Battle for fourth place goes down to the wire in UAE cricket league

Action from the match between Dubai Capitals and MI Emirates. (Photo courtesy: social media)
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Updated 06 February 2023

Battle for fourth place goes down to the wire in UAE cricket league

  • International League T20 is ongoing cricket tournament being played in the United Arab Emirates
  • Desert Vipers, Gulf Giants and MI Emirates occupy top three spots, Dubai Capitals at fourth place

Over the past few days, final positions have been fought for in the round-robin stage of the UAE’s DP World ILT20 Cricket League.

Although Abu Dhabi Knight Riders had failed to secure a win so far in nine matches, they finished on a winning note by defeating the Sharjah Warriors to put a dent in the latter’s hopes of finishing in the top four.

Those four teams will contest play-off matches. The first-placed team will play the second-placed team, providing the winner with a direct route to the final. Third and fourth-placed teams will face off, the winner playing the loser of first versus second. The Gulf Giants and the Desert Vipers will finish first and second. On Saturday, they met in the round robin, Vipers sitting top of the league. Bragging rights were at stake.

The Giants batted first and, at 129 for four after 14.2 overs, looked to be running short of a competitive total. However, Shimron Hetmyer accelerated the rate and the Giants closed on 180 for six, a very gettable target for the Vipers. They started with the intent of finishing as quickly as possible. Rohan Mustafa struck three fours in the first over, all hammered through the offside. However, the bowlers changed their lengths, preventing him from advancing, and he stopped laying bat on ball before nicking one through to the wicketkeeper. Alex Hales started more slowly before getting into his stride, greeting Chris Jordan’s first ball with a huge straight six.

At 57 for 1, compared with 55 for 1 for the Giants at the same stage of their respective innings, Hales holed out to a ball turning away outside the off-stump by trying to hit it over mid-wicket but did not get enough power on it, being caught on the boundary. The bowler was local Aayan Afzal Khan. Whether this was a deliberate ploy is not clear but it seemed that Hales knew as soon as he hit the ball that it was not the right decision. He remains the top run-scorer in the League but is being chased closely. Shortly afterwards, the captain, Colin Munro, gave a wicket away needlessly, hitting straight down the ground to be safely caught by David Wiess. Two wickets were thrown away. This is difficult to understand from the sidelines. Certainly, Munro’s twirling of the bat into the air as he departed gave comfort to those lesser cricketers of us who have felt the same way after playing a rash stroke.

The Giants were now in the ascendancy after being on the back foot. A change of pace, bowler and length had been decided upon very quickly on the field and the bowlers effected this well. Further innovation came when Erasmus bowled from 23 yards, inducing a faint edge from Sam Billings, who was trying to resurrect the innings. He had no option but to review the decision, which went against him.

The Giants bowlers, especially Chris Jordan, were putting the ball in the right areas, causing an implosion of the Viper’s innings. Tom Curran, who ended undefeated on 42 was left with too much to do on his own and the innings petered out disappointingly, 25 runs short on 155 for six. After an early misfire with their bowling, the Giants recovered with an astute performance in the field. England’s James Vince has captained their matches in the League, although Carlos Braithwaite was nominated for this match. Whoever was pulling the strings should be thankful for Jordan’s experienced input.

Another captaincy conundrum arose in Sunday’s match between the MI Emirates and the Dubai Capitals, who had been led by Rovman Powell. Although Powell was in the line-up, Yusuf Pathan was named as captain, performing the role energetically, having won the toss and elected to field. In the second half of MIE’s innings, Powell was fielding at long off and long on at both ends, necessitating a long walk/run from one end of the ground to the other.

Dubai Capitals needed to win this match in order to stand a chance of making the last four. Jake Ball embodied their determination, making an early breakthrough in his first over with two wickets. Mohammad Waseem and Lorcan Tucker steadied the innings before Waseem tried to slog a straight ball from Adam Zampa. Tucker also departed to leave MIE on 76 for four after nine overs. Captain Nicholas Pooran rebuilt the innings, pulling anything possible. Dan Mousley gamely supported him but struggled for rhythm. In the 17th over, Zampa had three men short on the offside within the field restriction markers. In response, Pooran pulled Zampa for six.

