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Iran lets women attend soccer match, ending decades-old ban

Iran allowed hundreds of local women to attend the Asian Champions League final in Tehran on Saturday, Iranian news agencies reported, in a possible step toward ending their decades-old exclusion from top soccer matches in the country.

The semi-official news agency Tasnim said an unspecified number of women had entered the Azadi (Freedom) Stadium to watch Persepolis seek to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit against Japan’s Kashima Antlers and claim their first continental crown. 

It said the women had joined in with chanting in support of Persepolis, Iran’s best-supported club.

Iranian women and girls have not been allowed to attend any men’s sporting events in the country for much of the 39 years since the Islamic revolution, and have not been granted access to matches involving top clubs since 1981.

However, in a rare move last month, about 100 women were allowed to watch a friendly soccer match between Iran and Bolivia.

As 80,000 people gathered at the Azadi to watch Saturday’s game, Iranian social media reports said most of the women who had been let into the stadium were relatives of players or members of Iran’s female football and futsal teams and football federation employees.

The ISNA news agency said fans around the stadium cheered as the women entered the stands set aside for them, which an official said had a capacity of 850 seats.

Elaheh Hamidikia, a reporter for ISNA, said on Twitter that about 500 women were admitted.

Female fans from other countries have previously been permitted to attend games at the Azadi Stadium.

Parliament member Fatemeh Zolqadr said earlier that world soccer’s governing body FIFA had demanded women be allowed to attend top-level games.

“This should be done to avoid any problems for the country’s football,” she was quoted as saying by the parliament news website ICANA.

Campaign group Open Stadiums has been lobbying for access to venues for women in Iran, and representatives of the organization met with FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura this week to hand over a petition signed by more than 200,000 people.

Speaking before Saturday’s game, a spokesperson for the group said overturning women’s exclusion “has been our dream for decades”
“We are always excluded from public happiness and excitement,” the spokesperson told Reuters by e-mail on condition of anonymity.

Samoura said FIFA would work with Iran to end the long-running ban on women attending matches but offered no insight as to when a breakthrough could be expected, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reported on Thursday.

The restrictions on Iranian women that were relaxed for the match against Bolivia were quickly reinstated under pressure from hardliners within the government.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has also held talks with Iranian soccer authorities in an attempt to find a solution to the long-running issue.

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Sri Lanka Cricket sacks booze supplier for England tour

Sri Lanka Cricket on Thursday sacked its food and beverage supplier for selling booze without a licence during England's tour of the island, sparking a mid-match raid by tax agents.

The decision followed revelations that tax officers seized bottles of whisky and wine being served to England fans during the fifth one-day international match in Colombo.

The island's cricket board said its hospitality partner, Classic Destination, did not obtain the necessary licences to serve hard liquor at the ground.

"As the firm has failed to act within the law... and bringing disrepute to Sri Lanka Cricket, SLC decided to immediately terminate Classic Destination from delivering further hospitality services during the England tour," the board said in a statement on Thursday.

There was no immediate comment from the company.

It was not the first controversy of the series, with England fans complaining of being charged more than local fans for the same tickets.
Sri Lanka Cricket said entry fees were the same for foreign and local supporters.

But its hospitality partner, Classic Destination, bundled food and drinks together with grandstand seats in packages selling for 20 500 rupees ($120).

British media described the arrangement as a "rip off".

England fans, known as the Barmy Army, asked Sri Lankan cricket authorities to lower charges, but authorities said prices for the tickets was the same for all, so they could not be lowered.

England won the ODI series 3-1.

A one-off T20 is due on Saturday.

Three Test matches will begin on November 6 with the final match due to end on November

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Akila Dananjaya reported for suspect bowling action against England

Sri Lanka’s off-spinner Akila Dananjaya was reported for a suspect bowling action during the first Test against England.

The match officials’ report which was handed over to the Sri Lanka team management cited concerns about the 25-year-old’s action, which will be scrutinised further under the ICC process laid down for international cricket.

Dananjaya is required to undergo testing within 14 days but he is permitted to continue bowling in international cricket until the results of the testing are known.

The chances of Dananjaya being selected for the Kandy Test had already been reduced since he endured a wretched game in Galle, where he took two for 183 in the match while scoring only eight runs in his two innings.

Definitely out of the remainder of the series is Sri Lanka’s captain Dinesh Chandimal because of a groin injury. Charith Asalanka, who scored an unbeaten half-century against England in a warm-up match, has been called up as a replacement.

