Cricket round-up: Saeed Ajmal pulls out of World Cup squad to save his career

Pakistan off-spinner will not be able to clear action before the tournament starts in February. Plus other news from the world of cricket.
Saeed Ajmal will continue work on his action and play domestic cricket until he believes he can take the ICC test. Arif Ali / AFP
Saeed Ajmal will continue work on his action and play domestic cricket until he believes he can take the ICC test. Arif Ali / AFP

KARACHI // Saeed Ajmal, the suspended Pakistan off-spinner, has withdrawn from the World Cup squad because he has no chance of getting his action cleared before the tournament.

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) officials met on Saturday and decided that all-rounder Mohammed Hafeez, who is also suspended from bowling in international cricket, will travel to the southern Indian city of Chennai for a test.

“If Hafeez clears the informal test, then we will apply to the International Cricket Council [ICC] to hold his official test for his bowling action to be cleared,” the PCB said in a statement.

Ajmal, 37, who was named in the preliminary squad, will continue remedial work on his action and play domestic cricket until he has satisfied himself he can take the ICC test.

“Ajmal withdrew himself,” PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan said.

“We didn’t want to take a risk with Ajmal’s career because latest reports suggested his elbow extension was not still within the 15 degrees allowed by the ICC despite all the remedial work on his action.

“We were aware that if he took the official ICC test in a bid to make the World Cup squad and failed it, he could be suspended from playing for one to two years and that would mean the end of his career.”

Ajmal, Pakistan’s top spinner and wicket-taker in all formats of the game for the past three years, was suspended from bowling in September after failing the ICC test. Hafeez was banned last month.

Moin to remain selector

LAHORE // Meanwhile, the PCB on Saturday appointed retired top military officer Naveed Cheema as manager for the World Cup, replacing former captain Moin Khan.

Cheema, 60, a retired brigadier who also held the manager’s post from 2011 to 2013, is serving as chief secretary of Punjab province.

The PCB said Moin had to step aside as he also held the post of chief selector and such a dual role was not allowed.

Moin would “stay on as chief selector as part of the squad for the ICC World Cup 2015”, the PCB said in a news release.

Rain wins day after Du Plessis hits century

PORT ELIZABETH // Faf du Plessis scored his fourth Test century but rain washed out most of the second day with South Africa on 289 for three in the second Test against the West Indies on Saturday.

Only six overs were possible before lunch, during which time the Proteas added 19 runs to their overnight total for the loss of Du Plessis.

The rest of the day was a washout as heavy rain kept the players from the field, meaning an earlier start on Friday at noon UAE time to make up some of the lost overs.

Du Plessis, 99 not out overnight, was made to wait another 90 minutes before play began and only faced two balls.

The first was a gift, a leg-stump half-volley from seamer Jerome Taylor that was easily dispatched to the square-leg boundary to bring up his century off 229 balls.

Taylor got it right on the second ball, though, finding a thin edge as Du Plessis looked to defend outside off stump and was caught behind by wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin.

Hashim Amla will start Day 3 on 23 along with AB de Villiers, who is nine not out, and they will be looking to lift the run rate.

West Indies must quickly break the partnership between the home side’s two best batsmen, who set a South African record of 308 for the fourth wicket in the first Test in Pretoria.

The visitors must then run through the tail quickly with Stiaan van Zyl, playing his second game, and debutant Temba Bavuma the last recognised batsmen.

South Africa won the first Test by an innings and 220 runs, with the third and final match of the series to start in Cape Town on January 2.

India demolarised by another Smith hundred

MELBOURNE // Steven Smith fell eight runs short of a maiden double-century on Saturday but produced 192 reasons why he should eventually take over the captaincy from Michael Clarke full-time after day two of the third test against India.

Smith’s batting has gone from strength to strength since his first century during Australia’s lost Ashes series on English soil last year, but the 25-year-old’s stunning knock at the Melbourne Cricket Ground propelled him to a new level.

After another unconvincing performance from Australia’s makeshift top order, Smith, in Clarke’s number four position, has also taken over the regular skipper’s role as chief rescuer, steadying the ship and anchoring the tail to build big totals.

Resuming on 259-5 with wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, Smith was the last wicket to fall, having driven his team to 530 before India reached 108-1 at stumps, still 422 runs behind.

Smith’s 192 was his third hundred in three test matches and seventh of his career, all scored since August last year when he struck an unbeaten 138 at The Oval.

It was arguably his finest innings, however, showing complete control over his craft and an ability to shift up and down gears at whim throughout the seven hours at the crease.

“I started pretty slow yesterday. I was two off about 30 balls from memory,” he told reporters. “It was just about being patient and letting the bowlers keep coming back and getting tired.

“I think we were able to do that and reap the rewards late yesterday and today as well.

“I feel pretty good at the crease. Everything is working for me at the moment which is nice and the most pleasing thing is that we’ve got 530 runs on the board and that’s a very good first innings total for us.”

Smith smacked 15 boundaries and two sixes but was only cavalier after surpassing 150.

India captain MS Dhoni appeared to give up hope of getting him out, spreading the field far and wide to give him easy singles in a vain bid to dislodge tail-enders Mitchell Johnson (28) and Ryan Harris (74), who stuck barnacle-like to their task.

Smith, who led Australia to victory in the second test in Brisbane with a match-winning 133, became the first Australian player to score centuries in his first two tests as captain.

By virtually batting away India’s hopes of victory, he has all but sealed the four-test series for Australia, who lead 2-0.

“When anybody is in such form, you hope you have a bit of luck and get them out early,” said India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.

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Published: December 27, 2014 04:00 AM

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