However, he then drove to cover on the boundary and was caught low down for 43. The last over was entrusted to Jake Ball, who had Jordan Thompson caught by Powell at long off. Ball would have had another wicket caught in the deep but for overstepping the crease to concede a no-ball on the fifth ball of the over and then saw the batter dropped of the next ball, before the innings closed with a run-out on 164 for seven.

Dubai Capitals started slowly against a very mean Craig Overton. Robin Uthappa stepped up the pace before falling to Overton for 29. George Munsey was out reverse sweeping against Zahir Khan and two balls later Powell slogged to deep mid-wicket and was caught low down by Mousley. The very next ball, Pooran dropped Sikander Raza at slip, possibly a match-turning moment. Raza and Dasun Shanakar then carefully rebuilt an innings, which seemed to be at the point of derailment. In a very well-timed run chase, Shanaka, in particular, gradually asserted authority in conditions where evening dew began to affect the bowler’s grip, wides and no-balls creeping into their delivery.

In the 15th over, Shanaka powered Thompson for six, with two fours to follow, placing his side at 128 for 3, compared with MIE’s 116 for 4 at same stage. Raza then accelerated and the target was reached with 11 balls remaining to secure an impressive comeback, both batters reaching fifty.

Dubai Capitals lie in fourth place, a mere 0.013 ahead on net run rate. Their fate will be determined by the result of the final round-robin match between the Gulf Giants and the Sharjah Warriors, who must win to claim fourth spot and a place in the finals.

Ronaldo breaks men’s international caps record, scores double

Updated 24 March 2023

Ronaldo breaks men’s international caps record, scores double

  • Ronaldo netted a 51st-minute penalty after earlier goals from Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva, before drilling home a free-kick 12 minutes later
  • “I want to become the most capped player in history. That would make me proud,” he said

LISBON: Cristiano Ronaldo broke the men’s international appearance record on Thursday and marked the occasion by scoring twice in Portugal’s 4-0 thrashing of Liechtenstein in Euro 2024 qualifying.
The 38-year-old, who was dropped from the Portuguese first-choice XI during the World Cup in Qatar last year, won a 197th cap for his country in Lisbon as a starter.
He netted a 51st-minute penalty after earlier goals from Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva, before drilling home a free-kick 12 minutes later.
It was Ronaldo’s record-extending 120th goal for his country and made him the first man to score 100 times in competitive internationals.
“Records are my motivation,” Ronaldo had told reporters on Wednesday.
“I want to become the most capped player in history. That would make me proud.
“But it doesn’t stop there, I still want to be called up very often.”
Ronaldo made his international debut in 2003 and became the first man to score in five World Cups last year before Portugal lost to Morocco in the quarter-finals.
He is currently playing for Saudi club Al Nassr after an acrimonious end to his second spell at Manchester United.
Ronaldo’s appearance off the bench in the defeat by Morocco equalled the previous mark of 196 caps held by Kuwait’s Bader Al-Mutawa.
He left the pitch in tears following Portugal’s shock 1-0 loss against the North Africans.
Since leaving Europe, Ronaldo has scored nine goals in 10 matches for Al Nassr.
He was replaced as the starting striker by Goncalo Ramos during the World Cup, with the Benfica youngster scoring a hat-trick in a last-16 win over Switzerland.
But veteran coach Fernando Santos stepped down following the tournament and new boss Roberto Martinez has immediately put his faith in Ronaldo, who also captained the side.
There were questions over whether his 20-year international career had ended in Qatar as Ronaldo will be 39 by the time Euro 2024 kicks off.
But Martinez, who left his role as Belgium coach after the World Cup, has strongly defended his decision to keep Ronaldo in the fold.
“I do not look at the age,” said Martinez when he announced his first squad last week.
The Spaniard added his squad announcement was the “starting point” for Euro 2024, suggesting Ronaldo is likely to be involved if Portugal qualify for the tournament in Germany.
Portugal made the perfect start to their qualification campaign with a straightforward win against Liechtenstein.
Cancelo scored the only goal of the first half in the eighth minute but the floodgates opened after the break.
Bernardo Silva doubled the advantage less than two minutes into the second period before Ronaldo hammered a penalty into the bottom corner.
A powerful free-kick from the edge of the box flew through the hands of goalkeeper Benjamin Buchel to complete the scoring.
Ronaldo was substituted late on for Ramos, with the much expected changing of the guard put on the back burner.
Ronaldo adds the international appearance landmark to an impressive list of individual records.
He is the leading goalscorer in European Championship finals with 14 goals and has netted a record 140 times in the Champions League.
Ronaldo has also finished as the top-scorer in three of Europe’s top five leagues — in England, Spain and Italy.
Portugal will visit Luxembourg in their second Group J qualifier on Sunday.
They have also been drawn alongside Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland and Slovakia.