England, who arrived in Kandy in time to mark Armistice Day in the gardens of their hotel, have taken the unusual step of trimming their party in the middle of the tour. Ollie Pope, the 20-year-old batsman from Surrey, will leave Sri Lanka on Wednesday, the first day of the second Test match and head for Dubai. There he will join the Lions tour in the UAE and he will be available for the unofficial Test match against Pakistan A, which starts on 18 November, which is followed by five ODIs and two T20s.

With Jonny Bairstow returning to fitness and Joe Denly also available the chances of Pope being required for the Test matches have dwindled to practically zero. So his imminent departure clearly makes sense. He will gain far more benefit from playing cricket in the UAE than batting in the nets and carrying drinks in Sri Lanka.

“It is important that Ollie is playing and the selection panel felt that to aid his development the best course of action is for him to go and play for the Lions in a competitive series against Pakistan A,” said the head coach, Trevor Bayliss.

“Ollie needs some game time before the West Indies Test tour early next year and will get more out of playing competitively for the Lions than spending the next three weeks on the sidelines. He will get the opportunity of playing up to eight matches across all formats in the UAE.”

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Kumar Sangakkara demands protection for cricket stars to stop match-fixers

It has been a busy few days for the sport, with the ICC announcing last week that Sanath Jayasuriya, a former team-mate of Sri Lanka legend Sangakkara and the fourth-highest ODI run-scorer, had been charged with two counts of corruption while working as a selector last year.

Then, on Sunday, TV network Al Jazeera alleged English players had been involved in fixing seven matches across all formats in 2011-12. It is understood that senior players and coaches from that England team are furious with the allegations and the integrity of the team being called into question.

Sangakkara told Standard Sport that, in light of such damaging accusations, the game’s authorities must work together with “a more concerted effort” to stamp out corruption.

“These allegations need to be taken very seriously by all concerned and investigated thoroughly,” he said. “Everyone needs to come together and really knuckle down to search for an answer.”

In the documentary, one England player is purported to be on the phone to Aneel Munawar, a bookmaker, being told that he would soon receive funds for his role in a fix. The Daily Telegraph today reported that that unnamed player was considering legal action.

Al Jazeera are continuing to not co-operate with the ICC, and the ECB, along with Cricket Australia, have given the allegations short shrift.
The latest documentary showed Munawar, who has links to the crime syndicate D-Company — run by Dawood Ibrahim, one of the world’s most wanted men — up close with  players such as Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and Graeme Swann in hotel lobbies at major tournaments. There is no suggestion the players knew who he was or had anything to do with him.

Sangakkara added: “We must protect players, not just in terms of awareness and education, but a solid barrier so that players are not in a situation where anyone has access to them.

“It needs a more concerted effort after what we’ve seen happen in the last few months.

“It’s a very confusing time for everyone and the ICC and anti-corruption security unit need to get together with everyone to find the best possible way forward, educating administrators, vetting player agents and managers.

“It’s not an easy task, but now is the time for co-operation to make sure the game is as clean as possible.”

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Despite corruption probe by ICC, Sanath Jayasuriya attends Sri Lanka-England Test

Cricket administrators’ zero tolerance for the corrupt or those suspected of corruption is being severely tested. It has emerged that former Sri Lanka captain Sanath Jayasuriya, who has been charged by the International Cricket Council of failing to co-operate with an investigation and "concealing, tampering with or destroying evidence", has been attending the ongoing Test between England and Sri Lanka at the Galle International Cricket Stadium. 

On Tuesday, Jayasuriya attended the first day of the Test, along with some other big names of Sri Lanka cricket like Arjuna Ranatunga, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumara Sangakkara and Muttiah Muralitharan, who had gathered to witness the last Test of left-arm spinner Rangana Herath. 

He was there at the stadium on Wednesday too and was spotted with his former opening partner Romesh Kaluwitharana, sitting in a Sri Lanka Cricket hospitality box. The red-carpet welcome to Jayasuriya seemed absurd, given the nature of charges against him leveled by the ICC on October 15. Jayasuriya had 15 days to respond to them. 

According to an ICC statement issued on that day: 

“Mr Jayasuriya, the former Sri Lanka Cricket Chair of Selectors, has been charged with the following offences under the Code: 

“Article 2.4.6 – Failure or refusal, without compelling justification, to co-operate with any investigation carried out by the ACU, including failure to provide accurately and completely any information and/or documentation requested by the ACU as part of such investigation. 

