Afghanistan level series
Mohammad Shahzad smashed a blistering 101 as Afghanistan fine-tuned their World Cup preparations with a 126-run thrashing of Ireland to draw the one-day international series on Tuesday.
Afghanistan were put in to bat by the hosts in Belfast and Shahzad made them pay with his 87-ball century.
Together with Rahmat Shah, Shahzad put on 150 for the second wicket to help the visitors take control.
Najibullah Zadran added a rapid-fire 60 not out from 33 balls as Afghanistan amassed 305-7 in their 50 overs.
Ireland never looked likely to threaten Afghanistan’s total despite Paul Stirling’s 56-ball half century -- his fourth successive score of 50 or more.
Gulbadin Naib, who was named Afghanistan’s one-day captain last month, was Ireland’s chief tormentor.
Naib took 6-43 to record the third-best figures by an Afghanistan bowler in ODI cricket, including the key wickets of Stirling and Gary Wilson, who was Ireland’s second highest scorer with 34.
Ireland eventually crumbled to 179 all out as Afghanistan avenged their 72-run defeat in the first game of the two-match series on Sunday.
SCORES IN BRIEF
AFGHANISTAN: 305 for 7 in 50 overs (Shahzad 101, Shah 62, Shahidi 47, Zadran 60*; Adair 3-71, McBrine 2-43)
IRELAND: 179 all out in 41.2 overs (Stirling 50, Willson 34; Naib 6-43)
Result: Afghanistan won by 126 runs. --Afp
Bologna pull off a miracle
Bologna coach Sinisa Mihajlovic hailed his team for pulling off a “miracle” to secure their top flight survival with a 3-3 draw at Lazio on Monday enough to keep the northerners in Serie A next season.
“Nobody, or at least very few believed in us staying up a few months ago,” said Serb Mihajlovic, a former Yugoslavia international player.
“I was one of the few. The more that time went by, the more convinced I was that we were on the right road but it was still something of a small miracle.”
The club were 18th with just two wins from 21 games when the former Serbia, AC Milan and Torino coach arrived, but since have won eight matches out of 16 and are now positioned 12th. --Afp
Giroud gears up to face Arsenal
Olivier Giroud is relishing the prospect of beating his old Arsenal teammates when he lines up for Chelsea in the Europa League final in Baku on May 29.
The 32-year-old French World Cup winner’s move across London 18 months ago has failed to deliver the regular first team football he hoped after falling behind compatriot Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the pecking order at Arsenal.
However, he has played a huge part in the Blues run to the Europa League final and is the joint top scorer in this season’s competition with 10 goals.
“I always like playing against my old teams,” Giroud told the Daily Mail.
“It’s going to be tough, and it could be painful if it’s not going the right way, but you have to put the feelings and memories aside.”
Xavi’s last match ends in defeat for Al Sadd
Xavi Hernandez’s dazzling career came to a low-key end when his Qatari side Al Sadd were beaten 2-0 by Iranian giants Persepolis in their last group match of the AFC Champions League on Monday.
The 39-year-old midfield genius, who helped Spain win the World Cup in 2010 and won four UEFA Champions League titles and eight La Liga titles with Barcelona, was cheered by fans at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran.
Several home fans brandished banners reading “Adios Xavi” to show their appreciation of the player who with Andres Iniesta formed the backbone of one of Barcelona’s greatest ever sides.
But Al Sadd’s second defeat in a row, following their 4-1 thrashing by domestic rivals Al Duhail in last week’s Amir Cup final in Doha, meant Xavi’s illustrious career ended in a low-key fashion. --Afp