Man Utd owners await revised offers for Premier League giants

Updated 23 March 2023

Man Utd owners await revised offers for Premier League giants

  • Reports said bidders were initially told they had until 2100 GMT on Wednesday to submit new offers, but that has now been extended
  • Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad AI Thani, the chairman of Qatar Islamic Bank, and Ratcliffe, the founder of chemicals giant INEOS, remain the front runners

LONDON: Manchester United’s owners were awaiting fresh bids Thursday from a Qatari banker and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe after a deadline passed for revised offers to buy the Premier League giants.
Reports said bidders were initially told they had until 2100 GMT on Wednesday to submit new offers, but that has now been extended. It is unclear when the new cut-off will be.
Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber AI Thani, the chairman of Qatar Islamic Bank, and Ratcliffe, the founder of chemicals giant INEOS, remain the front runners should the American Glazer family, who own United, give up control of the club.
Finnish entrepreneur Thomas Zilliacus threw his hat into the ring on Thursday, with a bid he said will give fans the chance to own 50 percent of the club.
“My bid is built on equality with the fans,” Zilliacus, founder and chairman of investment company Mobile FutureWorks, said in a statement.
“My group will finance half of the sum needed to take over the club, and will ask the fans, through a new company that is being set up for this specific purpose, to participate for the other half.”
The Glazers have angered many United supporters by saddling the club with huge debts since they took over in 2005. They appeared ready to cash out at an enormous profit when they invited external investment in November.
However, they could yet shun the option of selling a controlling stake in the club, with other parties understood to be interested in a minority shareholding.
The Times reported US hedge fund Elliott Investment Management, which sold AC Milan for $1.3 billion last year, had made a bid to buy a minority stake.
A first round of bidding took place last month and it has been reported there are as many as eight separate potential investors in the club.
The BBC said several other proposed investors made their submissions by the Wednesday deadline.
No figures have been revealed but one or more of the initial bids was understood to be in the region of £4.5 billion ($5.5 billion).
That would make Manchester United — who have not won the Premier League for a decade — the most expensive sports club in history, although it would be short of the £6 billion valuation reportedly placed on the Old Trafford side by the Glazers.
Sheikh Jassim is bidding for 100 percent control, aiming to return the club to its “former glories.”
A source close to Sheikh Jassim’s bid told AFP he remains confident his bid is “the best for the club, fans and local community.”
Ratcliffe, a boyhood United fan, wants to buy the combined Glazer shareholding of 69 percent of the 20-time English champions.
The 70-year-old told the Wall Street Journal this week he was not interested in paying “stupid prices” for one of football’s most iconic clubs.
Ratcliffe, who already owns French club Nice, said his interest in United would be “purely in winning things,” calling the club a “community asset,” rather than a financial one.
He visited Old Trafford last week along with INEOS representatives, a day after a delegation from Sheikh Jassim’s group toured the club’s stadium and training ground.
A Qatari purchase of United would boost the sporting profile of the Gulf state months after it hosted the 2022 World Cup.
Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City’s fortunes have been transformed since a takeover from Sheikh Mansour, a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family, in 2008.
In 2021, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund bought a controlling stake in Newcastle.
Amnesty International has called on the Premier League to tighten ownership rules to ensure they are “not an opportunity for more sportswashing.”
If Sheikh Jassim’s bid succeeds, it would also raise the question of whether Qatar is shifting its attentions away from Paris Saint-Germain — currently home to the trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe — who were bought by Qatari investors in 2011.
United, three-time European champions, have not won the Premier League since Alex Ferguson led them to a 20th English title in his final season before retiring in 2013.
But they are enjoying a renaissance under Erik ten Hag’s management this season and ended a six-year trophy drought by lifting the League Cup last month.