“Article 2.4.7 – Obstructing or delaying any investigation that may be carried out by the ACU, including concealing, tampering with or destroying any documentation or other information that may be relevant to that investigation and/or that may be evidence or may lead to the discovery of evidence of corrupt conduct under the Anti-Corruption Code. Mr Jayasuriya has 14 days from 15 October 2018 to respond to the charges.” 

According to sources, Jayasuriya has replied to the notice. The sources also claim that the ICC’s anti-corruption unit is looking into a match involving Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in July 2017. This was a time when Jayasuriya was the chairman of selectors. 

A day after the ICC charges, Jayasuriya, via a press release, denied any wrong doing. He said he has always conducted himself with integrity and transparency with matters concerning the sport and that the charges laid upon him do not contain any allegations pertaining to match fixing, pitch fixing or any other similar corrupt activity. 

It is believed that at this point of time the authorities have no problem about Jayasuriya attending the game as he is not banned. They are calling it more of a matter of ethics than law as according to them it’s not a breach of any law. Shockingly, the TV commentators also had no moral or ethical issues as they discussed about the Jayasuriya- Kaluwitharana partners exploits on live TV and made no mention of the ICC investigation.

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England cricketers’ humble behaviour impresses all in Sri Lanka

England’s fortunes in the ODIs have seen a sharp turnaround since their unceremonious exit from the 2015 World Cup. However, it’s not only their performance on the ground which has won hearts but also off it. The latest recognition of the Englishmen’s humble behaviour has come from none other than Charith Senanayake, the team manager of Sri Lanka, the country they are touring at the moment.

England, currently ranked No.1 in the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) ODI table, have won 14 of their last 18 bilateral ODI series and are looking favourites to lift their maiden World Cup title at home in May-July next year. They have already won the five-match ODI series against the Asians with a match to go.

English cricketers’ decency impresses all“Absolutely amazing to see them big lads…..calling even the most Jr hotel staff member Sir…..,” Senanayake was quoted by Kashmir Times as saying over the telephone from Kandy.

“The English boys may look good with their performances on field. Perhaps their off field conduct, even better. It is just my general observation. What I have observed the last 2 weeks. How polite, well mannered and gentlemanly way the English cricketers and their support staff go about. They are easy going, no hang ups, no arrogance. A happy bunch of solid lads. It is a good laugh and pleasure to be around them. Absolute gentleman and ambassador for England. England should be proud of them,” the Lankan team official said.

Senanayake also called the England players “perfect ambassadors” for their country. “Respect and salute them,” he was further said.

England took an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-game series after winning the rain-hit fourth ODI by 18 runs in the Duckworth-Lewis method. All the three games that the visitors won have been hit by rain while the first one was washed away in the downpour. Led by Eoin Morgan, England won the second ODI by 31 runs and third ODI by 7 wickets.

England recently defeated India 2-1 in the ODI series and 4-1 in the Test series before leaving for the Sri Lankan tour.

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Herath becomes third bowler to take 100 wickets at a single ground in farewell Test match

Rangana Herath became only the third player in the history of Test cricket to take a century of wickets at a single ground.

The spinner got his 100th wicket at Galle in his farewell Test appearance when England captain Joe Root came down the wicket and was bowled.

Joe Root’s England side had a shaky start after another batting collapse but Ben Foakes’s partnerships with Sam Curran, Jos Buttler and Adil Rashid steadied the ship.  

Foakes starred on the opening day of the first Test with an unbeaten 87 on his debut as England reached 321-8 at the close of play.

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England blame decision to play Sri Lanka during monsoon season on packed schedule

With more storms expected over the weekend the weather could play another large part in this series as the Sri Lankan monsoon threatens the second one-day international in Dambulla.

England have explained the decision to tour Sri Lanka in the wet season by blaming the packed international schedule which forces some series to be played during out of season months. 

Ideally England would start this tour in November but Sri Lanka are due to start their own tour in New Zealand on Dec 7 before going on to Australia and South Africa. 

The players do not want to be away for Christmas, there was talk of a Boxing Day Test in Barbados at one point this summer, which pushes the West Indies tour into January leaving no more room in the schedule to play Sri Lanka.

Originally it was planned for the Test series against Sri Lanka to be played now but was switched to the one-dayers first at the request of the home team. It forced Eoin Morgan to change the date of his wedding and is why Liam Plunkett is missing the first three matches to get married in America having been unable to postpone. 

The monsoon should lift by the end of the month and the heavy showers in the Dambulla region were localised on Wednesday with the area around the ground badly hit but other parts left dry. There was no rain on Thursday so the first ODI could have been finished if there had been a reserve day put in the schedule. There is a reserve day for the second ODI this weekend and the last in Colombo on Oct 23.

