A warm welcome to our Cricket News Today segment. In major news today, both India men's and women's teams suffered heartbreaking defeats to their New Zealand counterparts at the Seddon Park in Hamilton.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka legend Muttiah Muralitharan has extended his support to the out of favour India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. The iconic off-spinner placed Ashwin ahead of Australia regular Nathan Lyon at the top of the pedestal.
Here are all of today's top news from the cricket world.
Schedule announced for Pakistan-Australia ODI series
Australia are set to tour UAE in March for a tour comprising five ODIs against Pakistan. The five-match series, which will be held across Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, will begin on the 22nd and end on the 31st of next month.
Australia's five-match ODI series against Pakistan will closely follow their tour of India in February-March. The visitors have only eight days gap between the fifth ODI against India and the first ODI against Pakistan.
Aside from serving as preparation for the looming World Cup, the ODIs against Pakistan holds additional significance for Australia as the suspensions of Steve Smith and David Warner will end midway through the series.
The last two ODIs in Dubai, on 29 and 31 March, will see Smith and Warner become available for selection again. Although the former is still in an elbow brace and is unlikely to feature, the latter could return to national colours in this series.
Pakistan vs Australia in the UAE
1st ODI: 22nd March - Sharjah
2nd ODI: 24th March - Sharjah
3rd ODI: 27th March - Abu Dhabi
4th ODI: 29th March - Dubai
5th ODI: 31st March - Dubai
Mandhana's blazing knock ends in vain as NZ women snatch thriller
After missing the first two T20Is of the series, Mithali Raj returned to the playing eleven as India women fought for pride in the final match against New Zealand women at Hamilton. However, the veteran's comeback ended in disappointment as the White Ferns upstaged her to snatch a last-ball thriller.
Needing four off the last ball, Mithali could only score a single and India women ended up losing the T20I series 0-3. However, Smriti Mandhana continued to impress against a varied Kiwi bowling attack. The 22-year-old left-hander smashed 86 from 62 balls before getting dismissed in the 16th over.
For her 52-ball 72 and crucial spell of 2/21, all-rounder Sophie Devine was named Player of the Match.
Brief Scores: New Zealand women - 161/7 in 20 overs (Sophie Devine 72, Amy Satterthwaite 31, Deepti Sharma 2/28) beat India women - 159/4 in 20 overs (Smriti Mandhana 86, Sophie Devine 2/21, Amelie Kerr 1/26) by two runs
Muralitharan labels Ashwin as best off-spinner in the world
Once a straightforward question, there's plenty of debate surrounding the title of best off-spinner in the current game. With injuries and indifferent away form slowing his surge, Ravichandran Ashwin now finds himself in an intriguing battle with Nathan Lyon.
Placing the Indian veteran ahead of the Australian stalwart, legendary off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan has reiterated Ashwin as the best off-spinner in the world.
In an interview with TOI, Muralitharan insisted, "Kuldeep (Yadav) has been bowling really well. But it's not for me to comment whether he should be India's number one spinner or Ashwin. When it comes to off-spinners in the world, I think Ashwin is still the best."
The iconic Sri Lankan cricketer elaborated, "You tell me why not? Who do you think is better than him, Nathan Lyon? Well, I will go by the number of wickets that R Ashwin has taken. Yes, people may argue Lyon is taking wickets in Australia but he is supposed to take wickets there. Ashwin will take wickets where he plays, even I took more than 500 (of my 800) in the subcontinent."
Maiden series defeat for captain Rohit as NZ take T20I leg 2-1
Rohit Sharma's undefeated captaincy streak came to an end as New Zealand pulled off a thrilling four-run victory at Hamilton to pocket the T20I series 2-1.
Prior to the T20I series in New Zealand, Rohit had led India in seven international series and the Men in Blue managed to win all of those assignments. These seven series comprised bilateral matches and multination tournaments across both ODIs and T20Is. It has to be said that Virat Kohli led India in a few matches in two of those seven series.
After winning the toss, India opted to chase in the series decider at Seddon Park. Powerful performances from the two openers propelled New Zealand to a formidable total. In reply, the Men in Blue fought valiantly but eventually fell short in the last over.
Brief Scores: New Zealand - 212/4 in 20 overs (Colin Munro 72, Tim Seifert 43, Kuldeep Yadav 2/26, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 1/37) beat India - 208/6 in 20 overs (Vijay Shankar 43, Rohit Sharma 38, Daryl Mitchell 3/27, Mitchell Santner 2/32) by four runs