UEFA to investigate Barcelona for its referee payments

Updated 23 March 2023

UEFA to investigate Barcelona for its referee payments

  • The European soccer body asked Thursday for an investigation into the matter
  • Champions League regulations in effect since April 2007 allow for clubs to be removed from European competitions if they were involved in fixing matches

GENEVA: Barcelona are facing a new legal threat from UEFA, including a possible Champions League ban, because of their payments of millions of dollars to a company linked to a Spanish refereeing official.
The European soccer body asked Thursday for an investigation into the matter, which is already being pursued by prosecutors in Spain.
Champions League regulations in effect since April 2007 allow for clubs to be removed from European competitions if they were involved in fixing matches. Further disciplinary sanctions can follow.
UEFA said Thursday it asked disciplinary inspectors to “conduct an investigation regarding a potential violation of UEFA’s legal framework by FC Barcelona in connection with the so-called ‘Caso Negreira.’”
Court documents show Barcelona paid 7.3 million euros ($7.7 million) from 2001-18 to the company of José María Enríquez Negreira, the former vice president of Spanish soccer’s refereeing committee.
Prosecutors in Spain have formally accused Barcelona of corruption in sports, fraudulent management and falsification of business documents. An investigating judge will decide if this will lead to charges.
No evidence has yet been published that referees or individual games were actually influenced.
Barcelona have consistently denied any wrongdoing or conflict of interest, saying they paid for technical reports on referees but never tried to influence their decisions in games.
Any proof of manipulated games in the past 16 years could see UEFA exclude Barcelona from its competitions for one year and prosecute a disciplinary case.
Barcelona have a 12-point lead in the Spanish league and are almost certain to qualify for next season’s Champions League — an entry that would pay tens of millions of dollars to a club that posted record losses last year.
The burden of proof for UEFA is stated in regulations for the Champions League and other club competitions.
“If, on the basis of all the factual circumstances and information available to UEFA, UEFA concludes to its comfortable satisfaction that a club have been directly and/or indirectly involved, (since April 27, 2007), in any activity aimed at arranging or influencing the outcome of a match at national or international level, UEFA will declare such club ineligible to participate in the competition,” the rules state.
In previous cases of suspected match-fixing, clubs including Fenerbahce, Metalist Kharkiv and Skenderbeu were banned from UEFA competitions in decisions that were upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Fenerbahce were withdrawn from the 2011-12 Champions League by the Turkish soccer federation, seeming to be under pressure from UEFA, after being implicated in manipulating games to help secure the previous season’s league domestic title. The club were later banned for two more seasons.
Former Albanian champion Skenderbeu are serving a 10-year ban after a UEFA investigation into match-fixing for betting scams, including Champions League qualifying games and Europa League group games in 2015.

Pakistan cricket team arrives in UAE for Afghanistan T20 series 

Updated 23 March 2023

Pakistan cricket team arrives in UAE for Afghanistan T20 series 

  • Pakistan play Afghanistan on Friday at Sharjah in first of three T20 matches 
  • Skipper Shadab Khan will lead a young Pakistan side in Babar Azam’s absence

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan cricket team arrived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Wednesday evening for a three-match T20 series against Afghanistan scheduled to kick off later this week, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) confirmed. 

PCB chief Najam Sethi announced last month that Pakistan would play the series to “compensate” Afghanistan after Australia called off its tour in Afghanistan. 

Australia were scheduled to play a one-day international series in the UAE against Afghanistan in March. However, the Aussies pulled out in protest over the Taliban government’s strict laws barring Afghan women from education and work in the country. 