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Unsettled England plot to ruin Rangana Herath farewell

Many a visiting team have succumbed to the trial by spin in Sri Lanka and Joe Root's England will have to step up their game against the turning ball to escape that fate in the test series beginning at Galle on Tuesday. Sri Lanka have never shied away from milking their home advantage and the team, who have lost only one of their past six test series at home, are unlikely to do anything different against an unsettled England.

The three-test series promises a familiar sight, with Sri Lanka's wily spinners to bowl tirelessly and often in tandem, preying on the technique and temperament of the touring batsmen on tracks where the fast bowlers will play cameos.

leading Sri Lanka's charge, for one last time, will be a bulky 40-year-old with a golden arm and creaky knees as Rangana Herath ends his illustrious career at the same Galle where he made his test debut 19 years ago.

Herath has carried Sri Lanka's spin burden on his shoulders since Muttiah Muralitharan's exit but the left-arm spinner has decided he cannot carry on.

He will retire after his 93rd test, having already established himself as the most successful left-arm spinner in test history with 430 scalps.

Sri Lankan cricket of late has been a microcosm of the politically riven country, and Dinesh Chandimal's team will have to find ways to focus on the game amid turmoil off-field.

Former captain Sanath Jayasuriya and bowling coach Nuwan Zoysa are battling anti-corruption charges, while Sri Lanka Cricket chief financial officer Wimal Nandika Dissanayake has been remanded in custody by police for suspected financial misappropriation.

In comparison, England's problem is to identify the best combination, especially the selections of their number three and wicketkeeper.
With Keaton Jennings set to open with the uncapped Rory Burns, Joe Denly was primed for the number three slot, but the 32-year-old's struggle in the warm-up matches has jeopardised his test debut.

With wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow recovering from an ankle injury, Jos Buttler is set to play but it could be purely as a batsman, with Surrey wicketkeeper Ben Foakes donning the keeper's gloves.

"It's probably the likely scenario (that Buttler plays)," Root told the BBC last week.

"But the reason we called Ben up is he's a high-quality wicketkeeper and gives us another way to balance the side up. It's a nice position to be in."

Kandy hosts the second test from Nov. 14 and the final match is in Colombo from Nov 23.

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Buddika and Pushpakumara shine at the Asian Para Games

Charitha Nirmala Buddika and Lal Pushpakumara added to Sri Lanka’s medal tally as the fifth day of the Asian Para Games continued at Jakarta yesterday.

Buddika won the third gold for Sri Lanka in the Men’s Long Jump T42/T61/T63 with a leap of 5.37 meters with Indian Vijay Kumar winning the silver with 5.05 meters. Mulyono Mulyono from Indonesia took the bronze with 4.89 meters.

Lal Pushpakumara won the bronze in the Men’s High Jump T64/44 category with a height of 1.76m. Uzbekistan's Giyazov Temurbek who cleared 1.95 meters claimed the gold and Suzuki Toru won the silver medal with a leap of 1.89 meters.

Sri Lanka has three gold medals, four sliver medals and three bronze medals so far securing fourteenth place in the medals tally.

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Sri Lanka's bowling coach suspended over match fixing allegations 

The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Wednesday suspended Sri Lanka's bowling coach Nuwan Zoysa after accusing him of match-fixing and other "corrupt conduct" in the sport.

"Mr Zoysa has 14 days from 1 November 2018 to respond to the charges," the ICC said in a brief statement.

Zoysa is charged, among other things, for "being party to an effort to fix or contrive or to otherwise influence improperly the result, progress, conduct or other aspect of an International match", the statement said.

It gave no further details.

Forty-year-old Zoysa is the second Sri Lankan to be charged by the ICC's anti-corruption unit (ACU).

Earlier this month, dashing former batsman, ex-chief selector and former captain Sanath Jayasuriya was charged for failing to cooperate with a match-fixing probe and concealing information.

Jayasuriya, 49, was reportedly asked to cooperate with an inquiry from ACU chief Alex Marshall who visited Sri Lanka last month.

The ACU is acting further on their previous investigation which in January 2016 saw Galle stadium curator Jayananda Warnaweera banned for three years after he failed to cooperate with the ACU.

ACU head Marshall last month said: "There is currently an ICC (ACU) investigation under way in Sri Lanka. Naturally as part of this we are talking to a number of people."

It was not immediately clear if the charges against Zoysa and Jayasuriya relate to the same case or if they are being investigated separately.
Sri Lanka has recently sought help from neighbouring India to drafting laws to combat cheating in the game.

