

It reached a crescendo when fast bowler Usman Shinwari defended three off the last ball. Home team’s one-run-win was celebrated throughout the city as if they had won the league.

All the 43 foreign players who are in Karachi were amazed, if not spellbound.

“It was amazing,” said Karachi’s vice-captain Colin Ingram. “I have not seen such scenes before and enjoyed the moment to the hilt.”

Australia’s all-rounder Shane Watson must have realized what he had missed by not coming to Pakistan for the last two HBL PSL seasons in 2017 and 2018. This time around, he changed his mind and admitted he was caught up in the love of the game.

“It’s very special to be here,” said Watson. “I am really caught up in the love of the game of cricket. That is as simple as it is.  When you walk up to the wicket, there are so many people who love the game as I do and that’s very special.

“It’s incredibly special to be able to play in front of incredible atmosphere and fans. There is no question since I arrived in Karachi, I am enjoying. The people of Pakistan are warm and welcoming as I have experienced them whether they are in Australia or anywhere in the world.

“To be able to play in this atmosphere is great and I would always cherish the opportunity.”

Despite being a working day, Monday saw almost a full-house at the National Stadium. Naturally, because Pakistan’s most popular cricketer Shahid Afridi was in action. It was the only match Shahid featured in as his team bowed out in the first round. The stadium was filled to capacity in the second game on the double-header Monday as Kamran Akmal’s 86 inspired Peshawar Zalmi to a 61-run win over the Kings.

Wednesday saw the Qualifier and no wonder the stadium was filled to capacity, an hour before the start of the match.

Quetta’s opener Watson gave crowd moments to savour with his lusty hitting during his match-winning knock of 71. The crowd responded to the call of the announcer as he called, “Shane” and the crowd followed it with the chants of “Watson”.

Fans were on the beck and call of the announcer as they opened the torches of their mobile and moved it as per the orders, a routine sight every day.

It will be a double joy for the fans on Thursday when local team Karachi takes on defending champions Islamabad United in Eliminator 1. The local support is likely to inspire the Karachi team and if they win, the home fans will have another party come Friday when Peshawar Zalmi will be their next opponents.

The climax is expected on Sunday, the day when the champions of the HBL PSL 2019 will be decided in the final. Tickets are already sold-out as a royal battle is expected.

Whoever wins the HBP PSL 2019, the winner remains Pakistan cricket, the fans and the nation.

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CRICKET’S MOMENTUM BUILDS ACROSS EUROPE

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  • The sport has seen significant growth in key markets including conference host Germany
  • Member Board figureheads challenged to ‘Lead the game like it has never been led before”

‘Lead the game like it has never been led before‘ was the action call in Munich this week, as 30 cricketing nations of the ICC joined forces to continue to build momentum for the sport across the continent.

Germany which hosted the three-day conference, is one of cricket’s success stories having seen significant development, expanding from 80 cricket teams in 2012 to 350 today. The main focus of the conference was to consider how to meet the increased appetite for the sport in Europe and the role each national federation can have in driving more people to play the game.

The conference provided an environment for collaboration and how the region can unite to support each other in achieving their individual and collective strategic goals.  The conference introduced new ICC products and services to all countries to help them reach new audiences.

ICC Regional Development Manager, Ed Shuttleworth who heads up the ICC team in Europe was delighted with the conference. “It has been a real privilege to witness ICC European Members unite, inspire and commit to leading the game like it has never been led before.

“We are in an exciting period of growth for the sport in our region and we believe that collaboratively we can reach new audiences and engage a new generation of cricket enthusiasts.”

Deutscher Cricket Bund, Vice President, Monika Loveday said, “On the back of the hugely successful ICC Cricket World Cup Trophy Tour driven by Nissan in Germany it was our pleasure to host the ICC Development Conference Europe in Munich this week.  The DCB would like to thank all of the participants for coming to Germany and contributing so positively to an extremely productive conference.”

Serbian Cricket Federation, General Secretary, Haris Deutsch said, “I’m looking forward to bring the fresh ideas and energy from the European meeting to my Board and to make sure that 2019 will be the year of development for cricket in Serbia. The basis on how I will lead will be marked with openness and more inclusive ideas.”

Cricket Finland, Operations Director, Maija Scamans said, “I will aim to lead the direction that Cricket Finland is heading with clarity and passion for the sport and the community. We have a big emphasis on women’s cricket and 2019 will be the focus of this in Finland.”

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PCB shocked by Christchurch terror attacks

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The Pakistan Cricket Board has expressed shock and grief over the terrorist attacks on Christchurch mosques ahead of the Friday prayers.

In a statement, PCB Chairman Mr Ehsan Mani said: “On behalf of the Pakistan cricket fraternity, I would like to condemn in the strongest possible way the cowardly, uncivilised and inhuman terrorist attacks on the innocent worshippers in Christchurch mosques.

“Our hearts go out to all those affected by this tragedy who will feel and understand their pain and loss better than us. In these difficult times, we also stand firmly with our colleagues in New Zealand Cricket and offer our deepest condolences.

“We are aware that the Bangladesh men’s cricket team were also praying at a mosque near the Hagley Park. We thank God Almighty that all of them escaped unhurt.

“As a mark of respect for the victims and to show support and solidarity with the New Zealand community and the NZC, it has been decided that we will observe a minute’s silence before the start of tonight’s HBL Pakistan Super League match, while all the players and match officials will wear black armbands.”

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