“Pakistan men’s team arrived in the United Arab Emirates today to play Afghanistan in three T20 Internationals at Sharjah Cricket Stadium on 24, 26 and 27 March,” the PCB said in a statement. 

The cricket board said skipper Shadab Khan would address a press conference on Thursday before the Pakistan team trains ahead of its first clash against Afghanistan, scheduled to take place on Friday. 

Pakistan announced earlier this month they were resting all-format captain Babar Azam among several other senior players for the tour. Sethi said the board wanted to give a chance to Pakistan’s younger cricketers to “groom” them for the future by performing against Afghanistan. 

In Azam’s place, Sethi appointed Khan as skipper for the T20 series. The leg-spinner will lead a team of young players that will not include the likes of Pakistan’s regular playing XI squad such as Shaheen Shah Afridi, Muhammad Rizwan, Haris Rauf, and Fakhar Zaman.

Pakistan squad for Afghanistan series:

Shadab Khan (captain), Imad Wasim, Mohammad Wasim Jr.., Tayyab Tahir, Ihsanullah, Azam Khan, Shan Masood, Naseem Shah, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Haris, Saim Ayub, Zaman Khan, Abdullah Shafique, Faheem Ashraf, Iftikhar Ahmed


Haseebullah Khan, Usama Mir, Abrar Ahmed

Raducanu, Stephens, Murray bomb out  at Miami Open tennis tournament

Updated 23 March 2023

Raducanu, Stephens, Murray bomb out  at Miami Open tennis tournament

  • Bianca Andreescu — the 2019 US Open champ — defeated Raducanu 6-3, 3-6, 6-2
  • On the men’s side, Dusan Lajovic beat three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray 6-4, 7-5

MIAMI GARDENS, Florida: Former US Open champions Emma Raducanu and Sloane Stephens were knocked out of the Miami Open on Wednesday, hours after No. 1-ranked and defending champion Iga Swiatek pulled out of the tournament because of a rib injury.

Bianca Andreescu — the 2019 US Open champ — defeated Raducanu 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. Andreescu improved to 2-0 lifetime against Raducanu, the 2021 winner at Flushing Meadows.

“Miami has a special place in my heart,” Andreescu said. “I’ve been coming here since I was I think 12 years old, whether it’s for vacation or training or, yeah, Orange Bowl. I love that tournament very much. Yeah, coming back here, I think it’s just good vibes overall.”

Andreescu moves on to face 10th-ranked Maria Sakkari, who had a first-round bye.

Shelby Rogers beat Stephens 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. Stephens has six hard-court titles, including the US Open in 2017 and Miami in 2018.

Rogers will face Australian Open champion and world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, who beat Rogers in the second round at Melbourne Park. Sabalenka is coming off a loss in the final at Indian Wells, California, last week.

On the men’s side, Dusan Lajovic beat three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray 6-4, 7-5.

“I served pretty well, but the rest of the game was a bit of a problem today,” the 35-year-old Murray said. “Made a number of errors that obviously I wouldn’t expect to be making. I didn’t really feel like I moved particularly well, which is really important for me.”

Lajovic, a 32-year-old Serbian, will face Maxime Cressy, who had a first-round bye.

Swiatek withdrew because of a rib injury that she is hoping will heal during a break from competition. The 21-year-old from Poland also will sit out her country’s Billie Jean King Cup qualifier matches against Kazakhstan on April 13-14.

“I wanted to wait ‘til the last minute” to decide whether to play in Miami, Swiatek said at a news conference at the site of the hard-court tournament that began Tuesday. “We were kind of checking if this is the kind of injury you can still play with or this is kind when you can get things worse. So I think the smart move for me is to pull out of this tournament because I want to rest and take care of it properly.”

In other action, 24-year-old American J.J. Wolf defeated Alexander Bublik 7-5, 6-3. He’ll face No. 7-ranked Andrey Rublev, who had a first-round bye.

Gael Monfils retired from his match against Ugo Humbert due to a persistent wrist injury.