Colombo has also promised to establish a special police unit to investigate match-fixing after a documentary aired in May showed Galle groundsman Tharanga Indika and professional cricketer Tharindu Mendis allegedly talking about doctoring the pitch for the Test against England starting 6 November.

Indika and Mendis have been suspended by Sri Lanka Cricket pending an ICC investigation. A third man, provincial coach Jeevantha Kulatunga, was also suspended.

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Match-fixing could become criminal offence in India and Sri Lanka 

Match-fixing could become a criminal offence in India and Sri Lanka for the first time if pressure by the International Cricket Council (ICC) persuades governments to legislate against corruption.

Cricket’s anti-corruption unit are currently in Sri Lanka to lobby the government to make match fixing a criminal offence as they investigate cases of corruption on the island.

Alex Marshall, the chairman of the ICC’s anti-corruption unit, met with the country’s prime minister and president last week. Telegraph Sport understands he is due for further meetings with government officials later this month and politicians have offered more resources for fighting corruption as several serious investigations reach a crucial point. 

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Pressure by the International Cricket Council may persuade governments to legislate against corruption Credit: AFP

Some of those are in Sri Lanka, another is in Hong Kong, where the ICC announced on Monday three players had been charged with 19 counts of breaching the anti-corruption code including offences linked to a game against Scotland and at the 2016 World Twenty20 in India.

The ICC are hoping that by making match fixing, and also approaching players to fix, criminal offences in Sri Lanka they can bring greater powers of investigation to bear while potential prison sentences would deter would be corrupters. They hope to have similar discussions with Indian officials and believe other countries will follow suit if Sri Lanka takes the first step.

Match fixing is a criminal offence in Australia and South Africa under specific sports laws. In the UK courts use the bribery act which is how Mervin Westfield and the three Pakistan players were sentenced but there is no criminal offence for match fixing anywhere in the sub-continent so there is not the same police support the ICC would receive elsewhere in the world. 

With police help the ICC believe they can make life difficult for fixers in other ways such as examination of bank accounts, tax returns, visa status for overseas travel and freezing of assets.

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Cricket is extremely popular in Sri Lanka Credit: Action Images 

The ACU is also set to make more widespread use the charge of failing to support an investigation so if suspected fixers, either players or officials, do not hand over mobile phones or other computer records they will face punishment and the public shame of being associated and banned for involvement in corruption. 

Sri Lankan cricket is in a state of paralysis at the moment with board elections on hold with three groups trying to take over. An interim board was appointed by the ICC in February to run the game in the meantime. 

Former president Thilanga Sumathipala is standing again but his application was opposed in court by a rival alleging he has links with bookmaking. His father is a bookmaker and he has admitted this publicly in the past.

In the meantime, the ICC are investigating fixing allegations in Sri Lanka and believe enlisting government help will make their job easier. It is believed the whole system needs cleaning up with Sri Lanka domestic cricket seen as the vulnerable point when fixers can get their claws into young players. With the Sri Lanka national team struggling, the negative publicity of any match fixing investigation, and potential subsequent public backlash, could force the government to look as if it is making a stand by making it a criminal offence.

The ICC investigations in Sri Lanka are separate to the Al Jazeera documentary aired earlier this year which alleged the pitch for the first Test against England next month in Galle could be doctored by fixers. A man who was described as the groundsman has been suspended by Sri Lanka Cricket based on evidence in the programme and England have been assured the pitch preparation will be closely monitored. They were briefed by ACSU officials on Sunday night in Dambulla. 

Marshall, the former chief constable of Hampshire police, took over as chairman of the ACU last year and has  launched several major investigations around the world as cricket looks to take on fixing and react to the threats  spread by the springing up of Twenty20 leagues around the world. 

The ICC has long feared the players from associate nations are more susceptible for approaches from fixers and charged three from Hong Kong  yesterday. Fast bowler Irfan Ahmed has been charged with nine offences linked to games against Scotland and Canada in January 2014,  a match against Zimbabwe in 2014 and at ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers in July 2015 as well as  one charge of “seeking, accepting, offering or agreeing to accept a bribe or other Reward to fix or contrive or otherwise improperly influence the result,” of a match at the World Twenty20 tournament in 2016. He was banned for two years for breaching the anti corruption code in 2016.

His brother, Nadeem Ahmed, when played against India in the Asia Cup last month, was charged with five offences covering the same time period as was Haseeb Amjad.

(Telegraph)

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